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§ 161. Eusebius of C sarea.


I. Eusebius Pamphili: Opera omnia Gr. et Lat., curis variorum nempe II. Valesii, Fr. Vigeri, B. Montfaucon, Card. Angelo Maii edita; collegit et denuo recognovit J. P. Migne. Par. (Petit-Montrouge) 1857. 6 vols. (tom. xix.-xxiv. of Migne’s Patrologia Graeca). Of his several works his Church History has been oftenest edited, sometimes by itself, sometimes in connection with his Vita Constantini, and with the church histories of his successors; best by Henr. Valesius (Du Valois), Par. 1659–’73, 8 vols., and Cantabr. 1720, 3 vols., and again 1746 (with additions by G. Reading, best ed.); also (without the later historians) by E. Zimmermann, Francof. 1822; F. A. Heinichen, Lips. 1827–’8, 3 vols.; E. Burton, Oxon. 1838, 2 vols. (1845 and 1856 in 1 vol.); Schwegler, Tüb. 1852; also in various translations: In German by Stroth, Quedlinburg, 1776 ff., 2 vols.; by Closs, Stuttg. 1839; and several times in French and English; in English by Hanmer (1584), T. Shorting, and better by Chr. Fr. Cruse (an Amer. Episcopalian of German descent, died in New York, 1865): The Ecclesiastical History of Euseb. Pamph., etc., Now York, 1856 (10th ed.), and Lond. 1858 (in Bohn’s Eccles. Library). Comp. also the literary notices in Brunet, sub Euseb., and James Darling, Cyclop. Bibliograph. p. 1072 ff.

II. Biographies by Hieronymus (De viris illustr. c. 81, a brief sketch, with a list of his works), Valesius (De vita scriptisque Eusebii Caesar.), W. Cave (Lives of the most eminent Fathers of the Church, vol. ii. pp. 95–144, ed. H. Cary, Oxf. 1840), Heinichen, Stroth, Cruse, and others, in their editions of the Eccles. Hist. of Eusebius. F. C. Baur: Comparatur Eusebius Hist. eccl. parens cum parente Hist. Herodoto. Tub. 1834. Haenell: De Euseb. Caes. religionis christ. defensore. Gott. 1843. Sam. Lee: Introductory treatise in his Engl. edition of the Theophany of Eusebius, Cambr. 1843. Semisch: Art. Eusebius v. Caes. in Herzog’s Encycl. vol. iv. (1855), pp. 229–238. Lyman Coleman: Eusebius as an historian, in the Bibliotheca Sacra, Andover, 1858, pp. 78–96. (The biography by Acacius, his successor in the see of Caesarea, Socr. ii. 4, is lost.)


This third period is uncommonly rich in great teachers of the church, who happily united theological ability and practical piety, and who, by their development of the most important dogmas in conflict with mighty errors, earned the gratitude of posterity. They monopolized all the learning and eloquence of the declining Roman empire, and made it subservient to the cause of Christianity for the benefit of future generations. They are justly called fathers of the church; they belong to Christendom without distinction of denominations; and they still, especially Athanasius and Chrysostom among the Greek fathers, and Augustine and Jerome among the Latin, by their writings and their example, hold powerful sway, though with different degrees of authority according to the views entertained by the various churches concerning the supremacy of the Bible and the value of ecclesiastical tradition.

We begin the series of the most important Nicene and post-Nicene divines with Eusebius of Caesarea, the “father of church history,” the Christian Herodotus.

He was born about the year 260 or 270, probably in Palestine, and was educated at Antioch, and afterwards at Caesarea in Palestine, under the influence of the works of Origen. He formed an intimate friendship with the learned presbyter Pamphilus,18851885   Hence the surname Εὐσέβιος (ὁ φίλος) τοῦ Παμφίλου, Pamphhili, by which anciently he was most frequently distinguished from many other less noted men of the same name, e.g.: Eusebius of Nicomedia († 341), Eusebius of Vercelli († 371), Eusebius Emesenus, of Emesa or Emisa in Phoenicia († 360), and others. On this last comp. Opuscula quae supersunt Graeca, ed. Augusti, Elberfeld, 1829, somewhat hastily; corrected by Thilo, Ueber die Schriften des Euseb. von Alex. und des Euseb. von Emisa, Halle, 1832. who had collected a considerable biblical and patristic library, and conducted a flourishing theological school which he had founded at Caesarea, till in 309 he died a martyr in the persecution under Diocletian.18861886   Jeromeremarks of Pamphilus (De viris illustribus, c. 75): “Tanto bibliothecae divinae amore flagravit, ut maximam partem Origenis voluminum sua manu descripserit, quae usque hodie [a. 392] in Caesariensi bibliotheca habentur.” Eusebius taught for a long time in this school; and after the death of his preceptor and friend, he travelled to Tyre and to Egypt, and was an eye-witness of the cruel scenes of the last great persecution of the Christians. He was imprisoned as a confessor, but soon released.

