Useful and beautiful: a reading of Gregory of Nyssa’s 'On Virginity' and a proposal for understanding early Christian literature
Irish Theological Quarterly
The idea that Gregory of Nyssa’s work On Virginity was a piece of advocacy for Basil the Great’s ascetic programme has recently been challenged from various perspectives. Here I examine Gregory’s creation of a particular authorial voice through his manipulation of certain stock themes from classical literature on marriage; I show that De virginitate employs a range of reference hitherto unrecognised by scholars and is not just artful but poetic. By challenging boundaries between rhetoric, philosophy and poetry, and the useful and beautiful in the arts (boundaries which modern readers impose on ancient texts), I suggest that Gregory explicitly defends both virginity and marriage; he also implicitly gives a theological defence of his use of artful rhetoric. On Virginity is thus as much about theological poetics as it is about either marriage or celibacy.
© 2014 by Sage Publications
Vol. 79, Issue 3, pp. 219 - 240
Place of publication