Christian Anti-Semitism, by Daniel Gruber, 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. The studies
are being presented in the sequence in which their historical content
occurred. Therefore, it is recommended that they be read in the sequence
in which links to them are found in our
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 7: EUSEBIUS'
HISTORY AND THE MILLENNIUM
Editor's note: For clarity's sake, please note that the
AMC board does not hold “The Revelation of Peter” to be
and it does not hold to the symbolism of the fig tree that Jesus is said
to hold in it. Thank you.
"Eusebius was the friend of Constantine, and he wrote, in
part, to affirm
the new Church-State relationship that Constantine had established."
Eusebius was the
friend of Constantine, and he wrote, in part, to affirm the new
Church-State relationship that Constantine had established. That new
Church-State relationship was antagonistic to the expected kingdom
of God that had been proclaimed by the apostles. In the new
relationship, the Church would establish the kingdom of God through
Once this new relationship was accepted, it became necessary to
change the expectation of what the kingdom of God would be. "The
overwhelming usage of 'kingdom' in the second-century Christian
literature is eschatological," (1) that is, the second-century
followers of Messiah expected the establishment of the kingdom of
God to come with the return of Yeshua at the end of the age. They
understood that there was a sense and a reality in which the kingdom
of God was already present, but its fulfillment would only come with
the destruction of the kingdoms of this world.
"With Origen in the early third century there arose a thinker who
was able to incorporate the 'Gnostic' dimension of the kingdom, the
inward rule of God in the soul, into orthodox thought. . . . Origen
thus marks the turning point." (2) In this Gnostic view, the fulness
of the kingdom of God was to come with the individual believer's
spiritual growth, and with the spiritual growth of the Church
as a whole. The return of Yeshua to judge the nations and to redeem
Israel became unnecessary for the establishment of the kingdom
throughout the earth.
With the introduction of Origen's allegorical method of
interpretation in the third century, the faith of the Church
concerning the kingdom began to change. As the anti-Judaic posture
spread in the Church, what was once considered heresy was put
forward as the new orthodoxy. The Millennial restoration of Israel
began to be considered a carnal, Jewish doctrine which no
orthodox Christian could believe.
On different issues in his Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius
often quotes from earlier writers who embraced views similar to his
own. That is natural and acceptable for any writer who seeks to
support and establish his own views. On the issue of a literal,
Millennial restoration of the kingdom to Israel -- THE theological
issue on which the new Church-State relationship would stand or fall
-- Eusebius does not quote from any early believers who embraced his
own view. He does not because he cannot. There were none who
supported his view.
Eusebius shows that he had early writings on this issue. But these
writings expressed a faith in a literal, Millennial restoration of
the kingdom to Israel. Since Eusebius rejected that view, and
because he wanted to brand it as heresy, he chose not to quote from
any of the early writers at all. So it is understandable that those
who accept the writings of Eusebius as an accurate representation of
the theology of the early believers tend to believe as he did.
Unfortunately, Eusebius is not faithful in this regard.
Eusebius happens to reveal, albeit quite reluctantly, that the "new
Israel" view which he embraced was not held by the apostles or by
those who were instructed by them. One such student of the apostles
was Papias who was taught by the Apostle John, by Philip the
evangelist (Acts 21:8), and by others. He was an associate of
Polycarp. In one section, Eusebius says, "At this time, also, Papias
was well known as bishop of the church at Hierapolis, a man well
skilled in all manner of learning, and well acquainted with the
Throughout the Ecclesiastical History (with one exception)
and in the writings of all others who spoke of him, Papias is
characterized as a very godly man of exceptional learning, faithful
to the teachings of the apostles. The one exception occurs when
Eusebius mentions that "he [Papias] says there would be a certain
millennium after the resurrection, and that there would be a
corporeal reign of Christ on this very earth; which things he
appears to have imagined, as if they were authorized by the
apostolic narrations, not understanding correctly those matters
which they propounded mystically in their representations. For he
was very limited in his comprehension, as is evident from his
discourses; yet he was the cause why most of the ecclesiastical
writers, urging the antiquity of the man, were carried away by a
similar opinion; as, for instance, Irenaeus, or any other that
adopted such sentiments." (4)
Several things should be noted about Eusebius' comments. First,
Papias presented the teaching of "a certain millennium after the
resurrection, and that there would be a corporeal reign of Christ
on this very earth . . . as if they were authorized by the apostolic
narrations . . . ." That is to say that Papias affirmed that
the apostles taught that this was so. Papias spent many years
learning from John and others of the earliest leaders of the body of
Messiah. Eusebius gives no support for his assertion that Papias,
who was universally acknowledged and praised as faithful to the
apostolic teaching, "imagined" such substantial departures from the
teaching of the apostles.
