Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Church History of Eusebius.: Chapter VIII
Chapter VIII.—Ecclesiastical Writers.
1. Among these Hegesippus was well known. 1037 We have already quoted his words a number of times, 1038 relating events which happened in the time of the apostles according to his account.
2. He records in five books the true tradition of apostolic doctrine in a most simple style, and he indicates the time in which he flourished when he writes as follows concerning those that first set up idols: “To whom they erected cenotaphs and temples, as is done to the present day. Among whom is also Antinoüs, 1039 a slave of the Emperor Adrian, in whose honor are celebrated also the Antinoian games, which were instituted in our day. For he [i.e. Adrian] also founded a city named after Antinoüs, 1040 and appointed prophets.”
3. At the same time also Justin, a genuine lover of the true philosophy, was still continuing to busy himself with Greek literature. 1041 He indicates this time in the Apology which he addressed to Antonine, where he writes as follows: 1042 “We do not think it out of place to mention here Antinoüs also, who lived in our day, and whom all p. 181 were driven by fear to worship as a god, although they knew who he was and whence he came.”
4. The same writer, speaking of the Jewish war which took place at that time, adds the following: 1043 “For in the late Jewish war Barcocheba, the leader of the Jewish rebellion, commanded that Christians alone 1044 should be visited with terrible punishments unless they would deny and blaspheme Jesus Christ.”
5. And in the same work he shows that his conversion from Greek philosophy to Christianity 1045 was not without reason, but that it was the result of deliberation on his part. His words are as follows: 1046 “For I myself, while I was delighted with the doctrines of Plato, and heard the Christians slandered, and saw that they were afraid neither of death nor of anything else ordinarily looked upon as terrible, concluded that it was impossible that they could be living in wickedness and pleasure. For what pleasure-loving or intemperate man, or what man that counts it good to feast on human flesh, could welcome death that he might be deprived of his enjoyments, and would not rather strive to continue permanently his present life, and to escape the notice of the rulers, instead of giving himself up to be put to death?”
6. The same writer, moreover, relates that Adrian having received from Serennius Granianus, 1047 a most distinguished governor, a letter 1048 in behalf of the Christians, in which he stated that it was not just to slay the Christians without a regular accusation and trial, merely for the sake of gratifying the outcries of the populace, sent a rescript 1049 to Minucius Fundanus, 1050 proconsul of Asia, commanding him to condemn no one without an indictment and a well-grounded accusation.
7. And he gives a copy of the epistle, preserving the original Latin in which it was written, 1051 and prefacing it with the following words: 1052 “Although from the epistle of the greatest and most illustrious Emperor Adrian, your father, we have good ground to demand that you order judgment to be given as we have desired, yet we have asked this not because it was ordered by Adrian, but rather because we know that what we ask is just. And we have subjoined the copy of Adrians epistle that you may know that we are p. 182 speaking the truth in this matter also. And this is the copy.”
8. After these words the author referred to gives the rescript in Latin, which we have translated into Greek as accurately as we could. 1053 It reads as follows:
On the life and writings of Hegesippus, see below, chap. 22, note 1. Eusebius in this passage puts his literary activity too early (see above, chap. 7, note 10). Jerome follows Eusebius chronological arrangement in his de vir ill., giving an account of Hegesippus in chap. 22, between his accounts of Agrippa Castor and Justin Martyr.180:1038
Already quoted in Bk. II. chap. 23, and in Bk. III. chap. 32.180:1039
Antinoüs, a native of Bithynia, was a beautiful page of the Emperor Hadrian, and the object of his extravagant affections. He was probably drowned in the Nile, in 130 a.d. After his death he was raised to the rank of the gods, and temples were built for his worship in many parts of the empire, especially in Egypt. In Athens too games were instituted in his honor, and games were also celebrated every fifth year at Mantinea, in Arcadia, according to Valesius, who cites Pausanias as his authority.180:1040
Hadrian rebuilt the city of Besa in the Thebais, in whose neighborhood Antinoüs was drowned, and called it Antinoöpolis.180:1041
On Justin Martyr, see chap. 16, below. We do not know the date of his conversion, but as it did not take place until mature years, it is highly probable that he was still a heathen during the greater part of Hadrians reign. There is no reason, however, to suppose that Eusebius is speaking here with more than approximate accuracy. He may not have known any better than we the exact time of Justins conversion.180:1042
Justin, Apol. I. 29.181:1043
Justin, Apol. I. 31.181:1044
χριστιανοὺς μόνους. “This alone is, as Münter remarks, not to be understood as implying that Barcocheba did not treat the Greeks and Romans also with cruelty, but that he persecuted the Christians especially, from religious hate, if he could not compel them to apostatize. Moreover, he handled the Christians so roughly because of their hesitation to take part in the rebellion” (Closs).181:1045
ἐπὶ τὴν θεοσέβειαν181:1046
Justin, Apol. II. 12. Eusebius here quotes from what is now known as the Second Apology of Justin, but identifies it with the first, from which he has quoted just above. This implies that the two as he knew them formed but one work, and this is confirmed by his quotations in chaps. 16 and 17, below. For a discussion of this matter, see chap. 18, note 3.181:1047
The best mss. of Eusebius write the name Σερέννιος Γρανιανός, but one ms., supported by Syncellus, writes the first word Σερένιος. Rufinus writes “Serenius”; Jerome, in his version of Eusebius Chronicle, followed by Orosius (VII. 13), writes “Serenius Granius,” and this, according to Kortholdt (quoted by Heinichen), is shown by an inscription to have been the correct form (see Heinichens edition, in loco). We know no more of this man, except that he was Minucius Fundanus predecessor as proconsul of Asia, as we learn from the opening sentence of the rescript quoted in the next chapter.181:1048
