Eusebius of Caesarea

c.265-c.339. “The Father of Church History.” Born probably in Palestine, of humble parentage, in early youth he became associated with Pamphilus,* founder of the theological school of Caesarea, assisting him in preparing an apology for Origen's teaching. After Pamphilus's martyrdom (310), he withdrew to Tyre, naming himself “Eusebius Pamphili” in honor of his master. Later he went to Egypt, where he was apparently imprisoned for a short time. He was subsequently accused by Potammon at the Synod of Tyre with having escaped martyrdom by sacrificing, but this seems unlikely, unless he had been forced by the soldiers to go through the motions of burning incense (as J.W.C. Wand suggests).

Eusebius was unanimously elected bishop of Caesarea about 314, and in 331 declined the patriarchate of Antioch. At the Council of Nicea* in 325 he led the large moderate party, submitting the first draft of the creed which was eventually accepted after important modifications (notably the homoousios clause). He seems to have discovered during the council that Arius's subordinationism was more radical than he had supposed, and he veered toward the Alexandrian position, though he never accepted the extreme views of the Athanasian party which, he believed, tended to Sabellianism.* He presided over the Council of Caesarea in 334 which endeavored to draw Athanasius into negotiation, and took part in Athanasius's condemnation at Tyre (335). On the occasion of Constantine's thirtieth anniversary (335) he delivered at Constantinople an encomium setting forth the political theory which came to be embodied in the Byzantine Empire. He was chief prosecutor of Marcellus of Ancyra* at a synod in Constantinople (336). He was the ecclesiastical and spiritual voice of the Constantine era, and the heir and master of the Origen tradition in that age.

A diverse author, his histories are most notable. First to appear was Chronicon, a history of the world to 303 (later to 328); in this he “liberated Christian chronography from the bonds of apocalypticism . . . basing it on purely logical foundations” (H. Lietzmann). Best known of all his works is his Historia Ecclesiastica, the most important church history of ancient times, invaluable for its wealth of material, much of it preserved here only. The definitive edition in ten books appeared in 325. Apologetic books include Contra Hieroclem (against a pagan governor of Bithynia); Praeparatio evangelica (explaining why Christians accept the Hebrew tradition); Demonstratio evangelica (trying to prove Christianity by the OT); and Theophania (on the Incarnation). Among other writings are a collection of Origen's letters; a biography of Pamphilus; a Life of Constantine; De Martyribus Palestinae (an account of the Diocletianic persecution); Eclogae Propheticae (a general elementary introduction); Contra Marcellum (against Marcellus of Ancyra); Onomasticon (a biblical topography); and commentaries on Psalms and Jeremiah.

H.J. Lawlor, Eusebiana (1912); D.S. Wallace- Hadrill, Eusebius of Caesarea (1960); H. Lietzmann, A History of the Early Church, vol. III (1961).