Cappadocian Fathers

The Cappadocian Fathers, also traditionally known as the Three Cappadocians, are Basil the Great (330–379), who was bishop of Caesarea; Basil's younger brother Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335 – c. 395), who was bishop of Nyssa; and a close friend, Gregory of Nazianzus (329–389), who became Patriarch of Constantinople.[1] The Cappadocia region, in modern-day Turkey, was an early site of Christian activity, with several missions by Paul in this region.

The Cappadocians advanced the development of early Christian theology, for example the doctrine of the Trinity,[2]:22 and are highly respected as saints in both Western and Eastern churches.

Gregory of Nyssa
Icon of Gregory of Nyssa (14th century fresco, Chora Church, Istanbul).

Biographical background

An older sister of Basil and Gregory of Nyssa, Macrina, converted the family's estate into a monastic community. Basil the Great was the oldest of Macrina's brothers, the second eldest being the famous Christian jurist Naucratius.[3] Another brother, Peter of Sebaste, also became a bishop. Their maternal grandfather had been a martyr, and their parents, Basil the Elder and Emmelia of Caesarea are also recognized as saints.

Theological contributions

The fathers set out to demonstrate that Christians could hold their own in conversations with learned Greek-speaking intellectuals and that Christian faith, while it was against many of the ideas of Plato and Aristotle (and other Greek philosophers), was an almost scientific and distinctive movement with the healing of the soul of man and his union with God at its center—one best represented by monasticism. They made major contributions to the definition of the Trinity finalized at the First Council of Constantinople in 381 and the final version of the Nicene Creed, finalised there.

They made key contributions to the doctrine of the Trinity and to the responses to Arianism and Apollinarianism.[2]:Chapter 1

Subsequent to the First Council of Nicea, Arianism did not simply disappear. The Council of Nicea had asserted that the Son was of the same substance (homoousios) as the Father. The semi-Arians taught that the Son is of like substance with the Father (homoiousios) as against the outright Arians who taught that the Son was not like the Father, but had been created, and was therefore not God. So the Son was held to be like the Father but not of the same essence as the Father.

The Cappadocians worked to bring these semi-Arians back to the orthodox cause. In their writings they made extensive use of the (now orthodox) formula "one substance (ousia) in three persons (hypostaseis)".[2]:66 The relationship is understandable, argued Basil of Caesarea, in a parallel drawn from Platonism: any three human beings are each individual persons and all share a common universal, their humanity. The formulation explicitly acknowledged a distinction between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (a distinction that Nicea had been accused of blurring), but at the same time insisting on their essential unity.

Thus Basil wrote:

In a brief statement, I shall say that essence (ousia) is related to person (hypostasis) as the general to the particular. Each one of us partakes of existence because he shares in ousia while because of his individual properties he is A or B. So, in the case in question, ousia refers to the general conception, like goodness, godhead, or such notions, while hypostasis is observed in the special properties of fatherhood, sonship, and sanctifying power. If then they speak of persons without hypostasis they are talking nonsense, ex hypothesi; but if they admit that the person exists in real hypostasis, as they do acknowledge, let them so number them as to preserve the principles of the homoousion in the unity of the godhead, and proclaim their reverent acknowledgment of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in the complete and perfect hypostasis of each person so named. —Epistle 214.4.

Basil thus attempted to do justice to the doctrinal definitions of Nicea while at the same time distinguishing the Nicene position from modalism, which had been Arius's original charge against Pope Alexander in the Nicene controversy. The outcome was that Arianism and semi-Arianism virtually disappeared from the church.

