Eusebius – The Church History
A New Translation with Commentary
by Paul L. Maier
Published by Kregel Publications, 1999, 2007
For Christmas I received a copy of Eusebius’ Church History (also known as Ecclesiastical History or Historia Ecclesiastica) It is not the version that many people have on their shelves, but a newer translation by Dr Paul Maier. I love this book! It is easy to read and understand, and I would have read it through quickly, except that I kept stopping to make notes.
Eusebius (260-339) was the bishop of the church at Caesarea Maritima, and a prolific and respected author. It seems, however, that he didn’t go back over his writing to tidy it up, so the Greek text of Church History, and previous literal translations into English, have been rambling in style and not easy to read.
Paul Maier has tidied up Eusebius’s prose in the process of translation and states that “if Eusebius had had a good editor, this is how his text might have appeared” (p.18). Maier insists, however, that no information has been lost in his editing and translating work.
Maier gives a summary at the end of each of the ten “books” which comprise Eusebius’ Church History, and he gives necessary cautions about accepting everything that Eusebius wrote. While the bishop was careful in quoting accurately from existing documents, a few of these documents were not themselves accurate. Maier usually provides corrections in footnotes where Eusebius is mistaken in his information.
Many of the documents Eusebius quotes from – and some quotes are lengthy – have since been lost, so his Church History is an invaluable resource.
I thoroughly recommend this Church History as it fills in many gaps in what the New Testament tells us about the Apostolic Church. It also tells us about the issues that were important (e.g. heresies, persecutions, the canon of Scripture), and the people who were influential (e.g. Irenaeus, Origen), in the second to early fourth-century church. I was especially inspired by the first “book” which is Eusebius’ account of the person and work of Jesus. Eusebius had a keen interest in Christology and was seated at the right hand of Constantine where he acted as a theological adviser during the council of Nicea in 325.
There is more information about this excellent book on Amazon.
Dr Paul Maier is the R. H. Seibert Professor of Ancient History at Western Michigan University, and has written and translated several other books.