Reading Basil of Caesarea’s On the Holy Spirit as Apology

Reassessing the Influence of Eustathius of Sebaste on the Treatise

In: Vigiliae Christianae
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  • 1 Post Award Visitor, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford61487, Oxford, UK
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Basil of Caesarea’s On the Holy Spirit has often been painted as a work that symbolises his emergence from the shadow of his embittered mentor, Eustathius of Sebaste. This paper reassesses the extent of Eustathius’ influence on the treatise. By analysing both the tone and argumentation of On the Holy Spirit, I counter this scholarly narrative, showing that Eustathius in fact serves as the silent interlocutor of the treatise, to whom Basil pleads the case of his orthodoxy, and with whom he begs for the church to be healed. Consequently, On the Holy Spirit should be read as more in vogue with apologetic literature than polemic , as a redoubled effort to respond to Eustathius that mounts an impassioned but cordial defence of Basil’s vision of Christian orthodoxy and a long-overdue plea for peace in a war-torn church.


Basil of Caesarea’s On the Holy Spirit has often been painted as a work that symbolises his emergence from the shadow of his embittered mentor, Eustathius of Sebaste. This paper reassesses the extent of Eustathius’ influence on the treatise. By analysing both the tone and argumentation of On the Holy Spirit, I counter this scholarly narrative, showing that Eustathius in fact serves as the silent interlocutor of the treatise, to whom Basil pleads the case of his orthodoxy, and with whom he begs for the church to be healed. Consequently, On the Holy Spirit should be read as more in vogue with apologetic literature than polemic , as a redoubled effort to respond to Eustathius that mounts an impassioned but cordial defence of Basil’s vision of Christian orthodoxy and a long-overdue plea for peace in a war-torn church.

ἡμῖν δὲ ὁ χαλεπώτατος πόλεμος πρὸς τοὺς οἰκείους ἐστί.

But our cruellest war is waged with our kin.

Basil, On the Holy Spirit 30,78

1 Basil and Eustathius: An Overview

The relationship between Basil of Caesarea and Eustathius of Sebaste has been relatively well-documented by scholars of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries since Loofs’ benchmark work on the subject and the details of their falling-out equally so by Basil himself in his letters.1 As such – though it must be kept extremely short – it is worth beginning with an overview of Eustathius, as he is still a figure of much mystery. Eustathius appears to have been a figure of controversy from his earliest days. Basil places him as an early follower of Arius and Athanasius names him as a co-conspirator to the Arians that helped remove Eustathius of Antioch, but in truth his early days are a mystery.2 He appears to have become particularly famous for falling afoul of the church for his extreme asceticism, culminating at the synod of Gangra in 355.3 In the years following, he was a consistent presence at major synods due to his temporary alliance with Basil of Ancyra, with whom he drafted a number of creeds resulting from synodal decrees between 357 and 359, and with whom he was deposed at the Constantinopolitan synod of 359/60, to which the Caesarean Basil had followed them.4 From a relatively early time, Basil of Caesarea was enamoured with Eustathius, and from a similarly early time, Eustathius recognised Basil’s talents and was keen to utilise them. It is likely in part due to Eustathius that Against Eunomius was penned, and Basil maintained his relationship with Eustathius even when it posed serious challenges to the credibility of his episcopate.5

Eustathius has garnered a reputation as rather hard to pin down regarding his own personal Trinitarian views, a result often attributed to his “vacillating character,” in the words of DeFerrari, that led him to sign whichever creed was placed in front of him.6 This perception is perhaps unfair: the alliances he made and conflicts in which he found himself suggest two major contentions that remain constant throughout his career. The first is his reticence to apply οὐσία and its derived terms to the relationship between Father and Son, demonstrated most firmly by the closing paragraph of the “dated” creed of 358 he helped draft:

The word essence (ουσία), because when it was naively inserted by our Fathers though not familiar with the masses, caused a scandal, and because the scriptures do not contain it, we have decided should be removed, and that there should be absolutely no mention of ousia in relation to God for the future, because the scriptures make no mention at all of the ousia of the Father and the Son. But we declare that the Son is like the Father (ὅμοιον κατὰ πάντα) according to every respect, as the holy scriptures also declare and teach.7

Indeed, this reluctance towards the use of the homoousion to identify the relationship of Father and Son is shared by Basil in Against Eunomius – where Ayres has noted homoousios occurs only once – who opts for less controversial terms such as “invariable (ἀπαράλλακτος),” despite privately expressing homoousian sentiments in his contemporaneous correspondence.8 Though Eustathius may have expressed discomfort with the language of ousia, however, one can also place him in direct opposition to Aetius and Eunomius, advocating for some form of indistinguishable likeness between Father and Son: his role in the addition of κατὰ πάντα to clarify the way the Son was like the Father evidences this well.9

From his later conflict with Basil we can further adduce that Eustathius expressed discomfort with addressing the Holy Spirit as either God or as creature, though where exactly – if anywhere in particular – Eustathius placed the Spirit between those two designations is unclear: a rare quotation of him exists in Socrates, where he is alleged to have said: “… though I prefer not to name the Holy Spirit God, nor dare I call him creature.”10 Both these concerns also appear consistent with one another; they equally demonstrate a core reluctance to use language about the Trinitarian persons or entertain notions about them that cannot be soundly adduced from Scripture.11 It would also appear by his signing of the Nicene creed in Ep. 125 that Eustathius no longer saw homoousios as a dealbreaker (for want of a better word) concerning the Son, though his assertion to its authority is little more than a signature:

I, Eustathius, bishop, have understood and have approved after reading to you, Basil, that which has been written before this. I have signed this in the presence of my brothers, our Phronto, and the assistant bishop Severos, and some other clerics.12

This willingness to sign the creed does demonstrate at least some co-operative spirit, and since the Nicene Creed is infamously silent on the Spirit, Eustathius may well have considered appending his name to it to not be a betrayal of his own values. He would not have been under too much pressure to sign it from those other than Nicene bishops, either – Eustathius had the support of the secular authorities at this time. Whatever peace achieved through his signature was short-lived, however: Eustathius turned on Basil not a year later and published a – likely interpolated – version of the latter’s correspondence with Apollinaris of Laodicea. Contact between them was irrevocably severed, and so distraught was Basil it took years before he publicly addressed the split in Ep.223, which appeared contemporaneously with On the Holy Spirit.13

2 On the Holy Spirit as an Outlier in Anti-Macedonian Literature

There is almost universal assent in the scholarship that On the Holy Spirit was penned between 373 and 375 AD and was completed at the request of Basil’s mentee, Amphilochius of Iconium.14 Similarly, there is consensus that the work was written piecemeal. Following the suggestions of Hermann Dörries, most scholars agree that chapters 10 to 27 were written in May or June 373 after several meetings with Eustathius of Sebaste in Armenia, and chapters 1–9 and 28–30 were written two years later in September of 375.15 The influence that this has on our view of the time periods when Basil may have formulated individual parts of this treatise is significant. As we shall come to see the individual parts of the treatise appear to consist of replies to criticisms levelled by Eustathius and take a tone not unlike that of an apology rather than a polemic proper. Additionally, the treatise’s focus on tradition, common ideas of the Spirit and a non-biblical, mysterious mode of delivery of the Spirit’s homotimia appear tailored to the specific concerns of Basil’s estranged mentor.16

