restricted access The Trinitarian Theology of Basil of Caesarea: A Synthesis of Greek Thought and Biblical Truth (review)
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Stephen M. Hildebrand The Trinitarian Theology of Basil of Caesarea: A Synthesis of Greek Thought and Biblical Truth Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2007 Pp. xiv + 254. $59.95.

Hildebrand's monograph on the Trinitarian theology of Basil of Caesarea is the first in English. Relying on Werner Jaeger's notion of Greek paideia, he presents Basil's Trinitarian thought as a biblical theology that successfully appropriated Greek learning. Taking Basil as a paradigmatic example, Hildebrand rejects earlier viewpoints that Hellenism either corrupted or displaced biblical Christianity. The purpose of the monograph is to demonstrate the particular way in which Basil constructed his hybrid of Greek learning and biblical Christianity. For Hildebrand, the Cappadocian's education in Greek philosophy, ethics, grammar, and rhetoric has decisively informed his exegesis of Scripture. Throughout the book Hildebrand seeks to relieve those who may be worried that Basil's appropriation of his Hellenistic heritage somehow makes his theology less Christian and more Greek. The Trinitarian theology of Basil is analyzed in order to prove that this is not so.

The monograph is divided into six chapters. The first is a brief sketch of Basil's life. Chapters 2 and 3 are devoted to tracing the development of Basil's Trinitarian theology, which Hildebrand divides into four stages, each of which is defined according to which non-scriptural technical term Basil favored at the time for expressing the Trinitarian relations. First, Basil evolves from preferring homoiousios to homoousios to describe the relation between Father and Son; after this, he moves from preferring proso¯pon to hypostasis to describe what is three in God. While Hildebrand acknowledges that Basil's technical terminology never became fixed or acquired the status of formulae, his discussion of Basil's Trinitarian development is mostly devoted to how Basil understood these "Greek words." Methodologically, one might question whether the adoption or acceptance of particular terminology is the same as theological development. It seems that theological development could be traced in a more comprehensive manner. Furthermore, anyone interested in a rigorous discussion of Basil's philosophical sources will be disappointed since Hildebrand mostly depends on the suggestions of others and generally does not engage the philosophical sources themselves. Nonetheless, in these two chapters the author provides a sound summary of Basil's terminological development and presents a good overview (41–75) of Against Eunomius from the early 360s, a treatise crucially important for understanding Basil's Trinitarian theology.

In chapter 4 Hildebrand turns to Basil's view of the Scriptures and his use of them. He demonstrates Basil's deployment of the exegetical techniques of the Greek grammarians, his use of natural science, and his understanding of the relation between Scripture and tradition. He devotes eighteen pages (122–39) to the question of whether Basil was Antiochene or Alexandrian in his interpretation, terms that Hildebrand acknowledges are increasingly seen by scholars of patristic exegesis as misguided but which he nonetheless tries to salvage. He [End Page 108] winds up placing Basil in neither category, inadvertently proving but still not admitting that "Antiochene" and "Alexandrian" should be dropped as labels for "schools" of exegesis.

In chapters 5 and 6, Hildebrand demonstrates how both Greek paideia and scriptural exegesis influenced Basil's Trinitarian theology. He argues that Basil's training in the Second Sophistic accounts for his use of Scripture in a way aimed at lending authority to his arguments and helps us to understand the polemic of Against Eunomius and On the Holy Spirit in their use of thesis and counter-thesis. He contends that Basil's basic argument in Against Eunomius has three parts: (1) that unbegottenness is not the essence of God; (2) that the Father and Son are similar; and (3) the proper way of understanding divine generation. Hildebrand shows how three scriptural verses are central to each of these parts, i.e., John 4.19, Matthew 11.27, and John 17.26. In chapter 6 he does much the same with On the Holy Spirit. In this treatise Basil sets the Hellenistic concept of salvation as enlightenment in the context of the Spirit's role in baptism and Christian soteriology. Hildebrand sees 1...