Sunday, October 25, 2009

Notes on St. Gregory of Nyssa's The Life of Moses

Monday, September 14, 2009
St. Gregory of Nyssa's The Life of Moses

Some points seemed to be leaps in logic – exhaustive brainstorming of types of New Testament –
Horses at Red Sea (Red Sea prefigure of Baptism) represent passion – forced interpretations –
What is the source of Gregory’s exegetical authority? Influenced by Origen and Philo of Alexandria (Philo also had a Life of Moses), and St. Athanasius of Alexandria (because he wrote the life of St. Anthony-the first Christian biography where the subject was not a martyr) – life of St. Anthony was more of a linear historical account –
Gregory concerned to see Christ prefigured in Moses, and how we should thus live to conform to Christ
Credentials: bishop, smart, and an audience willing to read it
Who is he writing for and how does that jibe with how I should read it? primarily writing for monks who have Hellenistic education

Origen a Neoplatonist, invented principles of Biblical interpretation (not just allegorical, but interpretation period), certain speculations condemned by Ecumenical Councils
Father of Alexandrian school of interpretation – allegorical -
Antiochene model more literal and historical
Cappadocians unique in that they effectively drew from both traditions
Certain times in the text St. Gregory privileges one school over the other
Origen’s principles, appropriated by St. Augustine: certain passages not fitting for God if read literally – they absolutely demand an allegorical interpretation, or else they are an insult to religion – deliberately written in that manner by the author in order to force an allegorical interpretation
Cyprus (sigh-press) points right to Antioch
We don’t know much about Christian leaders in Cappadocian prior to the Three Cappadocian Fathers – Gregory gives explanations for why he uses the allegorical methods –
St. John Chrysostom interprets all of Genesis literally (Antiochene school) – to him the Alexandrian school is intellectual curiosity gone awry – Chrysostom always gives historical reading, followed by a moral discourse
Origen would say, on the surface this might have happened, but let’s look deeper because there is so much
Alexandrians said God did not literally walk in the Garden of Eden – both schools accepted that the general stories/flow of events are real history, but Alexandrians interpreted certain passages in an allegorical sense
Pagan education:
Comparison to the mother who miscarries, comparison to the foreskin,

“The loftier meaning is therefore more fitting than the obvious one. It commands those participating through virtue in the free life also to equip themselves with the wealth of pagan learning by which foreigners to the faith beautify themselves.”

Tripart soul: the nous (rational-mind), appetitive (desire for things), irascible (ability to become angry and get emotional)
Soul functions properly only when the nous has control of the other two
Innate vs. acquired (from contemplation vs. through the senses)
Plato fundamentally distrusted the power of the senses to convey the truth, so often misleading (not always) that they couldn’t be trusted
Plato was advocating an ascetic life – physical pleasure distracts from pursuing the soul – in Christianity: physical pleasure can distract from pursuing God

Wood always used to symbolize the Cross
Go backwards or forwards from Christ – He is the starting point – Christocentric, ascetic, NeoPlatonic, liturgical hermeneutic –

Mystical contemplation of God: theosis (thay-oh-siss) – becoming God-like
Beyond senses – more mental,
Darkness because God is beyond sensory perception
Apophatic – God is beyond explication, God is being, all other being derives from Him –
Apophatic = negative

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