γρ€μματα. The plural is often used like the Latin literæ to denote a single epistle and we learn from the opening sentence of the rescript itself (if the Greek of Eusebius is to be relied on) that Hadrian replies, not to a number of letters, but to a single one,—an ἐπιστολή, as Eusebius calls it.181:1049
This Minucius Fundanus is the same person that is addressed by Pliny, Ep. I. 9 (see Mommsens note in Keils ed. of Plinys epistles, p. 419). He is mentioned also by Melito (Eusebius, IV. 26) as proconsul of Asia, and it is there said that Hadrian wrote to him concerning the Christians. The authenticity of this rescript is a disputed point. Keim (Theol. Jahrbücher, 1856, p. 387 sqq.) was the first to dispute its genuineness. He has been followed by many scholars, especially Overbeck, who gives a very keen discussion of the various edicts of the early emperors relating to the Christians in his Studien zur Gesch. der alten Kirche, I. p. 93 sqq. The genuineness of the edict, however, has been defended against Keims attack by Wieseler, Renan, Lightfoot, and others. The whole question hinges upon the interpretation of the rescript. According to Gieseler, Neander, and some others, it is aimed only against tumultuous proceedings, and, far from departing from the principle laid down by Trajan, is an attempt to return to that principle and to substitute orderly judicial processes for popular attacks. If this be the sense of the edict, there is no reason to doubt its genuineness, but the next to the last sentence certainly cannot be interpreted in that way: “if any one therefore brings an accusation, and shows that they have done something contrary to the laws (τι παρὰ τοὺς νόμους) determine thus according to the heinousness of the crime” (κατὰ τὴν δύναμιν τοῦ ἁμαρτήματος). These last words are very significant. They certainly imply various crimes of which the prisoners are supposed to be accused. According to the heinousness of these crimes the punishment is to be regulated. In other words, the trial of the Christians was to be for the purpose of ascertaining whether they were guilty of moral or political crimes, not whether they merely professed Christianity; that is, the profession of Christianity, according to this rescript, is not treated as a crime in and of itself. If the edict then be genuine, Hadrian reversed completely Trajans principle of procedure which was to punish the profession of Christianity in and of itself as a crime. But in the time of Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius the rescript of Trajan is seen still to be in full force. For this and other reasons presented by Keim and Overbeck, I am constrained to class this edict with those of Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius as a forgery. It can hardly have been composed while Hadrian was still alive, but must have been forged before Justin wrote his Apology, for he gives it as a genuine edict, i.e. it must belong to the early part of the reign of Antoninus Pius.
The illusion under which the early Christian writers labored in regard to the relations of the emperors to Christianity is very remarkable. Both Melito and Tertullian state that no emperor had persecuted the Christians except Nero and Domitian. Christian writers throughout the second century talk in fact as if the mode of treatment which they were receiving was something new and strange, and in opposition to the better treatment which previous emperors had accorded the Christians. In doing this, they ignore entirely the actual edicts of the emperors, all of which are now lost and notice only forged edicts which are favorable to the Christians; when and by whom they were forged we do not know. Thus Tertullian, in addressing Septimius Severus, speaks of the favors which his predecessors had granted the Christians and contrasts their conduct with his; Melito addresses Marcus Aurelius in the same way, and so Justin addresses Antoninus Pius. This method probably arose from a misunderstanding of the original edict of Trajan (cf. Bk. III. chap. 33, note 6), which they all considered favorable, and therefore presupposed a friendly attitude on the part of the emperors toward the Christians, which, not finding in their own age, they naturally transferred to a previous age. This led gradually to the idea—which Lactantius first gives precise expression to—that only the bad emperors persecuted Christianity, while the good ones were favorable to it. But after the empire became Christian, the belief became common that all the heathen emperors had been persecutors, the good as well as the bad;—all the Christian emperors were placed upon one level, and all the heathen on another, the latter being looked upon, like Nero and Domitian, as wicked tyrants. Compare Overbeck, l.c.181:1051
Our two mss. of Justin have substituted the Greek translation of Eusebius for the Latin original given by the former. Rufinus, however, in his version of Eusebius History, gives a Latin translation which is very likely the original one. Compare Kimmels De Rufino, p. 175 sq., and Lightfoots Ignatius, I. p. 463 sq., and see Ottos Corpus Apol. I. p. 190 sq., where the edict is given, both in the Greek of our mss. of Justin and in the Latin of Rufinus. Keim (Aus dem Urchristenthum, p. 184 sq.) contends that the Latin of Rufinus is not the original, but a translation of Eusebius Greek. His arguments, however, do not possess any real weight, and the majority of scholars accept Kimmels view.181:1052
Justin, Apol. I. 68.182:1053
We cannot judge as to the faithfulness of the Greek translation which follows, because we are not absolutely sure whether the Latin of Rufinus is its original, or itself a translation of it. Eusebius and Rufinus, however, agree very well, and if the Latin of Rufinus is the original of Eusebius translation, the latter has succeeded much better than the Greek translator of the Apology of Tertullian referred to in Bk. II. chap. 2, above. We should expect, however, that much greater pains would be taken with the translation of a brief official document of this kind than with such a work as Tertullians Apology, and Eusebius translation of the rescript does not by any means prove that he was a fluent Latin scholar. As remarked above (Bk. II. chap. 2, note 9), he probably had comparatively little acquaintance with the Latin, but enough to enable him to translate brief passages for himself in cases of necessity.
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