Thursday, 7 February 2019
Olga Alieva: Moses in the Wilderness: Basil of Caesarea on Formation of the Prophet
Basil of Caesarea’s treatment of the life of Moses in his Hexaemeron is traditionally taken to be dependent on Philo of Alexandria and the Jewish exegetical tradition.Thus, M. Harl suggested that the tripartite division of the prophet’s life (40 years of profane culture, 40 years of solitude and 40 years of pastoral responsibility) ‘came from the Syrian monastic milieu, since it is known that such direct borrowings from the rabbinical midrashim are not rare among the authors of the Syriac Church’ (Harl 1967; cf. Perrot 2012). Without questioning the fact that Basil knew Philo’s Life of Moses, this paper seeks to demonstrate, however, that in this respect Basil was more indebted to Origen and his tripartite division of philosophy into ethics, physics, and epoptics. Roughly, Moses' years in Egypt corresponds to purification (ethics), 40 years in the wilderness — to instruction (physics); and the Sinai revelation -- to epoptics. This allows not only to make a more balanced assessment of Origen’s influence on Basil, increasingly stressed in recent scholarship, but also to suggest a more nuanced interpretation of Basil’s Address to the youthand his program of the Christian paideia.