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Tradition and Polemic in Basil of Caesarea’s Homily on the Theophany

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Abstract The bulk of Basil of Caesarea’s neglected Homilia in sanctam Christi generationem is a commentary on select verses of Matthew 1:18-2:11. He explicitly approves or rejects other interpretations, though without ever naming their authors. This study does not merely identify his sources and interlocutors, but more importantly examines how he engaged with previous and contemporary theologians and exegetes in a critical, selective, and creative manner. It shows that while Basil may have borrowed from Eusebius of Caesarea and refuted Eunomius, his primary conversation partner was Origen. Basil’s use of Origen is by no means uniform, but ranges from wholesale adoption to outright rejection. Hence it is in his appropriation of Origen that Basil’s critical, selective, and creative engagement with exegetical traditions is most clearly seen. This study concludes with a typology of seven ways in which Basil engaged with Origen in this homily.

Affiliations: 1: University of St. Thomas Mail JRC153, 2115 Summit Avenue St. Paul, MN 55105

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