St. Basil's Doctrine of the Holy Spirit

Wally Kwang Cheng WANG

I. Introduction

II. The Context: First Half of the Fourth Century

1. The Council of Nicea And Its Unfinished Tasks
2. The Situation When Basil Became a Priest in 362AD
3. The Events during Basil's Episcopate: from 370AD to 375AD

III. The Doctrine of Holy Spirit in St. Basil's Thinking

1. The Doctrine of the Spirit in St. Basil's Letters
2. Why The Holy Spirit Is Not Called God?
3. De Spiritu Sancto
4. Summary

IV. The Last Words

Endnotes

 

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I. Introduction

ˇ@ˇ@Fourth century started a new chapter in the history of church. On the one hand, around 313 AD, the edict of Milan grant tolerance to the existence of church. This paved the way for the church to become the church for the whole Roman Empire. As a result, the dark age of persecution had passed away, the expected peace was coming. On the other hand, the peace from the outside did not grant the peace from within. Around 324 AD, Arius' assertion about the inferior status of the Son initiated one of the greatest controversies besides the second century gnosticism. It led to the Council of Nicea. Nevertheless, it did not lead to peace, instead it created greater doctrinal confusion. In fact, Arian influence was continuing to be felt in the Christian church until the council of Constantinople. During this age of confusion, there were several great Christian thinkers. One of them was St. Basil. From him, we get the familiar Trinitarian formula .

ˇ@ˇ@St. Basil was the eldest of the three great Cappadocian fathers. He was born around 330AD in Caesarea in Cappadocia. His father was a rich landowner as well as a learned person and his mother was a devout Christian. He had nine brothers and sisters 1 . Eventually, two of his brothers, Peter and Gregory, together with him became bishops, while one of his sisters became a nun 2 . In his early year, he received a good education in rhetoric and had the chance to travel through the important centers in the Empire. Later, he also had a chance to study in Athen, the then center of the intellects. During his early year, he met Gregory of Nazianzus, the other Cappadocian father, and they remained to be good friends for life. After his education, he returned to Caesarea around 355AD. He became interested in ascetic life. He spend time to travel to Palestine and Egypt. Around 357AD, he was baptized and he joined his mother and his sister in their ascetic lifestyle. However, his ambition in living as a monk was cut short by his ordination to the priesthood by Eusebius in 362AD. When Eusebius died in 370AD, Basil was consecrated as the bishop of Caesarea. From this time on till his death, he was heavily involved in church politics. He tried his best to maintain the unity of the church as well as its orthodoxy. He died in 379AD at an age of fifty.

ˇ@ˇ@He did not have the temperament of a scholar. His ambition was to live an ascetic life in a monastery. When he became bishop of Caesarea, he demonstrated his excellent skill in administration. Nevertheless, he left us a lot of his writings of various characters 3 . His ascetic writings, including the rules of monasterial life, are still being used in Eastern Orthodox church. Probably the most interesting writings are his doctrinal writings and he letters. His letters enable us not only to construct his life chronologically but also to give us a glimpse of his theology. His letters, together with his most important doctrinal writings, including Adversus Eunomium and De Spiritu Sancto, introduces us to the theological thinking of St. Basil. Here we find his major contributions, especially about the further clarification on the doctrines of Trinity and of Holy Spirit, to the understanding of the orthodoxy. In this paper, we will discuss his view on Holy Spirit based upon De Spiritu Sancto and his letters. We will focus on two aspect. First, we will give a detailed investigation about the context leading toward the writing of this treatise as well as his various letters. Second, we will discuss St. Basil's contributions toward the understanding of the Trinity. As a result, in the first part, we will discuss the general situation after the council of Nicea as well as the particular context leading towards the composition of this treatise. In the second part, we will firstly look at his understanding of the Holy Spirit inferred from his letters. Then we will discuss why Basil rarely called the Holy Spirit God. Finally, we will discuss the general structure of this treatise, De Spiritu Sancto, as well as its contribution to the understanding about Holy Spirit. In the third part, we will give a brief discussion about the later generation's critiques of his understanding about Holy Spirit as well as our personal evaluation.

 

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II. The Context: First Half of the Fourth Century

ˇ@ˇ@In order to understand the particular context leading toward the composition of De Spiritu Sancto as well as the occasion of his various letters, we need to have a basic grasp about the situation in the first half of the fourth century. In fact, this was an age of great confusion and schism within the Church. In the words of St. Basil, he compared the present situation of the church as a naval battle in which "the ships driven to and fro by a raging tempest, while thick darkness falls from the clouds and blackens all the scene, so that watchwords are indistinguishable in confusion, and all distinction between friend and foe is lost."4 Under this situation, he pointed out that "inspired Scripture is powerless to mediate; the traditions of the apostles cannot suggest terms of arbitration"5 between different parties. This indeed is a good picture to depict the general situation of the first half of the fourth century. Now, we should go deeper than just describing the phenomenon of confusion, we should investigate the reason behind this confusion.

 

1. The Council of Nicea And Its Unfinished Tasks

ˇ@ˇ@As we mentioned early, the beginning of the fourth century brought a bright hope to the church. The persecution was gone with the Edict of Milan. Church could legally exist. The future seemed great. However, this situation did not last long. In Alexandria, a popular presbyter, Arius, asserted that "the Son cannot be an emanation of the Father, or a part of his substance, or another being similar to the Father, for any of these possibilities would deny either the unity of the immaterial nature of God"6. In other words, Arius held on to absolute monotheism. This view clashed with the bishop of Alexandria, Alexander. For he believed that this was a form a subordinationism and destroyed the divinity of the Son. As a result, Alexander convoked a synod and expelled Arius. However, the dispute did not end here. Arius found refuge in Eusebius of Nicomedia who was willing to protect Arius despite the protest by Alexander. This eventually created a schism and was heard by the emperor. The emperor Constantine, who wanted Christianity to be working as the cement for his empire, would not let this schism go on. Firstly, he tried to persuade both sides to reconcile with each other. When this failed, he decided to convoke a council of bishops in the city of Nicea, in Bythinia, in 325AD to settle the whole matter. Majority of the bishop attending that council did not clearly grasp the importance of the matter. Only two small parties, led by Alexander and by Eusebius of Nicomedia respectively, knew what they were arguing. Finally, in the intervention of the emperor, the whole council accepted to add the word to describe the Son in order to safeguard his divinity.

ˇ@ˇ@Nevertheless, this word was ambiguous, for different people interpreted this word differently. For example, the Western representatives interpreted the term "as an approximate translation of the unity of substance which had become a traditional doctrine in the West since the time of Tertullian."7 In this sense, the Son has the unity of the substance with the Father. Therefore, the Son is eternal and divine. In addition, there were some Eastern bishops, notably Eustathius of Antioch and Marcellus of Ancyra, interpreted this term similarly. Therefore, this term expresses "not only of the divinity of the Son, but also of the absolute unity between the Father and the Son - a unity without fundamental distinctions."8 Of course, the small minority of followers of Alexander would readily affirm that this term protected the divinity and eternity of the Son. However, the majority of the bishops there did not accent to this understanding. Especially after the recent Sabellianism scandal, they were reluctant to the idea about the absolute and substantial unity of God. They rather believed that the term o`moousioj described the divinity of the Son only. Therefore, even though they signed the creed, they never understood the term in the original intention: the unity of God as well as the divinity of the Son. Furthermore, the Arian party interpreted the term according to their own view. As a result, even though the majority, except two9, signed the creed composed in the council of Nicea, this did not mean that they agreed with each other. In sum, this council did not eliminate Arianism successfully nor cleared up the matter about the unity of God and divinity of the Son. Instead, this council created more confusion in the church by introducing the ambiguous term . Furthermore, the whole emphasis of the creed was on the divinity of the Son as well as the relationship between Father and the Son, it neglected the third person, Holy Spirit, in the Trinity. It did not make any clear statement about the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, it was silence about the distinction among the three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Therefore, it was no wonder that the influence of Arius would continue for the next fifty years. Also, the discussion on the Holy Spirit became the major focus in the coming years.

