Allison L. Gray

Gregory of Nyssa as Biographer

Weaving Lives for Virtuous Readers

[Gregor von Nyssa als Biograph. Wie er Lebensgeschichten für tugendhafte Leser wob.]

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ISBN 978-3-16-157558-7
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Published in English.
The theologian Gregory of Nyssa wrote biographies of his sister, a local bishop, and Moses. Allison L. Gray shows that he adapts techniques from Greco-Roman biographical writing in these texts to create narratives that are suited to a specifically Christian form of education, focused on virtue and scriptural interpretation.
In this study, Allison L. Gray analyzes three biographical narratives by the fourth-century Christian theologian Gregory of Nyssa (335–395 CE). When the Life of Moses, the Life of Macrina, and the Life of Gregory Thaumaturgus are examined in light of Greco-Roman rhetoric, biography, hagiography, and the history of education, it becomes evident that Gregory's attention to audience is critical to understanding the texts' form and function. Gregory recounts the lives of exemplary figures to inform his readers about lived virtue while simultaneously preparing them to be skilled readers and interpreters. He adopts and adapts familiar rhetorical and literary techniques to imagine, construct, and teach a new sort of ideal audience, training Christians to interpret Scripture. This study contributes to a more complete picture of how early Christian biographical writing shaped an emerging Christian paideia.

Allison L. Gray Born 1983; 2016 doctorate in New Testament and Early Christian Literature from the University of Chicago; currently Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director in Theology at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas.


The following reviews are known:

In: Revue des Sciences philosophiques et theologique — 107 (2023), pp. 103–109 (Matthieu Cassin)
In: Church History — 91 (2022), pp. 370–372 (Michael Motia)
In: Theologische Revue —–3767 (Peter Gemeinhardt)
In: Journal of Ecclesiastical History — 73 (2022), pp. 126–128 (Ann Conway-Jones)