Eusebius

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Eusebius bigraphy, stories - Greek theologian and historian

Eusebius : biography

– 339

Eusebius ( c. AD 260/265 – 339/340) (also called Eusebius of Caesarea and Eusebius Pamphili) was a Roman historian, exegete and Christian polemicist. He became the Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine about the year 314. Together with Pamphilus, he was a scholar of the Biblical canon and is regarded as an extremely well learned Christian of his time. He wrote Demonstrations of the Gospel, Preparations for the Gospel, and On Discrepancies between the Gospels, studies of the Biblical text. As "Father of Church History" he produced the Ecclesiastical History, On the Life of Pamphilus, the Chronicle and On the Martyrs.

Assessment

  • Edward Gibbon openly distrusted the writings of Eusebius concerning the number of martyrs, by noting a passage in the shorter text of the Martyrs of Palestine attached to the Ecclesiastical History (Book 8, Chapter 2) in which Eusebius introduces his description of the martyrs of the Great Persecution under Diocletian with: "Wherefore we have decided to relate nothing concerning them except the things in which we can vindicate the Divine judgment. […] We shall introduce into this history in general only those events which may be useful first to ourselves and afterwards to posterity."Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall, vol. 1, chapter 16 In the longer text of the same work, chapter 12, Eusebius states: "I think it best to pass by all the other events which occurred in the meantime: such as […] the lust of power on the part of many, the disorderly and unlawful ordinations, and the schisms among the confessors themselves; also the novelties which were zealously devised against the remnants of the Church by the new and factious members, who added innovation after innovation and forced them in unsparingly among the calamities of the persecution, heaping misfortune upon misfortune. I judge it more suitable to shun and avoid the account of these things, as I said at the beginning."
  • When his own honesty was challenged by his contemporaries,See Gibbon’s Vindication for examples of the accusations that he faced. Gibbon appealed to a chapter heading in Eusebius’ Praeparatio evangelica (Book XII, Chapter 31) in which Eusebius discussed "That it will be necessary sometimes to use falsehood as a remedy for the benefit of those who require such a mode of treatment."
  • Although Gibbon refers to Eusebius as the ‘gravest’ of the ecclesiastical historians,"The gravest of the ecclesiastical historians, Eusebius himself, indirectly confesses, that he has related whatever might redound to the glory, and that he has suppressed all that could tend to the disgrace, of religion." (History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol II, Chapter XVI) he also suggests that Eusebius was more concerned with the passing political concerns of his time than his duty as a reliable historian."Such an acknowledgment will naturally excite a suspicion that a writer who has so openly violated one of the fundamental laws of history has not paid a very strict regard to the observance of the other; and the suspicion will derive additional credit from the character of Eusebius, which was less tinctured with credulity, and more practised in the arts of courts, than that of almost any of his contemporaries." (History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol II, Chapter XVI)
  • Jacob Burckhardt (19th century cultural historian) dismissed Eusebius as "the first thoroughly dishonest historian of antiquity".
  • Other critics of Eusebius’ work cite the panegyrical tone of the Vita, plus the omission of internal Christian conflicts in the Canones, as reasons to interpret his writing with caution.Burgess, R. W., and Witold Witakowski. 1999. Studies in Eusebian and Post-Eusebian chronography 1. The "Chronici canones" of Eusebius of Caesarea: structure, content and chronology, AD 282–325 – 2. The "Continuatio Antiochiensis Eusebii": a chronicle of Antioch and the Roman Near East during the Reigns of Constantine and Constantius II, AD 325-350. Historia (Wiesbaden, Germany), Heft 135. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner. Page 69.