Title: Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History
Plot: Most Christians have heard Peter was crucified upside down, but do you know how you know? Because of Eusebius! The man who in 300 AD collected all the writings from the time of Christ to his day, organizing them, assessing their authenticity, and making a history. His work earned him the title, the father of church history!
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Hey, Welcome to part 5 of the Ecclesiastical History of the Church. I try to interject humor into every message, but today’s message involves a lot of death and destruction. It just seems awkward and wrong to spice that up with humor, so if nothing else, it should at least be interesting.
I just wanted to warn you of that going in.
I failed to mention that some of Eusebius’ chapters are really small. Take chapter 8 for example, it’s just one paragraph, some are just a sentence or two. In the case of chapter 8, it mentions the prophecy of Agabus about the famine that's about to came to pass. He doesn't give details here, he gives it in the future. And so we'll just jump into chapter 9.
In Chapter 9, Herod slew James the brother of John with the sword. The man who led him to the slaughter asked him for his forgiveness, because after hearing his testimony, he felt convicted for having turned James in. James did in fact forgive him and they died together. Seeing the death of James gave satisfaction to the Jews, Herod then planned to slay Peter also by putting him in prison, but those of you who know your Bible know that Peter was set free by an angel of the Lord.
And now to the matter of consequences: in chapter 10 we learn that Herod went to Caesarea, and dressed himself in silver robes that caused the rays of the sun to bounce off of him and he stood before the people in the tower of Strato. Where he gave a speech, and they applauded for him and flatterers called out that he was a god, and he failed to correct them. The Bible says the angel of the Lord immediately smote him and he died being eaten by worms. Eusebius adds to the Bible account that Herod saw the destroying angel sitting above him. And after being smote, he felt a pang through his heart and in his bowels and he told the people that fate would soon prove them wrong about him being a god, because he knew he was about to die.
Chapter 11 relates to the founding of a cult. A man named Theudas, I spell anything that I don't know how to pronounce, Theudas persuaded the people to take their possessions to the River Jordan under the pretense that he would part the sea and they could journey to a new land. Meanwhile, Fadus who replaced Pilate as procurator of Judea, sent an army after them slaying many and seizing their possessions. There is good news: it would seem that Theudas was needed back in Jerusalem, but there is bad news also: only his head made the journey. Yes, that’s right ladies and gentlemen, once upon a time when you started a cult, there was a price to be paid, and so he was beheaded.
In Chapter 12, it was about this same time the famine took place, hence the desire to pack up and leave town. It turns out the people slaughtered by the army were the lucky ones. However, there was a woman named Queen Helen of Adiabeni who purchased grain from Egypt and distributed it to the needy. They made a statue of her commemorating her generosity. But the worst was yet to come. And I am gonna keep saying that because we don't quite make it to the famine in today's podcast. We get just short of it and the famine will be at the beginning of the next one.
In Chapter 13, we learn that the enemy of salvation used a man named Simon who bewitched many of the inhabitants of Rome into following him.
A writer named Justin addressed a message to Antonine that after Christ ascended men induced by demons claimed they were gods.
Justin complained that not only did these men escape persecution, but they were honored by Antonine. So his letter was a rebuke. He continued that Simon was among them, and they performed demonic magic. As a result Simon was considered a god and honored as such by Rome. This implies that unlike Jesus, they viewed Simon to be worthy of the endorsement from the Senate, revealing their politicians are as stupid as ours.
In the river Tiber on an island there is a statue of Simon with the inscription Simon Deo Sancto, which means “To Simon the Holy god.” Being a Samaritan man, nearly all of the Samaritans worshipped him. All of this is recorded in Justin’s book, who is by the way also called Iraneus, under the title, “the first book against heresies.”
Simon took the lead in all of the heresies and this caused some to return their superstitious idol worship. Apparently their cult was so base that Eusebius indicated that their language was so foul and their practices so wrong, that it was impossible to commit them to writing or even state them out loud. He did say every vile corruption devised was practiced by this cult. And apparently the females involved were overwhelmed by every kind of vice.
Chapter 14, the story of Simon continues. Eusebius that the wickedness of that malignant power constituted constituted Simon making him a great and powerful antagonist of our Savior and his apostles. But this flame kindled by the wicked one would soon be extinguished.
