Eusebius of Caesarea

Eusebius_of_Caesarea

“Looking westward or eastward, looking over the whole earth, and even looking at heaven, always and everywhere I see blessed Constantine leading the same Empire.” (Eusebius of Caesarea)

Eusebius of Caesarea was a Christian historian from whom we learn about half of what we know about the life of the early Christians up to the time of Constantine the Great. Although Eusebius has sometimes been depicted as a puppet of Constantine and compromiser of the Christian Faith, he is in fact one of the most learned Christians of his time. In fact, it was only after Constantine’s death in A.D. 337 that Eusebius wrote his lines of highest praise for the ruler who had brought peace to the church, thus belying any claim that Eusebius was merely a kiss-ass to the emperor.

A disciple of Pamphilius of Caesarea, who in turn studied the works of Origen while in Alexandria under Pierius, Eusebius and Pamphilius collaborated on a five volume Defense of Origen, to which Eusebius added a sixth book after his teacher’s martyrdom during the reign of Maximinus Daia.

Eusebius saw in Constantine a fulfillment of the promise of peace by Christ due to the latter’s abatement of hostilities towards the Christian religion. Eusebius met Constantine when the latter visited Palestine with Diocletian’s court. Then also at Nicea, at the time of the Council, he saw the emperor seeking the unity and well-being of the church. Since Eusebius was convinced that Constantine had been raised up by God, he did not hesitate to support the emperor. Eusebius is famous for his seminal work, Church History. This work, which he later revised, is, according to historian Justo Gonzalez, of great importance for later church historians for without it, a great deal of the story that we have been telling would have been lost.

The final draft of his Church History however did not simply seek to retell the various events in the earlier life of the church but was really an apology or defense that sought to show that Christianity was the ultimate goal of human history, particularly as seen within the context of the Roman Empire. In support of that thesis, Constantine’s conversion was the keystone. The new situation was living and convincing proof of the truth of the Gospel, to which all humanity pointed.

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