“Therefore Be Perfect, as your Heavenly Father is Perfect”: Gregory of Nyssa on Simplicity and Goodness

Andrew Radde‐Gallwitz

in Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and the Transformation of Divine Simplicity

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780199574117
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191722110 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Early Christian Studies

“Therefore Be Perfect, as your Heavenly Father is Perfect”: Gregory of Nyssa on Simplicity and Goodness

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Chapter 7 focuses on Gregory of Nyssa, a defender of Basil who developed his brother's ideas in new ways. It counters a number of misinterpretations: Gregory as in fundamental discontinuity with Basil, Gregory as separating the divine activities or ‘energies’ from the divine essence, Gregory as advocate of the identity thesis, and Gregory as the totally negative theologian. Gregory's principal contribution to Basil's legacy is his subtle account of attributes he calls the divine ‘goods’ or ‘virtues’. Gregory argues that since God is simple and unmixed with evil, these attributes are reciprocally entailing, such that they necessarily go along with one another. This allows for a compelling rebuttal to Eunomius' reduction of all divine attributes to one, even while it also enables a response to the objection that motivates our Chapter 1, namely that simplicity is incompatible with God acting in the world. Gregory uses his idea of the reciprocity of the divine goods to defend belief in the Incarnation. Gregory also carries forward Basil's understanding of these attributes as propria and distinguishes the divine substance from the divine essence.

Keywords: Gregory of Nyssa; goods; virtues; incarnation; Trinity; divine; simplicity; propria; conceptualization; substance; essence

Chapter.  20582 words. 

Subjects: Early Christianity ; Christian Theology

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