ˇ@ˇ@After this big council, the defenders of the Nicea did not enjoy their success for long. Alexander of Alexandria died around 328 AD and he was succeeded by Athanasius, a close associate of Alexander. However, during this period, Eusebius of Nicomedia gained the complete support of the emperor Constantine. As a result, around 330 AD, he managed to condemned Eustathius of Antioch "as an adulterer, a tyrant, and a heretic"10. In 331AD, he convoked a synod in Tyre to depose Athanasius from Alexandria on the charge that he intentionally disrupted the transport of the gain from Alexandria to Rome11. This was the first of a long series of exiles for Athanasius. In 336AD, the years Arius died, Eusebius of Nicomedia convoked a synod in Constantinople to condemn Marcellus of Ancyra as teaching the doctrines of Paul of Samosata12. Therefore, from 330AD till the death of Constantine, Arianism was revived by the imperial power. In fact, Constantine was baptized by Eusebius of Nicomedia on his death bed. The next emperor, Constantius, turned out to be a firm supporter of the Arian cause. During his reign, he forbid the talk on o`moousioj. Furthermore, in 355 AD, under the suggestion of his Arian counselors, he passed a creed which clearly indicated the inferiority of the Son. This creed was later called "the blasphemy of Sirmium"13. He also used violent force to impel Nicean supporters to sign this "blasphemy"14. So far, we can conclude that in the first half of the fourth century, the continued influence of the Arianism is due to the support of the imperial power and not due to the sophistication of its theological arguments.

ˇ@ˇ@During this period, besides the supporters of the Nicea, there emerged three parties based upon three different theological outlooks. The first party was called Anomoeans which was from the Greek word which meant "unlike". They were the extreme Arianism. They denied that there was any similarity between the Father and the Son. "The Son may be called God, not because of his substance, but because he shares in the power or the activity of the Father. In the strict sense, only the Father is God, for God is by nature unbegotten and without origin, and the Son has his origin in the Father"15. The second party was Homoeans which was from the Greek word which meant "similar". "For them, the relationship between the Father and the Son is one of similarity, but they never defined what that meant."16 They tried to evade the question about . Nevertheless, the leaders of this party were convinced Arians17. So in general they would support the Arian cause as long as the circumstance allowed. The third party was called Homoiousians which was from the Greek word which meant "similar substance". The majority of the church was belonging to this party. At the very beginning, this group was chiefly against Sabellianism. However, after the event of "the blasphemy of Sirmium", more and more people in this party began to realize that they had to fight against not just Sabellianism but also Arianism. Because of this intention, at the end, people in this party found that their position was getting close to those defender of Nicea. The official birth of this party "took place in 358 AD, when a synod gathered in Ancyra under the leadership of Basil18 produced the first homoiousian formula"19. In fact, these three parties, together with the supporters of the Nicea, formed the theological landscape around the death of the Arian emperor Contantius in 361AD. One year later, St. Basil was consecrated as a priest and started his official service in the church as a close associate of Eusebius of Caesarea.

 

2. The Situation When Basil Became a Priest in 362AD

ˇ@ˇ@After the death of the Arian emperor Constantius, his successor Julian the Apostate was a pagan and did not care about the controversy within the church. After Julian the Apostate, most emperors did not openly support Arianism and some even were pro-Nicea. As a result, the imperial support for the Arian cause was lost. From that time on, the flight between parties had to work out on the theological reasoning as well as on the delicacy of the church politics. Therefore, which view could be subscribed by the majority would win the day. As we mentioned earlier, majority of people belonged to the Homoiousian party. In addition, this party's position tended toward the defenders of the Nicea. Therefore, in order to restore orthodoxy and eliminate Arian influence within the church, the support of the Homoiousian party was very important.

ˇ@ˇ@However, the battle between the Arians and the orthodoxy did not stop on the question about the divinity of the Son. It naturally led to the discussion on the Holy Spirit. In fact, once a person denied the divinity of the Son, surely he would deny the divinity of the Spirit. Nevertheless, not just Arians would deny the divinity of the Holy Spirit but also some of the theologians, who affirmed the divinity of the Son and the consubstantiality of the Son and the Father, also denied the divinity of the Spirit. They claimed that the Spirit was a creature. This denial was due to the fact that the council of Nicea never said anything definite about the Spirit. Therefore, in 362AD, Anthanasius convoked a synod in Alexandria to condemn not just Arianism but also Pneumatomachians, which meant enemies of the Spirit. As a result, the battle on the issue about the divinity of the Holy Spirit officially started. However, in this synod, the terms ou`sia and u`postasij were not clearly delineated. Indeed, in order to gain the support from the majority, "it was declared that verbal differences were not important, as long as the meaning was the same. Thus, both the phrase 'three hypostases' and its counterpart 'one hypostasis' are acceptable as long as the first is not interpreted in such a way that it supports tritheism or the latter in a Sabellian fashion."20 This assertion did not clear up the multiple interpretations of the essential terms for the definition of the Trinity. This unfinished business awaited the work of the Cappadocian Fathers and was eventually settled in the Council of Constantinopole.

ˇ@ˇ@In sum, St. Basil's tenure as a priest as well as a bishop spanned the twenty years' period in which the bitterest wars were waged between the orthodoxy and Arianism as well as the Pneumatomachians. Furthermore, as a capable administrator and a defender of orthodoxy, he knew how to watch out his wording in public in order to gain the supports from the majority in the church.

 

3. The Events during Basil's Episcopate: from 370AD to 375AD

ˇ@ˇ@When Basil was baptized in 355 AD, he understood that it represented a major break from the worldly ambition21. By the influence of Eustathius, he was deeply interested in ascetic lifestyle. In retrospect, Basil admitted that initially he considered Eustathius to be "the very men in whom I put the greatest confidence, men, who when I saw them among others, I used to think something more than human"22. However, he added that he was deceived, for "the secrets in the hearts of each of us are unknown, I held lowliness of dress to be sufficient indication of lowliness of spirit; and there was enough to convince me in the coarse cloak, the girdle, and the shoes of untanned hide."23

ˇ@ˇ@The controversy between Basil and Eustathius started when Basil became the bishop of Caesarea in 370AD. He established "a monastic hospice after the pattern of that of Sebaste; and Eustathius sent him two disciples to organize the house."24 This initiative of Eustathius was intended as a sign of friendship and of communion. However, this proved to be the starting point of conflict. Instead of helping Basil, these two actually made slanders against Basil. In his letter to Eustathius, Basil said, "I am ashamed to tell you what treatment I have received from the illustrious Basilius, whom I had accepted at the hands of your reverence as a protection for my life. .... that your affection to me may remain firm, and because I am afraid lest it be shaken by the monstrous slanders which these men are pretty sure to make up in defense of their fall. Whatever be the charges they adduce, I hope your intelligence will put these inquiries to them."25