Perhaps the most telling way in which his personal relationship with Eustathius altered the composition of On the Holy Spirit, however, is in the quite different tone it takes than both other contemporaneous anti-Macedonian works and Basil’s other anti-heretical treatises. In anti-Macedonian literature by the two Gregories, Macedonianism is described with unconcealed disgust. Nyssa, in his anti-Macedonian homily, speaks of it as “a pitiful and wretched lunacy (τῆς ἐλεεινῆςκαὶ ταλαιπώρου παραπληξίας)” driven by a “contemptuous attitude (μένοςκαταφρονητής)” towards the Spirit.17 Nazianzen presents himself as no less offended by it in his Fifth Theological Oration, saying that in denying the Spirit, the Macedonian had “ranked (them)selves amongst our enemies (τέταχθε μετὰ τῶν ἐναντίων),” and calling them “not fully dead (οὐ πάντῃ νενεκρωμένους),” in comparison to their Eunomian kin, but nonetheless not worth saving.18 Nazianzen also attacks their – in his view – overly-rigid biblicism, their “love for the letter (ἡ φιλία τοῦ γράμματος),” as he puts it, calling it “a mantle for their impiety (ἔνδυμα τῆς ἀσεβείαςαὐτοῖς).”19

In like disposition to his brother and friend, Basil does not hesitate to show his distaste for his theological opponents in most of his anti-heretical works. This is perhaps evidenced most strongly in the introduction to Against Eunomius, where he openly mocks Eunomius for his anomoian beliefs:

But the one who has taken up this impiety and perfected it is Eunomius the Galatian. He has acquired for himself a most shameful kind of fame – for it says their glory is in their shame (Phil 3.9) – preferring the infamy of writing things that no one else has ever dared to say rather than the good things reserved for the pious. In this brilliant handbook he was roused up to publicise the blasphemy so long spoken under his breath, striving with all his strength to be proclaimed the pioneer and patron of the whole heresy.20

Just as with his brother Gregory, Basil gives no quarter to Eunomius’ idea, first naming him a Galatian – a multipurposed invective to both alienate him from the Cappadocian church to which he belonged and to echo Paul’s attack on the Galatian community as “foolish” and bewitched” (Gal. 3.1–6) by nefarious forces – and then treating the entire treatise with nothing more than sarcastic scorn.21 Shortly after this, he begins simply throwing insults as Eunomius, naming him “lying, stupid, wanton, dissembling and blasphemous (ψεύστην, ἀμαθῆ, ὑβριστὴν, εἴρωνα, βλάσφημον),” a heavy-handed character assassination that continues throughout the entire treatise with very little respite.22

In his own anti-Macedonian works, Basil is no less aggressive in his attacks on their name and reputation. Not three months after the completion of On the Holy Spirit, Basil speaks of the pneumatomachoi – and alludes specifically to Eustathius’ own persecution of him – in the same breath as anomoians, stating that “we anathematize (them) and consider (them) to be close to the errors of the Greeks.”23 In his Letter 223 against Eustathius, Basil charges his former mentor and his allies with “being made disciples by the champion of the current heresy (Arius) and surreptitiously sowing his doctrines,” another example of Basil’s accusation against Eustathius that he spent his early years at Arius’ side.24 By 377, he was even more brazen in his attacks: in a letter to Western bishops from that year, he names Eustathius as “one who has caused me great sorrow (τῶν πολλὴν ἡμῖν κατασκευαζόντων λύπην),” that though at first he “concealed his impious sentiments under the cloak of verbal orthodoxy (τὸ μὲν δυσσεβὲς ἐπικρυπτόμενος φρόνημα, ῥημάτων δέ τινα ὀρθότητα προβαλλόμενος)” he now served as “the chief of the heresy of the pneumatomachoi (καὶ πρωτοστάτης ἐστὶ τῆς τῶν Πνευματομάχων αἱρέσεως.).”25 In his anti-Sabellian, Anomoian and Pneumatomachian homily, the tone is similarly aggressive, even pugnacious: the battle with heretical factions is related to war throughout the first part of the homily, and Basil sees himself as engaged directly and fully in conflict with these opposing forces, “not allowing this foolishness to go unrefuted.”26 Indeed, he ends the homily with a direct address to his opponents: “you are so stupid that not even by the term itself can you be brought to correct notions about the Spirit.”27 The impiety of the Macedonians is here viewed to make them almost irredeemable, and as an intellectual failing that precludes them from being dissuaded from it.

3 A Plea for Peace?

On the Holy Spirit’s tone is therefore rather confusing in context, its use of language and style being far more eirenic than Basil’s other anti-heretical or even anti-Eustathian works. Though Basil rarely uses the term homoousios in any situation, it being found only 54 times in his accepted corpus (though it appears 16 times in the disputed chapters of Against Eunomius alone), the term is never used in On the Holy Spirit. This is quite noticeable when he considers the ousia and the will of the Father and Son to be shared, but describes it as “similar and equal (ὅμοιον καὶ ἴσον), or rather the same (μᾶλλον δὲ ταὐτὸν).”28 Here Basil is happy to use language of similarity and even sameness of essence, but tactfully avoids using either ὁμοούσιος or ὁμόβουλος despite their utility here. In his closing chapter, Basil mentions the Arian controversy, and though he evidently has no love for Arianism, naming it “heretical trickery,” he nonetheless finds the approach all Christians took to the controversy to be incorrect, as it led to widespread conflict and the “destruction” of a significant number of churches.29 Similarly, the ill intent of those “eager to hold office (σπουδαρχίδαι)” is a clear admonition of those who take leadership positions in the church for no other reason than to hold power. Indeed, Blomfield Jackson has pointed out that the use of the term σπουδαρχίδαι itself is almost certainly a literary allusion to Aristophanes’ Acharnians.30 The poignancy of alluding to this particular text would not be lost on his audience, as Acharnians is itself a call for an end to hostilities, specifically the Peloponnesian war, and extolls the values of peace-making and listening to those with whom one disagrees.31 This connection to the Peloponnesian war is enhanced by the analogy of a naval battle that Basil uses, strongly echoing Thucydides’ accounts of naval battles where land and sea become blurred (Sphacteria; OtHS 30,76), where friend and foe become indistinguishable in the gloom (Epipolae; OtHS 30,76) and where naval battles played out more like those on land (Syracuse; OtHS 30,77).32 From this appeal to perhaps the most salient example in his cultural memory of the unique horrors of intracultural conflict, Basil’s intention is made clear – the expression of commonality between his own Trinitarian views and those of Eustathius and the Macedonians is part of a wider understanding throughout the treatise that the Christian religion is tearing itself apart, and is in dire need of healing.

