Eusebius of Caesarea

Eusebius of Caesarea (264-339) is commonly known today as the Father of Church History. Little is known about his life. His main works are Church History and the Chronicle. The Chronicle was composed around 300 CE.[7, p.88]

“…Eusebius is our principal primary source for earliest Christianity, and his Church History is the cornerstone chronicle on which later historians would build.”
– Paul Maier (1999)[5, p.9]

“The Ecclesiastical History is absolutely unique and indispensable. The Chronicle is the vast storehouse of information relating to the ancient monarchies of the world.”
– J. B. Lightfoot[6, p.31]

I think Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History is his most famous one today. It’s a collection of 10 books that each have more than 10 chapters. In chapter 1 of book 1, Eusebius reported that his work seemed to him to be especially important because he could not think of a single Church writer who had devoted themselves to the subject yet. He hoped it would be useful to those who enjoy historical research.

“He was, above all things, an apologist; and the apologetic aim governed both the selection of his subjects and method of his treatment. He composed none of his works with a purely scientific aim.”
-Philip Schaff (1890)[6, p.33]

“The datings of Eusebius, often transmitted incorrectly in manuscripts, are of little use to us today, except in a few cases where no better information is available.”[7, p.88]
– E. J. Bickerman (1980)

The above quote from Bickerman is in reference to Eusebius’ Chronicle. His Chronicle (aka Chronography) was a revision of the collected works of Castor, Eratosthenes, and Apollodorus. His main source most likely was Julius Africanus, because Africanus had also attempted a similar revised collection.[8, p.396-397] There were a number of “chronographers and computists” who continued Eusebius’ work throughout the 4th-8th centuries, like Diodorus of Tarsus (d.390 CE), Panodorus (fl. 395-408), Annianus (fl.388-412), Andronicus (fl.527-565), and James of Edessa (d.708).[8, p.398-399]

Surviving Manuscripts

Eusebius’ Historia ecclesiastica (Church History)

The Greek Text

Primary MSS

Excluded: Σ, L.

E: 10th c.

T: 10th-11th cc.

A: 11th c.

B, D: 11th-12th centuries

M, R: 12th c.

The Greek works are split into two main groups; BDMΣL and ATER.
The MSS have numerous internal inconsistencies.

The Syriac Text

A is dated based on its colophon. B had a date in its colophon but it got erased.

A: 462 AD.
^19th century provenance?

B: 6th c.
^provenance obscure

C, D, E, F: Not Dated

The Armenian Text

For some time, it was believed that there were three Armenian texts available, all of which dated to the 17th century. Two of those MSS were used when the Mechitarists printed an edition in Venice in 1877.

The 20th century put an end to this notion with the discovery of “Cod. Maten. 2679”, which has been dated to the 9th century.

The Latin Text

Clm 6383: 8th c.

Clm 6381: 9th c. or 10th c.

Clm 14040: 12th c.

Sang.: 13th c.

C: 15th c.

G: 15th-16th cc.

All of the Latin texts have obscure origins.

Eusebius’ Chronicle

Believed to have been first written in 303 AD and revised/updated until 325/6. The surviving MS are not based upon the original edition, but later editions.

It consists of two parts;

1: Chronography

2: Chronological Canons

Greek Text

“Apart from some fragments, the Greek text is lost.”
– Roger Pearse[2]

Armenian Text

“In 1782 the Constantinopolitan Armenologist, Orientalist and translator George Dpir Ter Yovhannisean (1737-1811), known under the surname George Dpir Palateci, discovered the Armenian version of the “chronicle” of Eusebius and made this useful source for the study of early Christian history in the orient and occident, whose Greek original has been lost, available in a more genuine form to the following generations.”

I suspect the Armenian texts have obscure origins. An example being, “the guest in the night got thirsty and found —- while searching for a water jug —- a parchment manuscript with a tight leather cover which served in his host’s household as a lid for the water jug”. Maybe this is legitimate, but I will need to look into it further before seriously considering the authenticity of the Armenian texts.

Latin Text

“…, St. Jerome translated the second part of the text into Latin, bringing it down to his own time and adding additional Latin-oriented material. In this form it dominated medieval historiography, and became one of the fundamental books on which all study of the past has taken its origin.”
– Roger Pearse[2]

MSS of St. Jerome’s Latin translation

A: 7th c. (questionable origins, possibly 17th c. surfacing)

T, Q: 9th c.

P: 9th c. (Petavianus, possibly surfaces in the 17th c.?)

L, C: 9th c./10th c.

D: 10th

O, S, F: surfaces out of obscurity 16th c. (O and S are believed to be 5th c. creations. F from the 9th c.)

B: surfaces out of obscurity 17th c.

M, N – surfaces out of obscurity 19th c.

Eusebius’ “Demonstratio Evangelica”

Parisinus 469, “the Medicean” – w. 12th c.

There are four from the 16th century labeled 471-473. There is a fifth manuscript from the 15th century. These 5 are considered to all be based on Parisinus 469.

There is a 15th century manuscript which is held at the Ambrosian Library in Milan. A seventh one exists which is also from the 15th century.

Eusebius’ “Theophania” (Divine Manifestation), “Martyrs of Palestine” (long version), “Enconium of the Martyrs”

This collection of works was obtained (discovered?) from the Nitrian desert in 1839.

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[1] –

[2] –

[3] –

[4] –

[5] – Maier, Paul L. “Eusebius–the church history : a new translation with commentary” (1999). Accessed 19 Sept. 2020.

[6] –,_Schaff._Philip,_3_Vol_01_Eusebius_Pamphilius,_EN.pdf. Accessed 20 Sept. 2020.

[7] – Bickerman, E. J. “Chronology of the ancient world” (1980). Accessed 18 Sept. 2020.

[8] – Patricia Varona. “Chronology and History in Byzantium” (2018). file:///C:/Users/carle/Downloads/16035-19553-1-PB.pdf. Accessed 6 Nov. 2020.

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2 Comments on “Eusebius of Caesarea

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    Liked by 1 person

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