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” that comprise Eusebius’s 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’s 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.
These three articles are based on, or inspired by, information in Eusebius’ Church History.
Candace: The Queen of the Ethiopians
Eusebius and Letter Writing in the Early Church
Philip’s Prophesying Daughters
5 thoughts on “A newer translation of Eusebius’s “Church History””
This looks fascinating! Can’t wait to see what you share with us in the weeks ahead 🙂
I would like to know if it changes your position on mutual submission, or if these writings only solidify your position. Please keep us posted on what you continue to learn.
I don’t regard the writings of Eusebius in the same way as Scripture. His record is interesting and important, and tells us a lot about what happened in the first three centuries of the church, but not everything that the early church believed and practiced was completely in accord with New Testament theology.
I disagree with some of the theology of the martyrs, and I disagree with the contrived doctrine of apostolic succession. Recording “the succession of the holy apostles” is listed first as one of Eusebius’s aims in writing his history (1.1).
Here’s one thing he wrote that I think is a bit silly. Eusebius tells us that the bishops of city churches succeeded from the “Twelve”, whereas the bishops of country churches succeeded from the “Seventy” (Luke 10:1ff).
Several women are mentioned in his Church History. Here are just a few:
~ Eusebius mentions that the Ethiopians were traditionally ruled by women (2:1). This led me on a bit of a search and I found out that there was some truth in his statement. There were several female rulers (called Kandake or Kentake) of Ethiopia. Some ruled in their own right, some ruled with their husbands, but these queens were not merely consorts. They had equal power with the king.
~ Eusebius mentions that Aquila and Priscilla, together with Paul, strengthened the churches in Asia Minor (2.18).
~ He speaks glowingly about the Therapeutae who were an ascetic sect of Jews in Alexandria in the first century AD. The men and women of this sect lived a communal and monastic life, and both the men and women interpreted Old Testament Scripture. Eusebius wrongly believed, however, that these men and women were Christians.
~ He speaks about the apostle John, and Philip and his daughters as “mighty luminaries who sleep in Asia”. (He wrongly believes that Philip the apostle and Philip the evangelist are one and the same.) (3.31)
~ Much of book 5 is devoted to the martyrdom of a woman called Blandina and others from Gaul. Blandina is described as a powerful heroine. Eusebius writes of her, “Christ proved that what men think of as lowly God deems worthy of great glory”. And, she was “like a noble mother who comforted her children [other martyrs] and sent them on triumphantly to the king . . .” (5:1). There was very little sexism when it came to martyrdom. Christian men and women were both imprisoned and tortured and killed. [More here.]
As a woman who believes in equality and mutual submission in marriage and in the church, I have not found anything to cringe at in Eusebius’ Church History, and he speaks highly about Philip’s daughters and a prophetess called Ammia in Philadelphia (5:17). More about Eusebius and Philip’s daughters here.]
This indeed sounds like it’s a fascinating book to read! Do you know if the paperback and the hardcover editions are identical? I expect the text is, but what about the photos and other illustrations?
Hi Margreet, I had a look at the paperback version on Amazon. It looked the same as the hardcover, but I couldn’t see any of the photos in the preview, as the preview was too limited. I did see one illustration, though, that was the same.