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Eusebius of Caesarea

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Estimated Range of Dating: 300-340 A.D.

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Information on Eusebius of Caesarea

J. Quasten writes, "Except for Origen, Eusebius outdistances all Greek Church Fathers in research and scholarship. He was an indefatigable worker and continued writing until a very advanced age. His treatises represent storehouses of excerpts which he collected from pagan and Christian works, many of them no longer extant. For this reason his literary productions have mostly survived, although his Arian tendency stood against them. They reveal a breadth of learning which is simply astonishing. He shows himself well versed in Scripture, pagan and Christian history, ancient literature, philosophy, geography, technical chronology exegesis, philology and paleography. However, he lacks any feeling for form or composition. Photius remarks: 'His style is neither agreeable nor brilliant, but he is a man of great learning' (Bibl. cod. 13). Although he is a resourceful apologist, he does not belong to the outstanding theologians of Christian antiquity. If he has won eternal fame, it is by his great historical works." (Patrology, vol. 3, p. 311)

J. Ulrich writes, "Eusebius's historical works are wholly inspired by his basic apologetic purpose. The Chronicle (chron.) (before 303) intends (like p. e. [the Praeparatio evangelica]) to prove the greater age (and therefore the superiority) of the Jewish religion (and therefore of Christianity) over the pagan religions. This is accomplished in an introductory outline of the history of ancient peoples (Chaldeans, Assyrians, Hebrews, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans) and by drawing up synchronic tables of world history, which run form the birth of Abraham, dated 2105/2106 B.C.E., to 303 C.E. (to 325 in a second edition). The Greek original is lost, but an Armenian version survives, as does a Latin translation, addition, and continuation to 378 by Jerome. As compared with Christian chroniclers who preceded him, Hippolytus and Julius Africanus, on whom Eusebius falls back at many points, his work is more accurate and critical in its overall conception and in its choice and evaluation of sources." (Dictionary of Early Christian Literature, p. 213)

Claudio Moreschini writes, "In the atmosphere of zealous study, Eusebius's intimate association with Pamphilus, whom he regarded as his 'master' (Mart. Pal. 11), to the point of linking his own name with him after the manner of freedmen, advanced the career of this future bishop of Caesarea by means of works that show characteristic philological sensitivities, as well as apologetical concerns relevant to and in keeping with the Constantinian revolution. The association with Pamphilus was sealed with the sign of Origen during the ipmrisonment of Pamphilus, who fell victim to measures being taken against Christians. For in the time before his martyrdom, the master was able, with the disciple's help, to write a large part of a Defense of Origen, which Eusebius completed after the martyr's death in 310. To speak in broader terms, the Alexandrian tradition left its imprint on the whole of Eusebius's literary production, making him the closest and most complete version of the Hellenistic scholar. He owed this position to learning that embraced philology, history, geography, rhetoric, and philosophy." (Early Christian Greek and Latin Literature, vol. 1, p. 414)

J. Ulrich writes, "The Praeparatio evangelica and the Demonstratio evangelica (p.e. and d.e.), which, along with the history of the church, may be called Eusebius's main works, were planned in advance as a two-volume work in which the first part (p. e.) was meant to prove the radical superiority of the Jewish-Christian tradition over the Greek philosophers and the pagan-polytheistic religions, while the second part (d. e.) asks why Christians separated themselvews from the Jewish religion. Eusebius demonstrates his first claim with the help of the argument from antiquity and the evidence of moral superiority over the polytheistic religions. He answers his question in part 2 with a reference to Christian universalism vs. Jewish particularism and with the 'proof' that OT passages and prophecies all refer to Christ and were fulfilled in him. The two-part work was intended primarily as a source of arguments for Christians, with the debate with the pagans (p. e.) being primarily for beginners and that with the Jews (d. e.) for those more advanced in Christianity. Eusebius's purpose is pedagogical but also to supply learning and proofs. He locates himself consciously in the apologetic tradition, but, according to his own testimony, departs from it inasmuch he looks beyond the acceptance of individual arguments and offers a comprehensive 'religio-historical' sketch that is meant to prove by a logical series of arguments that Christianity is the 'correct' religion and a 'new, true knowledge of God.'" (Dictionary of Early Christian Literature, pp. 212-213)

