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Eusebius of Caesarea


Eusebius of Caesarea, c. 263 - 339, called Eusebius Pamphili, became the Bishop of Caesarea marker, in Palestine, about the year 314. He flourished during the time of Constantine the Great and Constantius. His surname Pamphilus came from his relationship with Pamphilus the martyr. Eusebius, historian, exegete and polemicist is one of the more renowned Church Fathers.

He (with Pamphilus) was a most diligent investigator of the Canon. Demonstrations of the Gospel, Preparations for the Gospel, and On Discrepancies between the Gospels were among his scholarly works. As "Father of Church History" he produced Ecclesiastical History, On the Life of Pamphilus, Chronicle of Universal History and On the Martyrs. (See Jerome and De Viris Illustribus (On Illustrious Men) Chapt. 81 )

Early life

Little is known of his early days. It is estimated that he was born in 265. He became acquainted with the presbyter Dorotheus in Antiochmarker and probably received exegetical instruction from him. In 296 he was in Palestine and saw Constantine who visited the country with Diocletian.

Eusebius was in Caesareamarker during the time of Bishop Agapius where he was baptized and ordained. He received much of his education from the most learned presbyter Pamphilus. In 307, Pamphilus came to be persecuted for his beliefs by the Romans and died in martyrdom in 310. Eusebius may himself have been imprisoned by the Roman authorities at Caesarea, and he was taunted many years later with having escaped by performing some act of submission. However Eusebius did continue their collaborative work. The resulting defense of Origen, in which they had collaborated, was finished by Eusebius after the death of Pamphilus SEE Britannica.com

Bishop of Caesarea

Eusebius succeeded Agapius, as Bishop of Caesarea soon after 313 and played a prominent role at the Council of Nicaea in 325. Eusebius, a learned man and famous author, enjoyed the favour of the Emperor Constantine. Because of this he was called upon to present the creed of his own church to the 318 attendees." However, the anti-Arian creed from Palestine prevailed becoming the basis for the Nicene Creed.

The theological views of Arius, that taught the subordination of the Son to the Father, continued to be a problem. Eustathius of Antioch strongly opposed the growing influence of Origen's theology as the root of Arianism. Eusebius, an admirer of Origen, was reproached by Eustathius for deviating from the Nicene faith. Eusebius prevailed and Eustathius was deposed at a synod in Antiochmarker.

However, Athanasius of Alexandria became a more powerful opponent and in 334, he was summoned before a synod in Caesarea (which he refused to attend). In the following year, he was again summoned before a synod in Tyre at which Eusebius of Caesarea presided. Athanasius, foreseeing the result, went to Constantinoplemarker to bring his cause before the Emperor. Constantine called the bishops to his court, among them Eusebius. Athanasius was condemned and exiled at the end of 335. Eusebius remained in the Emperor’s favour throughout this time and more than once was exonerated with the explicit approval of the Emperor Constantine. After the Emperor’s death (c.337), Eusebius wrote the Life of Constantine, an important historical work because of eye witness accounts and the use of primary sources. Eusebius died c.339.

Works

Of the extensive literary activity of Eusebius, a relatively large portion has been preserved. Although posterity suspected him of Arianism, Eusebius had made himself indispensable by his method of authorship; his comprehensive and careful excerpts from original sources saved his successors the painstaking labor of original research. Hence, much has been preserved, quoted by Eusebius, which otherwise would have been destroyed.

The literary productions of Eusebius reflect on the whole the course of his life. At first, he occupied himself with works on Biblical criticism under the influence of Pamphilus and probably of Dorotheus of Tyre of the School of Antioch. Afterward, the persecutions under Diocletian and Galerius directed his attention to the martyrs of his own time and the past, and this led him to the history of the whole Church and finally to the history of the world, which, to him, was only a preparation for ecclesiastical history.

