Thursday, December 4, 2014

Eusebius - The Historian

Eusebius was the first church historian whose work has been preserved. As such, he provides a valuable service. He preserves information on many individuals and events which we would otherwise know only limited amounts about. There are a number of other sources from the period that confirm at least the broad outline of what Eusebius writes, if not all the details. One could wish for an alternative narrative that we could compare it with and that would provide a wider view. He seems to emphasize the teachers of the Alexandrian school and says less about some of the others. But he provides us a service by preserving what he does.

The man himself was not extremely impressive. He was a supporter of Constantine and something of a sycophant. His history of Constantine passes over any questionable thing about him and only reproduces the good. (He fails to mention Constantine putting to death his oldest son on the charge, which some claim was trumped up, of the son committing adultery with his stepmother.) Eusebius tried to take a middle road in the dispute between Athanasius and Arius. He was more of a supporter of the party line, and his history may suffer because of it. While he is critical in places, he has a tendency to be laudatory, at least as regards the Christians. He is more of a work-a-day, though solid scholar, but as such he does put together a wealth of useful information. And shows that the studious scholar, without necessarily possessing deep insight, can accomplish things worthwhile for the kingdom of God. We do not necessarily have to be extraordinary to be used of God.

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