It is in this closing chapter that Basil personally recognises the soft touch and hope for peace in the Church that permeates the argument of On the Holy Spirit. In his final remarks, Basil reiterates his intention that the treatise might bring those lost to heterodoxy back to the fold, stating:

So great an evil is ostensibly established in us, that we have become more irrational than beasts – they at least flock with their own, while for us the cruellest conflict is waged against our kin. Because of all this I should have kept quiet, but instead the love of others seized me, a love that did not seek its own advantage, and thought it right to overcome all the difficulties of our times and circumstances. The children of Babylon taught us that when there is no support for right belief (eusebeia), we should attain the goal by ourselves … and so, we did not shrink from the cloud of enemies, rather, we have placed our hope in the help of the Spirit and promulgated the truth without fear. Or else the most abominable thing of all would have happened: first, the blasphemers of the Spirit would have been so easily encouraged against a true religious understanding; then, though we have so great a supporter and advocate, we would shrink from the service of this understanding that has been preserved by the tradition of the fathers and handed on to us through unbroken succession of memory.33

In contrast to the language of conflict, and the allusions to great wars of times past, Basil clearly states that it is the love for others that must motivate bringing those coerced into heresy back to the fold. The neglect of this is itself a part of why those with doubts concerning the divinity of the Spirit were “so easily encouraged against a true religious understanding,” for though the truth must be proclaimed by those who know it, the aggression with which this truth was forced upon those who saw the appeal in non-Nicene Trinitarian beliefs would be discouraged from returning to faith. Then, in one final appeal to the tradition of the fathers, he points out that this method of leading by example in keeping and imitating the faith of the fathers was the only true way to heal the Christian church and to ensure heresy did not take permanent hold on those it ensnared. In reading these closing words, it is plain to see that, for Basil, On the Holy Spirit was written to be an example of just that – an exposition of right belief concerning the Spirit that sought to educate rather than admonish and to reconcile rather than engender further conflict.

None of this section, however, is more clear an indication of Basil’s own personal turmoil than the first words, in which he laments that “Our cruellest war is waged with our kin.”34 Though his “kin” could easily be the family of believers, but when this section is read within the context of his split with Eustathius, it reads as a more personal reflection upon the controversy, one marked with personal losses. Of these, Eustathius would sit at the forefront, and given Basil had written the aforementioned Ep. 223 mere weeks before, the pain of addressing the split would have been fresh in his memory. On the Holy Spirit’s eirenic tone must therefore been seen as an outstretched hand to Eustathius of Sebaste, given the jarring shift in the language he uses to describe the Macedonian faction here and in his other works on the topic. Therefore, based on the tone taken and the stark difference between it and Basil’s other anti-heretical works, there is little doubt that, though On the Holy Spirit was dedicated to his disciple, Amphilochius of Iconium, Basil’s wayward teacher nonetheless serves as the primary internal interlocutor. Of On the Holy Spirit’s writing, Philip Rousseau states:

That work did not appear accidentally, therefore: it marked a moment of new assurance, of self-definition, of choice in Basil’s life … the bitterness of those experiences (with Eustathius) might now be dispelled by this new young friend, with whom he had so much in common – family, education, ascetic enthusiasm – and who was ready to applaud, indeed to imitate, his ideas and way of life. Upon Amphilochius, therefore, he now focussed a fatherly affection. In collaboration with him, he saw the potential fulfilment of his own vision of the community of churches. From his loyalty, his orthodoxy, his effectiveness, Basil would draw fresh strength. The De Spiritu Sancto was the chief fruit of these blessings.35

There is, of course, a significant amount of truth to this. Basil certainly looked upon Amphilochius as the future of the central Anatolian church – the dedication of On the Holy Spirit to him is a clear enough indication of Basil’s intentions for him – Amphilochius was a young bishop, and the tone of letter 199, in which Basil praises him for his humility and willingness to learn, is unmistakably paternal – a tone Basil maintains in his later letters 231–6, where he patiently answers theological questions posed to him.36 However, Rousseau’s positive interpretation of the way in which Basil emotionally handled his split with Eustathius in the pages of On the Holy Spirit is a little optimistic. By the time of the authorship of chapters 1–9 and 25–30, Basil was still locked in a deep battle with Eustathius in June of 375, who had begun to accuse him of Sabellianism, and though Amphilochius likely only received On the Holy Spirit sometime after December 375, the work is generally agreed upon to have been finished by the September.37 As such, considering mere months had passed since the most recent conflict with Eustathius and his followers, it is difficult to see how Basil’s bitterness and sorrow could have waned so quickly. Indeed, though certainly self-assured and lacking bitterness or anger, On the Holy Spirit was still written with Eustathius in mind, though now Basil faced him as an equal, spurred on by his hope in his followers – and Amphilochius in particular – and the encouragement that the church, despite the ravages of so many theological conflicts throughout Basil’s life, would endure and heal. Indeed, perhaps this is why Basil – usually so reluctant to put pen to paper – was so receptive to Amphilochius’ request for a treatise in defence of the Holy Spirit: In contrast to the fractured relationship with his own mentor, Basil had the opportunity to foster a shared ascetic vision of the Spirit with this new generation, one which eschewed the vitriol that had come to typify the politics of the fourth-century church. Amphilochius certainly made use of the work in advising the bishops in his care: his Synodal Letter reads as a reaffirmation of Basil’s writings on the Spirit – a fact which has been well-catalogued in M. Bonnet’s recent edition – and ends by echoing the central argument of On the Holy Spirit, that it should be co-glorified with Father and Son.38 It is troublesome, however, to suggest that On the Holy Spirit is primarily concerned with a positive future for the church, preoccupied as it is with Basil’s own deep sense of loss.

4 Eustathius as Silent Interlocutor

This then leads us to a serious problem: why does a text ostensibly addressed to Amphilochius read as if it were tailored to the eyes of Eustathius? It is only within the last half-century or so that this dilemma has been identified, and many solutions have been put forward. Hermann Dörries suggested the work likely consists in part of a transcript between Basil and Eustathius’ meeting in 372, an argument which often sits at the centre of more recent discussions as a point of contention or of initial – but soon-diverging – agreement.39 While J.R. Pouchet rejected Dörries’ initial premise and wished to reread On the Holy Spirit as an anti-Eunomian work, Stephen Hildebrand takes Dörries’ argument one step further in suggesting that “he is trying to persuade the Macedonians of the Spirit’s divinity.”40 As seen above, Rousseau perceives the treatise as Basil’s act of rising above the bitterness that typified his relationship with his own mentor to focus instead on being a positive influence on the man to whom he was a mentor in turn.41 All these arguments are insightful, but leave something to be desired. Pouchet here is the outlier, and though the early chapters of On the Holy Spirit read in part as a refutation of the use of 1Cor.8.6’s “from whom” and “through whom” to differentiate between Father, Son and Spirit – the central argument of Eunomius’ Apology 5 – from chapter seven onwards this facet of the Trinitarian relationships is broadly left behind.42 Indeed, since Basil states that the co-glorification of Father and Son is something he and his silent interlocutor find to be “common” to them, one would struggle to assert that the imagined conversation of On the Holy Spirit is between Basil and a Eunomian: it feels more as an eirenic appeal to the shared co-glorification of the Son, beginning on an initial point of agreement over a shared foe before moving to address theological differences. Rousseau’s interpretation of the text encounters a similar problem, mistaking the apologetic tone of On the Holy Spirit for confidence and renewed vigour. Dörries’ argument feels closer to the mark, but nonetheless encounters its own issues. It is true that On the Holy Spirit reads as a conversation with a Macedonian – Eustathius, to be exact – but it is hard to see why Basil would publish in writing the transcript of a series of discussions that failed to convince in person: whether or not he intended Eustathius to ever read the work, re-exploring an exhausted avenue would have been rather futile. One is more reminded here of Augustine’s proclivity to write treatises against those he felt he had failed to convince – or effectively refute – during their open disputes, and this feels closer to the mark here too: rather than simply reproducing a transcript, On the Holy Spirit constitutes a renewed effort to respond to Eustathius’ major contentions, providing some kind of closure to a debate that, in reality, had a less satisfying conclusion.43 Thus, Hildebrand’s suggestions are the most appealing and best recognise the eirenic tone On the Holy Spirit takes. It does, however, overreach in imagining that the Macedonians – and Eustathius in particular – would ever read or be convinced of Basil’s argument.