This chapter got me thinking. The way it’s written implies that while men fight with swords and weapons, it would seem the battle truly consists of words and proclamations. I’m not sure I fully understand this, but I get the impression that it’s only a matter of time before I do. And I think my lack of understanding is related to the fact that I have yet to truly use my words in this way and witness their effects.
It would seem the both Peter and Mark were reluctant to undertake the task of this writing, but the citizens persisted until they prevailed. And yes, as you guessed, this writing had a name and that name was the gospel according to Mark. Peter was delighted with the finished product and the men who persisted in seeking it. And soon the message was read in churches to the people. Clement wrote of these things in his sixth book of the Institutions.
And in 1 Peter 5:13 Peter referred to this situation and the city of Rome using
the name Babylon. Where he said, “the church at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you, as also my son Marcus.”
You might be interested to hear how that same Scripture is rendered in the English Standard Version of the Bible, it reads, “She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son.”
In some respects that's a little more clear. It says the church in Bablyon sends you greetings and so does Mark.
And so this gives us some context. Rome called for the gospel according to Mark to be written and though both Mark and Peter were reluctant to write anything, it would seem they both wrote something. Mark, wrote the gospel they demanded, and Peter wrote his epistle. And so perhaps next time you read both of those writings it will be enlightening to know that they were written in Rome, at a time after they pursued the enemy of God there, to refute his heresy. And at the request of people so enthralled by the message they demanded it be memorialized in writing. That may not be crucial information, but I think it’s interesting.
Next we turn to chapter 16 where we learn that in the beginning Mark was the first sent to Egypt to proclaim the gospel. He established churches at Alexandria. And so great a multitude were collected at the outset that Philo thought to mention it in his history.
In this chapter we discover that Philo knew Peter and met with him in Rome. Therefore, he not only knew about the apostles and their message, he knew the men themselves and approved of their work.
He said that like physicians, they healed and cured the minds of those who joined them. They renounced their property giving it up to their relatives laying aside all the cares of life and abandoned their cities taking up abode in fields and gardens, well knowing that committing themselves into the hands of strangers was not only unprofitable, but stupid. And there were many who imitated them and in particular in Alexandria, Egypt. Philo confirms this in his writings and they are also noted in the book of Acts. You may recall hearing about Ananias and Sapphira they lied about donating the full purchase price of their property to the church. This is the event Eusebius is describing in more detail in his history.
They only brought their reading materials into these room, which at the time was the law and the inspired declarations of the prophets.
They spent the whole day in a constant exercise: explaining the philosophy of their country in an allegorical manner. For they consider the verbal interpretation as signs indicative of a secret sense communicated in obscure intimations.
Eusebius is obviously a little smarter than I am. In my language that would mean they were writing parables.
They passed their time in meditation composing songs and hymns to God which were uncommonly serious. And it would seem that Philo wrote in detail about their practices in his works called, “On a contemplative Life” and “Those who lead a life in prayer.” Euseibius indicated he focused on only the more peculiar aspects of their behavior in his writing.
He later commented that philosophical exercises should be contemplated in the light, and the necessities of the body in the dark. Assigning one to the day and the other to the night.
He said some forgot to eat for three days while others forgot to eat for six. Instead desiring to feast only on the word of God. They disregarded the pleasures of the body.
He concludes this chapter with a statement that means nothing to me now, but I include it in case it means something to you:
They expound the sacred writings by obscure, allegorical, and figurative expressions AKA parables. For the whole law appears to these persons like an animal of which the literal expressions are the body, but the invisible sense that lies enveloped in the expressions, the soul. This sense was first pre-eminently studied by this sect, discerning as through a mirror of names, the admirable beauties of the thoughts reflected. They abstain from wine and taste no flesh. Water is their only drink and the relish of their bread, salt and hyssop. Okay...
Chapter 19 indicates that at a certain passover festival there was so great a sedition that 30,000 Jews were trampled to death by one another. The festival became a season of mourning and weeping. This occurred the year that Nero succeeded Felix.
