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Ecclesiastical History

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Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History is one of the classics of early Christianity and of equal stature with the works of Flavius Josephus. Eusebius chronicles the events of the first three centuries of the Christian church in such a way as to record a vast number of vital facts about early Christianity that can be learned from no other ancient source. When Eusebius wrote his Ecclesiastical History, his vital concern was to record facts before they disappeared, and before eye-witnesses were killed and libraries were burned and destroyed in persecutions by Rome. He faithfully transcribed the most important existing documents of his day so that future generations would have a collection of factual data to interpret. Thus Eusebius (c. A.D. 260-340) richly deserves the title "father of Church history."

"More readable." This is the only full edition of "Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History" that has been retypeset in modern, easy-to-read type. Archaic words have been modernized and the punctuation has been updated according to contemporary standards.

"Easier to use." The Loeb numbering system (now the standard way to cite "Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History)" has been added to make it easier to locate passages referred to in other reference works. Also, all citations and cross-references have been updated from Roman numerals to the modern form of citation.

"More complete." The complete text of all ten books of Eusebius is included. Also included is "Historical View of the Council of Nicea" as well as translations of related documents.

528 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 324

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Eusebius

98 books69 followers
Eusebius of Caesarea (c. AD 263 – 339) also called 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. 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.

Information is from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eusebius...

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 330 reviews
Profile Image for Jan-Maat.
1,523 reviews1,769 followers
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February 14, 2022
In another life I would have reread this after rereading The Early Church . However time I read it without an accompanying volume. Eusebius was Bishop of Caesarea (in modern day Israel) he is a major source on the early Church - including big undigested chunks of other works - and naturally enough as Eusebius was active in the eastern Mediterranean there is much less information about what was happening in the western part of the Roman Empire and even less about what was happening beyond the boundaries of the Empire in Armenia and Georgia, though the conversion of an Ethiopian does feature in book 1. And a missionary to India is mentioned who arrives only to find that there are already Christians there, as well as a version of the gospel of Matthew.

The work is divided into ten books (notes on individual books in spoiler text), there are some elegant structural features, the conversion of Abgar of Edessa prefigures Constantine's toleration of Christianity (we don't actually get to see Constantine convert as such). And the downfall of Maximin is prefigured by the attempted rape and suicide of Dorothea, just as the rape of Lucretia leads to the downfall of the tyrannous monarchs of Rome and so ushers in the Roman Republic, just as Dorothea's suicide will usher in an era of peace, toleration and rebuilding (at least this is Eusebius' rhetoric, and in this way Bede's Ecclesiastical history of the English People is very similar) and both, I suppose, in context suggest Christ's sacrifice to redeem humanity. The work is structured around the reigns of Roman Emperors, bad Emperors will in addition to their general badness, persecute Christians, good Emperors would be Christians if they could - surprisingly Tiberius is an example of a good emperor here, prevented only by the wicked Senate from acknowledging in law Christ's divinity

Book 1
Book 2
Book 3

Book 4
Book 5
Book 6
Book 7
Book 8
Book 9
Book 10

General curious features:
#No miracles after book 1 and not many even there
#No desert fathers (Anthony of Egypt was 10 years younger than Eusebius), no monasticism, no hermits. Eusebius' Christianity is strictly urban and institutional.
#Charismatic figures are invariably heretics, and since there are described as assisted by demons presumably they are working miracles?
It maybe that some of those were not Christians at all but similar charismatic cults e.g. Simon Magus as presented in Bettany Hughes Helen of troy
#This is a period when the canon may still be open to challenge and change (in Eusebius' opinion).
Early martyrdom stories are already formulaic, unlike those maryrdoms which Eusebius witnessed himself in the time of Diocletian.
#No saints ( which follows from the absence of charismatic non-institutional figures).
#therefore stress on apostolic succession.
# anti-Semitism - Eusebius sees the Jews as guilty, not just for the death of Jesus but also for 'plotting' against various early Christians, he mentions Jews specifically as hurrying to pile on wood onto a pyre at one of the early martyrdoms. So he is rather satisfied when the Jews are expelled from Jerusalem after the second Jewish revolt during the reign of Hadrian, at the same time he is aware that the early bishops of the church in Jerusalem are coming from a Jewish background, he calls these the circumcised bishops who are succeed after the refoundation of Jerusalem as a Roman colony by the uncircumcised bishops. Despite, or perhaps because of, Christianity's evident origins within Judaism only Origen is mentioned as learning Hebrew and comparing Hebrew and Greek versions of Jewish scriptures.

Overall the memorialisation of people is touching, though I generally had the sense that Eusebius' Christians tended to be well to do people of standing and authority in their communities, this possibly a sign of Eusebius' bias towards the ordered and institutional, you would not suspect from his writing that Christianity had been and had the potential to be radical, transformative, or socially disruptive.
Profile Image for booklady.
2,167 reviews65 followers
September 8, 2017
Eusebius (of Caesarea) lived from approximately 260 – 337 A.D. He was a bishop, author of many writings, imprisoned, tortured, and suffered through several Roman persecutions, saw friends martyred including his beloved mentor. Eusebius was a leader and speaker at important early Church councils and synods. He celebrated Constantine’s triumphal accession to power, the ensuing peace and freedom for Christians.

Eusebius experienced much of what he put into The Church History. He was not a disinterested historian by any means, nor did he write history as we think of it today. Today we like to hope our historians are completely objective, that they treat objective truth objectively. Personally I think writers can never be completely objective no matter how hard they try. They always have a reason for writing, or they wouldn’t write. But that is just my subjective view.

Eusebius wrote his history as a gift to posterity, that is to us. He wasn’t impartial, nor was he trying to be. Neither did he strive for thoroughness. He wanted to inspire, to give hope. And he had his favorites. Origen, Dionysius and Constantine were the top three. I went into Origen more below. Eusebius is often accused of being too fond of Constantine. In the concluding section after Chapter 10, Paul Maier balances Eusebius’s panoply of praise with a superb discussion on Constantine’s varied reputation over the centuries.

Sometimes when people read Luke’s account in Acts 2:44-47 they can form an idyllic picture of the early church which is all peace, harmony, sharing and praising God. Eusebius describes a quite different Church, one very similar to ours: suffering, struggling against oppression from without and dissention from within. Perhaps the battle between Good and Evil has not changed so very much after all...

We learn about the early church’s attempts to define what it meant to be ‘church’, and Who Jesus Christ actually was. These questions led to accumulating, reviewing and determining the credibility and validity of the many varied writings. Then repeated councils needed to be called and the necessary persons had to assemble from all parts of the known world during a time when travels was hazardous. This led to the development of doctrines and creeds, and also to defining what was and wasn’t heretical. Eusebius isn’t always the best about explaining this, but fortunately in this edition, Paul Maier has a wonderful commentary at the end of each chapter to fill in the gaps. I was so grateful. Although I have studied Church history before, I still got lost.

