Eusebius uses Aristocles, Plato Numenius,the Pythagorean and Amelius to (re)shape a Christian ethics.
He begins this enormous project with the first book containing:
|I. What the treatise on the Gospel promises|
|II. The charges usually brought against us by those who try to slander our doctrines|
|III. That we did not adopt the sentiments of the word of salvation without inquiry|
|IV. Our adoption of belief in the greatest blessings is not uncritical as to time|
|V. We did not forsake the superstitious errors of our fathers without sound reason|
|VI. Primitive theology of Phoenicians and Egyptians|
|VII. Character of the cosmogony of the Greeks|
|VIII. Philosophers’ opinions concerning|
|IX. The ancients worshipped no other gods than the celestial luminaries, knowing nothing of the God of the universe, nor even of the erection of carved images, nor of daemons|
|The stories about the gods among other nations are of later introduction|
|X. Theology of the Phoenicians|
1) 945G Eusebius of Caesarea c. 260-c. 340
Eusebius Pa[m]phili de eua[n]gelica preparac[i]o[n]e ex greco in latinu[m] translatus Incipit feliciter.
[ Cologne, Ulrich Zel, not after 1473] $18,000
Folio 11 ¾ x 8 inches. 152leaves of 152 : Unsigned/Unfoliated. A- 10 P11 Title and imprint from ISTC. Translated by George of Trebizond. “The copy at the Vienna Schottenstift has the acquisition date 1473”–Bodleian Lib. 15th centColophon: Eusebius Pa[m]phili de eua[n]gelica preparac[i]o[n]e ex Greco in Latinu[m] translatus explicit feliciter.
In double columns, 37 lines. Type: 115. Three- and four-line spaces left for capitals, some with guide-lettersIn this copy capitals are supplied in red and blue. This is one of the earliest editions most likely the Second, (editio princeps : Venice 1470) This copy is bound in a modern binding of half vellum with corners, flat spine (spine renewed, boards slightly rubbed, inside joints split).
This copy contains the fifteen books of the “Praeparatio evangelica,” whose purpose is “to justify the Christian in rejecting the religion and philosphy of the Greeks in favor of that of the Hebrews, and then to justify him in not observing the Jewish manner of life […] The following summary of its contents is taken from Mr. Gifford’s introduction to his translation of the “Praeparitio:
“The first three books discuss the threefold system of Pagan Theology: Mythical, Allegorical, and Political. The next three, IV-VI, give an account of the chief oracles, of the worship of demons, and of the various opinions of Greek Philosophers on the doctrines of Fate and Free Will. Books VII-IX give reasons for preferring the religion of the Hebrews founded chiefly on the testimony of various authors to the excellency of their Scriptures and the truth of their history. In Books X-XII Eusebius argues that the Greeks had borrowed from the older theology and philosphy of the Hebrews, dwelling especially on the supposed dependence of Plato upon Moses. In the the last three books, the comparson of Moses with Plato is continued, and the mutual contradictions of other Greek Philosphers, especially the Peripatetics and Stoics, are exposed and criticized.”
[DIODORUS] ‘It is said then that the men who dwelled of old in Egypt when they looked up to the cosmos, and were struck with astonishment and admiration at the nature of the universe, supposed that the sun and moon were two eternal and primal gods, one of whom they named Osiris, and the other Isis, each name being applied from some true etymology.
‘For when they are translated into the Greek form of speech, Osiris is “many eyed”; with reason, for casting his beams in every direction he beholds, as it were with many eyes, the whole earth and sea: and with this the poet’s words agree:
“Thou Sun, who all things seest, and nearest all.”
‘But some of the ancient mythologists among the Greeks give to Osiris the additional name Dionysus, and, by a slight change in the name, Sirius. One of these, Eumolpus, speaks in his Bacchic poems thus:
“Bright as a star, his face aflame with rays.”
And Orpheus says:
“For that same cause Phanes and Dionysus him they call.”
Some say also that the fawn-skin cloak is hung about him as a representation of the spangling of the stars.