Second, although Eusebius elsewhere praises Papias for his virtue
and learning, here he demeans him as deceived and dull. The only
"evidence" that Eusebius has for this derogatory characterization is
that Papias believed in a millennial reign of Messiah on the earth.
In contradiction to his praises elsewhere, Eusebius demeans Papias
here because Eusebius wants to undermine such belief.
There is ample evidence in support of the great spiritual
understanding of Papias. Among other faithful endeavors which he
performed, Papias is credited with having written John's account of
the good news at the dictation of the Apostle. John's account of the
good news is certainly not an un-spiritual document.
Third, Eusebius admits that "most of the ecclesiastical writers,
urging the antiquity of the man, were carried away by a similar
opinion." Therefore, according to Eusebius, most of the
ecclesiastical writers believed "that there would be a corporeal
reign of Christ on this very earth." Eusebius asserts,
without any supporting evidence, that the only reason they believed
it was "the antiquity" of Papias.
During the time of Papias, and before, there were some who held to a
variety of different doctrinal errors. "Most of the ecclesiastical
writers" were not led astray by the "antiquity" of these false
teachers. Nor were they led astray by the antiquity of Papias. It
was not in Papias' antiquity alone that these believers trusted.
Papias lived a consistent life of proven service to the Lord, His
apostles, and His body of believers. That is why most of the
ecclesiastical writers trusted his transmission of the apostolic
teaching. Eusebius did also, except in this one instance.
Eusebius' opposition to this apostolic teaching was so great, that
he certainly would have, if he could have, presented the teaching of
anyone contemporary with the apostles or their disciples who
believed in the "mystical," spiritual interpretation which he
himself adopted. However, he is not able to present the writings of
anyone -- not one -- from that earlier age who believed as he did.
He had the documents. He had the full support of the Emperor
Constantine. But he still could not produce any evidence in support
of his position. That being the case, Eusebius chose not to present
the millennial teaching of "most of the ecclesiastical writers,"
because it contradicted his own beliefs. In fact, he does not quote
from any of them on this matter. Their writings were known and still
in circulation in the early fourth century when Eusebius wrote his
Jerome, who wrote at about the end of the fourth century, said,
"This (Papias) is said to have promulgated the Jewish tradition of a
Millennium, and he is followed by Irenaeus, Apollinarius and the
others who say that after the resurrection the Lord will reign in
the flesh with the saints." (5)
Irenaeus and Apollinarius are also described by Eusebius as learned,
virtuous, faithful witnesses of the apostolic faith. Eusebius says,
"About this time also, the beloved disciple of Jesus, John the
apostle and evangelist, still surviving, governed the churches in
Asia, after his return from exile on the island, and the death of
Domitian. But that he was still living until this time, it may
suffice to prove, by the testimony of two witnesses. These, as
maintaining sound doctrine in the church, may surely be regarded as
worthy of all credit: and such were Irenaeus and Clement of
Alexandria. Of these, the former, in the second book against
heresies . . . ." (6)
According to Eusebius, Irenaeus maintained sound doctrine in the
church. He wrote against heresies. He was a faithful and true
witness. Irenaeus believed that the Lord would reign in the flesh on
earth with the saints. Jerome, since he also rejected "the Jewish
tradition of a Millennium," did not quote from "the others." He
rejected the writings of the "most," or all, of the early Church
that believed in it. Their writings were still available when he
wrote. As with Eusebius, Jerome was also unable to offer evidence to
the contrary from other early Church writers.
Eusebius, Jerome, and others had these writings available to them,
but they did not want to make them known. These writings of "most of
the ecclesiastical writers" who promulgated "the Jewish tradition of
a Millennium" are not available to us today. That is not, however,
evidence that the early believers never believed in "the Jewish
tradition of a Millennium." It is only evidence that some later in
the Church did not care to preserve these writings.
