Augsburg Fortress

Illumination in Basil of Caesarea's Doctrine of the Holy Spirit

Illumination in Basil of Caesarea's Doctrine of the Holy Spirit

Although Basil of Caesarea was the first to write a discourse on the Holy Spirit, many scholars have since questioned if he fully believed in the Spirit’s divinity. Timothy P. McConnell argues that Basil did regard the Spirit as fully divine and an equal Person of the Trinity. However, Basil refused to use philosophical terminology to make the point, preferring to use what the Spirit revealed through divine act and Scripture. Thus, “illumination” becomes the primary paradigm for Basil, which later theologians would come to call revelation, setting the stage for this study’s high relevance for contemporary thought.
  • This item is not returnable
  • This product ships separately within 15 business days of placing your order
  • Kindle - Nook - Google
  • ISBN 9781451482775
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 250
  • Emerging Scholars category Christian History
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Publication Date Jun 1, 2014


"By comparison to his gifted younger brother Gregory of Nyssa, Basil of Caesarea is sometimes considered to be a lesser light. But his was a different kind of brilliance, more pastoral and biblical than philosophical. In this fresh study, Timothy McConnell shows how Basil, by focusing on baptism, creation, and revelation in the Scriptures, made an original contribution to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit."
—Robert Louis Wilken
William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of the History of Christianity Emeritus
University of Virginia

"Recent scholarship on the fourth-century Trinitarian controversies has exhibited a growing appreciation for Basil as an original and significant theologian whose thought stands at the foundation of Cappadocian thought. Timothy P. McConnell continues this scholarly trajectory and makes a noteworthy contribution to our understanding of the 'new Basil' by tackling the question that has vexed scholars of Basil for centuries: why didn’t Basil ever explicitly affirm that the Holy Spirit was God? McConnell suggests an intriguing solution: the theologian, according to Basil, cannot make such a claim because it can only be known by the illuminative activity of the Holy Spirit himself."
—Mark DelCogliano
University of St. Thomas
"McConnell offers not only a concise synopsis of Basil's teaching on the Holy Spirit, but a reliable account of Christian thought on this neglected person of the Trinity up to the mid-fourth century. The result is a provocative, yet balanced and cogent, study whose conclusions will be of interest to anyone who wishes to know what it means to describe a doctrine as 'catholic' in the early Christian world." 
—Mark Edwards
University of Oxford
"Of the three great Cappadocians Basil of Caesarea is undoubtedly the least well-known and the least well-understood. Timothy McConnell has done a great service in analyzing, in convincing detail, Basil’s theological epistemology: how we come to know God through illumination and, in particular, by the divine light that comes with baptism and when reading the Scriptures. We know more about Basil's depth of teaching on the Holy Spirit thanks to McConnell; and, in knowing more about Basil, we are in a position better to understand Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory Nazianzus."
Kevin Hart
The University of Virginia
"Though Basil of Caesarea is considered one of the great early Christian 'doctors' he is famous for his reluctance to say in so many words that the Holy Spirit is 'God' or 'of one essence' with the Father and the Son. His friends Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa were much more explicit. In his study Illumination in Basil of Caesarea's Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, Timothy McConnell looks at this issue in the context of Basil's liturgical and exegetical use of the idea of "illumination," particularly as it contrasts with the teaching of Eunomius of Cyzicus and Eustathius of Sebaste. This is a well thought out discussion of a difficult issue, particularly valuable in that it focuses on what Basil actually says as opposed to what scholars think he ought to have said."
—Richard Paul Vaggione, OHC
University of Toronto