‘”Isis” too, being interpreted, means “ancient,” the name having been given to the Moon from her ancient and eternal origin. And they put horns upon her, both from the aspect with which she appears whenever she is crescent-shaped, and also from the cow which is consecrated to her among the Egyptians. And these deities they suppose to regulate the whole world.’ 15
Such then are the statements on this subject. You find, too, in the Phoenician theology, that their first ‘physical philosophers knew no other gods than the sun, the moon, and besides these the planets, the elements also, and the things connected with them’; and that to these the earliest of mankind ‘consecrated the productions of the earth, and regarded them as gods, and worshipped them as the sources of sustenance to themselves and to following generations, and to all that went before them, and offered to them drink-offerings and libations.’ But pity and lamentation and weeping they consecrated to the produce of the earth when perishing, and to the generation of living creatures at first from the earth, and then to their production one from another, and to their end, when they departed from life. These their notions of worship were in accordance with their own weakness, and the want as yet of any enterprise of mind.’
Such are the statements of the Phoenician writings, as will be proved in due course. Moreover, one of our own time, that very man who gains celebrity by his abuse of us, in the treatise which he entitled Of Abstinence from Animal Food, makes mention of the old customs of the ancients as follows in his own words, on the testimony of Theophrastus:16
[PORPHYRY] ‘It is probably an incalculable time since, as Theophrastus says, the most learned race of mankind, inhabiting that most sacred land which Nilus founded, were the first to begin to offer upon the hearth to the heavenly deities not the first-fruits of myrrh nor of cassia and frankincense mingled with saffron; for these were adopted many generations later, when man becoming a wanderer in search of his necessary livelihood with many toils and tears offered drops of these tinctures as first-fruits to the gods.
‘”Of these then they made no offerings formerly, but of herbage, which they lifted up in their hands as the bloom of the productive power of nature. For the earth gave forth trees before animals, and long before trees the herbage which is produced year by year; and of this they culled leaves and roots and the whole shoots of their growth, and burned them, greeting thus the visible deities of heaven with their offering, and dedicating to them the honours of perpetual fire.
‘For these they also kept in their temples an undying fire, as being most especially like them. And from the fume (θυμιασις) of the produce of the earth they formed the words θυμιατηρια (altars of incense), and θυειν (to offer), and θυσιας (offerings),—words which we misunderstand as signifying the erroneous practice of later times, when we apply the term θυσια to the so-called worship which consists of animal sacrifice.
‘And so anxious were the men of old not to transgress their custom, that they cursed (αρωμαι) those who neglected the old fashion and introduced another, calling their own incense-offerings αρωματα.’
After these and other statements he adds:
‘But when these beginnings of sacrifices were carried by men to a great pitch of disorder, the adoption of the most dreadful offerings, full of cruelty, was introduced; so that the curses formerly pronounced against us seemed now to have received fulfilment, when men slaughtered victims and defiled the altars with blood.’ 17
So far writes Porphyry, or rather Theophrastus: and we may find a seal and confirmation of the statement in what Plato in the Cratylus, before his remarks concerning the Greeks, says word for word as follows:
[PLATO] ‘It appears to me that the first inhabitants of Hellas had only the same gods as many of the barbarians have now, namely the sun, moon, earth, stars, and heaven: as therefore they saw them always moving on in their course and running (θεοντα), from this their natural tendency to run they called them θεουσ (gods).’ 18
But I think it must be evident to every one on consideration that the first and most ancient of mankind did not apply themselves either to building temples or to setting up statues, since at that time no art of painting, or modelling, [or carving], or statuary had yet been discovered, nor, indeed, were building or architecture as yet established.
Nor was there any mention among the men of that age of those who have since been denominated gods and heroes, nor had they any Zeus, nor Kronos, Poseidon, Apollo, Hera, Athena, Dionysus, nor any other deity, either male or female, such as there were afterwards in multitudes among both barbarians and Greeks; nor was there any daemon good or bad reverenced among men, but only the visible stars of heaven because of their running (θεειν) received, as they themselves say, the title of gods (θεων), and even these were not worshipped with animal sacrifices and the honours afterwards superstitiously invented.
This statement is not ours, but the testimony comes from within, and from the Greeks themselves, and supplies its proof by the words which have been already quoted and by those which will hereafter be set forth in due order.