Part of one of those early writings that has survived, "The
Revelation of Peter," clearly speaks of a restoration of Israel. In
a portion parallel to Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, Yeshua is
seated on the Mount of Olives, and the disciples come to him asking,
"Make known unto us what are the signs of thy Parousia [appearing]
and of the end of the world . . . ." (7) As Yeshua tells them the
signs, He admonishes them, "And ye, receive ye the parable of the
fig tree thereon: as soon as its shoots have gone forth and its
boughs have sprouted, the end of the world will come." (8)
Peter then asks Yeshua to explain the parable of the fig tree that
signals the end of the age and the coming of the Lord. (cf.
Mt.24:32-36; Mk.13:28-32; Lk.21:29-33) Yeshua replies, "Do you not
understand that the fig tree is the house of Israel? Truly, I tell
you, when its branches have sprouted at the end of the world, false
Christs shall arise. They will arouse expectation and say, 'I am the
Christ who once came into the world.' But this liar is not the
Christ. When they reject him, he will murder with the sword. Then
shall the branches of the fig tree, which is the house of Israel,
shoot forth. There shall be many martyrs by his hand...." (9)
"The Revelation of Peter," a short work which does not speak of much
more than the restoration of Israel, was not considered an heretical
document, far from it. The "Muratorian Canon," written about 180 A.D., lists the
writings which the body of Messiah (or part of it) then acknowledged
as canonical. It mentions, " . . . . We also accept a Revelation by
John and one by Peter, although some of us do not want the latter to
be read aloud in the Church." (10)
"The Revelation of Peter" was considered part of the canon. It was
accepted as the Word of God. Yet some in the Church did not
want it to be read to the people. Certainly that is unusual.
(Eusebius was familiar with "The Revelation of Peter," but he did
not quote from it.)
Those in the Church who did not want "The Revelation of
Peter" to be publicly read were not arguing that it was not the Word
of God. It simply contained material that they did not like. Even if
they thought it was the Word of God, they did not want it to be read
to the Church. Though today we do not consider it canonical,
it still is firm documentary evidence of what the early followers of
Justin's Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, dated about 160 A.D.,
also offers evidence of what the early followers of Yeshua believed.
It is interesting as a seemingly transitional work. The dialogue
apparently took place shortly after the Bar Kokhba Rebellion of
132-135 A.D., but was not written down for at least twenty years.
Justin points to the desolation of Israel and says to Trypho, "And
therefore all this has happened to you rightly and well. For ye slew
the Just One and His prophets before Him, and now ye reject, and, as
far as in you lies, dishonour those that set their hope on Him, and
God Almighty and Maker of the universe who sent Him, cursing in your
synagogues them that believe on Christ. For you have not authority
to raise your own hands against us, because of them who are now
supreme. But as often as you could, this also ye did." (11)
Justin believed that the whole body of believers was the true
Israel, but not in the replacement sense later adopted. "For we are
the true and spiritual Israelitish nation, and the race of Judah and
of Jacob and Isaac and Abraham, who when he was still uncircumcised
received witness from God for his faith, and was blessed, and was
called father of many nations -- we, I say, are all this, who were
brought nigh to God by Him who was crucified, even Christ..." (12)
"As therefore from that one Jacob, who was also surnamed Israel,
your whole nation was addressed as Jacob and Israel, so also we who
keep the commandments of Christ, are, by virtue of Christ who begat
us unto God, both called and in fact are, Jacob and Israel and Judah
and Joseph and David, and true children of God."(13)
Justin maintains that Gentiles "who keep the commandments of
Christ, are, by virtue of Christ" also full
members of Israel. He does not believe that the body of believers
has replaced the Jews, but rather that Gentile believers have been
grafted into Israel through Yeshua. "When therefore God blesses, and
calls this people Israel, and cries aloud that it is His
inheritance, how is it that you do not repent, both for deceiving
yourselves as though you alone were Israel, and for cursing the
people that is blessed of God?" (14)
"Trypho said: Do you indeed intend to say that none of us shall
inherit anything in the holy mountain of God?
