Book Review: Eusebius-The History Of The Church/Translated By Williamson/ Edited By Louth

Introduction: Plot Summary

Eusebius of Caesarea wrote “The History of the Church” which is considered one of the most important Christian books. It covers three centuries, beginning with Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection and until Emperor Constantine’s constitutional recognition of Christianity. The author grounds his research on numerous documents, acts, facts, extracts, and acts, Eusebius traces records of Roman Emperors’ lineages to the main figures in Jerusalem, Alexandria, Rome, and Antioch. Eusebius’s first book entails the story of Jesus Christ and his apostles. Through a series of events and actions, the author presents the untainted life of the savior and defends some of the most controversial aspects of his life. Eusebius uses texts from the Old Testament to justify some of these acts and Jesus’ divinity. In His second book, he author covers the apostle’s experiences, testimonies, acts of faith, and martyrdoms. In the third book, Eusebius delves into the creation and the beginning of the gospels, the successors, and finally, the apostles. The Father of Church History focuses his attention on the persecutions, establishment, and beginning of the church. In book four, the author examines the period starting from Trajan until Marcus Aurelius, with the particular attention on Marcion’s heretical doctrine in addition to the decree of Easter festivities. Book six covers the times from Severus until Decius, with emphasis on the life of Origen. In book seven, Eusebius describes the historical happenings between the periods from Gallus until Gallienus, concentrating on Cyprian and Dionysius in addition to the heresies of the time. In book eight, the author delves into the intervals between Diocletian and Maximian, presenting the most extreme brutalities ever committed against Christians. Book nine is a continuation of the events covered in the previous one, with persisting aggression against the Church. The author culminates in book ten, presentating the victory of Constantine, and congratulating him on defeating the tyrants who maltreated Christians.

Chapter One: The Works of Christ

Eusebius presents the beginning of the Church by tracing the works of Christ. He describes the succession line starting from the time of the apostles, the precise names, and times, the conspiracy of the apostles against Jesus Christ, and the account of the dreadful crusades against the Savior. The author offers a systematic recount of the heretics, heroism, and bitter fight that culminated in the persecution of Christ. While focusing on the divinity and works of Christ that resulted in the establishment of the present-day Church, Eusebius reminds the reader about the origin of Christianity. He uses relevant strong words in order to give a better description of the ancient greatness of Christ and His deeds. The author lays claim of the preparation of the establishment of the Church right from Abraham, Moses and David’s times, and the mighty prophets such as Elijah. The beginning of Christ’s story portrays many wars, propaganda, and bitter campaigns the church endured for centuries.

Chapter Two: Tiberius to Nero

Book 2 is a compilation of Philo, Josephus, Tertullian, and Clement’s works. It is a story about Tiberius and Nero Ceasar and it covers the selection of Matthias up to the times of the Judas’ replacement, to Paul and Peter’s demise. The chapter focuses on the life of the Apostles after Christ’s death and ascension. After these happenings St. Stephen becomes a martyr, being the first ever Christian to pass on his works about Jesus Christ. With the continued persecution of Christians by Paul, the church faced numerous challenges to reach out to people and preach the gospel and the establishment of the church. However, the author notes the turn of events with the entrance of Saul, previously Paul. Ascension of Jesus Christ became one of the most significant events with many discussions and propaganda spread across. However, the apostles carried on with their works faithfully and diligently. Many rulers nearly concluded to crown Christ as a god, but many kingdoms such as the Roman Senate contested the decision. The author acknowledged the massive conversion by many in the Christian faith at the time, although it did not come easy. In many instances, they were considered traitors and were rebuked and sent away. However, due to their diligence and commitment to faith, Christians carried on and reached many cities and kingdoms to lay the foundation for the present day Church. The Gospel became their guidance and confidence. With the persecution and death of Christ, they believed that all that remained was to carry on with establishing good works of the Lord.

Chapter 3: Vaspasian to Nero

With Thomas in Parthia, Andrew in Scythia, John in Asia, the Apostles carried on spreading the Gospel all over the world. Although Peter and Paul finished their assignment in Rome, some quarters claimed that Peter’s accounts and deeds were genuine. According to Eusebius, Paul’s works were noncanonical although the Acts of the Apostles as presented in the Bible are reliable. Eusebius offers a discussion of the non-canonical texts. Many established churches outside Jerusalem came because of the works of Paul’s preaching and teachings. Relying on Luke’s gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, Eusebius traces the growth and establishment of many churches in Rome, Jerusalem, and Judea. He presents numerous journeys, account, experiences, and recordings during the travel of the apostles around the world into different societies and faiths.

