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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 74

Homily IX



The creation of terrestrial animals.

1. How did you like the fare of my morning's discourse? It seemed to me that I had the good intentions of a poor giver of a feast, who, ambitious of having the credit of keeping a good table saddens his guests by the poor supply of the more expensive dishes. In vain he lavishly covers his table with his mean fare; his ambition only shows his folly. It is for you to judge if I have shared the same fate. Yet, whatever my discourse may have been, take care lest you disregard it. No one refused to sit at the table of Elisha; and yet he only gave his friends wild vegetables. [1690] 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. [1691] "For I am not ashamed of the gospel." [1692] 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; [1693] 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.

[1690] 2 Kings iv. 39.

[1691] Fialon thinks that this plain reference to Origen may have been evoked by some criticisms on the IIIrd Homily. (cf. p. 71) St. Basil's literalism and bold departure from the allegorizing of Origen and from the milder mysticism of Eusebius are remarked on in the Prolegomena.

[1692] Rom. i. 16.

[1693] thales kai hoi Stoikoi kai hoi ap' auton sphairoeide ten gen. 'Anaximandros litho kioni ten gen prosphere ton epipedon. 'Anaximenes, trapezoeide. Leukippos, tumpanoeide. Demokritos, diskoeide men to platei, koilen de to meson. Plut. peri ton aresk. iii. 10. Arist. (De. Coelo ii. 14) follows Thales. So Manilius i. 235: "Ex quo colligitur terrarumforma rotunda."

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Reference address : https://www.elpenor.org/basil/hexaemeron.asp?pg=74