The Evangelical Universalist Forum

St. Gregory of Nyssa

Tom, you sometimes cite St. Gregory of Nyssa in your support for universalism. However, some Eastern Orthodox theologians have argued that Gregory was not a universalist and that universalists are misinterpreting him. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Tom has been away looking after some family issues. However, I’ve let him know he has a question in case he has a spare moment. I was asked this question two weeks ago and I asked Robin (Gregory MacDonald).

Since then, I’ve also read the chapter in “All Shall Be Well” on Gregory of Nyssa and I’m left with little doubt that he was indeed a universalist (I’ll try to find a quote during my lunch break).

p54, Steven R. Harmon"]

26 (GNO III/IV, 67), Gregory of Nyssa"]In the same manner, after the evil of the [human] nature which is now mingled and united with it * has been removed through long periods of time, when the restoration of those now lying dead in evil to the original state has come to pass, there will be a harmonious thanksgiving from all creation, even from those who needed no purification in the first place. The great mystery of the divine incarnation grants these and other such things. For through those things which were mingled with human nature - birth, rearing, growth, even to the extent of going through the experience of death - he accomplished all the aforementioned things, both freeing humanity from evil and healing even the originator of evil himself. For the purification of moral disease is the healing of illness, even if it is painful.*

Hi Alex,

Thanks for calling my attention to this issue, and sorry for the delay in replying. I have yet to read anyone who has denied that St. Gregory of Nyssa was a universalist, so I have no idea what the relevant arguments might be. But here is an additional quotation from the Address on Religious Instruction 35:

Seems pretty clear to me.


George W. Sarris has written a nice piece on the universalists among the early church fathers, and he includes some additional quotations of note from St. Gregory of Nyssa. You can find his post on the website at the following URL:

It’s worth checking out.


The claim is repeated here with reference to Edward Beecher: … orever-25/

Someone named “Gregory” (obviously not our Robin Parry) posted an interesting quote from Gregory of Nyssa journalDangerous Idea, involving Gregory’s commentary on the story of Lazarus and the rich man.

The quote is taken (purportedly?) from the sermon “On the soul and resurrection”:

Gregory-the-respondent says that for brevity’s sake “I did not finish the entire passage where he describes those who are so wedded to earthly passion that there is no remittance in the age to come.”

Anyone want to work on that? (I’m not a Patristics scholar by any stretch of the imagination, so I have to let other people fiddle with these things. :slight_smile: )

Here’s an online version of On the Soul and the Resurrection.

I think Gregory the Commenter stopped reading way too soon. His quote is found at the end of pg 106, but Gregory of Nyssa wasn’t nearly done yet. The quote below begins around pg 110.

Interesting stuff…

A book club (online or otherwise) reading through Gregory’s stuff would be VERY cool.


I’d like that too.

I think the “Gregory” of the thread would answer by denying that this further quote from “On the Soul and Resurrection” over-rules the observation made (apparently?) earlier that some souls shall not get the refinement of the blessings wherein the saints are affluent.

(On the other hand, he has recently admitted that St. Gregory might have been a proponent of universal reconciliation in his youth but “matured” out of it. :wink: My reply to him on this was that in theory the maturation might have been either way, and that we would need a solid chronology of authorship to chart any movements from him on this part.)

There are so many claims on both sides of these issues that simply demand that we bow to the claimers authority, as there are quite often no sources given, or the sources simply chain to other sources. Another way to argue in this light is to simply cut to the chase: "accept my claims by my authority.

There seems to be so much work to be done!

As I read it, Gregory did not say they would never get the blessing, but that while they remained tied to the fleshly desires of this world they cannot receive them. The later quote I gave detailed the torment they would experience as they were dragged free of that bondage by God.

But I don’t know that this particular instance can be considered generally universalist, because he’s speaking particularly of

… which does not necessarily encompass all levels of sinners and sin.

Since this one chapter is all I’ve read of Gregory, I may not know how to understand him properly.


I certainly give him credit for at least quoting St. Gregory! Though he seems fuzzy about dealing with other quotes from St. Gregory (aside from allowing that, uh, maybe he was after all in his immaturity before he grew up as a Christian teacher. :slight_smile: But I can hardly fault him for that move in principle.)

Tom has himself now brought up some further quotes from the same text to discuss with “Gregory” in the thread. I’d say Tom is doing very well so far! :smiley: – but of course opinions might vary. (Such as “Gregory”'s opinion. :mrgreen: )

[deleted. I found the link :slight_smile:]

Regarding Gregory – a piece of very sloppy scholarship here be a non-expert – I’m going to quote Wikipedia -

It is generally agreed that Gregory believed in universal salvation or resurrection. In the Life of Moses, he writes that just as the darkness left the Egyptians after three days, perhaps redemption ἀποκατάστασις] will be extended to those suffering in hell γέεννα].This salvation may not only extend to humans; following Origen, there are passages where he seems to suggest (albeit through the voice of Macrina) that even the demons will have a place in Christ’s “world of goodness”.Gregory’s interpretations of 1 Corinthians 15:28 (“And when all things shall be subdued unto him …”) and Philippians 2:10 (“That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth”) support this understanding of his theology.

However, in the Great Catechism, Gregory suggests that while every human will be resurrected, salvation will only be accorded to the baptised.While he believes that there will be no more evil in the hereafter, it is arguable that this does not preclude a belief that God might justly damn sinners for eternity.Thus, the main difference between Gregory’s conception of ἀποκατάστασις and that of Origen would be that Gregory believes that mankind will be collectively returned to sinlessness, whereas Origen believes that personal salvation will be universal.

OK – I have seen this discrepancy between Gregory’s earlier writings and his Great Catechism referred to before by Orthodox scholars who want him for the ECT camp (they make a distinction between the heterodox youthful Gregory and the orthodox ‘mature ‘Gregory’ of the Great Catechism). My two pence worth in this debate – and its just a suggestion – is that Gregory in the Great Catechism is presumably writing for new/immature Christians. And if his teaching about universalism is less certain here than in his other writings one reason could be that like Origen he held to a notion of ‘double truth’ – namely, that universalism should only be fully disclosed to mature Christians already schooled in Christian virtue. Perhaps I’m talking rubbish :laughing:

I came across this article yesterday which is germane to the discussion of this thread: “The Fire of Purgation in Gregory of Nyssa’s De anima et resurrectione.”

There is an academic paper you can read entitled Reconsidering Apokatastasis in St Gregory of Nyssa’s On the Soul and Resurrection and the Catechetical Oration. One point mentioned is

I guess this is as good a place as any to put up my first post. I am coming in here to act as devil’s advocate for the Hellfire & Brimstone Club. The reason I am doing so is because I am really catching hell (pun intended) for my interest in Patristic Universalism. Therefore, it is necessary for me to throw up all those doubts that are being shoved in my face and get my responses in order.

My first question is this: I understand that up to the fourth century and the time and writings of Augustine, the teaching of apocatastasis was pretty widespread in the Church. So where and when did the Hellfire Club begin? Is that to be laid primarily at the feet of Augustine? In your opinion, why didn’t the writings of St. Gregory of Nyssa and others carry the day?

As a bonus question, to the best of your knowledge, when did the grave (Gehenna) become Hell?

Thanks for your answers and insights.