Basil the Great of Caesarea on new converts

Discussion in 'Church History' started by DTK, Apr 14, 2018.

  1. DTK

    DTK Puritan Board Junior

    I am quite conscious that the ECFs are not of interest to everyone, but I have very much enjoyed my own journey of exploring their lives and writings, and yet I sense very much that I've only scratched the surface with respect to my discoveries. Nonetheless, what I have discovered, and continue to discover, is that they often present a very different picture than one would gather from the assertions of Roman apologists. Basil of Caesarea (Ad 329-379), in his later years, founded a monastery that became a home, as it were, for Christians. In his ascetic works, he has what has become known as his "Long Rules" and his "Short Rules" for those living in his community. My personal notes on his life and writings include much that I have transcribed from his works, much like I have done with many other ancient Christian writers. Many of his thoughts expressed in writing are of much interest to me.

    But given the thought that so many Roman apologists emphasize the "non-use" of the Bible due (so it is claimed) to illiteracy and non-availability of the scriptures, it is encouraging to find Basil expressing the need for new converts to learn the Scriptures. Now, to be sure, many of the ECFs that I've read testify that they were nurtured from birth on the Holy Scriptures, as Basil testifies of himself elsewhere in his preface On The Judgment of God (De Judicio). But below I offer 2 translations, including the Greek text, of the same citation from Q&A 95 of his "Shorter Rules," which was more or less a catechism. The first translation from Clarke's book was a very difficult one for me to procure, and I managed to find and buy it some ten years or so back. I have throughly enjoyed reading it. Clarke translated and edited Basil's ascetic works. Much of the same material can be found in vol. 9 of the Fathers of the Church series, and in a newer work I would love to obtain if I could afford it by Anna M. Silvas, The Asketikon of St Basil the Great, Oxford Early Christian Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).

    At any rate, I hope the following quote given in two translations might peak your interest as it did mine.


    Basil of Caesarea (Ad 329-379):
    Is it expedient for those who have just come [i.e. new converts], to start learning Scripture passages at once?
    Answer: This question too has been sufficiently dealt with in the foregoing answers. For it is fitting and necessary that each man should learn by heart from the inspired Scripture according to his need, for the fulfilling of godliness and that he may not grow accustomed to the traditions of men. W. K. L. Clarke, The Ascetic Works of Saint Basil, Translations of Christian Literature Series I, Greek Texts (London: S.P.C.K., 1925), The Shorter Rules, Question & Answer #95 (XCV), pp. 234-235.

    Basil of Caesarea (Ad 329-379): Question: Whether it is desirable for new converts immediately to learn things from the Scriptures.
    Answer: . . . [it is] proper and necessary that each one should learn that which is useful from the inspired Scripture, both for the establishment of piety, and that he may not be accustomed to human traditions. Trans. by William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd ed., 3 Vols. (London: John Henry Jackson, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 132.

    Greek text: ΕΡΩΤΗΣΙΣ lΕʼ. Εἰ συμφέρει τοῖς ἄρτι προσερχομένοις εὐθὺς τὸ ἀπὸ τῶν Γραφῶν ἐκμανθάνειν.
    ΑΠΟΚΡΙΕΙΕ. Καὶ τοῦτο τὸ ἐρώτημα ὑπὸ τῶν προειρημένων κατευθυνέσθω. Τὸ γὰρ πρὸς τὴν χρείαν ἔκαστον ἐκμανθάνειν ἐκ τὴς θεοπνεύστου Γραφῆς ἀκόλουθου καὶ ἀναγκαῖον, εἴς τε πληροφορίαν τὴς θεοσεβείας, καὶ ὑπὲρ τοῦ μὴ προσεθισθῆναι ἀνθρωπίνους παραδόσεσιν. Regulae Brevius Tractate, Interrogatio et Responsio XCV, PG 31:1148-1149.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2018
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  2. Beezer

    Beezer Puritan Board Freshman

    David,

    Thanks for posting this!

    Over the past few years I've grown increasingly interested in the views of the Early Church Fathers (ECF), but have struggled a bit to find a wise starting point to launch out from. What volumes in your opinion would you consider to be the best starting point for someone interested in Patristics?

    Additionally, regarding your own journey into the lives and writings of the ECFs, in what ways has this experience shaped/changed/altered views you hold? I know this is a broad question, but I guess I'm most interested in what you think we can learn the most from them.
     
