SWBTS Doctoral Student Attends XIV International Gregory of Nyssa Colloquium

An American In Paris: SWBTS Doctoral Student Attends XIV International Gregory of Nyssa Colloquium
By: Logan Koontz

Thomas Jefferson once famously said, “A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of Life.” Jefferson’s quip was certainly true for this aspiring scholar.

On September 4-7, the XIVth International Gregory of Nyssa Colloquim met at the College de Bernardins in Paris, France. For four days of encouraging, rigorous, ecumenical dialogue, celebrated scholars from all over the globe and a wide variety of Christian traditions and denominations presented papers on Gregory of Nyssa’s famous work Homilies on the Lord’s Prayer.

The organizers of this year’s colloquium were Matthieu Cassin (Researcher: IRHT) Hélène Grelier-Deneux (Lecturer and Researcher: University of Paris West) and Françoise Vinel (Professor emeritus: University of Strasbourg), and they collectively did an excellent job pulling together a strongly academic and theologically diverse colloquium.

The Gregory of Nyssa colloquium actually began with a half-day colloquium on Basil of Caesarea, as the study of the two brothers is so integrated, and no colloquium currently exists solely for the study of Basil. The mini-colloquium on Basil concluded with an exhortation to the scholars interested in Basil studies to join in the creation of a critical edition of Basil’s works, a so-called Corpus basilianum, as a critical corpus of Basil’s works doesn’t currently exist. The creation of an all-encompassing critical edition of Basil’s works by the colloquium would not only benefit the study of Basil’s works, but the study of Gregory of Nyssa and Cappadocian studies as a whole.

As the colloquium got underway, it was remarkable to observe just how diverse the study of Gregory of Nyssa has become. As with many church fathers, Gregory of Nyssa attracts people from many different academic backgrounds for study. While he has been and will always be of interest to theologians and church historians, numerous philosophers, classicists, philologists, an art historian and even a classical ichthyologist (one who studies fish in classical antiquity) arrived to present their findings at the colloquium.

As such, the topics of the papers at the colloquium were as wide-ranging as the interests of the people who presented them. Sometimes the questions debated by the scholars were broad and theological in scope, such as what the different ontological and epistemological purposes of different sections of the Lord’s Prayer are in Nyssa’s mind, to extremely narrow questions bordering on the humorous, such as whether or not Gregory was right in asserting that it is difficult to “yank” a snake backwards out of a crack in a rock wall (Being a native Texan, I happily contributed to the latter discussion, providing them with a 2016 journal article from the Georgia Institute of Technology[1]about how snakes can consciously double their friction coefficient, and personally assured my fellow scholars from experience that yes, it is indeed difficult to pull an unwilling snake anywhere it doesn’t want to go. I am told that for my contribution I am to be cited in a footnote of the author’s final article. Scholarship at work!).

Prior to the colloquium, doctoral students in the process of writing their dissertations were invited to present a chapter for peer review from a senior Nyssa scholar with similar research interests. These students were subsequently invited to present their thesis proposals for review before a large group of senior international Nyssa scholars as well as their fellow doctoral candidates before getting feedback from their reader and other scholars interested in their topic. Doctoral student presenters this year came from Belgium (K.C. Leuven), Switzerland (University of Fribourg), the United States (University of Notre Dame, Duke University) and Germany.

Considerable assistance for doctoral students also took place outside of the colloquium and over meals, as professors and scholars took time over lengthy lunches and dinners in Parisian cafes with doctoral candidates to go over their ideas for future research, leaving time in between courses for the doctoral candidates to bounce ideas off of them.

At the conclusion of the colloquium, it was announced that the next colloquium will be held at the University of Exeter in 2022 and organized by Dr. Morwenna Ludlow (University of Exeter) and Andrew Radde-Gallwitz (University of Notre Dame). In 2026, for the first time in its history, the colloquium will be held in the United States at the University of Notre Dame.

For further information about the colloquium, to review its resources, or to connect with other scholars interested in Gregory of Nyssa studies, visit https://www.gregoryofnyssa.org/en/.

[1]Hamidreza, Marvi, James P. Cook, Jeffrey L. Streator, David L. Hu. “Snakes move their scales to increase friction,” Biotribology5, no. 2 (2016): 52-60.