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Extracts from St Basil's Works
The following documents contain quotations from St Basil the Great, grouped around some of his characteristic themes:

 Wealth, Love, Generosity and Reward  St Basil and the Prepositional Problem
 The Holy Spirit  The Tradition of the Church
 Living the divine life  Basil the Great - Family Tree
 Understanding the Son’s work & His relationship with the Father
 The Advantages of Community compared to the Solitary Life

All of the above quotations are included in this document  Basil the Great - All Quotes

Books About St Basil the Great

  P. Rousseau, Basil of Caesarea (Berkley: University of California Press, 1998) ISBN: 0520213815 Buy it from Amazon

This book is a good biography of “Basil the man”, trying to construct a picture of the person behind the ascetic & theological works he left behind. The Amazon review of this book says…

“Basil of Caesarea is thought of most often as an opponent of heresy and a pioneer of monastic life in the eastern church. In this biographical study, however, controversy is no longer seen as the central preoccupation of his life, nor are his ascetic initiatives viewed as separable from his pastoral concern for all Christians. Basil's letters, sermons, and theological treatises, together with the testimonies of his relatives and friends, reveal a man beset by doubt. He demanded loyalty, but gave it also, and made it a central feature of his church. In Rousseau's portrait, Basil's understanding of human nature emerges as his major legacy.”

Note: Listed as “hard to find” on Amazon, so you may also want to try looking on Abebooks.

W. K. Lowther Clarke, St Basil the Great: A Study in Monasticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1913) Find it secondhand
  An excellent, and easy to read book, which positions Basil’s contribution to Christian asceticism within the context of monasticism as a whole. There are useful chapters on “Asceticism in the Early Church” and “Egyptian Monasticism” as well as an overview of Basil’s ascetic ideals and his writings (including his “rules”). The book ends with a summary of Basil’s later influence on both the Eastern & Western Church. In the ever changing world of scholarship, there are bound to be those who would argue with some of this text, but it’s a great place to start.

St Basil's Works in Translation

  St Basil the Great, D. Anderson (translator), On the Holy Spirit (New York: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1980) ISBN: 0913836745 Buy it from Amazon

This is the text for which St Basil is best known, and is therefore essential reading. Some of his arguments may sound a little obscure and the text is sometimes quite dry and technical, especially at the beginning, but don’t let that put you off!

Basil himself gives justification for his approach in the following words...

Those who are idle in the pursuit of righteousness count theological terminology as secondary, together with attempts to search out the hidden meaning in this phrase or that syllable, but those conscious of the goal of our calling realize that we are to become like God, as far as this is possible for human nature. But we cannot become like God unless we have knowledge of Him, and without lessons there will be no knowledge. Instruction begins with the proper use of speech, and syllables and words are the elements of speech. Therefore to scrutinize syllables is not a superfluous task.
(On the Holy Spirit, 1.2)

So there! Basil’s apology for his approach is necessary as he does get quite caught up in the scrutiny of prepositions (“in”, “through”, “with”) in the text. At the heart of Basil’s argument is that liturgy (and especially the form of the doxology which Basil uses – “Glory to the Father with the Son, together with the Holy Spirit”) is one of the ways the Church retains and transmits doctrine, even if the full implications have not yet been worked out. Tradition, says Basil, is both written & unwritten - liturgy is part of tradition - and it communicates an understanding of the nature of God (as Trinity).

Sister M. Monica Wagner (translator), St. Basil Ascetical Works (Fathers of the Church Vol. 9) (Washington DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1962) ISBN: 0813209668 Buy it from Amazon

This one volume contains Basil’s writing on the ascetic life - the majority addressed to monks but several potentially written for clergy, laity or monks living in the world. Also includes a number of homilies on subjects such as envy, humility, mercy and justice. Of perhaps greatest interest is the inclusion of a translation of Basil’s “Long Rules”, which is a set of 55 questions and answers on monastic issues of his day.

Listed as “hard to find” on Amazon.co.uk. You might want to try obtaining a copy from the UK distributors for CUA Press - www.Eurospan.co.uk. Alternatively, you could try tracking down a copy on Abebooks. Note: At the time of writing, all online stores seem to attribute this book to the wrong author! Make sure you order the book by its ISBN and you’ll be OK.

Sister Agnes Clare Way (translator), St. Basil Exegetic Homilies (Fathers of the Church Vol. 46) (Washington DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1963) Find it secondhand

This volume includes Basil’s nine homilies on the “Hexaemeron” - the six days (of creation) - seen as a tour de force of the natural science of the day. Although also available in the Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers volume (see below) this translation is much easier to read as the language is not so archaic. Also included are a number of Basil's homilies on various Psalms (1, 7, 14, 28, 29, 32, 33, 44, 45, 48, 59, 61, 114).

P. Schaff and H. Wace (editors), The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church: Second Series, Volume 8: St Basil, Letters and Select Works Find it secondhand

This large single volume contains a (Victorian) translation of “On the Holy Spirit” and “The Hexaemeron” as well as Basil's surviving letters (over 300 of them!). The other translations of these two texts (see the previous books on this page) are much easier to read, but if you can’t afford or get hold of them this one volume is great value second-hand at around £10 (+ p&p).

Alternatively, view, download and print the texts for FREE! See the CCEL website.

Note: Basil’s letters are available separately in various collections, with a more modern translation. They exist as a four volume set in the “Loeb Classical Library” and also as a two volume set in the “Fathers of the Church” series – ISBN 081320013X and 0813200288. All of these are out of print, but you could try Abebooks for a second-hand set.

Want more?
For more suggested reading, you may also wish to visit the Reading Room page on (All three of) The Cappadocian Fathers.

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