Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/St Gregory Thaumaturgus

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1709459Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition, Volume XI — St Gregory Thaumaturgus

GREGORY, St, surnamed in later ecclesiastical tradition Thaumaturgus (the miracle-worker), was born of noble and wealthy heathen parents at Neocaesarea, towards the begin ning of the 3d century of the Christian era. His original name was Theodorus. Destined by his parents for the bar, he studied civil law at Athens, Alexandria, and Berytus, it is said; he afterwards (about 231) accompanied his sister to Csesarea in Palestine, where he became the pupil and finally the convert of Origen. In returning to Cappadocia some five years after his conversion, it had been his original intention to live a retired ascetic life (Euseb., H. E., yi. 30) ; but this wish he was not permitted to gratify. Urged by Origen, and at last almost compelled by Phsedimus of Amasia, his metropolitan, neither of whom was willing to see so much learning, piety, and masculine energy practi cally 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 zeal, and by so much success that, according to the (doubtless somewhat rhetori cal) 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 (250), 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 who laid waste the diocese in 260. 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 synods of Antioch which investigated and condemned the heresies of Paul ; 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 some accounts place his death six years earlier. His festival (semiduplex) is observed by the Church of Rome on the 17th of November. For the facts of his biography our earliest and best authority is the Life or rather Panegyric by Gregory of Nyssa ; but there are also incidental notices of him in the writings of Basil the Great. Both these writers represent him as having wrought miracles of a very startling description ; but nothing related by them 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 Panegyrictis in Origenem (εἰς Ὠριγένην πανηγυρικὸς λόγος), which he wrote when on the point of leaving the school of that great master ; 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. An Expositio Fidei, usually attributed to Gregory, and traditionally alleged to have been received by him immediately in vision from the apostle John himself, is of doubtful authenticity. There have been several editions of the works of this father; of these may be mentioned that of Gerard Voss, in Greek and Latin (Mainz, 1604); the Paris edition of 1622; and that contained in the third volume of Galland’s Bibliotheca Patrum (Paris, 1788). They are also to be found in a Latin translation in Migne’s Patrologia Græca, vol. vii. A separate reprint of the Panegyricus in Origenem was published by Bengel in 1722. The, life of Gregory has been written by Pallavicini (Rome, 1644) and by Boye (Jena, 1703).