Church History (Eusebius)
The Church History of Eusebius, the bishop of Caesarea
Eusebius of Caesarea
Eusebius of Caesarea also called Eusebius Pamphili, was a Roman historian, exegete and Christian polemicist. He became the Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine about the year 314. Together with Pamphilus, he was a scholar of the Biblical canon...

 was a 4th-century pioneer work giving a chronological account of the development of Early Christianity
Early Christianity
Early Christianity is generally considered as Christianity before 325. The New Testament's Book of Acts and Epistle to the Galatians records that the first Christian community was centered in Jerusalem and its leaders included James, Peter and John....

 from the 1st century
Christianity in the 1st century
The earliest followers of Jesus composed an apocalyptic, Jewish sect, which historians refer to as Jewish Christianity. The Apostles and others following the Great Commission's decree to spread the teachings of Jesus to "all nations," had great success spreading the religion to gentiles. Peter,...

 to the 4th century
Christianity in the 4th century
Christianity in the 4th century was dominated by Constantine the Great, and the First Council of Nicea of 325, which was the beginning of the period of the First seven Ecumenical Councils and the attempt to reach an orthodox consensus and to establish a unified Christendom as the State church of...

. It was written in Koine Greek
Koine Greek
Koine Greek is the universal dialect of the Greek language spoken throughout post-Classical antiquity , developing from the Attic dialect, with admixture of elements especially from Ionic....

, and survives also in Latin, Syriac and Armenian manuscripts. The result was the first full-length historical narrative written from a Christian point of view. In the early 5th century two advocates in Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

, Socrates Scholasticus
Socrates Scholasticus
Socrates of Constantinople, also known as Socrates Scholasticus, not to be confused with the Greek philosopher Socrates, was a Greek Christian church historian, a contemporary of Sozomen and Theodoret, who used his work; he was born at Constantinople c. 380: the date of his death is unknown...

 and Sozomen
Salminius Hermias Sozomenus was a historian of the Christian church.-Family and Home:He was born around 400 in Bethelia, a small town near Gaza, into a wealthy Christian family of Palestine....

, and a bishop, Theodoret
Theodoret of Cyrus or Cyrrhus was an influential author, theologian, and Christian bishop of Cyrrhus, Syria . He played a pivotal role in many early Byzantine church controversies that led to various ecumenical acts and schisms...

 of Cyrrhus, Syria
Cyrrhus, Syria
Cyrrhus, or Kyrros was a city in ancient Syria founded by Seleucus Nicator, one of Alexander the Great's generals. Other names for the city include Hagioupolis, Nebi Huri نبي حوري, Khoros . Its ruins are located in northern Syria, near the Turkish border. It lies about 70 km northwest of Aleppo...

, wrote continuations of Eusebius' church history, establishing the convention of continuator
A continuator, in literature, is a writer who creates a new work based on someone else's prior text, such as a novel or novel fragment. The new work may complete the older work , or may try to serve as a sequel or prequel to the older work A continuator, in literature, is a writer who creates a new...

s that would determine to a great extent the way history was written
Historiography refers either to the study of the history and methodology of history as a discipline, or to a body of historical work on a specialized topic...

 for the next thousand years. Eusebius' Chronicle
Chronicon (Eusebius)
The Chronicon or Chronicle was a work in two books by Eusebius of Caesarea. It seems to have been compiled in the early 4th century. It contained a world chronicle from Abraham until the vicennalia of Constantine I in 325 AD...

, that attempted to lay out a comparative timeline
A timeline is a way of displaying a list of events in chronological order, sometimes described as a project artifact . It is typically a graphic design showing a long bar labeled with dates alongside itself and events labeled on points where they would have happened.-Uses of timelines:Timelines...

 of pagan and Old Testament history, set the model for the other historiographical genre, the medieval chronicle
Generally a chronicle is a historical account of facts and events ranged in chronological order, as in a time line. Typically, equal weight is given for historically important events and local events, the purpose being the recording of events that occurred, seen from the perspective of the...

 or universal history
Universal history
Universal history is basic to the Western tradition of historiography, especially the Abrahamic wellspring of that tradition. Simply stated, universal history is the presentation of the history of humankind as a whole, as a coherent unit.-Ancient authors:...


Eusebius had access to the library of Caesarea and made use of many ecclesiastical monuments and documents, acts of the martyrs, letters, extracts from earlier Christian writings, lists of bishops, and similar sources, often quoting the originals at great length so that his work contains materials not elsewhere preserved. For example he wrote that Matthew
Matthew the Evangelist
Matthew the Evangelist was, according to the Bible, one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus and one of the four Evangelists.-Identity:...

 composed the Gospel according to the Hebrews and his Church Catalogue suggests that it was the only Jewish gospel
Jewish-Christian Gospels
Jewish-Christian Gospels are non-canonical Gospels used by various Jewish Christian groups that were declared heretical by other members of the Early Church. They are mentioned by Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius, Epiphanius and Jerome...