The Cappadocians held a higher view of women than many of their contemporaries.[4] Some scholars suggest that Macrina was an equal in the group, and therefore ought to be recognized as "The Fourth Cappadocian."[5]

While the Cappadocians shared many traits, each one exhibited particular strengths. Scholars note that Basil was "the man of action", Gregory of Nazianzus "the orator" and Gregory of Nyssa "the thinker".[6]

See also


  1. ^ "Commentary on Song of Songs; Letter on the Soul; Letter on Ascesis and the Monastic Life". World Digital Library. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
  2. ^ a b c McGrath, Alister (1998), Historical Theology, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, ISBN 0-63120843-7
  3. ^ Gregory of Nyssa, Life of Macrina, trans. by W.K. Lowther Clarke, (London: SPCK, 1916)
  4. ^ Beagon, Philip (May 1995), "The Cappadocian Fathers, Women, and Ecclesiastical Politics", Vigiliae Christianae, Brill, 49 (2): 165–166, doi:10.1163/157007295X00167, JSTOR 1584393
  5. ^ Pelikan, Jaroslov (1993). Christianity and Classical Culture: The Metamorphosis of Natural Theology in the Christian Encounter with Hellenism. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. p. 9. ISBN 0300062559.
  6. ^ Quasten, Johannes (1962), Patrology, 3, Utrecht-Antwerp: Spectrum Publishers, pp. 204, 236, 254, ISBN 0-87061086-4, as quoted in Børtnes, p. 10)
Anaphora of Saint Gregory

The Liturgy of Saint Gregory the Theologian (or Anaphora of Saint Gregory) is one of the three Anaphoras retained by the Coptic Church. The text is named after Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, one of the Cappadocian Fathers.

The anaphora or Eucharistic Prayer that is part of this liturgy is distinct as it is entirely addressed to Christ and not to the Father as anaphoras usually are.

Basil of Caesarea

Basil of Caesarea, also called Saint Basil the Great (Greek: Ἅγιος Βασίλειος ὁ Μέγας, Ágios Basíleios o Mégas; Coptic: Ⲡⲓⲁⲅⲓⲟⲥ Ⲃⲁⲥⲓⲗⲓⲟⲥ; 329 or 330 – January 1 or 2, 379), was the bishop of Caesarea Mazaca in Cappadocia, Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). He was an influential theologian who supported the Nicene Creed and opposed the heresies of the early Christian church, fighting against both Arianism and the followers of Apollinaris of Laodicea. His ability to balance his theological convictions with his political connections made Basil a powerful advocate for the Nicene position.

In addition to his work as a theologian, Basil was known for his care of the poor and underprivileged. Basil established guidelines for monastic life which focus on community life, liturgical prayer, and manual labor. Together with Pachomius, he is remembered as a father of communal monasticism in Eastern Christianity. He is considered a saint by the traditions of both Eastern and Western Christianity.

Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa are collectively referred to as the Cappadocian Fathers. The Eastern Orthodox Church and Eastern Catholic Churches have given him, together with Gregory of Nazianzus and John Chrysostom, the title of Great Hierarch. He is recognized as a Doctor of the Church in the Roman Catholic Church. He is sometimes referred to by the epithet Ouranophantor (Greek: Οὐρανοφάντωρ), "revealer of heavenly mysteries".

Cappadocian (disambiguation)

Cappadocian refers to someone or something from Cappadocia, a region in Asia Minor (Anatolia), in modern Turkey.

Cappadocian can also refer to:

Cappadocian Greek, a dialect of the Greek language, formerly spoken in Cappadocia

Cappadocian Fathers, three prominent ancient Christian writers from Cappadocia:

Basil of Caesarea (c. 330 – 379)

Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335 – c. 395)

Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 329 – c. 390)

Cappadocian calendar, a calendar formerly used in Cappadocia, derived from the Persian Zoroastrian calendar

Christianity in the 5th century

In the 5th century in Christianity, there were many developments which led to further fracturing of the State church of the Roman Empire. Emperor Theodosius II called two synods in Ephesus, one in 431 and one in 449, that addressed the teachings of Patriarch of Constantinople Nestorius and similar teachings. Nestorius had taught that Christ's divine and human nature were distinct persons, and hence Mary was the mother of Christ but not the mother of God. The Council rejected Nestorius' view causing many churches, centered on the School of Edessa, to a Nestorian break with the imperial church. Persecuted within the Roman Empire, many Nestorians fled to Persia and joined the Sassanid Church (the future Church of the East) thereby making it a center of Nestorianism. By the end of the 5th century, the global Christian population was estimated at 10-11 million. In 451 the Council of Chalcedon was held to clarify the issue further. The council ultimately stated that Christ's divine and human nature were separate but both part of a single entity, a viewpoint rejected by many churches who called themselves miaphysites. The resulting schism created a communion of churches, including the Armenian, Syrian, and Egyptian churches, that is today known as Oriental Orthodoxy. In spite of these schisms, however, the imperial church still came to represent the majority of Christians within the Roman Empire.At the end of the 4th century the Roman Empire had effectively split into two states although its economy and the Church were still strongly tied. The two halves of the empire had always had cultural differences, in particular exemplified by the widespread use of the Greek language in the Eastern Empire and the more limited use of Greek in the West (Greek was used in the West but Latin was displacing it as the spoken vernacular). By the 5th century scholars in the West had begun to abandon Greek in favor of the use of Latin. The Church in Rome, in particular, began to encourage the use of Latin in the western provinces and published Jerome's Vulgate, the first authorized translation of the Bible in Latin.