That’s all he says in this chapter, but just consider the implication of this. These are my words now: You may recall that passover first occurred in Egypt. It gets it’s name because the angel of death passed over the people of Israel. Why did that occur? Because they slaughtered a lamb and covered their houses with it’s blood. But they didn’t cover the whole house, only the door of the house. So the door is symbolic of access to the house. And thus they painted the blood on the door trim on the outside. Now I’ve heard that somehow the method resulted in the painting of a cross, but unless and until I hear otherwise, I view that as wishful thinking. In the end there are more than enough symbols pointing to Jesus that's making it unnecessary to contrive a cross from the blood on the wood of the entry of the door.
So a lamb is slaughtered, the blood of the lamb applied to the entry of the home, and the angel of death passing through Egypt was forbidden entrance to the homes covered by the blood of the lamb, which they sacrificed for themselves. For those homes not covered, the angel of death entered and killed the firstborn son. And in that night Egypt weeped and wailing was heard all throughout Egypt. The Hebrews were saved by the blood of the lamb and happy as a result. And here after rejecting Jesus as their Lord and savior, at a passover festival, the Jews trampled each other resulting in 30,000 deaths and much weeping and wailing.
I just can't stand the irony of that event in light of all of the information. By applying the blood of Jesus, the lamb who was slaughtered for them, they were saved, and by rejecting the blood of Jesus, they themselves were slaughtered. I can't ignore the symmetry of those two things.
I will continue to warn you that there is a price for rejecting Jesus and it’s a hefty one. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by accepting Jesus. While rejecting him leads to death and trial on the merits of your own goodness. And good luck with that.
In Chapter 20 we are told that there was a confrontation between the chief priests and the regular ones and as well as the leaders of the people. So the chief priests on one side, regular priests and leaders on the other. This was very contentious, they argued very aggressively with stones in their hands. And there was no one attempting to resolve the situation diplomatically. Translation: they were throwing those stones also.
Eusebius says so great was the shamelessness of the high priests that they stole the tithes given to the priests. And this theft them destitute and so they starved as a result. This was vicious. And he says that the violence prevailed. Meaning that anyone who wasn't willing to steal and kill died hungry.
It would seem these were the days that gave birth to terrorism. Eusebius didn’t know to call it that, which is clear from the way he tried to describe it. He said, “there arose a certain species of robbers who at festivals kept a dagger concealed and plunged it into distinguished men and then were among the first to gasp and fret over their death in order to hide themselves amongst the crowd and keep themselves above suspicion. The alarm itself was worse then the crime because everyone was in expectation of death.
In Chapter 21 we learn about an Egyptian who masqueraded as a prophet. Eusebius described this event as worse than the terrorism they feared.
Apparently this Egyptian seduced 30,000, there’s that number again, into following him. His plan was one of rebellion, or witchcraft, where he plotted to seize a Roman garrison to take control of the government.
However Felix anticipated the move and met him with the Roman military. The Egyptian fled and most of his followers were either killed or captured. And we read about this by the way in Acts 21:38, when a Centurion questioned Paul accusing him of being the Egyptian who led away four thousand assassins into the desert. The guy who got away.
You may remember the story. Paul was preaching the gospel and some Jews from Asia stirred up the crowd against him. They hurled false accusations at him and he was taken into custody. But he begged to speak to the people. He began speaking in Hebrew, which hushed the crowd initially, because remember Greek was the language of the time. They listened quietly and intently as he spoke of his conversation with God until he told them he was sent to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. And then the crowd erupted in anger and called for his death.
If you don’t remember that part, you’ll probably remember the part where the Roman was about to flog him, and he asked the question: is it lawful to flog a Roman citizen. So that’s where we are in history right now.
Paul was sent as a prisoner to Rome twice. The first time, Luke was with him and the second time he was martyred. This is where he wrote his second epistle to Timothy where he indicated he was abandoned by everyone and on one occasion saved from the Lion’s mouth, but not this time, the lion would prevail. By the Lion by the way he was referring to Nero, who started out moderate and finished strong. He revealed his awareness in his epistle of his impending death when he said his departure was at hand.
Eusebius thinks Luke wrote the book of Acts at this time, continuing his history right down to the time he was with Paul.
In Chapter 23, Eusebius indicated that when Paul was sent to Rome after appealing to Caesar, the Jews were frustrated, because it would seem they had high hopes of murdering someone and so they needed a new target. For that, they chose James the brother of Jesus.
