Friday, February 26th, 2016

John David Penniman – Penniman, John David. “Fed to Perfection: Mother’s Milk, Roman Family Values, and the Transformation of the Soul in Gregory of Nyssa.” Church History 84, no. 3 (2015) : 495-530.

John David Penniman, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

Prompted by Michel Foucault’s observation that “salvation is first of all essentially subsistence,” this essay explores Gregory of Nyssa’s discussion of Christian spiritual formation as a kind of salvific and transformative feeding of infants. This article argues that the prominent role of nourishment-and specifically breast milk-in Gregory’s theory of progressive Christian perfection reflects broader Roman era family values concerning the power of breast feeding in the proper development of a child. With particular attention to Gregory’s Encomium for Saint Basil, the Life of Moses, and his Homilies on the Song of Songs, this article demonstrates that references to the power of nourishment are no ” mere metaphor” but rather represent an intensification of the prominent belief in antiquity that human nature can be altered according to the food a person eats. As such, Gregory employs the female body and its putatively maternal function as a regulatory symbol for Christian identity-formation. Mother’s milk is thus offered as a mechanism for preserving and transmitting the ideal form of the Christian community that Gregory found embodied in the ambiguously gendered characters of the Song of Songs. True Christians, in Gregory’s account, are identified by the milk on which they were fed and, in turn, the nurturing care they offer to others.

Penniman, John David. “Fed to Perfection: Mother’s Milk, Roman Family Values, and the Transformation of the Soul in Gregory of Nyssa.” Church History 84, no. 3 (2015) : 495-530.

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Friday, February 26th, 2016

John David Penniman – Penniman, John David. “‘The Health-Giving Cup’: Cyprian’s Ep. 63 and the Medicinal Power of Eucharistic Wine.” Journal of Early Christian Studies 23, no. 2 (2015) : 189-211.

John David Penniman, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

Cyprian’s Epistle 63 represents the earliest extant account of the proper meaning and administration of the eucharistic cup. Against a group of Christians who were taking only water, Cyprian argues that wine is necessary for the ritual to be effective. While there has been much discussion surrounding the biblical references marshaled by Cyprian to prove his point, this article explores the extent to which those references are inflected through lexical and conceptual categories relating to the medical usage of wine. Wine figured prominently in literature on illness, health, and healing that proliferated during the Roman Empire. This article locates Cyprian within that broader dynamic, and argues that his emphasis on the health-giving effects of the eucharistic cup in Ep. 63 reflects similar descriptions of the medicinal power of wine found in manuals of Roman medicine and other folklore traditions.

Penniman, John David. “‘The Health-Giving Cup’: Cyprian’s Ep. 63 and the Medicinal Power of Eucharistic Wine.” Journal of Early Christian Studies 23, no. 2 (2015) : 189-211.

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