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A Bishop Historian: Eusebius

It is written that, in his early fifties and near death, Constantine finally chose to be baptized a Christian, to prepare himself for the hereafter. Performing the baptism was the elderly bishop and Church historian, Eusebius. He claimed that just before his death Constantine told him that the day before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge he and his entire army saw a flaming cross against the sun and the words "conquer with this." Eusebius' claim accompanied his opinion that Constantine was the chosen agent of God, that Constantine had been "crowned with the virtues which are inherent in God," and that Constantine "received in his soul the emanations that come from God." (The Tricennial Oration, c. 5:1.)

Bishop Eusebius was a scholar of history and theology. He wrote 25 books against paganism. History, wrote Eusebius, was a struggle between divine authority and a multiplicity of  demonic influences that had taken the form of paganism. Seeing paganism as a deviation from devotion to the "One True God," he claimed that in reality it was atheism. Believing in the authority of "One True God," Eusebius saw the existence of many states and rulers as the work of the devil. This multiplicity of rule he called "polyarchy." He described history as moving with divine purpose from polyarchy to an era in which all political authority united into a singular authority emanating from God: the authority of the Roman Emperor.

According to Eusebius, Jewish religion, Greek philosophy and Roman law had come together to enable the Christian revelation to take root and to grow to maturity. He wrote that if Christ had been born into the world at any other time, the world would not have been able to receive him. Before Jesus, according to Eusebius, cities were at war against cities, nations at war against nations, and life was "being wasted and spent in all manner of confusion." Eusebius wrote (in Praeparatio Evangelica, I, c, 4) that "in the days when the demons tyrannized over all the nations" humanity had "rushed madly into mutual slaughter," enslaving one another and "wasting one another's cities with sieges." Then, according to Eusebius, came the disappearance of the Jewish state and the coming of the Roman Empire, as prophesied in the Bible. According to Eusebius, Rome's rise as an empire was part of a divine plan, as was the coming to power of Augustus Caesar, who, he wrote, brought "mastery over the nations." With Caesar, wrote Eusebius, the multitude of rulers for the most part disappeared and peace covered all of the earth, again as prophesied in the Bible. Then, according to Eusebius, Augustus prepared the way for the birth of Jesus Christ. This, he wrote (in Praeparatio Evangelica, I, c. 4) was when "the fortunes of Rome reached their zenith."

Eusebius wrote that, with Constantine, nations "found rest and respite from their ancient miseries." He wrote that government as practiced by Constantine was "a system and method of government for all states." Its rival, political equality and democracy, he described as "polyarchy" and as "anarchy and dissension rather than a form of government." Supporting a singular theocratic authority, Eusebius wrote that there is "one God – not two or three or more." (Tricennial Oration, c. I:6)

Eusebius wrote approvingly of Constantine schooling his sons "into harmony with the reins of inspired unison and concord." Constantine had passed his rule to his three sons, and the harmony that Eusebius had been referring to was to be tested by events.


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