Then followed the time of the Arian controversies, and dogmatic questions came into the foreground. Christianity at last found recognition by the State; and this brought new problems—apologies of a different sort had to be prepared. Lastly, Eusebius wrote eulogies in praise of Constantine. To all this activity must be added numerous writings of a miscellaneous nature, addresses, letters, and the like, and exegetical works that extended over the whole of his life and that include both commentaries and treatises on Biblical archaeology.

Biblical text criticism

Pamphilus and Eusebius occupied themselves with the textual criticism of the Septuagint text of the Old Testament and especially of the New Testament. An edition of the Septuagint seems to have been already prepared by Origen, which, according to Jerome, was revised and circulated by Eusebius and Pamphilus. For an easier survey of the material of the four Evangelists, Eusebius divided his edition of the New Testament into paragraphs and provided it with a synoptical table so that it might be easier to find the pericopes that belong together. These canon tables or "Eusebian canons" remained in use throughout the Middle Ages, and illuminated manuscript versions are important for the study of early medieval art. Eusebius explained detailed in Epistula ad Carpianum how to use his canons.

Chronicle

The two greatest historical works of Eusebius are his Chronicle and his Church History. The former (Greek (Pantodape historia), "Universal History") is divided into two parts. The first part ( (Chronographia), "Annals") gives an epitome of universal history from the sources, arranged according to nations. The second part ( (Chronikoi kanones), "Chronological Canons") furnishes a synchronism of the historical material in parallel columns, the equivalent of a parallel timeline.

The work as a whole has been lost in the original, but it may be reconstructed from later chronographists of the Byzantine school who made excerpts from the work with untiring diligence, especially George Syncellus. The tables of the second part have been completely preserved in a Latin translation by Jerome, and both parts are still extant in an Armenian translation. The loss of the Greek originals has given an Armenian translation a special importance; thus, the first part of Eusebius's "Chronicle", of which only a few fragments exist in the Greek, has been preserved entirely in Armenian. The "Chronicle" as preserved extends to the year 325. It was written before the "Church History."

Church History

In his Church History or Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius wrote what was in fact the second attempted history (the doctor Luke who wrote the Gospel and Acts is first) of the Christian Church, as a chronologically-ordered account, based on earlier sources, and complete from the period of the Apostles to his own epoch. He also wrote that Matthew composed the Gospel according to the Hebrews. The time scheme correlated the history with the reigns of the Roman Emperors, and the scope was broad. Included were the bishops and other teachers of the Church; Christian relations with the Jews and those deemed heretical; and the Christian martyrs.

Life of Constantine

Eusebius' Life of Constantine (Vita Constantini). is a eulogy or panegyric, and therefore its style and selection of facts are affected by its purpose, rendering it inadequate as a continuation of the Church History. As the historian Socrates Scholasticus said, at the opening of his history that was designed as a continuation of Eusebius, "Also in writing the life of Constantine, this same author has but slightly treated of matters regarding Arius, being more intent on the rhetorical finish of his composition and the praises of the emperor, than on an accurate statement of facts." The work was unfinished at Eusebius' death.

Minor historical works

Before he compiled his church history, Eusebius edited a collection of martyrdoms of the earlier period and a biography of Pamphilus. The martyrology has not survived as a whole, but it has been preserved almost completely in parts. It contained:

  1. an epistle of the congregation of Smyrnamarker concerning the martyrdom of Polycarp;
  2. the martyrdom of Pionius;
  3. the martyrdoms of Carpus, Papylus, and Agathonike;
  4. the martyrdoms in the congregations of Viennemarker and Lyonmarker;
  5. the martyrdom of Apollonius.


Of the life of Pamphilus, only a fragment survives. A work on the martyrs of Palestine in the time of Diocletian was composed after 311; numerous fragments are scattered in legendaries which have yet to be collected. The life of Constantine was compiled after the death of the emperor and the election of his sons as Augusti (337). It is more a rhetorical eulogy on the emperor than a history but is of great value on account of numerous documents incorporated in it.

