1st Edition

Essence and Energies: Being and Naming God in St Gregory Palamas

By Tikhon Pino Copyright 2023
    232 Pages
    by Routledge

    232 Pages
    by Routledge

    St. Gregory Palamas (ca. 1296–1357) is among the most well-known and celebrated theologians of late Byzantium. This book provides a comprehensive account of the essence-energies distinction across his twenty-five treatises and letters written over a twenty-year period.

    An Athonite monk, abbot, and later Metropolitan of Thessalonica, Gregory is remembered especially for his distinction between God’s essence and energies, and his celebrated doctrine still generates a great deal of debate. What does Palamas actually mean by the term energies? Are they ‘activities’ that God performs, and if so, how can they be eternal and uncreated? Indeed, how could God be simple if he possesses energies distinct from his essence? Going beyond the Triads and the One Hundred and Fifty Chapters, this book explores Palamas’s answers to these long-standing questions by analyzing all of the treatises produced by Palamas between the years 1338 and 1357. It seeks to understand what Palamas means when he speaks of God’s energies, how he seeks to prove that they are distinct from the divine essence, and how he explains that this distinction in no way violates the unity and simplicity of the one God in Trinity.

    Essence and Energies is a useful resource for upper-level undergraduates, postgraduates, and scholars interested in Byzantine theology in the fourteenth century.

    Introduction  1. The Interpretation of the Essence-Energies Distinction and the Complete Writings of St Gregory Palamas  2. Understanding the Language of Essence and Energies  3. Activities that Begin and End? Energies as the Actuality and Actualization of God  4. Distinguishing Essence and Energies  5. Divine Simplicity and the Unity of Essence and Energies  6. Unity and Distinction: The Trinitarian Dimensions of Essence and Energies  7. General Conclusion


    Tikhon Pino is Assistant Director of the Pappas Patristic Institute at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. He holds a PhD from Marquette University, an MTS from Holy Cross, and a BA in Classics from the Catholic University of America. He has published widely on the Greek theological tradition, specializing in the reception of patristic thought in Late Byzantium.

    ‘This is the first careful study of the essence-energies distinction throughout the entire range of Palamas’s work. It is essential reading for anyone interested in the distinction, Palamas, and their implications for the future of Christian theology.’

    David Bradshaw, University of Kentucky, USA

    ‘This groundbreaking book dramatically transforms the received understanding of the essence-energies distinction in Gregory Palamas. A work of deeply insightful erudition, Essence and Energies: Being and Naming God offers an unprecedented analysis of Palamas’s theology of God based on a close reading of his entire corpus and engaging more than a century of theological scholarship.’

    Maximos Constas, Holy Cross School of Theology, USA

    ‘This comprehensive investigation of the terms and arguments used during the fourteenth-century hesychast controversy to defend and explicate the essence-energies distinction is an illuminating study that has long been needed. I have no doubt that it will remain the standard work on the subject for many years to come.’

    Norman Russell, University of Oxford, UK