Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Religious Studies

First Advisor

Plested, Marcus

Second Advisor

Barnes, Michael R.

Third Advisor

Johnson, Mark


St. Gregory Palamas (1296-1357) is among the most well-known and celebrated theologians of late Byzantium. An Athonite monk, abbot, and later Metropolitan of Thessalonica, Gregory is remembered especially for his distinction between God’s essence and energies. Articulated in more than twenty-five treatises and letters written over a twenty-year period, the essence-energies distinction was directed against the idea that any energeia in God was either a created reality, a cipher for one of the divine Persons, or the very essence of God himself. Gregory’s principal opponents in this matter were among the most important intellectuals of the middle Palaiologan period: Barlaam the Calabrian, Gregory Akindynos, and Nikephoros Gregoras. Though Gregory’s thinking on the subject of essence and energies is laid out extensively in his voluminous writings, there still remains a great deal of debate about how to understand his celebrated distinction. 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? This dissertation explores Palamas’s answers to these longstanding questions by providing a comprehensive account of the essence-energies distinction across his entire corpus. It goes beyond his most famous works, the Triads and the One Hundred and Fifty Chapters, analyzing all of the treatises produced by Palamas between 1340 and 1357, including his longest and most important work, the monumental Antirrhetics against Akindynos. It seeks to understand what Palamas actually means when he speaks of God’s ‘energies,’ the arguments he uses to show that they are distinct from the divine essence, and the reasoning he offers to show that this distinction in no way violates God’s unity and simplicity.



Restricted Access Item

Having trouble?