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§ 162. The Church Historians after Eusebius.


I. The Church Histories of Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret, Evagrius, Philostorgius, and Theodorus Lector have been edited, with the Eccles. Hist. of Eusebius, by Valesius, Par. 1659–’73, in 3 vols. (defective reprint, Frankf. a. M. 1672–’79); best ed., Cambridge, 1720, and again 1746, in 3 vols., with improvements and additions by Guil. Reading. Best English translation by Meredith, Hanmer, and Wye Saltonstall, Cambr. 1688, 1692, and London, 1709. New ed. in Bohn’s Ecclesiastical Library, Land. 1851, in 4 vols. small 8vo.

II. F. A. Holzhausen: De fontibus, quibus Socrates, Sozomenus, ac Theodoretus in scribenda historia sacra usi sunt. Gött. 1825. G. Dangers: De fontibus, indole et dignitate librorum Theod. Lectoris et Evagrii. Gött. 1841. J. G. Dowling: An Introduction to the Critical Study of Eccl. History. Lond. 1838, p. 84 ff. F. Chr. Baur: Die Epochen der kirchlichen Geschichtschreibung. Tüb. 1852, pp. 7–32. Comp. P. Schaff: History of the Apostolic Church, Gen. Introd. p. 52 f.


Eusebius, without intending it, founded a school of church historians, who continued the thread of his story from Constantine the Great to the close of the sixth century, and, like him, limited themselves to a simple, credulous narration of external facts, and a collection of valuable documents, without an inkling of the critical sifting, philosophical mastery, and artistic reproduction of material, which we find in Thucydides and Tacitus among the classics, and in many a modern historian. None of them touched the history of the first three centuries; Eusebius was supposed to have done here all that could be desired. The histories of Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret run nearly parallel, but without mutual acquaintance or dependence, and their contents are very similar.19031903   The frequent supposition (of Valois with others) that Sozomen wrote to complete Socrates, and Theodoret to complete both, cannot be proved. The authors seem independent of one another. Theodoret says in the Prooemium: “Since Eusebius of Palestine, commencing his history with the holy apostles, has described the events of the church to the reign of the God-beloved Constantine, I have begun my history where he ended his.” He makes no mention of any other writers on the same subject. Nor does Sozomen, l. i. c. 1, where he alludes to his predecessors. Valesius charges Sozomen with plagiarism. Evagrius carried the narrative down to the close of the sixth century. All of them combine ecclesiastical and political history, which after Constantine were inseparably interwoven in the East; and (with the exception of Philostorgius) all occupy essentially the same orthodox stand-point. They ignore the Western church, except where it comes in contact with the East.

These successors of Eusebius are:

Socrates, an attorney or scholasticus in Constantinople, born in 380. His work, in seven books, covers the period from 306 to 439, and is valuable for its numerous extracts from sources, and its calm, impartial representation. It has been charged with a leaning towards Novatianism. He had upon the whole a higher view of the duty of the historian than his contemporaries and successors; he judged more liberally of heretics and schismatics, and is less extravagant in the praise of emperors and bishops.19041904   Separate edition by Hussey: Socratis scholastici Historia Eccl. Oxon. 1853, 3 vols. 8vo.

Hermias Sozomen, a native of Palestine, a junior contemporary of Socrates, and likewise a scholasticus in Constantinople, wrote the history of the church, in nine books, from 323 to the death of Honorius in 423,19051905   According to the usual, but incorrect statement, to the year 489. and hence in its subjects keeps pace for the most part with Socrates, though, as it would appear, without the knowledge of his work, and with many additions on the history of the hermits and monks, for whom he had a great predilection.19061906   He informs us (Book v. c. 15) that his grandfather, with his whole family, was converted to Christianity by a miracle of the monk Hilarion.

Theodoret, bishop of Cyrus, was born at Antioch about 390, of an honorable and pious mother; educated in the cloister of St. Euprepius (perhaps with Nestorius); formed upon the writings of Diodorus of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia; made bishop of Cyros, or Cyrrhos, in Syria, after 420; and died in 457. He is known to us from the Christological controversies as the most scholarly advocate of the Antiochian dyophysitism or moderate Nestorianism; condemned at Ephesus in 431, deposed by the council of Robbers in 449, acquitted in 451 by the fourth ecumenical council on condition of his condemning Nestorius and all deniers of the theotokos, but again partially condemned at the fifth long after his death. He was, therefore, like Eusebius, an actor as well as an author of church history. As bishop, he led an exemplary life, his enemies themselves being judges, and was especially benevolent to the poor. He owned nothing valuable but books, and applied the revenues of his bishopric to the public good. He shared the superstitions and weaknesses of his age.

His Ecclesiastical History, in five books, composed about 450, reaches from 325 to 429. It is the most valuable continuation of Eusebius, and, though shorter, it furnishes an essential supplement to the works of Socrates and Sozomen.

His “Historia religiosa” consists of biographies of hermits and monks, written with great enthusiasm for ascetic holiness, and with many fabulous accessories, according to the taste of the day. His “Heretical Fables,”19071907   Αἱρετικῆς κακομυθίας ἐπιτομή, in five books; in Schulze’s edition of the Opera, tom. iv. p. 280 sqq. The fifth book presents a summary of the chief articles of the orthodox faith, a sort of dogmatical compend. though superficial and marred by many errors, is of some importance for the history of Christian doctrine. It contains a severe condemnation of Nestorius, which we should hardly expect from Theodoret.19081908   Book iv. ch. 12. Garnier, Cave, and Oudin regard this anti-Nestorian chapter as a later interpolation, though without good reason; Schulze (note in loco, tom. iv. p. 368) defends it as genuine. It should be remembered that Theodoret at the council of Chalcedon could only save himself from expulsion by anathematizing Nestorius.

