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Gregory Nazianzen the Theologian A Preliminary Discourse Against the Eunomians (Oration XXVII - The First Theological), Complete

Translated by Ch. Browne and J. Swallow. Cf. An Introduction to the Theological Orations of St Gregory

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I. I am to speak against persons who pride themselves on their eloquence; so, to begin with a text of Scripture, "Behold, I am against thee, O thou proud one," [3382] not only in thy system of teaching, but also in thy hearing, and in thy tone of mind. For there are certain persons who have not only their ears [3383] and their tongues, but even, as I now perceive, their hands too, itching for our words; who delight in profane babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called, [3384] and strifes about words, which tend to no profit; for so Paul, the Preacher and Establisher of the "Word cut short," [3385] the disciple and teacher of the Fishermen, [3386] calls all that is excessive or superfluous in discourse. But as to those to whom we refer, would that they, whose tongue is so voluble and clever in applying itself to noble and approved language, would likewise pay some attention to actions. For then perhaps in a little while they would become less sophistical, and less absurd and strange acrobats of words, if I may use a ridiculous expression about a ridiculous subject.

II. But since they neglect every path of righteousness, and look only to this one point, namely, which of the propositions submitted to them they shall bind or loose, (like those persons who in the theatres perform wrestling matches in public, but not that kind of wrestling in which the victory is won according to the rules of the sport, but a kind to deceive the eyes of those who are ignorant in such matters, and to catch applause), and every marketplace must buzz with their talking; and every dinner party be worried to death with silly talk and boredom; and every festival be made unfestive and full of dejection, and every occasion of mourning be consoled by a greater calamity [3387] —their questions—and all the women's apartments accustomed to simplicity be thrown into confusion and be robbed of its flower of modesty by the torrent of their words...since, I say this is so, the evil is intolerable and not to be borne, and our Great Mystery is in danger of being made a thing of little moment. Well then, let these spies [3388] bear with us, moved as we are with fatherly compassion, and as holy Jeremiah says, torn in our hearts; [3389] let them bear with us so far as not to give a savage reception to our discourse upon this subject; and let them, if indeed they can, restrain their tongues for a short while and lend us their ears. However that may be, you shall at any rate suffer no loss. For either we shall have spoken in the ears of them that will hear, [3390] and our words will bear some fruit, namely an advantage to you (since the Sower soweth the Word [3391] upon every kind of mind; and the good and fertile bears fruit), or else you will depart despising this discourse of ours as you have despised others, and having drawn from it further material for gainsaying and railing at us, upon which to feast yourselves yet more.

And you must not be astonished if I speak a language which is strange to you and contrary to your custom, who profess to know everything and to teach everything in a too impetuous and generous manner...not to pain you by saying ignorant and rash.

[3382] Jer. l. 31.

[3383] 2 Tim. iv. 3.

[3384] Ib. ii. 16.

[3385] Rom. ix. 28.

[3386] S. Paul is called a disciple of the fishermen, as having been in some sense their follower (though in fact he was never a literal disciple of any of them); and their teacher as having taught such Successors of the Apostles as SS. Timothy and Titus.

[3387] i.e. be thrown into the shade by something more serious which caused them by comparison to be scarcely felt any longer.

[3388] kataskopoi quasi pseudepiskopoi.

[3389] Jer. iv. 19.

[3390] Ecclus. xxv. 9.

[3391] S. Mark iv. 3 and 14. "He that soweth the Word soweth upon," etc. So Billius and the Benedictines, but the rendering in the text seems preferable.

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