A famous passage of Gregory of Nyssa… but where from?

Everyone has read this:

Everywhere, in the public squares, at crossroads, on the streets and lanes, people would stop you and discourse at random about the Trinity. If you asked something of a moneychanger, he would begin discussing the question of the Begotten and the Unbegotten. If you questioned a baker about the price of bread, he would answer that the Father is greater and the Son is subordinate to Him. If you went to take a bath, the Anomoean bath attendant would tell you that in his opinion the Son simply comes from nothing.

But… where in his works does Gregory of Nyssa say this?  And does an English translation exist?

UPDATE: From the discussion in the comments (which includes the Greek), I learn that the work is his Oratio de deitate Filii et Spiriti Sancti, (= Oration on the deity of the Son and of the Holy Spirit) which is printed in PG 46, and the passage is on col. 557, section B.   (It’s in the modern 1996 edition of Gregory’s works also, but of course no normal person would have access to that.[1])  An offline (!) German translation of the whole treatise exists in V. H. Drecoll and M. Berghaus (eds.), Gregory of Nyssa : The Minor Treatises on Trinitarian Theology and Apollinarism (Brill 2011).  But … a complete French translation exists, made by Matthieu Cassin, and is online! The direct link is here, and a PDF at the bottom contains the whole article. Our phrase is on p.11 of the PDF, p.591 of the article.   (For those without French, be aware that Google Translate does French-to-English very well.)  Thank you to everyone who contributed!

  1. [1]“De deitate filii et spiritus sancti et in Abraham” in Gregorii Nysseni Opera vol. X part 2 (ed. E. Rhein), Brill, 1996.

17 thoughts on “A famous passage of Gregory of Nyssa… but where from?

  1. I see the same story repeated in Louis Duchesne, Early History of the Christian Church: From Its Foundation to the End of the Fifth Century (vol. 2, p. 456), where it is apparently (the note no. is missing in text) cited as coming from Oratio de deitate Filii et Spiritus Sancti (PG 46:557). The Duchesne volume is available on GoogleBooks.

  2. Thank you for this! There seems to be no translation of this work. I’ve written to Richard McCambly, who has translated a lot of Gregory of Nyssa (here), and suggested that he might like to do it for us.

  3. For the record:

    Πάντα γὰρ τὰ κατὰ τὴν πόλιν τῶν τοιούτων πεπλήρωται, οἱ στενωποὶ, αἱ ἀγοραὶ, αἱ πλατεῖαι, τὰ ἄμφοδα· οἱ τῶν ἱματίων κάπηλοι, οἱ ταῖς τραπέζαις ἐφεστηκότες, οἱ τὰ ἐδώδιμα ἡμῖν ἀπεμπολοῦντες. Ἐὰν περὶ τῶν ὀβολῶν ἐρωτήσῃς, ὁ δέ σοι περὶ γεννητοῦ καὶ ἀγεννήτου ἐφιλοσόφησε· κἂν περὶ τιμήματος ἄρτου πύθοιο, Μείζων ὁ Πατὴρ, ἀποκρίνεται, καὶ ὁ καὶ ὁ Υἱὸς ὑποχείριος. Εἰ δὲ, Τὸ λουτρὸν ἐπιτήδειόν ἐστιν, εἴποις, ὁ δὲ ἐξ οὐκ ὄντων τὸν Υἱὸν εἶναι διωρίσατο. Οὐκ οἶδα τί χρὴ τὸ κακὸν τοῦτο ὀνομάσαι, φρενῖτιν ἢ μανίαν, ἤ τι τοιοῦτον κακὸν ἐπιδήμιον, ὃ τῶν λογισμῶν τὴν παραφορὰν ἐξεργάζεται.

  4. I found this in The Orthodox Church – Church History by Kallistos Ware:

    “Gregory of Nyssa describes the unending theological arguments in Constantinople at the time of the second General Council:
    The whole city is full of it, the squares, the market places, the cross-roads, the alleyways; old-clothes men, money changers, food sellers: they are all busy arguing. If you ask someone to give you change, he philosophizes about the Begotten and the Unbegotten; if you inquire about the price of a loaf, you are told by way of reply that the Father is greater and the Son inferior; if you ask “Is my bath ready?” the attendant answers that the Son was made out of nothing (On the Deity of the Son [P.G. xlvi, 557b]).” (http://www.synaxis.org/catechist/Orthodox_Church)

    I don’t have the reference which Ware gives (On the Deity of the Son [P.G. xlvi, 557b]), but somebody may have it.

    Dioscorus Boles

  5. There is a more recent (1996) edition of “De deitate filii et spiritus sancti et in Abraham” in GNO X/2 (ed. E. Rhein).

  6. It may be too late, and not the English translation you are looking for, but there is now a German translation of the whole treatise in V. H. Drecoll and M. Berghaus (eds.), Gregory of Nyssa : The Minor Treatises on Trinitarian Theology and Apollinarism (Brill 2011).

    There is also a French translation by Mathieu Cassin available online, and linked from his webpage (under 2009) at: http://matthieu.cassin.org/bibliographie.html

    You might also find useful the discussion by Cassin in the Drecoll/Berghaus volume, above, or the very brief one in English in Richard Lim, Public Disputation, Power, and Social Order in Late Antiquity (Berkeley, 1995) 149-50.

    Apologies if you have found some of this yourself, or if it is no longer helpful.

  7. Thank you so much for these details, all of them unknown to me! It is good to learn that those two translations now exist.

    The German one is by Drecoll himself, as part of translations of Ad Eustathium, de sancta Trinitate ; Ad Graecos, ex communibus notionibus ; Ad Ablabium, quod non sint tres dii ; Ad Simplicium, de fide ; Adversus Macedonianos de Spiritu sancto ; De deitate Filii et Spiritus sancti et in Abraham », p. 3-86.

    But better yet is that Mathieu Cassin has made his translation available online! (And I like his own bibliography page, with his articles, too — that is what every scholar needs to have). The direct link is here, and a PDF at the bottom contains the whole article. Our phrase is on p.11 of the PDF (p.591 of the article). This should make a huge difference to access to the text!

    The discussion by Cassin is also on his web-page, I see, in PDF. What a hero the man is!

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