Skip to main content Accessibility help

Education and Pleasure in the Early Church: Perspectives from East and West

  • Morwenna Ludlow (a1) and Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe (a1)


Early Christian teachers and preachers were often cautious about, if not suspicious of, pleasure, but they also had a lively awareness of the psychological aspects of pedagogy, and of the power of pleasure and delight to persuade, move, instruct and even convert. This article explores the treatment of pleasure as a pedagogical tool, tracing this subject through the lens of sermons, letters, treatises and poetry written in Latin and Greek and drawing out both classical and biblical themes. It notes that, while most of the authors considered acknowledge pleasure as a potential problem in pedagogy, it is a problem they attempt to navigate. The article sketches out various approaches to the problem, noting especially the pleasure involved in reading, performing and expounding Scripture; pleasure used as a conscious educational strategy; and discussions which weigh up the dangers and gains of pleasure in education.


Corresponding author

*Morwenna Ludlow: Department of Theology and Religion, University of Exeter, Amory Building, Rennes Drive, Exeter, EX4 4RJ. E-mail:
Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe: Faculty of Divinity, West Rd, Cambridge, CB3 9BS. E-mail:


Hide All

1 Maximus of Turin, , Sermo 89 (transl. Boniface Ramsey, ACW 50 [New York, 1989], 211). As Ramsey notes (348 n. 1), Maximus's apian imagery bears some resemblance to Ambrose's In hexameron 5.21, but the idea of bishops as busy bees is found in other Latin preachers of the period: see, for example, Augustine, Epistula 109 (Letters, 2: Letters 83–130, transl. Sr Wilfrid Parsons, FOTC 18 [Washington DC, 2008], 239), from Severus of Milevius, in which Severus addresses Augustine thus: ‘O truly skilful bee of God, building a honeycomb filled with divine nectar’. On Maximus, see Allen, Pauline, ‘Impact, Influence and Identity in Latin Preaching: The Cases of Maximus of Turin and Peter Chrysologus of Ravenna’, in Dupont, A. et al. , eds, Preaching in the Patristic Era: Sermons, Preachers and Audiences in the Latin West (Leiden, 2018), 135–58.

2 Ambrose of Milan, De officiis 1.23.102–3 (transl. Ivor J. Davidson, 2 vols, OECS [Oxford, 2002], 1: 177). In this, Christians shared much in common with other philosophers; for examples, see Rylaarsdam, David, John Chrysostom on Divine Pedagogy: The Coherence of his Theology and Preaching (Oxford, 2014), 277–8.

3 See, for example, Papaioannou, Stratis, ‘Gregory and the Constraint of Sameness’, in Børtnes, Jostein and Hägg, Tomas, eds, Gregory of Nazianzus: Images and Reflections (Copenhagen, 2006), 5981; Rylaarsdam, John Chrysostom on Divine Pedagogy, 13–54, 228–82 (chs 1, 6); and (two very different examples in a large literature) Williams, Rowan, ‘Language, Reality and Desire in Augustine's De doctrina’, Literature and Theology 3 (1989), 138–50; Roberts, Michael, The Jeweled Style: Poetry and Poetics in Late Antiquity (Ithaca, NY, 1989), 125–32.

4 Harrison, Carol, The Art of Listening in the Early Church (Oxford, 2013); Miller, Patricia Cox, The Corporeal Imagination: Signifying the Holy in Late Ancient Christianity (Philadelphia, PA, 2009), 4281 (chs 2–3); Roberts, Jeweled Style. See also, on a broader range of authors, Webb, Ruth, Ekphrasis, Imagination and Persuasion in Ancient Rhetorical Theory and Practice (Farnham, 2009), 21, 76, 99100.

5 See Ferguson, Everett, ‘Catechesis and Initiation’, in Kreider, Alan, ed., The Origins of Christendom in the West (New York, 2001), 229–68; Harmless, William, Augustine and the Catechumenate (Collegeville, MN, 2014).

6 Ambrose, De mysteriis 1.1–2; see also Augustine, De catechizandis rudibus and Peter Chrysologus's catechetical Sermones 56–72. In the East, catechetical works by Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures and Mystagogical Lectures) and John Chrysostom (Baptismal Instructions) survive.

