[MGSA-L] Princeton Hellenic Studies Lecture: November 29, 2011

Dimitri H. Gondicas gondicas at Princeton.EDU
Tue Nov 22 11:56:07 PST 2011


Hellenic Studies


Mapping Modern Concepts of the Person

Onto the Greek Patristic Past

Alexis Torrance

atorranc at princeton.edu<mailto:atorranc at princeton.edu>

Post-Doctoral Fellow, Hellenic Studies

The concepts of the person and personhood have received much attention in modern theological as well as philosophical circles. While significant differences exist between the various theologies of the person, they are joined in countering an individualistic or atomistic view of the human being, one which makes of each human an autonomous, almost self-sufficient unit. By contrast, the idea of "person," it is claimed, evokes a sense of interrelationship, a focus on mutual dependence and community which is in some sense constitutive of what it means to be human. A particular interest in the idea of the person flourished in Greek Orthodox theology during the twentieth century (represented most notably by Koutroubis, Gontikakis, Nellas, Zizioulas, and Yannaras), and continues into the twenty-first. Yet the Eastern Orthodox emphasis on the presence of key precedents for their theology (or theologies) of the person in Greek patristic and Byzantine sources has been a significant area of contention. However, while general and occasional specific criticisms have been voiced, there has been no systematic or fully engaged study of the claim made by numerous widely-respected theologians that in Greek patristic and Byzantine texts we are presented with a vision of the human being (and of the divine) which speaks directly to the spiritual, philosophical, and intellectual needs of the modern world. This paper will begin by introducing the topic of personalism more broadly, before delving into the principal elements of the debate over precedents. Having argued that in many specific instances claims for patristic precedent are ill-founded, it will nonetheless be suggested that some conceptual continuity exists, especially, though not exclusively, in the realm of Greek patristic and Byzantine ascetic thought.

Alexis Torrance (D.Phil., Theology, University of Oxford) did his doctoral work on the concept of repentance in Christian late antiquity, with special reference to ascetic theology from the fifth to seventh centuries. During academic year 2010-11, he was a Residential Fellow at the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study. He has researched and published on diverse aspects of patristic, Byzantine, and modern Orthodox theology, including articles on the letters of Barsanuphius and John, precedents for the theology of Gregory Palamas in the Cappadocian Fathers, and modern Orthodox personalism. He is currently co-editing a collection entitled Individuality in Late Antiquity for Ashgate Press, and his first book, Repentance in Late Antiquity: Framing the Christian Life in the Early Church, is forthcoming with Oxford University Press.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

6:00 p.m.

Scheide Caldwell House, Room 103
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