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an assembly of presbyters in a mountainous district, but the expansion of rural Christianity in Cappadocia remains difficult to quantify. Many applications seeking admission to the subdiaconate that he received in the early 370s came principally from men seeking to avoid military conscription.47 Basil later formulated strict ordinances for admission to the clergy in his canonical letters to Amphilochius of Iconium. The church of Caesarea still seems to have had many catechumens in the 370s. When Basil mentions Christian baptism, it is often to urge adults who had not yet accepted it, at other times to explain the fate of the soul in the divine milieu.48 He used the term 'regeneration' (palingenesis) for it when an acquaintance of his, the general and consul Arinthaeus, received the sacrament just before his death.49

Basil was concerned about Christians lapsing into pagan cult. This can be measured from the list of prohibitions found in his three canonical letters to Amphilochius of Iconium in AD 374-5.50 The eighty-four canons were intended for baptised Christians and not catechumens. Some of the rules refer to sacrifice, others to magic and poisoning, whose practitioners are broadly classified as 'idol-worshipers'.51 Basil remarked to Amphilochius: 'If the mind has been injured by daemons, it will worship idols or will be turned aside to some other form of impiety.'52 Sacrifice as a retrospective denial of baptism seems to lie behind the offence of'insulting Christ after receiving the name of Christianity', as also that of 'despising Christ and transgressing the mystery of salvation'.53 In the latter instance, the offenders could be re-admitted to the sacrament only at the point of death. Such a severe penalty suggests that recently baptised Christians still participated in sacrifice as members of communities when pagan festivals, public and private, were celebrated. Another canon recommends leniency for those who perform their penance diligently, citing the Christian God's love of mankind (philanthropia).54 The barbarian enemies who raided the empire were often not Christian, and they seem to have forced their captives to sacrifice. Basil saw this as a mitigating factor. His rule on this was partly based on the canonical letter of Gregory Thaumatourgos, a work that had been published in response to the mid third-century raids of seafaring Goths and the Sassanid king Shapur I:55

47 Ibid.

51 On 'sacrilege' (hierosylia): Basil, Ep. 199, canon 44; on 'idolatry': Basil, Ep. 233.

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