Indeed, it is unlikely that Basil believed On the Holy Spirit would ever fall into Eustathius’ hands. From a historical perspective, it was certainly improbable. In its dedication to Amphilochius – and indeed the delay of Basil’s sending of the manuscript to accommodate a request for it to be on parchment – the work seems to have been written to satisfy the questions of his protégé, and follows the contemporary conventions of ekdosis; the “handing-out” of a work to close friends, family and supporters.44 After handing it over to Amphilochius, Basil would have had no control over where it went next and who might request their own copy: though Amphilochius and Eustathius were likely connected somehow through ascetic circles, this connection would have been distant and it is unlikely that Eustathius, hearing that such a book existed, would commission the copying of it, and books were rarely – if ever – sent without prior request.45 In accusing Basil of Sabellianism and throwing him to the dogs, one should assume he cared little for what Basil might have had to say in the aftermath. Similarly, had Basil sent a copy directly to Eustathius, there was no guarantee that his mentor would not immediately burn it.46 Indeed, since the ekdosis of a book was to give the recipient free reign over its dissemination, Basil would not have trusted Eustathius with another of his writings: his anger at Eustathius’ publication and apparent recension of his correspondence with Apollinaris is plain to see in Ep. 223, and would be sufficient cause to be wary in the delivery of any other of his writings to someone who had so recently used one in bad faith.

Based on these conventions, we cannot assume Basil meant for anyone to have receipt – and the control over dissemination thereafter – of the treatise other than Amphilochius, and – due to the immediate context – certainly not someone such as Eustathius. Similarly, one cannot imagine Basil would have been confident it would reach Eustathius through dissemination. We are therefore left with one explanation as to why the work reads more as apology than as polemic: catharsis. There was no question that Eustathius had deeply hurt Basil, and the memory of his betrayal would have been fresh. In writing On the Holy Spirit for his mentee, the disagreements with his mentor would have been consistently and inescapably present in his mind, and either as a conscious act or a subconscious one, this provided the opportunity for Basil to say what Eusthatius would not hear, and to give himself closure where circumstance had denied it to him. The work is therefore not truly a response to Amphilochius’ questions, but to Eustathius’ – a last word in a conversation that was long since over. This is not to say, however, that there is no possibility that Basil hoped Eustathius might come across On the Holy Spirit and repent, even though as historians we must question its likelihood. As human beings, it is difficult to read the final chapter of On the Holy Spirit and not see the faint glimmer of hope in Basil’s mind that the church might heal, old wounds knit together and that his friend, mentor and ascetical inspiration might return to the fold. Unfortunately, if this hope existed, it was in vain. Eustathius died in 377, still in conflict with Basil and the Pro-Nicenes. Furthermore, though Basil’s vision of a church unified by an orthodox confession of the Trinity was to some extent realised at Constantinople in 381, Basil died in 379, succumbing to one of the many illnesses that had plagued him throughout his episcopal career, never seeing the most tireless and important work of his ecclesiastical career realised.

5 The Eirenic Quality of the Appeal to Tradition in On the Holy Spirit 27–29

Basil’s appeal to tradition in the later chapters of the treatise further indicates its apologetic bent: its content and choice of sources constitute a clear reply to Eustathius of Sebaste. At the core of this appeal to tradition – whatever this notion of tradition might be – is the justification of a certain doxological formula employed by Basil, in which he glorifies the Father and Son with (σύν) the Holy Spirit.47 It appears by Basil’s own admission that he was strongly criticised by his opponents for using this particular form of doxology, rather than their preferred glorification of the Father and Son in (ἐν) the Holy Spirit:

Why, then, they say, being that “in” is particularly suitable for the Spirit and is sufficient for every thought concerning him, why then do you introduce this new word – saying “with” the Spirit and not “in” the Holy Spirit and using words that are neither necessary nor in common use by the churches?48

Just as with the rest of the treatise, Basil responds to an argument here that fits the modus operandi of Eustathius in his accusations of Sabellianism towards Basil. Though the doxology is not mentioned in Basil’s letter 223 – in which he attempts to refute Eustathius’ accusations – the utilisation of such a doxology, in which there is no distinction in the glorification of Father, Son or Spirit, is a formula to which such allegations would be particularly suited. We should consequently – as with the rest of the treatise – see this as a direct response to Eustathius of Sebaste, and in fact this appeal to tradition is the clearest example of how On the Holy Spirit has been written to respond to him in particular.

Indeed, the most significant issue with Basil’s doxology for a non-Nicene is that – if vindicated by tradition – it tacitly demonstrates that the Spirit is homotimos (of equal dignity) to the Father and Son, a term that this treatise favours over the more inherently controversial homoousios.49 The term has substantial ancient witness as an appellation for a peer of those in the highest level of office, even being a designated rank in the court of the Ptolemies.50 The aptness of using such a courtly term to discuss the relationship between Father, Son and Spirit aside, an admission by any party that the Spirit is homotimos would be a tacit agreement that the Spirit must be considered God. The task set before Basil, then, is to prove that the doxological use of “with” is not only adequate for use in the churches but that it can be designated as having a significant patristic pedigree.

Basil’s famous appeal to tradition in the latter chapters of On the Holy Spirit, therefore, comes out of the need to respond to this problem. In the previous chapters, he argues strongly that scriptural witnesses to the word “and” is synonymous to “with” to ensure his doxology is not explicitly unscriptural.51 However, finding no direct evidence of the usage of “with” in Scripture, tradition is his next avenue. In this way, Basil begins by outlining a vast number of liturgical traditions that have no identifiable scriptural basis:

Those who hope in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ are marked by the sign of the Cross: by what scriptures? Which scripture teaches us to turn to the East during prayer? The words of the epiclesis at the moment of the consecration, the bread of the Eucharist and the cup of blessing – what saint has left us a scriptural account of this? We are not content with the words mentioned by the Apostle or the Gospel, but also add others before and after, receiving in unwritten (ἄγραφος) teaching that they have great power as regards the mystery.52

Basil has been clever here. The examples given cover both simplistic practice and key aspects of sacramental celebration – mundane and lofty worship equally relies on a notion of tradition in order to determine its authority. The mentions of the signing of the cross and the use of epiclesis are no vague choices either: both are key to any level of Christian worship, and the first and third of these are strongly related to areas of practice that could be considered Trinitarian in their formulae – the epiclesis, the distinctly pneumatological part of the anaphora, is of most importance here. Basil’s argument, then, is evident: if even the epiclesis and the consecration of the Eucharist by which all worship has its source in tradition, not in scripture, then employing his doxology – so long as he can demonstrate patristic witness – is neither less valid nor heretical.