7 See the characterizations of Nicetas of Remesiana, book 5 of whose Instructio ad competentes comprised an explanation of the Creed; Augustine, De fide et symbolo 1, idem De symbolo ad catechumenos 1. Christian teachers also offered explanations of the Creed for more advanced audiences, particularly in polemical contexts, such as Rufinus of Aquileia, Commentarius in symbolum apostolorum, written for bishop Laurentius. For a sermon on the Creed addressed to a mixed audience of baptized Christians and catechumens, see Peter Chrysologus, Sermo 62. Gregory of Nyssa wrote series of sermons on the Lord's Prayer and on the Beatitudes for a general audience.

8 On Ambrose's hymnody, see Dunkle, Brian, Enchantment and Creed in the Hymns of Ambrose of Milan (Oxford, 2016), 1351 (ch. 1), with useful comparative discussion of other authors from Ephrem to Hilary and Augustine.

9 On early Christian poetry, see especially Elsner, Jaś and Lobato, Jesús Hernández, eds, The Poetics of Late Latin Literature (Oxford, 2017); Pollmann, Karla, The Baptized Muse: Early Christian Poetry as Cultural Authority (Oxford, 2017), especially 37–75, 161–75 (chs 2, 7) for Prudentius, 101–19 (ch. 4) for Proba. On Proba, see also Clark, Elizabeth A., ‘The Virgilian Cento of Faltonia Betitia Proba’, Studia Patristica 17/1 (1982), 412–16; Bazil, Martin, ‘“Rem nulli obscuram repetens”. Les Stratégies intertextuelles dans l'exorde du Cento Probae’, Graecolatina Pragensia 20 (2004), 1525; Cullhed, Sigrid Schottenius, Proba the Prophet: The Christian Virgilian Cento of Faltonia Betitia Proba (Leiden, 2015). On Prudentius, see, for example, Palmer, Anne-Marie, Prudentius on the Martyrs, Oxford Classical Monographs (Oxford, 2006); Brian Dunkle, ‘Ambrosian Imitation in Sedulius and Prudentius’, in idem, Enchantment and Creed, 186–213. On Sedulius, see, for example, Carl P. E. Springer, The Gospel as Epic in Late Antiquity: The Paschale Carmen of Sedulius, Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 2 (Leiden, 1988); Sedulius, The Paschal Song and Hymns, transl. Carl P. E. Springer, Writings from the Greco-Roman World 35 (Atlanta, GA, 2013); Dunkle, ‘Ambrosian Imitation’. On Gregory of Nazianzus, see, for example, Neil B. McLynn, ‘Among the Hellenists: Gregory and the Sophists’, in Børtnes and Hägg, eds, Gregory of Nazianzus, 213–38; Rebillard, Suzanne Abrams, ‘The Autobiographical Prosopopoeia of Gregory of Nazianzus’, Studia Patristica 47 (2010), 123–8; eadem, ‘Historiography as Devotion: Poemata de seipso’, in Beeley, Christopher A, ed., Re-Reading Gregory of Nazianzus: Essays on History, Theology, and Culture (Washington DC, 2012), 125–42; Dunkle, Brian, ‘Introduction’ to Poems on Scripture: St Gregory of Nazianzus, Popular Patristics Series 46 (Crestwood, NY, 2012).

10 ‘The presiding ministers of the “mystery of godliness” have need of a system in their instructions, in order that the Church may be replenished by the accession of such as should be saved, through the teaching of the word of Faith being brought home to the hearing of unbelievers’: Gregory of Nyssa, Oratio catechetica: Preface (NPNF II 5; references to this series use the online versions at: <>).

11 The term ‘Cappadocians’ conventionally designates the literary circle of Basil, his brother Gregory of Nyssa and Basil's friend Gregory of Nazianzus (and sometimes some of their associates).

12 Harrison, Art of Listening, especially 4.

13 According to Agnieszka Kotlińska-Toma, theatre was ‘the most accessible and egalitarian form of mass entertainment’ in the Hellenistic period: Hellenistic Tragedy: Texts, Translations and a Critical Survey (London, 2015), 2–3, 7, 25, 28. Blake Leyerle has argued, from the style and content of John Chrysostom's preaching, that a broad section of his congregation had a familiarity with various forms of theatre: Theatrical Shows and Ascetic Lives: John Chrysostom's Attack on Spiritual Marriage (Berkeley, CA, 2001), especially 13–16, 20–1, 160.