They approached James the Just and flattered him telling him how well respected he was and by the people and us. And they begged him to go to a public place and renounce Jesus before the people to put an end to all the foolishness.
James didn’t exactly agree or disagree, but rather he let them lead him to stand on top of the west wing of the temple. Making me wonder if there is any correlation to the West Wing TV show. But I digress... From part 4 of our podcast series, you know they pushed him off and since he wasn’t dead when he hit the ground, they clubbed him until they beat his brains out.
For some reason Eusebius decided to feed us this story in increments and so details started and kept coming and keeps coming. He stated that while on top of the temple, James endorsed Jesus Christ was the son of God and our Savior and Lord. And then he mentions Heggesippus in his fifth book of the Commentaries where he gave this full account, where Eusebius is about to summarize here.
It would seem he lived up to his name (the just): a razor had never come upon his head, he drank no wine, he was never anointed with oil and never used a bath. I don’t consider most of those things to be virtues by the way. But that's what it says.
He was in the habit of entering the temple alone and spent so much time on his knees interceding for the people that his knees became as hard as a camel’s.
I can’t explain this next comment I include it in case it makes sense to some of my listeners, but James was asked what was the door to Jesus? And he replied, he was the Savior.
Since all the tribes had come together to celebrate the passover, they encouraged him to speak from a conspicuous place for all to hear and declare that Jesus was not the Christ.
When he got up on the temple he cried out, “Why do ye ask me respecting Jesus the Son of Man? He is now sitting in the heavens, on the right hand of great Power, and is about to come on the clouds of heaven.’ To which some of the people cried out “Hosanna to the son of David,” causing the priests and the Pharisees to say to one another, Oops we messed up. “We have done badly in affording such testimony to Jesus, but let us go up and cast him down, that they may dread to believe in him.”
And then Eusebius quotes the prophecy in Isaiah that says, “Let us take away the just, because he is offensive to us; wherefore they shall eat the fruit of their doings.” Isaiah 3:10
After casting him down they stoned him, and since he did not die immediately, but instead turned and knelt and prayed for them. He said, “I entreat thee, O Lord God and Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
While they were stoning him one of the priests of Rechab said, “Cease what are you doing? Justus is Praying for you.” And then a fuller went forward and beat his brains out with a club. Fullers, by the way, used clubs to beat the clothing they were cleaning. And so he had one handy.
They buried him on the spot. Immediately afterwards Vespasian invaded and took Judea.
Josephus wrote, “These things happened to the Jews (which is the invasion) to avenge James the Just.”
After Festus died Albinus was made governor of Judea. He was of the sect of the Sadduccees, which Eusebius noted are unmerciful in the execution of judgement.
Eusebius concluded the chapter with a very concerning comment, which is that the book of James is attributed to the brother of Christ, but that that report is considered spurious, which literally means false or fake. Nevertheless, he says that, we know the book is publicly used in most of the churches.
So even though we don't think it really was written by James, the brother of Christ, as is advertised, the people seem to like it so we've kept it.
Chapter 24 is very short and reports only that Annianus was appointed first bishop of Alexandria after Mark.
I jumped a little ahead, let me come back to chapter 23. I first read this three or four years ago and since then I have discounted the book of James thinking it probably isn't really written by him and therefore I can't trust it. But honestly I have over the past few years drawn upon and drawn from that book of James. I can see it's value Obviously that's something, a personal decision for you to make for yourself. But I confess that book seems to be useful. Whether or not it is inspired and whether or not it was authored by James I don't know. But it is a good book. Anyway...
In Chapter 25 Nero takes on a more visible role. Eusebius reports that he began to take up arms against the one Supreme God. Many histories record the grossness of his extraordinary madness. He proceeded to murder indiscriminately not even refraining from his nearest and dearest friends and family. Murdering his mother and wife who he killed like strangers. He displayed himself an enemy of godliness, which was recorded by the Roman Tertullian, in that case I know that's how to say it, but some of these names are useful for looking up authors of books, as is this case. Tertullian who commented that Nero was the first to persecute the church doctrine.
Nero was an enemy of anything great and good. He publicly announced himself the chief enemy of God, and was led on in fury to murder the apostles. Paul was said to have been beheaded in Rome and Peter crucified under him. Their names remain in the cemetery even to this day.