The method Basil uses remains consistently defensive yet eirenic – further evidence that it was Eustathius who accused Basil of Sabellianism on account of his doxology. Indeed, this is made clear not only by his attempt to refute the accusations of his opponents by appeal to common liturgy, but the patristic sources that he invokes – Irenaeus, Clement of Rome, Dionysius of Rome, Dionysius of Alexandria and Origen – are a mix of figures Basil considers orthodox and those whom he considers heterodox. Origen is used despite the fact that “he is a man who does not in all ways have perfectly correct ideas about the Spirit.”53 However, scholars have drawn particular interest to Basil’s invocation of Dionysius of Alexandria, a frequent object of Basil’s ire. Mark Edwards has noted the “qualified applause” Basil gives to the tract of Dionysius he reproduces in this section.54 Basil simply states that “it is strange to hear (ὃ καὶ παράδοξον ἀκοῦσαι)” that Dionysius settles on using “with” in the doxology here replicated, a tone different to how he deals with Dionysius elsewhere.55 Basil’s disposition towards Dionysius’ thought is generally negative, accusing him in one of his letters of both tritheism through establishing “a difference in substance (οὐσίας διαφορὰν)” between the persons of the Trinity and even of disregarding the place of the Spirit, “banishing him, the object of our worship, from the Godhead and listing him someplace below, with the created and servile class of things.”56 In the same letter, Basil is even more cutting towards the man himself, saying “this man (Dionysius) – so far as we can recognise – is more or less the first person to have sown the seeds of this impiety that now resounds: I speak of the Anomoian doctrine.”57 This leads us to a very interesting problem – why exactly would Basil, in a treatise that sought to state the divinity of the Spirit, appeal to the man who, according to him, would have utterly rejected Basil’s position?

Aloys Grillmeier, following Martin Tetz, is satisfied to consider these references to be a florilegium of Fathers.58 This is in one sense true – the section is certainly an anthology created to settle a matter of theological relevance. However, it is more unique in its use of figures deemed orthodox and heterodox on the particular matter of the Spirit. Indeed, unlike Athanasius in De Sententia Dionysii, Basil is not interested in claiming Dionysius for the Pro-Nicenes. Instead, his approach is to embrace his (perceived) heterodoxy, and employ it as an apologetic and rhetorical tool against his critics: if even someone so confused in Trinitarian matters as Dionysius of Alexandria can be right on this matter and in agreement with the orthodox fathers, then how can one disagree?59 Once more, then, we come to the realisation that Basil has written more to make the case for his own beliefs than to hammer orthodoxy into his foes.

In fact, it would be quite reasonable to suggest the use of Dionysius here would be an effective dog whistle to Eustathius, the imagined interlocutor of the treatise. Eustathius’ endeavours to combat anomoian beliefs were well-documented, and so the positive use of a figure often touted as the originator of anomoian doctrine feels like an argument levelled directly at Eustathius and his followers.60 This is more convincing when we consider the nature of the other prominent figures who are given a lengthy treating here – Origen and Gregory Thaumaturgus. Basil himself was a devotee of Origen, and history remembered this well by attributing the Philocalia of Origen to a collaborative effort between him and Gregory Nazianzen. Though Neil McLynn has of late questioned this traditional attribution, believing the text to be the work of “an inky-fingered drudge, who knew Origen very well, but not much else,” Basil’s awareness of the text is made highly likely by its attachment to Gregory Nazianzen’s Letter 115.61 The extent to which Basil quotes Gregory Thaumaturgus, and names him “Gregory the Great,” is self-evidently an admittance of devotion. Basil’s reverence for Gregory Thaumaturgus is to be expected: he was part of a family to whom Gregory was deeply dear, and his own personal ascetic connection to Pontus – the historical see of the wonderworking bishop – is well-established, it being the site of his sister Macrina’s ascetic widow-community. Both of these men were instrumental in the establishment of a Christian asceticism, and it was in their paths that figures such as Eustathius strode towards their ascetic vocations. Indeed, the whole text is brimming with ascetic concepts and language. Hildebrand has noticed this, saying the text is “not written as one theologian to another, or as one bishop to another, but above all as one ascetic to another.”62 Indeed, one must go a little further: On the Holy Spirit is not only a treatise written from one ascetic – Basil – to another – Amphilochius – but is also the imagined conversation between Basil and Eustathius. Even where the arguments feel more tailored towards the silent interlocutor than the actual addressee, the word of the day unwaveringly remains asceticism.

On the question of episcopacy versus asceticism, one might initially imagine Hildebrand to be too clear-cut between the two. In a post-Gangran reality, asceticism and the episcopate seem to have rather coalesced both within the Pro-Nicene camp and outside it: Basil of Ancyra, Athanasius, Eustathius of Sebaste, Basil himself and Amphilochius of Iconium were all of one ascetic mind, even if one might struggle to unite them at a negotiating-table. It is also of note that, other than Jovinian in the West, there were few notable opponents of asceticism by the late fourth-century, and the pro-ascetic response was overwhelmingly from bishops, spearheaded by Ambrose, and Augustine after him. However, though asceticism might be viewed as intrinsic to the idea of the episcopacy and religious office a natural end to any ascetic not anchoretically or cenobitically inclined, it is the tone of the treatise that most differentiates it from contemporary literature. Though ideologically the episcopal and the ascetical duties possess some form of synonymy to Basil and to the older Eustathius, Basil avoids utilizing his episcopal status to censure him, and instead appeals to his ascetical sensibilities. In direct opposition to his previous failed attempts to rehabilitate his spiritual father through the channels of the church – since Eustathius simply signed the Nicene Creed appended to Ep. 125 and then continued very much as he was – his efforts changed course from appealing to their shared rank and ecclesiastical membership to appealing to their shared principles and heritage. Whilst therefore Basil appeals primarily to bishops in his anthology – Origen and Julius Africanus being the clear exceptions – the actual argument of On the Holy Spirit contends that, though bishops have particular supremacy in this matter, knowledge of the true meaning of these traditions is predicated upon an ascetical mindset. While bishops possess the licence to profess the doctrines of the church with authority, ascetics possess the insight that confirms their truth. It is a soft touch, but one that should be considered the central motivator behind Basil’s style in this treatise: in this way Hildebrand’s view is very much vindicated.

It is at this point, therefore, that we must reject the claim that Basil has written a simple florilegium to prove his point, let alone could have borrowed one, since evidence of florilegia before the floruit of Stobaeus is conjectural at best.63 The sources and structure used here constitute a direct appeal to Eustathius of Sebaste on a number of different platforms – most importantly the shared enmity towards Dionysius of Alexandria, but also a shared devotion to Origen and Gregory Thaumaturgus through a common ascetic vision. The aim of this particular appeal to patristic tradition, though liminally a matter of authority, is more precisely an apologia – and at that an apology responding to the categoria of an obvious, albeit silent, interlocutor: Eustathius of Sebaste.

6 Conclusions

Through both the general tone and style of the treatise and the specific content of the appeal to liturgical tradition at its close, On the Holy Spirit should be considered a work that is interwoven with a responsive, eirenic and apologetic tone. In it, Basil redoubles his effort to respond to the criticisms of his old mentor, Eustathius of Sebaste. With this in mind, we should also question the traditional narrative that the earlier parts of the work serve as a transcript of their prior conversations. Though knowing the one to whom it responds would likely never have read the work, Basil nonetheless writes as if it might. The actual addressee, Amphilochius, takes a back seat to Eustathius, the treatise’s silent interlocutor, to whom Basil pleads his case and calls for peace. Our approach to On the Holy Spirit as scholars should change accordingly, reimagining its tone not as one of self-assurance and the emergence of Basil from the shadow of his former mentor, but as a work that remains preoccupied with him. The style and tone is defensive, but also eirenic and nuanced: it seemingly offers an outstretched hand to a man who would likely never see it, and was even less likely to take it. Perhaps Basil did think otherwise, and the treatise was a last-ditch effort at reconciliation – after all, in a grieving heart, rationality rarely wins out against even the vainest hope.