  3. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Basil's Letters are a wonderful resource. I've read through the Schaff version several times in places.
     
  4. DTK

    DTK Puritan Board Junior

    I'm always reluctant to answer this question for a number of reasons. I suppose that the best thing to do is grab a volume and simply begin reading. Many folk recommend beginning with Augustine's Confessions.
     
  5. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I tried to work through that question here
    https://negatingthevoid.wordpress.com/patristics-reading-list/

    Basil is probably the easiest to read without sacrificing depth. Tertullian is painfully over-rated. Gregory of Nyssa is good on the Trinity, but I don't know if i would start there.

    My favorite father is Gregory of Nazianzus.
     
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  6. DTK

    DTK Puritan Board Junior

    Indeed, you learn much from Basil about the history of his day through his letters. I have his letters from Schaff and 3 volumes (there are four in all) of his letters from THE LOEB CLASSICAL LIBRARY edition, the latter of which has the Greek on the left side of the page and the English translation on the opposite page.

    One of my most memorable passages from his letters is when he is describing the bishop of Rome as being clueless about eastern ecclesiastical affairs (e.g. Letters 214, 215, 239, 266 etc.), " Men who do not know the truth, and do not wish to learn it..." Basil had little or no respect for "the very venerable bishop Damasus" of Rome.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2018
  7. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    $280 new and not much better used.:eek:
     
  8. DTK

    DTK Puritan Board Junior

    Indeed Chris, I would not, could not, justify spending that much on a book. I'm sure that edition could be very useful if not for the price tag. Most of the material from Basil in it can be found in Vol. 9 from the Fathers of the Church series and in the older volume I have by Clarke. I'm sure, if Clarke's volume could be found in a used book store and the owner understood something of its worth, it would be almost equally expensive as the work by Silvas. I can't recall the exact amount I spent on Clarke's volume, but I do remember that it was rather inexpensive and purchased it as soon as I saw it available.
     
  9. Gforce9

    Gforce9 Puritan Board Junior

    I thought all the ECF were in perfect harmony, writing with the same pen? :doh:

    Seriously, thank you for this excellent corrective!
     
  10. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Is this just the economics of knowing only libraries will buy a book like this or OUP/UP snobbery? RHB is doing some good work, though not at the same level of these expensive scholastic presses that apparently can seek to cover true costs of all the actual work to achieve the level expected.
     
  11. DTK

    DTK Puritan Board Junior

    Good question, one for which I do not have an informed answer. But it does cause one to wonder...
     
  12. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Thanks. I know like in the case of Chad Van Dixhoorn's edition of the full minutes of the Westminster Assembly, it would likely have been a far different, if cheaper work if he had gone with a press like RHB or P&R. OUP put him through considerable editorial work (one reason it took seven years). So that is the upside. But the cost has prevented it getting to folks who could benefit (real life presbyterians) and at the price it was highway robbery not to sew bound the volumes.
     
  13. DTK

    DTK Puritan Board Junior

    Chris, I recall having that conversation with Dr. Van Dixhoorn in his home. He's such a gentleman that he was very restrained in his comments, but I gathered the same as yourself.
     
  14. Beezer

    Beezer Puritan Board Freshman

    Is there a systematic treatment of ECF doctrine presented in a similar manner as Beeke & Jones' A Puritan Theology?
     
  15. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Nothing on that magnitude. The closest thing is Tom Oden's trilogy.
     
  16. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable Staff Member

    Not quite in the same vein as Beeke, but this set is a wonderful examination of the ECF, especially as relates to Rome's pronouncements at the time:
    https://www.christianbook.com/scripture-ground-pillar-faith-vols-1/william-webster/pd/4678

    Our own PB member, DTK, is the author of the first volume:
    https://www.christianbook.com/scrip...vid-king/9781893531024/pd/531023?event=PRCBD1

    Recommended. ;)
     
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  17. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Professor

    Also available from the Loeb Classical Library in four volumes. Originally published from 1926 to 1934 and still in print.
     
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  18. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Professor

    Basil the Great is a great read.

    Irving the OK, his son, was not bad, either.
     
  19. DTK

    DTK Puritan Board Junior

    The closest thing to your request would be J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2018
  20. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

  21. Beezer

    Beezer Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks David and Jacob! I appreciate all the suggestions.
     

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