The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great

By Henry Chadwick | Go to book overview

38 Basil of Caesarea (Cappadocia)

Education. Monasticism

The emperor Valens, guided by Eudoxius, was opposed by a struggle to establish bishops supporting the Nicene creed and to marginalize those dissenting. In Asia Minor central to this endeavour became Basil, bishop of Caesarea, metropolis of Cappadocia from autumn 370. He was born into an aristocratic landowning family with close attachment to the Church at Neocaesarea in Pontus, where his father was a successful advocate and the family included more than one bishop. At Neocaesarea the church proudly remembered the evangelization of Pontus by Origen's pupil Gregory the Wonderworker (Thaumaturgos), and treasured his creed and liturgy with such precision that their style of worship had come to seem very old-fashioned a century later (Basil, De Spir. S. 74). When Basil's monks chanted the psalms antiphonally, people at Neocaesarea were censorious of the innovation, which seemed a defiance of authority (ep. 207). Basil had a high-class education at Athens and heard Libanius lecturing at Constantinople. Letters exchanged between Basil and Libanius were known to Severus of Antioch about ad 500 (PO II i. 13); the authenticity of at least some among those transmitted has been reasonably doubted. His sister Macrina, whom he never mentions, was given a biography by his younger brother Gregory of Nyssa, which fused Neoplatonic aspirations with Christian holiness and portrayed her as an ideal saint. Basil had a past closely associated with the monastic (and homoiousian) movement in Asia Minor, where a leading figure was Eustathius bishop of Sebaste, in whose company in 356 he went on a tour of monasteries in Mesopotamia, Palestine, and Egypt.

Baptized by Bishop Dianios of Caesarea (prominent at the eastern synod of Serdica and no friend to the Nicene creed) for whom he had deep reverence, in the 360s he was ordained presbyter and began to compose rules for monasteries, dominated by texts from scripture. He retreated to family property with lovely scenery at Annisi not far from Caesarea, and there with his friend Gregory of Nazianzos compiled the extant Philokalia, gathering Origen's principal discussions of biblical interpretation; this could answer some of the objections to scripture in Porphyry and Julian and at the same

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The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Church in Ancient Society iii
  • Prefatory Note vi
  • Contents vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: The First Followers of Jesus 5
  • 2: The Jewish Matrix 13
  • 3: Jews and Christians Survive Rome's Crushing of Revolts 21
  • 4: The Hebrew Scriptures in the Church 27
  • 5: Interpreting Scripture 32
  • 6: Apostles and Evangelists 43
  • 7: Women Among Jesus' Followers 53
  • 8: 'Barnabas', Jewish Christianity, Trouble at Corinth 56
  • 9: Ignatius of Antioch 65
  • 10: Didache 84
  • 11: Marcion 89
  • 12: Justin 93
  • 13: Irenaeus of Lyon 100
  • 14: The New Testament Text 108
  • 15: Celsus: A Platonist Attack 110
  • 16: Montanism: Perpetua 114
  • 17: Tertullian, Minucius Felix 118
  • 18: Clement of Alexandria 124
  • 19: Julius Africanus 130
  • 20: Hippolytus and Liturgy 132
  • 21: Origen 135
  • 22: Cyprian of Carthage 145
  • 23: Dionysius of Alexandria 161
  • 24: Paul of Samosata 166
  • 25: Mani 170
  • 26: Plotinus, Porphyry 173
  • 27: Diocletian and the Great Persecution; Rise of Constantine 176
  • 28: Constantine 190
  • 29: The Seeds of Reaction 201
  • 30: The Church at Prayer 212
  • 31: Athanasius, Marcellus, and the Gathering Storm 226
  • 32: A Fiasco at Serdica 240
  • 33: Religious Division 254
  • 34: Athanasius' Return 260
  • 35: Constantius' Double Council of Unity 279
  • 36: Julian and the Church 295
  • 37: Damasus, Siricius, Papal Authority, Synesius of Cyrene 314
  • 38: Basil of Caesarea (Cappadocia) 331
  • 39: Ambrose 348
  • 40: Ambrosiaster 379
  • 41: Donatism 382
  • 42: Monks: The Ascetic Life 394
  • 43: Messalians 411
  • 44: Schism at Antioch 415
  • 45: Jerome and Rufinus 433
  • 46: Pelagius, Caelestius, and the Roman See in Gaul and North Africa 446
  • 47: Julian of Eclanum 464
  • 48: Augustine 473
  • 49: John Chrysostom 479
  • 50: Innocent I and John Chrysostom's Honour 499
  • 51: The Christological Debate, I 515
  • 52: The Christological Debate, Ii 538
  • 53: The Christological Debate, Iii 557
  • 54: The Aftermath of the Council of Chalcedon 592
  • 55: Justinian, Origen, and the 'Three Chapters' 612
  • 56: The Ancient Oriental Churches 628
  • 57: The Church and the Barbarian Invasions in the West 633
  • 58: Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) 658
  • 59: Worship After Constantine 675
  • 60: Pilgrims 684
  • 61: Penance 688
  • Further Reading 694
  • Dates of Roman Emperors 714
  • Index 721
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