14 Nicetas of Remesiana, Instructio 5.13, expressed the value of learning and explaining the Creed as encapsulating the message of salvation for those who ‘are unable, or too busy with their worldly affairs, to read the Scriptures’.

15 See further, pp. 18, 26.

16 On Paulinus's context, see Trout, Dennis, ‘Christianizing the Nolan Countryside: Animal Sacrifice at the Tomb of St Felix’, JECS 3 (1995), 281–98; on the style and register of his poetry, see Green, R. P. H., ‘Paulinus of Nola and the Diction of Christian Latin Poetry’, Latomus 32 (1973), 7985.

17 To what extent the reflections in this article apply to other contexts, especially non-urban ascetic communities, is a question which would require further research.

18 Ambrose, Epistula 23.3 (Letters, transl. Mary Beyenka et al., FOTC 26 [Washington DC, 2001], 125). Compare Gregory of Nyssa's Epistula 29, accompanying the first part of his treatise against Eunomius, asking for feedback on words which he feared were written in too much anger.

19 On this massive subject, see Young, Frances, Biblical Exegesis and the Formation of Christian Culture (Cambridge, 1997).

20 Jerome, Epistula 53.10. Comments such as these have sometimes been taken by scholars to indicate that the Old Latin translations were simply bad; more recent research suggests that, although awkward, they were not ignorant and their style may have reflected a specific translation method: see Burton, Philip, The Old Latin Gospels: A Study of their Texts and Language (Oxford, 2000); see also Clark, Christianity and Roman Society, 83–4.

21 Augustine, Confessiones 9.5.13 (transl. Henry Chadwick [Oxford, 1991], 163). In De doctrina Christiana, Augustine wrote more positively about biblical writers than Jerome, but nonetheless acknowledged that ‘they used our eloquence side by side with a rather different eloquence of their own’ (4.6.9), before analysing in formal rhetorical terms two passages from 2 Corinthians and Amos, to demonstrate their stylistic virtues. He concluded of Paul's writing that a ‘knowledgeable person’ recognizes that it is the ‘commata, cola and periods’ of his writing, ‘deployed with tasteful variety, which produces the beauty of this style, which pleases and moves even the uneducated, like a pleasant face’: ibid. 4.7.13 (On Christian Teaching, transl. R. P. H. Green [Oxford, 1997], 108–9).

22 Indeed, their understanding of biblical style was often more sophisticated than their defensive remarks imply: Ludlow, Morwenna, ‘Christian Identity and Rhetoric about Literary Style’, in Flower, Richard and Ludlow, Morwenna, eds, Rhetoric and Religious Identity in Late Antiquity (Oxford, forthcoming 2020).

23 Bramble, John, Persius and the Programmatic Satire: A Study in Form and Imagery (Cambridge, 1974), 4559; Gowers, Emily, The Loaded Table: Representations of Food in Roman Literature (Oxford, 1993).

24 Nicetas of Remesiana, De utilitate hymnorum 12 (Burn, A. E., Niceta of Remesiana: His Life and Works [Cambridge, 1905], 74).

25 Fitzgerald, William, Variety: The Life of a Roman Concept (Chicago, IL, 2016).

26 Gregory of Nyssa, Homiliae in Canticum Canticorum 4 (Homilies on the Song of Songs, transl. Richard A. Norris Jr, Writings from the Greco-Roman World 13 [Atlanta, GA, 2012], 137).

27 Gregory of Nyssa, In inscriptiones Psalmorum 1.3 (25) (Gregory of Nyssa's Treatise on the Inscription of the Psalms, transl. Ronald E. Heine, OECS [Oxford, 1995], 92).

28 Ambrose, Epistula 15.3 (transl. Beyenka, 77–8).

29 See Ps. 18: 10 (LXX): God's judgments are ‘sweeter (γλυκύτερα) than honey’. Some modern European languages preserve the connection between fresh water and sweetness better than English: for instance, French eau douce, German Süßwasser, Italian acqua dolce.

30 Gregory of Nazianzus, Epistula 11 (transl. Daley, 173). Elsewhere, he boasts that as a poet he will not ‘send forth both sweet and briny water’: ‘On Silence at the Time of Fasting’, Carmina 2.1.34, line 97 (transl. Carolinne White, Gregory of Nazianzus: Autobiographical Poems, Cambridge Medieval Classics 6 [Cambridge, 1996], 173).