Apologetic and dogmatic works

To the class of apologetic and dogmatic works belong:

  1. the Apology for Origen, the first five books of which, according to the definite statement of Photius, were written by Pamphilus in prison, with the assistance of Eusebius.
  2. Eusebius added the sixth book after the death of Pamphilus.
  3. We possess only a Latin translation of the first book, made by Rufinus;

  4. a treatise against Hierocles (a Roman governor and Neoplatonic philosopher), in which Eusebius combated the former's glorification of Apollonius of Tyana in a work entitled "A Truth-loving Discourse" (Greek, Philalethes logos);

  5. Praeparatio evangelica ('Preparation for the Gospel'), commonly known by its Latin title, which attempts to prove the excellence of Christianity over every pagan religion and philosophy.
  6. The Praeparatio consists of fifteen books which have been completely preserved.
  7. Eusebius considered it an introduction to Christianity for pagans.
  8. But its value for many later readers is more because Eusebius studded this work with so many fascinating and lively fragments from historians and philosophers which are nowhere else preserved.
  9. Here alone is preserved a summary of the writings of the Phoenicianmarker priest Sanchuniathon of which the accuracy has been shown by the mythological accounts found on the Ugaritic tables, here alone is the account from Diodorus Siculus's sixth book of Euhemerus' wondrous voyage to the island of Panchaea where Euhemerus purports to have found his true history of the gods, and here almost alone is preserved writings of the neo-Platonist philosopher Atticus along with so much else.

  10. Demonstratio evangelica ('Proof of the Gospel') is closely connected to the Praeparatio and comprised originally twenty books of which ten have been completely preserved as well as a fragment of the fifteenth.
  11. Here Eusebius treats of the person of Jesus Christ.
  12. The work was probably finished before 311;

  13. another work which originated in the time of the persecution, entitled "Prophetic Extracts" (Eklogai prophetikai).
  14. It discusses in four books the Messianic texts of Scripture.
  15. The work is merely the surviving portion (books 6–9) of the General elementary introduction to the Christian faith, now lost.

  16. the treatise "On Divine Manifestation" (Peri theophaneias), of unknown date.
  17. It treats of the incarnation of the Divine Logos, and its contents are in many cases identical with the Demonstratio evangelica.
  18. Only fragments are preserved in Greek, but a complete Syriac translation of the Theophania survives in an early 5th century manuscript.
  19. Samuel Lee, the editor (1842) and translator (1843) of the Syriac Theophania thought that the work must have been written "after the general peace restored to the Church by Constantine, and before either the 'Praeparatio,' or the 'Demonstratio Evengelica,' was written .
  20. .
  21. . it appears probable .
  22. .
  23. . therefore, that this was one of the first productions of Eusebius, if not the first after the persecutions ceased."
  24. Hugo Gessmann, noting in 1904 that the Demonstratio seems to be mentioned at IV.
  25. 37 and V.
  26. 1, and that II.
  27. 14 seems to mention the extant practice of temple prostitution at Hieropolis in Phoenica, concluded that the Theophania was probably written shortly after 324.
  28. Others have suggested a date as late as 337.

  29. A polemical treatise against Marcellus of Ancyra, the "Against Marcellus," dating from about 337;

  30. a supplement to the last-named work, also against Marcellus, entitled "The Ecclesiastical Theology," in which he defended the Nicene doctrine of the Logos against the party of Athanasius.


A number of writings, belonging in this category, have been entirely lost.

Exegetical and miscellaneous works

All of the exegetical works of Eusebius have suffered damage in transmission. The majority of them are known to us only from long portions quoted in Byzantine catena-commentaries. However these portions are very extensive. Extant are:

  1. An enormous Commentary on the Psalms.
  2. A commentary on Isaiah, discovered more or less complete in a manuscript in Florence early in the 20th century and published 50 years later.
  3. Small fragments of commentaries on Romans and 1 Corinthians.