ˇ@ˇ@About the same time, "Theodotus of Nicopolis had offered hospitality to Meletius, the exiled bishop of Antioch, who for a long time had been badly disposed towards Eustathius."26 After that, Theodotus started to doubt about the orthodoxy of Eustathius and was dissatisfied with Basil's tolerant attitude toward Eustathius. Soon, he convoked a private synod against Eustathius as well as Basil. As a result, in 372 AD, "Basil undertook to play openly the role of mediator; he paid a visit to Sebaste in order to clear up, in all openness, the attitude of Eustathius concerning the Spirit."27 After two days of discussion, an oral agreement was reached. However, Theodotus was not satisfied with that and he wanted a signature from Eustathius28. As a result, in 373 AD, Basil visited Sebaste again in order to get Eustathius to sign and this ended up as the 125th letter of the Basilian correspondence. However, these actions led toward bitter accusations against each other. Basil was charged to be acting under Apollinarist influence and had Sabellianism tendency29. At the same time, Basil found out that Eustathius was willing to subscribe to any creed put in front of him. Basil was furious especially when Eustathius subscribed a creed with Arian intention30. Later on, when Eustathius openly denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit, Basil accused him and his followers to "use the words of the creed as physicians use a remedy for the particular moment, and substitute now one and now another to suit particular diseases."31

ˇ@ˇ@Finally, in 375 AD, Basil wrote an open letter to Eustathius to justify the breach32. In the same year, he wrote his treatise on the Holy Spirit. Therefore, this treatise was the fruit of this long, bitter controversy with Eustathius as well as with Arianism. Furthermore, in order not to offend the majority of the church, the Homoiousian party, he chose the word carefully in this treatise. In fact, he never called the Holy Spirit God even though he believed that the Holy Spirit should receive the same honor and glory as the Father and the Son. As a result, he still hoped that even in the midst of a bitter debate, he wanted to unite as many as possible within the fellowship of the church. In other words, he wanted to maintain the unity of the church as far as possible.

 

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III. The Doctrine of Holy Spirit in St. Basil's Thinking

ˇ@ˇ@As we have mentioned in the Introduction, the letters of St. Basil offers a rare occasion that one can reconstruct the actual life event of St. Basil. In fact, the letters were published chronologically: with Letters 1-46 composed before his elevation to the episcopate in Caesarea, Letters 47-291 composed after 372 AD, and Letters 292-366 of unknown timing33. Therefore, in this section, we hope to follow the chronological order to trace his thought on the Holy Spirit, especially we are interested in the stormy years from 362AD to 375AD, the year he published his great treatise on the Holy Spirit, De Spiritu Sancto. Therefore, in this section, we will first look at his view about Holy Spirit from his letters. Only after this, we are ready to look at his treatise.

 

1. The Doctrine of the Spirit in St. Basil's Letters

ˇ@ˇ@We will not be able to mention all the letters, but we will choose the important ones to mention. Around 360AD, "when Basil shocked at the discovery that Dianius, the bishop who had baptized him, had subscribed the Arian creed of Ariminum, as revised as Nike, left Caesarea, and withdrew to his friend Gregory at Nazianzus."34 During this period, he composed this important letter35 which was in fact a statement of faith. This was a rare occasion that Basil called Holy Spirit God36, and He is not a creature but of one essence and substance with the Father37. Furthermore, this Spirit was the source of sanctification of Christian life38. He was the guide to the pilgrimage of a Christian39. He is also the coworker with the Father and the Son in creation of the world and resurrection of the dead40. Also, the Holy Ghost should be the object of thanksgiving as the Father and the Son41. He was also the one confessed in the baptism42.

ˇ@ˇ@Around 370AD, another important letter43 was composed by Basil to address to his brother about the definition of the terms ou`sia and u`postasij. In this letter, Basil asserted that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit were different in hypostasis. Nevertheless, they were in same sense inseparable and shared the same essence44. Any person who received one of Them received all three persons45. Also, Basil asserted that the Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son46. The Spirit shared with the same glory with the Father and the Son47. In the same year, Basil wrote a letter to Canonicae48. Against those who claimed the Holy Spirit was a creature, Basil asserted again that the Holy Spirit was above all creatures and numbered with the Father and the Son49. Later, in 371AD, in a letter addressed to Atarbius, Basil indirectly described the Holy Spirit was the one who caused Christian to bear the fruit of love50. In the same year, Basil wrote a letter of the great Athanasius, he described the Spirit was always giving aids to the faithful51.

ˇ@ˇ@In 372AD, in a letter addressed to the bishops of the West, Basil said that "the Holy Ghost is ranked and worshipped as of equal honor"52 with the Father and the Son. In a letter to the daughters of Count Terentius, Basil again expressed that the Spirit should be co-honored and co-glorified with the Father and the Son. He was the source of life and holiness. He was the one to perfect Christian. He conjoined with Father and Son in the Godhead53. In a letter to Cyriacus, Basil appealed to the council of Nicea to show that Holy Spirit could not be a creature54. In 373AD, as Basil wanted to get a signature out of Eustathius of Sebasteia, the transcript became the 125th letter of Basil55. In this letter, Basil affirmed again the inseparability of the Spirit from the Son and the Father. He should be co-honored and co-glorified with Father and Son56. He is the source of holiness and life. He proceeds from the Father and He is of God without creation57. In the same year, when Basil wrote to Eupaterius and his daughter, he asserted again that the Spirit should be co-honored and co-glorified with Father and Son58. Furthermore, He was the teacher, the sanctifier, and the giver of life59. He is holy in nature60 and he is inseparable from the divine nature.

ˇ@ˇ@In the end of 374AD, Basil wrote a letter to Eustathius the physician in defense of his faith61. In this letter, he first pointed out the inseparability of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son. Since they shared the same divine nature62, one could not isolate the Holy Spirit from Father and Son. Furthermore, Basil argued that by looking at the unity of the actions by the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, one could surely infer that they had the same divine nature63. In 375AD, the charge of Sabellianism64 was brought against Basil and he had to rise up to defend himself. In his letter to the notables of Neocaesarea, Basil asserted that "for of Father, Son and Holy Ghost there is the same nature and one Godhead; but there are different names, setting forth to us the circumscription and exactitude of the meanings."65 Later, he clarified his meaning further in a letter to Count Terentius66. In the late 375AD, in a letter to the ascetics under him, Bail ascertained again that Holy Spirit was ranked among the Father and the Son67, yet the Holy Spirit, the Son, and the Father were not just different name for the same Godhead68.

ˇ@ˇ@All the letters, which Basil wrote, were written between 360AD to 375AD. The first letter, Letter viii, was written before Basil took any public offices. The rest of the letters were written during the time when Basil was either a priest or the bishop of Caesarea. Also, Basil only called the Holy Spirit God explicitly in the first letter. For the other letters, he withheld the title. Nevertheless, we are clear that he surely affirmed that Holy Spirit is God. Furthermore, his understanding about the Holy Spirit might be originated from his early days or even one can say that his knowledge originated from his baptism. His basic argument for the Holy Spirit's inseparability from the Father and the Son started from the baptismal formula. He argued that even the Holy Spirit shares with the Father and the Son the same divine essence, but is of a different hypostasis from the Father and the Son. The major distinction is that the Spirit proceeds from the Father, while the Son is begotten from the Father, and the Father is unbegotten. Furthermore, the Spirit is the source of life and holiness. He is the guide and aid for the Christians. He set Christians free. Therefore, we should honor and glorify Him together with Father and Son. As we will show later, all these points about the Holy Spirit will show up again in his treatise, De Spiritu Sancto.

