Despite the amazing resources for studying church history that Christians today can enjoy, in the first centuries of the church, few historians recorded Christian legacy. Thus, when Eusebius penned his Church History, the legacy, stories, and lives of thousands of Christians rested heavily upon his shoulders. He probably never knew how indebted Christians would be to his work.
Eusebius lived most of his life in Caesarea, Palestine. Born in 260, he later became a Christian under the influence of a certain man named Pamphilus, a devotee of Origen. Eusebius later became the bishop of Caesarea, holding an important role in the church.
During his lifetime, Eusebius strove for peace within the church, even at the expense of truth. Hoping for the church to enjoy rejuvenation after fierce persecutions, Eusebius did not oppose the Arian heresy. He simply wanted to keep the church together, no matter the cost, even though he was not an Arian in his theology. He was among those who ostracized Athanasius, the anti-Arian, and supported Arius’ return from exile.
Despite his ideology of unification of the church at all costs, Eusebius did Christians a great courtesy by recording the history of the first three centuries of the church. When taking on this task, Eusebius faced a daunting challenge. For the most part only secular sources, such as Josephus, were available, and these he quoted extensively. The finished document, preserved until the present day, provides a unique glimpse into the church’s first three hundred years. Among the ten volumes readers discover the fates of the apostles, leading early church figures, persecutions of the church by various Roman emperors, the testimonies of various martyrs, and controversies over theology. This book is a collection of treasures for Christians today, but we often fail to realize the richness of the book.
After living a fulfilling life serving the Lord in a bishopric and recording the doings of the early church, Eusebius died in 340 at the age of eighty. His life remains a testimony of remembering God’s blessings to His people and giving Him praise for them.
The life and, more importantly, the work of Eusebius causes Christians to ponder the importance of worldview in history. Despite the popular belief that history can be secularized, worldview plays a large part in interpreting history. Eusebius certainly believed this. Whenever a respite for the persecuted church presented itself, he praised God for providing for His suffering children and for not forgetting their distress. When an emperor persecuted the church, Eusebius sometimes saw this as God awakening the church from lethargy and error. Scripture certainly follows this example. In the book of Acts, when people praised Herod and called him a god, he did not give glory to God but instead took the glory for himself. For this selfish act, “an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died” (Acts 12:23). Although the means of death was natural, the cause of death was spiritual–an angel of the Lord struck him. If this distinction between cause and means is not made, Christians often see the world through the same secular worldview as others. Instead, Christians should look at history through the lens of God’s sovereignty and the ways He provided for His people throughout the ages, including today.
Holy Bible. New King James Version, Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1982.
Editors of Christian History Magazine. “Eusebius of Caesarea.” Christianity Today, http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/scholarsandscientists/eusebius-of-caesarea.html.
Eusebius. Eusebius–The Church History: A New Translation with Commentary. Translated and commentated by Paul L. Maier, Kregel, 1999.