In my preliminary thoughts below I mentioned some of all I learned, so I won’t repeat myself. Those really interested can see below.

There is just so much more I could say about this history but let me limit myself to three more points. Although Eusebius is not a perfect source, he is frequently the only source for many ancient documents otherwise lost to history. Maier cites several instances where Eusebius copied out and included a whole section of a writer’s text which happens to be the only surviving bit of it. The rest of work has not survived. So in that sense, if for no other, we owe Eusebius a huge debt.

At times I thought Eusebius gloried in the gruesome in recounting his stories of the deaths of the martyrs. As he was an eyewitness to some of them I do not doubt his testimony and he gives other first person narratives as well. The heroics of the early Christian martyrs will haunt you. No, they didn’t all pass the test. Some ran, others caved in and worshipped the Roman ‘gods’, but of those who endured, oh my, what they went through! I thought I had read some awful atrocities today, but there is nothing new under the sun. The Romans were hideously cruel. Well of course they were. Look what they did to Jesus.

At the time The Church History was written, 324 AD, the canon of Sacred Scripture, was still not fully formed, that is, no one in the East or the West or anywhere in all of Christendom had a Bible as we know it today! Some of the episodes within that fascinating period of our Christian heritage are told here in this book. How we acquired our beloved scriptures happened during these first 400 years. If you want to know the story, this is as good a place to start as any.

There are many fine photos of the areas discussed and the busts of the Roman generals and emperors throughout the book.

A fascinating and disturbing read. Our Christian heritage.


September 1, 2017: Preliminary review; scattered thoughts. Would that Eusebius’ The Church History be required reading for all Christians regardless of denomination, but then I suspect there would be far fewer of us, as so few today like to read. And yet this fine (for its day) account of the Church’s early days dispels many persistent myths and some new ones. For example, how holy and generous everyone was back then and how idyllic the circumstances—before sinners were let into the Church and ruined everything. Aside, that is, from a Roman persecution every so often… maybe a fire, plague, pillage...

Eusebius presents quite a different Church for us; a suffering Church, struggling to define what it meant to be ‘church’, and Who its founder Jesus Christ actually was for starters. These seemingly foundational questions were anything but simple and led to dealing with endless heresies; sorting through numerous writings of varying quality; conducting repeated councils; developing and refining creeds, and yes, even to specifying what concerned Mary, but only because it was her humanity and relationship to Jesus which in the end settled so many questions about Him.

Although each heresy was another opportunity to further refine and deepen the Church’s understanding of the great mysteries of God—to those humble enough to submit—it was also a chance for the evil one to lead others astray. There was no official canon then, so these early Christians had to first collect and then sort through all the writings and try to determine what was orthodox from what was not, without computers or any form of communication, all the while battling enemies from within and without. Considering all they were up against, that we have the Sacred Scriptures today is nothing short of miraculous.

Eusebius was not a historian as we think of one today. He was neither impartial nor thorough and unapologetically so. He was writing his history for Christian posterity. He has his favorites.

Origen was the most important. He devoted his longest chapter, 8, almost exclusively to him. For me it was also the most interesting chapter. I have read bits and pieces about this incredible Church Father—who was also a brilliant apologist* but not a saint—yet never have I encountered so much about Origen as what is here. Still Eusebius neglects to mention why or how Origen’s philosophy strayed into dangerous territory. The reason is because his hero was so remarkably intelligent most could not even understand his writings well-enough to see how they would be controversial. However, if you are interested in an outline of this discussion, read this. One of these days, I am going to have to tackle a biography of this amazing philosopher/theologian or some of his writings.

Okay, still reading...


*He is often quoted still today, across all branches of Christian denominations, beloved in the East and West.

August 12, 2017: Brant Pitre whose course on Jesus of Nazareth: A Biblical Christology I am currently listening to said that members of the infamous Jesus Seminar do not read period documents like this, limiting themselves to the Gospels. However, Eusebius's History is supposedly the best record of the period immediately following the time of the Gospels and even describes how the Gospels were assembled, or so Pitre claims--I haven't read it yet. I have been meaning to read this forever. Need to bite the bullet and just do it!
Profile Image for Matthew.
318 reviews11 followers
April 9, 2009
I wish evangelicals would read literature such as this. It is a very interesting chronicle of early Christians. It helps one understand how what we call the 'New Testament' was created and preserved, and a fascinating look at the network of early churches and their relationship. It's also notable that Eusebius, Christianity's first historian and a devout Christian, calls into question the validity of the book of Revelation (he does make clear that he is in no position to pass judgment on the book's importance). Also, the chronicles of the martyrs and the countless sufferings of early Christians is astounding.

Even though Eusebius was a biased historian and kissed Constantine's ass far too much, the vast array of sources he draws upon and his accesible presentation are priceless.
Profile Image for Markus.
469 reviews1,510 followers
February 8, 2019
The greatest tale of a persecuted religious minority toppling an all-encompassing empire until the release of Star Wars.

The awe-inspiring story of a mystical sect of oppressed destitutes ending up as the most widely known religion in human history. Coming soon to a church near you!

Eusebius weaves a stunning epic with memorable characters, including JESUS, a young Jewish hero whose heroic challenge to authority causes his ultimate downfall... DIOCLETIAN, an evil tyrant whose bloodthirst against the brave faithful knows no bounds... and last but not least, CONSTANTINE, an ambitious prince determined to herald the winds of change across the world.

The result is a harrowing narrative of hope and persistence even in the face of death.
Profile Image for Clif Hostetler.
1,056 reviews681 followers
September 19, 2021
The writings of Eusebius of Caesarea (c. A.D. 260-339) have provided later readers and historians the primary source for information about the early Christian church. The ten books that make up his, Church History, cover church history up to year A.D. 324 by which time Constantine was emperor and the Christian Church was feeling quite victorious. Thus the arc of this book's narrative is an account of all sorts of tribulations and difficulties, both internal and external, that finally culminate in a happy conclusion.

The annotations and commentary provided by the translator, Paul L. Maier, made this book tolerable. Reading straight Eusebius is a bit of a challenge for the modern reader. Naming the line of successions for the bishoprics for Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome was very important to Eusebius, and I'm sure academic historians appreciate the information, but for me it was filler of little significance. Also, there were so many repeated stories of persecution that I as reader began to feel jaded.

For a while dealing with the persecutions of their pantheistic neighbors was the church's main concern. But once they won the favor of the Emperor schisms and heretics were their main concern. Although internal divisions were a problem all along. One reoccurring problem was what to do about church members whose faith had lapsed under the duress of persecution, but once persecution was ended they wanted to return to the fellowship of the church. Should they be allowed back into the church? And if so did they need to be baptized again. Opinions varied sharply.

