NON-BEING AND EVIL IN GREGORY OF NYSSA BY ALDEN A. MOSSHAMMER "No evil exists in its own substance i8?av lx6J<aJw) lying outside the faculty of free choice (ifm 1tpo?LplO"EWÇ XELf.lE\lO\l)." So says Gregory of Nyssa in the De Virginitate, his earliest work.' This statement Gregory repeats, almost verbatim, in works of every period of his career, whenever he discusses the origin and nature of evil.3 The idea that evil has no reality of its own had become a commonplace both in the Greek philosophical literature of Gregory's time and in Christian teaching.' Gregory knew such a doctrine, if from no other source, then from his brother Basil, who describes evil as "not a living essence (06x't ouai« but a disposition of the soul opposed to virtue, resulting through a falling away from the good." Basil adds, however, "that evil certainly exists, no one living in the world will deny." 5 Basil's juxtaposition of these two statements points to the difficulty that confronts early Christian writers in trying to reconcile the reality of sin with the omnipotence and benevolence of God. If evil has no substance in the structure of things, then it is difficult to understand how it
Vigiliae Christianae – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 1990
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