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Into the Darkness with Michæl Motia

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We ask some further questions. What has Gregory actually read? And who read him? We discuss Gregory’s understanding of language, and its resonances with post-structuralist ideas. I ask Motia whether Gregory is an esoteric writer, in the sense of someone who is presenting subtexts for the alert reader to find beneath the surface of his theological writings? No, he isn’t. The doctrine of universal salvation or apocatastasis is right there on the page for all to read. But does this mean Christians reincarnate? The conversation finishes with some discussion of Gregory’s apophatic anthropology; God is unknowable, but so are all the human beings!

Interview Bio:

Michael Motia is lecturer in religion at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He holds a PhD from Harvard University and is the author of Imitations of Infinity: Gregory of Nyssa and the Transformation of Mimesis (see bibliography below; interested listeners might also check out his paper on the colour blue in late antiquity).

Works Cited in this Episode:



  • Macrina’s scar, like Odysseus’ scar: See Homer, Od. 19 and Gregory, V. Mac. 31. See Georgia Frank “Macrina’s Scar: Homeric Allusion and Heroic Identity in Gregory of Nyssa’s Life of Macrina.” Journal of Early Christian Studies 8.4 (2000): 511-530.
  • Moses working on his statue: V. Mos. 2.313
  • Universal salvation: he mentions it in other places, but the main treatise is “On the ‘Final Subjection’ of Christ” (In Illud: Tunc et Ipse Filius); a new translation by Brian Daley can be found in Gregory of Nyssa: On Death and Eternal Life (Yonkers, NY: Saint Vladimir’s Press, 2022).


John Behr’s forthcoming trans. and comm. on Gregory on the making of man: John Behr, Gregory of Nyssa: On the Human Image of God. Oxford. OUP 2023.

Morwenna Ludlow on apocatastasis, universal salvation in Gregory: Morwenna Ludlow, Universal Salvation Eschatology in the Thought of Gregory of Nyssa and Karl Rahner. Oxford: OUP, 2009.