This is what our holy Scriptures also teach, in which it is contained, that in the beginning the worship of the visible luminaries had been assigned to all the nations, and that to the Hebrew race alone had been entrusted the full initiation into the knowledge of God the Maker and Artificer of the universe, and of true piety towards Him. So then among the oldest of mankind there was no mention of a Theogony, either Greek or barbarian, nor any erection of lifeless statues, nor all the silly talk that there is now about the naming of the gods both male and female.
In fact the titles and names which men have since invented were not as yet known among mankind: no, nor yet invocations of invisible daemons and spirits, nor absurd mythologies about gods and heroes, nor mysteries of secret initiations, nor anything at all of the excessive and frivolous superstition of later generations.
These then were men’s inventions, and representations of our mortal nature, or rather new devices of base and licentious dispositions, according to our divine oracle which says, The devising of idols was the beginning of fornication.19
In fact the polytheistic error of all the nations is only seen long ages afterwards, having taken its beginning from the Phoenicians and Egyptians, and passed over from them to the other nations, and even to the Greeks themselves. For this again is affirmed by the history of the earliest ages; which history itself it is now time for us to review, beginning from the Phoenician records.
Now the historian of this subject is Sanchuniathon, an author of great antiquity, and older, as they say, than the Trojan times, one whom they testify to have been approved for the accuracy and truth of his Phoenician History. Philo of Byblos, not the Hebrew, translated his whole work from the Phoenician language into the Greek, and published it. The author in our own day of the compilation against us mentions these things in the fourth book of his treatise Against the Christians, where he bears the following testimony to Sanchuniathon, word for word:
[PORPHYRY] ‘Of the affairs of the Jews the truest history, because the most in accordance with their places and names, is that of Sanchuniathon of Berytus, who received the records from Hierombalus the priest of the god Ieuo; he dedicated his history to Abibalus king of Berytus, and was approved by him and by the investigators of truth in his time. Now the times of these men fall even before the date of the Trojan war, and approach nearly to the times of Moses, as is shown by the successions of the kings of Phoenicia. And Sanchuniathon, who made a complete collection of ancient history from the records in the various cities and from the registers in the temples, and wrote in the Phoenician language with a love of truth, lived in the reign of Semiramis, the queen of the Assyrians, who is recorded to have lived before the Trojan war or in those very times. And the works of Sanchuniathon were translated into the Greek tongue by Philo of Byblos.’ 20
So wrote the author before mentioned, bearing witness at once to the truthfulness and antiquity of the so-called theologian. But he, as he goes forward, treats as divine not the God who is over all, nor yet the gods in the heaven, but mortal men and women, not even refined in character, such as it would be right to approve for their virtue, or emulate for their love of wisdom, but involved in the dishonour of every kind of vileness and wickedness.
He testifies also that these are the very same who are still regarded as gods by all both in the cities and in country districts. But let me give you the proofs of this out of his writings.
Philo then, having divided the whole work of Sanchuniathon into nine books, in the introduction to the first book makes this preface concerning Sanchuniathon, word for word: 21
[PHILO] ‘These things being so, Sanchuniathon, who was a man of much learning and great curiosity, and desirous of knowing the earliest history of all nations from the creation of the world, searched out with great care the history of Taautus, knowing that of all men under the sun Taautus was the first who thought of the invention of letters, and began the writing of records: and he laid the foundation, as it were, of his history, by beginning with him, whom the Egyptians called Thoyth, and the Alexandrians Thoth, translated by the Greeks into Hermes.’
After these statements he finds fault with the more recent authors as violently and untruly reducing the legends concerning the gods to allegories and physical explanations and theories; and so he goes on to say:
‘But the most recent of the writers on religion rejected the real events from the beginning, and having invented allegories and myths, and formed a fictitious affinity to the cosmical phenomena, established mysteries, and overlaid them with a cloud of absurdity, so that one cannot easily discern what really occurred: but he having lighted upon the collections of secret writings of the Ammoneans which were discovered in the shrines and of course were not known to all men, applied himself diligently to the study of them all; and when he had completed the investigation, he put aside the original myth and the allegories, and so completed his proposed work; until the priests who followed in later times wished to hide this away again, and to restore the mythical character; from which time mysticism began to rise up, not having previously reached the Greeks.’
