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D. Tóth Judit

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Judit Tóth, D.


The Ontology of the Body in Death

(The Dead Body in the Theology of Saint Gregory of Nyssa)


The contemplation on death in respect to the redeeming crucifixion of Christ in the thinking of the first Christian Church Fathers, the most prominent persons of their age, was basically determined by the Biblical teaching concerning the resurrection of the body, with the promise of eternal corporal life for Christians. For those educated on Platonic writings the latter teaching was sheer stupidity. Even Paul the Apostle was ridiculed for it on his mission to Athens. The Church Fathers, educated in the paideia, the educational system of the Roman Empire, could not neglect the questions about death that had cropped up in the philosophical and cultural tradition. They had to investigate these questions in the junction of theological, anthropological, philosophical (ontological) and partly aesthetical problems.

In my study I try to investigate what questions are raised and how they are raised in the centre of thinking of Saint Gregory of Nyssa, who investigated death and the dead body in the context of resurrection. Living in the tension generated between everyday, ephemeral experience (the physical decay of the dead body) and belief-hope (resurrection in the body), Gregory tries to answer the questions of identity (what is the aim of resurrection, if it is not me who is resurrected) by integrating the tradition of Neoplatonic philosophy (especially the concept of eidos) into Christian theology. My study, putting aside the discursive frame of Gregory’s works, tries to give a summary on the ontology of the dead and the resurrected body in the theology and anthropology of the Cappadocian Father.

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