Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Zemler-Cizewski, Wanda

Second Advisor

Del Colle, Ralph

Third Advisor

Dempsey, Deidre


This is a study on the theology and asceticism of the fourth century monk, priest, and bishop, Basil of Caesarea (+379). It is a study which focuses on Basil's understanding of the role and the Person of the Holy Spirit, particularly as found in what are traditionally called his ascetical writings. I decided to focus on these two aspects of Basil's thought for some very specific reasons. The first has to do with the fact that while much has been written about Basil's theology in what are usually considered his strictly theological writings, such as Contra Eunomium and of course De Spiritu Sancto, the focus has always been that of the "theology" and "philosophy" of Basil. This left me with the uneasy realization that by so doing, one separated the theological thinking of Basil from his understanding of what we would today term the spiritual or practical life of the faithful Christian. Secondly, scholarship discussing the importance the Holy Spirit had for the ascetical schools in the early church has more often than not been focused on groups that ended up being classified as "heretical" or "heterodox". Little has been done to date on the very important role the Holy Spirit played in those ascetical groups which did survive and indeed did thrive in the early Christian period. It was these approved ascetical movements which were the bedrock of later organized ascetical communities which have survived as monastic organizations such as the Benedictine Order in the Roman Catholic tradition. The role asceticism played in the formation of Basil's theological writings, and the role Stoicism may have played in both Basil's understanding of the value of ascetical practices and his understanding of the Holy Spirit, are the areas to which I have limited by research in this project. However, it is by focusing on these areas, neither of which have received much scholarly attention to date, that I am convinced a fuller and more nuanced understanding of the way theology worked in the early church, how theological language and understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit came to be formulated in the late 4th century, and also the role asceticism played particularly in the understanding of the role and divinity of the Holy Spirit, can be both better understood and more responsibly discussed.



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