Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Church History of Eusebius.: Chapter XXXII
Chapter XXXII.—Symeon, Bishop of Jerusalem, suffers Martyrdom.
1. It is reported that after the age of Nero and Domitian, under the emperor whose times we are now recording, 870 a persecution was stirred up against us in certain cities in consequence of a popular uprising. 871 In this persecution we have understood that Symeon, the son of Clopas, who, as we have shown, was the second bishop of the church of Jerusalem, 872 suffered martyrdom.
2. Hegesippus, whose words we have already quoted in various places, 873 is a witness to this fact also. Speaking of certain heretics 874 he adds that Symeon was accused by them at this time; and since it was clear that he was a Christian, he was tortured in various ways for many days, and astonished even the judge himself and his attendants in the highest degree, and finally he suffered a death similar to that of our Lord. 875
3. But there is nothing like hearing the historian himself, who writes as follows: “Certain of these heretics brought accusation against Symeon, the son of Clopas, on the ground that he was a descendant of David 876 and a Christian; p. 164 and thus he suffered martyrdom, at the age of one hundred and twenty years, 877 while Trajan was emperor and Atticus governor.” 878
4. And the same writer says that his accusers also, when search was made for the descendants of David, were arrested as belonging to that family. 879 And it might be reasonably assumed that Symeon was one of those that saw and heard the Lord, 880 judging from the length of his life, and from the fact that the Gospel makes mention of Mary, the wife of Clopas, 881 who was the father of Symeon, as has been already shown. 882
5. The same historian says that there were also others, descended from one of the so-called brothers of the Saviour, whose name was Judas, who, after they had borne testimony before Domitian, as has been already recorded, 883 in behalf of faith in Christ, lived until the same reign.
6. He writes as follows: “They came, therefore, and took the lead of every church 884 as witnesses 885 and as relatives of the Lord. And profound peace being established in every church, they remained until the reign of the Emperor Trajan, 886 and until the above-mentioned Symeon, son of Clopas, an uncle of the Lord, was informed against by the heretics, and was himself in like manner accused for the same cause 887 before the governor Atticus. 888 And after being tortured for many days he suffered martyrdom, and all, including even the proconsul, marveled that, at the age of one hundred and twenty years, he could endure so much. And orders were given that he should be crucified.”
7. In addition to these things the same man, while recounting the events of that period, records that the Church up to that time had remained a pure and uncorrupted virgin, since, if there were any that attempted to corrupt the sound norm of the preaching of salvation, they lay until then concealed in obscure darkness.
8. But when the sacred college of apostles had suffered death in various forms, and the generation of those that had been deemed worthy to hear the inspired wisdom with their own ears had passed away, then the league of godless error took its rise as a result of the folly of heretical teachers, 889 who, because none of the apostles was still living, attempted henceforth, with a bold face, to proclaim, in opposition to the preaching of the truth, the knowledge which is falsely so-called. 890
Trajan, who reigned from 98 to 117 a.d.163:871
Upon the state of the Christians under Trajan, see the next chapter, with the notes.163:872
See chap. 11.163:873
Quoted in Bk. II. chap. 23, and in Bk. III. chap. 20, and mentioned in Bk. III. chap. 11. Upon his life and writings, see Bk. IV. chap. 8, note 1.163:874
In the passage quoted in Bk. IV. chap. 22, §4, Hegesippus speaks of various heretics, and it looks as if the passage quoted there directly preceded the present one in the work of Hegesippus.163:875
That is, by crucifixion, as stated in §6.163:876
It is noticeable that Symeon was not sought out by the imperial authorities, but was accused to them as a descendant of David and as a Christian. The former accusation shows with what suspicion all members of the Jewish royal family were still viewed, as possible instigators of a revolution (cf. chap. 20, note 2); the latter shows that in the eyes of the State Christianity was in itself a crime (see the next chapter, note 6). In the next paragraph it is stated that search was made by the officials for members of the Jewish royal family. This was quite natural, after the attention of the government had been officially drawn to the family by the arrest of Symeon.164:877
