Sergey TrostyanskiyCorresponding author

St. Basil the Great’s Philosophy of Time
A Historical Perspective

22/2 - Fall 2017, pages 219-246
Date of online publication: 15 October 2018
Date of publication: 15 October 2018


Basil the Great’s theory of time is a fascinating testimony to the metaphysics and philosophy of nature of the fourth century AD. In his treatises Basil sought to tackle such foundational issues of philosophy as God’s being, its hypostatic instantiations, and God’s creative acts. In order to properly address these issues he had to scrutinize the notion of time, thus turning the discussion of time into one of the key philosophical threads of his treatises. Basil’s works unequivocally exhibited his careful approach to and respect for philosophical tradition, along with his innovative brilliance. Moreover, Basil’s oeuvre clearly indicates that he was well acquainted with the then current philosophical literature on the subject. This article aims to shed light on various aspects of Basil’s theory and its conceptual underpinnings. It endeavors to demonstrate that Basil’s theory, at its highest point, cannot be understood apart from its protological and eschatological premises. It also argues that Basil was not merely an eclectic thinker, in that he used various concepts inherited from the late antique philosophical tradition to arrive at a uniquely Christian theological and eschatological synthesis. It concludes with an affirmation of Basil’s theory of time as a valuable extension to our understanding of the topic.


Cite this article

Trostyanskiy, Sergey. “St. Basil the Great’s Philosophy of Time: A Historical Perspective.” Forum Philosophicum 22, no. 2 (2017). doi:10.5840/forphil201722215.


Aetius the Anomean. Syntagmation. Edited by Lionel R. Wickham. In Lionel R. Wickham, “Journal of Theological Studies,” The Syntagmation of Aetius the Anomean 19, no. 2 (1968): 540–44. doi:10.1093/jts/XIX.2.532.

Aristotle. Categories; On Interpretation; Prior Analytics. Translated by Harold Percy Cooke and Hugh Tredennick. Vol. 1 of the edition of Aristotle’s works in 23 volumes. Loeb Classical Library 325. London: W. Heinemann / Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1938.

Aristotle. On the Heavens. Translated by William Keith Chambers Guthrie. Vol. 6 of the edition of Aristotle’s works in 23 volumes. Loeb Classical Library 338. London: W. Heinemann / Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1939.

Aristotle. The Physics, Books I–IV. Translated by Philip H. Wicksteed and Francis Macdonald Cornford. Vol. 4 of the edition of Aristotle’s works in 23 volumes. Loeb Classical Library 228. Revised edition. London: W. Heinemann / Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1957.

von Arnim, Hans and Maximilian Adler. Stoicorum veterum fragmenta. Vol. I, Zeno et Zenonis discipuli (1905); vol. II, Chrysippi fragmenta logica et physica (1903); vol. III, Chrysippi fragmenta moralia, Fragmenta successorum Chrysippi (1903); vol. IV, Quo indices continentur (1924). Leipzig; Stuttgart: Teubner, 1903–24.

Basil of Caesarea. Aduersus Eunomium. In Contre Eunome, translated by Bernard Sesboüé, edited by Bernard Sesboüé, Georges-Matthieu de Durand, Louis Doutreleau, and Charles Morel, vol. 1–2. Sources chrétiennes 299, 305. Paris: Cerf, 1982–3.

Basil of Caesarea. Against Eunomius. Translated by Mark DelCogliano and Andrew Radde-Gallwitz. The Fathers of the Church 122. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2011.

Basil of Caesarea. Hexameron. Edited by Stanislas Giet. In Homélies sur l’Hexaéméron, 2nd rev. ed. Sources chrétiennes 26 bis. Paris: Cerf, 1968.

Basil of Caesarea. Letters and Select Works. Translated by Blomfield Jackson. A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, edited by Henry Wace and Philip Schaff, vol. 8. Oxford: Parker, 1895. Reprinted, Grand Rapids, MA: Eerdmans, 1960, and afterwards by other publishers.

Callahan, John F. “Basil of Caesarea: A New Source for St. Augustine’s Theory of Time.” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 63 (1958): 437–54. doi:10.2307/310871.

Long, Anthony A. and David N. Sedley. The Hellenistic Philosophers. Vol. 1, Translations of the Principal Sources with Philosophical Commentary; vol. 2, Greek and Latin Texts with Notes and Bibliography. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Philo of Alexandria. De opificio mundi. Edited by Leopold Cohn. In Philonis Alexandrini opera quae supersunt, edited by Leopold Cohn, Siegfried Reiter, and Paul Wendland, vol. 1, De opificio mundi; Legum allegoriarum lib. I–III; De cherubim; De sacrificiis Abelis et Caini; Quod deterius potiori insidiari soleat: 1–60. Berlin: Reimer, 1896. Reprint, Berlin: De Gruyter, 1962.

Philo of Alexandria. On the Creation. Allegorical Interpretation of Genesis 2 and 3. Translated by George Herbert Whitaker and Francis Henry Colson. Vol. 1 of the edition Philo: In Ten Volumes (and Two Supplementary Volumes). Loeb Classical Library 226. London: W. Heinemann / Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1929.

Plotinus. The Enneads. Translated by George R. Boys-Stones, Lloyd P. Gerson, John M. Dillon, R. A. H. King, et al. Edited by Lloyd P. Gerson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018. doi:10.1017/9780511736490.

Rist, John M. Stoic Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969.

Sambursky, Samuel. Physics of the Stoics. London: Routlede & Kegan Paul / New York: Macmillan, 1959. doi:10.1515/9781400859009. Republished, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987.

Sambursky, Samuel and Shlomo Pines. The Concept of Time in Late Neoplatonism: Texts with Translation, Introduction, and Notes. Proceedings of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities 2.8. Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Section of Humanities, 1971.

Sorabji, Richard. Time, Creation, and the Continuum: Theories in Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1983. doi:10.5040/9781472598288.

Tzamalikos, Panayiotis. “Origen and the Stoic View of Time.” Journal of the History of Ideas 52, no. 4 (1991): 535–61. doi:10.2307/2709965.

Tzamalikos, Panayiotis. Origen: Cosmology and Ontology of Time. Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 77. Leiden: Brill, 2006. doi:10.1163/9789047417637.