Writings of Gregory of Nyssa - Against Eunomius.

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Translated, with prolegomena, notes, and indices,

by William Moore, M.A., Rector of Appleton,
Late Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford;

and Henry Austin Wilson, M.A.,
Fellow and librarian of Magdalen College, Oxford.

Edited by Henry Wace,
Kings College, London, 6th November, 1892.

Gregory of Nyssa Against Eunomius.


Letter I.

Gregory to his brother Peter, Bishop of Sebasteia.

Having with difficulty obtained a little leisure, I have been able to recover from bodily fatigue on my return from Armenia, and to collect the sheets of my reply to Eunomius which was suggested by your wise advice; so that my work is now arranged in a complete treatise, which can be read between covers. However, I have not written against both his pamphlets [56] ; even the leisure for that was not granted; for the person who lent me the heretical volume most uncourteously sent for it again, and allowed me no time either to write it out or to study it. In the short space of seventeen days it was impossible to be prepared to answer both his attacks.

Owing to its somehow having become notorious that we had laboured to answer this blasphemous manifesto, many persons possessing some zeal for the Truth have importuned me about it: but I have thought it right to prefer you in your wisdom before them all, to advise me whether to consign this work to the public, or to take some other course. The reason why I hesitate is this. When our saintly Basil fell asleep, and I received the legacy of Eunomius' controversy, when my heart was hot within me with bereavement, and, besides this deep sorrow for the common loss of the church, Eunomius had not confined himself to the various topics which might pass as a defence of his views, but had spent the chief part of his energy in laboriously-written abuse of our father in God. I was exasperated with this, and there were passages where the flame of my heart-felt indignation burst out against this writer. The public have pardoned us for much else, because we have been apt in showing patience in meeting lawless attacks, and as far as possible have practised that restraint in feeling which the saint has taught us; but I had fears lest from what we have now written against this opponent the reader should get the idea that we were very raw controversialists, who lost our temper directly at insolent abuse. Perhaps, however, this suspicion about us will be disarmed by remembering that this display of anger is not on our own behalf, but because of insults levelled against our father in God; and that it is a case in which mildness would be more unpardonable than anger.

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If, then, the first part of my treatise should seem somewhat outside the controversy, the following explanation of it will, I think, be accepted by a reader who can judge fairly. It was not right to leave undefended the reputation of our noble saint, mangled as it was by the opponent's blasphemies, any more than it was convenient to let this battle in his behalf be spread diffusely along the whole thread of the discussion; besides, if any one reflects, these pages do really form part of the controversy. Our adversary's treatise has two separate arms, viz. to abuse us and to controvert sound doctrine; and therefore ours too must show a double front. But for the sake of clearness, and in order that the thread of the discussion upon matters of the Faith should not be cut by parentheses, consisting of answers to their personal abuse, we have separated our work into two parts, and devoted ourselves in the first to refute these charges: and then we have grappled as best we might with that which they have advanced against the Faith. Our treatise also contains, in addition to a refutation of their heretical views, a dogmatic exposition of our own teaching; for it would be a most shameful want of spirit, when our foes make no concealment of their blasphemy, not to be bold in our statement of the Truth.


[56] both his pamphlets. The `sheets' which Gregory says that he has collected are the 12 Books that follow. They are written in reply to Eunomius' pamphlet, `Apologia Apologiæ,' itself a reply to Basil's Refutation. The other pamphlet of Eunomius seems to have come out during the composition of Gregory's 12 Books: and was afterwards answered by the latter in a second 12th Book, but not now, because of the shortness of the time in which he had a copy of the `heretical volume' in his hands. The two last books of the five which go under the title of Basil's Refutation are considered on good grounds to have been Gregory's, and to have formed that short reply to Eunomius which he read, at the Council of Constantinople, to Gregory of Nazianzen and Jerome (d. vir. illust. c. 128). Then he worked upon this longer reply. Thus there were in all three works of Gregory corresponding to the three attacks of Eunomius upon the Trinity.


Letter II.

To his most pious brother Gregory. Peter greeting in the Lord.

Having met with the writings of your holiness and having perceived in your tract against this heresy your zeal both for the truth and for our sainted father in God, I judge that this work was not due simply to your own ability, but was that of one who studied that the Truth should speak, even in the publication of his own views. To the Holy Spirit of truth I would refer this plea for the truth; just as to the father of lies, and not to Eunomius, should be referred this animosity against sound faith. Indeed, that murderer from the beginning who speaks in Eunomius has carefully whetted the sword against himself; for if he had not been so bold against the truth, no one would have roused you to undertake the cause of our religion. But to the end that the rottenness and flimsiness of their doctrines may be exposed, He who "taketh the wise in their own craftiness" hath allowed them both to be headstrong against the truth, and to have laboured vainly on this vain speech.

But since he that hath begun a good work will finish it, faint not in furthering the Spirit's power, nor leave half-won the victory over the assailants of Christ's glory; but imitate thy true father who, like the zealot Phineas, pierced with one stroke of his Answer both master and pupil. Plunge with thy intellectual arm the sword of the Spirit through both these heretical pamphlets, lest, though broken on the head, the serpent affright the simpler sort by still quivering in the tail. When the first arguments have been answered, should the last remain unnoticed, the many will suspect that they still retain some strength against the truth.

The feeling shewn in your treatise will be grateful, as salt, to the palate of the soul. As bread cannot be eaten, according to Job, without salt, so the discourse which is not savoured with the inmost sentiments of God's word will never wake, and never move, desire.

Be strong, then, in the thought that thou art a beautiful example to succeeding times of the way in which good-hearted children should act towards their virtuous fathers.

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