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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:
The Church History of Eusebius.: Chapter II

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter II.—The Martyrs, beloved of God, kindly ministered unto those who fell in the Persecution.

1. Such things happened to the churches of Christ under the above-mentioned emperor, 1392 from which we may reasonably conjecture the occurrences in the other provinces. It is proper to add other selections from the same letter, in which the moderation and compassion of these witnesses is recorded in the following words:

2. “They were also so zealous in their imitation of Christ,—‘who, being in the form of God, counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God,’ 1393 —that, though they had attained such honor, and had borne witness, not once or twice, but many times,—having been brought back to prison from the wild beasts, covered with burns and scars and wounds,—yet they did not proclaim themselves witnesses, nor did they suffer us to address them by this name. If any one of us, in letter or conversation, spoke of them as witnesses, they rebuked him p. 218 sharply.

3. For they conceded cheerfully the appellation of Witness to Christ ‘the faithful and true Witness,’ 1394 and ‘firstborn of the dead,’ 1395 and prince of the life of God; 1396 and they reminded us of the witnesses who had already departed, and said, ‘They are already witnesses whom Christ has deemed worthy to be taken up in their confession, having sealed their testimony by their departure; but we are lowly and humble confessors.’ 1397 And they besought the brethren with tears that earnest prayers should be offered that they might be made perfect. 1398

4. They showed in their deeds the power of ‘testimony,’ manifesting great boldness toward all the brethren, and they made plain their nobility through patience and fearlessness and courage, but they refused the title of Witnesses as distinguishing them from their brethren, 1399 being filled with the fear of God.”

5. A little further on they say: “They humbled themselves under the mighty hand, by which they are now greatly exalted. 1400 They defended all, 1401 but accused none. They absolved all, but bound none. 1402 And they prayed for those who had inflicted cruelties upon them, even as Stephen, the perfect witness, ‘Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.’ 1403 But if he prayed for those who stoned him, how much more for the brethren!”

6. And again after mentioning other matters, they say:

“For, through the genuineness of their love, their greatest contest with him was that the Beast, being choked, might cast out alive those whom he supposed he had swallowed. For they did not boast over the fallen, but helped them in their need with those things in which they themselves abounded, having the compassion of a mother, and shedding many tears on their account before the Father.

7. They asked for life, and he gave it to them, and they shared it with their neighbors. Victorious over everything, they departed to God. Having always loved peace, and having commended peace to us 1404 they went in peace to God, leaving no sorrow to their mother, nor division or strife to the brethren, but joy and peace and concord and love.”

8. This record of the affection of those blessed ones toward the brethren that had fallen may be profitably added on account of the inhuman and unmerciful disposition of those who, after these events, acted unsparingly toward the members of Christ. 1405



Namely, Antoninus Verus (in reality Marcus Aurelius, but wrongly distinguished by Eusebius from him), mentioned above in the Introduction. Upon Eusebius’ separation of Marcus Aurelius and Antoninus Verus, see below, p. 390, note.


Phil. ii. 6.


Rev. iii. 14.


Rev. i. 5.


ρχηγῷ τῆς ζωῆς τοῦ θεοῦ. Cf. Rev. iii. 14.


μολογοι. The regular technical term for “confessor,” which later came into general use, was μολογητής


τελειωθῆναι; i.e. be made perfect by martyrdom. For this use of τελειόω, see below, Bk. VI. chap. 3, §13, and chap. 5, §1; also Bk. VII. chap. 15, §5, and see Suicer’s Thesaurus, s.v.


πρὸς τοὺς ἀδελφούς.


Compare 1 Pet. v. 6.


πᾶσι μὲν ἀπολογοῦντο. Rufinus translates placabant omnes; Musculus, omnibus rationem fidei suæ reddebant; Valesius, omnium defensionem suscipiebant, though he maintains in a note that the rendering of Musculus, or the translation omnibus se excusabant, is more correct. It is true that πᾶσι ἀπολογοῦντο ought strictly to mean “apologized to all” rather than “for all,” the latter being commonly expressed by the use of πὲρ with the genitive (see the lexicons s.v. πολογέομαι). At the same time, though it may not be possible to produce any other examples of the use of the dative, instead of πὲρ with the genitive, after πολογέομαι, it is clear from the context that it must be accepted in the present case.


The question of the readmission of the lapsed had not yet become a burning one. The conduct of the martyrs here in absolving (žλυον) those who had shown weakness under persecution is similar to that which caused so much dispute in the Church during and after the persecution of Decius. See below, Bk. VI. chap. 43, note 1.


Acts vii. 60.


μῖν, which is found in four important mss. and in Nicephorus, and is supported by Rufinus and adopted by Stephanus, Stroth, Burton, and Zimmermann. The majority of the mss., followed by all the other editors, including Heinichen, read εί.


Eusebius refers here to the Novatians, who were so severe in their treatment of the lapsed, and who in his day were spread very widely and formed an aggressive and compact organization (see below, Bk. VI. chap. 43, note 1).

Next: Chapter III