Page images
PDF
EPUB

66

as

а

[ocr errors]

parts, as bear apparent marks of exaggeration or addition, or which want the support of probability.

That Eusebius himself did not consider what he relates as matter of common report, to be entitled to implicit credit, seems to us very plain. He gives the tradition, and, as it would appear, leaves his readers to take it for what it is, in their opinion, worth. In sitting down to his work, he seems to have proceeded upon the principle recognised by Herodotus, the father of history. “I must relate things,” says he, they are reported, but I am not obliged to believe all.” * This circumstance we must keep in view in order rightly to estimatę Eusebius's merits as an historian. It has not been sufficiently attended to, and his reputation has suffered in consequence. Thus, because his relations have sometimes the air of fable, it is hastily concluded that he is a writer entitled to no respect. The inference is unsound, and does him great injustice. He has recorded traditions bearing various marks of probability or improbability; but he avowedly gives them as traditions, and we must receive them for what they are worth. Some of them he evidently regarded as suspicious. He has been perfectly honest. When he had authorities which he thought could be relied on, he has given them; when they were wanting, he has given us fair notice, that his statements are founded only on common or ancient rumor.

The lost writings appealed to by him, or writings in their present form manifestly corrupt, or of doubtful genuineness, or of which only fragments have come down to us, are numerous. As fountains of history, they must have possessed various merit. Some of them appear to have been entitled to very little respect, and others to none at all. To the latter class we must refer his authorities for the reported correspondence between Abgarus and Jesus Christ, recorded in the first book of his “History,” t with the accompanying narrative relating to the mission of Thaddeus. The letters are undoubtedly a forgery, though we readily acquit Eusebius of all participation in the fraud. The originals existed, as he tells us, in the Syriac language, in the archives of the city of Edessa, whence they were taken by or for him, for his language is ambiguous, and translated into Greek. This is all he says of their history, and we see no reason whatever to call in question his good

* Herodotus, Lib. vii. S 152.

C. 13.

er.

faith. But he suffered himself to be egregiously duped. A document undoubtedly came to his hands purporting to have been drawn from the archives referred to, which he hastily received as ancient and authentic.

The forgery would give us little concern, were it not that so gross a blunder of Eusebius, at the very threshold, affects his character as an historian. If he had so little critical sagacity as to be imposed upon by so palpable and clumsy a fraud, it may be asked, What reliance can be placed on his judgment in any case ? Does not the fact go to show a degree of carelessness and want of discrimination in the selection of his materials, which must materially impair our confidence in the credibility of his narrative in other instances ? Undoubtedly it does to a certain extent. It tends to inspire distrust of his judgment, and places us under the necessity of subjecting his authorities to the test of rigid examination, when in our pow

But this we are compelled to do, in case of most ancient, and but too many modern historians. In this respect Eusebius does not stand alone.

Whether the account of the sufferings of our Saviour reported to have been sent by Pilate to the Emperor Tiberius, and referred to by Justin Martyr, and by Tertullian, is to be classed with the abovementioned, in the rank of forgeries, or not, or had only an imaginary existence, it is not material to our purpose to inquire; as Eusebius, who seems never to have seen it, does little more than allude to it, and can hardly be said to have used it as an authority at all.

Among the authorities entitled to some, though to very little respect, we may place Papias, bishop of Hierapolis. Papias was a great collector of traditions ; and whenever he met with a person, who had conversed with the Apostles and elders, was particular in his inquiries as to what they said, “ what Andrew, and what Peter said,” what “ Philip, or Thomas, or James, or John, or Matthew, and the other Apostles were wont to say," what “ John the elder” said. He left a work in five books, apparently a sort of commentary on our Lord's discourses, or life, extant in Eusebius's time; but Eusebius himself, judging from his writings, pronounces him to have been a man of very small capacity, and says that he propagated several fabulous legends. Indeed, he seems to have been a person of unbounded credulity, utterly destitute of discrimination and judgment. He first gave currency

courses.

among Christians to the doctrine of Chiliasm, or the one thousand years' reign of Christ on earth, with his saints, in the enjoyment of corporeal delights, which Irenæus and others, having regard to the “ antiquity of the man,” adopted and defended, but to which the mighty arm of Origen Adamantius finally gave a death blow. He was the reporter, too, of the tradition, which he ascribes to John " the elder,” and which seems to have passed current with most of the ancient ecclesiastical writers, and may probably be true, in part, that Mark, who was the companion of Peter, and acted as his interpreter, wrote his Gospel according to his recollection of Peter's dis

To the same author is traced the assertion that Matthew wrote in Hebrew, which seems to have been the primitive belief. Among the fabulous relations of Papias, Eusebius mentions one which was found in one of the false gospels, that according to the Hebrews.