31 Ambrose, Epistula 15.6 (transl. Beyenka, 78). On this theme as part of a broader discussion of nourishment, see Penniman, John, Raised on Christian Milk: Food and the Formation of the Soul in Early Christianity (New Haven, CT, 2017).

32 See Gavrilyuk, Paul and Coakley, Sarah, eds, The Spiritual Senses: Perceiving God in Western Christianity (Cambridge, 2012), especially 1–70.

33 See Garnsey, Peter, Famine and Food Supply in the Graeco-Roman World (Cambridge, 1988), 37, ‘Famine and Shortage’. For a medieval comparison between the norm of scarcity and the privilege of overeating, see Bynum, Caroline Walker, Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women (Berkeley, CA, 1988), 35. For allusions in sermons to the impact of feasting and fasting, see Allen, ‘Impact, Influence and Identity’.

34 See, for example, Augustine Sermo 28 on fasting at Pentecost, comparing the words of Scripture to food; ibid. 205E on fasting at Lent, suggesting that the word of God will sustain his congregation in spirit while they fast in body. Compare Gregory of Nazianzus contrasting the luxuries of the Christian feast of the nativity – ‘the words and the divine law and the narratives’ – with the luxuries of traditional Greek midwinter celebrations (‘On the Theophany, or Birthday of Christ’, Orationes 38.5), or Basil's severe instructions that ascetics must clear away sensuous pleasures to make way for the sweetness of Scripture: Basil, Regulae fusius tractatae 6; idem, Regulae brevius tractatae 174, 180. Penniman's Raised on Christian Milk is an important study of how food was used to symbolize education and formation; he discusses the erotics present in some of this discourse (especially ibid. 138–64 [ch. 5]) and the pleasure with which a child suckles at the breast (ibid. 165–200 [ch. 6]), but the pleasure of nourishment (and its implications for spiritual pedagogy) is not a major theme. For food as a symbol of pedagogy, see also Everett Ferguson, ‘Divine Pedagogy: Origen's Use of the Imagery of Education’, in idem, The Early Church at Work and Worship, 2: Catechesis, Baptism, Eschatology, and Martyrdom (Cambridge and Eugene, OR, 2014), 254–68.

35 Basil, In hexaemeron 3.1 (quoting Ps 118: 103 LXX). Gen. 1:1 is ‘food for your souls in the morning’; Gen. 1: 2–5 provides ‘joy in the evening’ (NPNF II 8).

36 John Chrysostom, De statuis ad populum Antiochenum 1.1–2, cited in Kennedy, George, Greek Rhetoric under Christian Emperors (Princeton, NJ, 1983), 247. In addition to being a classical motif, for Christians the lyre would evoke David soothing Saul (1 Sam. 16: 14–23); fruitfulness perhaps alludes to Matt. 7: 15–20. Chrysostom ingeniously attributes varietas to what others might condemn as the somewhat piecemeal structure of 1 Timothy. For enargeia and Christian adaptation of the varietas idea (applied to meadows), see Michael Roberts, Jeweled Style, 39–40, 50–1, 76; Cox Miller, Corporeal Imagination, 73–7 (making the connection to paradise). Ekphrasis, the bringing of a detailed scene to the mind's eye, aimed to have an emotional impact on the hearer: whether it caused pleasure or indignation, it helped to persuade: Webb, Ekphrasis, 21, 76, 99–100.

37 Peter Chrysologus, Sermo 116 (St Peter Chrysologus, Selected Sermons; St Valerian, Homilies, transl. George E. Ganss, FOTC 17 [Washington DC, 2004; first publ. 1953], 194).

38 On patristic traditions of commentary on the Psalms, see Daley, Brian, ‘Finding the Right Key: The Aims and Strategies of Early Christian Interpretation of the Psalms’, in idem and Kolbet, Paul, eds, The Harp of Prophecy: Early Christian Interpretation of the Psalms (Notre Dame, IN, 2015), 1128. Daley discusses Christian commentators’ adaptation of classical ideas of the role of ‘sweetness’ in instruction for their exegesis of the Psalms: ibid. 14–15.

39 Basil, Homilia in Psalmos 1.1 (Exegetic Homilies, transl. Agnes Clare Way, FOTC 46 [Washington DC, 1963], 152). On the general point, see Plato, Leges 2.659e–660a (educators use song to make good teaching pleasant, just as physicians recommend healthy food which tastes pleasant); for the ‘honeyed cup’, see Lucretius, De rerum natura 1.936–8; Themistius, ‘An Exhortation to the Nicomedians’, Orationes 24.302.