Next to this he says:
‘These things I have discovered in my anxious desire to know the history of the Phoenicians, and after a thorough investigation of much matter, not that which is found among the Greeks, for that is contradictory, and compiled by some in a contentious spirit rather than with a view to truth.’
And after other statements:
‘And the conviction that the facts were as he has described them came to me, on seeing the disagreement among the Greeks: concerning which I have carefully composed three books bearing the title Paradoxical History.’
And again after other statements he adds:
‘But with a view to clearness hereafter, and the determination of particulars, it is necessary to state distinctly beforehand that the most ancient of the barbarians, and especially the Phoenicians and Egyptians, from whom the rest of mankind received their traditions, regarded as the greatest gods those who had discovered the necessaries of life, or in some way done good to the nations. Esteeming these as benefactors and authors of many blessings, they worshipped them also as gods after their death, and built shrines, and consecrated pillars and staves after their names: these the Phoenicians held in great reverence, and assigned to them their greatest festivals. Especially they applied the names of their kings to the elements of the cosmos, and to some of those who were regarded as gods. But they knew no other gods than those of nature, sun, and moon, and the rest of the wandering stars, and the elements and things connected with them, so that some of their gods were mortal and some immortal.’
Philo having explained these points in his preface, next begins his interpretation of Sanchuniathon by setting forth the theology of the Phoenicians as follows:
The “Praeparitio” is a gigantic feat of erudition, and, according to Harnack (Chronologie, II, p. 120), was, like many of Eusebius’ other works, actually composed during the stress of the persecution. It ranks, with the Chronicle, second only to the Church History in importance, because of its copious extracts from ancient authors, whose works have perished.” (CE)
It is also very interesting because of its numerous lively fragments from historians and philosophers which are nowhere else preserved, e.g. a summary of the writings of the Phoenician priest Sanchuniathon, or the account from Diodorus Siculus’ sixth book of Euhemerus’ wondrous voyage to the island of Panchaea, and writings of the neo-Platonist philosopher Atticus.
Eusebius (c. 263-339), Greek historian and exegete, Christian polemicist and scholar Biblical canon, became bishop of Cesarea in 314 and is considered as the father of Church History as his writings are very important for the first three centuries of the Christianity.
Goff E119; BMC I 194 (United States , Boston Public Library, Indiana Univ., (- 2 ff.)
and Yale );
HC(Add)R 6698; GfT 122; Voull(K) 402; Pell 4641 & 4641A (var); Hillard 780; Fernillot 229; IGI 3755; IBP 2096; Madsen 1525, 1526; Hübl 183; Ernst(Hildesheim) II,III 58; Finger 368, 369; Borm 981; Voull(B) 670; Voull(Trier) 325; Günt(L) 914; Döring-Fuchs E-36, E-37; Bod-inc E-048; Sheppard 678, 679; Rhodes(Oxford Colleges) 745; Pr 891; BMC I 194; BSB-Ink E-116.050; GW 9441
The Demonic in the Political Thought of Eusebius of Caesarea
The recent renaissance of scholarship on Eusebius of Caesarea has led scholars to re-evaluate many consensus positions. As the scholarly gaze moves beyond Eusebius’s historical and “Constantinian” writings to the relatively-neglected exegetical, pedagogical, and apologetic works, the commonplace caricature of Eusebius as Constantine’s “court theologian” now appears inadequate and misleading. Recent re-appraisals, however, still tend to see Eusebius as a naïve political optimist, “complacently triumphalist in his vision of history” in the aftermath of Constantine’s conversion (204).
In The Demonic in the Political Thought of Eusebius of Caesarea, Hazel Johannessen examines the role of the demonic in Eusebius’s oeuvre in order to challenge this view. She depicts a Eusebius quite different from the triumphal optimist so familiar from previous portraits. This Eusebius inhabits a moral universe of stark polarities. Ever-wary of the ongoing demonic threat, he saw “the struggle against the demons was real and continuing. There was thus no room for complacency in [Eusebius’s] understanding of history and little space for triumphalism, which, from his perspective, would have been premature” (170). Eusebius’s view of the demonic offers a new lens through which to view contested issues, such as his understanding of kingship and his evaluation of the Roman Empire.
