“The breadth of the philosophy… in this brief saying:” philosophia in Gregory of Nyssa’s exposition of “Give us this day our daily bread”

Aron Reppmann, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, Trinity Christian College, Palos Heights

Images and concepts reminiscent of philosophical authors are widespread throughout Gregory of Nyssa’s Homilies on the Lord’s Prayer, but it is noteworthy that he explicitly uses terms related to the wordphilosophia only four times in the collection (GNO VII/II 51.23-24, 53.3-5, 56.24-57.1, and 57.18-21) – all of them in the latter portion of the fourth homily, in his exposition of the petition “Give us this day our daily bread.”  Unfortunately, the significance of Gregory’s use of this terminology has been diminished or even hidden by some modern translators and interpreters, who have variously worked to explain away his references to philosophia or simply replaced them with other terminology (such as “divine teaching”, “divine wisdom”, or simply “teaching”).  In this paper, I argue that these four instances of “philosophia” are importantly connected to each other and to the whole homily’s emphasis on the proper practice of embodied human life.  In support of this argument, I offer a survey of modern translations of these passages, indicating the ways in which the translators’ decisions regarding “philosophia” affect their overall interpretation of the doctrinal and broader cultural significance of this homily.