 

2. Why The Holy Spirit Is Not Called God?

ˇ@ˇ@As we pointed out in the last section, except in the Letter viii, Basil never called Holy Spirit God explicitly in all his letters. In fact, he did not call Holy Spirit God explicitly even in his treatise, De Spiritu Sancto. However, when we survey through his letters, we are certain that Basil believed that the Holy Spirit is God even though he did not explicitly say so. What is the reason that Basil refrained from speaking out explicitly? There are a couple of explanations.

ˇ@ˇ@The first one was given by his good friend Gregory of Nazianzus. This was recorded in Gregory's panegyric for St. Basil after his death. Gregory stated that "the enemies were on the watch for the unqualified statement 'the Spirit is God', which, although it is true, they and the wicked patron of their impiety imagined to be impious; so that they might banish St. Basil and his power of theological instruction from the city and themselves be able to seize upon the Church, and make it the starting point and citadel, from which they could overrun with their evil doctrine to the rest of the world. Accordingly, by the use of other terms, and by statements which unmistakably had the same meaning, and by arguments necessarily leading to this conclusion, he so overpowered his antagonists, that they were left without reply, and involved in their own admissions - the greatest proof possible of dialectical skill."69 Certainly there is some true in this statement. However, as we have seen in the section II.2., the emperors after Constantius did not support the Arian cause at all. The Arian party lost their most powerful support from the emperor who had the force to implement the deposing of a bishop. In fact, from 362AD on, the battle had to win over the theological arguments as well as who would get the support from the majority. Therefore, even though the above reason provided by Gregory cannot be refuted right out of hand, we do not believe that this is the major reason.

ˇ@ˇ@The second reason arises from our historical survey of that period of the time. As in section II.2., the cause of orthodoxy could only be won if it could muster the support from the majority. In that period of time, the majority was not the stern defenders of the Nicean creed. Rather, it was the Homoiousian party. In this situation, St. Basil was a good administrator and a strong defender of orthodoxy, he would not want to lose the support of the Homoiousian party in order to maintain roughly the unity of the Church as well as the future fight for orthodoxy. As a result, he carefully choose his words in describing the Holy Spirit. This also reflects in our summary in the last section, section III.1., that he never explicitly called Spirit God after he took on public office, either being a priest or being the Episcopate of Caesarea.

ˇ@ˇ@The third reason was given by the great Athanasius. He claimed that in effect "to the weak he becomes weak to gain the weak."70 In fact, this explanation has some supports from Basil's own writing. In 372 AD, in a letter written to the presbyters of Tarsus, Basil advised them "to receive into communion all who do not assert the Holy Ghost to be a creature."71 This indeed was a very generous criteria. The major reason that Basil did not want to set up a more restrictive criteria was that he considered the current stage of the church being totally without love and only with hatred and the remedy was for the strong being willing to accept the weak. He said, "Union would be effected if we were willing to accommodate ourselves to the weaker, where we can do so without injury to souls"72. This shows Basil's love for the others as well as his insistence upon the orthodoxy.

ˇ@ˇ@In summary, we believe the second and the third explanations to be the reasons that St. Basil refrained from calling the Holy Spirit God. In fact, through his prudence, he eventually pulled the Homoiousian party within the mainline defenders of the Nicean creed. This eventually led to the Council of Constantinople which finally eliminated Arianism from the official faith of Church.

 

3. De Spiritu Sancto

ˇ@ˇ@In this section, we will discuss De Spiritu Sancto. This treatise was written by St. Basil in 375AD in the urge of his disciple as well as friend Amphilochius. However, some of the materials were probably composed out of the furious debates, occurred a couple of years back, with Eustathius of Sebaste73, once a good friend of St. Basil but now a bitter foe because of the doctrinal difference74. Especially, by 375AD, Eustathius of Sebaste was denounced as a Pneumatomachian. In the following, we will first discuss its structure. Then, we will look at its contribution to the understanding of the Holy Spirit.

(a) The Structure of De Spiritu Sancto

ˇ@ˇ@The basic structure of this treatise is simple. Chapter 1 is the prologue and the chapter 30, the last chapter, is the epilogue. In the prologue, St. Basil stated a recent incident75 as starting point to answer the question raised by Amphilochius. This question was concerned about the apparent conflict between two liturgical doxologies: the one used by Basil was 'Glory to the Father with the Son and76 the Holy Spirit' and the other one was 'through the Son in the Holy Spirit'77. The whole treatise was developed around this central problem. In the epilogue, St. Basil gave his personal analysis about the current situation of the Church. It was indeed a very gloomy picture78.

ˇ@ˇ@The major part of the treatise can be divided into three parts. The first part consists of chapters 2-8. The second part has only chapter 9. The third part consists of chapters 10-29. This basic division is based upon quite formal observations. Firstly, in the first part, Amphilochius is mostly addressed as the second person while the adversary is mostly addressed in the third person. In the third part, however, the adversary is always addressed as the second person except probably in the chapters 28-29. Secondly, the content in the first part has to do with various themes: including the o`moousioj between the Father and the Son, while the content in the third part is dealing with the questions about the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Thirdly, the most distinguished feature of the third part is that the whole section is cast in the form of a debate. After the challenge of the adversary, St. Basil will answer the challenge one by one. This feature is not seen in the second part.

ˇ@ˇ@Now let us describe briefly the content of each major sections. In the first part of the treatise, St. Basil first gives a general comment upon the naiveté of the philosophy about the syllables, especially upon the claim that from the syllables, like 'from whom' and 'through whom', one can infer the ranks within the Godhead. In fact, one can use this system to say that Jesus is not God. This comment leads Basil to affirm, in chapters 6-8, once again the conclusion from the council of the Nicea: the deity of the Son. In fact, one can say that the consubstantiality of the Son and the Father is the foundation for the further discussion on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Chapter 9 is a chapter in its own. In fact, it can be said to be a summary of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit which Basil holds on to. This chapter can be said to be intended as an introduction to the following debates as recorded in the third part. In the third part, the whole section is cast into a debate format. In brief, this section is used to defend that the Holy Spirit should be co-honored and co-glorified with the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is above the creature. He is not creature nor something in between God and creature. Indeed, He is to be ranked with Father and Son. They, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are inseparable from one another. They share the same divine nature and they are confessed in the baptismal formula.

(b) The Doctrine of the Spirit in this Treatise

ˇ@ˇ@We will look at the formal aspect of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit before we will discuss the function of the Holy Spirit. As we mentioned earlier in section III.1., the baptismal formula holds an important position in the argument of St. Basil. In this treatise, he defended that by the order of the Lord, one should conjoint Holy Spirit with Father and Son79. In fact, one could not believe in the Father and the Son only. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost had to be confessed together80. Furthermore, he demonstrated that the Holy Spirit should be ranked with God by the natural fellowship81. Indeed, in all things and in all operations, the Holy Spirit was inseparable from the Father and the Son82. In fact, in every action, the Father is the source, the Son is the agent, and the Holy Spirit is the perfector83. In addition, the Holy Spirit had the same nature as the Father and the Son84. Yet, to rank the Holy Spirit with the Father and the Son was not amounted to accept three gods, instead, St. Basil pointed out that three person united in one divine nature85.