After an introduction that situates Johannessen’s project in conversation with recent scholarship, she develops her argument in six main chapters, followed by a concise summary of results and directions for future inquiry. The first chapter undertakes necessary ground-clearing for contested issues related to Eusebius’s works, such as revisions of the Church History and the authorship of Against Hierocles. Johannessen does not advance any novel positions here, but offers a fair summary of the current state of the field. This chapter also includes a methodological discussion of the problems of systematizing an ancient figure’s thought.
Johannessen then discusses Eusebius’s concept of the demonic (chap. 2) and his cosmology (chap. 3). In her discussion of cosmology, Johannessen construes Eusebius’s view of the world in a way that approaches dualism, a cosmos locked in an ongoing struggle between divine and demonic power. A considerable strength of this book is the way in which it juxtaposes Eusebius’s view of the demonic with the perspectives of contemporary “pagan” authors such as Plotinus, Iamblichus, and Porphyry. This is particularly insightful in the case of Porphyry, whose demonology resembles that of Eusebius in unexpected ways. Johannessen also contextualizes Eusebius’s demonology and cosmology with judicious reference to Philo, as well as a number of early Christian authors—especially Justin, Origen, and Lactantius. As Johannessen demonstrates, Eusebius located himself within a late antique world suffused by spiritual beings. Yet, this world was not inhabited exclusively by élite authors, whether Christian, Jewish, or “pagan.” If the landscape of late antiquity teemed with demons, technologies for negotiating the demonic also flourished. Eusebius himself, moreover, was well aware of such practices; see, for example, the Life of Constantine 1.36.1 (187). Johannessen’s monograph would have been greatly enriched by engagement with amulets, the so-called “magical” papyri, and other material and literary evidence on how individuals in late antiquity attempted to manipulate the demonic.
The remaining three chapters develop aspects of Eusebius’s thought related to the political order, including Eusebius’s view of history and his understanding of human agency. The fourth chapter focuses on the intersection of demonic influence with human agency. For Johannessen’s Eusebius, demons cannot override human προαίρεςις, but ensnare and manipulate humans both through deception and by taking advantage of moral weakness. Eusebius’s moral theology thus emphasizes the cultivation of virtue as the only secure defense against demonic attack. The fifth chapter, the heart of Johannessen’s argument, argues that Eusebius saw demonic power as an ongoing danger. The Empire’s turn toward Christianity had not established a stable eschatological era; rather, whatever gains had been made could just as easily be lost by a lack of vigilance against the continuing demonic threat. The sixth chapter reconsiders the role of the emperor, focusing on Eusebius’s treatment of Constantine. Johannessen argues that Eusebius saw the emperor as a “bishop” and a “teacher in virtue” (163–164), with correspondingly high requirements for conduct and “orthodox” belief—anything else was only tyranny.
There is much to commend in this study. Johannessen’s argument is articulate, well-organized, and in productive conversation with earlier scholarship. Her choice of the demonic provides a valuable lens through which to survey a wide range of Eusebius’s works. Most importantly, Johannessen’s re-appraisal offers a clear contribution to the ongoing discussions about Eusebius’s political thought, and is largely persuasive in problematizing views of Eusebius as a triumphal optimist.
Nevertheless, this reviewer found that the focus on the demonic sometimes distorts rather than clarifies. Johannessen exaggerates the role of the demonic in Eusebius’s political thought and perception of the world. For example, although she persuasively shows that Eusebius regarded envy (φθόνος) as a characteristic motivation of demonic activity, it is problematic then to read all references to envy in Eusebius’s corpus as masked references to demonic powers. Similarly, although Eusebius portrays tyrannical rulers as susceptible to, or enslaved by, demonic influence, Johannessen over-reaches by interpreting all vices and passions as the result of demonic influence (181).
Johannessen describes the demonic as the key to understanding all of Eusebius’s thought—political and theological. Yet other perspectives would also have been valuable. A more robust treatment of Eusebius’s views of salvation would have nuanced the discussion of human responsibility (chap. 4). A more expansive discussion of Eusebius’s ecclesiology would have illuminated the relationship between church and Empire (chaps. 5–6). At the end of the day, although the demonic provides a valuable lens through which to examine Eusebius’s political thought, its focal range is limited.
About the Reviewer(s):
Jeremiah Coogan is a doctoral candidate in New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame.
Date of Review: