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Body and DesireGregory of Nyssa's Ascetical Theology$
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Raphael A. Cadenhead

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780520297968

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520297968.001.0001

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Marriage, Celibacy, and Pederasty

Marriage, Celibacy, and Pederasty

(p.33) 1 Marriage, Celibacy, and Pederasty
Body and Desire

Raphael A. Cadenhead

University of California Press

Chapter 1 is the first chapter in part A of the book, “The Integrative Significance of the Body in the Life of Virtue,” which examines Gregory’s early ascetical theology, which covers a span of roughly seven years—from the composition of the De virginitate, his earliest work (371), to the death of his brother, Basil of Caesarea, in September 378. Chapter 1 begins with an analysis of Mark Hart’s essay on Gregory’s De virginitate, and makes the case for the integrative view of the virtues in the life of virginity. For Gregory, virginity is emblematic of the angelic life and the privileged point of entry into the life of virtue, but Christians who pursue the life of virginity must also eschew other vices, such as pride and hate. This leads onto an area of discussion that has been subject to considerable misunderstanding—the difference between the Platonic ideal of the chaste love of a man for an adolescent boy and Christian virginity. For Gregory, celibacy replicates the same spiritual outcomes as Platonic pederasty but removes the need for a physical example of beauty—the beloved—to redirect erotic desire toward the Form of beauty.

Keywords:   marriage, celibacy, Platonic pederasty, nature, procreation, death

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