ˇ@ˇ@On the origin of the Spirit and its difference from the Son, Basil asserted that the Spirit proceeds from God86. Yet this did not mean that there was a time when the Spirit was not present with the Father and the Son87. As a result, one could not claim that the Holy Spirit was a creature nor claim the Spirit was a servant. Furthermore, He was not a free man88. Indeed, He shared the very being of God89. As a result, He should be worshipped together with the Father and the Son90. He should be glorified together with the Father and the Son91. Since the Holy Spirit is of God, it follows that if anyone sins against the Holy Spirit by denying His divinity or depriving the glory rightly belonged to Him, his sins would not be forgiven92.

ˇ@ˇ@Besides the formal understanding that the Holy Spirit had to be ranked with the Father and the Son, St. Basil told us further about the work of the Holy Spirit on behalf of Christians. Firstly, the Holy Spirit was the one who illuminate Christians' minds so that they could know the mysterious of the blessed Trinity93. In addition, the Holy Spirit was the Lord of Life who would grant life to Christians94. Furthermore, the Spirit was a gift of God to Christians95 and He was the source of grace96. It was by the Spirit that our sins were washed away97. He was our means for restoration to the blessed state intended by God98. He was our guidance in this world and He made intercession for us before God99.

ˇ@ˇ@In sum, the Holy Spirit should be worshipped, honored, and glorified with the Father and the Son. Not only He shared the same divine essence with the Father and the Son but also He participated in the actions of the Father and the Son. In other words, the Holy Spirit was inseparable from the Father and the Son.

 

4. Summary

ˇ@ˇ@As far as we can see, St. Basil's view on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is consistently expressed in his various letters as well as in his treatise on the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, due to his intentions to gain the weak and to unite the different faction of the Church, we see that he chooses his wording carefully. Nevertheless, we can conclude that St. Basil surely believes the Holy Spirit is God and He is co-glory and co-honor with the Father and the Son. The talk about the Holy Spirit cannot be isolated from the talk about the Father and the Son, for they are inseparable from one another in the sense of the community of nature. Yet they are one as in the sense of hypostasis: the particular "mode"100 from the common simple divine essence. This understanding has important influence on the Christian life, especially in worshipping God101.

ˇ@ˇ@Since St. Basil's restraint to identify the Holy Spirit as God, he is sometimes misunderstood as semi-Arianism. However, this is an untrue judgment about St. Basil. He did not live to see the Council of Constantinopole. Nevertheless, his efforts in clarifying the doctrine of the Holy Spirit paved the ways to the completion of the definition of Trinity.

 

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IV. The Last Words

ˇ@ˇ@Even though this paper dealt mainly with St. Basil's view on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, we cannot isolate this doctrine from the doctrine of Trinity. In the previous sections, we have mentioned how the Spirit relates to the Father and the Son. We also have talked about three persons yet united in one divine essence. However, St. Basil's interpretation of the doctrine of the Trinity raised much attention in this century. Some people think that the doctrine of Trinity advanced by St. Basil actually cause a deviation from the original understanding of the Trinity in the Council of the Nicea102. They believe that the original understanding of the doctrine of Trinity is a concrete and personal one. The divine essence subsists within the Father. Then both the Son is begotten from the Father and the Spirit proceeds from the Father in the eternity. By these, they share the divine essence with the Father. Now when Basil introduced three persons in one divine nature, they believe that he made the divine essence not subsisting in the Father. In fact, they believe that Basil's divine nature is an abstract nature103. In this sense, the Trinity becomes an abstract and impersonal Trinity.

ˇ@ˇ@We have to assess this charge against St. Basil from his understanding of the meaning of the hypostasis and substance (or divine nature). For St. Basil, the relationship between hypostasis and substance corresponds to the relationship between particular and universal. Therefore, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the three particulars manifested from the one divine substance. On the one hand, this is not modalism for the three particulars exist simultaneously. Furthermore, the three particulars are different in view of their origin: the Father as unbegotten, Son as begotten from the Father, and the Spirit as proceeding from the Father. On the other hand, the One God is not the Father alone, nor the Son alone, nor the Holy Spirit alone. The One God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One cannot talk about God the Father without talking about God the Son and God the Holy Spirit at the same time. Furthermore, they are united in actions: including creation and salvation. In this sense, one cannot say that the substance is an abstract nature, otherwise, the One God is abstract and the three particulars are without substance! Therefore, we believe that the charge against St. Basil is not sound. However, we believe that St. Basil's doctrine of Trinity could cause confusion. In fact, since Basil still retains the statement that the Father is the Origin, the Son is begotten from the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, if one forgets that Basil is talking about particulars, one will easily be led to think that the divine essence should subsist in God the Father. Therefore, with the introduction of oneness in divine essence by St. Basil, one is easily led to think this divine essence is of a generic nature104.

ˇ@ˇ@As a final word, the greatest contribution of St. Basil in the talk of the Holy Spirit is that he firmly asserts the divinity of the Holy Spirit even though he does not explicitly call Him God. Further, he not only gives a clear definition to those terms like substance and hypostasis but also points out the difference among Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He stands firmly against the attacks from Arianism as well as from Sabellianism. By his prudence in choosing the right wording, he unites the majority and paves the way for the triumph of orthodoxy. In fact, we certainly think that he is worth being the title Basil the Great.

 

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Endnotes

1 In fact, this family had five brothers and five sisters. One of the five brothers died in his infancy. The other brothers, Naucratius, died in his early manhood which was around 360 AD when Basil was elected as a reader. For this, one can refer to the prolegomena in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, eds. By Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Back to text

2 This is the oldest sister of the family, her name is St. Macrina the Younger. She get her name from her grandmother, St. Macrina the Elder. One can refer to Johannes Quasten, Patrology, vol. III, (Westminster: Newman Press, 19??), p. 204. Back to text

3 For a complete description on St. Basil's writings and a good introduction to each of them, one should refer to the the prolegomena in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, and Johannes Quasten, Patrology, vol. III, (Westminster: Newman Press, 19??), pp. 204-236. In fact, the biggest contribution from St. Basil is not from his doctrinal writings but from his ascetic writings as well as liturgical writings. Back to text

4 Basil, 'On the Spirit', in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 48. Later he added, "Individual hatred is of more importance than the general and common warfare, for men by whom the immediate gratification of ambition is esteemed more highly than the rewards that await us in a time to come, prefer the glory of getting the better of their opponents to securing the common welfare of mankind." Back to text

5 Ibid., p. 49. Back to text

6 Justo L. Gonzalez, A History of Christian Thought, Vol. I. (Nashville: Abingdon, 1993), p. 262. Back to text

7 Ibid., p. 269. Back to text

8 Ibid., p. 269. Back to text

9 Ibid., p. 270. Back to text

10 Ibid., p. 274. Back to text

11 Ibid., p. 276. Back to text

12 Ibid., p. 276. Indeed, this was the charge of Monarchianism which was condemned as heretic in the third century. Back to text

13 Ibid., p. 279. Back to text

14 Ibid., p. 280. Many were forced to sign the creed. Among them was the elderly Hosius of Cordova who had been the Western representative in the council of Nicea, and he was a supporter of the Nicea. Back to text

