Basil of Caesarea’s Homily On Psalm 115 (CPG 2910): Origen and Anti-Eunomian Polemic
One striking feature of Basil of Caesarea’s homily On Psalm 115 is that it lacks the thematic unity found elsewhere in his homiletic corpus, even in his other fourteen homilies on various psalms, in which Basil manages to present a cohesive teaching in spite of his similar use of the verse-by-verse exegetical method. This study demonstrates that the frequent changes of subject which characterize this homily are the consequence of Basil drawing upon Origen’s disjointed comments upon Psalm 115 and combining them with an anti-Eunomian polemic. Origen’s interpretation of Psalm 115 is reconstructed chiefly on the basis of his scattered interpretations of selected verses from the psalm in his works, but also from the exegetical fragments attributed to him in the catena. A third source is used as well, Jerome’s Tractatus on Psalm 115, which, like all his tractates on the psalms, are widely seen as Latin adaptations of authentic homilies of Origen. In his exegesis of most of the verses of Psalm 115 Basil has borrowed from Origen but not without modifications and additions according to his own lights. In particular, Basil used Origen’s anti-philosophical polemic in his interpretation of Psalm 155:1-2 to develop an attack on the theological methodology of his opponent, Eunomius. On Psalm 115 thus contains a unique polemical construction of Eunomius on the part of Basil that complements the presentation of opponent in other works such as the Contra Eunomium. Therefore, this homily is a fine example of Basil deploying his sources from the tradition to meet contemporary challenges.