Reference address :

ELPENOR - Home of the Greek Word

Three Millennia of Greek Literature

St Basil the Great LETTERS, Third Part

Translated by Bl. Jackson.

St Basil the Great Resources Online and in Print


Icon of the Christ and New Testament Reader

This Part: 129 Pages

Page 39

4. And as to the tremendous question put by the facetious Encratites, why we do not eat everything? Let this answer be given, that we turn with disgust from our excrements. As far as dignity goes, to us flesh is grass; but as to distinction between what is and what is not serviceable, just as in vegetables, we separate the unwholesome from the wholesome, so in flesh we distinguish between that which is good and that which is bad for food. Hemlock is a vegetable, just as vulture's flesh is flesh; yet no one in his senses would eat henbane nor dog's flesh unless he were in very great straits. If he did, however, he would not sin.

5. Next as to those who maintain that human affairs are governed by fate, do not ask information from me, but stab them with their own shafts of rhetoric. The question is too long for my present infirmity. With regard to emerging in baptism--I do not know how it came into your mind to ask such a question, if indeed you understood immersion to fulfil the figure of the three days. It is impossible for any one to be immersed three times, without emerging three times. We write the word phagos paroxytone. [2996]

6. The distinction between ousia and hupostasis is the same as that between the general and the particular; as, for instance, between the animal and the particular man. Wherefore, in the case of the Godhead, we confess one essence or substance so as not to give a variant definition of existence, but we confess a particular hypostasis, in order that our conception of Father, Son and Holy Spirit may be without confusion and clear. [2997] If we have no distinct perception of the separate characteristics, namely, fatherhood, sonship, and sanctification, but form our conception of God from the general idea of existence, we cannot possibly give a sound account of our faith. We must, therefore, confess the faith by adding the particular to the common. The Godhead is common; the fatherhood particular. We must therefore combine the two and say, "I believe in God the Father." The like course must be pursued in the confession of the Son; we must combine the particular with the common and say "I believe in God the Son," so in the case of the Holy Ghost we must make our utterance conform to the appellation and say "in God [2998] the Holy Ghost." Hence it results that there is a satisfactory preservation of the unity by the confession of the one Godhead, while in the distinction of the individual properties regarded in each there is the confession of the peculiar properties of the Persons. On the other hand those who identify essence or substance and hypostasis are compelled to confess only three Persons, [2999] and, in their hesitation to speak of three hypostases, are convicted of failure to avoid the error of Sabellius, for even Sabellius himself, who in many places confuses the conception, yet, by asserting that the same hypostasis changed its form [3000] to meet the needs of the moment, does endeavour to distinguish persons.

[2996] Amphilochius's doubt may have arisen from the fact that phagos, the Doric form of phegos, the esculent oak of Homer, is oxytone.

[2997] "asunchutos," unconfounded, or without confusion, is the title of Dialogue II. of Theodoret. cf. p. 195. n.

[2998] The Benedictine note is Videtur in Harlaeano codice scriptum prima manu eis ton theon. Their reading is eis to theion pneuma to hagion. cf. Ep. viii., S: 2, where no variation of mss. is noted and Ep. cxli, both written before he was bishop. cf. Proleg. Gregory of Nazianzus, Or. xliii., explains the rationale of St. Basil's use of the word "God," of the Holy Ghost; alike in his public and private teaching he never shrank from using it, whenever he could with impunity, and his opinions were perfectly well known, but he sought to avoid the sentence of exile at the hands of the Arians by its unnecessary obtrusion. He never uses it in his homily De Fide, and the whole treatise De Spiritu Sancto, while it exhaustively vindicates the doctrine, ingeniously steers clear of the phrase.

[2999] prosopa.

[3000] The Ben. Edd. note "Existimat Combefisius verbum metaschematizesthai sic reddendum esse, in various formas mutari. Sed id non dicebat Sabellius. Hoc tantum dicebat, ut legimus in Epist. ccxiv. Unum quidem hypostasi Deum esse, sed sub diversis personis a Scripturare praesentari. According to Dante the minds of the heresiarchs were to Scripture as bad mirrors, reflecting distorted images; and, in this sense, metaschematizein might be applied rather to them. "Si fe Sabellio ed Arrio e quegli stolti, Che furon come spade alle scritture In render torti li diritti volti." Par. xiii. 123 (see Cary's note).

Previous Page / First / Next Page of St Basil - Letters
The Authentic Greek New Testament Bilingual New Testament I
St Basil the Great Home Page / Works ||| More Church Fathers

Elpenor's Free Greek Lessons
Three Millennia of Greek Literature


Greek Literature - Ancient, Medieval, Modern

St Basil the Great Home Page   St Basil the Great in Print

Learned Freeware

Reference address :