Eusebius also wrote a work Quaestiones ad Stephanum et Marinum, "On the Differences of the Gospels" (including solutions). This was written for the purpose of harmonizing the contradictions in the reports of the different Evangelists. The work existed in the 16th century, but has since been lost. However a long epitome was discovered in the 19th century, and there are also long quotations in the Catena on Luke of Nicetas. The original work was also translated into Syriac, and lengthy quotations exist in a catena in that language, and also in Coptic and Arabic catenas.

Eusebius also wrote treatises on Biblical archaeology:

  1. A work on the Greek equivalents of Hebrew Gentilic nouns;
  2. A description of old Judea with an account of the loss of the ten tribes;
  3. A plan of Jerusalem and the Temple of Solomonmarker.


These three treatises have been lost.

A work known as the Onomasticon, entitled in the main Greek manuscript "Concerning the Place-names in Sacred Scripture", is still in existence. This is an alphabetical dictionary of Biblical place names, often including identifications with places existing in Eusebius' own time.

The addresses and sermons of Eusebius are mostly lost, but some have been preserved, e.g., a sermon on the consecration of the church in Tyre and an address on the thirtieth anniversary of the reign of Constantine (336).

Most of Eusebius' letters are lost. His letters to Carpianus and Flacillus exist complete. Fragments of a letter to the empress Constantia also exists.

Estimate of Eusebius

Doctrine

From a dogmatic point of view, Eusebius stands entirely upon the shoulders of Origen. Like Origen, he started from the fundamental thought of the absolute sovereignty (monarchia) of God. God is the cause of all beings. But he is not merely a cause; in him everything good is included, from him all life originates, and he is the source of all virtue. God sent Christ into the world that it may partake of the blessings included in the essence of God. Christ is God and is a ray of the eternal light; but the figure of the ray is so limited by Eusebius that he expressly distinguishes the Son as distinct from Father as a ray is also distinct from its source the sun.

Eusebius was intent upon emphasizing the difference of the persons of the Trinity and maintaining the subordination of the Son (Logos, or Word) to God (Eusebius never calls Jesus theos) because in all contrary attempts he suspected either polytheism (three distinct gods) or Sabellianism (three modes of one divine person). The Son (Jesus), as Arius asserted, is a creature of God whose generation, for Eusebius, took place before time. Jesus acts as the organ or instrument of God, the creator of life, the principle of every revelation of God, who in his absoluteness and transcendence is enthroned above and isolated from all the world. This Logos, as a derivative creature and not truly God as the Father is truly God, could therefore change (Eusebius, with most early theologians, assumed God was immutable), and he assumed a human body without altering the immutable divine Father. Likewise, Eusebius described the relation of the Holy Spirit within the Trinity to that of the Son to the Father. No point of this doctrine is original with Eusebius, all is traceable to his teacher Origen. The lack of originality in his thinking shows itself in the fact that he never presented his thoughts in a system. After nearly being excommunicated for his heresy by Alexander of Alexandria, Eusebius submitted and agreed to the Nicene Creed at the First Council of Nicea in 325.

Limitations

Notwithstanding the great influence of his works on others, Eusebius was not himself a great historian. His treatment of heresy, for example, is limited, and he knew very little about the Western church. The panegyrical tone of the Life of Constantine has grated on modern sensibilities. Nor was he always critical about the material that he reproduces; he includes in the "Ecclesiastical History" letters supplied to him by a Syriac source purporting to be written back and forth between King Abgar and Jesus.

These and other issues have invited controversy.