In Maier's commentary he says the following about persecutions:
It is commonly assumed that the early Christians were martyred mostly at Rome, but this is far from the case. Within the Roman Empire, fewer Christians were persecuted in Rome and Italy than in the North African provinces--Egypt in particular--as well as Palestine, Syria, and Asia Minor. ...
It is also widely assumed that most early Christian martyrs faced death heroically rather than surrendering their faith. Not only would this hardly have been possible realistically, due to human weakness, but Eusebius rather honestly shows us otherwise.
It's obvious that Eusebius had his favorites. He focuses on Origen of Alexandria with far more detail than he devotes to anyone else in his history. He also doesn't have anything bad to say about the Emperor Constantine.

In Book 10 Eusebius includes what appears to be the text of his dedicatory address given for the new cathedral in Tyre. His words provide the earliest known description of a Christian Church building and its furnishings. His talk goes on to be a panegyric of the Christian Church victorious as a fulfillment of scripture. It sounds much like a motivational sermon.
Profile Image for Rick Sam.
389 reviews87 followers
March 26, 2016
Eusebius is a scholar, I learnt a lot of new things from this book. I am encouraged by the Early Church fathers especially Origen. It seems that the Early Christians had to face internal threats (heresies), external threats (ridicule, persecution), this is simply too much to Handle but God blessed them. The persecutions in the Roman empire is appalling. There's depth details about persecution especially during Diocletian Era, I could not digest a lot. I wish the Christians today would read this and teach their children. All the Church fathers had written polemics, defended the Christian claims during their Era. The Questions today faced by the Church are nothing great compared to their Era. Overall, a Great book, Eusebius taught me how the Early Bishops were, they were scholars, preachers, philosophers.
Profile Image for Michael.
55 reviews13 followers
July 9, 2011

This is a very good book by the first great church historian. Eusebius (c. AD 264 – c. 340) was a devout Christian, scholar, historian, author, priest, and eventually the Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine. His “History of the Church” was the first book to record events in the life of the Church from the advent of Christ through the reign of Constantine. It proceeds chronologically and systematically, documenting the growth of the Church as it spread from Jerusalem throughout the whole of the Roman Empire and beyond. From the vast array of topics encompassed in that region and time, Eusebius focuses his history on five: the succession of bishops in the major churches from the apostles through his contemporaries, the corresponding succession of Roman emperors, the development of different heresies and the corresponding efforts to combat them, the canonization of Scripture, and the persecutions and martyrs of the Church.

Each of these subjects is treated with care and attention to detail. The line of the bishops, by which the doctrine of apostolic succession is supported, is quite thorough, including occasional biographical sketches, as is the case with the emperors. But it is not hard to tell which topics are the most important to Eusebius: the persecutions of the martyrs and the heresies. More of the book is spent on these two topics than all the others combined. It is not hard to guess why that is so.

In the case of the martyrs, Eusebius grew up as a Christian during the years of the great persecution under Diocletian. Not a few of his family members and friends were martyred for their faith, going willingly, even joyfully to their deaths. He spares no details in describing the brutal tortures they endured. That he devotes more space to the biographical sketches of the martyrs than to other topics is not surprising, and it is a great benefit for the Church today. It is important to remember what the early Church endured. It serves as an example for enduring suffering, and a spur to goad us to action to fight persecution when it appears today.

In the case of the heresies, Eusebius was jealous for the purity of the Church. The heresies that plagued her through her early history were attacks on that purity committed mostly by self-interested men who sought to exploit her for personal power or wealth. Just as it was important for later generations to understand martyrdom and persecution, it was important for them to understand the heresies, so that they could be recognized when they reared their heads again, as they have repeatedly throughout history.

In reading the stories of the martyrs and the heresies, it is easy to see the history of the early church in terms of a war for her purity fought on two fronts. One of those was external, represented by the imperial attacks in the form of state-sanctioned persecution. The other was internal, represented by the heretical teachings that surfaced. The contrast between the two could not be more stark, particularly with regard to the Church’s response. Christians went peacefully to their deaths. Not that there was no grief over the persecutions or no desire for them to cease, but there appeared to be no question of organized resistance against Rome. At no time did Christians take up arms against their terrible enemy. But against the heresies, the Church was relatively quick to organize against them, root them out and expel the heretics. In both cases, the end result was the same: the purity of the Church was upheld. Who but a true Christian would convert under the threat of death? Who but a true Christian remained when the heretics were exposed and expelled?

Though I could easily go on about Eusebius and his book, I will make note of only two other items. First, with regard to the canon of Scripture, it is clear from reading Eusebius that establishing the canon was not so much a matter of people coming together to decide what books to include or exclude as part of God’s Holy Word as it was of acknowledging those books that the Church had already recognized as authoritative. This stands in sharp contradistinction to the ideas of many modern critics.

Second, for the first three centuries of the Church, there was neither a central church nor a central individual in the Church. The true faith was not centered on Rome and there was no pope. Churches and bishops were all more or less viewed as equals. If the church in Jerusalem possessed somewhat more prestige, that was only because it was the first to be established. It had no more authority than any other church, nor did any bishop have more authority than another. In the case of controversies, councils were called and decisions made based on the authority of the Scriptures and the teaching of the apostles. This is not meant to be a critique of the Roman church today, merely an observation.
Profile Image for David Sarkies.
1,772 reviews300 followers
August 31, 2021
The Rise of Christianity
30 August 2021

For a book written by an ancient, this can be pretty controversial, particularly since there are claims that Eusebius basically whitewashed most of the history to make it appear that Christians were persecuted much, much, more than they really were. In fact, there are suggestions that he was metaphorically in bed with Constantine, and was his court-appointed historian. The thing is that the introduction to this particular edition does address this accusation with the suggestion that in the eyes of Constantine, Eusebius was pretty much a nobody. Sure, he was bishop of Caesarea, but Caeseria was still a provincial capital, and it certainly wasn’t Jerusalem. The other suggestion is that Eusibeius has some rather differing views, and was almost barred from attending the council of Nicea due to his perceived heresies.

Well, I seem to have touched upon the two main facets of this book in the opening paragraphs, and that is persecution and heresy. The problem with looking at this book from a secular viewpoint really comes down to the question of heresy – the Christians were being persecuted by the secular authorities of Rome, yet in turn, they were kicking people out of the church because they didn’t believe what they believed. One does raise the question of ‘what is the correct teaching?’, and ‘what if the teaching that was being accepted by the church was in fact wrong?’.

The thing with this book though is that it seems to be more of a collection of sources that Eusebius is citing as opposed to writing anything himself. Sure, he includes the Edict of Milan, which is a very, very important document, namely because it is the document that made Christianity the state religion. Interestingly though it doesn’t say anything about what the church decided were the correct teachings – though that was to come a little later with the Nicean Creed – which hasn’t been included, something that I certainly would consider to be much more important than the Edict of Milan (or the Donation of Constantine, which is hinted at as well). In fact, it was the council of Nicea that established the doctrine that was to define Christianity, and any variation away from that would be considered heresy.