40 Basil, Homilia in Psalmos 1.1.

41 ‘[I]s not rhetoric the art of leading the soul by words?’ (τέχνη ψυχαγωγία τις διὰ λόγων): Plato, Phaedrus 261a, cf. 271c; compare Basil, Ad adolescentes 4; Basil, Epistula 127.1.

42 By contrast, ‘a forceful lesson does not always endure’: Basil, Homilia in Psalmos 1.2 (transl. Way, 153).

43 Gregory of Nyssa, In inscriptiones Psalmorum 1.3 (23); cf. ibid. (17) (transl. Heine, 91, 87–8).

44 Ambrose, Enarrationes in xii Psalmos Davidicos 1.10 (Commentary of St Ambrose on Twelve Psalms, transl. Íde Ní Riain [Dublin, 2000], 5).

45 On the heart in Augustine and its relation to classical philosophical thought, see Byers, Sarah Catherine, Perception, Sensibility and Moral Motivation in Augustine: A Stoic-Platonic Synthesis (Cambridge, 2012), 35 and n. 88.

46 den Boeft, Jan, ‘Delight and Imagination: Ambrose's Hymns’, Vigiliae Christianae 62 (2008), 429–30; Dunkle, Enchantment and Creed, 43.

47 Ambrose, Enarrationes 1.9 (transl. Ní Riain, 5).

48 Nicetas of Remesiana, De utilitate hymnorum 1–2.

49 On Ephrem's composition of hymns to counter the influence of Bardaisan's heretical hymns, see Ephrem, Hymni contra haereses 53.5.1–5.

50 Augustine, Confessiones 9.6.14 (transl. Chadwick, 164). On Ambrose's hymnody, see Dunkle, Enchantment and Creed.

51 Basil, In hexaemeron 8.8, quoting Ps. 18: 10 LXX (NPNF II 8).

52 Ibid. 7.6 (NPNF II 8).

53 Gregory of Nazianzus, Orations 43.66 (NPNF II 7).

54 Ibid. 43.67 (NPNF II 7).

55 Ibid. 43.1 (NPNF II 7).

56 Ambrose, De officiis 1.22.101 (transl. Davidson, 177).

57 For example, Peter Chrysologus, Sermo 74 (St Peter Chrysologus, Selected Sermons, vol. 2, transl. William B. Palardy, FOTC 109 [Washington DC, 2004], 127), finished by stating that ‘in order not to be tedious, we shall explain later what our faith contains’; at the end of Sermo 96 (transl. Palardy, 156), he postponed the remainder of what he had planned to say in order that ‘this work … may be lighter for us all’; in Sermo 122 (transl. Palardy, 209), he admitted that he had previously postponed some discussion because ‘weariness begets aversion’.

58 Augustine, De catechizandis rudibus 1–2 (Augustine, Instructing Beginners in Faith, transl. Raymond Canning, ed. Boniface Ramsey, Augustine Series 5 [Hyde Park, NY, 2006], 8). On this passage, see Harmless, Augustine, 160–2. See also Gregory of Nazianzus, Orations 4.17, cited by Papaioannou, ‘Gregory and the Constraint of Sameness’, 68.

59 Augustine, Confessiones 5.8.23–5.14.24 (transl. Chadwick, 87–8).

60 Augustine, De doctrina 2.6.7–8 (transl. Green, 32–3).

61 Augustine, Contra mendacium 24 (transl. Mary Sarah Muldowney, in Augustine, Treatises on Various Subjects, ed. Roy J. Deferrari, FOTC 16 [Washington DC, 2002; first publ. 1952], 154).

62 ‘“The third method in our list, the use of metaphor, is of wide application; it sprang from necessity due to the pressure of poverty and deficiency, but it has been subsequently made popular by its agreeable and entertaining quality. For just as clothes were first invented to protect us against cold and afterwards began to be used for the sake of adornment and dignity as well, so the metaphorical employment of words was begun because of poverty, but was brought into common use for the sake of entertainment”’: Cicero, De oratore 3.155 (Cicero, De oratore Book III, together with De fato, Paradoxa stoicorum, De partitione oratoria, transl. H. Rackham, LCL 349 [Cambridge, MA, 2014; first publ. 1942], 121–3): At this point in the dialogue, the speaker, Crassus, is making an extended comparison between the inventions of metaphor and clothing.

