Tradition and Polemic in Basil of Caesarea’s Homily on the Theophany

in Vigiliae Christianae
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.


Have Institutional Access?

Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?



The bulk of Basil of Caesarea’s neglected Homilia in sanctam Christi generationem is a commentary on select verses of Matthew 1:18-2:11. He explicitly approves or rejects other interpretations, though without ever naming their authors. This study does not merely identify his sources and interlocutors, but more importantly examines how he engaged with previous and contemporary theologians and exegetes in a critical, selective, and creative manner. It shows that while Basil may have borrowed from Eusebius of Caesarea and refuted Eunomius, his primary conversation partner was Origen. Basil’s use of Origen is by no means uniform, but ranges from wholesale adoption to outright rejection. Hence it is in his appropriation of Origen that Basil’s critical, selective, and creative engagement with exegetical traditions is most clearly seen. This study concludes with a typology of seven ways in which Basil engaged with Origen in this homily.

Tradition and Polemic in Basil of Caesarea’s Homily on the Theophany

in Vigiliae Christianae




Mark DelCogliano“Basil of Caesarea on Proverbs 8:22 and the Sources of Pro-Nicene Theology,” Journal of Theological Studies n.s. 59 (2008) 183-190; idem Basil of Caesarea’s Anti-Eunomian Theory of Names (Leiden 2010) 171-6 (Basil use of Origen’s notion of epinoia); idem “Basil of Caesarea Didymus the Blind and the Anti-Pneumatomachian Exegesis of Amos 4:13 and John 1:3” Journal of Theological Studies n.s. 61 (2010) 644-58; idem “The Influence of Athanasius and the Homoiousians on Basil of Caesarea’s Decentralization of ‘Unbegotten’” Journal of Early Christian Studies 19 (2011) [forthcoming].


CPG 2913. This homily has been somewhat neglected in scholarship due in no small part to Julien Garnier’s decision to place it among the dubia in the Maurist edition of Basil’s opera omnia (1721-1730); on this edition see Paul Jonathan Fedwick Bibliotheca Basiliana Vniversalis (Turnhout 1993) i272-89 (hereafter=BBV). De Sinner’s reprint of the Maurist edition in 1839 is considered the best from a technical standpoint; see Fedwick BBV ii291-4. In this reprint edition Chr. appears in vol. ii pp. 859-66. When the Maurist edition was reprinted by J. P. Migne several errors were introduced into Chr. (PG 311458-1475). The ubiquity of Migne has allowed Garnier’s judgment about the dubious authenticity of this homily to endure until the present. It is even placed among the Basilian dubia by M. Geerard Clavis Patrum Graecorum (Turnhout 1974) ii167 though this judgment was later corrected in the light of a recent growing consensus for its authenticity: M. Geerard and J. Noret Clavis Patrum Graecorum: Supplementum (Turnhout 1998) 122. On the authenticity of Chr. see Hermann-Karl Usener Religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen. Das Weihnachsfest 2 aufl. (Bonn 1911) 249 n. 6; Georg Söll “Die Mariologie der Kappadozier im Licht der Dogmengeschichte” Theologische Quartalschrift 131 (1951) 163-88 288-319 and 426-57 at 178-85 (where further studies are cited); Paul Jonathan Fedwick “A Chronology of the Life and Works of Basil of Caesarea” in idem ed. Basil of Caesarea: Christian Humanist Ascetic. A Sixteenth-Hundredth Anniversary Symposium (Toronto 1981) 3-19 at 9; idem BBV ii/21051-6; and Luigi Gambero L’omelia sulla generatione di Cristo di Basilio di Cesarea Marian Studies n.s. 13-14 (University of Dayton 1981-1982) 1-220 at 58-68. References to Chr. are according to the paragraph numbers established by Garnier and the line numbers of Gambero’s edition; e.g. Chr. 6245-250.


See GamberoMary and the Fathers 77.


For a discussion see GamberoL’omelia 129-34.


Crouzel“La théologie mariale” 27; Kamesar “The Virgin of Isaiah” 59.


E.g. AthanasiusFirst Letter to Virgins 10; Epiphanius Panarion 7810.


PhilostorgiusHist. eccl. 62; Pseudo-Chrysostom Opus imperfectum in Matthaeum (PG 56635-636). For speculations on the motivations of Eunomius’s Mariology see Richard P. Vaggione Eunomius of Cyzicus and the Nicene Revolution (Oxford 2000) 118 n. 251; and Philip R. Amidon Philostorgius: Church History Society of Biblical Literature Writings from the Greco-Roman World 23 (Atlanta 2007) 80 n. 3.


See Crouzel“La théologie mariale” 40-4; Hunter Marriage Celibacy and Heresy 184-7.


Dorival“Un astre se lèvera de Jacob” 314-6; Leemans “To Bless with a Mouth Bent on Cursing” 292-4.


See also Dorival“Un astre se lèvera de Jacob” 346-8; Leemans “To Bless with a Mouth Bent on Cursing” 295-6.


OrigenJo. 13155-156; Eusebius of Caesarea Ecl. Prop. 113; Dem. ev. 93. The text was applied to Christ in other ways; see Origen Hom. Cant. 110; 22; 29; Cyril of Jerusalem Cat. 143.


Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 12 12 8
Full Text Views 48 48 37
PDF Downloads 3 3 1
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0