As one who loves to read about and study history, I have often seen referenced the much respected Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius (A.D. 260-369). I have thought it to be something too academic, or at least too difficult for me, until I discovered Eusebius: The Church History – A New Translation with Commentary by Paul L. Maier. It’s a very readable translation, and Maier provides commentary on occasion. You can read Kim Riddlebarger’s review here.
I recently received the book by Maier and have started reading it. As a history buff, and as a Christian, I recommend it highly as a book of discovery, information, and inspiration. Eusebius’ original work was written sometime around A.D. 300, and material was added to it in subsequent years. It is a great resource for learning about the Early Church, especially as it faced pressures from all sides. This Eusebius (which, in Greek, means reverent, or pious) was well-respected in his time, both as a theologian and writer. He was a contemporary of Constantine, and participated in many of the celebrations that honored Constantine’s rule.
In addition to his Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius was commissioned by Constantine to produce 50 copies of the Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) for use by the the churches in Constantinople. He also was part of the Council of Nicea, from which emerged the Nicene Creed as well as the process used to determine the date of Easter. In a time when the church had endured countless attacks, both from persecution and in its doctrine, Eusebius was a great defender of orthodoxy, defending the faith against one heresy after another.
This Eusebius was less than 300 years removed from the earthly ministry of Christ. In that short amount of time, Eusebius had access to manuscripts and documents that have since been lost, and, even more, he had eyewitness accounts and first-hand knowledge of the Early Church.
So, it is with great interest and awe that I read his historical account of these early years of the Church. On the person of Christ, he writes:
No language could adequately describe the origin, essence, and nature of Christ…For no one knows the Father except the Son, and no one has fully known the Son except the Father who begot him. And who but the Father could conceive of the Light that existed before the world, the Wisdom that preceded time, the living Word that was in the beginning with the Father and was God? Before all creation and fashioning, visible and invisible, he was the first and only offspring of God, the commander-in-chief of the spiritual host of heaven, the messenger of mighty counsel, the agent of the ineffable plan of the Father, the creator – with the Father – of all things, the second cause of the universe after the Father, the true and only begotten Child of God, the Lord and God and King of everything created, who has received lordship, power, honor, and deity itself from the Father. (pp. 22-23)
That, from Eusebius, is a statement that could very well be a creed for the Church on the nature and person of Jesus Christ.