15 Ibid., p. 281. Back to text

16 Ibid., p. 281. Back to text

17 Ibid., p. 281. Their leaders included Ursacius and Valens. They in fact advised the emperor Contantius to forbid the talk about the term . Back to text

18 This is not St. Basil of Caesarea. . Back to text

19 Ibid., p. 282.. Back to text

20 Justo L. Gonzalez, A History of Christian Thought, Vol. I; pp. 283-284.. Back to text

21 Most of the materials here are from Jean, Gribomont, 'Intransigence and Irenicism in Saint Basil's "De Spiritu Sancto"', in Word and Spirit: In Honor of St. Basil the Great, (Still River: St. Bede's Publication, 1979); pp. 121-124.. Back to text

22 Letter ccxii, 2. Even there is no mention about the name Eustathius, however, in the footnote on "media", we know that Basil is referring to Eustathius.. Back to text

23 Letter, ccxxiii.. Back to text

24 Jean, Gribomont, 'Intransigence and Irenicism in Saint Basil's "De Spiritu Sancto"', p. 123.. Back to text

25 Letter cxix. . Back to text

26 Jean, Gribomont, 'Intransigence and Irenicism in Saint Basil's "De Spiritu Sancto"', p. 123.. Back to text

27 Ibid., p. 123.. Back to text

28 This whole affair can be seen from Basil's own letter, Letter xcix, to count Teretius, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, pp. 182-184.. Back to text

29 Cf. Letter cxxix. The beginning of the letter read as "I knew that the charge which had lately sprung up against the loquacious Apollinarius would sound strange in the ears of your excellency. I did not know myself, till now, that he was accused; at the present time, however, the Sebastenes, after search in some quarter or another, have brought these things forward, and they are carrying about a document for which they are specially trying to condemn me on the ground that I hold the same sentiments.". Back to text

30 Letter cxxx. In this letter to Theodotus of Nicopolis, Basil said, "afterwards he came to Cilicia, and, on meeting with a certain Gelasius, showed him the creed which only an Arian, or a thorough disciple of Arius, could subscribe. Then, indeed, I was yet more confirmed in my alienation from him. I felt that the Ethiopian will never change his skin, nor the leopard his spots, nor a man nurtured in doctrines of perversity ever be able to rub off the stain of his heresy.". Back to text

31 Letter, ccxxvi, 3. . Back to text

32 Cf. Letter ccxxiii. In the opening of the letter, Basil wrote, "Time enough has been given to silence, and now the time has come to open my mouth for the publication of the truth concerning matters that are, up to now, unknown.". Back to text

33 Basil, 'On the Spirit', in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 109. In fact, some of the last group of letters' origin is doubtful to be from the hand of St. Basil. As a result, our efforts will concentrate in the first 291 letters to find out his view on Holy Spirit.. Back to text

34 Ibid., note 3, p. 115.. Back to text

35 Ibid., p. 115. This is Letter viii. . Back to text

36 Ibid., p. 116. "... when all the while they ought to confess that the Father is God, the Son God, and the Holy Ghost God, as they have been taught by the divine words, and by those who have understand them in their highest sense." Furthermore, in this letter, he started formulate the mia ouvsia, treij u`postaseij: "Against those who cast it in our teeth that we are Tritheists, let it be answered that we confess one God not in number but in nature. For everything which is called one in number is not one absolute, nor yet simple in nature; but God is universally confessed to be simple and not composite." Again, in p. 121, he asserted that "now every temple is a temple of God, and if we are a temple of the Holy Ghost, then the Holy Ghost is God." Later, he added, "So the Holy Ghost is of the same nature as the Father and the Son.". Back to text

37 Ibid., p. 120. "If then He is a servant, His holiness is acquired; and everything of which the holiness is acquired is receptive of evil; but the Holy Ghost being holy in essence is called 'fount of holiness.' Therefore the Holy Ghost is not a creature. If He is not a creature, He is of one essence and substance with the Father.". Back to text

38 Ibid., p. 116. "But the Son and the Holy Ghost are the source of sanctification by which every reasonable creature is hallowed in proportion to its virtue".. Back to text

39 Ibid., p. 117. "Everywhere the Holy Ghost secures our conception of Him to save us from falling in one direction while we advance in the other, heeding the theology but neglecting the economy, and so by omission falling into impiety.". Back to text

40 Ibid., p. 121. "In Scripture we find mention of three creations. The first is the evolution from non-being into being. The second is change from the worse to the better. The third is the resurrection of the dead. In these you will find the Holy Ghost cooperating with the Father and the Son.". Back to text

41 Ibid., p. 122. "But with thanks to the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost ...". Back to text

42 Ibid., p. 120. "How, tell me, can you give the name of servant to Him Who through your baptism frees you from your servitude?". Back to text

43 Ibid., p. 137. This is letter xxxviii. In this letter, Basil specified the definition of hypostasis as "that which is spoken of in a special and peculiar manner", and it was "not the indefinite conception of the essence or substance, which, because what is signified is general, finds no 'standing', but the conception which by means of the expressed peculiarities gives standing and circumscription to the general and uncircumscribed. ". Back to text

44 Ibid., p. 138. "Whatever your thought suggests to you as to the mode of the existence of the Father, you will think also in the case of the Son, and in like manner too of the Holy Ghost." And "for the account of the uncreate and of the incomprehensible is one and the same in the case of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. For one is not more incomprehensible and uncreate than another." And "for the Son, by whom are all things, and with whom the Holy Ghost is inseparably conceived of, is of the Father. For it is not possible for any one to conceive of the Son if he be not previously enlightened by the Spirit." Cf. p. 139, "Hence in accordance with the stated signs of indication, discovery is made of the separation of the hypostasis; while so far as relates to the infinite, the incomprehensible, the uncreate, the uncircumscribed, and similar attributes, there is no variableness in the life-giving nature; in that, I mean, of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, but in Them is seen a certain communion indissoluble and continuous.". Back to text

45 Ibid., p. 138. For example, "likewise moreover he who receives the Father virtually receives at the same time both the Son and the Spirit; for it is in no wise possible to entertain the idea of severance of division, in such a way as that the Son should be thought of apart from the Father or the Spirit be disjoined from the Son.". Back to text

46 Ibid., p. 138. "The Son, Who declares the Spirit proceeding from the Father through Himself and with Himself, shining forth alone and by only-begetting from the unbegotten light, so far as the peculiar notes are concerned, has nothing in common either with the Father or with the Holy Ghost." Here, the major concern is about hypostasis. . Back to text

47 Ibid., p. 139. "Beholding the glory in Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, his mind all the while recognizes no void interval wherein it may travel between Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for there is nothing inserted between them; nor beyond the divine nature is there anything so subsisting as to be able to divide that nature from itself by the interposition of any foreign matter.". Back to text

48 Ibid., p. 155. This is Letter lii.. Back to text

49 Ibid., p. 156. "The Holy Spirit, too, is numbered with the Father and the Son, because He is above creation, and is ranked as we are taught by the words of the Lord in the Gospel, 'Go and baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.'" In here, we see that the baptism formula has already played a role in defending the divinity of the Holy Spirit and it will develop further in De Spiritu Sancto. . Back to text

50 Ibid., pp. 162-163. This is not a letter about discussion on the doctrinal issue. Nevertheless, Basil said, "I do beg you, then, at all events for the future, show the first and greatest fruit of the Spirit, Love".. Back to text