Papias in peering about for traditions and old stories, of which he seems to have collected a goodly number, no doubt gleaned some truths ; but he is evidently no authority for any thing, except as a witness as to what he saw and heard, and about which he could hardly be mistaken ; nor did Eusebius regard him as entitled to much respect, the above narrative embracing the substance of the information which he professes to have derived from him, which he gives as tradition.*

Among the Apostolic Fathers, we think that Eusebius has not appealed to Barnabas, Clement of Rome, or Hermas, as an authority. He has given two extracts from the Epistles of Ignatius of Antioch, one relating to his journey from Syria to Rome, under a guard of soldiers, the other to a reported conversation of Christ with Peter after the resurrection, not recorded in our present Gospels, and obtained, as Eusebius says, he knew not whence, but which, as Jerome informs us, was found in the Gospel according to the Hebrews. Two brief extracts follow from a letter of Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, in which mention is made of the Epistles of Ignatius as sent to him, but in which no more important information is contained.

He also gives a short extract from Quadratus, the Apologist, the first, as it is said, who presented a written apology for Christianity to a Roman Emperor. Quadratus flourished a

* Lib. iii. c. 39.

Lib. iii. c. 36.

little after the year 120, and, according to Eusebius, presented his Apology in 126. In the extract alluded to, he speaks of the miracles of Jesus, and asserts that some of those raised from the dead by hím, survived to his own times.*

These, we believe, are all the Christian writings, to which Eusebius has appealed as sources of history, before the time of Justin Martyr, that is, till near the middle of the second century ; and the short fragments to which we have alluded constitute all that remains of those writings in a form entitled to be regarded as genuine.

In pursuing our design of presenting a view of the lost works, or works of which a few fragments only are extant, appealed to by Eusebius as authorities, for a hundred or hundred and twenty-five years after the date just mentioned, that is, till his own times, our limits will allow us to do little more than give a bare enumeration of the names and titles of documents, and the authors to whom they are attributed. From this enumeration, however, the intelligent reader will be able to form some tolerably accurate judgment of the worth of the materials included in it, without any comments of our own.

Authorities, such as they are, begin, from about the middle of the second century, to multiply. Among them, we may mention Hegesippus, a converted Jew, who flourished about the year 170, and wrote five books of Ecclesiastical Memoirs, of which we have now only some fragments preserved by Eusebius, and a very short one quoted by Photius at second hand. Eusebius speaks of him with great respect, though he seems to have been a rude and incoherent writer, and the judgment of the Christian world concerning him, has been generally unfavorable.

For some traditions, respecting the early affairs of Christians,

* Lib. iv. c. 3.

# Kestner, in a dissertation inserted in his treatise “De Eusebii Auctoritate et Fide Diplomaticâ,” Gott. 1816, has attempted a defence of the historical fidelity of Hegesippus, we do not think, with entire success, against what he calls the unjust and perverse judgments, pronounced concerning him. Moeller, it seems, had called him a dealer in fables, and a most futile trifler, rather than an historian, and Strothe had said, that he is so incoherent, that "you would think you were reading the meditations of a shoemaker in the language of a Scythian.” The specimens of his performance, given by Eusebius, certainly do not tend to inspire any very deep regret for its loss. See Euseb. Hist. ii. 23 ; iii, 16, 20, 32; iv. 8, 22.

ter.

he refers as authority to a lost work (the “Hypotyposes" or

” “ Institutions”) of Clement of Alexandria, who lived near the end of the second century, good authority for the fact that such traditions existed in his day, but of course none at all for their truth. He gleaned a little too from his work against Heresies.

Some facts in regard to the time of keeping Easter by the churches of Asia, and incidental notices of some of the Apostles and other Christians of note, particularly the places where they were said to have been buried, are related on the authority of Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus, and cotemporary with Clement, a man apparently of no mean capacity, a part of whose letter to Victor, bishop of Rome, the historian has preserved. For some of the facts alluded to, the testimony of the letter is of the very best description. It was called forth by the famous controversy concerning the proper time of keeping Eas

Eusebius appears to have had before him letters of Victor himself, written on the occasion, excommunicating the churches of Asia, the Synodical Letters of the bishops assembled in Palestine, Pontus, and some other places, a private letter of Bacchyllus of Corinth, and, as he says, of "many

s." * He gives an extract from one of Irenæus, bishop of Lyons in Gaul, apparently synodical, and containing some interesting remarks relating to the conduct and character of Polycarp, with whom Irenæus was acquainted in his youth. Some other lost pieces of his were in possession of Eusebius, as also a letter of the martyrs of Lyons to Eleutherus of Rome, partly relating to Irenæus, and the celebrated letter of the churches of Lyons and Vienna, concerning their martyrs, addressed to the churches of Asia and Phrygia, from which he has given very copious extracts.t In fact we suspect that he has preserved it nearly entire. On the subject of the martyrs who had suffered before this time at Pergamus, as Carpus, Papulus, and Agathonica, he refers to their acts and monuments as still extant in his time. I

In reference to the planting of the Corinthian church by Paul and Peter, their martyrdom at Rome, their sepulchres there, and that of Philip at Hierapolis, he quotes from a letter of Dionysius of Corinth, and from a book of Caius against Proclus, extant in his time.$ Caius, too, is his authority in part

66

others.” *

[ocr errors]

a

* Lib. v. c. 23, 24. + Lib. v. c. 1, 2, 3. § Lib. ii. c. 25; Lib. iii. c. 28, 31.

Lib. iv. c. 15.

« PreviousContinue »