According to a church historian named Caius, if you go to the Vatican, or to the Ostian road, you will find the trophies of those who laid the foundation of the church. Meaning Peter and Paul who suffered martyrdom about the same time.
Chapter 26 is the last chapter in Book 2 and it’s a short one that provides accounts of more martyrdoms: “those who were of the first rank among the Jews were scourged with rods and nailed upon the cross at Jerusalem by Florus, procurator of Judea." The new Pilate in other words.
Josephus commented, that, “throughout all Syria a tremendous commotion seized upon the inhabitants, in consequence of the revolt of the Jews. Every where did the inhabitants of the cities destroy the Jews without mercy. So that you could see the cities filled with unburied corpses and the dead bodies of the aged mixed with children and naked women. The whole province was filled with indescribable distresses. But greater still than the crimes already endured, was the anticipation of those about to come.”
In Book 3. We're starting book three now, chapter 1:
we learn how the world was divided up amongst the apostles: Thomas received Parthia, Andrew Scythia, John who died at Ephasus received Asia, Peter preached in Pontus, Galatia, Bithnyia, Cappadocia, Rome, and Asia to the Jews scattered abroad.
Here we learn that Peter was crucified in Rome upside down. In this chapter 1.
Paul spread the gospel from Jerusalem to Illyricum, and he was martyred in Rome by Nero. This account was given by Origen in the third book of his exposition of Genesis.
Chapter 2 We learn that Linus presided over the church in Rome
In Chapter 3 Eusebius examines the authenticity of the Scriptures, where he has created three categories: Indisputably true, uncertain, and downright lies.
The 1st epistle of Peter is genuine, according to him, the second is uncertain but popular.
And in the category of downright lies are The Acts of the apostles according to Peter, the Preaching and Revelations of Peter. Those in other words are lies.
There are 14 epistles of Paul, they are all well known and genuine, though some dispute the book of Hebrews. There is another book called Pastor by Hermes which is false.
In chapter 4 we learn that Paul had innumerable fellow laborers whom he referred to as soldiers and he mentioned them by name at the end of his Epistles. Luke also mentioned his friends and helpers in his writings, and here we learn that Luke was a physician by trade. And Eusebius comments that Luke wrote not about things he heard, but about things he saw and experienced himself.
Chapter 5 second to last one here, describes the last siege of the Jews after Christ by Vespasian who became emperor and handed the war off to Titus. And here Eusebius commented that after the ascension of our savior, the Jews in addition to their wickedness against him, now incessantly plotted mischief against his apostles. First they slew Steven by stoning him, then beheaded James the brother of John, next they threw James off the temple and beat him to death, and they harassed all of the apostles with the intention of killing them.
It was at this point, that the whole body of the church in Jerusalem, after those three martyrdoms, received a divine revelation from God to leave the city in order to escape judgement. Therefore, they moved to a town called Pella.
Pella is about 30 miles away from the Dead Sea. So it’s not close, but if you’re fearing an invading army, my guess is you’d want to put the scrolls somewhere safe and somewhat undesirable. Again, this is just a guess, but it is a good one.
Eusebius comments that after they left, divine justice overtook the entire generation responsible for crucifying Jesus Christ, wiping the evildoers from the face of the earth. And now I’ll quote him because I don’t think I can state this better. Here we go:
The extreme misery to which particularly the inhabitants of Judea were reduced; the vast numbers of men, women, and children who fell by the sword, famine, and innumerable other forms of death; the numerous and great cities of Judea that were besieged; the great and incredible distresses that those experienced who took refuge at Jerusalem as to a place of perfect security; and then finally the abomination of desolation, according to the prophetic declaration, stood in the very temple of God, so celebrated of old and final destruction by fire all came; all this, I say, anyone who wishes may see accurately stated in the history written by Josephus.
300,000 who flocked from all parts of Judea to the passover were shut up in Jerusalem as a prison as an exhibition of divine justice. The only thing worthy of adding to this account is the description of the famine, which is yet to come.
I think that’s enough for today folks.
For those of you who are sticking with this study I congratulate you on your accomplishment! This is no small task!
We’re at page 71 in a book of 428 pages. And in Part 5, we cruised through 24 chapters if you can believe that.
As always, thank you for listening! And have a brilliant week!
Y'all come back now, ya here?