Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History)

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BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Eusebius. Ecclesiastical History. Trans. Paul Maier. Kregel.

While the book sometimes gives the feel of “Fairy Tales for Fundamentalists,” it’s hard to imagine doing early church history without Eusebius. Indeed, it would be irresponsible. Paul Maier’s editing makes a fine edition. He offers critical summaries and analyses at the end of each book, and he cleans up Eusebius’s sometimes tortured prose.

Eusebius’ exegesis is often better than the typical allegorical accounts one might associate with the early church. Indeed, he is sometimes quite profound. Concerning the pre-incarnate word, he quotes Psalm 107/8, “He sent his Word and healed them.” This is obviously Jesus.

Eusebius himself remains ambivalent on continuing miracles and kingdom gifts. On one hand, he doesn’t want to grant the Montanists any legitimacy, yet he believes (or reports) that miracles continue to his day. True, he says none of them resembled the apostles in raising the dead, but they do continue.

He notes that the problem with Montanus is not simply that people were led away by false prophecy. Rather, prophecy was still going on (III.4). Concerning Irenaeus, modern miracles workers don’t raise the dead like the apostles (quoted in Eusebius III.7). On the other hand, even well after the canon, they still manifest power, prophecy, heal, and cast out demons (III.7.4).

Eusebius on the canon is far more complex than people normally admit. He holds largely to the Jewish canon of the Old Testament, but he includes the Wisdom of Solomon. On the other hand, he is aware of books like Ben Sirach but specifically doesn’t include them.

Concerning the New Testament, he doubts that John the Apostle wrote the Revelation. He acknowledges 1 John as legitimate and maybe 2 and 3 John. He notes that the style of 2 Peter is completely different than 1 Peter and concludes they aren’t by the same person. Hebrews might have Paul’s thoughts but certainly not his writing and syntax.

His account of the martyrdom of Polycarp ranks as some of the most beautiful of church literature.

The narrative of persecution calls for attention. Contrary to older lore, the early church wasn’t persecuted 24/7. Eusebius makes repeated mention of noble pagan rulers who had a moderate view towards Christians. On the other hand, pace some Pacifist readings of church history, there were moments of brutal persecution to which Constantine could only have been a welcome relief.
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Eusebius of Caesarea was also an early supporter of Arius, but neither Arians nor anti-Arians speak ill of him. However, he cannot be classifed *precisely* as an Arian. He is regarded by his contemporaries and many today as the most scholarly bishop of his day. He wrote a number of works in addition to his ecclesiastical history, such as Demonstratio Evangelica in which (in my opinion) he espouses very clearly what we would call today a penal substitutionary view of the atonement. He appears to be apophatic (or agnostic) regarding the eternal generation of the Son. He does, however, specifically reject the Arian doctrine that the Son derived from non-existence. What makes the whole Arian controversy so complicated was that there were a number of different grades of those who were afterwards labelled as "Arians" or "semi-Arians."

Eusebius of Caesarea, like many of the bishops of his day, was not primarily a theologian, but was as Hanson described him, "like all bishops of that period, he was compelled to interest himself in theology." He was more an historian and an antiquarian.

As you point out, he was a very fascinating figure! More much could be said about him.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Eusebius of Caesarea was also an early supporter of Arius, but neither Arians nor anti-Arians speak ill of him. However, he cannot be classifed *precisely* as an Arian. He is regarded by his contemporaries and many today as the most scholarly bishop of his day. He wrote a number of works in addition to his ecclesiastical history, such as Demonstratio Evangelica in which (in my opinion) he espouses very clearly what we would call today a penal substitutionary view of the atonement. He appears to be apophatic (or agnostic) regarding the eternal generation of the Son. He does, however, specifically reject the Arian doctrine that the Son derived from non-existence. What makes the whole Arian controversy so complicated was that there were a number of different grades of those who were afterwards labelled as "Arians" or "semi-Arians."

Eusebius of Caesarea, like many of the bishops of his day, was not primarily a theologian, but was as Hanson described him, "like all bishops of that period, he was compelled to interest himself in theology." He was more an historian and an antiquarian.

As you point out, he was a very fascinating figure! More much could be said about him.

Right. One of the problems on the Arian angle is that the term "ousia" was developing. As Lewis Ayres pointed out, it connoted "stuff-ness," and it seemed inappropriate to label God as "stuff." I think that might explain some reticence towards homoousion language by those who would be otherwise orthodox.
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Right. One of the problems on the Arian angle is that the term "ousia" was developing. As Lewis Ayres pointed out, it connoted "stuff-ness," and it seemed inappropriate to label God as "stuff." I think that might explain some reticence towards homoousion language by those who would be otherwise orthodox.
Indeed, Athanasius himself did not insist on the need to embrace the term ὁμοοὺσιος itself (As Romanists will often argue), only the truth to which the term was used to express. Of a man like Basil of Ancyra, who was a man of high moral character, great learning, and powerful intellect, a consistent opponent both of the Sabellianism of Marcellus, and of every form of Arian and Anomoean heresy, Athanasius could say of him as included among "those" in the citation below...

Athanasius (297-373): Those who deny the Council [i.e. Nicaea] altogether, are sufficiently exposed by these brief remarks; those, however, who accept everything else that was defined at Nicaea, and doubt only about the Coessential (i.e., the term ὁμοοὺσιον), must not be treated as enemies; nor do we here attack them as Ario-maniacs, nor as opponents of the Fathers, but we discuss the matter with them as brothers with brothers, who mean what we mean, and dispute only about the word. NPNF2: Vol. IV, Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia, Part 3, §41, p. 472.
Greek text: Καὶ περὶ μὲν τῶν ἐξ ὅλου τὴν σύνοδον ἀρνουμένων ἀρκεῖ πρὸς ἔλεγχον τὰ ὀλίγα ταῦτα, πρὸς δὲ τοὺς ἀποδεχομένους τὰ μὲν ἄλλα πάντα τῶν ἐν Νικαίᾳ γραφέντων, περὶ δὲ μόνον τὸ ὁμοούσιον ἀμφιβάλλοντας χρὴ μὴ ὡς πρὸς ἐχθροὺς διακεῖσθαι. καὶ γὰρ καὶ ἡμεῖς οὐχ ὡς πρὸς Ἀρειομανίτας οὐδʼ ὡς μαχομένους πρὸς τοὺς πατέρας ἐνιστάμεθα, ἀλλʼ ὡς ἀδελφοὶ πρὸς ἀδελφοὺς διαλεγόμεθα τὴν αὐτὴν μὲν ἡμῖν διάνοιαν ἔχοντας, περὶ δὲ τὸ ὄνομα μόνον διστάζοντας. De synodis, §41, PG 26:764-765.
 
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