63 See Copeland, Rita, Rhetoric, Hermeneutics and Translation in the Middle Ages: Academic Traditions and Vernacular Texts (Cambridge, 1991), 155–8, on Augustine redefining the rhetorical category of inventio as a hermeneutical tool.

64 Augustine, De doctrina 4.11.26 (transl. Green, 117).

65 Ibid. 4.12.27 (transl. Green, 117–18), citing Cicero, De oratore 69.

66 For Christians, this assumption turned into a belief in the ‘catechetical end of all literature’: Dunkle, ‘Introduction’, to Poems on Scripture, 17.

67 Basil, Ad adolescentes 4 (transl. Frederick Morgan Padelford, Essays on the Study and Use of Poetry by Plutarch and Basil the Great, Yale Studies in English 15 [New Haven, CT, 1902], online at <>, accessed 6 July 2018. Compare Gregory of Nazianzus: ‘The ancients sang instruction in their verse, │ Making delight the vehicle of beauty, │ Forming the heart for virtue by a song’: ‘On his own Verses’, Carmina 2.1.39 (transl. Daley, 165).

68 Basil, Ad adolescentes 4 (transl. Padelford).

69 This issue has provoked much scholarly controversy. For a brief but subtle assessment, see Clark, Gillian, Christianity and Roman Society (Cambridge, 2004), 8990; see also McGuckin, John, St Gregory of Nazianzus: An Intellectual Biography (Crestwood, NY, 2001), 117. For a challenge to the scholarly consensus, with helpful analysis of various interpretations, see McLynn, Neil, ‘Julian and the Christian Professors’, in Harrison, Carol, Humfress, Caroline and Sandwell, Isabella, eds, Being Christian in Late Antiquity: A Festschrift for Gillian Clark (Oxford, 2014), 120–34.

70 See, for example, Dunkle, Poems on Scripture, 18–20; (more subtly) John McGuckin, ‘Gregory: The Rhetorician as Poet’, in Børtnes and Hägg, eds, Gregory of Nazianzus: Images and Reflections, 193–212, at 212.

71 Gregory of Nazianzus, ‘On his own Verses’, Carmina 2.1.39 (transl. Daley, 163–4); this poem is ‘a sketched out program of Christian paideia’: McGuckin, ‘Rhetorician as Poet’, 209–10. Gregory does not specify who these others are: referring to them as ‘strangers’ (τοὺς ξένους: PG 37, 1333:1), he seems to be making a distinction between poets who are Christian and those who are not, but it is unclear whether he is referring to contemporary or classical works. Readers of Gregory's vast corpus of poetry might raise an eyebrow over the first reason.

72 Gregory of Nazianzus, ‘On his own Verses’, Carmina 2.1.39 (transl. Daley, 164). For the ‘pleasant potion’ see also Himerius, Orations 16.2–19, alluding to Odyssey 4.219–32.

73 Gregory of Nazianzus, ‘From the extempore Oration given when discord arose within his School’, Poemata arcana 7.53 (transl. D. A. Sykes, ed. C. Moreschini [Oxford, 1997], 37).

74 Ibid. 6.1–7, 27–32 (transl. Sykes, ed. Moreschini, 27, 29); for the opening lines of poems 2 and 3, cf. Homer, Iliad 1.1; Homer, Odyssey 1.1; Virgil, Aeneid 1.1. The Iliad and the Odyssey were well known even to schoolboys: these allusions were not especially erudite.

75 Suzanne Abrams Rebillard analyses precisely how Gregory of Nazianzus's autobiographical poetry, which is ‘universally agreed to be pedagogical’, affects its audience: ‘Historiography as Devotion’, 127–8, 134, 136.

76 Dunkle, Poems on Scripture, 22.

77 McLynn, ‘Among the Hellenists’, 234.

78 Sedulius, Paschale carmen (Paschal Song, transl. Springer, 3).

79 Sedulius, Epistola ad Macedonium 1 (Paschal Song, transl. Springer, 213).

80 Ambrose, Enarrationes 1.1–2 (tr. Ní Riain, 1–2).

81 That is, ἡδονή (enjoyment, pleasure, especially sensual pleasures), γλύκυσμα (sweetness clearly alluding to a sweet taste or smell), τέρψις (enjoyment, delight), χαρά (joy).

