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Ancient Theologians weigh in on Genesis: Basil’s reflections on creation (part 6)

This post is part of a series looking at Basil’s views on the creation account in Genesis. If you have not already read it, I recommend starting with part 1.

In prior posts we have seen how Basil understood the waters of creation. In this concluding post we will once more touch on these concepts as we look at how Basil understood the firmament itself.

The earth was created underwater


During his homily Basil explores why the earth was “invisible and without form”. The use of the term “invisible” instead of “empty” may indicate that Basil is using the LXX (ἀόρατος καὶ ἀκατασκεύαστος) instead of the Hebrew text. While it could be debated whether the Hebrew term encompasses the idea of being invisible or just that the earth was barren prior to the rest of creation, Basil is working off of that text and translation.

As nothing of all this [growth of all kinds of plants] yet existed, Scripture is right in calling the earth without form.

The formless earth was also invisible because it was submerged under a large body of water.

The earth was invisible … because being submerged under the waters which over-flowed the surface, it could not be seen, since the waters had not yet been gathered together into their own places, where God afterwards collected them, and gave them the name of seas.

… The earth was invisible. Why? Because the deep was spread over its surface. What is the deep? A mass of water of extreme depth. But we know that we can see many bodies through clear and transparent water. How then was it that no part of the earth appeared through the water? Because the air which surrounded it was still without light and in darkness. The rays of the sun, penetrating the water, often allow us to see the pebbles which form the bed of the river, but in a dark night it is impossible for our glance to penetrate under the water. Thus, these words the earth was invisible are explained by those that follow; the deep covered it and itself was in darkness.


 Let us understand that by water water is meant;

Basil (Homily III)

What is the firmament?

As Basil tackles the creation of the firmament (or expanse) which separates the waters, he notes that this entity is also called “heaven”. He reflects on the opening passage where it states that God created “the heavens and the earth” and asks “does the firmament that is called heaven differ from that [which] God made in the beginning?”

Basil acknowledges that within the church there are differing opinions.

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  1. Ancient Theologians weigh in on Genesis: Basil’s reflections on creation (part 5) Leave a reply
  2. Ancient Theologians weigh in on Genesis: Basil’s reflections on creation (part 4) 3 Replies