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Basil of Caesarea

series: Foundations of Theological Exegesis and Christian Spirituality

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This introduction to the thought of Basil of Caesarea surveys his theological, spiritual, and monastic writings, showing the importance of his work for contemporary theology and spirituality. It brings together various aspects of Basil's thought into a single whole and explores his uniqueness and creativity as a theologian. The volume engages specialized scholarship on Basil but makes his thought accessible to a wider audience. It is the third volume in the Foundations of Theological Exegesis and Christian Spirituality series, which critically recovers patristic exegesis and interpretation for contemporary theology and spirituality.

About the Series
The Foundations of Theological Exegesis and Christian Spirituality series critically recovers patristic exegesis and interpretation for contemporary theology and spirituality. Each volume covers a specific church father and illuminates the exegesis that undergirds the Nicene tradition. Series editors are Hans Boersma and Matthew Levering.

1. Awakenings: Living the Gospel at Home and in the Church
2. Man: Body and Soul, "Made" and "Molded"
3. The Two Books: Scripture and Creation
4. The Trinity, Simply: As We Are Baptized, So We Believe
5. The Trinity in Controversy: Against Eunomius and Eustathius
6. Heavenly Politeia: The Basics of Christian Discipleship
7. The Monastic Life: From Commandments to Community
8. Tradition and Creativity: Theology and Asceticism
Conclusion: Theology and Spirituality in the Thought of St. Basil
Index of Scripture


"Basil's reputation as a theologian has grown remarkably--and deservedly--in the past few years. New scholarship and new translation has reminded us that Basil is one of the great theologians and Christian teachers of the fourth century. Stephen Hildebrand's book is a very welcome introduction to the 'new Basil.' Hildebrand now takes his place alongside such significant Basilian scholars as Andrew Radde-Gallwitz and Mark DelCogliano."

Lewis Ayres, Professor of Catholic and Historical Theology, Durham University

"Basil of Caesarea is the giant of the fourth-century theologians, and he intimidates many who approach his works today. Here lies the value of Stephen Hildebrand's book: he introduces us not to a part of Basil's thought but to his theology as a whole. Moreover, he introduces not merely a corpus of ancient texts but also their author. This is a valuable book not only for historians of theology but for anyone who wants to understand the role of theology in late antiquity."

Thomas O'Loughlin, professor of historical theology, University of Nottingham

"Basil is a pivotal figure in the history of the church, and his biblical interpretation is no small part of this achievement. We cannot begin to understand his prodigies of charitable activity or ecclesiastical administration until we understand his ascesis and his contemplative approach to Scripture. This book is more than a look back. At a time when the world is regaining an appreciation of social doctrine, spiritual discipline, and patristic exegesis, it is a way forward."

Scott Hahn, Pope Benedict XVI Chair of Biblical Theology and Liturgical Proclamation, St. Vincent Seminary; professor of scripture and theology, Franciscan University of Steubenville

"This is an excellent, up-to-date, and detailed introduction to Basil's life and work. The great strength of this book is the way the author brings together Basil's theological work on the Trinity and his practical work on monastic life, topics that have been studied separately by different people. He shows how both sides of Basil's work spring from the same desire to know God and zeal to obey his holy will. What emerges is a literary sculpture of the monk-bishop of Caesarea."

Nonna Verna Harrison, author of St. Basil the Great on the Human Condition

"This is a wonderful book on one of the great thinkers of the ancient Christian world. It offers the reader a broad window onto his personality and writing in a radiantly lively way. It will be a standard book for students and all those interested in early Christian theology."

John McGuckin, Columbia University

The Author

  1. Stephen M. Hildebrand

    Stephen M. Hildebrand

    Stephen M. Hildebrand (PhD, Fordham University) is professor of theology and director of the theology graduate program at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio. He is the author of The Trinitarian Theology of Basil of Caesarea and...

    Continue reading about Stephen M. Hildebrand


"[Hildebrand] brings a weighty erudition and sensitive appreciation of Basil's thought to bear in his most recent contribution. . . . Hildebrand writes for readers who are probably new to the Fathers, in a series designed to reach a broad audience united by its 'Nicene faith.' He is tasked, then, with introducing Basil the man, Basil the bishop, Basil the theologian, Basil the monk, and Basil the exegete all at once. This is no small task, and Hildebrand handles it beautifully. He builds on scholarship, introducing lines of debate with generous and critical care, but never loses sight of Basil's own writings, his treatises, letters, and sermons. . . . Hildebrand makes complex debates accessible and shows Basil's genius for creative fidelity in the process. What emerges is a portrait of a man deeply committed to tradition yet always stamping it with his own exegetically driven concern for the present moment. In Hildebrand's hands, Basil remains an inviting character and a fascinating study. . . . This is a book I would heartily recommend to newcomers in the field of Patristics, as well as more casual reading for scholars interested in Basil. . . . A fine introduction to Basilian thought and a remarkably salient presentation of contemporary Basilian scholarship."

Jonathan L. Zecher,


"Basil of Caesarea effectively argues that Basil's theology and spirituality emerges from a unified thought composed of theological, spiritual, moral, and ascetical strands. . . . Hildebrand succeeds in portraying the significant life of Basil in a fresh way for the educated lay reader. . . . A significant positive corollary to Hildebrand's main objective is the implicit affirmation that exegetical debates on the proper reading of Scripture were often the primary arena for the development of fourth-century Trinitarian theology and the articulation of Christian philosophy as the true way of life. . . . Basil of Caesarea is a good introduction to Basil's life and thought."

H. Clifton Ward III,

Trinity Journal

"Basil wrote within the intellectual world of fourth-century Asia Minor, so modern students often find him to be obsessed with seemingly marginal issues or struggle to follow his sometimes convoluted trains of thought. Stephen M. Hildebrand has thus done us a marvelous service by presenting to us Basil's work in an accessible and balanced way. Hildebrand's book will become a standard work on Basil, and on the Cappadocians more generally, and will be invaluable for both seminaries and secular research libraries with collections on theology, monasticism, or late antiquity. . . . The result is a Basil who is firmly grounded in his time and place, but who still speaks powerfully to twenty-first century Christians."

Roland Clark,

Catholic Library World

"Few scholars are as qualified to write an introduction to Basil of Caesarea as Stephen Hildebrand, and Hildebrand's broad knowledge of Basil--as evidenced by his use of both primary and secondary literature--easily guides the reader through the dense theological and exegetical writings of the Cappadocian master. . . . This work is a nuanced overview of the intertwined relationship between Basil's theology, exegesis, and program of Christian asceticism. . . . For those already initiated to the Cappadocians, this work will provide a fascinating and important contribution to better understanding Basil and his approach to Scripture. This book will be of particular interest for scholars who work on the Cappadocians, ascetic theology, and comparative late antique exegesis."

J. Edward Walters,

Stone-Campbell Journal