Eusebius : biography

– 339

Early life

In his Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius writes of Dionysius of Alexandria as his contemporary. If this is true, Eusebius’ birth must have been before Dionysius’ death in autumn 264; most modern scholars date the birth to some point in the five years between 260 and 265.Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 277; Wallace-Hadrill, 7; Quasten dates his birth to "about 263" (3.309). He was presumably born in the town which he lived most of his adult life, Caesarea Maritima.Louth, "Birth of church history", 266; Quasten, 3.309. He was baptized and instructed in the city,Wallace-Hadrill, 12, citing Socrates, Historia Ecclesiastica 1.8; Theodoret, Historia Ecclesiastica 1.11. and lived in Palestine in 296, when Diocletian’s army passed through the region (in the Life of Constantine, Eusebius recalls seeing Constantine traveling with the army).Wallace-Hadrill, 12, citing Vita Constantini 1.19. Eusebius was made presbyter by Agapius of Caesarea. Some, like theologian and ecclesiastical historian John Henry Newman, understand Eusebius’ statement that he had heard Dorotheus of Tyre "expound the Scriptures wisely in the Church" to indicate that Eusebius was Dorotheus’ pupil while the priest was resident in Antioch; others, like the scholar D. S. Wallace-Hadrill, deem the phrase too ambiguous to support the contention.Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 7.32.4, qtd. and tr. D. S. Wallace-Hadrill, 12; Wallace-Hadrill cites J. H. Newman, The Arians of the Fourth Century (1890), 262, in 12 n. 4.

By the 3rd century, Caesarea had a population of about 100,000. It had been a pagan city since Pompey had given control of the city to the gentiles during his command of the eastern provinces in the 60s BC. The gentiles retained control of the city in the three centuries since that date, despite Jewish petitions for joint governorship. Gentile government was strengthened by the city’s refoundation under Herod the Great (r. 37–4 BC), when it had taken on the name of Augustus Caesar.Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 81–82; cf. also A. H. M. Jones, The Cities of the Eastern Roman Provinces (Oxford: Clarendon, 1937), 273–74. In addition to the gentile settlers, Caesarea had large Jewish and Samaritan minorities. Eusebius was probably born into the Christian contingent of the city. Caesarea’s Christian community presumably had a history reaching back to apostolic times,Acts 8:40, 10:1–48; Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 82, 327 n. 11. but it is a common claim that no bishops are attested for the town before about AD 190,Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 82. even though the Apostolic Constitutions 7.46 states that Zacchaeus was the first bishop.

Through the activities of the theologian Origen (185/6–254) and the school of his follower Pamphilus (later 3rd century – 309), Caesarea became a center of Christian learning. Origen was largely responsible for the collection of usage information regarding the texts which became the New Testament. The information used to create the late-fourth-century Easter Letter, which declared accepted Christian writings, was probably based on the Ecclesiastical History [HE] of Eusebius of Caesarea, wherein he uses the information passed on to him by Origen to create both his list at HE 3:25 and Origen’s list at HE 6:25. Eusebius got his information about what texts were accepted by the third-century churches throughout the known world, a great deal of which Origen knew of firsthand from his extensive travels, from the library and writings of Origen.. On his deathbed, Origen had made a bequest of his private library to the Christian community in the city.Quasten, 3.309. Together with the books of his patron Ambrosius, Origen’s library (including the original manuscripts of his worksEusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica 6.32.3–4; Kofsky, 12.) formed the core of the collection that Pamphilus established.Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica 6.32.3–4; Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 93; idem., "Eusebius of Caesarea", 2 col. 2. Pamphilus also managed a school that was similar to (or perhaps a re-establishment ofLevine, 124–25.) that of Origen.Kofsky, 12, citing Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica 7.32.25. On Origen’s school, see: Gregory, Oratio Panegyrica; Kofsky, 12–13. Pamphilus was compared to Demetrius of Phalerum and Pisistratus, for he had gathered Bibles "from all parts of the world".Levine, 125. Like his model Origen, Pamphilus maintained close contact with his students. Eusebius, in his history of the persecutions, alludes to the fact that many of the Caesarean martyrs lived together, presumably under Pamphilus.Levine, 122.