The Rational Animal: A Rereading of Gregory of Nyssa's De hominis opificio

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Journal of Early Christian Studies 7:2, 219–247 © 1999 The Johns Hopkins University Press
The Rational Animal:
A Rereading of Gregory of
Nyssa’s De hominis opificio 1
This article, through a close reading of Gregory of Nyssa’s De hominis
opificio, challenges the usual synthetic presentation of Gregory of Nyssa’s
anthropology, particularly his understanding of human sexuality,
characteristically built up by combining various elements from different works.
Instead of an anthropology articulated in terms of a dual creation, in which
sexuality is added as an economic measure “in view of the Fall,” we see how
Gregory explores the existence of human beings as rational animals,
embracing the extremes of creation in their own being, the asexual rational,
that which is in the image of God, and the irrational sexual, that which
humans share with the animals. These two aspects of human existence enables
Gregory to see a potential in creation for ascent, gracing that which is
irrational with a rational employment, or descent, assimilating the rational to
the irrational.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-47
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Early Christian Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 1999

Bibliographical note

I would like to thank M. Hart for his valuable comments on an earlier version
of this paper.


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