The date of the martyrdom of Symeon is quite uncertain. It has been commonly ascribed (together with the martyrdom of Ignatius) to the year 106 or 107, upon the authority of Eusebius Chron., which is supposed to connect these events with the ninth or tenth year of Trajans reign. But an examination of the passage in the Chron., where Eusebius groups together these two events and the persecutions in Bithynia, shows that he did not pretend to know the exact date of any of them, and simply put them together as three similar events known to have occurred during the reign of Trajan (cf. Lightfoots Ignatius, II. p. 447 sqq.). The year of Atticus proconsulship we unfortunately do not know, although Wieseler, in his Christen-Verfolgungen der Cæsaren, p. 126, cites Waddington as his authority for the statement that Herodes Atticus was proconsul of Palestine from 105 to 107; but all that Waddington says (Fastes des prov. Asiat., p. 720) is, that since the proconsul for the years 105 to 107 is not known, and Eusebius puts the death of Symeon in the ninth or tenth year of Trajan, we may assume that this was the date of Atticus proconsulship. This, of course, furnishes no support for the common opinion. Lightfoot, on account of the fact that Symeon was the son of Clopas, wishes to put the martyrdom earlier in Trajans reign, and it is probable that it occurred earlier rather than later; more cannot be said. The great age of Symeon and his martyrdom under Trajan are too well authenticated to admit of doubt; at the same time, the figure 120 may well be an exaggeration, as Lightfoot thinks. Renan (Les Evangiles, p. 466) considers it very improbable that Symeon could have had so long a life and episcopate, and therefore invents a second Symeon, a great-grandson of Clopas, as fourth bishop of Jerusalem, and makes him the martyr mentioned here. But there is nothing improbable in the survival of a contemporary of Jesus to the time of Trajan, and there is no warrant for rejecting the tradition, which is unanimous in calling Symeon the son of Clopas, and also in emphasizing his great age.164:878
ἐπὶ Τραϊανοῦ καίσαρος καὶ ὑπατικοῦ ᾽Αττικοῦ. The nouns being without the article, the phrase is to be translated, “while Trajan was emperor, and Atticus governor.” In §6, below, where the article is used, we must translate, “before Atticus the governor” (see Lightfoots Ignatius, I. p. 59).
The word ὑπατικός is an adjective signifying “consular, pertaining to a consul.” It “came to be used in the second century especially of provincial governors who had held the consulship, and at a later date of such governors even though they might not have been consuls” (Lightfoot, p. 59, who refers to Marquardt, Römische Staatsverwaltung, I. 409).164:879
This is a peculiar statement. Members of the house of David would hardly have ventured to accuse Symeon on the ground that he belonged to that house. The statement is, however, quite indefinite. We are not told what happened to these accusers, nor indeed that they really were of Davids line, although the ὡσ€ν with which Eusebius introduces the charge does not imply any doubt in his own mind, as Lightfoot quite rightly remarks. It is possible that some who were of the line of David may have accused Symeon, not of being a member of that family, but only of being a Christian, and that the report of the occurrence may have become afterward confused.164:880
This is certainly a reasonable supposition, and the unanimous election of Symeon as successor of James at a time when there must have been many living who had seen the Lord, confirms the conclusion.164:881
Mary, the wife of Clopas, is mentioned in John xix. 25.164:882
See above, chap. 11.164:883
See above, chap. 20.164:884
See p. 389, note.164:885
μ€ρτυρες. The word is evidently used here in its earlier sense of “witnesses,” referring to those who testified to Christ even if they did not seal their testimony with death. This was the original use of the word, and continued very common during the first two centuries, after which it became the technical term for persons actually martyred and was confined to them, while ὁμολογητής, “confessor,” gradually came into use as the technical term for those who had borne testimony in the midst of persecution, but had not suffered death. As early as the first century (cf. Acts 22:20, Rev. 2:13Acts xxii. 20 and Rev. ii. 13) μ€ρτυς was used of martyrs, but not as distinguishing them from other witnesses to the truth. See the remarks of Lightfoot, in his edition of Clement of Rome, p. 46.164:886
This part of the quotation has already been given in Eusebius own words in chap. 20, §8. See note 5 on that chapter.164:887
ἐπὶ τῷ αὐτῷ λόγῳ, that is, was accused for the same reason that the grandsons of Judas (whom Hegesippus had mentioned just before) were; namely, because he belonged to the line of David. See chap. 20; but compare also the remarks made in note 10, above.164:888
ἐπὶ ᾽Αττικοῦ τοῦ ὑπατικοῦ. See above, note 9.164:889
On the heretics mentioned by Hegesippus, see Bk. IV. chap. 22.164:890
τὴν ψευδόνυμον γνῶσιν; 1 Tim. vi. 20. A few mss., followed by Stephanus, Valesius (in his text), Closs, and Crusè, add the words (in substance): “Such is the statement of Hegesippus. But let us proceed with the course of our history.” The majority of the mss., however, endorsed by Valesius in his notes, and followed by Burton, Heinichen, and most of the editors, omit the words, which are clearly an interpolation.
Next: Chapter XXXIII
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