At the same time as these changes were taking place the Western Empire was beginning to decay rapidly. Germanic tribes, particularly the Goths, gradually conquered the western provinces. The Arian Germanic tribes established their own systems of churches and bishops in the western provinces but were generally tolerant of those who chose to remain loyal to the imperial church.

Church Fathers

The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were ancient and influential Christian theologians and writers. There is no definitive list. The era of these scholars who set the theological and scholarly foundations of Christianity largely ended by AD 700 (John of Damascus died in 749 AD, Byzantine Iconoclasm began in 726 AD).In the past, the Church Fathers were regarded as authoritative and more restrictive definitions were used which sought to limit the list to authors treated as such. However, the definition has widened as scholars of patristics, the study of the Church Fathers, have expanded their scope.

Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom

The Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom is the most celebrated divine liturgy (or "mass") in the Byzantine Rite. It is named after its core part, the anaphora attributed to Saint John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople in the 5th century.

It reflects the work of the Cappadocian Fathers to both combat heresy and define Trinitarian theology for the Christian Church. This liturgy was probably used originally by the School of Antioch (John having been a deacon and priest in Antioch) and, therefore, most likely developed from West Syriac liturgical rites. In Constantinople, it was refined and beautified under John's guidance as Archbishop (398–404). As a divine liturgy of the Church of Holy Wisdom, Hagia Sophia, it became over time the usual divine liturgy in the churches within the Byzantine Empire. Just two divine liturgies (aside from the presanctified), those of Saints John and Basil the Great, became the norm in the Byzantine Church by the end of the reign of Justinian I. After the Quinisext Council and the liturgical reforms of Patriarch Theodore Balsamon, the Byzantine Rite became the only rite in the Eastern Orthodox Church, remaining so until the 19th and 20th Century re-introduction by certain jurisdictions of Western Rites.


Epistolography, or the art of writing letters, is a genre of Byzantine literature similar to rhetoric that was popular with the intellectual elite of the Byzantine age.The letter became a popular literary form in the fourth century AD and combined Christian and classical Greek traditions. The collections of the emperors Julian, Libanios, and Synesius, and the work of the Cappadocian Fathers were particularly notable, while letters of Aristotle, Plato and the Pauline Epistles of the New Testament were influential in the development of the genre.In some cases large numbers of letters have survived from the more prolific practitioners. Nine hundred from Quintus Aurelius Symmachus (345–402) survive, and Libanius (c. 314–392 or 393) left over 1500 letters in Greek. Scholars have sometimes been disappointed with the content of the letters, which have tended to include rhetorical conventions to the exclusion of factual matters, or, in the case of Libanius, to include many generic recommendations on behalf of applicants to the Roman bureaucracy. A.H.M. Jones described the writing of letters in the later Roman Empire as a social convention of elegant compositions which contained no information and solicited none.The genre later died out before being revived in the 11th and 12th centuries.

Gregory of Nazianzus

Gregory of Nazianzus (Greek: Γρηγόριος ὁ Ναζιανζηνός, Grēgorios ho Nazianzēnos; c. 329 – 25 January 390), also known as Gregory the Theologian or Gregory Nazianzen, was a 4th-century Archbishop of Constantinople, and theologian. He is widely considered the most accomplished rhetorical stylist of the patristic age. As a classically trained orator and philosopher he infused Hellenism into the early church, establishing the paradigm of Byzantine theologians and church officials.. Saint Gregory was saint patron of medieval Bosnia before the Catholic conquest when he was replaced by Saint (pope) Gregory.Gregory made a significant impact on the shape of Trinitarian theology among both Greek- and Latin-speaking theologians, and he is remembered as the "Trinitarian Theologian". Much of his theological work continues to influence modern theologians, especially in regard to the relationship among the three Persons of the Trinity. Along with the brothers Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, he is known as one of the Cappadocian Fathers.

