Grego'rius Nysse'nus, St.
bishop of Nyssa, in Cappadocia, and a father of the Greek church, was the younger brother of Basil the Great.
He was born at Caesareia, in Cappadocia, in or soon after A. D. 331. Though we have no express account of his education, there is no doubt that, like his brother's, it was the best that the Roman empire could furnish. Like his brother also, he formed an early friendship with Gregory Nazianzen.
He did not, however, share in their religious views; but, having been appointed a reader in some church, he abandoned the office, and became a teacher of rhetoric. Gregory Nazianzen remonstrated with him on this step by letter (Epist.
43), and ultimately he became a minister of the church, being ordained by his brother Basil to the bishopric of Nyssa, a small place in Cappadocia, about A. D. 372.
As a pillar of orthodoxy, he was only inferior to his brother and his friend. The Arians persecuted him; and at last, upon a frivolous accusation, drove him into banishment, A. D. 375, from which, on the death of Valens, he was recalled by Gratian, A. D. 378.
In the following year he was present at the synod of Antioch; and after visiting his dying sister, Macrina, in Pontus [BASILIUS
], he went into Arabia, having been commissioned by the synod of Antioch to inspect the churches of that country. Front this tour he returned in 380 or 381, visiting Jerusalem in his way.
The state of religion and morality there greatly shocked him, and he expressed his feelings in a letter against the pilgrimage to the holy city. In 381 he went to the oecumenical council of Constantinople, taking with him his great work against the Arian Eunomius, which he read before Gregory Nazianzen and Jerome.
In the council he took a very active part, and he had a principal share in the composition of the creed, by which the Catholic doctrine respecting the Holy Ghost was added to the Nicene Creed. On the death of Meletius, the first president of the council, Gregory was chosen to deliver his funeral oration.
He was present at the second council of Constantinople in 394, and probably died shortly afterwards.
He was married, though he afterwards adopted the prevailing views of his time in favour of the celibacy of the clergy. Hiswife's name was Theosebeia.
The reputation of Gregory Nyssen with the ancients was only inferior to that of his brother, and to that of Gregory Nazianzen. (See especially Phot. Bibl. 6
.) Like them, he was an eminent rhetorician, but his oratory often offends by its extravagance. His theology bears strong marks of the influence of the writings of Origen.
His works may be divided into:
- 1. Treatises on doctrinal theology, chiefly, but not entirely, relating to the Arian controversy, and including also works against the Appollinarists and the Manichaeans.
- 2. Treatises on the practical duties of Christianity.
- 3. Sermons and Orations.
- 4. Letters.
- 5. Biographies.
The only complete edition of Gregory Nyssen is that of Morell and Gretser, 2 vols. fol. Paris, 1615-1618; reprinted 1638.
There are several editions of his separate works.
Cave, Hist. Lit.
vol. i. p. 244; Fabric. Bibl. Graec.
vol. ix. p. 98; Schröckh, Christliche Kirchengeschichte,
vol. xiv.; F. Rupp, Gregors von Nyssa Leben und Meinungen,
Leipz. 1834, 8vo.; Hoffmann, Lexicon Bibliograph. Script. Graec.