Weary postmoderns, rejoice, for you have a theo-poet among you in Gregory of Nazianzus. And since Gregory worked his vocabulary around the economy of the Incarnation, one can even say he was a narrative theologian! (Okay, I’ll stop poking fun at postmodernists now). I had reservations about this volume at first. I thought Daley was going to interpret Gregory as *merely* a Christian humanist interested only in “a new Hellenic and Christian literature.” Daley does pull that line, but there is more to it. Daley approached Gregory in a unique way: most people simply focus on Gregory’s five theological orations (more on that later); Daley’s approach is to translate and view Gregory’s works which have not received that much attention. The positive is that we get a stunning array of Gregory’s lyrical prose and poetry. With the exception of Augustine, we can’t a strange glimpse into the struggles of an ancient writer, which is unusual for the time.
The downside to Daley’s approach is we don’t get a lot of interaction with the rich theological corpus that Gregory leaves. True, Daley does translate, and occasionally gloss, the “Christmas Orations,” but he generally doesn’t deal with the theological orations except for a few pages in the introduction. This is not Daley’s fault, for he did not set out to do that. (Interestingly, Daley does admit that for Gregory, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. There is nothing in here about Filioque and Daley, unlike the Schaff editors on Gregory of Nyssa, has the honesty to admit that.)
For Daley, Gregory sought to create a new theological vocabulary reminiscent of Hellenic literature, yet remaining faithful to the Christian Tradition, and he largely succeeded. Gregory saw himself, not only as a theologian–as he is known to us today–but also as a Christian philosopher, and routinely encouraged the contemplation-oriented youth to pursue philosophy.
The selection on Gregory’s poetry was beautiful. The modern world would be hard-pressed to find Gregory’s equal on poetry. Daley’s inclusion of Gregory’s will was a neat addition to the volume, though probably not of much interest to theological studies. All in all this is a good read. A word of caution, though: If you have the Schaff edition on Gregory of Nyssa, you might not want to buy this book. Most of the material in the book, excluding the poetry and the introduction, is in the Schaff edition.