Gregory of Nyssa's Tabernacle Imagery in its Jewish and Christian Contexts

ISBN : 9780198715399

Ann Conway-Jones
320 Pages
162 x 241 mm
Pub date
Sep 2014
Oxford Early Christian Studies
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Integrating patristics and early Jewish mysticism, this book examines Gregory of Nyssa's tabernacle imagery, as found in Life of Moses 2. 170-201. Previous scholarship has often focused on Gregory's interpretation of the darkness on Mount Sinai as divine incomprehensibility. However, true to Exodus, Gregory continues with Moses's vision of the tabernacle 'not made with hands' received within that darkness. This innovative methodology of heuristic comparison doesn't strive to prove influence, but to use heavenly ascent texts as a foil, in order to shed new light on Gregory's imagery. Ann Conway-Jones presents a well-rounded, nuanced understanding of Gregory's exegesis, in which mysticism, theology, and politics are intertwined. Heavenly ascent texts use descriptions of religious experience to claim authoritative knowledge. For Gregory, the high point of Moses's ascent into the darkness of Mount Sinai is the mystery of Christian doctrine. The heavenly tabernacle is a type of the heavenly Christ. This mystery is beyond intellectual comprehension, it can only be grasped by faith; and only the select few, destined for positions of responsibility, should even attempt to do so.


1. Gregory, the Tabernacle, and Heavenly Ascent
2. Gregory of Nyssa and Life of Moses
3. Biblical Contexts
4. Alexandrian Context
5. Heavenly Ascent Context
6. Darkness
7. The Tabernacle Not Made with Hands
8. Christological Interpretation
9. Divine Names
10. Heavenly Powers
11. The Earthly Tabernacle
12. Heavenly and Earthly Worship
13. The Holy of Holies
14. The Priestly Vestments
15. The Value of Heuristic Comparison
Appendix: Translation of Life of Moses 1.46-56, 61

About the author: 

Ann Conway-Jones is an Accredited Lay Worker of the Church of England, who has worked in a parish and as a university chaplain. She has long been involved in Jewish-Christian relations, and is now joint Honorary Secretary of the Council of Christians and Jews. Dr Conway-Jones teaches theology in both academic and church settings; and has been appointed an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham.

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