The Cappadocian Mothers: Deification Exemplified in the Writings of Basil, Gregory, and Gregory

By Carla D. Sunberg

An examination of the women in the lives of the fourth-century Cappadocian Fathers, and their influential role in the emerging theology of the early church.

ISBN: 9780227176900


The Cappadocian Fathers had great impact on the church of the fourth century, having brought their passion for Christ and their theological expertise to life in their ministry. While Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus are well-known, the women of their families were also highly influential. In The Cappadocian Mothers, Carla D. Sunberg uncovers the lives of seven women who may have had more effect on the theology of the church than previously believed. As the Cappadocians wrestle with the Christianization of the concept of deification, we find the women in their lives becoming models for their theological understanding.

The lives of the women become points of intersection in the kenosis-theosis parabola. Not only are the Cappadocian Mothers brought to life in the texts, but they become models of an optimistic theology of restoration for all of humanity without constraint of gender.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 252

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Carla D. Sunberg is President and Professor of Historical Theology at Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO.


Foreword by T.A. Noble

1. Introduction
2. The Christianization of Deification
3. Christocentric Development
4. The Development of Monasticism and the Role of Virginity in the Cappadocian Understanding of Theosis
5. The Fallen Virgin
6. Married Women as the New Eve: Nonna and Gorgonia
7. Macrina, the Perfect Virgin Bride
8. Practical Implications for Life and Ministry: Macrina the Elder, Emmelia, and Theosebia
9. The Mothers Exemplify Deification

Index of Names
Index of Subjects
Index of Ancient Documents


Endorsements and Reviews

Carla Sunberg has crafted a significant piece of historical retrieval. She has mined the writings of the fourth-century Cappadocian Fathers to learn of the significant witness and influence of the women who helped shape their understanding of how one becomes a participant in the divine nature. Her meticulous research demonstrates that without these mothers in faith, the fathers would lack living witnesses for their formulation of early Christian understandings of Christology, mystical theology, and Trinitarian construction. Besides, these remarkable women challenged regnant notions of the inferiority of women. Sunberg has bridged a major gap in scholarship, and the whole church will profit.
Molly T. Marshall, Central Seminary

In this book, Carla Sunberg has provided a great gift to the modern church. While the first part is a treasure trove of ancient wisdom, the latter part ‘brings it home’ to the life of contemporary Christians. Carla Sunberg addresses issues such as gender and class equality, women in ministry leadership, as well as how the life of theosis is grounded in the Christian household.
Cheryl Bridges Johns, Pentecostal Theological Seminary