Gregory of Nyssa’s Sequence of Topographical Symbols as a Pattern of Spiritual Progress

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Title: Gregory of Nyssa’s Sequence of Topographical Symbols as a Pattern of Spiritual Progress
Author: Lindgren, Lasse
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Teologinen tiedekunta, Systemaattisen teologian laitos
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Theology, Department of Systematic Theology
Helsingfors universitet, Teologiska fakulteten, Institutionen för systematisk teologi
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2017
Language: eng
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Systematik teologi
Systematic theology
Systemaattinen teologia
Abstract: This study focuses on the exegesis of Gregory of Nyssa, a 4th century exegete, a Church Father, and one of the three Cappadocian Fathers. The main primary source of my thesis is Gregory’s treatise The Life of Moses, an intriguing example of Patristic exegesis based on the Exodus narrative. The main purpose of Gregory’s treatise is not to make a historical presentation of the journey of Moses and the Israelites, but to elevate the reader into a higher state of consciousness in order to perceive the spiritual meaning of the narrative. The kind of exegesis that Gregory applies is often defined as allegorical interpretation or allegorical exegesis, rich on symbols and enigmas, which was at first neglected in scholarly discussion. Fortunately, there has been a growing interest in Biblical interpretation of the Church Fathers since the mid-20th century. The main objective of my thesis is to focus on Gregory’s interpretations of topographical imagery presented in the Exodus narrative. Gregory gives symbolical interpretations to topographical locations: the city, the river, the sea, the desert and the mountain. My intention is to show that Gregory was not thinking of the various symbolical interpretations as independent units but he was seeking for a logical coherent sequence. One of the main objectives of modern research has been the reassessment of Gregory’s sources. In order to understand Gregory’s exegetical and philosophical concepts and terminology, one must be aware of the rich and profound tradition already established in classical antiquity. Gregory makes moral, ascetical, philosophical and mystical interpretations in relation to each topographical detail. These figurative interpretations are by no means based on his original ideas but are rooted in the rich tradition of Greek classical culture, as well as in the exegetical tradition of his Jewish and Christian predecessors. My purpose is to provide a systematic analysis of each term Gregory is applying and present an overall model of Gregory’s exegetical method. The final aim of my thesis is to present an analysis of Gregory’s pattern of topographical symbols as a whole. Gregory connects the topographical details with his threefold pattern of illumination, purification and participation in a fascinating way. For Gregory, the exodus narrative is a journey of a soul being liberated from the bondage of passions, temptations and materialism towards an ever-increasing awareness of God’s presence.
Subject: Gregory of Nyssa
early Christianity

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