51 Ibid., p. 165. ".... and because you have a greater measure than all others of the aid of the Spirit.". Back to text

52 Ibid., p. 176. This is Letter xc. In the following letter, Letter xci, Basil said that "the ascription of glory may be rendered to the blessed Trinity in the terms of the baptism of salvation". We can be sure that the formula of baptism is the corner stone in Basil's thought.. Back to text

53 Ibid., p. 186. "... the Holy Ghost, having His subsistence of God, the fount of holiness, power that gives life, grace that maketh perfect, through Whom man is adopted, and the mortal made immortal, conjoined with Father and Son in all things in glory and eternity, in power and kingdom, in sovereignty and godhead; as is testified by the tradition of the baptism of salvation.". Back to text

54 Ibid., p. 190. "... but bear in mind that the three hundred and eighteen who met together without strife did not speak without the operation of the Holy Ghost, and not to add to that creed the statement that the Holy Ghost is a creature, nor hold communion with those who so say, to the end that the Church of God may be pure and without any evil admixture of any tare.". Back to text

55 Ibid., p. 194. This is the Letter cxxv. For the detailed information about the occasion of this letter, one should refer to the discussion in section 3. The Events during Basil's Episcopate: from 370AD to 375AD.. Back to text

56 Ibid., p. 195. "Our not separating Him from Father and Son is a proof of our right mind, for we are bound to be baptized in the terms we have received and to profess belief in the terms in which we are baptized, and as we have professed belief in, so to give glory to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and to hold aloof from the communion of all who call Him creature, as from open blasphemers.. Back to text

57 Ibid., p. 195. "... the Spirit of truth we have been taught to proceed from the Father, and we confess Him to be of God . Back to textwithout creation."

58 Ibid., p. 212. "As then baptism has been given us by the Saviour, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, so, in accordance with our baptism, we make the confession of the creed, and our doxology in accordance with our creed. We glorify the Holy Ghost together with the Father and the Son, from the conviction that He is not separated from the Divine Nature; for that which is foreign by nature does not share in the same honors.". Back to text

59 Ibid., p. 212. "The creature is a slave; but the Spirit sets free. The creature needs life; the Spirit is the Giver of life. The creature requires teaching. It is the Spirit that teaches. The creature is sanctified; it is the Spirit that sanctifies.". Back to text

60 Ibid., p. 212. "... the Spirit Himself has His holiness by nature, not received by favor, but essentially His; whence He has received the distinctive name of Holy.". Back to text

61 Ibid., pp. 228-232. This is Letter clxxxix.. Back to text

62 Ibid., p. 230. "In the quickening power whereby our nature is transformed from the life of corruption to immortality, the power of the Spirit is comprehended with Father and with Son, and in many other instances, as in the conception of the good, the holy, the eternal, the wise, the right, the supreme, the efficient, and generally in all terms which have the higher meaning, He is inseparably united. Wherefrom I judge it right to hold that the Spirit, thus conjoined with Father and Son in many sublime and divine senses, is never separated.". Back to text

63 Ibid., p. 231. "Grant, then, that we perceive the operation of Father, Son and Holy Ghost to be one and the same, in no respect showing difference or variation; from this identity of operation we necessarily infer the unity of the nature." Then he added, "The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost alike hallow, quicken, enlighten, and comfort. ... In like manner all other operations are equally performed, in all who are worthy of them, by the Father and by the Son and by the Holy Ghost; every grace and virtue, guidance, life, consolation, change into the immortal, the passage into freedom and all other good things which come down to man." Therefore, "identity of operation in the case of Father and of Son and of Holly Ghost clearly proves invariability of nature. It follows that, even if the name of Godhead does signify nature, the community of essence proves that this title is very properly applied to the Holy Spirit.". Back to text

64 This charge had started soon after the controversy between Basil and Eustathius of Sabasteia, cf. note 29.. Back to text

65 Letter ccx in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 250... Back to text

66 Ibid., p. 254. This is Letter ccxiv. "If you ask me to state shortly my own view, I shall state that ousia has the same relation to hypostasis as the common has to the particular.". Back to text

67 Ibid., p. 269. This is letter ccxxvi. "I confess what I have received, that the Paraclete is ranked with Father and Son, and not numbered with created beings. We have made profession of our faith in Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and we are baptized in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Wherefore we never separate the Spirit from conjunction with the Father and the Son.". Back to text

68 Ibid., p. 269. "If any one says that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are the same, and supposes one thing under several names, and one hypostasis described by three persons, I rank such an one as belonging to the faction of the Jews.". Back to text

69 Johannes, Quasten, Patrology, vol. III, p. 231.. Back to text

70 Ibid., p. 231. Cf. the arguments presented in Cyril Karam, 'Saint Basil On The Holy Spirit- Some Aspects of his Theology', in Word and Spirit: In Honor of St. Basil the Great, (Still River: St. Bede's Publication, 1979), pp.140-144.. Back to text

71 Letter cxiii in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 189.. Back to text

72 Ibid., p. 189.. Back to text

73 Cf. the argument presented in Jean, Gribomont, 'Intransigence and Irenicism in Saint Basil's "De Spiritu Sancto"', p. 127.. Back to text

74 Ibid., pp. 121-124. Cf. the discussions in section II.3... Back to text

75 The incident happened "on September 7, 374, on the feast of St. Eupsychus the Martyr". Cf. Cyril Karam, 'Saint Basil On The Holy Spirit- Some Aspects of his Theology', in Word and Spirit: In Honor of St. Basil the Great, p. 144. This incident was when Basil were "praying with the people and using the full doxology to God the Father in both forms, at one time 'with the Son together with the Holy Ghost,' and at another 'through the Son in the Holy Ghost,' I was attacked by some of those present on the ground that I was introducing novel and the same time mutually contradictory terms." Basil, 'On the Spirit', in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 3.. Back to text

76 This can be translated as "with" for in Greek it is sun.. Back to text

77 Jean, Gribomont, 'Intransigence and Irenicism in Saint Basil's "De Spiritu Sancto"', p. 125.. Back to text

78 Cf. notes 4 and 5.. Back to text

79 Basil, 'On the Spirit', p. 16. "For if our Lord, when enjoining the baptism of salvation, charged His disciples to baptize all nations in the name 'of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost,' not disdaining fellowship with Him, and these men allege that we must not rank Him with the Father and the Son, is it not clear that they openly withstand the commandment of God? ... If on the contrary the Spirit is there conjoined with the Father and the Son, and no one is so shameless as to say anything else, then let them not lay blame on us for following the words of Scripture." In p. 17, he added, "The Lord has delivered to us as a necessary and saving doctrine that the Holy Spirit is to be ranked with the Father.". Back to text

80 Ibid., pp. 17-18. "I testify to every man who is confessing Christ and denying God, that Christ will profit him nothing; ... to every man that sets aside the Spirit, that his faith in Father and the Son will be useless, for he cannot even hold it without the presence of the Spirit. For he who does not believe the Spirit does not believe in the Son, and he who has not believed in the Son does not believe in the Father.". Back to text

81 Ibid., p. 19. "But the Spirit is ranked together with God, not on account of the emergency of the moment, but on the account of the natural fellowship; is not dragged in by us, but invited by the Lord.". Back to text

