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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

St Basil the Great HEXAEMERON, Complete

Translated by Bl. Jackson.

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80 Pages (Homilies: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)

Page 19

6. And the Spirit of God was borne upon the face of the waters. [1434] Does this spirit mean the diffusion of air? The sacred writer wishes to enumerate to you the elements of the world, to tell you that God created the heavens, the earth, water, and air and that the last was now diffused and in motion; or rather, that which is truer and confirmed by the authority of the ancients, by the Spirit of God, he means the Holy Spirit. It is, as has been remarked, the special name, the name above all others that Scripture delights to give to the Holy Spirit, and always by the spirit of God the Holy Spirit is meant, the Spirit which completes the divine and blessed Trinity. You will find it better therefore to take it in this sense. How then did the Spirit of God move upon the waters? The explanation that I am about to give you is not an original one, but that of a Syrian, [1435] who was as ignorant in the wisdom of this world as he was versed in the knowledge of the Truth. He said, then, that the Syriac word was more expressive, and that being more analogous to the Hebrew term it was a nearer approach to the scriptural sense. This is the meaning of the word; by "was borne" the Syrians, he says, understand: it cherished [1436] the nature of the waters as one sees a bird cover the eggs with her body and impart to them vital force from her own warmth. Such is, as nearly as possible, the meaning of these words--the Spirit was borne: let us understand, that is, prepared the nature of water to produce living beings: [1437] a sufficient proof for those who ask if the Holy Spirit took an active part in the creation of the world.

[1434] Gen. i. 2, lxxx.

[1435] Tillemont understands Eusebius of Samosata. The Ben. note prefers Ephrem Syrus, and compares Jerome, Quaest. Heb. Col. 508.

[1436] Gen. i. 2. Vide R.V. margin. The word rachaph, "brood," is not used of wind, and itself appears to fix the meaning of the Spirit in the place. An old interpretation of the Orphic Poem Argonautica would identify the brooding Spirit of Genesis with the All Wise Love of the Greek poet: prota men archaiou chaeos megalephaton humnon, hos epameipse phuseis, hos t' ouranos es peras elthen, ges t' eurusternou genesin, puthmenas te thalasses , presbutaton te kai autotele pol metin ,'Erota, hossa t' ephusen hapanta, ta d' e?oithen allou ap' allo. Orph., Argon. 423-427. On the translation of rachaph by "brooding," cf. Milton, P. Lost, vii.: "darkness profound Covered the abyss; but on the watery calm His brooding wings the Spirit of God outspread, And vital virtue infused, and vital warmth, Throughout the fluid mass."

[1437] zoogonia. cf. De Sp. S.S: 56, and Bp. Pearson, on the Creed, Art. V.

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