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Eusebius of Caesarea
Introduction His Methods His Views Conclusion
the Librarian who became a Bishop, wrote a church history that adopted methods and inculcated ideas that affected the way that historians of the church saw history for centuries to come. His Church History has been described as both a political theology and a theology of history (Grolier 1993, Ross Mackenzie "Eusebius").
esteem with which his Church History was received is reflected in the fact that his direct successors begin their histories where he leaves off. Schaff comments that Eusebius unintentionally founded a school of church historians who continued his work and followed his example by limiting their work to reporting the external facts and including collections of historically valuable documents, without indulging in the philosophical interpretations or artistic reproduction of material such as found in Thucydides, Tacitus and others (Schaff 1910:880).
Eusebius' Chronicle, which most probably served as the preparation and basis for this much larger Church History, provided the framework of a structured sequence of events, an outline-sketch of universal history "arranged by ages and nations", and was for centuries the source of a "synchronistic knowledge of history" (Schaff 1910:877). The Church History, as its larger product, affected the writing of history directly in the Eastern region of the empire and, via the translations and adaptations of Rufinus of Aquileia, Jerome and Cassiodorus, was used extensively in the West even by such figures as the Venerable Bede (Lane 1984:17).
librarian background undoubtedly affected his methodology. Schaff ascribes the Church History's "incalculable value" primarily to "copious and most literal extracts" from various sources, in some cases now extinct (Schaff 1910:877). Chesnut comments that –
"He was the first ancient historian to cite his sources both verbatim and extensively on a regular basis and to anything like a modern historian's conscience about careful quotation of copied material and proper identification of sources of information." (1977:254).
This method enabled him to go back in history to earlier periods, whereas the classical Graeco-Roman historians had been so dependant on oral tradition that they had done really well only in writing the history of the immediately preceding generation (Ibid 255).
Following the structure of the Chronicle, his History uses a basically annalistic method, continually interrupting the narrative to insert the accessions of Roman emperors and of bishops of the four primary patriarchates (Britannica, "Eusebius").
The tone of the History is fundamentally apologetic. He uses history to show the truth of Christianity and its main stream association of churches as against other religious views and heretical Christian groups.
His View of History  
Eusebius seems to have understood human history as controlled by the interplay of four principles –
The limitations of nature ('fusis') in it's antithetically dual condition;
Unexpected uncontrolled accident of two or more converging causal chains;
Moral free will that enables decisions for or against God; and,
The providence of God in which two interpenetrating chains of cause and effect, the theological and the empirically observable, produce a "doubly determined" effect (Chesnut 1977:50).
idea of Fortune, Luck, or Chance, was carried through from pagan writers under the Aristotelian term 'ta sumbebekota' without personifying the idea as an arbitrary goddess. Terms that might be construed as such were carefully avoided. But, unlike Eusebius, his direct continuators, Socrates Scholasticus, Hermias Sozomen, Theodoret of Cyrrhus, and Evagrius Scholasticus, used the Greek tragedy model to explain dramatic reversals of Fortune. The hero is seduced by good fortune to unkindness and reaps his sad reward. And, as Christian sensitivities changed, the avoidance of previously avoided terms declined. Nevertheless, Eusebius' successors continued his effort to work out a rapprochement between the Christian doctrine of Providence and the doctrine of Fortune found in pagan histories (Chesnut 1977:212).
The Origenism of Eusebius that so permeated his History was of the extremely rationalistic type. Although Eusebius did not hesitate to allegorise Holy Scripture and disallowed the historicity of Genesis origins and Revelation's future literality the Divine Reason (Logos) was nevertheless the structure of nature and history. The irrational had no lasting place in history. This enabled a new respect for fact and the process of logical enquiry that laid a foundation for the historiographical style of his successors. To return to rationality would lead to God Himself in a cosmic hymn of praise (Chesnut 1977:254). His successors did not follow his version of Origenist theology. Socrates tends towards mysticism, combining a skeptical form of Neoplatonism with the radical theology of Evagrius Ponticus (Chesnut 1977:254). Theodoret actually opposed many of the Origenist tendencies. However, on the fundamental issues of real freedom of the human will and of human possibilities in this life all four followed the Eusebian historiographical tradition.
His View of the State  
Chesnut defines Eusebius' view of the state as a liberal progressivism in which the Christian Roman state was viewed as –
"the pinnacle of human civilisation, the high point of centuries of historical progress, that would last until the end of the world" (1977:199).
It carried within itself two levels of piety, religious and social, and was the mystical union of the entire human race toward which all preceding history had been directed (Ibid 139). This golden vision was the spiritual force that held the Byzantine Empire together for a thousand years.
contrast to Augustine, those church historians who carried on Eusebius' work, Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret, and Evagrius, continued to be haunted by this dream, and let it dominate some of their most basic historical judgments. In spite of Augustine's attempt to provide a different understanding of history for the West, as soon as Western Europe began to pull itself together again after the barbarian invasions, there too the dream of a Holy Roman Empire captured the human imagination at its deepest level once again (Chesnut 1977:140).
His View of the Emperor  
To Eusebius the good ruler must imitate God morally and thereby become the image on earth of the Divine Mind and Law (Ibid 256). However the tendency in pagan circles to visualise the ideal ruler as a philosopher-king needed to be contradicted. Eusebius' successors opposed this Platonic dictum. The poverty of the ideal philosopher was seen as incompatible. Socrates developed Eusebius' idea and insisted that the good ruler must display his awe-inspiring majesty in personal deportment and in ostentatious show of material wealth and splendour (Chesnut 1977:257). Sozomen developed this idea further. He described Theodosius the Younger as the ideal, the saintly warrior, half soldier and half monk, an idea that profoundly affected the thinking of Medieval Europe. Eusebius' political ideas helped to create the Christian Empire of Byzantium (Dowley 1977:17).
ideas of Eusebius conveyed in his Church History developed through his four immediate successors into a distinctive theology of history, a view that was fundamentally optimistic. Although armies and courts of law must do their work, the earthly state under its godly ruler must echo the heavenly state and mirror at a human level the love, grace, and order of God's heavenly rule (Chesnut 1977:258).
Thus history has its own value. It is a reflection of the eternal in the world of time, and by fulfilling itself it would provide a route back to humanity's original unfallen status. As Glen Chesnut sums it up
"only by preserving and strengthening its vision of that higher level of reality could this present world find its proper law of life and achieve its authentic human possibilities" (Ibid 258).
idea that real historical progress was possible, and the idea that true religion had the responsibility for creating civilised life itself, were among the most significant contributions that Eusebius bequeathed to the middle ages. One of the forces that eventually gave Western Europe the courage to pull itself out of the dark ages of barbarian invasions was perhaps the implicit optimism of Eusebius' account of the possibilities of history. He gave the following generations a positive vision of what humans could do to create civilisation out of savagery (Ibid 94-95).
Chesnut, GF 1977 The first Christian histories:
Eusebius, Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret and Evagrius
Paris, France: Editions Beauchesne
Dowley, T (Ed)
1977 The History of Christianity Cape Town, South Africa: Struik Christian Books
Grant, RM
Eusebius as Church Historian Oxford, UK: Clarendon
Lane, Tony
The Lion Book of Christian Thought Oxford, UK: Lion Publishing
Schaff, Philip 1910 History of the Christian Church, Vol.3 Grand rapids, USA: WB Eerdmans Publishing Co.
• Britannica - 1979 The Encyclopaedia Britannica
Chicago, USA: Britannica
• Grolier - 1993 The Academic American Encyclopedia, Release 6 Danbury, CT: Grolier Electronic Publishing Inc.

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