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Body and Desire: Gregory of Nyssa's Ascetical Theology

by Raphael A Cadenhead University of California Press
Pub Date:
Hbk 260 pages
AU$155.00 NZ$159.13
Product Status: Available in Approx 9 days
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Although the reception of the Eastern Father, Gregory of Nyssa, has varied over the centuries, the past few decades have witnessed a profound awakening of interest in his thought.  The Body and Desire sets out to retrieve the full range of Gregory’s thinking on the challenges of the ascetic life by examining his evolving attitudes on what we now call gender, sex, and sexuality within the context of his theological commitments.  Exploring Gregory’s understanding of the importance of bodily and spiritual maturation for the practices of contemplation and virtue, Raphael Cadenhead recovers the vital relevance of this vision of transformation for contemporary ethical discourse.   


Setting the Scene
The Structure of the Study
Resisting the Charge of Anachronism: Semantic and
Terminological Clarifications
The Renaissance of Scholarly Interest in Gregory of Nyssa:
From Obscurity to Approbation to Eisegesis

Christianity after Constantine’s Conversion
The Burgeoning Monastic Movement
The Asceticism of Gregory’s Family

part one. the early phase, 371–september 378:
the integrative significance of the body in the life of virtue
1. Marriage, Celibacy, and Pederasty
Marriage and Celibacy
Pederasty and Celibacy

2. The Integration of the Virtues
Sexual Lust in the De virginitate
The Reciprocity of the Virtues
The Proliferation of Vice and the Example of Gluttony

3. Gregory’s Emerging Theory of Desire
Erotic Desire
The Criterion of Need
The Passions
Satiety versus Fulfillment
The Moral Evocations of Male and Female Characteristics

part two. the middle phase, september 378–387:
the ascetical and eschatological mixture
of male and female
4. A Worldly Life of Desire: Marriage, Children, Money, and Sex
The Problems of Marriage
Physical Fecundity
The Particular Challenges of Sexual Vice
The Moral Evocations of Male and Female Characteristics

5. The Death of Siblings
“No Longer Male and Female . . . in Christ Jesus”
Sexual Morphology: Anthropological and Eschatological Perspectives
Refinements in Gregory’s Theory of Desire

6. Doctrinal Controversies: Christological and Trinitarian
The Diachronic Unfolding of the Spiritual Life: Christological Reflections
Gregory’s Doctrine of God: Intra-Trinitarian Relationships and the Ascetic Life

part three. the late phase, 387–394: erotic intimacy
with Christ and the maturation of desire
7. Spiritual Maturation: Virginity and the Narrative of Progress
Recasting Virginity
The Diachronic Train of Moral and Spiritual Progress

8. Male and Female: Diachronic Exchanges
Male and Female in the Late Period
Intimacy with Christ

The Challenges Posed to Contemporary Ethical Discourse


Raphael A. Cadenhead holds a doctorate in Theology and Religious Studies from the University of Cambridge.