  • Edward Gibbon (18th century historian) dismissed his testimony on the number of martyrs and impugned his honesty by referring to a passage in the abbreviated version of the Martyrs of Palestine attached to the Ecclesiastical History, book 8, chapter 2, in which Eusebius introduces his description of the martyrs of the Great Persecution under Diocletian with: "Wherefore we have decided to relate nothing concerning them except the things in which we can vindicate the Divine judgment. […] We shall introduce into this history in general only those events which may be useful first to ourselves and afterwards to posterity." In the longer text of the Martyrs of Palestine, chapter 12, Eusebius states: "I think it best to pass by all the other events which occurred in the meantime: such as […] the lust of power on the part of many, the disorderly and unlawful ordinations, and the schisms among the confessors themselves; also the novelties which were zealously devised against the remnants of the Church by the new and factious members, who added innovation after innovation and forced them in unsparingly among the calamities of the persecution, heaping misfortune upon misfortune. I judge it more suitable to shun and avoid the account of these things, as I said at the beginning.".
  • When his own honesty was challenged by his contemporaries, Gibbon appealed to the chapter heading – not the text – in Eusebius' Praeparatio evangelica (xii, 31), which says how fictions (pseudos) — which Gibbon rendered 'falsehoods' — may be a "medicine", which may be "lawful and fitting" to use.
  • Jacob Burckhardt (19th century cultural historian) dismissed Eusebus as "the first thoroughly dishonest historian of antiquity".
  • Questions were long raised by scholars about whether all the documents in the Life of Constantine were authentic.
  • Other critics of Eusebius' work cite the panegyrical tone of the Vita, plus the omission of internal Christian conflicts in the Canones, as reasons to interpret his writing with caution.


But other views have tended to prevail.

  • With reference to Gibbon's comments, Joseph Barber Lightfoot (late 19th century theologian and former Bishop of Durham) pointed out that Eusebius' statements indicate his honesty in stating what he was not going to discuss, and also his limitations as a historian in not including such material. He also discusses the question of accuracy. "The manner in which Eusebius deals with his very numerous quotations elsewhere, where we can test his honesty, is a sufficient vindication against this unjust charge." Lightfoot also notes that Eusebius cannot always be relied on: "A far more serious drawback to his value as a historian is the loose and uncritical spirit in which he sometimes deals with his materials. This shews itself in diverse ways. He is not always to be trusted in his discrimination of genuine and spurious documents."
  • Averil Cameron (professor at King's College and Oxford) and Stuart Hall (historian and theologian), in their recent translation of the Life of Constantine, point out that writers such as Burckhardt found it necessary to attack Eusebius in order to undermine the ideological legitimacy of the Habsburg empire, which based itself on the idea of Christian empire derived from Constantine, and that the most controversial letter in the Life has since been found among the papyri of Egypt.
  • In Church History (Vol. 59, 1990), Michael J. Hollerich (assistant professor at the Jesuit Santa Clara University, California) replies to Burckhardt's criticism of Eusebius, that "Eusebius has been an inviting target for students of the Constantinian era. At one time or another they have characterized him as a political propagandist, a good courtier, the shrewd and worldly adviser of the Emperor Constantine, the great publicist of the first Christian emperor, the first in a long succession of ecclesiastical politicians, the herald of Byzantinism, a political theologian, a political metaphysician, and a caesaropapist. It is obvious that these are not, in the main, neutral descriptions. Much traditional scholarship, sometimes with barely suppressed disdain, has regarded Eusebius as one who risked his orthodoxy and perhaps his character because of his zeal for the Constantinian establishment." Hollerich concludes that "... the standard assessment has exaggerated the importance of political themes and political motives in Eusebius's life and writings and has failed to do justice to him as a churchman and a scholar".


While many have shared Burckhardt's assessment, particularly with reference to the Life of Constantine, others, while not pretending to extol his merits, have acknowledged the irreplaceable value of his works which may principally reside in the copious quotations that they contain from other sources, often lost.

See also



Notes

References

  • Initial text from Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religion, subjected to edits for style.
  • Life of the Blessed Emperor Constantine. 2009. Reprint of Bagster edition [1845]. Evolution Publishing. ISBN 978-1-889758-93-0. [1214]
  • Cameron, Averil and Stuart Hall, trans. Life of Constantine. 1999. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198149247.


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