Claudio Moreschini writes, "the Ecclesiastical History proceeds by following the coordinated chronologies of the principal episcopal sees: the apostolic churches of Rome, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Antioch. These in turn are correlated with the imperial dynasties, which provide the basic chronological grid. Space is also given to mainly prosopographical information and literary history. The last-named aspect is clearly seen in the many notices Eusebius gives of contemporary writers in the periods he describes; he gives a short sketch of an author's life or, more often, a list of his works. An example of this approach, though one that is much lengthier and more important, is book 6, which is devoted almost entirely to a biography of Origen and a detailed review of his writings. Part of this concern for literary history is Eusebius's interest in the history of the canon (3.3.3), which is signposted by references to the number of biblical books gradually received by each author. While Eusebius thus provides the first literary history of Christianity, at the same time he provides a summary sketch of early heresies, as well as persecutions, the effects of which are called to mind by relating some of the most important Acts of the martyrs." (Early Christian Greek and Latin Literature, vol. 1, p. 418)

J. Quasten writes, "The so-called Life of Constantine in four books has perhaps provoked more criticism of Eusebius than any other work of his. Thus J. Burckhardt called him 'the first thoroughly dishonest and unfair historian of ancient times'. This condemnation is pointless because it does not do justice to the literary form of the Vita, which is by no means a historical biography but an encomium with all its eulogistic and exaggerated tone. Eusebius expressly states that he claims the right of all other imperial panegyrists to treat in the Life only what is good in the Emperor's career ... This express acknowledgment of his purpose by the uathor has often not been taken into account by the critics, misled perhaps by the Latin title Vita Constantini under which the panegyric is commonly known. The Greek title is in fact: Eis ton bion tou makariou Kwnstantinou basilews, which is a better heading for the work. It does not profess to give a complete biographical record but limits itself to the Emperor's actions in so far as they advanced the Christian religion. Thus W. Telfer has recently suggested to render the Greek title in some such form as Reflections on the Life of Constantine (Studia Patristica I, p. 157)." (Patrology, vol. 3, pp. 319-320)

Claudio Moreschini writes, "The literary innovations credited to Eusebius would not, however, seem adequately supported by a corresponding result in the structure and form of the writings. The ancients already passed a negative or at least reserved judgment in that area, alleging a heaviness of the style, which they generally regarded as wearisome and lacking in elegance (Photius, Lex. 13). Like the majority of the Fathers, Eusebius was in principle more concerned with content than with form, although this does not mean that his literary results were always untidy or displeasing. ... In short his principle defects are mainly those of a compiler, who constructs many of his own writings by assembling and harmonizing a variety of materials. With perceptible qualitative and quantitative differences, this is the basic approach taken in his two major works: the Ecclesiastical History and the Preparation for the Gospel. In addition, he reuses materials in different works or reworks his writings in different versions to meet new needs. One of many possible examples is in the Life of Constantine as compared with the Ecclesiastical History. Rewriting is thus a characteristic element of Eusebius's literary activity, but it is precisely this recurring practice that enables us to check not only the impact of current needs or the didactico-pedagogical inclinations of the author, but also his capacity for variatio, the art of innovating while repeating. This applies both to stylistic and rhetorical expressions and to vocabulary, and not only in those genres, such as panegyric, which most lent themselves to rhetorical elaboration. As can be seen from the Against Hierocles, among other works, Eusebius does not overlook the rhetorical devices taught by the Second Sophistic." (Early Christian Greek and Latin Literature, vol. 1, pp. 415-416)

J. Quasten writes, "The oldest of his apologetic works is the General Elementary Introduction to the gospel, which he composed before he became a bishop. It consisted originally of ten books, of which only books 6-9 and some few additional fragments are extant. This second part provides under the special title Eclogae Propheticae a collection and brief explanation of the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament." (Patrology, vol. 3, pp. 328-329)