Twenty years later, when Eusebius, presiding at the council at Tyre (335 or 336), took sides against Athanasius, the bishop Potamon of Hieraclea, according to the account of Epiphanius, exclaimed in his face: “How dost thou, Eusebius, sit as judge of the innocent Athanasius? Who can bear it? Why! didst thou not sit with me in prison in the time of the tyrants? They plucked out my eye for my confession of the truth; thou camest forth unhurt; thou hast suffered nothing for thy confession; unscathed thou art here present. How didst thou escape from prison? On some other ground than because thou didst promise to do an unlawful thing [to sacrifice to idols]? or, perchance, didst thou actually do this? “But this insinuation of cowardice and infidelity to Christ arose probably from envy and party passion in a moment of excitement. With such a stain upon him, Eusebius would hardly have been intrusted by the ancient church with the episcopal staff.18871887   So Valesius also views the matter, while Baronius puts faith in the rebuke.

About the year 315, or earlier, Eusebius was chosen bishop of Caesarea,18881888   Hence he is also called Eusebius Caesariensis or Palestinus. where he labored till his death in 340. The patriarchate of Antioch, which was conferred upon him after the deposition of Eustathius in 331, he in honorable self-denial, and from preference for a more quiet literary life, declined.

He was drawn into the Arian controversies against his will, and played an eminent part at the council of Nicaea, where he held the post of honor at the right hand of the presiding emperor. In the perplexities of this movement he took middle ground, and endeavored to unite the opposite parties. This brought him, on the one hand, the peculiar favor of the emperor Constantine, but, on the other, from the leaders of the Nicene orthodoxy, the suspicion of a secret leaning to the Arian heresy.18891889   So thought, among the ancients, Hilary, Jerome(who otherwise speaks favorably of Eusebius), Theodoret, and the second council of Nicaea (a.d.787), which unjustly condemned him even expressly, as an Arian heretic; and so have thought, among modems, Baronius, Petavius, Clericus, Tillemont, Gieseler; while the church historian Socrates, the Roman bishops Gelasius and Pelagius II., Valesius, G. Bull, Cave (who enters into a fall vindication, l.c. p. 135 sqq.), and Sam. Lee (and most Anglicans), have defended the orthodoxy of Eusebius, or at least mention him with very high respect. The Gallican church has even placed him in the catalogue of saints. Athanasius never expressly charges him with apostasy from the Nicene faith to Arianism or to Semi-Arianism, but frequently says that before 325 he held with Arius, and changed his opinion at Nicaea. This is the view of Möhler also (Athanasius der Grosse, p. 333 ff.), whom Dorner (History of Christology, i. 792) inaccurately reckons among the opponents of the orthodoxy of Eusebius. The testimonies of the ancients for and against Eusebius are collected in Migne’s edition of his works, tom. i. pp. 68-98. Among recent writers Dr. Samuel Lee has most fully investigated the orthodoxy of Eusebius in the Preliminary Dissertation to his translation of the Theophania from the Syriac, pp. xxiv.-xcix. He arrives at the conclusion (p. xcviii.), “that Eusebius was no Arian; and that the same reasoning must prove that he was no Semi-Arian; that he did in no degree partake of the error of Origen, ascribed to him so positively and so groundlessly by Photius.” But this is merely a negative result. It is certain that, before the council of Nicaea, he sympathized with Arius; that in the council he proposed an orthodox but indefinite compromise-creed; that after the council he was not friendly with Athanasius and other defenders of orthodoxy; and that, in the synod of Tyre, which deposed Athanasius in 335, he took a leading part, and, according to Epiphanius, presided. In keeping with these facts is his silence respecting the Arian controversy (which broke out in 318) in an Ecclesiastical History which comes down to 324, and was probably not completed till 326, when the council of Nicaea would have formed its most fitting close. He would rather close his history with the victory of Constantine over Licinius than with the Creed over which theological parties contended, and with which he himself was implicated. But, on the other hand, it is also a fact that he subscribed the Nicene Creed, though reluctantly, and reserving his own interpretation of the homoousion; that he publicly recommended it to the people of his diocese; and that he never formally rejected it.

