Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Book Review: Basil of Caesarea: His Life and Impact by Marvin Jones


This is one of the most difficult books I have had to read in a long time.  It was difficult primarily because of my unfamiliarity with world history and the subsequent difficulty in knowing the position the characters play, and partly because of the way the book is laid out.  The book is not chronological or linear, except in an iterative way.  Not having a detailed table of contents made it difficult to see the development of thought and the flow of the book.

For these reasons, I would suggest reading a hardcopy of the book, rather than with an eBook reader.  I found the eBook version hard to reread previous sections and keep track of where I was in the general framework of the book. Below is my attempt to give a rough outline that might prove helpful to those reading the book.



1.       Basil’s life: An overview
2.       Conversion and theology
a.       Salvation
                                                                           i.      Asceticism
                                                                         ii.      Asceticism, Arianism and the church
                                                                        iii.      Theological development(Homoiousios, Homoousios and Hypostasis phases)
                                                                       iv.      Bishop Basil
                                                                         v.      Marcellus
                                                                       vi.      Marcellus, Athanasius, and Basil
b.      Pastoral Public Ministry
                                                                           i.      Ministry of the Word
                                                                         ii.      Worship
                                                                        iii.      Preaching
                                                                       iv.      Continuing Theological Development
                                                                         v.      Reward in heaven
                                                                       vi.      Basil’s contribution to Evangelicalism (The Scriptures and the Church)
                                                                      vii.      Theological Development
3.       Solace in the desert
a.       Intro
b.      Saint Anthony, the Anchoritic monk
c.       Pachomius, the Coenobitic monk
d.      Monastic trip
e.      Monastic reform
                                                                           i.      The rationale for coenobitic reform
f.        Basil’s contribution to Evangelicalism
                                                                           i.      Holiness in the church
                                                                         ii.      The moral Rules and the Large Asceticon
4.       Development of the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit
a.       The Nicene Creed
b.      The Arian resurgence
c.       Athanasius’s contribution to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit
d.      Didymus the Blind
e.      Contribution to Evangelicalism
5.       Basil’s Contribution to the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit
a.       Arianism in the Late 360s
b.      Basil’s On the Holy Spirit
c.       Prepositions and deity
d.      Council of Constantinople
6.       Basil’s Hexaemeron
a.       Allegory versus literal
b.      The witness of the Hexaemeron
c.       Richard Lim’s theory
d.      The Content of the Hexaemeron
e.      The sovereignty of God
f.        Six literal days for creation
g.       Creation instantaneous and ex nihilio
h.      Young earth and evolution
i.         Contribution of the Hexaemeron
j.        Contribution to Evangelicalism
7.       Basil Speaks Today
a.       Ecclesiastical contributions

b.      Theological contributions

Overall I found the book quite helpful in understanding the importance of knowing the struggles that are behind the very concise, precisely worded creeds left to us by our forefathers in the faith. In addition, I found the excellent discussion of monasticism and asceticism quite helpful and relevant to the issues now facing the church.  One of my favorite quotes from the book (Kindle location 1301-1302)
“Again, Basil seemed to reject the isolationism of the monastic movement simply because his devotion to the Scriptures compelled him to think ecclesiologically.”

I received this book for free from Christian Focus via Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review.