Basil of Caesarea on God’s creation and the foolishness of the Greeks

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Reformed Covenanter

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‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.’ Astonishment at the thought checks my utterance. What shall I say first? Whence shall I begin my narration? Shall I refute the vanity of the heathens? Or shall I proclaim our truth? The wise men of the Greeks wrote many works about nature, but not one account among them remained unaltered and firmly established, for the later account always overthrew the preceding one. As a consequence, there is no need for us to refute their words; they avail mutually for their own undoing.

Those, in fact, who could not recognize God, did not concede that a rational cause was the author of the creation of the universe, but they drew their successive conclusions in a manner in keeping with their initial ignorance. For this reason some had recourse to material origins, referring the beginning of the universe to the elements of the world; and others imagined that the nature of visible things consisted of atoms and indivisible particles, of molecules and interstices; indeed, that, as the indivisible particles now united with each other and now separated, there were produced generations and deteriorations; and that the stronger union of the atoms of the more durable bodies was the cause of their permanence. ...

For more, see Basil of Caesarea on God’s creation and the foolishness of the Greeks.
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
In that same work Basil references his disdain for the use of allegorical exegesis...

Basil of Caesarea (Ad 329-379): I know the laws of allegory, though less by myself than from the works of others. There are those truly, who do not admit the common sense of the Scriptures, for whom water is not water, but some other nature, who see in a plant, in a fish, what their fancy wishes, who change the nature of reptiles and of wild beasts to suit their allegories, like the interpreters of dreams who explain visions in sleep to make them serve their own ends. For me grass is grass; plant, fish, wild beast, domestic animal, I take all in the literal sense. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel.” Those who have written about the nature of the universe have discussed at length the shape of the earth. If it be spherical or cylindrical, if it resemble a disc and is equally rounded in all parts, or if it has the forth of a winnowing basket and is hollow in the middle; all these conjectures have been suggested by cosmographers, each one upsetting that of his predecessor. It will not lead me to give less importance to the creation of the universe, that the servant of God, Moses, is silent as to shapes; he has not said that the earth is a hundred and eighty thousand furlongs in circumference; he has not measured into what extent of air its shadow projects itself whilst the sun revolves around it, nor stated how this shadow, casting itself upon the moon, produces eclipses. He has passed over in silence, as useless, all that is unimportant for us. Shall I then prefer foolish wisdom to the oracles of the Holy Spirit? Shall I not rather exalt Him who, not wishing to fill our minds with these vanities, has regulated all the economy of Scripture in view of the edification and the making perfect of our souls? It is this which those seem to me not to have understood, who, giving themselves up to the distorted meaning of allegory, have undertaken to give a majesty of their own invention to Scripture. It is to believe themselves wiser than the Holy Spirit, and to bring forth their own ideas under a pretext of exegesis. Let us hear Scripture as it has been written. NPNF2: Vol. VIII, Hexaemeron, Homily 9, The Creation of Terrestrial Animals, §1.
 
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Reformed Covenanter

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NPNF2: Vol. VIII, Hexaemeron, Homily 9, The Creation of Terrestrial Animals, §1.
I forgot that this work was in NPNF2, which I own. Still, The Fathers of the Church series is much easier to read (even online) than the Schaff volumes. Just checking my copy, and I see that I have already read On the Spirit in that volume.
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
One further thought regarding allegorical exegesis from John Chrysostom. Though he was a representative of Antiochian exegesis par excellance, I like his approach to its use in Scripture...

John Chrysostom (349-407): There is something else we can learn here. What sort of thing is it? It is when it is necessary to allegorize Scripture. We ourselves are not the lords over the rules of interpretation, but must pursue Scripture’s understanding of itself, and in that way make use of the allegorical method. What I mean is this. The Scripture has just now spoken of a vineyard, wall, and wine-vat. The reader is not permitted to become lord of the passage and apply the words to whatever events or people he chooses. The Scripture interprets itself with the words, “And the house of Israel is the vineyard of the Lord Sabaoth.” To give another example, Ezekiel describes a large, great-winged eagle which enters Lebanon and takes off the top of a cedar. The interpretation of the allegory does not lie in the whim of the readers, but Ezekiel himself speaks, and tells first what the eagle is and then what the cedar is. To take another example from Isaiah himself, when he raises a mighty river against Judah, he does not leave it to the imagination of the reader to apply it to whatever person he chooses, but he names the king whom he has referred to as a river. This is everywhere a rule in Scripture: when it wants to allegorize, it tells the interpretation of the allegory, so that the passage will not be interpreted superficially or be met by the undisciplined desire of those who enjoy allegorization to wander about and be carried in every direction. Why are you surprised that the prophets should observe this rule? Even the author of Proverbs does this. For he said, “Let your loving doe and graceful filly accompany you, and let your spring of water be for you alone.” Then he interprets these terms to refer to one’s free and lawful wife; he rejects the grasp of the prostitute and other woman. Duane A. Garrett, An Analysis of the Hermeneutics of John Chrysostom’s Commentary on Isaiah 1-8 with an English Translation, Isaiah Chapter 5 (Lewiston/Queenston/Lampeter: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1992), pp. 110-111.
 

Reformed Covenanter

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In that same work Basil references his disdain for the use of allegorical exegesis...
As providence would have it, I have just been reading Robert Letham on the same subject. He states that "Basil the Great railed against allegory and argued for the literal sense." (Systematic Theology, p. 255)
 
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