Chapter 4: Trajan to Marcus Aurelius

In chapter 4, Eusebius traces the reign of Rome right from the time of Bishop of Alexandria and additional 12 years of Trajan’s rule. All this happened as the Christian faithful expanded and added up in numbers. As the successor of Paul and Peter, Alexandria continued with the works of the apostles into much of Rome. Aelius Hadriasnus replaced Trajan as the emperor. With many ongoing persecutions, a lot of faithful, such as Quadratus, strongly defended their faith and religion. With every succession, from the times of Xystus to Alexander, to Justus, and Primus as Bishop of Rome, assaults against Christians continued gathering strength marked by bloodthirsty banditry. The rulers were strongly criticized and came to the throne with fight, but the Christian faith continued to strengthen over the period. As the emperors replaced one another and time passed, Christianity turned into a strong religion. Bitter and heavily fought wars emerged during Hadrian’s rule marked by a heavy assault on Christians. However, the journey to establishing the much-taunted church gathered strength as many Christians converted to Christianity; thus, the Gospel according to Luke, Paul, and Peter remained the bonding element amongst the believers.

Chapter 5: Marcus Aurelius to Severus

In A.D. 177, Eleutherus followed Bishop Soter, considered as the twelfth Bishop of Rome. According to Eusebius, persecution of Christians reached its zenith, and many of them succumbed to their deaths as martyrs. Eusebius described Rome as a far away city, and many of the martyrs were sent to Phrigia and Asia. Many other murders took place in the provinces, and the author partrays the horrible account of the Christians as “coming in glory.” As many strong Christians emerged in the wider regions of Rome and the outskirts, prophecies dominated the churches as many Christians received glory and ascension to higher Christian callings. Eusebius notes that the Roman Christians remained strong, unmoved, and adhered to their calling with a commitment never seen before. According to the author, many of the Christians continued in their communal prayers and vigils as a sign to the departed Christians who they considered as having died with Christ.

The emergence and rise of Alcibiades, considered as having lived a poor life, rose to prophetic levels in a way that many considered as a divine revelation. Eusebius narrates that Alcibiades life remained a light and prophecy to many Christians who saw in him, a man of God, sent to help them cope with the constant persecution they faced. However, Eusebius notes that despite the continued martyrdom of many Christians all over Rome, Asia, and its outskirts, the faithful continued spreading the gospel and the word of God.

Chapter 6: Severus to Decius

The continued persecution of Christians by Severus further made the situation and condition of Christian’s worse. Leonides and his son Origen remained staunch Christians who fell into the hands of the rulers. Eusebius narrates that Origen took a significant task in the progression of the house of worship and his persecution and death left a big gap amongst the Christians in the Roman Catholic Empire. All through his childhood development and growth, Origen committed to partaking in the spread of the Christian faith coupled with deep devotion to God. At seventeen, his father was martyred in addition to his mother and other siblings. He grew up as a dedicated member of the church with long hours spent musing over teachings, preaching, and reading the word of God. Plutarh, a famous pagan in the city, was one of his students. His influence and much dedication to convert Plutarch had success, and many saw it as a Godly action. According to Eusebius, many people took up Christianity and converted to the Origen’s teachings.

As the Church expanded and many Christians became stronger in fauth, Severus’ rule and empire continued with its persistent persecution. Despite the suffering, maltreatment, and death from the rule of Severus to Decius, numerous Christians continued deepening their faith and committing to God. Additionally, many were converted, the number of pagans grew in Christianity, so  more and more people devoted themselves to spreading the gospel. Eusebius emphasizes that, at the time of persecution, many Christians saw it as an opportunity to live by example and die in Christ.

Chapter 7: Gallus to Gallienus

The author refers mainly to the writings of Dionysius for the historical account between Gallus and Gallienus. Eusebius gives the chilling account of Emperor Decius’ murder, who succumbed to it together with his sons. Origen died at the age of seventy with Stephen becoming the bishop much later, after the death of Cornelius. The contention and fight that drew different opposing sides on the issue of baptism forced Dionysus to draft a correspondence to Stephen. While the pastor of Carthage, Cyprian believed that heretics ought to be baptized; Stephen thought otherwise and wrote a strong letter of protest. According to Dionysus, since the persecution and martyrdom had died, they embarked on the path of Christian reorganization and restructuring. They attempted to formulate joint beliefs and practices according to the teachings of the gospel by Peter and Paul.

