By Mary Jane Chaignot

Categories: Early Christianity

  • Eusebius lived ca 260/3 – 339/40 CE. His name means "faithful."
  • He was probably born in Caesarea Maritima, which had been the capital of the Judaea Province since 13 BCE. It was also home to Pontius Pilate and Felix. It was a large city with a population around 100,000. It covered roughly 3.7 square miles. After Jerusalem was destroyed in 132 CE, it became the epicenter of early Christianity.
  • Christianity had its beginnings in Caesarea when Peter baptized Cornelius the Centurion and his household there.
  • In his earlier years, Eusebius lived in Palestine, but was probably baptized in Caesarea.
  • There he met Pamphilus (ca 280), who was a follower of Origen (185/8-254). Eusebius studied under him for many years.
  • Eusebius had such a close relationship with his teacher that he was sometimes called Eusebius Pamphili: "Eusebius, son of Pamphilus."
  • Such intimacy suggests that Eusebius might have been Pamphilus' heir.
  • Through Pamphilus, Eusebius developed a strong regard for Origen.
  • In 296 CE, he recalled seeing Constantine traveling with Diocletian's army as it passed through the region.
  • In 303 CE, Diocletian began the "great persecution;" within seven years Pamphilus was arrested, tortured, and eventually killed. Before his death, he and Eusebius collaborated on several writings.
  • Although Eusebius was imprisoned, he was not martyred, possibly due to his family's influence.
  • In 313 CE, Eusebius was made a presbyter; he, then, served as Bishop of Caesarea from 315 to 318 CE.
  • In his writing, Preparation for the Gospel, Eusebius channeled Origen by referring to the works of Plato and to many other philosophical writings. These secular writings, however, were transformed for the purpose of sacred learning.
  • One purpose of this 15-volume work was to show how Christ fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies.
  • Then Eusebius began his monumental work, The Ecclesiastical History, ca 290 CE. This ten-volume work was a history of the Church—from its beginnings to Eusebius' time.
  • No one had ever done this before, so there was no anthology of facts, dates, or people at his disposal. He had to start from scratch.
  • While expressing his inadequacy, he prayed that God would guide him and assist him; there were no predecessors, only traces of previous accounts.
  • Today, scholars agree that he not only chronicled history, but also created it.
  • During the same period, Eusebius worked on a chronological calendar of events from the time of creation to his day. Both these works were completed by 300 CE.
  • Eusebius was renowned as a learned man and established author who played a key role in the Arian controversy.
  • After Arian had been excommunicated (ca 320 CE), Eusebius wrote to Alexander, the Bishop of Alexandria, accusing him of misrepresenting the Arians. (Later on, portions of this letter would be cited in their attempt to prove that Eusebius was a heretic.)
  • Yet, when the Council of Nicaea was called in 325 CE, Eusebius was given a place of honor, seated to the immediate right of the emperor, who was present in all his glory, but was not a voting member. Eusebius also gave the opening address. This was, no doubt, in deference to his close relationship to Constantine.
  • Eusebius attempted to negotiate peace between the Arians and those who were orthodox. That didn't happen, and he was eventually compelled to sign the creedal agreement that came out of that council.
  • Later on, however, when things changed, he also sat on the council that deposed Athanasius (the bishop who succeeded Alexander).
  • Eusebius was not an Arian, but he opposed those who criticized them.
  • In his later years, he avoided the Arian controversies and declined a position as Bishop of Antioch.
  • He spent his years writing. Among these later works is the acclaimed Life of Constantine, which is a praiseworthy document honoring his friend. He wrote this after Constantine's death in 337 CE.
  • It is not known exactly how or when Eusebius died, though he would have been close to 80 by that time. Records show that by 341 CE, there was a new Bishop of Caesarea.

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