Baptismal Cosmology in the Teaching of St. Gregory
The Teaching of Saint Gregory, an Armenian catechetical writing of the first half of the fifth century, contains a number of sayings regarding the baptism of Christ, its meaning for humankind and the whole universe, and the following conclusions about baptism as a church sacrament. The author of the Teaching shows a profound knowledge of Greek and Syriac patristic writings of his time, a noticeable interest in the Alexandrian tradition, and a respect for Ephrem the Syrian. However, there are a few unusual exegetical approaches, which seem to comprise an original device of the Teaching’s author and have no direct source in the preceding traditions. Baptism is connected with the creation of the world when the Spirit of God hovered over the primordial waters. A similar relation of waters and the Spirit is applied at the Jordan, providing a cosmological meaning of baptism. This understanding is further expanded to include baptism as a church sacrament also. Finally, the complete exegetical pattern of the baptismal motif is analyzed in comparison with the Indo-Iranian mythological background. The structure of this pattern reveals traces of archaic mythologies, which are significantly older than the pre-Christian beliefs of Armenians known from the writings of Eznik and Ełishe.