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Gregory of Nyssa

The Brill Dictionary of Gregory of Nyssa Edited by Lucas Francisco Mateo-Seco & Giulio Maspero, translated by Seth Cherney (Brill Academic) is the fruit of wide-ranging collaboration between experts in Philology, Philosophy, History and Theology. These scholars shared the desire to develop a comprehensive reference work that would help attract more people to the study of the 'Father of Fathers' and assist them in their work. Gregory of Nyssa's thought is at once quintessentially classic and modern, as it speaks directly to the contemporary reader. As interest in Gregory has increased along with the number of works devoted to him, the need for a comprehensive introduction and bibliographical reference work has arisen. In order to meet this need, more than forty scholars from various disciplines and perspectives have contributed to this work. In two hundred articles, the Brill Dictionary of Gregory of Nyssa provides a symphonic vision of the studies on Gregory of Nyssa and his thought. The work is fun to browse and skip around in, one peculiarity is Gregory's surviving works are listed by their standard abbreviations. 

LUCAS FRANCISCO MATEO-SECO, Ph.D (1969) in Theology (Angelicum, Rome), is Professor Emeritus of Dogmatic Theology of the University of Navarre (Spain). His publications, the results of 40 years of work, cover the entire spectrum of Gregory of Nyssa's thought.

GIULIO MASPERO, Ph.D. (1999, 2003) in Physics (Milan, Italy) and in Theology (Pamplona, Spain), is presently Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross (Rome). He has published on Gregory of Nyssa's Trinitarian doctrine.

Gregory of Nyssa's approach to truth is based on a wonder like that of children, a wonder that is born of knowledge of the inexhaustible depth of being, as expressed in the apophatic dimension of his thought. Knowledge is thus founded in marvelling, in the perception of the transcendence of the True and the Good, which come to the human being, as to Moses and the Spouse of the Canticle, only in personal encounter.

It is proper that a work titled The Brill Dictionary of Gregory of Nyssa begin from this premise, in order to eliminate any possible misunderstanding as to its intent and role. This work, in the original Spanish and Italian editions, as well as in the present revised and expanded English edition, does not pretend to present Gregory's thought in a complete and exhaustive manner, nor to offer an organized synthesis of the extensive bibliography of works about him. It is rather designed as an instrument to help in an encounter with the Nyssen. Nothing could be further from his mindset than the spirit of gratuitous erudition and rationalism, one reason that the term dictionary rather than encyclopaedia was chosen for the book.

This work was born in the context of various colloquia dedicated to Gregory, in particular those of Olomouc and Tubingen. The scholars present at these conferences expressed a desire to develop such an instrument, due both to the increasing number of works on the Nyssen and the growing interest in his thought,' at once quintessentially classic and modern, even postmodern. It is significant that the work is thus a fruit of the personal encounter of those who became its contributors, an encounter occasioned by a common passion for Gregory of Nyssa.

Excerpt: NUMBER

The strength of the Nyssen's philosophy of language is revealed in a particular way in the discussion of the origin of number, a fundamental question in the Trinitarian context. Gregory unequivocally rejects the Neo-Platonic perspective which assigned to number a metaphysical reality. Eunomius had identified the order of natures and that of numbers (Eun II, GNO I, 201, 1-18). Gregory on the other hand traces the genesis of number to physical movement, as can be seen in his commentary on Gn 1.7, where the waters that are above the firmament are divided from those that are below. The Nyssen affirms that the firmament was placed as a separating frontier between the double nature of the waters. Following light and obscurity, designated as the first day, a second succession and thus a second day follows—in such a way that in this moment the nature of number enters into creation, since number is nothing but the composition of unity, where unity is predicated of all that is considered in a determined delimitation. Each period gave rise to a unity, and the composition of the two periods constituted the number two. From a theological perspective, the fundamental element is the affirmation that Sacred Scripture traces the genesis of number to elements of creation, indicating an ordered succession with specific names (Hex, PG 44, 85 Bc). The priority is always placed on ontology, of which the logical and mathematical level is only a reflection.

The fact that numbering is not traceable to the divine realm or to the world of ideas, but radically depends on creation, itself indicates that we are confronted here with a reality which is intertwined with the dynamics and limited, changeable mode of being of the creaturely sphere. Its origin is exclusively physical. Gregory's theory of knowledge is therefore extremely realistic.

This would seem to conflict, however, with the possibility of predicating number of God, who is by nature infinite, unlimited and eternal. Gregory's theology manifests its strength and coherence precisely here, as it continuously links the names to dynamics. In Eun II, the Nyssen affirms that these names receive their form according to the movement of that which subsists in a hypostasis (Eun II, GNO I, 269, 11-14). Words, then, express the dynamics and movement of being, or better, of the existing reality. It is this passage in particular that permits the leap to the eternal dimension, i.e. the intra-divine one. xxx is a term that applies both to divine immanence and economy, both to God and to man. The Nyssen's Trinitarian conception is dynamic, following an understanding of dynamics that surpasses the creaturely and temporal dimension to be rooted in the divine eternity, in parallel to that which is realized by means of the terms of ixxx and xxx. The connection between 1xxx and xxx permits us to discern the action of the divine Persons in time, i.e. to read the reflection of their eternal dynamic in the energetic moment , and thus in an environment that is accessible to human reason and language. From this point, one can move beyond the historical moment, since for Gregory, words which cannot state being can state the mode of being, i.e. the dynamic aspect—even when this last is outside of time. Thus in God it is possible to discern three distinct modes of being the unique nature, together with a correlative order, i.e. a numeric succession.

The Brill Dictionary of Gregory of Nyssa belongs beside the Lexicon Gregorianum: Wörterbuch zu den Schriften Gregors von Nyssa, edited by F. Mann (Brill, Leiden 1999-2008) constitutes the most comprehensive Greek-German dictionary ever of the language used by Gregory of Nyssa. It is, and will be for the foreseeable future, the only dictionary available specifically addressing the vocabulary of late Classical Greek.
Far from being a simple word list this seminal reference work documents Gregory's complete vocabulary, taking account of the syntax, meaning and connotations of every occurrence of a key word in his writings.
The complete Lexicon will comprise 9 volumes, totaling more than 13,000 entries. Each volume will consist of about 600 three-column pages.

Lexicon Gregorianum, Volume 1 Band I ἀβαρής-ἄωρος (Brill, Leiden 1999-2008) 
Lexicon Gregorianum, Volume 3 Band III ἔαρ - ἑωσφόρος  (Brill, Leiden 1999-2008)
Lexicon Gregorianum, Volume 4 Band IV ζ-ι  (Brill, Leiden 1999-2008)
Lexicon Gregorianum, Volume 5 Band V καγχασμός-κωφόω (Brill, Leiden 1999-2008)
Lexicon Gregorianum, Volume 6 Band VI λαβή - ὀψοφόρος (Brill, Leiden 1999-2008)
Lexicon Gregorianum, Volume 7 Band VII (παγγενής-πῶμα) (Brill, Leiden 1999-2008)  



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