"And I replied: I do not mean that. But they who persecuted Christ,
and still persecute Him, and do not repent, shall not inherit
anything in the holy mountain. While the nations [Gentiles] that
have believed on Him, and have repented for all the sins they have
committed -- they shall inherit, with all the patriarchs and the
prophets and the righteous men that have been born of Israel." (15)
According to Justin, it is not Jews only who are now Israel, but
also Gentiles who believe in Yeshua. For Justin, because the
Gentiles who believe in Yeshua are now part of Israel, they also,
with the righteous Jews, will inherit what God has promised
As for the nature of that inheritance, Trypho pointedly asks, " 'do
you acknowledge of a truth that this place Jerusalem will be
rebuilt, and expect that your people will be gathered together and
rejoice with Christ, together with the patriarchs and the prophets,
and the saints of our race, or even of them who became proselytes,
before your Christ came . . . .?'
"[Justin replies,] 'I have acknowledged to you earlier that I and
many others do hold this opinion, even as you also know well that
this is to take place. But I also informed you that even many
Christians of pure and godly mind do not accept it. For I made it
clear to you that those who are Christians in name, but in reality
are godless and impious heretics, teach in all respects what is
blasphemous and godless and foolish. . . . For it is not men, or the
doctrines of men, that I choose to follow, but God and the doctrines
that come from Him.
"For even if you yourselves have ever met with some so-called
Christians, who yet do not acknowledge this, but even dare to
blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of
Jacob . . . . But I, and all other entirely Christians, know that
there will be a resurrection of the flesh, and also a thousand years
in a Jerusalem built up and adorned and enlarged, as the prophets
Ezekiel and Isaiah, and all the rest, acknowledge.'"(16)
"And, further, a man among us named John, one of the apostles of
Christ, in a Revelation made to him that they who have believed our
Christ will spend a thousand years in Jerusalem, and that afterwards
the universal, and, in one word, eternal resurrection of all at
once, will take place, and also the judgment." (17)
For Justin, "all entirely orthodox Christians" believed that Yeshua
would reign on the earth for a thousand years in a glorified
Jerusalem. Those "so-called Christians who yet do not acknowledge
this . . . in reality are godless and impious heretics" who "dare to
blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of
Eusebius knew Justin's Dialogue with Trypho. He quotes from
it, praising Justin as "a true lover of sound philosophy." He
characterizes Justin as courageous, a man "of cool deliberation and
But when it comes to Justin's declaration that those who do not
acknowledge the future coming and reign of the Lord on the earth
from Jerusalem are "godless and impious heretics," Eusebius ignores
Justin. He neither quotes, nor mentions, nor comments. He cannot
pretend that Justin was lead astray by Papias, so he simply pretends
that Justin never said what he said. For Eusebius, it is not part of
the history of the Church, because it is not what he wants
the Church to believe.
1. E. Ferguson, "The Terminology of Kingdom in the Second
Century," in Studia Patristica, Vol. XVII, P.670, edited by
Elizabeth A. Livingstone, Pergamon Press, Oxford, 1982.
2. ibid., P. 673.
3. The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius Pamphilus,
translated by Christian Frederick Cruse, op. cit., Bk.3, Ch.36, P.
4. ibid., Bk.3, Ch.39, P. 126.
5. J.B. Lightfoot and J.R. Harmer, editors, The Apostolic Fathers,
Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1988, P. 532 (de vir. illust.
6. The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius Pamphilus, op.
cit., Bk.3, Ch.23, P.104-105.
7. Edgar Hennecke, The New Testament Apocrypha, Vol. 2,
edited by Wilhelm Schneemelcher, translated by R. McL. Wilson, The
Westminster Press, Phila., 1965, P.668 For the full text of this
section, chapter 2, in the Ethiopic text, see Pp. 668-669.
8. ibid., P. 668.
9. Eberhard Arnold, The Early Christians after the Death of the
Apostles, Plough Press, Farmington, PA., 1972, P.295.
10. ibid., P. 167.
11. Justin Martyr, The Dialogue with Trypho, translated by A.
Lukyn Williams, S.P.C.K., London, 1930, Pp. 33-34, Sec. 16.4.
12. ibid., P. 24, Sec. 11.5.
13. ibid., Pp. 256-257, Sec. 123.7-9.
14. ibid., P. 255, Sec. 123.6.
15. ibid., P. 52, Sec. 25.6-26.1.
16. ibid., P. 169, Sec. 80.1-5.
17. ibid., P. 172, Sec. 81.4.
18. The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius Pamphilus, op.
cit., Bk.4, Ch.8, Pp.135-136.