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Eunomius: The First Apology.  An introductionto the online text.

Eunomius of Cyzicus was a leader in the second wave of Arianism, which took place after the First Council of Nicaea.  His first apology was published in 361 AD, and advocates the Arian position known as Anomoean.  As Vaggione rightly remarks, there are few controversies more alien to the modern mind than the prolonged dispute over the Trinity which occupied the greater part of the fourth century.  This introduction is not the place to review these forbiddingly logical disputes, many of which seem clearly to be the product of the Greek genius for philosophical speculation redirected into theology, rather than anything evidently Christian in character.

Eunomius was considered to be a heresiarch, and his work has been placed in the appendix for this reason.  His works were condemned under Arcadius, and their possession made a capital offence.  This of itself means little; late imperial edicts were always couched in violent language, a reflection of the impotence of the emperors.  However references in contemporary literature do suggest that some burnings took place.  A certain number of his works were still extant in the 9th century, when Photius comments on them in his Bibliotheca.  The First Apology has survived to this day, and I have made details available elsewhere online.  It seems to have survived attached to the refutation of it by St. Basil the Great as an illustration.

William Whiston, who made the online translation, is probably best known today as the translator of Josephus.  He held a chair at Cambridge, which he was forced to resign after coming into conflict with the church authorities by persistently demanding that the Church of England abandon the Nicene creed and adopt the views of Arius.

In 1711 he published an account of the affair in his Primitive Christianity Reviv'd, in 4 volumes (a 5th was added in 1712).  This sprawling, disorganised book, with many separately numbered portions, contains at the very back of volume 1 a translation of Eunomius' Apology -- numbered separately (!), as pages 1-30.  This however omits the confession of faith which forms chapter 28 in the manuscripts: this is to be found in the middle of a mass of creeds, given in Greek and English, in  middle of volume 4, pp. 50-53.  

After perusal of the mess which is volume 1 it is difficult to avoid the impression that Whiston was a crank.  He possessed considerable learning, much but not quite enough humility, limited judgement, and the political common sense of a cabbage.   His book does have charm, although it is impossible to read without much head-shaking at the lack of wisdom of the author.   Nevertheless, his misfortunes have given us a translation from manuscript -- no full Greek text had then been published.

Whiston's version is listed in Quasten's Patrology (vol. 3) as the only English version, and it is of course out of copyright.  Quite by chance, the same day that I had obtained a copy of it, while browsing the shelves my hand fell on the Oxford Early Christian Text volume by R.P.Vaggione, which is infinitely superior, and includes all surviving material by Eunomius.  The reader is referred to it for more information on all points.  Vaggione comments on Whiston that "Though the translation is frequently perceptive, Whiston was more concerned to present a clear exposition of his own 'Eusebian' position than to render the thought of Eunomius exactly."

I have reunited both parts of Whiston's version; added the chapter numbers from Vaggione, with a new paragraph-break at the start of the chapter if one was not already there; and omitted the irrelevant references to the Apostolic Constitutions and the interpolated version of the letters of Ignatius.  The latter two Whiston conceived to be authentic, rather than 4th century productions.

Roger Pearse
24th December 2002.


William WHISTON, M.A., Primitive Christianity Reviv'd i-iv (London: Printed for the Author; And are to be Sold by the Booksellers of London and Westminster. 1711), i, pp. 1-30; iv, appendix pp. 50-3.  Checked.

Richard Paul VAGGIONE, Eunomius: the extant works.  Oxford Early Christian Texts,  Oxford (1987).

R.PEARSE, Eunomius: The manuscripts of "The First Apology." (some online notes).

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This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2002.  All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
Greek text is rendered using the Scholars Press SPIonic font, free from here.

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