Gregory is a saint in both Eastern and Western Christianity. In the Roman Catholic Church he is numbered among the Doctors of the Church; in the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches he is revered as one of the Three Holy Hierarchs, along with Basil the Great and John Chrysostom.

He is also one of only three men in the life of the Orthodox Church who have been officially designated "Theologian" by epithet, the other two being St. John the Theologian (the Evangelist), and St. Symeon the New Theologian.

Gregory of Nyssa

Gregory of Nyssa, also known as Gregory Nyssen (Greek: Γρηγόριος Νύσσης; c. 335 – c. 395), was bishop of Nyssa from 372 to 376 and from 378 until his death. He is venerated as a saint in Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, and Anglicanism. Gregory, his elder brother Basil of Caesarea, and their friend Gregory of Nazianzus are collectively known as the Cappadocian Fathers.

Gregory lacked the administrative ability of his brother Basil or the contemporary influence of Gregory of Nazianzus, but he was an erudite theologian who made significant contributions to the doctrine of the Trinity and the Nicene Creed. Gregory's philosophical writings were influenced by Origen. Since the mid-twentieth century, there has been a significant increase in interest in Gregory's works from the academic community, particularly involving universal salvation, which has resulted in challenges to many traditional interpretations of his theology.

Hypostasis (philosophy and religion)

Hypostasis (Greek: ὑπόστασις) is the underlying state or underlying substance and is the fundamental reality that supports all else. In Neoplatonism the hypostasis of the soul, the intellect (nous) and "the one" was addressed by Plotinus.

In Christian theology, a hypostasis is one of the three hypostases (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) of the Trinity.

Judas Barsabbas

Judas Barsabbas was a New Testament prophet and one of the 'leading men' in the early Christian community in Jerusalem at the time of the Council of Jerusalem in around 50 A.D.

Nicholas of Sion

Nicholas of Sion was a 6th-century Christian saint from Pharroa in Lycia. He died in Myra in 564 shortly after he was ordained bishop of Pinara. During the course of his lifetime, he travelled to Jerusalem twice and was reputed to have performed healing miracles. The identity of his hagiographer is not known, but scholars believe his biography was written sometime in the 6th or 7th centuries. The style of writing was more accessible than previous vitae written by the Cappadocian Fathers and some elements style seem to have been influenced by New Testament Greek. Nicholas' vita mostly takes place in a rural setting. His cult was later absorbed by that of Nicholas of Myra.

Patrologia Graeca

The Patrologia Graeca (or Patrologiae Cursus Completus, Series Graeca) is an edited collection of writings by the Christian Church Fathers and various secular writers, in the Greek language. It consists of 161 volumes produced in 1857–1866 by J. P. Migne's Imprimerie Catholique, Paris. It includes both the Eastern Fathers and those Western authors who wrote before Latin became predominant in the Western Church in the 3rd century, e.g. the early writings collectively known as the Apostolic Fathers, such as the First and Second Epistle of Clement, the Shepherd of Hermas, Eusebius, Origen, and the Cappadocian Fathers Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa.

The 161 volumes are bound as 166 (vols. 16 and 87 being in three parts and vol. 86 in two). An important final volume, which included some supplements and a full index, was never published, as the plates were destroyed in a fire (1868) at the printer.The first series contained only Latin translations of the originals (81 vols., 1856-61). The second series contains the Greek text with a Latin translation (166 vols., 1857-66). The texts are interlaced, with one column of Greek and a corresponding column on the other side of the page that is the Latin translation. Where the Greek original has been lost, as in the case of Irenaeus, the extant Greek fragments are interspersed throughout the Latin text. In one instance, the original is preserved in Syriac only and translated into Latin. Quite often, information about the author is provided, also in Latin.