82 Ibid., p. 23. "... in all things the Holy Spirit is inseparable and wholly incapable of being parted from the Father and the Son." Also, "God works the difference of operations, and the Lord the diversities of administrations, but all the while the Holy Spirit is present too of His own will, dispensing distribution of the gifts according to each recipient's worth.". Back to text

83 Ibid., p. 23. "For the first principle of existing things is One, creating through the Son and perfecting through the Spirit. ... The Father, who creates by His sole will, could not stand in any need of the Son, but nevertheless He wills through the Son; nor could the Son, who works according to the likeness of the Father, need cooperation, but the Son too wills to make perfect through the Spirit." Later, in the same chapter, Basil supplemented this claim with various examples from the Scripture. . Back to text

84 Ibid., p. 26. "But the greatest proof of the conjunction of the Spirit with the Father and the Son is that He is said to have the same relation to God which the spirit in us has to each of us. 'For what man' it is said, 'knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man but the Spirit of God.'". Back to text

85 Ibid., p. 28. Here Basil answered the charge of Sabellianism. "There is one God and Father, one Only-begotten, and one Holy Ghost. We proclaim each of the hypostases singly; and, when count we must, we do not let an ignorant arithmetic carry us away to the idea of a plurality of Gods." Instead, "according to the distinction of Persons, both are one and one, and according to the community of Nature, one." In p. 29, "thus the way of the knowledge of God lies from One Spirit through the One Son to the one Father, and conversely the natural Goodness and the inherent Holiness and the royal Dignity extend from the Father through the Only-begotten to the Spirit." In p. 30, Basil listed out what the Spirit shared with the Father and the Son. These were holiness, goodness, righteousness, and truth.. Back to text

86 Ibid., p. 29. "And it is not from this source alone that our proofs of the natural communion are derived, but from the fact that He is moreover said to be 'of God;' not indeed in the sense in which 'all things are of God,' but in the sense of proceeding out of God, not by generation, like the Son, but as Breath of His mouth. But in no way is the 'mouth' a member, nor the Spirit breath that is dissolved; but the word 'mouth' is used as far as it can be appropriate to God, and the Spirit is a Substance having life, gifted with supreme power of sanctification. Thus the close relation is made plain, while the mode of the ineffable existence is safeguarded.". Back to text

87 Ibid., p. 30. "He existed; He pre-existed; He co-existed with the Father and the Son before the ages. It follows that, even if you can conceive of anything beyond the ages, you will find the Spirit yet further above and beyond." In p. 39, "... His essential existence before the ages, and His ceaseless abiding with Son and Father, cannot be contemplated without requiring titles expressive of eternal conjunction.". Back to text

88 Ibid., p.. 32. In the Roman Empire, there were two classes of people existed in a society: free man and slave. Since some people did not identify the Holy Spirit to be a slave (in the class consisted of all creatures) and since they did not want to identify the Holy Spirit to be in the same class as God, they asserted that the Holy Spirit belonged in a special class of its own. By analogous to the class structure of the contemporary society, they called this special class as "free man". St. Basil denied that this assertion was true. "Among all existent beings no such nature is to be found. To entertain such a conception of the Spirit is obvious blasphemy. If He is a creature of course He serves with all the rest, for 'all things,' it is said 'are thy servants,' but if He is above Creation, then He shares in royalty.". Back to text

89 Ibid., p. 34. "Moreover the surpassing excellence of the nature of the Spirit is to be learned not only from His having the same title as the Father and the Son, and sharing in their operations, but also from His being, like the Father and the Son, unapproachable in thought.". Back to text

90 Ibid., p. 40. "As then we speak of the worship offered in the Image of God the Father as worship in the Son, so too do we speak of worship in the Spirit as shewing in Himself the Godhead of the Lord. Wherefore even in our worship the Holy Spirit is inseparable from the Father and the Son.". Back to text

91 Ibid., p. 43. "If it be granted that, as we are baptized, so also under the obligation to believe, we make our confession in like terms as our baptism, in accordance with the tradition of our baptism and in conformity with the principles of true religion, let our opponents grants us too the right to be as consistent in our ascription of glory as in our confession of faith.". Back to text

92 Ibid., p. 44. "Verily terrible is the account to be given for words of this kind by you who have heard from God who cannot lie that for blasphemy against the Holy Ghost there is no forgiveness.". Back to text

93 There are many references. For example, in ibid. pp. 15-16, "just as when a sunbeam falls on bright and transparent bodies, they themselves become brilliant too, and shed forth a fresh brightness from themselves, so souls wherein the Spirit dwells, illuminated by the Spirit, themselves become spiritual, and send forth their grace to others. Hence comes foreknowledge of the future, understanding of mysteries, ..." In p. 40, "for it is impossible to behold the Image of the invisible God except by the enlightenment of the Spirit, and impracticable for him to fix his gaze on the Image to dissever the light from the Image, because the cause of vision is of necessity seen at the same time as the visible objects.". Back to text

94 Ibid., p. 19. "The Spirit is called on as Lord of life, and the angels as allies of their fellow slaves and faithful witnesses of the truth." In p. 22, "for this cause the Lord, who is the Dispenser of our life, gave us the covenant of baptism, containing a type of life and death, for the water fulfills the image of death, and the Spirit gives us the earnest of life." Through baptism, "our life is wrought in us through the Spirit." In p. 36, "He (Spirit) quickens together with God, who produces and preserves all things alive, and together with the Son, who gives life.". Back to text

95 Ibid., p. 36. "The Spirit is a gift of God, but a gift of life, for the law of 'the Spirit of life,' it is said, 'hath made' us 'free;' and a gift of power, for 'ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.'". Back to text

96 Ibid., p. 22. "It follows that if there is any grace in the water, it is not of the nature of the water, but of the present of the Spirit.". Back to text

97 Ibid., p. 31. "The devil was brought to naught by the presence of the Spirit. Remission of sins was by the gift of the Spirit, for 'ye were washed, ye was sanctified, ... in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the holy Spirit of our God.". Back to text

98 Ibid., p. 22. "Through the Holy Spirit comes our restoration to paradise, our ascension into the kingdom of heaven, our return to the adoption of sons, our liberty to call God our Father, our being made partakers of the grace of Christ, our being called children of light, our sharing in eternal glory, and, in a word, our being brought into a state of all 'fullness of blessing,' both in this world and in the world to come, ...". Back to text

99 Cf. ibid., p. 31.. Back to text

100 I certainly do not like to use mode, for it is easily to be confused with modalism. However, there is no other better choice.. Back to text

101 In this paper, we do not have chance to look at Basil's other writings. In fact, he emphasized the charisma of the Spirit in the life of the Church. For a further discussion about this issue, one can refer to Stanley M. Burgess, The Holy Spirit: Ancient Christian Traditions (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), pp. 141-144.. Back to text

102 There are many people in this camp. The most notable one is T. F. Torrance. . Back to text

103 For a detailed discussion, one should refer to the treatment by Torrance, T. F., 'The Triunity of God: Athanasius, Basil, the Gregories and Didymus, Epiphanius and the Council of Constantinople', in Theological Dialogue between Orthodox & Reformed Churches, Volume 2, edit by T. F. Torrance. (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1993), pp. 16-18.. Back to text

104 In fact, to avoid the confusion, one should probably find a new way to talk about the difference between the three particulars. Pannenberg's proposal for the doctrine of Trinity may be a solution to this confusion. Cf. the discussion in his Systematic Theology, Vol. I.. Back to text

 

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