Three great teachers of the ch. who worked in Cappadocia in the 4th c.: Basil the Great, his friend Gregory* of Nazianzus, and Basil's brother Gregory* of Nyssa. Champions of the faith of Nicaea,* they carried on the work of Athanasius* and brought it to a climax. The virtual defeat of Arianism* at the Second Ecumenical Council in Constantinople 381 was largely due to their efforts. As ecclesiastical statesmen and organizers, impassioned orators, and skilled theologians they shaped a large part of the theol. and practice of the E Church.
1. Basil the Great (ca. 330ca. 379). One of 10 children in a prominent family in Cappadocian Caesarea. Three became bps.: Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, Peter of Sebaste. Their sister, Macrina the Younger, devoted herself to ascetic life. Basil was early exposed to zealous Christianity by his grandmother, Macrina the Elder, and mother, Emmelia. His studies of rhetoric took him to schools at Caesarea, Constantinople, and after 351 to Athens, where his friendship with Gregory of Nazianzus flourished. Returning to Caesarea 356, he became a teacher of philos, and other subjects. A yr. later he embraced ascetic life and was baptized. He observed monasteries during a visit to Egypt and propagated monastic movements in Asia Minor. The cloister est. by him in Pontus became a pattern for E monasteries. In 358 he collaborated with Gregory of Nazianzus on Philocalia, an anthology of Origen's works, and the 2 Regulae, detailed and abbreviated principles for monastic life (see also Basilians, 1). Persuaded by Eusebius of Caesarea to become a priest ca. 364, he succeeded Eusebius as bp. of Caesarea 370. Supported the orthodox position in the Trinitarian controversies and actively opposed Arianism.* His refutation of the latter and Macedonianism (see Pneumatomachians) may be found in Adversus Eunomium (363365) and Liber de Spiritu sancto (ca. 375), both of which affirm the consubstantiality of the Son and the Holy Spirit with the Father. Though threatened with confiscation and exile by the Arian Emp. Valens, he remained resolute. His contributions to liturgics and hymnology are valuable. The Byzantine Liturgy is traditionally ascribed to him. His Christian devotion led him to help establish hospitals, homes for the poor, and hospices for travelers and strangers. He himself lived in the humblest manner. The tasks of ecclesiastical administration and organization did not keep him from becoming a great theol., as his works attest. Besides the works mentioned, he wrote a treatise on the Christian attitude toward pagan literature and learning, and many sermons and letters. See also Acacius of Beroea.
2. Gregory of Nazianzus (Theologus; ca. 330ca. 390). Apparently a counsin of Amphilochius*; oldest of 3 children in a wealthy Cappadocian family near Nazianzus, where his father was bp. His mother, Nonna, consecrated him to Christian service before his birth. He was educ. at Cappadocian Caesarea, Caesarea in Palestine, Alexandria, and Athens. He refusing a position as teacher of rhetoric in Athens and went home ca. 357 after being baptized.
His attempts to shun pub. life in favor of monastic solitude were not honored. His efforts were enlisted ca. 362 to check the spread of a semi-Arian formula in his father's diocese. Popular sentiment and the insistence of his father forced him into the priesthood. He fled in protest to the monastery of his friend Basil, later returning to take up his duties at Nazianzus. His Oratio 2 (Apologetica) is a defense of this flight and return. After the death of his father 374, he retired to Seleucia in Isauria only to be summoned 379 by the orthodox party in Constantinople to allay a rampant Arianism* in that city. His eloquent protests against Arianism (cf. the 5 Orationes  in defense of the Nicene doctrine of the Trinity) led to his consecration as bp. of Constantinople 381. Objections to his appointment from the Egyptian and Macedonian hierarchy caused him to resign the position within a few days and return to his native diocese. His friend Eulalias was consecrated bp. of Nazianzus 384; Gregory devoted the rest of his life to study and monastic practices at the family estate in Arianzus. He is best remembered as the great orator and rhetorician of the Cappadocian theologians. Works include 45 orations, 244 letters, and ca. 400 poems.
3. Gregory of Nyssa (ca. 331ca. 396). Younger brother of Basil the Great, who was chiefly responsible for his education. After serving as lector in the ch., he embarked on a worldly career as a teacher of rhetoric. His marriage to Theosebia did not deter him from entering the Basilian monastery in Pontus under the influence of Basil and Gregory of Nazianzus. Named bp. of the small Cappadocian town of Nyssa by his brother 371; the position soon revealed his administrative inadequacies. A syn. of Arian bps. meeting at Nyssa 376 convinced Emp. Valens to depose Gregory on the charge of misappropriation of funds. After Valens' death 378, Gregory was welcomed back to his former diocese. On a visit to Pontus ca. 379 he was elected abp. of Sebaste against his will. With Gregory of Nazianzus he played a prominent role in the Second Ecumenical Council at Constantinople 381, which repudiated Arianism. Frequent visits to the capital followed, the last in 394. Lacking administrative and oratorical qualities, he nonetheless distinguished himself as the most gifted thinker and theol. of the 3 Cappadocians. Works include Oratio catechetica magna and De anima et resurrectione dialogus qui inscribitur Macrinia (dogmatic); De hominis opificio and Explicatio apologetica in hexaemeron (exegetical).
1. General: F. W. Farrar, Lives of the Fathers, 2 vols. (London, 1889); J. Quasten, Patrology, III (Westminster, Maryland, 1960); H. v. Campenhausen, The Fathers of the Greek Church, tr. S. Godman (New York, 1959); H. Weiss, Die Grossen Kappadocier: Basilius, Gregor von Nazianz und Gregor von Nyssa als Exegeten (Braunsberg, 1872); K. Weiss, Die Erziehungslehre der drei Kappadozier, in Strassburger theologische Studien, ed. A. Ehrhard and E. Müller, V, 34 (Freiburg, 1903).
2. Special: M. M. Fox, The Life and Times of St. Basil the Great as Revealed in His Works, in The Catholic University of America Patristic Studies, LVII (Washington, 1939); G. L. Prestige, St. Basil the Great and Apollinaris of Laodicea, ed. H. Chadwick (London, 1956); R. T. Smith, St. Basil the Great (New York, 1908); C. Ullmann, Gregorius von Nazianz, der Theologe, 2d ed. (Gotha, 1867); T. A. Goggin, The Times of Saint Gregory of Nyssa as Reflected in the Letters and the Contra Eunomium, in The Catholic University of America Patristic Studies, LXXIX (Washington, 1947); W. W. Jaeger, Two Rediscovered Works of Ancient Christian Literature: Gregory of Nyssa and Macarius (Leiden, 1954); W. Völker, Gregor von Nyssa als Mystiker (Wiesbaden, 1955). MPG, 2932 (Basil the Great); 3537 and 38, 9846 (Gregory of Nazianzus); 4446 (Gregory of Nyssa). HaWR
Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission
Internet Version Produced by
The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod
Original Editions ©Copyright 1954, 1975, 2000
Concordia Publishing House
All rights reserved.
Content Reproduced with Permission