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 7 of Eusebius’ Church History.
I have expanded distribution so welcome to our listeners from Spreaker, Stitcher and Google Playstore
I notice these Church History podcasts seem to be popular. It always pleases me when I see interest in specific podcasts. The Gita podcast is by far my most popular. I find that interesting. I thought the one on the Tao was better, but it is in second place. For those of you who've heard that Gita podcast, you might want to go back and re-watch the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom movie because you’ll recognize some names and themes and the show will make far more sense to you now. Though I confess it still creeps me out.
But let’s get to it shall we? Last time we left off in chapter 19 so today we begin with chapter 20:
The appearance of Christ alarmed Domitian as much as Herod. And so Domitian being emperor wanted the line of the house of David cut off. But let’s be honest. I’m sure that impulse came from the devil. At this time in history, Judas the brother of Christ, not to be confused with Judas Iscariot, had some grandchildren that Domitian wanted to kill. Domitian had the grandchildren of Judas brought before him and questioned them and they were clearly devoted to Christ. Which displeased Domitian, but he must have feared them because of their faith because he dismissed them. He ordered their persecution to cease and allowed them to live. Hegesippus wrote that they continued living to even to the times of Trajan.
Nerva succeeded Domitian and overturned many of his decisions which included restoring people to their lands and possessions and this should interest you because this edict was what set John free from the island of Patmos.
Chapter 21 - we find out that Cerdon became the 3rd Bishop Alexandria.
Chapter 22 - Ignatius became the 2nd Bishop of Antioch.
Before I forget, there was a great historian named Justin who was also called Iraneaus and there was a bad one also called Justin who was rebuked by Josephus. Please don’t confuse the two. I mentioned Josephus' distate for Justin in the prior podcast and I failed to ensure that you understood there was a distinction. There was a good Justin historian also goes by the name of Iraneaus. And in fact, I like the works of his that I've read.
Continuing with Chapter 23 we get a great story about the character of John the apostle that Christ loved. And I suppose based on this story, I can see his appeal.
He did something after he returned from Patmos to pick up where he left off before being banished there. To truly appreciate this story you need to know the history. What happened before he went to the island of Patmos? It would seem he met a man he took an interest in. He commissioned a bishop to educate this man in the faith. He was a young man and the bishop brought him to the brink of success, but didn’t carry him across the finish line.
Some evildoers decided to seduce this young man away from the faith corrupting him little by little until he not only joined them, he eventually led them. He renounced his faith in Jesus Christ as a result of this. And he made himself captain of this band of thieves and expanded and grew it. And he participated in all sorts of vile behavior including murder. Ultimately renouncing his faith in Christ.
After returning from Patmos John went to the Bishop looking for the young man and upon learning his fate, he tore his clothes and went searching for him. He allowed himself to be captured and taken by the band. And when he was presented to the captain, the captain ran away. As you can imagine years of imprisonment weren’t particularly kind to John, but he chased the man until he caught him. Calling out to him words of love and encouragement. And then when the man stopped and they stood together, he prayed for him and understanding that the man had renounced his faith in Christ, he encouraged him that Christ’s power to save was greater than he understood. I will intercede with Christ for you, he said. I will give my life for yours.
The man stopped and embraced John and was baptized a second time with his own tears. John didn’t leave the man until he was fully restored in the church. He fasted and prayed for him. And assured him that he had found pardon in Christ for his sins. Affording a powerful example of true repentance and a great evidence of regeneration and a trophy of visible resurrection, in the words of Eusebius.
Those are the high points of the story, but it is worth reading the original text yourself. Again that was chapter 23 in Book 3.
It would seem I finally have a word of praise for our churches. I have heard pastors comment that they wonder if the man Paul described in Scripture as having seen the third heaven might have been the apostle Paul himself. Meaning Paul spoke about a man and it turned out that the man he was speaking of, was himself. Eusebius confirms this and writes about it, matter of factly, as if it was common knowledge. And so we discover that Paul was the man who ascended into the third heaven.
Apparently John wrote the fourth gospel, which is the gospel of John, after reading the other three. And seeing that Christ’s early deeds were omitted, he felt compelled to commit them to writing.