Regardless, as much as On the Holy Spirit serves as a response to Amphilochius’ request for a work to disseminate amongst his suffragans, we should not read it as a polemic, or even as a treatise that censures the Pneumatomachoi in any meaningful sense. I would speculate that the additional purpose of this treatise was to provide Basil with the platform he needed to complete his conversation with Eustathius, and the catharsis that would bring him, but this of course is speculation: whatever the reason, the eirenic tone of the argument and melancholy tone of the afterword necessitate that we read the work as – at least in part – an apologetic. This should not be done without some qualification, however. The conventions of ekdosis and the dedication of the work to Amphilochius tell us that neither Eustathius nor his followers were likely to have received the work, and the work does not even pretend that Eustathius might receive it – his name is never mentioned, even if the entire treatise constitutes a treatment of his accusations. For this reason one might name it a quasi-apology, but this in my view would be overcautious: instead we are better off remembering that there was no formal genre of apologetic in Late Antiquity, and that if we were to refuse the title to works that never named those delivering the corresponding categoria – or viewed them as the main audience – the genre would become meagre indeed.


I would like to thank Mark Edwards, Carol Harrison, Neil McLynn, Morwenna Ludlow, Jonathan Greig and Kirsten MacKerras for all their helpful advice and invaluable comments in revising this work.


Loofs, Friedrich, Eustathius von Sebaste und die Chronologie der Basilius-Briefe: Eine patris-tische Studie (Halle: Niemeyer, 1898).


Basil, Ep. 244.9 (as part of a more general group); 266.3 (specifically stated); Athanasius, History of the Arians 4.


The date of Gangra has been hotly contested for centuries – here I follow Barnes, T.D., “The Date of the Council of Gangra,” JTS 40 (1989): 121–4. See also Sozomen, HE 4.12 versus Socrates, HE 2.43 for the two main conflicting testimonies in the primary literature. For additional literature see Barnes, “The Date,” 121–3 and Jurgens, W.A., “The Date of the Council of Gangra,” The Jurist 20 (1960): 1–12. For a list of ascetical eccentricities for which Eustathius was there condemned, see Socrates, HE 2.43 and Elm, Susanna, Virgins of God: The Making of Asceticism in Late Antiquity (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), 106–111.


For these creeds, see Kinzig, Wolfram, Faith in Formulae, vol. 1 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 404–20. The influence of these earlier creeds is present on the creed of Constantinople 359/60 but its removal of κατὰ πάντα from the discussion of the homoiotes of Son with Father reflects their failure to convince Eudoxius of their specific position. For the Constantinopolitan Creed of 359/60 see Kinzig, Faith in Formulae, vol. 1, 423–5.


The extent to which Eustathius influenced the authoring – but not necessarily the ideas contained within – Against Eunomius is well-outlined in Radde-Gallwitz, Andrew & DelCogliano, Mark, Against Eunomius (Washington D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2011), 34; 60–66. The struggles Basil faced due to his continued association with Eustathius can be most clearly seen in his letters 98, 99 & 130, and is well-summarised by Chadwick, Henry, The Church in Ancient Society (Oxford; Oxford University Press, 2001), 337–9 and in Rousseau, Philip, Basil of Caesarea (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1998), 239–45.


See DeFerrari, Roy, St. Basil: Letters 1–185 (Washington, D.C: CUA Press, 1951), 269. It is perhaps unfair to suggest this is as a proof of Eustathius’ vacillation since times were so turbulent; any bishop that lived through the 350s and 60s that was less stubborn than Athanasius would likely have done the same.


See Hanson, R.P.C., The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy 318–381 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988), 363–4. I have made some alterations to this translation for the sake of clarity and accuracy. For the Greek, see Kinzig, Faith in Formulae, vol. 1, 413–15, based on Athanasius, De Synodis 8.7: τὸ δὲ ὄνομα τῆς οὐσίας διὰ τὸ ἁπλούστερον παρὰ τῶν πατέρων τεθεῖσθαι, ἀγνοούμενον δὲ ὑπὸ τῶν λαῶν σκάνδαλον φέρειν, διὰ τὸ μήτε τὰς γραφὰς τοῦτο περιέχειν ἤρεσε τοῦτο περιαιρεθῆναι καὶ παντελῶς μηδεμίαν μνήμην οὐσίας ἐπὶ θεοῦ εἶναι τοῦ λοιποῦ διὰ τὸ τὰς θείας γραφὰς μηδαμοῦ περὶ πατρὸς καὶ υἱοῦ οὐσίας μεμνῆσθαι. ὅμοιον δὲ λέγομεν τὸν υἱὸν τῷ πατρὶ κατὰ πάντα ὡς καὶ αἱ ἅγιαι γραφαὶ λέγουσί τε καὶ διδάσκουσι.


Ayres, Lewis, Nicaea and its Legacy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) 194–5. Basil, Ep 9. On early evidence of homoousianism in Basil, see Ayres, Nicaea, 194–5 and Zachhuber, Johannes, “Basil and the Three Hypostases Tradition,” ZAC 5 (2001): 65–85. Some debate over the dating of Ep. 9 persists, often in conversation with the Apollinarian correspondence of the same date (Ep. 361), in which Basil claims to prefer ὅμοιος ἀπαράλλακτος to ὁμοούσιος, the mirror opposite of his position in Ep. 9. I personally am inclined to suspect Basil is being somewhat disingenuous in Ep. 361 to elicit a firm response from Apollinaris – one which he indeed receives! – since he also parrots Eunomius in the same breath, implying unbegottenness to be a quality of the divine ousia. If Basil was happy to bring up the latter as a possibility so close to the authorship of Against Eunomius, I believe it is fair to doubt his genuineness in presenting these ideas to Apollinaris as his own thoughts.


See again the “dated” creed of Sirmium in Kinzig, Faith in Formulae 1, 413–15: “ὅμοιον δὲ λέγομεν τὸν υἱόν τῷ πατρὶ κατὰ πάντα, ὡς καὶ αἱ ἅγιαι γραφαί λέγουσι τε καὶ διδάσκουσι.”


Socrates, HE 2.45: “Ἐγώ, ἔφη, οὔτε Θεὸν ὀνομάζειν αἱροῦμαι τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον οὔτε κτίσμα καλεῖν ἂν τολμήσαιμι.” This also is a matter of consistency in his Trinitarian thought – the rejection of the Son’s creaturehood is something consistently evoked in the creeds promulgated by himself and Basil of Ancyra. On this see esp. the Ancyran creed of 358, which as Fairbairn has shown (“The Synod of Ancyra [358] and the Son’s Creaturehood,” JTS 64 [2013]: 111–136) is clear and vocal in its anathematization of such claims. One can therefore see this as another element of Eustathius’ consistency over the years – though Θεός may be a problematic term when ascribed to Son or Spirit, κτίσμα is right out.


One should also see this as making any ideological connection with Arius unlikely, even if Eustathius did know him in his youth. Here compare Eustathius’ utter rejection of κτίσμα throughout his documented career with Arius’ comfort in using the term for the Son. This of course needs qualification: Arius’ view of creaturehood would likely differ from most as his Letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia shows, he saw begottenness and createdness as synonymous, while distancing the Son from other creatures. As Rowan Williams (Arius: Heresy and Tradition [London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1989], 109) points out, Arius’ definition of creature means “a product of God’s will.” Arius indeed says much the same in his Letter to Alexander 2, where the Son is defined as a creature that stands apart from the other creatures.