J. Quasten writes, "The treatise against Porphyry was preceded by a refutation of Hierocles, the governor of Bithynia and author of a polemic alleging the superiority of Apollonius of Tyana to Jesus. The text of the small tract is preserved in the famous Codex of Arethas at Paris (cf. vol. I, p. 188). It is one of Eusebius' earliest works, composed most probably between 311-313, or even earlier." (Patrology, vol. 3, pp. 333-334)

J. Quasten writes, "The Theophany or Divine Manifestations is the last of Eusebius' apologetic works in date. Its subject is the manifestation of God in the Incarnation of the Logos. The author explains and defends this dogma against common objections in five books, which are written in a popular tone but with great rhetorical display. The first three deal with the manifestation of the Logos in the creation of the universe, in its maintenance and in the human mind, with the need of redemption and its final accomplishment by Christ. The fourth shows the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies, the fifth the foolishness of the hypothesis that Christ was a sorcerer and his disciples deceivers. The first three books are strongly dependant on the Praeparatio and Demonstratio. The fourth seems to be a new edition of a monograph on the prophecies fulfilled in Christ, which Eusebius mentioned in his Praeparatio (I, 3, 12). The fifth reproduces the third book of the Demonstratio in its main section, as the author himself admits (4, 37). These literary connections together with the predominant concept of a victorius and flourishing Church, which permeates the entire work, prove that it was composed after 323 and Constantine's accession to sole rulership." (Patrology, vol. 3, pp. 332-333)

Claudio Moreschini writes, "The difficulty of establishing with any accuracy the chronology of Eusebius's works, except in a few instances, makes it advisable to discuss them under thematic headings, to which, on the whole, the related literary genres correspond. Some works in the list of Eusebius's writings have been lost entirely or in part. We no longer have such works on the martyrs as the "collection of early acts of the martyrs" (Hist. eccl. 4.15.47) or such biographical works as the three books of the Life of Pamphilus (Hist. eccl. 6.32.3; Mart. Pal. 11.3). Nor do we any longer have large parts of apologetical works. Especially regrettable among the latter is the loss of about ten books of the Demonstration of the Gospel and the loss of the Against Porphyry (Jerome, Vir. ill. 81). Among the dogmatic works a no less serious loss is that of five books of the Defense of Origen. Among works on biblical subjects a sizable part of the Onomasticon has not come down to us, nor has the original version of the Questions on the Gospels. The quick success of Eusebius's historical works, which were soon translated and imitated in Latin and other languages, has made it possible to salvage at least part of the Chronicle in Jerome's revision and in an Armenian translation." (Early Christian Greek and Latin Literature, vol. 1, p. 416)

J. Ulrich writes, "Eusebius's hope that his h.e. would be 'very useful to historians' (1.1.6) has been more than fulfilled. Eusebius's rank as the paramount chronicler and historian of his time is unchallenged, for to him we owe not only most of our knowledge of the history of the church in the first three centuries but also the transmission of many otherwise lost texts of pagan and Jewish authors. ... the positive judgment on Eusebius's works as historian and chronicler has stood in contrast to the rather reserved evaluation of his theological accomplishments. Jerome regarded him as simply a heretic (adv. Ruf. 2.15); Photius similarly (cod. 13.196). He was regarded as an Arian, an Origenist, and (because of the ep. Constant. Aug.) an enemy of images. ... Changes of judgment have, however, been underway in more recent times. A more differentiated understanding of the non-Nicene texts and confessions of the 4th c. shows that the description 'Arian' cannot be maintained, any more than can a negative judgment in principle on his trinitarian theology and christology. Even in the matter of Eusebius's reception of Origen we must not diagnose simply an imitative reproduction of the latter's thought; what we see instead, in almost all areas, is a critical, productive, and careful assimilation of it." (Dictionary of Early Christian Literature, pp. 214-215)

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