The only satisfactory solution of this apparent inconsistency is to be found in his own indecision and leaning to a doctrinal latitudinarianism, not unfrequent in historians who become familiar with a vast variety of opinions in different ages and countries. On the important point of the homoousion he never came to a firm and final conviction. He wavered between the older Origenistic subordinationism and the Nicene orthodoxy. He asserted clearly and strongly with Origen the eternity of the Son, and so far was decidedly opposed to Arianism, which made Christ a creature in time; but he recoiled from the homoousion, because it seemed to him to go beyond the Scriptures, and hence he made no use of the term, either in his book against Marcellus, or in his discourses against Sabellius. Religious sentiment compelled him to acknowledge the full deity of Christ; fear of Sabellianism restrained him. He avoided the strictly orthodox formulas, and moved rather in the less definite terms of former times. Theological acumen he constitutionally lacked. He was, in fact, not a man of controversy, but of moderation and peace. He stood upon the border between the ante-Nicene theology and the Nicene. His doctrine shows the color of each by turns, and reflects the unsettled problem of the church in the first stage of the Arian controversy.18901890   The same view is taken substantially by Baur (Geschichte der Lehre von der Dreieinigkeit und Menschwerdung, i. 475 ff.), Domer (Entwicklungsgeschichte der Lehre von der Person Christi, i. 792 ff), Semisch (Art. Eusebius in Herzog’s Encyklopädie, vol iv. 233), and other modem German theologians.

With his theological indecision is connected his weakness of character. He was an amiable and pliant court-theologian, and suffered himself to be blinded and carried away by the splendor of the first Christian emperor, his patron and friend. Constantine took him often into his counsels, invited him to his table, related to him his vision of the cross, showed him the famous labarum, listened standing to his occasional sermons, wrote him several letters, and intrusted to him the supervision of the copies of the Bible for the use of the churches in Constantinople.

At the celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of this emperor’s reign (336), Eusebius delivered a panegyric decked with the most pompous hyperbole, and after his death, in literal obedience to the maxim: “De mortuis nihil nisi bonum,” he glorified his virtues at the expense of veracity and with intentional omission of his faults. With all this, however, he had noble qualities of mind and heart, which in more quiet times would have been an ornament to any episcopal see. And it must be said, to his honor, that he never claimed the favor of the emperor for private ends.

The theological and literary value of Eusebius lies in the province of learning. He was an unwearied reader and collector, and probably surpassed all the other church fathers, hardly excepting even Origen and Jerome, in compass of knowledge and of acquaintance with Grecian literature both heathen and Christian; while in originality, vigor, sharpness, and copiousness of thought, he stands far below Origen, Athanasius, Basil, and the two Gregories. His scholarship goes much further in breadth than in depth, and is not controlled and systematized by a philosophical mind or a critical judgment.

Of his works, the historical are by far the most celebrated and the most valuable; to wit, his Ecclesiastical History, his Chronicle, his Life of Constantine, and a tract on the Martyrs of Palestine in the Diocletian persecution. The position of Eusebius, at the close of the period of persecution, and in the opening of the period of the imperial establishment of Christianity, and his employment of many ancient documents, some of which have since been lost, give these works a peculiar value. He is temperate, upon the whole, impartial, and truth-loving—rare virtues in an age of intense excitement and polemical zeal like that in which he lived. The fact that he was the first to work this important field of theological study, and for many centuries remained a model in it, justly entitles him to his honorable distinction of Father of Church History. Yet he is neither a critical student nor an elegant writer of history, but only a diligent and learned collector. His Ecclesiastical History, from the birth of Christ to the victory of Constantine over Licinius in 324, gives a colorless, defective, incoherent, fragmentary, yet interesting picture of the heroic youth of the church, and owes its incalculable value, not to the historic art of the author, but almost entirely to his copious and mostly literal extracts from foreign, and in some cases now extinct, sources. As concerns the first three centuries, too, it stands alone; for the successors of Eusebius begin their history where he leaves off.

His Chronicle consists of an outline-sketch of universal history down to 325, arranged by ages and nations (borrowed largely from the Chronography of Julius Africanus), and an abstract of this universal chronicle in tabular form. The Greek original is lost, with the exception of unconnected fragments by Syncellus; but the second part, containing the chronological tables, was translated and continued by Jerome to 378, and remained for centuries the source of the synchronistic knowledge of history, and the basis of historical works in Christendom.18911891   The Greek title was: Χρονικῶν κανόνων παντοδαπὴ ἱστορία(Hieron. De viris illustr. c. 81); the Latin is: Chronica Eusebii s. Canones historiae universae, Hieronymo interprete. See Vallarsi’s ed. of Jerome’s works, tom. viii. 1-820. Jeromealso calls it Temporum librum. It is now known also (since 1818) in an Armenian translation. Most complete edition by Angelo Mai, in Script vet. nova coll. tom. viii. Rom. 1833, republished in Migne’s edition of the complete works of Eusebius, tom. i. p. 100 sqq. Jerome also translated, with several corrections and additions, a useful antiquarian work of Eusebius, the so-called Onomasticon, a description of the places mentioned in the Bible.18921892   Περὶ τῶν τοπικῶν ὀνομάτων τῶν ἐν τῇ θεία γραφῇ, De situ et nominibus locorum Hebraicorum, in Jerome’s works, tom. iii. 121-290. A new edition, Greek and Latin, by Larsow and Parthey, Berol. 1862.

