St Gregory of Nyssa: On the Divine Ousia and Hypostasis

Eclectic Orthodoxy

The epistle To Peter on the Divine Ousia and Hypostasis has long been attributed to St Basil of Caesarea; but during the past century patristic scholars have come to believe that it probably was composed by St Gregory of Nyssa, Basil’s brother. If true, then the letter is a good place to begin our reflections on the trinitarian theology of Gregory. In it he elucidates the distinction for which the Cappadocians are famous—the distinction between hypostasis and ousia (see “The Search for Hypostasis“). But as we reflect on this letter and some of Gregory’s other writings, it’s important to keep in mind that while their formulation of the hypostasis/ousia distinction was helpful to the Church in achieving terminological consensus in trinitarian discourse, the Cappadocians were not consumed with the philosophical question of how the One and Three might be reconciled. Khaled Anatolios provides a much-needed caveat:

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