On the Holy Spirit

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On the Holy Spirit (or De Spiritu Sanctu) is a work of Pneumatology by Saint Basil the Great. This work was written around 374 AD to Basil's friend Amphilochius, as a direct response to the Pneumatomachians, who taught that the Holy Spirit is not God.


Basil's argument rests on the overwhelming testimony of Scripture, and the fundamental inseparability of the Trinity. Basil argues vividly that the Spirit is integral to the most basic work of God in creation:

[The Spirit's] operations, what are they? For majesty ineffable, and for numbers innumerable. ... [The Spirit] existed; He pre-existed; He co-existed with the Father and the Son before the ages. ... Is it Christ's advent? The Spirit is forerunner. Is there the incarnate presence? The Spirit is inseparable. Working of miracles, and gifts of healing are through the Holy Spirit. Demons were driven out by the Spirit of God. The devil was brought to naught by the presence of the Spirit. Remission of sins was by the gift of the Spirit, for 'ye were washed, ye were sanctified ... in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the holy Spirit of our God.' There is close relationship with God through the Spirit, for 'God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father.' The resurrection from the dead is effected by the operation of the Spirit, for 'Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created; and Thou renewest the face of the earth'.

Chapter list

  • CHAPTER I - Prefatory remarks on the need of exact investigation of the most minute portions of theology.
  • CHAPTER II - The origin of the heretics' close observation all syllables.
  • CHAPTER III - The systematic discussion of syllables is derived from heathen philosophy.
  • CHAPTER IV - That there is no distinction in the scriptural use of these syllables.
  • CHAPTER V - That "through whom" is said also in the case of the Father, and "of whom" in the case of the Son and of the Spirit.
  • CHAPTER VI - Issue joined with those who assert that the Son is not with the Father, but after the Father. Also concerning the equal glory.
  • CHAPTER VII - Against those who assert that it is not proper for "with whom" to be said of the Son, and that the proper phrase is "through whom."
  • CHAPTER VIII - In how many ways "through whom" is used; and in what sense "with whom" is more suitable. Explanation of how the Son receives a commandment, and how late is sent.
  • CHAPTER IX - Definitive conceptions about the Spirit which conform to the teaching of the Scriptures.
  • CHAPTER X - Against those who say that it is not right to rank the Holy Spirit with the Father and the Son.
  • CHAPTER XI - That they who deny the Spirit are transgressors.
  • CHAPTER XII - Against those who assert that the baptism in the name of the Father alone is sufficient.
  • CHAPTER XIII - Statement of the reason why in the writings of Paul the angels are associated with the Father and the Son.
  • CHAPTER XIV - Objection that some were baptized unto Moses and believed in him, and an answer to it; with remarks upon types.
  • CHAPTER XV - Reply to the suggested objection that we are baptized "into water." Also concerning baptism.
  • CHAPTER XVI - That the Holy Spirit is in every conception separable from the Father and the Son, alike in the creation of perceptible objects, in the dispensation of human affairs, and in the judgment to came.
  • CHAPTER XVII - Against those who say that the Holy Ghost is not to be numbered with, but numbered under, the Father and the Son. Wherein moreover there is a summary notice of the faith concerning right sub-numeration.
  • CHAPTER XVIII - In what manner in the confession of the three hypostases we preserve the pious dogma of the Monarchia. Wherein also is the refutation of them that allege that the Spirit is subnumerated.
  • CHAPTER XIX - Against those who assert that the Spirit ought not to be glorified.
  • CHAPTER XX - Against those who maintain that the Spirit is in the rank neither of a servant nor of a master, but in that of the free.
  • CHAPTER XXI - Proof from Scripture that the Spirit is called Lord.
  • CHAPTER XXII - Establishment of the natural communion of the Spirit from His being, equally with the Father and the Son, unapproachable in thought.
  • CHAPTER XXIII - The glorifying of the enumeration of His attributes.
  • CHAPTER XXIV - Proof of the absurdity of the refusal to glorify the Spirit, from the comparison of things glorified in creation.
  • CHAPTER XXV - That Scripture uses the words "in" or "by," (en), in place of "with." Wherein also it is proved that the word "and" has the same force as "with."
  • CHAPTER XXVI - That the word "in," in as many senses as it bears, is understood of the Spirit.
  • CHAPTER XXVII - Of the origin of the word "with," and what force it has. Also concerning the unwritten laws of the church.
  • CHAPTER XXVIII - That our opponents refuse to concede in the case of the Spirit the terms which Scripture uses in the case of men, as reigning together with Christ.
  • CHAPTER XXIX - Enumeration of the illustrious men in the Church who in their writings have used the word "with."
  • CHAPTER XXX - Exposition of the present state of the Churches.

From: Schaff - Wace, (ed)., Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Series II, v. 8, tr. by the Rev. Blomfield Jackson, London 1894