. It is therefore of historical value, though it pretends neither to completeness nor to the observance of due proportion in the treatment of the subject-matter. Nor does it present in a connected and systematic way the history of the early Christian Church. It is to no small extent a vindication of the Christian religion, though the author did not primarily intend it as such. Eusebius has been often accused of intentional falsification of the truth; in judging persons or facts he is not entirely unbiased.

Plan of the work

Eusebius attempted according to his own declaration (I.i.1) to present the history of the Church from the apostles to his own time, with special regard to the following points:
  1. the successions of bishops in the principal sees;
  2. the history of Christian teachers;
  3. the history of heresies;
  4. the history of the Jews;
  5. the relations to the heathen;
  6. the martyrdoms.

He grouped his material according to the reigns of the emperors, presenting it as he found it in his sources. The contents are as follows:
  • Book i: detailed introduction on Jesus Christ
  • Book ii: The history of the apostolic time to the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus
    Titus , was Roman Emperor from 79 to 81. A member of the Flavian dynasty, Titus succeeded his father Vespasian upon his death, thus becoming the first Roman Emperor to come to the throne after his own father....

  • Book iii: The following time to Trajan
    Trajan , was Roman Emperor from 98 to 117 AD. Born into a non-patrician family in the province of Hispania Baetica, in Spain Trajan rose to prominence during the reign of emperor Domitian. Serving as a legatus legionis in Hispania Tarraconensis, in Spain, in 89 Trajan supported the emperor against...

  • Books iv and v: approximately the 2nd century
  • Book vi: The time from Septimius Severus
    Septimius Severus
    Septimius Severus , also known as Severus, was Roman Emperor from 193 to 211. Severus was born in Leptis Magna in the province of Africa. As a young man he advanced through the customary succession of offices under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Severus seized power after the death of...

     to Decius
  • Book vii: extends to the outbreak of the persecution under Diocletian
    Diocletian |latinized]] upon his accession to Diocletian . c. 22 December 244  – 3 December 311), was a Roman Emperor from 284 to 305....

  • Book viii: more of this persecution
  • Book ix: history to Constantine's victory over Maxentius
    Maxentius was a Roman Emperor from 306 to 312. He was the son of former Emperor Maximian, and the son-in-law of Emperor Galerius.-Birth and early life:Maxentius' exact date of birth is unknown; it was probably around 278...

     in the West and over Maximinus
    Maximinus II , also known as Maximinus Daia or Maximinus Daza, was Roman Emperor from 308 to 313. He was born of Dacian peasant stock to the half sister of the emperor Galerius near their family lands around Felix Romuliana; a rural area then in the Danubian region of Moesia, now Eastern Serbia.He...

     in the East
  • Book x: The reestablishment of the churches and the rebellion and conquest of Licinius
    Licinius I , was Roman Emperor from 308 to 324. Co-author of the Edict of Milan that granted official toleration to Christians in the Roman Empire, for the majority of his reign he was the rival of Constantine I...



In its present form, the work was brought to a conclusion before the death of Crispus
Flavius Julius Crispus , also known as Flavius Claudius Crispus and Flavius Valerius Crispus, was a Caesar of the Roman Empire. He was the first-born son of Constantine I and Minervina.-Birth:...

 (July, 326), and, since book x is dedicated to Paulinus of Tyre who died before 325, at the end of 323, or in 324. This work required the most comprehensive preparatory studies, and it must have occupied him for years. His collection of martyrdoms of the older period may have been one of these preparatory studies.

Attitudes of the author

Eusebius blames the calamities which befell the Jewish nation on the Jews' role in the death of Jesus. This quote has been used to attack both Jews and Christians (see Christianity and anti-Semitism
Christianity and anti-Semitism
Christian attitudes to Judaism and to the Jewish people developed from the early years of Christianity, the persecution of Christians in the New Testament, and persisted over the ensuing centuries, driven by numerous factors including theological differences, competition between Church and...

This is not simply anti-Semitism, however. Eusebius levels a similar charge against Christians, blaming a spirit of divisiveness for some of the most severe persecutions.
He also launches into a panegyric
A panegyric is a formal public speech, or written verse, delivered in high praise of a person or thing, a generally highly studied and discriminating eulogy, not expected to be critical. It is derived from the Greek πανηγυρικός meaning "a speech fit for a general assembly"...

, which is an elaborate speech giving extravagant praise to a person or thing, in the middle of Book x. He praises the Lord for his provisions and kindness to them for allowing them to rebuild their churches after they have been destroyed.