In his Life, and still more in his Eulogy, of Constantine, Eusebius has almost entirely forgotten the dignity of the historian in the zeal of the panegyrist. Nevertheless, this work is the chief source of the history of the reign of his imperial friend.18931893   Socrates already observes (in the first book of his Church History) that Eusebius wrote the Life of Constantinemore as a panegyrical oration than as an accurate account of events. Baronius (Annal. ad an. 324, n. 5) compares the Vita Constantini, not unfitly, with the Cyropaedia of Xenophon, who, as Cicero says, “vitam Cyri non tam ad historiae fidem conscripsit, quam ad effigiem justi principis exhibendam.” This is the most charitable construction we can put upon this book, the tone of which is intolerably offensive to a manly and independent spirit acquainted with the crimes of Constantine. But we should remember that stronger men, such as Athanasius, Hilary, and Epiphanius have overrated Constantine, and called him, “most pious,” and “of blessed memory.” Burckhardt, in his work on Constantine, p. 346 and passim, speaks too contemptuously of Eusebius, without any reference to his good qualities and great merits.

Next in importance to his historical works are his apologetic; namely, his Praeparatio evangelica,18941894   Best edited by Thomas Gaisford, Oxon. 1843, 4 vols. 8vo. In Migne’s edition it forms tom. iii. and his Demonstratio evangelica.18951895   Likewise edited by Gaisford, Oxf. 1852, 2 vols. 8vo. In Migne’s edition tom. !v. These were both written before 324, and are an arsenal of the apologetic material of the ancient church. The former proposes, in fifteen books, to give a documentary refutation of the heathen religious from Greek writings. The latter gives, in twenty books, of which only the first ten are preserved, the positive argument for the absolute truth of Christianity, from its nature, and from the fulfilment of the prophecies in the Old Testament. The Theophany, in five books, is a popular compend from these two works, and was probably written later, as Epiphanius wrote his Anacephalaeosis after the Panarion, for more general use.18961896   Dr. Sam. Lee, however, is of the opposite opinion, see p. xxii. of the Preface to his translation.“It appears probable to me,” he says, “that this more popular and more useful work [the Theophania] was first composed and published, and that the other two [the Praeparatio, and the Demonstratio Evangelica]—illustrating, as they generally do, some particular points only—argued in order in our work—were reserved for the reading and occasional writing of our author during a considerable number of years, as well for the satisfaction of his own mind, as for the general reading of the learned. It appears probable to me, therefore, that this was one of the first productions of Eusebius, if not the first after the persecutions ceased.” It is known in the Greek original from fragments only, published by Cardinal Mai,18971897   In the fourth volume of the Novae Patrum Bibliothecae, Rom. 1847, pp. 108-156, reprinted in Migne’s edition of the works of Eusebius tom. v. 609 sqq. and now complete in a Syriac version which was discovered in 1839 by Tattam, in a Nitrian monastery, and was edited by Samuel Lee at London in 1842.18981898   Also in English, under the title: On the Theophania, or Divine Manifestation of our Saviour Jesus Christ, by Eusebius, translated into English, with Notes, from an ancient Syriac Version of the Greek original, now lost; to which is prefixed a Vindication of the orthodoxy, and prophetical views, of that distinguished writer, by Sam. Lee, D. D., Cambr. 1848. The MS. of this work is deposited in the British Museum; it was written at Edessa in the Estranghelo, or old church-handwriting of the Syrians, on very fine and well-prepared skin. Dr. Lee assigns it to the year 411 (I. c. p. xii.). To this class also belongs his apologetic tract Against Hierocles.18991899   In Migne’s edition, tom. iv. 195-868.

Of much less importance are the two dogmatic works of Eusebius: Against Marcellus, and Upon the Church Theology (likewise against Marcellus), in favor of the hypostatical existence of the Son.19001900   In Migne’s edition, tom vi. p. 107 sqq.

His Commentaries on several books of the Bible (Isaiah, Psalms, Luke) pursue, without independence, and without knowledge of the Hebrew, the allegorical method of Origen.19011901   Angelo Mai has published new fragments of Commentaries of Eusebius on the Psalms and on the Gospel of Luke in Novae Patrum Bibliothecae tom. iv. p. 77 sqq. and p. 160 sqq., and republished in Migne’s ed. vol. vi.

To these are to be added, finally, some works in Biblical Introduction and Archaeology, the Onomasticon, already alluded to, a sort of sacred geography, and fragments of an enthusiastic Apology for Origen, a juvenile work which he and Pamphilus jointly produced before 309, and which, in the Origenistic controversy, was the target of the bitterest shots of Epiphanius and Jerome.19021902   The sixth book was added by Eusebius alone after the death of his friend. The first book is still extant in the Latin version of Rufinus, and some extracts in Photius.



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