Basil, Ep. 125: “Εὐστάθιος ἐπίσκοπος σοὶ Βασιλείῳ ἀναγνοὺς ἐγνώρισα καὶ συνῄνεσα τοῖς προγεγραμμένοις. Ὑπέγραψα δὲ συμπαρόντων μοι τῶν ἀδελφῶν, τοῦ ἡμετέρου Φρόντωνος καὶ τοῦ χωρεπισκόπου Σεβήρου καὶ ἄλλων τινῶν κληρικῶν.”


While they split in May/June 373 (Fedwick, 16), Ep. 223 did not surface until June/July of 375 (Fedwick, 17); Fedwick, Paul, “A Chronology of Basil,” 16–17, in: Fedwick, Paul (ed.) Basil of Caesarea: Christian, Humanist, Ascetic: A Sixteen-Hundredth Anniversary Symposium, vol. 1 (Rome: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies), 1979. Yves Courtonne, Saint Basile. Lettres, vol. 3 (Paris: Société Les belles lettres, 1966), 8 gives the looser date of 375. The various arguments concerning the extent to which these letters were interpolated (or indeed entirely fabricated) are too numerous to list here. I would however offer the suggestion that unless guilt by association with Apollinaris were sufficient to be branded a Sabellian, or indeed if one were particularly disingenuous in interpreting the term homoios aparallaktos, some interpolation would have been required to make the charge stick: Basil’s – perhaps feigned – suspicion concerning the homoousion in the letter would have made such accusations a hard sell. On the other hand, perhaps Basil had simply given enough unwelcome advice to his fellow bishops that any excuse to shun him would suffice.


A rough date (without reference) of 374 is given by C.F.H. Johnston in 1892 (The Book of St. Basil the Great, (Oxford: Clarendon Press), but the piecemeal date of 373–5 was first notably proffered by Dörries in De Spiritu Sancto: Der Beitrag des Basilius zum Abschluß des Trinitarischen Dogmas (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1956). Scholarship has followed these dates stringently, e.g. Fedwick, “A Chronology of Basil,” 16–17; Hildebrand, Stephen, On the Holy Spirit (New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007), 22; Pruche, Benoît, Sur le Saint-Esprit (Bis) (Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 2002), 41–57. Rousseau, Basil of Caesarea is less clear but agrees with Dörries on dating in almost all circumstances throughout.


Fedwick, “A Chronology of Basil,” 16–17; Dörries, De Spiritu Sancto.


“Nonbiblical” and “unbiblical” are here not to be taken as synonymous. “Unbiblical” implies a contradiction of biblical teachings, “nonbiblical” states a lack of biblical sourcing for the argument. This division is important in Basil’s own argument in On the Holy Spirit, esp. 27.66, where the tradition he appeals to is ἄγραφος (non-scriptural) as opposed to ἔγγραφος (scriptural). The non-scripturality of this tradition, and its simultaneous equipollence with Scripture, is a consistent point of return for Basil in the closing chapters of this treatise, as noted by many including De Mendieta, Emmanuel Amand, The Unwritten and Secret Apostolic Traditions in the Theological Thought of Basil of Caesarea (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1965); Hanson, R.P.C, Tradition in the Early Church (London: SCM, 1962); Id., “Basil’s Doctrine of Tradition in Relation to the Holy Spirit.” VChr 22 (1968): 241–55; Whitty, John, Tradition in the Theological Thought of Basil of Caesarea (DPhil Thesis: University of Oxford, 2020), 115–19.


Gregory of Nyssa, Against the Macedonians 20–1, trans. Meredith, Anthony, Gregory of Nyssa (London: Routledge, 1999) 40–41.


Gregory of Nazianzus, Fifth Theological Oration 13; 3.


Ibid. 3.


Basil, Against Eunomius, 1.1: ὁ δὲ ἐκδεξάμενος τὴν ἀσέβειαν καὶ τελειώσας αὐτὴν Εὐνόμιος οὗτος ὁ Γαλάτης, ὃς, ἐκ τῶν αἰσχίστων ἑαυτῷ τὴν περιφάνειαν κτώμενος (Ἡ γὰρ δόξα, φησὶν, ἐν τῇ αἰσχύνῃ αὐτῶν), τὴν ἐκ τοῦ γράψαι ἃ μηδεὶς ἄλλος τετόλμηκε πώποτε φιλοτιμίαν τῶν ἀποκειμένων τοῖς εὐσεβέσιν ἀγαθῶν προτιμήσας, ὑπὀδόντα τέως λαλουμένην τὴν βλασφημίαν ἐπήρθη δημοσιεῦσαι τῷ λαμπρῷ τούτῳ συντάγματι, ἀρχηγὸς καὶ πρωτοστάτης ὅλης αἱρέσεως ἀναῤῥηθῆναι φιλοτιμούμενος.


As noted by Mark Edwards in Religions of the Constantinian Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015) 287, this is also an invective employed by Eusebius of Caesarea in his Contra Marcellum: the exegesis of Galatians is frequent within the first book, and Eusebius names Marcellus himself “the Galatian (ὁ γαλάτος)” in the opening sentence of book 2. Basil’s use conveys an additional geographical distinction, Cappadocia and Galatia bordering each other, and Eunomius likely having been born in Cappadocia. One can therefore see it also as an attempt to – quite literally – distance himself from Eunomius.


Basil, Against Eunomius 1,1.


Basil, Ep. 226.4: ἀναθεματίζομεν καὶ ἐγγὺς εἶναι τῆς Ἑλληνικῆς τιθέμεθα πλάνης.


Ep. 223.3: ἀλλὰ τῷ προστάτῃ τῆς νῦν αἱρέσεως μαθητευθέντας τὰ ἐκείνου λάθρᾳ κατασπείρειν διδάγματα·


Basil, Ep. 263. For dating see Courtonne (vol 3), 121 and Fedwick, “Chronology of Basil,” 18.


See Basil, Homily Against the Sabellians, Anomoians and Pneumatomachians 1–4.


Ibid. 7: Οὕτως ἀσύνετος εἶ, ὡς μηδὑπαὐτῆς προσάγεσθαι τῆς φωνῆς εἰς τὰς ἀξίας ἐννοίας τοῦ Πνεύματος.


Basil, Holy Spirit 8.21.


Basil, Holy Spirit 30.77.


Jackson, Bloomfield, The Treatise De Spiritu Sancto …, NPNF2-08 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1984), 49; Aristophanes, Acharnians 595.


For a useful summary of the anti-war sentiment in Acharnians, see Henderson, Jeffrey, Aristophanes, vol. 1 (LCL 178) (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998), 48–50.


Basil, On the Holy Spirit 30.76–7 & Thucydides, History 4.8–9 (Sphtaceria); 7.43–4 (Epipolae); 7.62 (Syracuse).


