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Eusebius of Caesarea

14 bytes added, 07:29, July 29, 2011
modified link to Papias of Hierapolis
The limitations of Eusebius could be said to flow from his position as the first court-appointed Christian theologian in the service of the Roman Empire. Notwithstanding the great influence of his works on others, Eusebius was not himself a great historian. His treatment of [[heresy]], for example, is inadequate, and he knew very little about the Western church. His historical works are really apologetics. In his Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 8, chapter 2, he points out, "We shall introduce into this history in general only those events which may be useful first to ourselves and afterwards to posterity."
In his ''Praeparatio evangelica'' (xii, 31), Eusebius has a section on the use of fictions (''pseudos'') as a "medicine", which may be "lawful and fitting" to use. With that in mind, it is still difficult to assess Eusebius' conclusions and veracity by confronting him with his predecessors and contemporaries because the texts of previous chroniclers, notably [[Papiasof Hierapolis]], whom he denigrated, and Hegesippus, on whom he relied, have disappeared; they survive largely in the form of the quotes of their work that Eusebius selected, and thus they are to be seen only through the lens of Eusebius.
These and other issues have invited controversy. For example, Jocab Burckhardt dismissed Eusebius as "the first thoroughly dishonest historian of antiquity". Burckhardt is not alone in holding such a view. However, Professor Michael J. Hollerich thinks such criticisms go too far. Writing in "Church History" (Vol. 59, 1990), he says that ever since Burckhardt, "Eusebius has been an inviting target for students of the Constantinian era. At one time or another they have characterized him as a political propagandist, a good courtier, the shrewd and worldly adviser of the Emperor Constantine, the great publicist of the first Christian emperor, the first in a long succession of ecclesiastical politicians, the herald of Byzantinism, a political theologian, a political metaphysician, and a caesaropapist. It is obvious that these are not, in the main, neutral descriptions. Much traditional scholarship, sometimes with barely suppressed disdain, has regarded Eusebius as one who risked his orthodoxy and perhaps his character because of his zeal for the Constantinian establishment." He concludes that "the standard assessment has exaggerated the importance of political themes and political motives in Eusebius's life and writings and has failed to do justice to him as a churchman and a scholar".

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