As I mentioned, these days it can be pretty difficult determining what is correct and what is not. In fact, a lot of churches do have statements of faith, and usually, the first few are standard across the board – Humans rebelled against the rightful rule of God, God decreed that humanity would be punished for that rebellion, there is nothing that humanity can do to get back into relationship with God, God wanted to rebuild that relationship, so God sent his son Jesus Christ to take the punishment on our behalf so that those who accept Christ’s death can come back into relationship with him. There are things such as the Trinity that are important, but the main thing to take away is that Jesus Christ is God, and that God acted to bring us into relationship with him because there is nothing we could do to restore that relationship.

However, once we move beyond that things start becoming pretty murky – with baptism being at the top of this list (in my opinion). There are also arguments about the nature of the Trinity, and whether the Trinity actually is a thing. Oh, and let’s not forget the way the Bible is interpreted, especially when it comes to creation and the end times. Yeah, there are churches out there that have a specific doctrine that relates to that, and if you don’t accept that doctrine, you are a heretic.

Then there is persecution. Fortunately, there are pastors standing up telling their congregations that the world in which we live we are not being persecuted. However, there are others that claim that because the state has ordered the churches to be closed because CoVid, they are running around crying persecution. Personally, there is a lot of evidence that church services are superspreader events – in fact, the reason that Covid is now ripping through Auckland in New Zealand – one of the success stories in eliminating the virus – was because of a church service.

Some have suggested that Eusebius makes more out of the persecutions than there really was, but the thing is that Christians were persecuted, and persecuted quite heavily. While I generally fall onto the side of the localised persecutions, and while some emperors would impose empire-wide edicts that outlawed Christianity, in many cases they were still pretty localised. Yet, if you were living during the persecutions, it would certainly feel as if the entire world was against you.

Yet one of the things persecution does is that it gets rid of those people that not only are simply coming along for the ride, but are also actively undermining the church, and the church’s teaching, for their own selfish benefits. Eusebius even suggests this in saying that after one bout of persecution, the number of heretics in the church had dwindled significantly. In fact, another thing the persecutions did was to bring a divided church back together again. This is why I suspect that there are a lot of pastors running around claiming persecution because they know in their hearts that they wouldn’t be able to handle true persecution and as such are literally jumping at shadows.

Another thing about the persecutions is that they are signalling a cultural paradigm. In fact, whenever there is a shift in the cultural paradigm violence generally follows. The thing was that Christianity was growing, and growing very, very fast. However, the precepts of Christianity were completely at odds with the society in which they lived, and people were threatened. We see this clearly in the Bible with the riot in Ephesus where the idol makers drummed up a revolt because Christianity meant that they would pretty much be out of business. We are actually seeing this today – Black Lives Matter is a pretty key example, and not surprisingly those who are reacting violently against it tend to be white supremacists who are threatened by the fact that the era is white supremacy is disappearing into the horizon. The ironic thing is that later on in the book the persecutions was actually resulting in economic turmoil since Christianity had become so entrenched that when states initiated persecution against them, the economy of the region would be impacted, to the point that famines arose.

It is also interesting to see how some of the traditions that are connected with the church begin. For instance, it appears that the veneration of the saints began during that era, though rather innocently. This was in the case of Origen, who was a prolific writer and theologian, who also emasculated himself due to the fact that he sort of misinterpreted a part of Matthew (he was also young, and we all know that we do stupid things when we are young).

Well, it was an interesting book, though it does tend to be pretty dry, and much of it isn’t Eusebius’ work. However, it is the main source that we have on the early history of the church, or at least a brief overview. Mind you, there are lots and lots of other documents that we have from the period leading up to Eusebius, but it does provide a decent overview.
Profile Image for Yann.
1,406 reviews327 followers
May 3, 2016
Je m'intéresse de plus en plus à l'histoire chrétienne, et il m'a semblé bon de commencer par cet auteur. Eusèbe de Césarée est réputé être le premier historien a avoir compilé les événements ayant marqué l'église lors des quatre premiers siècles de notre ère. Césarée en Palestine, la ville dont il est issu, ne subsiste de nos jours qu'à l'état de ruine, ayant été secoué par les tremblements de terre qui frappent habituellement cette région du monde. Les vestiges d'une riche cité grecque, et de ce qui fut un important port de l'époque des croisades, y sont encore visibles.
L'enquête de notre auteur débute juste après les actes des apôtres : on y apprend ce que fut l'implantation des premières communautés chrétiennes au sein de l'empire, surtout en Asie Mineure, en Judée et en Égypte, mais aussi à Rome. J'ai apprécié certaines anecdotes assez souriantes, en particulier une sur Jean qui se finit bien, où il remet un brigand dans le droit chemin. Certaines sont touchantes, comme cet ecclésiaste romain obscur sur la tête duquel se pose une colombe, alors qu'il s'agit de désigner le nouvel évêque : comme un homme, le peuple se lève et lui attribue cet honneur. Mais assez rapidement, le récit prend une allure très sombre.
Tout commence avec la fameuse guerre des Juifs, dont Flavius Josèphe a raconté les péripéties et qui sont venues jusqu'à nous. Eusèbe cite abondamment cet auteur, et rappelle ce que fut le terrible siège de Jérusalem. Il est un peu dérangeant de voir Eusèbe interpréter le triste destin des juifs comme une punition divine, alors que lui même clame croire en la divinité d'un juif qui semble n'avoir eu toute sa vie d'autre souci que d'adoucir les conditions de vie de ses compatriotes coreligionnaire, de soulager leurs peines, et non pas de les tourmenter.
Vient ensuite le récit des persécutions : Eusèbe s'attarde particulièrement à décrire les supplices raffinés et monstrueux que des païens cruels ont fait subir aux premiers chrétiens. La constance et le courage avec lequel les plus endurcis ont affrontés ces horreurs ont certes impressionnés leurs bourreaux, mais on sort plus écœuré qu'édifié de la lecture de ces récits horribles. Un rare clin d'œil à l'occident est fait à l'occasion du martyr de Blandine, persécutée à Lyon sous Marc Aurèle, ainsi que Pothin le relate dans une lettre. Dès cette époque, les restes de ces malheureux firent l'objet de dévotions. On aimerait savoir plus en détail ce que furent les raisons qui inspirèrent ces persécutions, mais il faut se contenter le plus souvent de l'explication qu'elles furent les machinations de quelque démon malfaisant, ou bien une punition divine suite à quelque faute.
Lorsque les persécuteurs sont fatigués de verser du sang humain, ils subissent peu après un châtiment divin, qui se traduit par une putréfaction interne et des douleurs atroces, décrites avec une foule de détails abominables, et dont la lecture est à peine soutenable. Acculés à résipiscence par la douleur, ils exhalent enfin leur vie avec leur sang.
Lorsque les persécutions laissent place à une relative tolérance, commence alors la grande multiplication des sectes. Chacun souhaite s'attribuer le beau titre de chrétien, car la personne de Jésus semble plaire universellement, mais rare sont ceux qui s'accordent sur la signification du terme, en particulier ce que doivent croire ceux qui s'arrogent ce titre. A chacun, suivant ses interprétations, de traiter d'hérétiques ceux qui embrassent d'autres opinions: en particulier sur les questions les plus futiles et les plus vaines, qui prennent alors des dimensions étonnantes, et font naître des inimitiés et des haines bien surprenantes chez des hommes qui se piquent de longanimité. Si bien qu'il s'ensuit une sorte de sélection naturelle "darwinienne" des sectes, qui aboutit à la victoire de la plus avisée politiquement. Il ne peut s'agir que de la plus vraie et de la plus pure, selon l'auteur, puisque tout n'arrive que par la volonté de Dieu.
Mais en dehors de ces aspects étonnants, voir désagréables, le récit d'Eusèbe fourmille d'informations très utiles, en particulier sur qui furent les premiers auteurs chrétiens et la liste de leurs écrits. Eusèbe s'attarde en particulier sur le prolixe et savant Origène, à qui il voue la plus vive admiration, et dont il raconte la vie avec force détails, défendant sa mémoire contre les accusations d'hérésie. Au final, je suis bien content d'avoir découvert ce premier panorama de ce que furent les débuts de la chrétienté, et j'ai bien envie d'en apprendre plus.
Profile Image for Gary  Beauregard Bottomley.
935 reviews556 followers
January 1, 2019
The modern day commentary and footnotes enhance the incredibly pleasurable writing of Eusebius.

