, 2015, OUP, Oxford (I started it just before Ben started this thread).
1. Christian versus Pagan in Eusebius of Caesarea
[p.3 onwards, Kindle Edition ...]
It is fitting that the subject of the first chapter in this book should be a man who will figure in almost every chapter. It is equally fitting that we should meet him first through his labours as an apologist, though it might be said that we could hardly do otherwise, for the spirit of advocacy is never absent from his numerous essays in exegesis, history, biography, or the exposition of dogma. In contrast to his precursors, however, he had some notion of apologetic as a genre, for it was he who gave it a name and who drew up the first canon of its Greek exemplars. When he added himself to the canon he aimed to be more than an imitator: no practitioner of an ancient genre is merely a copyist, and Eusebius—Eusebius of Caesarea, as we call him after his bishopric—was the first apologist who achieved double eminence as a scholar and as a churchman. He set out to polish, not merely to preserve, the lamp of truth by which he was pointing out the way to an increasingly cultured public of Christian readers and an increasingly bellicose audience of pagans. Old arguments had ossified while new critics remained unanswered; Christian numbers were growing, but the gospel was being proclaimed in the dominant language of a polytheistic world to which no single text was holy but Homer and Plato were divine. The project that took shape in the Preparation for the Gospel and its sequel, the Demonstration, was at once more eclectic and more synoptic, more combative and more urbane than any of its Greek models. It was not, for all that, unique in its generation, for we shall see in Chapter 2 that two Latin contemporaries of Eusebius were equally responsive to the new temper (or distemper) of the age.
Few authors who wrote so copiously have hidden themselves so well. We know that Eusebius succeeded Agapius as Bishop of Caesarea in 313, and that he lived to write the biography of Constantine, who died in 337. He seems not to have been alive at the time of the council of Antioch in 341, but he was present at the Council of Nicaea in 325 and left with his bishopric intact, having signed the creed. Some months before, it appears that he had been condemned, though not deposed, at a synod held in Antioch; the fact that his name appears fifth in the list of Palestinian signatories to the creed of 325 (although his bishopric was the metropolis of Palestine) suggests that he put his hand to the document with some hesitation. He was later to decline the see of Antioch when it was offered to him by Constantine; the deposed incumbent, Eustathius, had accused Eusebius of bad faith in his subscription to the Creed. His admirer Jerome adds only that he was a diligent student of the holy scriptures under Pamphilus of Caesarea, who died in the persecution of Maximinus (Of Illustrious Men 81). The corpus of works ascribed to him by Jerome includes the Preparation for the Gospel in fifteen books, the Demonstration in twenty, the Theophany in five, the Commentary on Isaiah in ten, the Ecclesiastical History in ten, the Apology for Origen (begun by Pamphilus) in six, the Life of Pamphilus in three, commentaries on all the Psalms, a work on the disagreements between the gospels, a Chronicle, a work On Places, and (according to report) a refutation of Porphyry the Neoplatonist in thirty books, of which Jerome has seen but twenty. He adds that there are many more: the longest that has come down to us is a commentary on Luke.
Eusebius was not a common name in pagan circles; it rose in popularity as Christian parents grew reluctant to give their children the names of fictitious gods. Since Eusebius of Caesarea was not known by any other appellation, it is reasonable to conclude that he was a Christian by nurture. Unlike apologists of the second century who had been converts, he never slights Greek culture or the Greek language; although he impugns the Greek claim to pre-eminence in wisdom, he does not represent Christianity as the religion of barbarians. Instead he followed Origen, whose library he inherited, in reckoning scholarship among the virtues of a Christian theologian.
< . . snip . . >
pp. 5-6, -
In his magnum opus, which comprises the Preparation for the Gospel
and Demonstration of the Gospel
, Eusebius undertakes to prove the antiquity of the Christian faith, the coherence of its theology, the superiority of the Jewish scriptures to any Greek system and the necessity of reading them with an eye to the deeper meaning that has been made plain in Christ. The Preparation
puts one in mind of Clement rather than Origen in its prolixity and the polyphonic character of materials; it has in common with Origen, however, that it takes as its most frequent interlocutor a pagan author of recent times, who had come to be seen as the church’s most dangerous enemy to date. Porphyry owes this reputation chiefly to the burning of his books by Constantine and to a letter by Augustine which implies that his name was likely to attach itself to objections that a Christian found especially perplexing. The Suda, a Byzantine lexicon, enumerates fifteen logoi or discourses against the Christians in a catalogue of his writings; yet five allusions in the Preparation for the Gospel
to a ‘tract against us’ afford the most cogent evidence of his having written a work against the Christians, distinct from the many others which Eusebius cites as proof of his inconsistency and his willingness to collude with the very powers whose maleficence he had exposed.
< . . snip . . >
pp. 16-17, -
Theologians and historians of dogma are apt to be disappointed by the Preparation for the Gospel
. It was written, of course, for neither, though the author’s other works prove that he was capable of fencing with the ablest theologians of his day. The Preparation is better read as an essay in comparative religion, half eirenic and half didactic in the style of the nineteenth century. Recently it has been studied as an essay in the ethnography of religion—aptly enough, since when the Greeks wrote accounts of other peoples they often commenced with a description of their gods. As Aaron Johnson has noted, Eusebius differentiates genos
: the genos
, or race, is defined by consanguinity, whereas the members of an ethnos
, for which perhaps the best term is ‘nation’, may be united by shared speech and culture rather than bonds of kinship. For Eusebius the Jews are a genos
; the ethnê, in biblical usage, are the rest of the world’s population who are not of the chosen people. The plasticity of nomenclature is exemplified, however, by the term ‘Hellene’, which at its narrowest denotes those who are Greeks by descent and at its widest all who are Greek by culture. In Matthew’s gospel Christ predicts that the patrimony of Israel will be given to a new ethnos, which is evidently the church ...
... certain apologists, mocking Greek pretensions to a monopoly of wisdom, had taken a pride in the name barbarian; on the other hand, pagans like Porphyry and Lucian could boast simultaneously of their Greek education and their barbarian ancestry. Eusebius has no desire to pass as a barbarian: he flaunts his erudition in the hope of convincing his readers, believers and unbelievers alike, that everyone can enjoy dual citizenship as a Greek by nurture and a Christian by faith. The term ‘citizenship’ is apposite because Eusebius also follows Josephus, the Jewish historian, in representing Christianity as a politeia
, a commonwealth of shared laws and values. All free-born subjects of the Roman Empire had been made citizens by the Constitutio Antoniniana of 215; many were also citizens of a local community by birth or purchase. In return for the questionable privileges of citizenship, the government required that the gods should be worshipped on demand according to Roman custom, but at the same time permitted, and even encouraged, the worship of other deities according to the custom of one’s own fathers.*
Edwards. Religions of the Constantinian Empire
, favoured a solar god and worship of a solar god persisted; after Aurelian, emperor 270-75
, the Roman Empire was monotheistic for Sol Invictus and likely beyond when Constantine is said to have converted to or even recognised Christianity or its symbols (Constantine's father was a votary for the cult of Sol Invictus)