The first three gospels primarily describe events after the imprisonment of John the Baptist. But John’s gospel focuses on the year prior, which he denotes with the comment, “John was not yet cast into prison.”
Also seeing that they didn’t clearly spell out the idea that Christ was God, he went to great lengths to ensure that that was made clear.
You might be surprised to learn that while John’s first epistle was accepted without dispute, the other two are disputed and the opinions on the book of Revelation were very much divided.
I’m not suggesting those books are incorrect, I’m just having the courtesy to tell you what our churches don’t, which is that not all the books in the Bible canon were unanimously accepted. I’ve started a spreadsheet that identifies the names of the books Eusebius references and his assessment of each. And I’ll post it when we’ve completed the review of his book for your convenience and review.
I want to make sure I wait to post it until it's comprehensive.
I’ll skip chapter 25 which details the names of many books and the status whether genuine, disputed, spurious or downright heretical. And I’ll also include the names of those books and authors in that same spreadsheet for further study. Because I can think of no better endorsement than from the man credited for being the father of church history. If he says they're good, then I believe him.
I personally like the book of Revelation, and frankly, I’m not complaining that there are too many holy books. If anything, there are too few. I would like to see the 14 books in the Catholic Bibles restored to the Protestant cannon. And Christians should be encouraged to read other historical accounts like the one we’re studying together now in this deep study, because it’s clear to me that the additional details strengthen my faith and encourage me to continue seeking and finding and learning.
That process has only been healthy and caused me to grow spiritually.
Chapter 26 talks about the imposters of the faith.
Menander succeeded Simon Magus and was described as an instrument of wickedness. He reveled in arrogant pretension to miracles. Declaring himself a savior sent from the invisible world that anyone deemed worthy who believed in him would be immortal.
Eusebius was incensed at the idea that these men called themselves Christians. And pretended to be holy and righteous. And I think that that behavior continues to this day.
In Chapter 27, it says the spirit of wickedness seduced the Ebionites. They considered Christ a plain and common man. And for them the observance of the law was absolutely necessary.
There were divisions in this sect where some believed Christ was born of a virgin, and others disputed it. But for those who acknowledged it, they didn’t believe in his preexistence. Suggesting it happened for no particular reason.
The common denominator in their faith was that they had no faith. Meaning they were dedicated to observing the law. Believing that they had to be good in order to get to heaven. And that getting to heaven was a function of their own goodness. Disbelieving that faith alone was enough for salvation. And again, it would seem that that was a common disposition even today.
The Hebrew word Ebionites literally means poor man. And I suspect that was not by accident.
In Chapter 28, Eusebius describes another false religion led by a man named Cerinthus.
He claimed to have the writings of a great apostle that contained revelations. It would seem that he counterfeited the book of Revelation and put the name John to it for his own version. It bears some similarities and some differences. For example:
He falsely pretended to have been shown things by angels. And promotes the idea that after the resurrection, Christ will rule on earth, men will inhabit Jerusalem and would still be subject to desires of the flesh and there would be a space of a thousand years for celebrating marriages.
And then it completely departs from John’s characterization into some wishful thinking that involves promiscuous behavior becoming holy and acceptable before the Lord.
It includes festivals and sacrifices and ritual murders, of all things! I guess it just depends on who you are as to whether or not those things sound good to you.
Apparently Caius warned about this heresy in detail in the Disputation. And Dionysus wrote about it in his book called the Promise. In any case, I submit it to you for your consideration. Apparently there was a counterfeit book of Revelation circulating.
Polycarp commented that the Apostle John once told him that he entered into a public bath and found Cerinthus there and so he promptly left warning others to do the same because God might cause the place to fall in. Referring to the fact that the enemy of truth was there.