I always wonder why more modern day believers don’t explore the fundamental roots of their own modern day beliefs from some of the original foundational documents such as this book. I don’t think I’ve ever read an Early Medieval history book, or an Early Christian history book which did not quote extensively from Eusebius.

I know I now have to read Josephus because of Eusebius. Hoopla has an audio version of his book that I will borrow for free. Though, I would much prefer a version like this book that has explanatory footnotes and commentaries. The translator, Maier, had a fairly good discussion on Josephus’ mentions of Jesus and what scholars believe to be extrapolations or not, and the footnotes and commentary overall did not go wasted on me.

The only fault with this audible version is that I wasn’t always able to distinguish the footnote or commentary from Eusebius’ writings. I wish that the reader had been told to say ‘footnote’ and ‘end of footnote’ in the narration. But, that tells me how good of a writer Eusebius really was because his writing flows like a modern day conversation between friends.

To understand who we are today it sometimes requires understanding where we came from. Why is what we call the bible today the bible, or what does Jesus’ nature mean or what’s this about the Arian controversy, what’s all this about martyrs and why it is so important for the church’s history, and why are the Donatists so cool to understand (I’m going to give you a hint, it has something to do with the reformation and Martin Luther, but of course Eusebius and Augustine don’t know that), and how does the ‘catholic church’ (i.e., ‘catholic’ means ‘universal’ and the early ‘catholic church’ meant all are welcome) become a ‘Catholic Church’ (i.e. ‘universal’ means everywhere). Eusebius explains how the early orthodox Christians world thought about itself and allows one to anticipate the transition to Augustine who mostly defines the medieval Catholic world until Thomas Aquinas comes along in 1250. Eusebius always takes an orthodox (mostly from a Greek perspective) position, but all of these kinds of things lurk within the text and is incredibly well presented and are necessary for understanding where we are today.

Profile Image for Felix.
294 reviews353 followers
November 15, 2020
Eusebius's account of the early church is one of the most valuable sources of Ecclesiastical history that we have. Sadly Eusebius is not always a particularly reliable narrator. Although he shows more skepticism than some might expect, he ultimately spends a lot of time giving extensive accounts of the deaths of various individual martyrs when accounts of theology or even politics would probably be more highly valued by the modern day scholar.

As I read, I took some notes which I've included below. If you're interested in the text, they might be worth a look - and if you're planning to read it in the future, they point you in the direction of some of the more interesting things to look out for. I focus mainly on Eusebius's accounts of theology.

Book One - An account of the general history of the Old Testament. Eusebius also makes the claim that the pre-covenant Hebrews were adherents of the true faith (i.e. Christianity), and that figures such as Abraham were Christians in practice and essential belief, albeit without Jesus Christ. Josephus is relied on heavily as a historical source, as Eusebius had a limited command of Hebrew. This chapter also quotes a letter purpotedly written by Jesus Christ to King Abgar V of Edessa. Scholarship is divided as to whether the letter has any historicity, but it's a fascinating artifact nonetheless.

Book Two - This book tells the story of the Apostles and the Apolistic Fathers as far as the end of Acts (and a little bit further). Eusebius spends a reasonable amount of time discussing James, the brother of Jesus, about whom sadly little is written. Eusebius relies heavily on Josephus as before, as well as on Philo and Hegesippus. By some historical tragedy, the works of Hegesippus have been lost. His chronicles of the early Church were written in the second century and would have been an invaluable source of history from this period if only they had survived. The quotations in Eusebius's work are the largest passages still extant. Another interesting point of note is Eusebius's acceptance that the author Luke-Acts is the same individual as Luke of Colossians 4:14 (or at the very least, somebody who travelled with Paul). Eusebius is sometimes skeptical of the authorship of Biblical books so this initially took me by surprise. Eusebius also puts forward the historically very popular idea that the destruction of Jerusalem under Vespasian was a result of the God's anger towards the Jews for killing Jesus - a view that in its expanded form says that Jews being cast out into the diaspora is their punishment for killing Christ.

Book Three - Eusebius begins by discussing the historicity of the Epistles (concluding that Hebrews and 2 Peter are likely not authentic). Next, he quotes extensively from Josephus to document the history of the Siege of Jerusalem. Eusebius goes on to discuss the historicity of the Johanine books concluding the following:

Of John’s writings, besides the gospel, the first of the epistles had been accepted as unquestionably his by scholars both of the present and of a much earlier period: the other two are disputed. As to the Revelation, the views of most people to this day are evenly divided. At the appropriate moment, the evidence of early writers shall clear up this matter too.

