Those who study Gregory of Nazianzus seem to agree that he was a bit prickly, and that it might be more fun to have the company of his books than to have him in person. His books are very good to have around. I met one scholar who decided to master Patristic Greek (far tougher than the Koine of the New Testament) basically to read Gregory’s “Theological Orations.” His influence in the history of theology is enormous, particularly through those great lectures where he presents the doctrine of the Trinity with such clarity and passion.
He can be hard going, even in English, however. Part of that is because the available translation of most of his writings comes from the 19th century. (Happily it is available for free in the Christian Classics Etherial Library.)
Another part is that that his writing is in the cadences and complexities of 4th century Greek rhetorical training. This is the kind of literature I sometimes encourage my students to read aloud rather than in silence. In those days rhetoric, the art of persuasive speech, was honed to a fine edge. And a document like Gregory’s second oration, even if it was not intended for public oral presentation, comes to us shaped by that oral style. Hearers or readers back then were very familiar with it–there was no television and no blogosphere, so for entertainment people went to hear a good speaker. It can be challenging for a modern reader, but when it is read aloud the rhetorical style works on us as it was intended to.
He is worth your investment in time and energy. Keep coming back for another go, and work your way through till his becomes a familiar voice.
Gregory’s second oration is a document of enormous influence on Christian understanding of ministry. I hope you’ll take a look at it. I’ll be making at least a couple posts on this text in the next little while. I’d be happy to hear your thoughts on it as well, so feel free to comment.