The dependability of Eusebius as a historian is discussed in R.M.Q. Grant, Eusebius as Church Historian (Oxford University Press) 1980.


In the biblical New Testament in the book of Acts, Simon Magus was a great sorcerer who convinced the Samarians that he was the “Power of God that is called Great.” [Acts 8:10] After this claim, Philip, a Christian evangelist, preached the gospel of God and converted and baptized many people, including Simon. According to Acts, Peter and John of Jerusalem were sent to pray that the Holy Spirit would be provided to the Samarians. The Holy Spirit came to the Samarians. Simon, in greed, offered money to Peter and John to learn how to provide the Holy Spirit. Peter refused Simon and sent him away to repent; Simon left and asked Peter to pray for him. Many people, especially Eusebius, have expounded upon this story.

Eusebius believed that Simon Magus began heresy. He believed that Simon performed black magic and misled others to believe that he was divine. Simon also lived an evil life: he was intimate with the prostitute Helen and engaged in secret and vile rituals. The Samarians, those he led, acted in the same way as him. Then God sent Peter to encounter Simon in Judea. Simon fled to Rome. Peter appeared to Simon in Rome and Simon found the truth.

Whether or not this story is accurate, it provides a framework for viewing heresy. Heresy, whatever one understands by that term, has survived and undergone transformations down to the present day. In this story heresy (the view of Simon) is depicted as the “wrong way,” in contrast with orthodoxy (the view of Peter) which is presented as the “right way.”


The work was translated into other languages in ancient time (Latin, Syriac, Armenian). Codex Syriac 1
National Library of Russia, Codex Syriac 1
National Library of Russia, Codex Syriac 1, designated by siglum A, is a manuscript of Syriac version of the Eusebian Ecclesiastical History. It is dated by a Colophon to the year 462. The manuscript is lacunose.-Description:...

 housed at the National Library of Russia is one of the oldest Syriac manuscript of the Eusebian work. It is dated to the year 462.

See also

  • Ecclesiastical history (Catholicism)
    Ecclesiastical history (Catholicism)
    Ecclesiastical history, for the Roman Catholic Church, is the history of the Roman Catholic Church as an institution, written from a particular perspective. There is a traditional approach to such historiography...

Other early church historians:
  • Socrates Scholasticus
    Socrates Scholasticus
    Socrates of Constantinople, also known as Socrates Scholasticus, not to be confused with the Greek philosopher Socrates, was a Greek Christian church historian, a contemporary of Sozomen and Theodoret, who used his work; he was born at Constantinople c. 380: the date of his death is unknown...

  • Sozomen
    Salminius Hermias Sozomenus was a historian of the Christian church.-Family and Home:He was born around 400 in Bethelia, a small town near Gaza, into a wealthy Christian family of Palestine....

  • Theodoret of Cyrus
  • Rufinus of Aquileia (he added two books to his translation of Eusebius)
  • Philostorgius
    Philostorgius was an Anomoean Church historian of the 4th and 5th centuries. Anomoeanism questioned the Trinitarian account of the relationship between God the Father and Christ and was considered a heresy by the Orthodox Church, which adopted the term "homoousia" in the Nicene Creed. Very little...

  • Evagrius Scholasticus
    Evagrius Scholasticus
    Evagrius Scholasticus was a Syrian scholar and intellectual living in the 6th century AD, and an aide to the patriarch Gregory of Antioch. His surviving work, Ecclesiastical History, comprises a six-volume collection concerning the Church's history from the First Council of Ephesus to Maurice’s...

  • Zacharias Rhetor
    Zacharias Rhetor
    Zacharias of Mytilene , also known as Zacharias Scholasticus or Zacharias Rhetor, was a bishop and ecclesiastical historian....

  • Theodorus Lector
    Theodorus Lector
    Theodorus Lector was a lector, or reader, at the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople during the early sixth century. He wrote two works of history; one is a collection of sources which relates events beginning in 313, during Constantine's early reign, down to 439, in the reign Theodosius II...

  • John of Ephesus
    John of Ephesus
    John of Ephesus was a leader of the non-Chalcedonian Syriac-speaking Church in the sixth century, and one of the earliest and most important of historians who wrote in Syriac.-Life:...

  • Barhadbesabba of 'Arbaya (Nestorian historian from the 6th century)
  • Bede
    Bede , also referred to as Saint Bede or the Venerable Bede , was a monk at the Northumbrian monastery of Saint Peter at Monkwearmouth, today part of Sunderland, England, and of its companion monastery, Saint Paul's, in modern Jarrow , both in the Kingdom of Northumbria...

    , Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum
    Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum
    The Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum is a work in Latin by Bede on the history of the Christian Churches in England, and of England generally; its main focus is on the conflict between Roman and Celtic Christianity.It is considered to be one of the most important original references on...

External links

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