Fracturing the Faith .. Vol 14

 

Stolen faith and the “Apostolic Fathers” part 2

Eusebius of Caesarea (265 – 339), also known as Eusebius Pamphili, was a Greek historian of Christianity, exegete, and Christian polemicist.

What is an exegete? An exegete is a person who engages in the explanation or interpretation of a text, particularly a religious text.

What is a polemicist? A polemic is contentious rhetoric, mostly seen in arguments about controversial topics, that is intended to support a specific position. Discussions around atheism, humanism and anti-religious books like Richard Dawkins’s ‘The God Delusion’ are part of the polemic tradition.

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“Through the activities of the theologian Origen (185/6–254) and the school of his follower Pamphilus (later in 309), Caesarea became a center of Christian learning. Origen was largely responsible for the collection of usage information, or which churches were using which gospels, regarding the texts which became the New Testament.

The information used to create the late-fourth-century Easter Letter, which was declared accepted Christian writings, was probably based on the Ecclesiastical History [HE] of Eusebius of Caesarea, wherein he uses the information passed on to him by Origen to create both his list at HE 3:25 and Origen’s list at HE 6:25.

Eusebius got his information about what texts were accepted by the third-century churches throughout the known world, a great deal of which Origen knew of firsthand from his extensive travels, from the library and writings of Origen.” ~ C.G. Bateman, Origen’s Role in the Formation of the New Testament Canon, 2010.

Neither Pamphilus nor Eusebius knew Origen personally according to Louth’s “Birth of church history”. Additionally, Eusebius’ “Preparation for the Gospel” bears witness to the literary tastes of Origen, but makes reference to all the works of Plato and to an extensive range of later philosophic works, largely from Middle Platonists from Philo to the late 2nd century.

Comments along the book margins in these extant manuscripts note that Pamphilus, his friends and pupils, including Eusebius, corrected and revised much of the biblical text in their library. Their efforts made the hexaplaric (six fold) Septuagint text increasingly popular in Syria and Palestine.

Eusebius, a learned man and at this time a famous author, enjoyed the favor of the Emperor Constantine. Because of this he was called upon to present the creed of his own church to the 318 attendees of the Council of Nicaea in 325. At the conclusion of the councils sessions they remarked, “However, the anti-Arian creed from Palestine prevailed in becoming the basis for the Nicene Creed.” ~ Bruce L. Shelley, Church History in Plain Language, (2nd ed. Dallas, Texas: Word Publishing, 1995.)

Eusebius is fairly unusual in his preterist, or fulfilled eschatological view. Saying “The Holy Scriptures foretell that there will be unmistakable signs of the Coming of Christ. Now there were among the Hebrews three outstanding offices of dignity, which made the nation famous, firstly the kingship, secondly that of prophet, and lastly the high priesthood. The prophecies said that the abolition and complete destruction of all these three together would be the sign of the presence of the Christ. And that the proofs that the times had come, would lie in the ceasing of the Mosaic worship, the desolation of Jerusalem and its Temple, and the subjection of the whole Jewish race to its enemies…The holy oracles foretold that all these changes, which had not been made in the days of the prophets of old, would take place at the coming of the Christ, which I will presently shew to have been fulfilled as never before in accordance with the predictions.” (Demonstratio Evangelica VIII)

Eusebius’ position on the deity of Jesus Christ: “He must possess divinity by participation (and not originally like the Father), so that he can change, unlike God the Father.” Also, within his belief was the separation of the Holy Spirit in the same manner as Father and Son. No point of this doctrine, including his denial of original sin or defilement via Adam, is original with Eusebius, all is traceable to his teacher Origen. After nearly being excommunicated due to charges of heresy by Alexander of Alexandria, Eusebius submitted and agreed to the Nicene Creed at the First Council of Nicea in 325.

In Eusebius’ “Praeparatio evangelica” (Book XII, Chapter 31) Eusebius discusses “That it will be necessary sometimes to use falsehood as a remedy for the benefit of those who require such a mode of treatment.” Jacob Burckhardt (19th century cultural historian) dismissed Eusebius as “the first thoroughly dishonest historian of (Christian) antiquity”.

Michael J. Hollerich, assistant professor at the Jesuit Santa Clara University, California, replies to Burckhardt’s criticism of Eusebius, that “Eusebius has been an inviting target for students of the Constantinian era. At one time or another they have characterized him as a political propagandist, a good courtier, the shrewd and worldly adviser of the Emperor Constantine, the great publicist of the first Christian emperor, the first in a long succession of ecclesiastical politicians, the herald of Byzantinism, a political theologian, a political metaphysician, and a caesaropapist.

It is obvious that these are not, in the main, neutral descriptions. Much traditional scholarship, sometimes with barely suppressed disdain, has regarded Eusebius as one who risked his orthodoxy and perhaps his character because of his zeal for the Constantinian establishment.” Hollerich concludes that “… the standard assessment has exaggerated the importance of political themes and political motives in Eusebius’s life and writings and has failed to do justice to him as a churchman and a scholar”.

Caesaropapism is a political theory in which the head of state, notably the Emperor (‘Caesar’, by extension a ‘superior’ King), is also the supreme head of the church (‘papa’, pope or analogous religious leader).

Matthew 23:9 “And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.”

Dionysius of Alexandria, named “the Great,” 14th Pope of Alexandria & Patriarch of the See of St. Mark from December 28, 248 until his death on March 22, 264 after seventeen years as a bishop. One should take note of name variation from that of the Greek god (Dionysus).

Dionysius was born to a wealthy pagan family sometime in the late 2nd, early 3rd century. He spent most of his life reading books and carefully studying the traditions of heretics. He converted to Christianity at a mature age and discussed his conversion experience with Philemon, a presbyter of Pope Sixtus II.

Dionysius converted to Roman Christianity when he received a vision sent from God; in it he was commanded to vigorously study the heresies facing the Christian Church so that he could refute them through doctrinal study. After his conversion, he joined the Catechetical School of Alexandria and was a student of Origen.

About A.D. 255 a dispute arose concerning the millennialist views taught in Refutation of Allegorists, by Nepos, a bishop in Egypt, which insisted on the interpretation of Revelation 20 as denoting a literal “millennium of bodily luxury” on earth. Because he was taught by Origen, Dionysius succeeded through his oral and written efforts in checking this Egyptian revival of millennialism.

He offered some critical grounds to reject the Book of Revelation, such as an alleged difference in style and diction from John’s Gospel and Epistles. Dionysius main position was to claim it was not written by John: “I could not venture to reject the book, as many brethren hold it in high esteem,’ ” yet he ascribed it to another John – some “holy and inspired man” – but not the apostle John, calling it the Millenarian Heresy.

His impact was felt in later years concerning the canonicity of the Apocalypse, causing much dialogue in the church, lingering in the East for several centuries. Quoting Dionysius “Certain people (Giaus of Rome) therefore before now discredited and altogether repudiated the book, both examining it chapter by chapter and declaring it unintelligible and inconclusive and that it makes a false statement in its title.”

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