Queen of the Sciences? Theology and Natural Knowledge in St Gregory Palamas’ ‘One Hundred and Fifty Chapters’

  1. Lemma
  2. Queen of the Sciences? Theology and Natural Knowledge in St Gregory Palamas’ ‘One Hundred and Fifty Chapters’
  3. English
  4. Tampakis, Kostas
  5. Patristic studies
  6. 2008
  7. Queen of the Sciences? Theology and Natural Knowledge in St Gregory Palamas’ ‘One Hundred and Fifty Chapters’
  8. Transdisciplinarity in Science and Religion
  9. One Hundred and Fifty Chapters - Hierarhical Epistemology - St. Gregory Palamas
  10. Click Here
    1. This article’s arguments also appeared in a revised form as part of the 2011 article “The Other Path in Science, Theology and Spirituality: Pondering a Fourteenth Century Byzantine Model” in Transdisciplinary Studies. The article argues that whilst Palamas is similar to many other medieval scholars in his true interest and expertise in scientific matters, he nevertheless distinguishes himself by abandoning the classical scheme that considered theology as the queen of all sciences, on the one hand and science and philosophy as handmaidens of theology, on the other. The paper argues that it is at the origin of this shift that we find the base of St. Gregory’s authentic Christian mindset, which in turn marks the inherent differences between worldly knowledge, as represented by science and philosophy and the wisdom from above, as revealed to the saints and witnessed by the Scriptures. On the whole, and considering the difficulties experienced by modern scholars in classifying this compilation, the paper argues that Chapters add new dimensions to the already complex portrait of their author. This essay starts by exploring the literary context of the Chapters, sketching the Byzantine evolution of the genre to which they belong, as a prerequisite for a proper understanding of the work’s nature. Emphasis is given to its anthological character, underscoring how especially the second section (chapters 30-62) synthesize the main anthropological ideas of the Church within a historical scheme of scriptural inspiration. It then proceeds to outline the structure of the book, focusing on its first section. The author identifies two main groups. The first includes chapters 2 to 14 and explores the Aristotelian universe, while the second includes chapters 15 to 29 and analyzes the different ways which natural philosophy on the one hand and theology on the other depict reality. Each group is taken to include three subgroups. The third part of the article analyzes the scriptural background of Palamas’ thinking, together with his views on the various competencies of theology and the natural sciences. It shows that the solid scriptural background of Palamite thinking expresses its traditional Christian profile together with its relevance for the ecclesial mindset, while acting as the source of St Gregory’s positive attitude toward the world as God’s creation and the sciences as a means to explore the nature of the cosmos. The fourth part of the article discusses St. Gregory’s use of science, establishing St. Gregory is in fact quite proficient in natural philosophy, matching the profile of all medieval scholars who were thoroughly versed in both science and theology. Finally, the essay discusses the relevance of St Gregory’s approach for contemporary conversations on science and theology.