Christian Anti-Semitism is a series of articles that
examines the historical development of the anti-Semitism that has
proceeded from the church. This reader, for one, has found the series
quite informative, and select articles from it are being presented that
the reader may gain similar benefit. Links to previous studies in
the series may be found in our Library.
In 1 Corinthians 14:15, Paul said,
I will pray with the spirit, and I will
pray with the understanding also (ASV). It is the prayer of
the Shofar board that the reader may grow in understanding in this
matter and pray accordingly. ~ editor
Study 6: EUSEBIUS'
"Eusebius firmly believed, in the fourth century,
Church was the 'new Israel,' replacing the Jews."
History of Eusebius Pamphilus is the acknowledged history of the
Church from the end of the Book of Acts to the Council of Nicea. "A
unique work, it remains the most important single source for the
history of the Church in those centuries." (1) Unfortunately, it is
a source that is recognized to contain some serious "untruths."
Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History was written during the reign of the
Emperor Constantine. Constantine is known as the first Christian
emperor. The Church had endured centuries of persecution.
Constantine decreed an end to it, and began to exalt the Church. It
was he who convened the Council of Nicea.
With this dramatic political shift came an equally dramatic
theological shift. Eusebius himself played an important role in
bringing about that theological shift. "Eusebius' outlook was
conditioned by the new political settlement between the Empire and
the Church as well as by his theological upbringing and allegiance
to certain views which he inherited from Origen." In his political
philosophy, clearly articulated in Vita Constantini (Life
of Constantine) and in Oratio de Laudibus Constantini (Oration
in Praise of Constantine), the Emperor was the image of God and
the representative of the Almighty. The Emperor acted as the
interpreter of the Logos. He imitated the philanthropy of the Son of
God. In the gathering of all the bishops with the Emperor
Constantine on the day of his tricennalia (30th anniversary of his
reign), Eusebius saw the image of the Messianic banquet. "For
Eusebius, there was no longer a precise and definite distinction
between the Church and the Empire. They appeared to merge into each
other. The structure of the Emperor's earthly government, declares
Eusebius, is according to the pattern of the divine original." (2)
What is the divine original that the Emperor and his empire were to
reflect? The pivotal issue theologically was the nature of the
fulfilled kingdom of God. If the kingdom was to be fulfilled through
a personal earthly reign of Jesus the Messiah from Jerusalem, then
the Jews were inescapably part of that kingdom, which would follow
the repentance of Israel. In that case, God's faithfulness to the
Jews had not expired. The kingdom was still future.
On the other hand, if Constantine, the emerging Holy Roman Empire,
and the State-exalted Church were the kingdom, then there was no
need for the Jews. The fulness of the kingdom was in the present.
Moreover, if the Jews had no special significance for the fulfilled
kingdom of God, then God had no need or plan for them. In that case,
the rejection and replacement of the Jews was the means of
fulfilling the kingdom. Instead of being natural citizens of the
kingdom, whether loyal or disloyal, the Jews became the enemies of
the kingdom. If that were the case, then the Church needed to
recognize and proclaim it. Eusebius firmly believed, in the fourth
century, that the Church was the "new Israel," replacing the Jews.
He firmly believed that there was no distinct future for the Jews in
the plan of God. (3) Whenever he discusses the issue of a
physical millennium, he treats it as an heretical view.
("Millennium" comes from the Latin mille annum, a thousand
years.) Following Origen, Eusebius rejected the normal meaning of
the Scriptures that promise restoration to the Jewish people. Or he
ignored these Scriptures altogether. (See Eusebiusí History and
the Millenium [at
http://elijahnet.net under Christian Anti-Semitism.])
The belief in the restoration of the Jewish people and the
establishment in Israel of a millennial kingdom was not an heretical
view, it had been the prevailing view. In fact, it had been the
established orthodoxy. In the first and second centuries, it was the
view that Eusebius chose to champion that the early Church had
considered to be heresy.
In writing any book, an author chooses what to include and what to
leave out. In writing history, a faithful historian will make those
choices so as to present an accurate picture of the past. Eusebius
was intentionally inaccurate. He had his own agenda. "No source
might [be] used that contradicted or conflicted with the apostolic
tradition as Eusebius conceived it." (4) Eusebius ignored the
sources that showed the apostolic tradition to be different from
what he thought it should be. He was intent on creating an apostolic
tradition that was different from what the apostles had actually
believed and taught.
"...Eusebius was the product of the Alexandrine school of theology.
(See Origenís System of Interpretation [at
http://elijahnet.net under Christian Anti-Semitism.]) To him
orthodox tradition was primarily just the tradition preserved at
Alexandria, in its entirety and without any contradictions." (5)
"The point of these examples, only two of many, is that they show
Eusebius as advocate; it was not his intention, in writing about
Constantine or about the Church in general, to provide an impartial
account." (6) "As scholarship became more critical, however,
historians began to look at the VC (De Vita Constantini,
Eusebius' Life of Constantine) more and more warily, until
ultimately the great nineteenth-century rationalist Jakob Burckhardt
angrily dismissed its author as 'the first thoroughly dishonest
historian of antiquity,' 'the most disgusting of all eulogists.'"
But Eusebius had a reason for what he did. The image that Eusebius
wanted to present, the Church that he wanted to help create, was
more important to him than the historical reality. Before he wrote
his Ecclesiastical History, he had already completed a six
volume defense of Origen. He wanted to convince the Church that
Origen was correct. Eusebius maintained that purpose in his
1. H.A. Drake, In Praise of Constantine, A Historical Study and New
Translation of Eusebius' Tricennial Orations, Univ. of California
Press, Berkeley, 1976, P.7.
2. V. Kesich, "Empire-Church Relations and the Third Temptation,"
Studia Patristica, Vol. IV, Berlin, 1961, Pp.468-469.
3. The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius Pamphilus, translated by
Christian Frederick Cruse, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1989,
E.g. Bk. of Martyrs, Ch.11, P.369.
4. B. Gustafson, "Eusebius' Principles in handling his Sources, as
found in his Church History, Books I-VII," Studia Patristica, op.cit.,
5. ibid., P.441.
6. H.A. Drake, In Praise of Constantine, A Historical Study and New
Translation of Eusebius' Tricennial Orations, op. cit., P.10.
7. ibid., P.8.