He then goes on to discuss the historicity of various books (including some apocryphal and lost works which I hadn't previously heard of), concluding that some are legitimate texts and some are not:

It will be well, at this point, to classify the New Testament writings already referred to. We must, of course, put first the holy quartet of the gospels, followed by the Acts of the Apostles. The next place in the list goes to Paul’s epistles, and after them we must recognize the epistle called 1 John; likewise 1 Peter. To these may be added, if it is thought proper, the Revelation of John, the arguments about which I shall set out when the time comes. These are classed as Recognized Books. Those that are disputed, yet familiar to most, include the epistles known as James, Jude, and 2 Peter, and those called 2 and 3 John, the work either of the evangelist or of someone else with the same name. Among Spurious Books must be placed the ‘Acts’ of Paul, the ‘Shepherd’, and the ‘Revelation of Peter’; also the alleged ‘Epistle of Barnabas’, and the ‘Teachings of the Apostles’, together with the Revelation of John, if this seems the right place for it: as I said before, some reject it, others include it among the Recognized Books. Moreover, some have found a place in the list for the ‘Gospel of Hebrews’, a book which has a special appeal for those Hebrews who have accepted Christ. These would all be classed with the Disputed Books, but I have been obliged to list the latter separately, distinguishing those writings which according to the tradition of the Church are true, genuine, and recognized, from those in a different category, not canonical but disputed, yet familiar to most churchmen; for we must not confuse these with the writings published by heretics under the name of the apostles, as containing either Gospels of Peter, Thomas, Matthias, and several others besides these, or Acts of Andrew, John, and other apostles. To none of these has any churchman of any generation ever seen fit to refer in his writings. Again, nothing could be farther from apostolic usage than the type of phraseology employed, while the ideas and implications of their contents are so irreconcilable with true orthodoxy that they stand revealed as the forgeries of heretics. It follows that so far from being classed even among Spurious Books, they must be thrown out as impious and beyond the pale.

The really interesting thing in this discussion is how the New Testament canon remains largely uncodified. I previously imagined that by Eusebius's day (the fourth century), the canon of the New Testament would have been reasonably well established. Although the Gospels and Acts are unquestionably accepted by Eusebius as divine, the Epistles seem to be still under debate, and he very openly speculates that Revelation may not be an inspired text. It seems only Matthew through Acts were conclusively accepted canonical texts in his period.
Eusebius goes on to describe a little of the beliefs of an early Christian sect that he calls 'Ebionites'. Interestingly, he asserts that they only acknowledge the 'Gospel of the Hebrews' as divine revelation, despite otherwise believing in Christ. At the end of the chapter, Eusebius discusses Papias of Hierapolis in a somewhat critical manner (he at one point refers to him as a man of very small intelligence). He does however, quote some very important material from Papias's work concerning the authorship of the gospels of Matthew and Mark:

In his own book Papias gives us accounts of the Lord’s sayings obtained from Aristion or learnt direct from the presbyter John. Having brought these to the attention of scholars, I must now follow up the statements already quoted from him with a piece of information which he sets out regarding Mark, the writer of the gospel: This, too, the presbyter used to say. ‘Mark, who had been Peter’s interpreter, wrote down carefully, but not in order, all that he remembered of the Lord’s sayings and doings. For he had not heard the Lord or been one of His followers, but later, as I said, one of Peter’s. Peter used to adapt his teachings to the occasion, without making a systematic arrangement of the Lord’s sayings, so that Mark was quite justified in writing down some things just as he remembered them. For he had one purpose only – to leave out nothing that he had heard, and to make no misstatement about it.’ Such is Papias’ account of Mark. Of Matthew he has this to say: Matthew compiled the Sayings in the Aramaic language, and everyone translated them as well as he could. Papias also makes use of evidence drawn from 1 John and 1 Peter, and reproduces a story about a woman falsely accused before the Lord of many sins. This is to be found in the Gospel of the Hebrews. This is all that it is necessary to add to the passages I have quoted.

Sadly, Papias's work is lost.

Book Four - In this book, Eusebius writes briefly about the circumcised leaders of the early church, after Paul, Peter, James etc. before going on to briefly describe Bar Kokhba revolt and the suppression of the Jews that followed it. He also stops to denounce the gnostics and one or two other secret cults, albeit briefly and without sustained reference to their theology. He spends a little more time discussing Marcion, which is a fascinating topic, but the treatment is still ultimately brief. A good deal of the chapter is given over to discussing the life of Polycarp, who proved very hard to kill.

When he had offered up the Amen and completed his prayer, the men in charge lit the fire, and a great flame shot up. Then we saw a marvellous sight, we who were privileged to see it and were spared to tell the others what happened. The fire took the shape of a vaulted room, like a ship’s sail filled with wind, and made a wall round the martyr’s body, which was in the middle not like burning flesh but like gold and silver refined in a furnace. Indeed, we were conscious of a wonderful fragrance, like a breath of frankincense or some other costly spice. At last, seeing that the body could not be consumed by the fire, the lawless people summoned a confector to come forward and drive home his sword. When he did so there came out a stream of blood that quenched the fire, so that the whole crowd was astonished at the difference between the unbelievers and the elect. To the elect belonged this man, the most wonderful apostolic and prophetic teacher of our time, bishop of the Catholic Church in Smyrna. For every word that he uttered was and shall be fulfilled.

The remainder of the chapter is given over to quoting and occassionally briefly discussing various epistles and other documents written by figures from the early chuch.

Book Five - Other historians have confined themselves to the recording of victories in war and triumphs over enemies, of the exploits of the commanders and the heroism of their men, stained with the blood of the thousands they have slaughtered for the sake of children and country and possessions; it is peaceful wars, fought for the very peace of the soul, and men who in such wars have fought manfully for truth rather than for country, for true religion rather than for their dear ones, that my account of God’s commonwealth will inscribe on imperishable monuments; it is the unshakeable determination of the champions of true religion, their courage and endurance, their triumphs over demons and victories over invisible opponents, and the crowns which all this won for them at the last, that it will make famous for all time.

This quotation, which is part of the introduction of the book, is followed by a prolonged quotation listing the deeds of various martyrs.

Later in the book, there is an interesting discussion on the words of Iranaeus and the composition of the gospels:

Matthew published a written gospel for the Hebrews in their own tongue, while Peter and Paul were preaching the gospel in Rome and founding the church there. After their passing, Mark also, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, transmitted to us in writing the things preached by Peter. Luke, the follower of Paul, set down in a book the gospel preached by him. Lastly John, the disciple of the Lord, who had leant back on His breast, once more set forth the gospel, while residing at Ephesus in Asia.

Ultimately however, this book consists mostly of accounts of martyrdom. Despite very brief treatments of a few historical questions as well as a few short accounts of some of the beliefs of Marcionites, the topic never strays too far from those who died in various unpleasant ways for God.

Book Six - Again, a lot of stories of martyrdom. Origen features prominently in this chapter. One area I found of particular interest was a quotation from Origen's writings on John:

In Book V of his Commentary on John’s Gospel Origen has this to say about the epistles of the apostles:

The man who was enabled to become a minister of the New Covenant, not of the letter but of the spirit, Paul, proclaimed the gospel from Jerusalem, in a wide sweep as far as Illyricum.1 But he did not write to all the churches he had taught; and to those to which he did write he sent only a few lines. Peter, on whom is built Christ’s Church, over which the gates of Hades shall have no power,2 left us one acknowledged epistle, possibly two – though this is doubtful. Need I say anything about the man who leant back on Jesus’ breast, John? He left a single gospel, though he confessed that he could write so many that the whole world would not hold them.3 He also wrote the Revelation, but was ordered to remain silent and not write the utterances of the seven thunders.4 In addition, he left an epistle of a very few lines, and possibly two more, though their authenticity is denied by some. Anyway, they do not total a hundred lines between them.