Basil, On the Holy Spirit 30.78–9: καὶ τοσοῦτον, ὡς ἔοικε, τὸ κακὸν ἡμῖν ἐνίδρυται, ὥστε καὶ τῶν ἀλόγων γεγόναμεν ἀλογώτεροι· εἴ γε ἐκεῖνα μὲν τὰ ὁμόφυλα ἀλλήλοις συναγελάζεται· ἡμῖν δὲ ὁ χαλεπώτατος πόλεμος πρὸς τοὺς οἰκείους ἐστί. Τούτων μὲν οὖν πάντων ἕνεκεν σιωπᾶν ἔδει, ἀλλἀνθεῖλκε γὰρ ἑτέρωθεν ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ ζητοῦσα τὸ ἑαυτῆς, καὶ νικᾶν ἀξιοῦσα πᾶσαν καιρῶν καὶ πραγμάτων δυσχέρειαν. Ἐδίδαξαν δὲ ἡμᾶς καὶ οἱ ἐπὶ τῆς Βαβυλωνίας παῖδες, καὶ μηδενὸς ὄντος τοῦ συντιθεμένου τῇ εὐσεβείᾳ, καθἑαυτοὺς τὸ ἐπιβάλλον ἐκτελεῖν· οἵ γε ἐκ μέσης τῆς φλογὸς τὸν Θεὸν ἀνύμνουν, μὴ λογιζόμενοι τὸ πλῆθος τῶν τὴν ἀλήθειαν ἀθετούντων, ἀλλἀλλήλοις ἀρκούμενοι, τρεῖς ὄντες. Διόπερ οὐδὲ ἡμῖν ὄκνον ἐνεποίησε τῶν πολεμίων τὸ νέφος, ἀλλὰ τὴν ἐλπίδα θέμενοι ἐπὶ τὴν βοήθειαν τοῦ Πνεύματος, ἐν πάσῃ παρρησίᾳ κατηγγείλαμεν τὴν ἀλήθειαν. Ἢ πάντων ἂν ἦνσχετλιώτατον, τοὺς μὲν βλασφημοῦντας τὸ Πνεῦμα, οὕτως εὐκόλως πρὸς τὸν εὐσεβῆ λόγον ἀποθρασύνεσθαι· ἡμᾶς δὲ τηλικοῦτον ἔχοντας συνασπιστὴν καὶ συνήγορον, ὀκνεῖν τὸν λόγον διακονεῖν, τὸν ἐκ τῆς τῶν πατέρων παραδόσεως πρὸς ἡμᾶς ἀκολουθίᾳ μνήμης διασωθέντα.


Basil, On the Holy Spirit 30.78: ἡμῖν δὲ ὁ χαλεπώτατος πόλεμος πρὸς τοὺς οἰκείους ἐστί. The horror of Greeks fighting Greeks in classical literature is again relevant here, and a particular parallel should be observed with Plato, Republic 5,469a–471c, where the Peloponnesian war is likened to a kind of panhellenic sickness much more objectionable than Greek warfare against so-called barbarians.


Rousseau, Basil of Caesarea, 264.


See Basil, Ep. 199; 231–6.


See Fedwick, “A Chronology of Basil.”


See Amphilochius, Synodal Letter, esp. 4.19–24. For Bonnet’s version, along with helpful introduction and Basilian parallels in the footnotes, see Bonnet, M. Amphiloque D’Iconium: Homélies, Fragments, Lettres (Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 2012), 312–31.


Dörries, De Spiritu Sancto.


See Pouchet, J-R, “Le Traité de Saint Basile sur le Saint-Esprit: Son Milieu Originel.” RechSR 84 (1996): 325–50; Hildebrand, On the Holy Spirit, 22–5.


Rousseau, Basil of Caesarea, 264.


Such is the main argument of Basil, On the Holy Spirit 1–6.


See both Augustine’s anti-Manichaean works and – more notably – his Debate with Maximinus and the two books of The Answer to Maximinus. On the Holy Spirit should realistically be more compared to the former than the latter – the fruit of a writer regrouping and redoubling their efforts to make a tailored but resounding refutation of their opponent’s position.


Basil, Ep. 231. As noted by Stroumsa in “On the Status of Books in Late Antiquity,” in Harrison, C., Humfress, C. & Sandwell, I (eds), Being Christian in Late Antiquity: A Festschrift for Gillian Clark (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 57–72 at 59 the commission of a parchment copy of a treatise was rare indeed. For the conventions of the publication of works in Late Antiquity, see Gamble, H.Y. Books and Readers in the Early Church (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 1995), 82–5. For a more specific discussion of the term ekdosis, see van Groningen, B.A., “Ekdosis,” Mnemosyne Series 4, Vol. 16 (1963), 1–17.


Gamble, Books and Readers, 84–5; 140–3. For greater detail, see Haines-Eitzen, Kim, Guardians of Letters: Literacy, Power and the Transmitters of Early Christian Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 77–104.


Burning books as common practice and cathartic exercise is touched upon by Philip Rousseau in “From Binding to Burning,” in: Klingshirn, William E. & Safran, Linda (eds), The Early Christian Book (Washington, D.C: Catholic University of America Press, 2007), 1–9 at 9.


This is the central theme of On the Holy Spirit chapters 25–9.


Ibid. 27.65.


The use of this term is concentrated in On the Holy Spirit 5.8–6.15 and 17.42–20.51.


See LSJ 1228. It appears Plutarch also used the term to describe the “chief nobles” of the Persians, and intimates it was a rank they themselves employed: “οἱτῶν ὁμοτίμωνκαλούμενοι” (Life of Fabius Maximus, 9).


See On the Holy Spirit, 25–26.


Ibid. 27.66.


Ibid. 29.73: ἄνδρα οὐδὲ πάνυ τι ὑγιεῖς περὶ τοῦ Πνεύματος τὰς ὑπολήψεις ἐν πᾶσιν ἔχοντα·


Edwards, Mark, “Porphyry and Cappadocian Logic,” The Greek Orthodox Theological Review 60 (2015): 61–74 at 65.


Basil, On the Holy Spirit 29.72.


Basil, Ep. 9.2: τῆς προσκυνουμένης αὐτὸ θεότητος ἐξορίζων καὶ κάτω που τῇ κτιστῇ καὶ λειτουργῷ φύσει συναριθμῶν.


Ibid. 2: Σχεδὸν γὰρ ταυτησὶ τῆς νῦν περιθρυλουμένης ἀσεβείας, τῆς κατὰ τὸ Ἀνόμοιον λέγω, οὗτός ἐστιν, ὅσα γε ἡμεῖς ἴσμεν, ὁ πρῶτος ἀνθρώποις τὰ σπέρματα παρασχών.


Grillmeier, Aloys, Christ in Christian Tradition, vol.2.1 (London: Mowbray, 1987), 52.


Theodoret famously employs a similar tactic in his long-form anthologies at the close of each book of the Eranistes, citing Apollinaris and Cyril of Alexandria every time: if even they stand as witnesses to his position, who dare question its veracity?


Much of these previous endeavours have been discussed at length in the prior chapter. For a quick summary and rundown of the creeds in which Eustathius was participate in drafting, see e.g. Kelly, J.N.D., Early Christian Creeds (London: Continuum, 2006), chapter 9.


McLynn, Neil, “What was the ‘Philocalia of Origen?’” Meddelanden Från Collegium Patristicum Lundense 19 (2004): 32–43 at 37. McLynn considers a Caesarean origin to be most likely – considering Origen’s connection to the place, and the local episcopate’s unmatched devotion to him in the early 4th century, such an origin is both probable and fitting, though as noted by Andrew Blaski, “The Philocalia of Origen: A Crude or Creative Composition?” VChr 73 (2019): 174–89 there is perhaps reason to think of the work as more capably-produced than would initially appear. On the subject of Gregory Nazianzen and the Philocalia of Origen, see his Letter 115.


Hildebrand, Stephen, Basil of Caesarea (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014), 166.


See Chadwick, Owen. “Some Ancient Anthologies and Florilegia,” in Id., Studies in Ancient Christianity (Farnham: Ashgate, 2005).

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