And though this chapter doesn’t deal with it directly, there was a general consensus among the apostles that they should avoid contending with liars (debators). If the liar was rebuked once or twice by anyone and he knows what he is doing is wrong, but continues promoting those lies, believers should avoid him or her not attempting to debate them. Because they know that what they’re doing is wrong. You won’t convince them they’re wrong, they're doing it on purpose, they’re pretending to be sincere. Therefore, you can’t lead them to the truth because they hate the truth. These men are willfully disobedient not only to the rebukes of Christians but to the promptings of God which are persistent and constant in my experience. And so let this be a lesson to Christians: if you know someone, who you know knows what they should be doing. They don't need your rebuke. Your rebuke isn't going to help them. If they know the truth, if they know what they should be doing, then your rebuke is only going to trigger their rebellion gene. If you know someone young and they're having promiscuous sex, telling them that's a sin, isn't exactly news. And so it doesn't do a whole lot of good for you to be doing that. It would be better to pray for that person and let the holy spirit inform them that what they're doing is wrong. And in fact if you love that person, you will do far more to bring them back to the faith.
This whole line of conversation causes me to think about men like Bill Mahr. Bill has a show that has the all the appearances of fairness about it, but I understand what he’s doing. By loading the panel with likeminded individuals and then inviting one or two dissenting guests, he proceeds to skewer these guests over the coals in front of an audience for their entertainment. But he does it respectfully so he gets away with it. Meaning he has figured out how to throw a gladiator into the colloseum and make sport of him without ruffling his feathers to the extent that it actually looks bad. He compliments them for having the balls to come on his show and state their dissenting view. And so this resembles fairness while it sends the subliminal message to viewers that if they take this dissenting view, they too will be eaten alive. And it creates an irrational fear as a result. It also creates a subliminal perception that the dissenting view is the minority opinion which isn't true. And we tend to think of people who are in the minority as being wrong. When the truth is often the opposite. This is a tactic that Satan has used for a very long time and it's what convinces me that Bill Mahr knows exactly what he's doing. The idea being if you can get ten people who are likeminded to surround two people who have a dissenting view. The two people feel like they are in the minority and will more likely flip in order to placate the other ten. That is a deception and a rouse because those ten people are just ganging up mob style.
The guest doesn’t lose when they lose the battle with Bill. They might win the battle with Bill. They lose when they come on his show. Because Bill isn’t going to change his mind based on a winning argument. At best he’s going to congratulate them for having balls and being wrong in public. And this has the capacity to undermine their own thinking when they leave. They may continue to ponder this and actually change their mind later.
The moral to this story is do not feel obligated to enter debates to defend the truth. Because if your opponent is shrewd, his ability to win has nothing to do with his arguing skills, but rather with the magic show that he arranges. If he has the magical ability to win even when he loses, to load the audience with supporters, then you want no part in debating him. Because debates are most often not won, by the person who is right. But by the person who wants to win at all costs. The one who uses all of the tools at his disposal to convince the audience that he won even after he lost.
Which leads me to this question: do you know how you most often tell who won and who lost the debate? Whether you realize it or not, it’s by the way the candidates look after it’s over. If one is high fiving his buddies and smiling from ear to ear while the other hangs his head, exhales and runs off the stage, you will subliminally believe that the man with ignorant body language lost the debate, even if he was absolutely right and is only kicking himself because he could have done better.
I assure you debates are magic shows. And it’s unwise for Christians to try to win them because anyone who requires you to get up in front of an audience in a battle is not impartial or uneducated. They are likely agents of the devil empowered to represent him to the disillusionment of the audience. And this is all for show. Pride comes before a fall. Don’t be prideful, don’t get sucked into unwinnable battles with charletons. They will bus in supporters, and those supporters will booh when you’re right and cheer when he’s wrong. Because it was never about getting to the truth, it was always about winning. Evil people cheat. As hard as it is to believe... they do.
Okay enough of that: Chapter 29:
Chapter 29 describes another heresy involving Nicolaus. His followers were called Nicolaites. Clement of Alexandria wrote about his heresy in Stromata. And I’m going to refrain from commentary because the details of this story aren’t clear and I don’t really think it matters.
Chapter 30 goes into detail about the state of marriages with the apostles.
It would seem most of them were married. Eusebius commented that Peter’s wife was martyred before he was and he was delighted that she was worthy to die for the faith. He called out to her, “Oh thou, Remember the Lord!” I have mixed feelings on that one, but I'll move on.