A Greek, D. Scholarios, added a half-published list of the authors and subjects, (Athens, 1879) and began a complete table of contents (Athens, 1883). In 1912, Garnier Frères, Paris, published a Patrologia Graeca index volume, edited by Ferdinand Cavallera.

Social trinitarianism

The social trinitarianism is a Christian interpretation of the Trinity as consisting of three persons in a loving relationship, which reflects a model for human relationships.The teaching emphasizes that God is an inherently social being. Human unity approaches conformity to the image of God's unity through self-giving, empathy, adoration for one another, etc. Such love is a fitting ethical likeness to God, but is in stark contrast to God's unity of being.Those who are often associated with this term include Jürgen Moltmann, Miroslav Volf, Elizabeth A. Johnson, Leonardo Boff, and John Zizioulas.

The Enneads

The Enneads (Greek: Ἐννεάδες), fully The Six Enneads, is the collection of writings of Plotinus, edited and compiled by his student Porphyry (c. AD 270). Plotinus was a student of Ammonius Saccas and they were founders of Neoplatonism. His work, through Augustine of Hippo, the Cappadocian Fathers, Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and several subsequent Christian and Muslim thinkers, has greatly influenced Western and Near-Eastern thought.


Theosebia, also known as Theosebia the Deaconess, was a 4th-century Christian leader, who is honored as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church. As a saint she is referred to as Blessed Theosebia the Deaconess.

Her life and identification is ambiguous: her years of birth and death are uncertain (probably subsequent to 381). However, she is thought to have played an important role in the church in Nyssa, where she was called diakonissa, the deaconess or wife of a deacon.

Gregory Nazianzen wrote a letter of condolence on her death to Gregory of Nyssa in which Gregory Nazianzen mentioned "your sister Theosebia" and "true yoke-fellow of a priest". Hither comes the ambiguity of her identification. Some historians supposed Theosebia was the wife of Gregory of Nyssa, others suppose she was one of his sisters like Macrina the Younger. If so, then Theosebia was the sister of Basil the Great as well.

Gregory of Nyssa—unlike the other Cappadocian Fathers—was married, according to his own testimony in his work On Virginity that he could not benefit from the subject of his own work. This, combined with Nazianzen's statement that Theosebia was buried by the other Gregory in the aforementioned letter, suggest that she was indeed either Gregory of Nyssa's wife or sister, whose funeral he would have been obliged to oversee.

Three Saints Church (Shaki)

Nukha Three Saints Church (Azerbaijani: Üçmüqəddəs kilsəsi; Russian: Нухинская трехсвятительская церковь, romanized: Nukhinskaya trekhsvyatitel'skaya tserkov'), Nukha Holy Church (Russian: Нухинская Святительская церковь, romanized: Nukhinskaya Svyatitel'skaya tserkov') or Round Temple (Azerbaijani: Dairəvi məbəd) is former Russian Orthodox church building located in Shaki, Azerbaijan near Khan's Palace, named after Cappadocian Fathers.


The Christian doctrine of the Trinity (Latin: Trinitas, lit. 'triad', from Latin: trinus "threefold") holds that God is one God, but three coeternal consubstantial persons or hypostases—the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit—as "one God in three Divine Persons". The three Persons are distinct, yet are one "substance, essence or nature" (homoousios). In this context, a "nature" is what one is, whereas a "person" is who one is. Sometimes differing views are referred to as nontrinitarian. Trinitarianism contrasts with positions such as Binitarianism (one deity in two persons, or two deities) and Monarchianism (no plurality of persons within God), of which Modalistic Monarchianism (one deity revealed in three modes) and Unitarianism (one deity in one person) are subsets.

While the developed doctrine of the Trinity is not explicit in the books that constitute the New Testament, the New Testament possesses a "triadic" understanding of God and contains a number of Trinitarian formulas. The doctrine of the Trinity was first formulated among the early Christians and fathers of the Church as early Christians attempted to understand the relationship between Jesus and God in their scriptural documents and prior traditions.

Cappadocian Fathers
Autocephalous churches
Autonomous churches
Autocephalous churches
Autonomous churches
Virgin Mary
See also

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