St. Gregory (Thaumaturgus) - Encyclopedia

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ST GREGORY (c. 213-c. 270), surnamed in later ecclesiastical tradition Thaumaturgus (the miracle-worker), was born of noble and wealthy pagan parents at Neocaesarea in Pontus, about A.D. 213. His original name was Theodorus. He took up the study of civil law, and, with his brother Athenodorus, was on his way to Berytus to complete his training when at Caesarea he met Origen, and became his pupil and then his convert (A.D. 233). In returning to Cappadocia some five years after his conversion, it had been his original intention to live a retired ascetic life (Eus. H.E. vi. 30), but, urged by Origen, and at last almost compelled by Phaedimus of Amasia, his metropolitan, neither of whom was willing to see so much learning, piety and masculine energy practically lost to the church, he, after many attempts to evade the dignity, was consecrated bishop of his native town (about 240). His episcopate, which lasted some thirty years, was characterized by great missionary zeal, and by so much success that, according to the (doubtless somewhat rhetorical) statement of Gregory of Nyssa, whereas at the outset of his labours there were only seventeen Christians in the city, there were at his death only seventeen persons in all who had not embraced Christianity. This result he achieved in spite of the Decian persecution (250251), during which he had felt it to be his duty to absent himself from his diocese, and notwithstanding the demoralizing effects of an irruption of barbarians (Goths and Boranians) who laid waste the diocese in A.D. 253-254. Gregory, although he has not always escaped the charge of Sabellianism, now holds an undisputed place among the fathers of the church; and although the turn of his mind was practical rather than speculative, he is known to have taken an energetic part in most of the doctrinal controversies of his time. He was active at the first synod of Antioch (A.D. 264-265), which investigated and condemned the heresies of Paul of Samosata; and the rapid spread in Pontus of a Trinitarianism approaching the Nicene type is attributed in large measure to the weight of his influence. Gregory is believed to have died in the reign of Aurelian, about the year 270, though perhaps an earlier date is more probable. His festival (semiduplex) is observed by the Roman Catholic Church on the 17th of November, For the facts of his biography we have an outline of his early years in his eulogy on Origen, and incidental notices in the writings of Eusebius, of Basil of Caesarea and Jerome. Gregory of Nyssa's untrustworthy panegyric represents him as having wrought miracles of a very startling description; but nothing related by him comes near the astounding narratives given in the Martyrologies, or even in the Breviarium Romanum, in connexion with his name.

The principal works of Gregory Thaumaturgus are the Panegyricus in Origenem (Eis 't ptybniv iravrnvpucos Xbyos), which he wrote when on the point of leaving the school of that great master (it contains a valuable minute description of Origen's mode of instruction), a Metaphrasis in Ecclesiasten, characterized by Jerome as " short but useful "; and an Epistola canonica, which treats of the discipline to be undergone by those Christians who under pressure of persecution had relapsed into paganism, but desired to be restored to the privileges of the Church. It gives a good picture of the conditions of the time, and shows Gregory to be a true shepherd (cf. art Penance). The "EKOeves ir(o-r w (Expositio fidei), a short creed usually attributed to Gregory, and traditionally alleged to have been received by him immediately in vision from the apostle John himself, is probably authentic. A sort of Platonic dialogue of doubtful authenticity " on the impassivity and the passivity of God " in Syriac is in the British Museum.

Editions: Gerhard Voss (Mainz, 1604), Fronto Duca,us (Paris, 1622), Migne, Patr. Graec. X. 963.

Translations: S. D. F. Salmond in Ante-Nicene Fathers, vi.; Lives, by Pallavicini (Rome, 1644); J. L. Boye (Jena, 1709); H. R. Reynolds (Dict. Chr. Biog. ii.); G. Kruger, Early Chr. Lit. 226; Herzog-Hauck, Realencyk. vii. (where full bibliographies are given).

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