In Chapter 31 we learn where people are buried:
Philip sleeps in Hierapolis along with the four prophetess daughters who were mentioned by Luke in the book of Acts.
And John the beloved rests at Ephesus.
Chapter 32 tells us that Simeon the 2nd bishop of Jerusalem died as a martyr and those who killed him were amazed by what he suffered. Particularly since he was 120 years old.
The early church was described as chaste and pure to the extent that the darkness was driven back by the light. The enemies of the church skulked around in dark retreats. But that changed after the sacred choir of apostles became extinct.
In Chapter 33 we learn that Plinius Secundis was moved by the number of martyrs and the reasons that they were put to death.
Their only crime being that they worshipped Jesus as God and woke early to sing hymns to him. He decreed that no search should be made for Christians henceforth. However, with no obvious reason to persecute them, there were partial persecutions.
In chapter 34 Euarestus became the fourth bishop of Rome.
In chapter 35 Justus became the third bishop of Jerusalem after Simeon. Now you may notice that Jerusalem got a lot of bishops because a lot of them were killed. It was just vicious.
If you had a time machine, then the last place you would want to visit was Jerusalem during the martyrdoms. Not even the bishops were safe, they died at two or three times the rate of all the other bishops. And you’ve already heard about the fighting and the famines and the prophetic warning to the believers in that city to leave it.
In chapter 36 Ignatius, who was Peter’s successor in Antioch, writes epistles to the churches in several regions exhorting them to hold fast to the faith and reject the heresies that were springing up everywhere. He encouraged the churches not to flee martyrdom. And he commented about his own conditions. He said, “From Syria to Rome I contend with wild beasts by land and by sea, by night and day being tied to ten leopards.” And he continues that line of thinking and everything he says is noteworthy if you’re interested. So chapter 36 might be worth grabbing and reading. Especially if you’re the kind of person who wants to be encouraged to be martyred by a man who embraced it.
Eusebius reported that he was cast as food to wild beasts on account of his testimony. So he got what he wanted.
In Chapter 37, Eusebius comments that Quadratus was distinguished for his prophetic gifts. He was alive at the time of Polycarp.
Most of the disciples distributed their substance to the needy and left their country. Meaning they went out into the world to preach the gospel. They proclaimed Christ and distributed the books of the holy gospels.
The Holy Spirit wrought many wonders through them so that the crowds eagerly embraced the true faith with their whole minds. That was chapter 37.
In Chapter 38 we learn that Ignatius in his epistles quoted liberally from the book of Hebrews, which you may recall was a disputed book. So this would appear to be an endorsement of this disputed book by a man eager to be martyred for the faith. Clement also quoted from Hebrews in his epistles from Rome to Corinth. He was universally accepted by all. And it’s noteworthy that Clement was a verbose writer back in his day. Expanding our library of worthy authors from the one we are reviewing to at least 10 worthy of further investigation. And so I mention these things because while Eusebius notes that the books were disputed. He also notes prominent men who quoted from them.
In Chapter 39 we learn of a man named Papias who traveled seeking secondhand accounts from anyone who had heard directly from the apostles and he wrote down what they said in five books.
As you may recall, I’m keeping a tally of these sources in concert with the books of the Bible and their status whether genuine or disputed. So a list of these books and resources will be available at the end of this study.
We learn from Papias that there are two tombs in Ephesasus containing men named John. One is John the beloved and the other is John the Presbyter, which means elder. Prior to this point all references made that I've ever stated were about John the beloved, the writer of Revelation and the gospel of John. I haven't said anything about John the Persbyter until just now.
In this chapter Mark was Peter’s interpreter, which would explain why Peter delivered the gospel message verbally and Mark was the one who wrote it down. So you might say that the gospel is a gospel predominately in Peter's words.
And that ladies and gentlemen takes us to the end of Book 3. We’ve covered 19 chapters in this podcast. We’re cruising through the writings now partly because he’s doing a lot more to make reference to writers and their histories, giving us samples of their writings so we can make educated decisions about what we might be interested in. So there's more referencing and more sampling and less detail in what he's writing right now.
And that's all folks!
Have a brilliant week and y'all come back now, ya here?
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