Book Seven - I took no notes on this chapter while I was reading.

Book Eight - Here begins the events which occurred during Eusebius's life time. He begins by describing in highly emotive language the persecution of Christians under Diocletian. Next, in Eusebius's typical style, there are a number of extended accounts of the deaths of martyrs. He goes on to very briefly describe the power struggle that ended with Constantius as emperor in the West. He then launches a scathing attack on Maximian (Contantius's co-emperor in the East) including accusing him of witchcraft. Constantius dies in York and his son, Constantine, is declared emperor.

Book Nine - Another Max, Maxentius flip flops between being at one moment acceptable and the next very evil. In the previous book, it was established that he was persecuting Christians in Rome, and pretending to the position of ruler. However, ultimately he decides to stop. In this book, he picks it up again. Eusebius then switches focus and briefly describes the Armenian war and its great cost. He also laments that it happened - as the Armenians were (and still are) a Christian people. This is also the chapter in which Constantine begins to play a major role in the narrative with Eusebius referring to him with extremely positive language as he describes his triumph over Maxentius.

The senior in imperial rank and position, Constantine, was the first to feel pity for the victims of tyranny at Rome. Calling in prayer on God in heaven and on His Word, Jesus Christ Himself, the Saviour of all, to come to his aid, he advanced at the head of all his forces, intent on recovering for the Romans the liberty of their ancestors.

Book Ten - This book is given over to exulting Jesus Christ and Emperor Contantine. It's not always exactly clear which one he's exulting. The line is often blurred between the two and I suppose maybe that's kind of the point.

For which of the kings who ever lived achieved such greatness as to fill the ears and mouths of all men on earth with his name? What king established laws so just and impartial, and was strong enough to have them proclaimed in the hearing of all mankind from the ends of the earth and to the furthest limit of the entire world? Who made the barbarous, uncivilized customs of uncivilized races give place to his own civilized and most humane laws? Who was for whole ages attacked on every side, yet displayed such super-human greatness as to be for ever in his prime and to remain young throughout his life? Who so firmly established a people unheard-of from the beginning of time that it is not hidden in some corner of the earth but is found in every place under the sun? Who so armed his soldiers with the weapons of true religion that their souls proved tougher than steel in their battles with their opponents? Which of the kings wields such power, leads his armies after death, sets up trophies over his enemies, and fills every place, district, and city, Greek or non-Greek, with votive offerings – his own royal houses and sacred temples, like this cathedral with its exquisite ornaments and offerings?

Most of the chapter is like that. It finishes with quotations from various edicts relating to Christianity issued by Constantine.
Profile Image for Caroline Lancaster.
60 reviews1 follower
August 4, 2022
This was summer reading for school and although a lot of parts were boring, there were many parts about martyrs and those parts were really, really good. Overall I learned from this book and I’m glad I read it!
Profile Image for Jared Smith.
94 reviews8 followers
January 30, 2020
Invaluable for its insight into the first centuries of the Church. The style of writing is tedious at times but worth it for the direct access to primary sources instead of summaries. It is not without its biases but these are vastly outweighed by the glimpse we get of the triumph of Christ over persecution, error, heresy, and disunity.
Profile Image for Marie Tankersley.
119 reviews
Read
October 1, 2020
Reading on martyrdom was incredibly inspiring, and reminded me that the bad things in life right now are not all that there is, and the Lord will prevail.
Profile Image for Alexander Rolfe.
309 reviews9 followers
June 8, 2017
The author of the introduction seems to fault Eusebius for not writing a different book, but I find a lot to like in what he did write. He quotes primary sources extensively. I liked the information about debates over the New Testament canon, the picture of Justin Martyr, Origen, Dionysius of Alexandria, and the constant reference to all kinds of early works, many of which are now lost. And then of course there are all sorts of random details to puzzle and delight, such as the statue of Jesus Eusebius himself had seen erected in thanks by the woman cured of the issue of blood.
Profile Image for The other John.
674 reviews12 followers
February 8, 2014
For my latest history fix, I decided to go way back to the first 300 years after Christ. (Of course, having received this book for Christmas influenced this decision somewhat.) It was interesting and amusing to read about the first centuries of the Christian Church, reading of controversies and heresies that have been revived almost 20 centuries later. Once, Eusebius gets to the years of his life, however, and speaks of the persecutions that some faced, I was reminded that American Christians, at least, live in a very different world.
Profile Image for Jacob Aitken.
1,571 reviews262 followers
October 18, 2020
Eusebius. Ecclesiastical History. Trans. Paul Maier. Kregel.

While the book sometimes gives the feel of “Fairy Tales for Fundamentalists,” it’s hard to imagine doing early church history without Eusebius. Indeed, it would be irresponsible.

His exegesis is often better than the typical allegorical accounts one might associate with the early church. Indeed, he is sometimes quite profound. Concerning the pre-incarnate word, he quotes Psalm 107/8, “He sent his Word and healed them.” This is obviously Jesus.

Eusebius himself remains ambivalent on continuing miracles and kingdom gifts. On one hand, he doesn’t want to grant the Montanists any legitimacy, yet he believes (or reports) that miracles continue to his day. True, he says none of them resembled the apostles in raising the dead, but they do continue.

He notes that the problem with Montanus is not simply that people were led away by false prophecy. Rather, prophecy was still going on (III.4). Concerning Irenaeus, modern miracles workers don’t raise the dead like the apostles (quoted in Eusebius III.7). On the other hand, even well after the canon, they still manifest power, prophecy, heal, and cast out demons (III.7.4).

Eusebius on the canon is far more complex than people normally admit. He holds largely to the Jewish canon of the Old Testament, but he includes the Wisdom of Solomon. On the other hand, he is aware of books like Ben Sirach but specifically doesn’t include them.

Concerning the New Testament, he doubts that John the Apostle wrote the Revelation. He acknowledges 1 John as legitimate and maybe 2 and 3 John. He notes that the style of 2 Peter is completely different than 1 Peter and concludes they aren’t by the same person. Hebrews might have Paul’s thoughts but certainly not his writing and syntax.

His account of the martyrdom of Polycarp ranks as some of the most beautiful of church literature.
Profile Image for Lisa.
Author 1 book2 followers
November 27, 2022
This was my first read through of Eusebius and I was pleasantly surprised to find it so enjoyable. I think I was expecting it to be dry and rather dull, but instead it held my interest and proved to be a book I looked forward to getting back to when I had to put it down.
Profile Image for lydia.
68 reviews1 follower
August 8, 2022
(technically as i’m writing this review i have about 10% left, but i’m finishing it tonight so it fine lol)

quite frankly, i didn’t read this book. i skimmed it and read the summaries at the end of each book (there are 10 books within the book). but it was for our schools summer reading, and i’ve read 16 books this summer, which is more than plenty in my eyes. so honestly i can’t really tell you what i thought of this book. if it was interesting and great, i’d give it 5 stars, but i can for sure tell it wasn’t so 3 stars it is. 3/5 stars 😂
Profile Image for Peter Bringe.
215 reviews22 followers
March 9, 2013
This is a very helpful source on early church history, being the first major church history book written (A.D. 324). It's not terribly well written, but it makes up for that in its interesting subject matter. It shows an early church with real, personal connections with Jesus and the Apostles. It tells of its disputes with the pagans and with heretics. It shows their persevering through persecution and their victory over Rome.

