The Church History of Eusebius
I've never read a book quite like The Church History of Eusebius before. It's not simply a history book, or a book written by a church father; it's both. By being so close to the events he records, Eusebius provides an interesting perspective on them. Furthermore, his Church History is intriguing for its abilities to provide an edifying history of the Early Church. I've learned much from it, and am glad to have discovered it.
The influence of The Church History of Eusebius is immense. Written in the beginning of the fourth century, it is the first chronological history of the church. It began the important tradition of 'ecclesiastical history'—the historical study of the development of the church. This tradition was later continued by three other church fathers—Socrates Scholasticus, Hermias Sozomenus, and Theodoret. Each of them produced additional church histories to continue where Eusebius' stopped. Modern scholarship continues this tradition of church histories. And to this day, Eusebius is remembered as the "Father of Church History."
What is particularly enjoyable about Eusebius's Church History is its ability to blend history with personal edification. While reading it, I felt that I was not only learning about the lives and events of ancient Christians, but I was coming to a new appreciation and understanding of the Christian faith. Eusebius' vivid descriptions of the persecution of Christians and the martyrs are quite moving. He also provides fascinating eyewitness accounts of Church Fathers such as Origen. This isn't to say that Eusebius's prose is always pristine and powerful—it isn't. But being so close—historically speaking—to those events allows Eusebius' account to have a power it would otherwise lack.
This book is a storehouse of information. As a historian, Eusebius does not live up to modern standards of scholarship—he often uncritically accepts sources, and can be sloppy with dates. Nevertheless, historians have found him to be sincere and of good faith when recording details about the Christian church. Thankfully, this edition also comes with extensive notes, which usefully explain to the reader where Eusebius misses the details, or isn't as clear as needed. Besides, with short sections, one can always pass over difficult sections, if needed.
Overall, The Church History of Eusebius is a work I've enjoyed reading. With its fascinating details of church history, The Church History of Eusebius is a great place to begin if you are unfamiliar with church history generally or the Early Church specifically.
CCEL Staff Writer