Eusebius (265–339 or 340)

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(265339 or 340)

Eusebius, the church historian and Christian apologist, was bishop of Caesarea (Palestine) early in the fourth century. He is best known for his enthusiastic support of the emperor Constantine and for his pioneering Historia Ecclesiastica, intended to show how the church expanded but always remained the same because of its leaders' fidelity to tradition. Though Eusebius was essentially a historian rather than a philosopher, he did produce one work of significance for the history of philosophy. This is his Praeparatio Evangelica (Preparation for the Gospel), probably written between 312 and 318. It consists of fifteen books, perhaps because Porphyry's treatise, Kata Christianon (Against the Christians), contained the same number. Eusebius claimed that his treatise went beyond earlier works of controversy or exegesis; the novelty seems to have lain in the method of quoting passages in which philosophers contradict one another, although he obviously found materials for this technique in some of his pagan sources.

The Praeparatio may be outlined thus: the earliest cosmogony (I. 78); the earliest theology (I. 9); Phoenician theology (I. 10); Egyptian theology (II. 1); Greek mythology (II. 28); Greek "physical" theology (III. 117); Greek oracles (IVVI), leading on to the doctrines of Greek philosophers on fate, free will, and foreknowledge (VI); Hebrew doctrines (VIIIX); the chronological priority of Hebrew learning to Greek (X); the agreements and disagreements of Greek philosophy with the Hebrew oracles (XIXIII); and the inconsistency of Greek philosophy, culminating with a transcription of part of the treatise "On the Doctrines of Philosophers" ascribed to Plutarch (XIVXV).

The sources used by Eusebius reflect the predominantly Platonic character of the books assembled in church libraries, especially at Caesarea, by Origen and others. Eusebius made extensive use of Plato and Philo, but not of Aristotle. His other sources include the textbooks by Arius Didymus and Pseudo-Plutarch, as well as works by eclectic Platonists of the second Christian century (Atticus, Numenius, Plutarch, Severus) and a few of their contemporaries (the Peripatetic Aristocles, the Epicurean Diogenianus, the Cynic Oenomaus). From the third century he used the treatise "On Fate" by Alexander of Aphrodisias, the school text of Plotinus (earlier than that found in Porphyry's edition), several works by Porphyry ("On Abstinence," "Letter to Anebo," "Against the Christians," "Philological Lectures," "On the Philosophy to Be Derived from Oracles," "On the Soul against Boethus," "On Statues"), and a fragment by a Christian Neoplatonist named Amelius.

His basic viewpoint is that of a Christian ecclesiastic and a historian; he has considerable sympathy for his favorite philosophers (especially Plato), but he is not really at home with them. Indeed, in his later work, Theophania (On the theophany), written after 337, his attitude toward philosophy is markedly hostile.

In later times the Praeparatio was used as a mine of philosophical quotations by such Christian apologists as Theodoret and Cyril of Alexandria (Cyril often looked up Eusebius' sources and provided slightly different quotations). It would appear that this is its principal value.

See also Alexander of Aphrodisias; Apologists; Aristotle; Cosmology; Numenius of Apamea; Origen; Plato; Plotinus; Plutarch of Chaeronea; Porphyry; Precognition.


works by eusebius

The best Greek texts are in Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte, published by the Berlin Academy from 1902 on, although the first volume needs to be reedited (see F. Winkelmann, Die Textbezeugung der Vita Constantini des Eusebius von Caesarea, Berlin: Akademie_Verlag, 1962). Translations include H. J. Lawlor and J. Oulton, Eusebius: The Ecclesiastical History and the Martyrs of Palestine, 2 vols. (London, 1928), valuable commentary; W. J. Ferrar, The Proof of the Gospel (Demonstratio Evangelica ), 2 vols. (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1920); and E. H. Gifford, Eusebii Pamphili Evangelicae Praeparationis Libri XV, 4 vols. in 5 (Oxford, 1903).

works on eusebius

Full bibliography in J. Quasten, Patrology (Utrecht: Spectrum, 1960), Vol. III, pp. 309345 (on the Praeparatio, pp. 329331). Later titles include D. S. Wallace-Hadrill, Eusebius of Caesarea (London: A.R. Mowbray, 1960) and J. Sirinelli, Les vues historiques d'Eusèbe de Césarée (Dakar, Senegal, 1961). On early use of Eusebius' works see Pierre Canivet, Histoire d'une entreprise d'apologétique au Ve siècle (Paris: Bloud & Gay, 1958); R. M. Grant, "Greek Literature in the Treatise De Trinitate and Cyril Contra Julianum, " Journal of Theological Studies 15 (1964): 265279.

Robert M. Grant (1967)