Whatever weaknesses Eusebius had as a historian by modern standards, his blatantly providential outlook on history is something Christian historians can learn from. He constantly brings in Scripture into his historical discussions. The God of Eusebius is a sovereign God. Eusebius points out how God judged the Jews for crucifying Christ, the Romans for persecuting the Christians, and the church for hypocrisy and pride. He showed how God takes care of His people throughout history and brings them through dreadful persecution. He describes Jesus as our King and Savior, as "teacher of the knowledge of God, destroyer of the wicked, killer of tyrants, reformer of humanity, savior from despair" (10.4, p. 349).
Profile Image for Manuel Alfonseca.
Author 70 books143 followers
September 12, 2018
ENGLISH: First book on the History of the Catholic Church, (this is the name Eusebius uses, in books IV, VI, VII and X), which inaugurated a literary genre and imposed strict historical rules, such as the support of statements by citations of documents. In fact, many ancient documents have been preserved in whole or in part thanks to the citations by Eusebius of Caesarea.

ESPAÑOL: Primer libro sobre la Historia de la Iglesia Católica (así la llama Eusebio, en sus libros IV, VI, VII y X), que inauguró un género literario e impuso reglas históricas muy estrictas, como el apoyo de las afirmaciones por citas de documentos. De hecho, muchos documentos antiguos se han conservado en todo o en parte gracias a las citas de Eusebio de Cesarea.
October 16, 2014
I bought this book to continue learning about the beginnings of the Church. Eusebius was alive during the third to fourth centuries of the Church. He started his history with Jesus and his disciples and ended it with his own current time--the era of Constantine.

Eusebius was very thorough in his writing and quoted many other Church writings and Roman writings of the times. It took me quite a while to read this book (it very detailed and quite dense). The writing is in depth and so full of information. I enjoyed reading it and learned so much from Eusebius. A great book for anyone wanting to learn more about the early Church.
17 reviews1 follower
October 20, 2008
Amazing. Sunday School doesn't teach that this stuff even exists. Eusebius' work was a great read. There is so much that isn't said about the church history in the Bible. Eusebius goes into great depth of the time period of Jesus' life and the next couple of centuries to follow. He plots out the lineage of disciples starting with the original apostles. There is so much to be learned from his writing.
Profile Image for Brent McCulley.
550 reviews38 followers
March 15, 2019
Extremely rewarding. This took way longer to read than planned but the primary source material here in Eusebius is excellent. This will remain on the shelf as a valuable resource as well. Eusebius’ praise is directed mostly towards Origen and Constantine and I’m totally ok with that. A must read for pastors and lay theologians alike, along with the other obvious ones of early church history like Josephus and the ANFathers.
Profile Image for Mariangel.
502 reviews
September 20, 2018
This was quite interesting. Eusebius writes about the beginnings of the Church in a very thorough way, though his thoughts jump occasionally, making him repetitive, specially when talking about heresies. I liked the parts about deciding the scriptural canon, Origen, and the edicts of Constantine. The gruesome details of persecution and martyrdom were hard to read.
Profile Image for Tony Gualtieri.
407 reviews23 followers
August 16, 2016
The first surviving history of the Christian Church is well served by this translation and commentary. Eusebius has the occasional dry passage, but his perspective as a Christian writing about Christians in first three centuries of the Roman Empire more than make up for this.
Profile Image for Sophie.
58 reviews11 followers
October 1, 2020
Although not my type of book and not one I would read at free will this was a very neat book. It was so cool getting to look into the early church. Also the things early Christians did and had to endure because of there faith was amazing and so encouraging and inspiring!!!
5 reviews
January 18, 2009
Early Christian history and the political changes it created in Israel, Palestine, Roman and Egyptian history.
Profile Image for RANGER.
176 reviews17 followers
April 3, 2022
Tremendous Resource for Understanding the First 300 Years of Church History
Eusebius was a Church Bishop most widely known as a historian of the early Church. He wrote this 10-part History to capture the testimonies of martyrs, the concept of apostolic succession, the doctrine and practice of the Church, the conflicts with heresies, and the policies and politics of the Roman Empire and their effect on Christianity in the empire. This very readable translation by G.A. Williamson also contains a mix of very helpful historical and linguistic footnotes. However, some of his doctrinal clarifications are reflective of his high church, Anglican understanding of the Bible and are not altogether helpful.
Roman Catholics and Protestants have both clung to Eusebius' writings to justify their positions but this is ridiculous. Eusebius is a product of his time.
He used the word "Catholic Church" in the broadest sense to refer to all of the churches in the empire that followed what was considered the true doctrine as practiced by the Apostles. However, the church of Eusebius' history did not embrace the later and most controversial doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church such as prayers to Mary, her eternal Virginity, her Assumption, prayers to the saints, Rosaries, the Pelagian doctrines, Purgatory, etc., etc.
But on the other hand, Eusebius's church did not have the multiple denominationalism, pet doctrines, Calvinism/Reformation ideas, social-justice, nor the highly individualistic "personal relationship" egalitarianism practiced by the current crop of post-modern Christians. He did accept the idea of a state-enforced universal albeit Biblical approach to doctrine to "protect the church," accepted the leadership of pre-eminent bishops (and described their seats as thrones), and had a things for cathedral like edifices. He had ZERO tolerance for the well-known Gnostic heretics of his day and he exposed their doctrines with by name refutations of their beliefs.
Some surprises in here:
Eusebius had an understanding of the Theophanies of Christ in the Old Testament that would make a Messianic Jewish believer proud.
Eusebius fully embraced and reported on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit operating in the Church.
Eusebius seemed to have a very high opinion of Constantine as a Godly emperor despite other more critical historical views of Constantine as a scoundrel and opportunist.
Eusebius includes much material from other writers. His is a well researched work.
Eusebius somehow managed to survive some horrific periods of persecution himself and one must wonder how that was possible. Did he compromise? There is a serious discussion of the how the church had to deal with those who denied Christ but then came back to church after a persecution came to an end. A very thorny issue indeed given the early church's low tolerance for doctrinal deviation.
This is a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED read for serious Christians. And a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED translation for readability and comprehension. It was a surprisingly quick read, only taking me several extra weeks because I chose to read other books between each of its ten parts.
Blessings! Maranatha!
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