Date of Award

Fall 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Religious Studies


Peter Widdicombe




This thesis comprises the first full-length study of Gregory of Nazianzus's theology of the Holy Spirit. Gregory was a major political and intellectual figure during the pneumatological controversies of the late Fourth Century. Gregory is the first author whose works are extant to declare that “the Holy Spirit is God” in so many words. He advocated, against leading figures including Basil of Caesarea, that such a declaration should be made by the Church, but largely met with failure in his lifetime. Yet, Gregory's affirmation of the Spirit's divinity was eventually to be embraced by nearly all Christians, and it remains so today. Despite these facts, Gregory is usually treated by historians as a minor influence on Fourth Century pneumatology. This thesis will not necessarily challenge this assessment, but will seek to establish a fuller understanding of how Gregory's pneumatology functions in itself such that his historical place can be reassessed in the future.

Our key observation is that Gregory's pneumatology is rooted in his understanding of the Spirit's relationship to the Church. A discussion of Gregory's ecclesiological pneumatology comprises Part I. Having presented Gregory's understanding of the Spirit's relationship to the Church, and his understanding of his own place within this relationship, we explore, in Part II, some of the texts in which Gregory argues for his pneumatological doctrine in the face of various opponents. We note that Gregory remains consistently concerned with ecclesiology when engaging other thinkers on the Spirit. We conclude that when Gregory's ecclesiological pneumatology is accounted for, his reactions to the pneumatological controversies of his day appear as consistent, pastorally motivated responses to concerns about the Church's relationship to the Holy Spirit and the preaching of pneumatological truth which Gregory thought this relationship demanded.

McMaster University Library