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The History of the Church: From Christ to Constantine
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History of the Church Eusebius > The acts of the Apostles

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Manuel Alfonseca | 1630 comments Mod
Book II discusses the period from the Ascension of Christ to Nero's persecution, focusing on the lives and deaths of the Apostles.


Manuel Alfonseca | 1630 comments Mod
Eusebius apparently takes the position of the Eastern Churches with respect to the so-called "brothers of Jesus." The Western Church usually interprets the word "brothers" in a wide sense, meaning the same as "relatives" (cousins, uncles, and so on). The Eastern Churches prefer to take the word literally, considering them as "sons of Joseph by a previous marriage."

In the second book, Eusebius writes this: This James was called the brother of the Lord because he was known as a son of Joseph, and Joseph was supposed to be the father of Christ, because the Virgin, being betrothed to him, was found with child by the Holy Ghost before they came together, as the account of the holy Gospels shows.

Of course, if Joseph were a widow when he married Mary, he could have had previous children with different women without affecting Mary's permanent virginity, as many Protestants do when they assert that the brothers of Jesus were children of Joseph and Mary. As Eusebius says, Joseph was considered to be the father of Jesus, and therefore his sons would be the brothers of Jesus.

In fact, the word used in the New Testament for the brothers of Jesus is ἀδελφοὶ (adelfoi) which in Greek applies to brothers in the strict sense (two sons of the same father or mother). The same word is used in Luke 8:19, Mathew 13:55 and Galatians 1:19.

Eusebius, being Bishop of Caesarea, follows the Eastern interpretation.


Manuel Alfonseca | 1630 comments Mod
About James, the brother of Jesus.

In the New Testament, four disciples of Jesus called James are mentioned: James son of Zebedee, whose grave is supposed to be in Compostela, at the end of El Camino; James son of Alphaeus, also called James the Less, also an apostle; James the brother of the Lord, also called James the Just and first Bishop of Jerusalem; and James the author of an epistle.

In the Catholic tradition the last three are taken to be the same person. In that case, the word "brother" would have to be taken in a wide sense, since we know that he is said to be son of Alphaeus, and therefore couldn't be a son of Joseph by a previous marriage.

Eusebius thinks that James the Just is the same as the author of the epistle (he says so in book II, chapter 23), but he obviously considers him different from James the Less.

The name James (Jacob in Hebrew) was very common among the Jews, so it is not surprising that two, three or even four different persons with the same name would be mentioned in the New Testament.


message 4: by Jill (new)

Jill A. | 719 comments His assertion that the Gospel of John focuses on Jesus' early ministry doesn't match the Gospel as I read it; it seems rather to be the fruit of long reflection on the inner meaning of a few significant teachings and events, complete with detailed dialogue.

I find it interesting that there is so much debate this early about who wrote which parts of the NT (and other early writings). I guess the official canon had not been established in Eusebius' time.

I am curious how Bishops were chosen in these early days. He lists them but says nothing about the process.


Manuel Alfonseca | 1630 comments Mod
Jill wrote: " I guess the official canon had not been established in Eusebius' time."

The Canon was established in the Council of Rome, 382 AD. Eusebius wrote his book before the first council, Nicea, 325 AD. The list of books finally approved was prepared by St. Athanasius, who was Eusebius's adversary.


message 6: by Jill (new)

Jill A. | 719 comments Adversary? Why on earth?


message 7: by Manuel (last edited Sep 10, 2018 09:19AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Manuel Alfonseca | 1630 comments Mod
With respect to the debate about Arius and his views on Jesus as not God but a subordinate creature, Athanasius, a great fighter against Arianism and defender of the Trinity, was summoned in 334 before a synod in Caesarea, which he refused to attend. In the following year, he was again summoned before a synod in Tyre at which Eusebius of Caesarea presided. Athanasius, foreseeing the result, went to Constantinople to bring his cause before the Emperor.

Constantine called the bishops to his court, among them Eusebius. Athanasius was condemned and exiled at the end of 335. Eusebius remained in the Emperor's favour throughout this time and more than once was exonerated with the explicit approval of the Emperor Constantine, who was sympathetic to Arianism in spite of the fact that it had been condemned by the Council of Nicea in 325.

Eusebius died around 339 and was never condemned for Arianism. His adversary Athanasius had to contend against Constantius II, Julian the Apostate and Valens. They spoke about him as Athanasius contra Mundum (Athanasius against the world).

Finally, after his death in 373, Athanasius was vindicated and his ideas became Catholic dogma, while Arianism was condemned again in the Council of Constantinople (381), the second Ecumenical Council. Athanasius came to be considered a Doctor of the Church.

A few months ago we read about this controversy in "The Great Heresies" by Hilaire Belloc. Arianism was the first of the five heresies he discussed.

As an additional interesting fact, one of the parts of the book "Brideshead Revisited," which was read in the club in 2017, was titled "Sebastian contra Mundum," a title taken from Athanasius nickname.


message 8: by John (new) - added it

John Seymour | 1968 comments Mod
@Jill,

In Book 6 where he talks about various processes for appointing a bishop. On multiple occasions, it seems to be done by the surrounding or nearby bishops - this is mentioned on several occasions. On at least one occasion (I think Alexander in Jerusalem), it is done by the acclamation of the people in the city, which is justified by recounting divine dreams given to both Alexander that cause him to go to Jerusalem and to the people of Jerusalem that enable them to recognize Alexander as the one sent to them by God.


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