Theodoret was a very fruitful author. Besides these histories, he wrote valuable commentaries on most of the books of the Old Testament and on all the Epistles of Paul; dogmatic and polemic works against Cyril and the Alexandrian Christology, and against the heretics; an apology of Christianity against the Greek philosophy; and sermons and letters.19091909   TheodoretiOpera omnia cum et studio Jac. Sirmondi, Par. 1642, 4 vols. fol., with an additional vol. v. by Gamier, 1684. Another edition by J. L. Schulze, Halle, 1768-’74, 5 tom. in 10 vols., which has been republished by J. P. Migne, Par. 1860, in 5 vols. (Patrologia Graeca, tom. lxxx.-lxxxiv.). The last volume in Schulze’s and Migne’s editions contains Garnier’s Auctarium ad opera Theod. and his Dissertations on the life and on the faith of Theodoret, and on the fifth ecumenical Synod. Comp. also Schröckh, Church History, vol. xviii.

Evagrius (born about 536 in Syria, died after 594) was a lawyer in Antioch, and rendered the patriarch Gregory great service, particularly in an action for incest in 588. He was twice married, and the Antiochians celebrated his second wedding (592) with public plays. He is the last continuator of Eusebius and Theodoret, properly so called. He begins his Ecclesiastical History of six books with the council of Ephesus, 431, and closes it with the twelfth year of the reign of the emperor Maurice, 594. He is of special importance on the Nestorian and Eutychian controversies; gives accounts of bishops and monks, churches and public buildings, earthquakes and other calamities; and interweaves political history, such as the wars of Chosroes and the assaults of the barbarians.19101910   VaIesius blames him “quod non tantam diligentiam adhibuit in conquirendis antiquitatis ecclesiasticae monumentis, quam in legendis profanis auctoribus.” He was strictly orthodox, and a superstitious venerator of monks, saints, and relics.19111911   The first edition was from a Parisian manuscript by Rob. Stephanus, Par. 1544. Valesius, in his complete edition, employed two more manuscripts. A new edition, according to the text of Valesius, appeared at Oxford in 1844.

Theodorus Lector, reader in the church of Constantinople about 525, compiled an abstract from Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret, under the title of Historia tripartita, which is still extant in the manuscript;19121912   Valesius intended to edit it, and contented himself with giving the variations, since the book furnished nothing new. and composed a continuation of Socrates from 431 to 518, of which fragments only are preserved in John Damascenus, Nilus, and Nicephorus Callisti.19131913   Collected in the edition of Valesius.

Of Philostorgius, an Arian church historian (born in 368), nothing has come down to us but fragments in Photius; and these breathe so strong a partisan spirit, that the loss of the rest is not to be regretted. He described the period from the commencement of the Arian controversy to the reign of Valentinian III. a.d. 423.

The series of the Greek church historians closes with Nicephorus Callistus or Callisti (i.e., son of Callistus),19141914   Not to be confounded with Nicephorus, patriarch of Constantinople, who was deposed during the image controversy and died 828. His works, among which is also a brief Chronographia ab Adamo ad Michaelis et Theophili tempora (828), form tom. c. in Migne’s Patrologia Graeca. who lived at Constantinople in the fifteenth century. He was surprised that the voice of history had been silent since the sixth century, and resumed the long-neglected task where his predecessors had left it, but on a more extended plan of a general history of the catholic church from the beginning to the year 911. We have, however, only eighteen books to the death of emperor Phocas in 610, and a list of contents of five other books. He made large use of Eusebius and his successors, and added unreliable traditions of the later days of the Apostles, the history of Monophysitism, of monks and saints, of the barbarian irruptions, &c. He, too, ignores the Pelagian controversy, and takes little notice of the Latin church after the fifth century.19151915   First edition in Latin by John Lange, Basil. 1658; in Greek and Latin by Front. Ducaeus, Par. 1630, in 2 vols. There exists but one Greek manuscript copy of Nicephorus, as far as we know, which is in the possession of the imperial library of Vienna.

In the Latin church—to anticipate thus much—Eusebius found only one imitator and continuator, the presbyter and monk Rufinus, of Aquileia (330–410). He was at first a friend of Jerome, afterwards a bitter enemy. He translated, with abridgments and insertions at his pleasure, the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius, and continued it to Theodosius the Great (392). Yet his continuation has little value. He wrote also biographies of hermits; an exposition of the Apostles’ Creed; and translations of several works of Origen, with emendations of offensive portions.19161916   His works are edited by Vallarsi, Veron. 1745, vol. i. fol. (unfinished). The Ecclesiastical History has several times appeared separately, and was long a needed substitute for Eusebius in the West.

Cassiodorus, consul and monk (died about 562), composed a useful abstract of the works of Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret, in twelve books, under the title of Historia tripartita, for the Latin church of the middle age.

The only properly original contributions to church history from among the Latin divines were those of Jerome († 419) in his biographical and literary Catalogue of Illustrious Men (written in 392), which Gennadius, a Semi-Pelagian presbyter of South Gaul, continued to the year 495. Sulpicius Severus († 420) wrote in good style a Sacred History, or History of the Old and New Testament, from the creation down to the year 400; and Paulus Orosius (about 415) an apologetic Universal History, which hardly, however, deserves the name of a history.



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