Much of the heresy that spread through the churches emanated from different interpretations and teachings of the new emerging prophetsThe author states that attempts to reconcile the differences nearly split most of the churches and Christian faiths. All through the emperor Gallus and Gallienus, Christians tried to gain ground and find a common stand on their differing interpretations. However, the author maintains that the spread of Christian faith continued unabated as many people took up the new devotion with the significant increase in the number of the believers in many countries.

Chapter 8: Diocletian to Maximian

Eusebius gives an account of the martyrs persecuted and killed during the reign of Diocletian. According to the author, the victims included those from the lands of Nicomedia, Phoenica, imperial palaces, and Thebais. He outlines the martyr’s accounts during the persecution. Martyrs such as Phileas had a written account of the maltreatment and killings of Christians during Diocletian’s reign. It was during his power that he ordered churches to be burnt down, Christians killed, and the scriptures destroyed. The author lists a majority of the church leaders murdered, for example, Anthimus and Bishop of Nicomedia, or the Bishop of Alexandria. The majority of the rulers simply decided to do away with Christians by not only killing them, but also by destroying the church and all the scriptures, they could lay their hands on. However, towards the end of the century, the majority of the persecutors and rulers changed their attitude and mindset towards the Christians and stopped killing them. In the beginning, the Christians were met with brutal force, made to denounce their religion and belief and were threatened to swear allegiance to unseen powers of the emperor. According to the author, much of the Christians’ activity and practices were abandoned, and they lived in fear and isolation. The author presents a grim situation that the faithful faced during this period.

Chapter 9: Maxims Renewed Assault on the Church and Christians

As the recantation of Christians’ harassment spread all through the empire, the persecutions ended, and many churches saw renewed interest of pagans and parishioners converted. However, the author narrates that Maximin did not take lightly the end of the maltreatment towards Christians. He looked for every excuse to persecute and launch an attack and assault on the church. Soon, the author describes that persecution and harassment started all over again. Maximin “built idols and gods.” The author lays out Maximin’s written script justifying the abuse and release of the idols. In the middle of all of Maximin’s persecutions, famine, war, and pestilence broke out very suddenly. The war, between Armenians and Christians, th supply of food ran out, with many Christians starving to death. On the other hand, Maximin forced the latter to worship his idols; those who refused, were  killed. Maximin intensified his attacks on Christians with renewed vigor, an act that brought back the old age practice of taking refuge in nearby kingdoms.

Although the majority of Christians survived, many scriptures and churches were brought down, burnt, and left without a single structure. The empires turned to nearby kingdoms for assistance, many believers took refuge in churches that survived the attack, and many church leaders disappeared without a trace. According to the author, much of Maximin’s renewed attack focused on eliminating the Christian faith altogether. Eusebius states that Maximin’s plan was to bring an end completely to the idea of spreading the word of God and the scriptures that were gradually increasing amongst the people.

Chapter 10: Peace and Recovery of the Church

In the last chapter, Eusebius offers thanksgiving to God for the peace in the church. He instructs Paulinus to seal the book and dedicate it to him. As the churches find some significant ground and harmony, dedication ceremonies are organized in all the places of worship and the “Body of Christ” reborn. Eusebius records a festive oration that he presents to the Bishop of Tyre, although the speech is long, it is full of praises to the Almighty God for the many blessings in the church. He additionally produces an ordinance that he believes will protect the Christians from persecution. The letters are distributed to all the churches in the empire.

Review and Lesson Learned

It is no doubt that the establishment of the church during the author’s time and after the ascension of Christ was a difficult one. To put it mildly, the blood of the martyrs who sacrificed their lives to see the message of the Messiah reach all the corners of the world established the church. Without their sacrifice, dedication, and perseverance through all kinds of persecution and harassment, the present day church could not be where it is. The establishment of the church in the early days of Paul and Peter marked a journey through many centuries of pain and death. However, it is worth noting the grace of the Lord saw them through all those persecutions.

The present day church owes allegiance to the much sacrifice the apostles went through in addition to the many martyrs who laid down their lives for the sake of the church. The rise and growth of Christianity all over again ensured that the scriptures according to Jesus Christ became fulfilled. As is prophesied in the Old Testament, the church became a symbol of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and all his apostles, a truce that is captured, all through the journey of the author’s narration and the reign of Tiberius to the times and rule of Maximin. The suffering, agony, persecution, and death of many Christians and adherents since the advent of Christianity clearly shows that holding on to faith, remaining true to one’s convictions, not only requires commitment but also the bravery to die for one’s calling in life. It is no doubt that Jesus Christ influenced many people’s lives through his teaching and left a deep mark in the lives of many. However, despite all else, Christianity and the lives and times of Jesus Christ will continue to dominate the minds of many worldwide.