82 Gregory of Nyssa, Homiliae in Canticum Canticorum, Preface (transl. Norris, 3). Although ‘fruit’ here ‘certainly means teaching’, it must be received by ‘the soul that has trained its organs of sense’: 4 (transl. Norris, 131).

83 Ibid. 2, 4, 13, 15 (transl. Norris, 51, 147, 399, 403, 463).

84 Ibid. 15 (transl. Norris, 463). See Ludlow, Morwenna, ‘Texts, Teachers and Pupils in the Writings of Gregory of Nyssa’, in van Hoof, Lieve and van Nuffelen, Peter, eds, Literature and Society in the Fourth Century AD: A Magic Stronger than the Governors’ Power (Leiden, 2014), 83102, at 99–102.

85 Gregory of Nyssa, Homiliae in Canticum Canticorum 10 (transl. Norris, 319).

86 Ibid. (transl. Norris, 317; in Greek, this echoes Mk 1: 22 and parallels). This emphasis on the bride as teacher seems not to be a strong feature of Latin exegesis of the psalm, to judge from Shuve, Karl, The Song of Songs and the Fashioning of Identity in Early Latin Christianity (Oxford, 2016).

87 Gregory of Nyssa, Homiliae in Canticum Canticorum 7 (transl. Norris, 227). Gregory analyses how the groom praises the bride: ibid. 3 (transl. Norris, 89) and how the bride gives a pleasurable account of the groom: ibid. 14 (transl. Norris, 451–3).

88 Ibid. 5 (transl. Norris, 159).

89 Ibid. 10 (transl. Norris, 319): the prophets, Paul and the four evangelists are cited as examples of those who pass on the ‘sweet savour of Christ’: ibid. The ‘sweet throat’ of Song 5: 16 signifies ‘the servants and interpreters of the Word, in whom Christ speaks. The blessed Paul gave proof of the Christ speaking in him, and, having lent Christ his own voice, he gave voice to sweetness’: ibid. 14 (transl. Norris, 451).

90 ‘[The bride] leads her virgins to the theophany that came to us through the medium of the flesh … . So the bride says to them: “My kinsman is white and ruddy … his head is as fine gold”’: ibid. 13 (transl. Norris, 405).

91 Among countless examples, see Basil, In hexaemeron 8.8 ((NPNF II 8; despite declaring himself ‘ashamed to see that my discourse oversteps the accustomed limits’, Basil is certain he has pleased his audience); Gregory of Nazianzus, ‘On his own Verses’, Carmina 2.1.39 (transl. Daley, 163); Gregory of Nyssa, Contra Eunomium 3.10.45 (‘I am aware that my book is getting somewhat disorderly. It does not stay in its correct course, but like a hot and headstrong foal is being carried away’: transl. Stuart G. Hall, in Johan Leemans and Matthieu Cassin, eds, Gregory of Nyssa, Contra Eunomium III: An English Translation with Commentary and Supporting Studies, Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 124 [Leiden, 2014], 235).

92 Gregory of Nyssa, Epistula 29.

93 Gregory of Nazianzus, Orationes 27.5, quoted in McGuckin, John, ‘St Gregory the Comic’, in Beeley, Christopher A., ed, Re-Reading Gregory of Nazianzus: Essays on History, Theology, and Culture (Washington DC, 2012), 269–76, at 275. Humour is, of course, contextual and some images seem offensive or bizarre to us today, while other gentler attempts simply pass us by.

94 All remaining quotations in this paragraph: John Chrysostom, In Acta Apostolorum 30 (PG 60: 225–6).

95 Somewhat beyond the time-frame of our study here, the Byzantine literary critic Michael Psellos provides a vivid example of how an author could get stuck at the surface level of a text, seduced by its beauty: ‘Psellos, the reader, indulges in the material pleasures of writing’, using eroticized imagery to convey his pleasure: Papaioannou, Stratis, Michael Psellos: Rhetoric and Authorship in Byzantium (Cambridge, 2013), 96.

96 Augustine, Sermo 179.3 (transl. Edmund Hill, ed. John E. Rotelle, Works of St Augustine 3/5 [Charlottesville, VA, 2001; first publ. 1992], 299); and, for the effect of praise on him, Confessiones 10.36.59.

97 John Chrysostom, In Acta Apostolorum 30.


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed