Articles and book excerpts used in and referred to on Issues, Etc.
Augustus to Tiberius
by Dr. Paul L. Maier
The Contents of These Books
1. It is my purpose to record
the successions from the holy apostles and the periods extending from our Savior's time to our own;This project requires kindness on the part of the reader, since I feel inadequate to do it justice as the first to venture on such an undertaking, a traveler on a lonely and untrodden path. But I pray that God may guide me and the power of the Lord assist me, for I have not found even the footprints of any predecessors on this path, only traces in which some have left us various accounts of the times in which they lived. Calling as from a distant watchtower, they tell me how I must walk in guiding the course of this work to avoid error. I have gathered from the scattered memoirs of my predecessors whatever seems appropriate to this project, plucking, as it were, flowers from the literary fields of the ancient authors themselves. I shall incorporate them in a historical narrative, happy to rescue from oblivion at least the most distinguished of the successors of our Savior's apostles in the most famous churches. I deem this work especially necessary because I know of no Christian author who has taken interest in such writings, which, I hope, those who know the value of history will find most valuable. Previously I summarized this material in my Chronicle, but in the present work I deal with it in the fullest detail.
I will begin with a concept too sublime and exalted for human grasp: the ordering of events [by God] and the divinity of Christ. Anyone intending to write the history of the church must start with the Christ himself, from whom we derive our very name, a dispensation more divine than most realize.
The Nature of Christ
[Chapters (sections) 2-4 that follow are unlike the rest of the Church History and deal with the preexistance Christ. Eusebius's regular historybegins with section 5.]
2. His character is twofold: like the head of the body in that he is regarded as God and yet comparable to the feet in that he put on Humanity for the sake of our salvation, a man of passions like ours. If I begin his story with the principal and most basic points to consider, both the antiquity and divine character of Christianity will be demonstrated to those who suppose that it is recent and foreign, appearing only yesterday.
No language could adequately describe the origin, essence, and nature of Christ, as indeed the holy Spirit says in prophecy: "Who shall declare his generation?" [Isa. 53:8]. For no one knows the Father except the Son, and no one has fully known the Son except the Father who begot him. And who but the Father could conceive of the Light that existed before the world, the Wisdom that preceded time, the living Word that was in the beginning with the Father and was God? Before all creation and fashioning, visible or invisible, he was the first and only offspring of God, the commander-in-chief of the spiritual host of heaven, the messenger of mighty counsel, the agent of the ineffable plan of the Father, the creator-with the Father-of all things, the second cause of the universe after the Father, the true and only begotten Child of God, the Lord and God and King of everything created, who has received lordship, power, honor, and deity itself from the Father. According to the mystic ascription of divinity to him in the Scriptures:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . All things were made by him, and apart from Him nothing was made [John 1:1, 3].Indeed, this is also the teaching of the great Moses, the earliest of all the prophets, when by the Holy Spirit he described the origin and ordering of the universe: the Creator gave over to none but Christ himself the making of subordinate things and discussed with him the creation of man: "For God said, 'Let us make man in our image and likeness' " [ Gen. 1:26].
Another of the prophets confirms this ascription of divinity: "He spoke, and they were made; he commanded, and they were created" [ Ps. 33:9; 148:5]. Here he introduces the Father and Maker as a supreme sovereign giving commands by a royal nod and, second to him, none other than the divine Word as carrying out his commands.
Ever since Creation, all those distinguished for righteousness and virtue - Moses, and before him Abraham and his children, as well as all the just men and prophets since - recognized him through the eyes of the mind and paid him the reverence due the Son of God, who taught all humanity the knowledge of the Father. Thus the Lord God is said to have appeared as an ordinary man to Abraham as he sat by the oak of Mamre, yet he worshiped him as God, saying, "O Lord, judge of all the world, will you not do justice?" [Gen. 18:25]. Since reason would never permit that the immutable essence of the Almighty be changed into human form, even by illusion, or that Scripture would falsely invent such a story, who else could be so described as appearing in human form but the preexistent Word, since naming the First Cause of the universe would be inappropriate? Of him it is said in the Psalms:
He sent his Word and healed them, And he rescued them from their destruction [107:20].Moses clearly speaks of him as a second Lord after the Father when he says: "The Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord" [Gen. 19:24]. Holy Scripture again refers to him as God when he appeared to Jacob in the form of a man and said, "No longer shall your name be Jacob, but Israel... for you have prevailed with God." Then too: "Jacob called the name of that place 'the Vision of God,' saying, 'For I saw God face-to-face, and my life was spared' " [Gen, 32:28 - 29].
To suppose that these recorded theophanies were appearances of subordinate angels and ministers of God cannot be correct, for whenever these appear to people, Scripture distinctly declares in countless passages that they are called angels, not God or Lord.
Joshua, Moses' successor, names him commander - in - chief of the Lord's army, as leader of the angels and archangels and the heavenly powers and accorded the secondI place in universal rule as the power and wisdom of the Father, yet Joshua too saw him only in human form. For it is written:
When Joshua was at Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing before him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua approached him and said, "Are you for us or for our enemies?" He replied, "It is as commander of the Lord's army that I have come." Then Joshua fell to the ground, face downward, and asked, "Master, what do you command your servant?" The commander of the Lord's army replied, "Take off your shoes, for the place where you stand is holy" [Josh. 5:13 - 15].
The words themselves will show you here too that this was none other than the one who spoke also to Moses:
When the Lord saw that he approached to see, the Lord called out to him from the bush, "Moses, Moses!" he replied, "What is it?" He said, "Do not come near. Remove your sandals, for the place where you stand is holy ground." He continued, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" [Ex. 3:4 - 6].
There are additional proofs that this really is the being named the Word of God and Wisdom, who existed before the world and assisted the God of the universe in the fashioning of all created things. Wisdom clearly reveals her own secret through the mouth of Solomon:
I, Wisdom, made counsel my dwelling and invoked knowledge and thought. By me kings reign and rulers decree justice; By me the great are enhanced and sovereigns rule.... In the beginning before time began and before the Lord made the earth He begot me, before springs gushed forth and the mountains arose. When he prepared the heavens, I was there, and when he secured the springs under heaven, I was with him, setting them in order. I was she in whom he daily delighted, and I always rejoiced in his presence when he rejoiced that he had completed the world.2
This, then, is a brief demonstration that the divine Word pre-existed and appeared to some, if not all, people.
Why he was not proclaimed long ago to all people and all nations, as now, is explained as follows. In the past humanity was not capable of grasping the teaching of Christ in all its wisdom and virtue. At the beginning, after the original state of blessedness, the first man disregarded the command of God and fell into this mortal state, exchanging the delight of heaven for the curse of earth. His descendants, who filled our world, showed themselves even worse, except for one or two, choosing a brutal existence and a life not worth living. City, state, art, knowledge, laws, virtue, or philosophy were not even names among them, and they lived as savage nomads in the desert, destroying reason and culture through excessive wickedness. Surrendering to total depravity, they corrupted, murdered, or cannibalized each other and in their madness prepared for war with God himself and to fight the famed battles of the giants,3 trying to fortify earth against heaven and, in their delirium, to do battle with the supreme Ruler himself.
In response, God sent them floods and conflagrations, famines and plagues, wars and thunderbolts - punishments progressively drastic - in order to restrain the noxious illness of their souls. Then, just when the vast flood of evil had nearly drowned humankind, the firstborn and first-created Wisdom of God, the preexistent Word himself, appeared in his great kindness, as an angelic vision or in person as God's saving power to one or two of the Godfearing men of old, yet always in human form, since they could receive him in no other way.
When they, in turn, had sown the seeds of true religion among many, an entire nation appeared, sprung from the Hebrews and practicing the true religion. To them, through the prophet Moses, he revealed images and symbols of a mystical Sabbath and of circumcision, as well as instruction in other spiritual principles, but no complete revelation of the mysteries, for they were still bound by old practices. Yet when their law became famous and penetrated everywhere like a fragrant breeze, the minds of most of the heathen were moderated by lawgivers and philosophers. Savage brutality changed into mildness, so that profound peace, friendship, and easy communication prevailed.
Then at last., when all humanity throughout the world was now ready to receive knowledge of the Father, that same divine Word of God appeared at the beginning of the Roman Empire in the form of a man, of a nature like ours, whose deeds and sufferings accorded with the prophecies that a man who was also God would do extraordinary deeds and teach all nations the worship of the Father. They also predicted the miracle of his birth, his new teaching, the wonder of his deeds, the manner of his death, his resurrection from the dead, and, finally, his restoration to heaven by the power of God. Through inspiration by the holy Spirit, the prophet Daniel described his final sovereignty in human terms:
As I looked, thrones were placed and an Ancient of Days was seated. His clothing was white as snow and his hair like pure wool. His throne was a flame of fire. . . . A thousand thousand ministered to him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court sat in judgment, and the books were opened. . . . I looked, and behold, one like a Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven before the Ancient of Days. To him was given dominion, glory, and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His is an everlasting sovereignty that shall not pass away, and his kingdom shall not be destroyed [ Dan. 7:9 - 10, 13 - 14].
Clearly this could not apply to anyone but our Savior, the God-Word who was in the beginning with God, called "Son of Man" because of his ultimate incarnation. But since I have collected the prophecies concerning our Savior Jesus Christ in special commentaries, let this suffice.
The Names Jesus and Christ Known Earlier
3. The very names Jesus and Christ were honored even by the God-loving prophets of old. Moses himself was the first to announce how greatly sanctified and glorious was the name of Christ, using types and symbols in response to the oracle that told him, "Make everything according to the pattern shown you in the mount" [ Ex. 25:40]. When describing God's high priest as a man of supreme power, he calls him and his office "Christ" as a mark of honor and glory,4 understanding the divine character of "Christ."
He was also inspired by the Holy Spirit to foresee quite clearly the title Jesus. Although previously it had never been known, Moses gave the title Jesus, again as a type or symbol, only to the man he knew would succeed him after his death.5 His successor had been known by another name, Hoshea, which his parents had given him [Num. 13:16], but Moses calls him Jesus - Joshua the son of Nun himself bearing the image of our Savior, who alone after Moses received authority over the true and pure religion. In this way Moses bestows the name of our Savior Jesus Christ as a supreme honor on the two men who in his time surpassed all others in merit and glory: the high priest and the man who would rule after him.
Later prophets also clearly foretold Christ by name, predicting also the plots against him by the Jewish people and the calling of the Gentiles through him. Jeremiah, for example, says:
The spirit of our face, Christ the Lord, was caught in their pits; Of whom we said, "In his shadow we shall live among the Gentiles" [Lam. 4:20].David, in his perplexity, asks:
Why did the nations rage and the peoples imagine vain things? The kings of the earth arrayed themselves, and the rulers convened against the Lord and against his Christ [Ps. 2:1-2].He adds, speaking in the person of Christ himself:
The Lord said to me, "You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask me, and I will give you the Gentiles as your inheritance and the limits of the world as your possession" [Ps. 2:7-8].
Accordingly, it was not only the high priests, symbolically anointed with oil, who were designated among the Hebrews with the name Christ, but also the kings; for by divine directive they too were anointed by the prophets as symbolic Christs, since they carried in themselves the patterns of the regal and sovereign authority of the only true Christ, the divine Word, who rules over all. Similarly, some of the prophets themselves, by anointing, became types of Christ, so that all [three] refer to the true Christ, the divine Word, who is the only High Priest of the universe, the only King of all creation, and the only Archprophet of the Father.
Proof of this is the fact that none of those symbolically anointed of old, whether priest, king, or prophet, ever obtained the sort of divine power our Savior and Lord, Jesus - the only real Christ - demonstrated. None of them, however honored among their own People for so many generations, ever conferred the name Christian on their subjects from their symbolic title of Christ. None was worshiped by his subjects or held in such esteem after his death as to be ready to die for the person honored. None caused such a stir in all nations throughout the world, since the power of the symbol could not produce such an effect as the reality of our Savior. He did not receive the symbols of high priest hood from anyone or trace his physical descent from priests. Armed forces did not promote his rule, nor did he become a prophet like those of old. Jews accorded him no rank or precedence whatever. Yet he had been adorned with all these by the Father, not in symbols but in truth. Although he did not obtain the honors cited, he is called Christ more than all of them, for he is himself the one true Christ of God who has filled the entire world with his Christians. He no longer provides patterns or images for his followers but fully revealed truths, and he has received not material chrism but divine anointing by the Spirit of God through sharing in the unbegotten divinity of the Father.
Isaiah teaches this very point when he exclaims, as if Christ were speaking:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind [Isa. 61: 1 - 2].And not only Isaiah but David also refers to him in saying:
Your throne, O God, is forever and ever: Your royal scepter is a scepter of equity. You have loved righteousness and hated iniquity. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you With the oil gladness above your fellows [Ps. 45:6 - 7].The first verse calls him God, the second accords him a royal scepter. Honored with divine and royal attributes, he is presented, in the third place, as having become Christ, anointed not with material oil but divine, and far superior to his physically anointed predecessors. Elsewhere too the same writer explains his status:
The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at my right hand till I make your enemies your footstool. From the womb before the morning star, I begot you." The Lord swore and will not rescind: "You are a priest forever of the order of Melchizedek" [Ps. 110:1 - 4].This Melchizedek is defined in the sacred books as priest of the most high God without his having received any material anointing or even as belonging to the Hebrew priesthood. That is why our Savior has been called, under oath, Christ and priest according to his order and not that of others who received symbols and patterns. Nor does the record state that he was anointed physically by the Jews or belonged to the tribe of those who held the priesthood but that he had his existence from God himself before the morning star, that is, before the creation of the world, and holds his priesthood to all eternity.
That his anointing was divine is proved by the fact that he alone, of all who have ever lived, is known throughout the world as Christ and is called thus by Greeks and non-Greeks alike and to this day is honored by his worshipers throughout the world as King, held in greater awe than a prophet, and glorified as the true and only High Priest of God and above all as the preexistent Word of God, having his being before all ages and worshiped as God. We who are dedicated to him honor him not only with voice and word, but also with all of our soul, so that we value testimony to him more than life itself.
The Antiquity of the True Faith
4. This introduction was necessary lest anyone think of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, as novel, in view of the date of his incarnation, or his teaching new and strange, as crafted by a typical man of recent date. With his recent advent, it was admittedly a new people - neither small, weak, nor remote but the most numerous, pious, and invincible, with God's eternal help - that appeared at the appointed time, honored with the name of Christ. This so amazed one of the prophets when he foresaw the future through the eye of the Holy Spirit that he exclaimed:
Who has ever heard such things? And who spoke thus?The same writer also hints at its future name, saying, "Those who serve me shall be called by a new name, which shall be blessed on the earth" [Isa. 65: 15 - l6].
But although we are new and this clearly fresh name of Christians has only recently become known among all nations, our life, conduct, and religious principles are no recent invention of ours but stem from the natural concepts of men of old who were the friends of God, as we will demonstrate. Hebrews are not a new people but are known by all and honored for their antiquity. Now their oral and written records deal with men of an early age, few and scarce in number yet outstanding in piety, righteousness, and other virtues. Some of them lived before the Flood, others after - Noah's children and descendants - but Abraham in particular, whom the Hebrews boast as their own founder and ancestor. All of these credited for righteousness, going back from Abraham to the first man, could be described as Christians in fact if not in name, without exceeding the truth. For the name means that the Christian, through the knowledge and teaching of Christ, excels in self control and righteousness, in discipline and virtue, and in the confession of the one and only God over all, and in all this they showed no less zeal than we.
They had no interest in bodily circumcision, nor do we; nor for keeping the Sabbaths, nor do we; nor for abstaining from some foods or other distinctions that Moses first delivered to their successors to be observed as symbols, nor do such things concern Christians now. But clearly they knew the Christ of God, since he appeared to Abraham, taught Isaac, spoke to Israel [Jacob], and conversed with Moses and the later prophets, as I have shown. Therefore you will find that these God-loving men even received the name of Christ, according to the word regarding them: "Touch not my Christs, and do no wickedness among my prophets" [Ps. 105: 15]. Clearly then, the recent proclamation of Christ's teaching to all nations is none other than the very first and most ancient of all religions discovered by Abraham and those lovers of God who followed him. Even if they argue that Abraham long afterward received the command for circumcision, I reply that before this he had been deemed righteous through faith, as the divine Word says: "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness" [Gen.: 15:6]. The oracle given him before his circumcision by the God who showed himself to him - Christ himself, the Word of God - dealt with those who in the future would be justified in the same way as he and ran as follows: "In you shall all the nations of the earth be blessed" [Gen.: 12:3]. And: "He shall become a great and mighty nation, and in him shall all the nations of the earth be blessed" [ Gen. 18: 18].
Now this has obviously been fulfilled in us, For it was by faith in the Word of God, the Christ who had appeared to him, that he was made righteous and gave up the superstition of his fathers to confess the one God, the God over all, serving him by right conduct and not by the law of Moses, who came later. To him, as he was then, it was said that all nations would be blessed in him. And currently, in deeds louder than words, Christians alone across the world practice their faith in the very way that Abraham practiced it. Accordingly, Christ's followers share the same life and religion as the God-loving men of old, and thus Christ's teaching is not new or strange but, in all honesty, ancient, unique, and true.
Jesus' birth and the End of the Jewish Dynasty
5. Now then, after this necessary introduction to my Church History, let us begin with the appearance of our Savior in the fIesh, first invoking God, the Father of the Word, and Jesus Christ himself to assist us in producing a truthful narrative. It was in the forty-second year of the reign of Augustus and the twenty eighth after the conquest of Egypt and the deaths of Antony and Cleopatra,'6 the last of the Ptolemaic dynasty, that our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, was born in Bethlehem of Judea in accordance with the prophecies concerning him. This was at the time of the first census, which took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria, a registration mentioned also by Flavius Josephus, the most famous of the Hebrew historians, who adds an account of the Galilean sect that arose at the same time, to which our own Luke refers in the Acts:
After him arose Judas the Galilean at the time of the census. He persuaded some of the people to follow him. But he too perished, and all his followers were scattered [Acts 5:37].The historian previously cited [Josephus] supports the above in Antiquities, Book 18:
Quirinius, a member of the senate who had passed through all the other offices to become consul and was a man of high distinction in other ways, arrived in Syria with a small staff. He had been sent by Caesar to govern the nation and to assess their property... Judas, a Gaulonite from the city called Gamala, took with him Zadok, a Pharisee, and incited a revolt, for they claimed that the assessment would lead to nothing but total slavery, and they called on the people to defend their freedom.7And in the second book of his Jewish War, he writes about the same man:
At this time a Galilean named Judas stirred the natives to revolt, naming them cowards if, after serving God, they accepted mortal masters and submitted to paying taxes to the Romans.86. At this time Herod was the first foreigner to become king of the Jewish nation, fulfilling Moses' prophecy that "A ruler shall not be wanting from Judah, nor a leader from his loins, until he comes for whom it is reserved" [Gen. 49:10]. Moses also states that he will be "the expectation of the Gentiles." This prediction could not be fulfilled as long as the Jews lived under rulers of their own race, beginning with Moses and continuing down to Augustus' reign. In his time, however, the Romans awarded the government of the Jews to Herod, the first foreigner. Josephus states that he was an Idumean on his father's side and an Arab on his mother's, but [Julius] Africanus - no ordinary historian - clams that Antipater, Herd's father, was the son of a certain Herod of Ascalon, one of the servants in the temple of Apollo. As a child, this Antipater was captured by Idumean bandits and stayed with them because his father was too poor to pay his ransom. He was brought up in their customs and later befriended by the Jewish high priest Hyrcanus. His [Antipater's] son was the Herod of our Savior's time.
When the Jewish kingship devolved on such a man, the expectation of the Gentiles, according to prophecy, was already at the door, for the regular succession of their rulers and governors from the time of Moses came to an end. Before their Babylonian captivity, they were ruled by kings, Saul and David being the first. And before the kings, rulers known as judges governed them, following Moses and his successor Joshua. After the return from Babylon, an oligarchic aristocracy of priests was in control until the Roman general Pompey laid siege to Jerusalem and defiled the holy places by entering the inner sanctuary of the temple. He sent as prisoner to Rome, together with his children, the king and high priest, Aristobulus, who had continued the succession of his ancestors up to that time, and transferred the high priesthood to his [Aristobulus's] brother Hyrcanus, while making the whole Jewish nation tributary to Rome from then on. And when Hyrcanus was taken prisoner by the Parthians, Herod was the first foreigner, as I have said, to be placed over the Jewish nation by the Roman senate and the emperor Augustus. The advent of Christ clearly occurred at his time, and the anticipated salvation and calling of the Gentiles followed in accord with the prophecy.
When the line of Jewish rulers ceased, the orderly succession of high priests from generation to generation fell into instant confusion. The reliable Josephus reports that Herod, once made king by the Romans, no longer appointed high priests of the ancient line but obscure sorts instead, a practice followed by his son Archelaus and the Roman governors after him when they took over the government of the Jews. The same writer reports that Herod was the first to lock up the sacred vestment of the high priest and keep it under his own seal rather than priestly control, as did his successor Archelaus and the Romans after him.
These facts also demonstrate that another prophecy was fulfilled in the appearance of our Savior Jesus Christ. The text in Daniel specifies the exact number of weeks until the rule of Christ - I have treated the subject elsewhere9 - and prophesies that after these weeks the anointing of Jews will cease. Clearly this was fulfilled at the time our Savior Jesus Christ was born. These preliminaries were necessary to underscore the truth of the date.
The Variant Genealogies of Christ
7. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke record the genealogy of Christ differently, and many suppose that they conflict with one another. Since each believer has been eager to offer uninformed guesses regarding these passages, I shall reproduce an explanation of the problem in a letter that the aforementioned Africanus wrote to Aristides on the harmony of the Gospel genealogies. After refuting the opinions of others as forced and patently false, he gives the explanation that had come to him:
Names in the families of Israel were reckoned either according to nature or law: by nature in the case of genuine offspring; by law when another man fathered children in the name of a brother who had died childless10. Since no clear hope of the resurrection had as yet been given, they depicted the future promise by a mortal "resurrection" so that the name of the deceased might survive. These genealogies, then, include some who succeeded their actual fathers and others who were children of one father but were recorded as children of another. Thus both the memories of the actual and nominal fathers were preserved. Hence neither of the Gospels is in error; since they take both nature and law into account. For the two families - one descended from Solomon and the other from Nathan - were so interconnected through the remarriage of childless widows and the "resurrections" of offspring that the same persons could correctly be deemed as children of different parents at different times - sometimes of reputed fathers, sometimes of actual. Both accounts are therefore accurate, though complicated, as they bring the line down to Joseph.At time end of this letter Africanuus adds:
Matthan, Solomon's descendant, begot Jacob, When Matthan died, Melchi, Nathan's descendant , begot Heli with the same woman. Heli and Jacob thus had the same mother. When Heli died without children, Jacob raised up seed for him in fathering Joseph, his own natural son but Heli's legal son. Thus Joseph was the son of both.
This genealogy of Joseph is also virtual proof that Mary belonged to the same tribe as he, since, according to the law of Moses, it was illegal for the different tribes to intermarry. The command that partners be from the same town and clan is given so that the [family] inheritance might not be transferred from tribe to tribe.
Herod and the Infants of Bethlehem
8. Now when Christ was born according to prophecy, at Bethlehem of Judea at the time already noted, magi from the East asked Herod where they could find the one born king of the Jews. They had seen his star, which had occasioned their long journey in their eagerness to worship the infant as God. The request greatly disturbed him [Herod] - he thought his sovereignty was in danger - and therefore he inquired among teachers of the Law where they expected the Christ to be born. When he learned of Micah's prophecy that it would be Bethlehem, he issued a single edict for the massacre of all infants two years old and under in Bethlehem and its vicinity, according to the time indicated by the magi, thinking that Jesus would surely share the same fate. The child, however, forestalled the plot by being taken to Egypt, since his parents had been forewarned by an angel. This is also reported in the sacred Gospel [of Matthew].
It is worth noting, in this regard, the result. of Herod's crime against the Christ and the children of his age. Without any delay, the justice of God overtook him while he was still alive as prelude to what awaited him in the next world, here it is not possible even to summarize the ways in which he darkened time reputed glories of his reign by the repulsive murder of wife, children, relatives, and friends. No tragic drama has darker shadows, as Josephus narrates at length in his histories. From the moment he plotted against our Savior and the other innocents, the scourge of God drove him to death. In Book 17 of his Jewish Antiquities, [Josephus] tells of his end:
Herod's illness progressively worsened as God exacted punishment for his crimes. A slow fire burned inside him, less obvious to the touch. He had an insatiable desire for food, ulcers in the intestines, terrible pain in the colon, and a clammy edema in his feet. His bladder was inflamed and his genitals gangrenous, breeding worms. His breathing was rapid and extremely offensive due to its stench, and every limb was convulsed intolerably. Wise onlookers declared that God was exacting retribution from the king for his many wicked deeds.12
In Book 2 of his Jewish War, Josephus provides a similar account:
The disease spread throughout his body with fever, an unbearable itching everywhere, continual pain in the colon, edema in the feet, inflammation of the abdomen, and gangrene in the wormy genitals. His breathing was difficult, especially if he lay down, and spasms shook each limb - a punishment, according to the diviners. Still he clung to life and planned his own treatment in hope of recovery. He crossed the Jordan and took the hot baths at Callirhoe that flow into time Dead Sea but are sweet and potable. The doctors there decided to warm his body by lowering him into a tub of hot oil, but he fainted, turning up his eyes as if dying. Noise from his attendants beating their breasts revived him, but he now gave up hope of recovery and ordered that fifty drachmas be given each of his soldiers and large sums to his officers and friends.
Josephus also relates that before he died, Herod ordered the execution of yet a third of his legitimate sons [Antipater], in addition to the two already murdered, and then died in great agony. Such was Herod's end, a just punishment for the children he murdered at Bethlehem and vicinity. After this, an angel appeared in a dream to Joseph while he was in Egypt and directed him to return to Judea with the child and his mother, declaring that those who sought the life of the little child were dead. The Evangelist continues: "But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee" [Matt. 2:22]
Pilate and the Priests
9. Josephus corroborates Archelaus's succession, in accordance with Herod's will and Augustus's decision, and how, when he fell from power ten years later, his brothers Philip and the younger Herod [Antipas], together with Lysanias, continued to rule their own tetrarchies.
In Book 18 of his Antiquities, the same author writes that Pontius Pilate was given the administration of' Judea in the twelfth year of Tiberius, who had succeeded to the throne after the fifty-seven-year reign of Augustus, and that Pilate remained in office ten whole years, almost until Tiberius's death. This clearly proves that the recently published Acts of Pilate14 are forgeries, since they claim that the crime of the Savior's death occurred in the fourth consulship of Tiberius, which was the seventh year of his reign, a time when Pilate was not yet in charge of Judea. Josephus clearly states that it was in the twelfth year of his reign that Tiberius appointed Pilate procurator of Judea.15
10. When, according to the Evangelist [Luke], Tiberius Caesar was in the fifteenth year of his reign and Pontius Pilate in the fourth of his governorship, and Herod, Lysanias, and Philip were tetarchs over the rest of Judea16, our Savior and Lord, Jesus the Christ of God - about thirty years old at the beginning [of his ministry] - came to the baptism of John and began proclaiming the Gospel.
Holy Scripture states that he completed his teaching under the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, thus beginning his mission under Annas and continuing to Caiaphas, a period that does not comprise four complete years. Life tenure for hereditary priests, according to the Law, was no longer the case, since Roman governors conferred the high priesthood first on one, then on another, who did not hold this office for more than one year.17 In his Antiquities, Josephus records four high priests in the succession between Annas and Caiaphas:
Valerius Gratus, having deprived Ananus [Annas] of the priesthood, appointed Ishmael the son of Phabi as high priest. Soon he removed him and named as high priest Eleazar, son of Ananus. After a year, he removed him too and transferred the high priesthood to Simon, son of Camithus. Nor did his tenure last for more than a year, and Joseph, also called Caiaphas, was his successor.18
The whole period of our Savior's teaching thus was not even a full four years, since four high priests in four years from Annas to Caiaphas held the office for a year. Naturally, the Gospel named Caiaphas as high priest in the year of the Savior's passion, and so the time of Christ's teaching accords with this evidence.19
Our Savior and Lord called the twelve apostles shortly after the start of his preaching - of all his disciples he gave the name apostles to them only as a special privilege - and appointed seventy others whom he also sent out in advance, two by two, into every place or town where he himself planned to come.
John the Baptist and Jesus
11. Soon afterward, John the Baptist was beheaded by time younger Herod [Antipas], as we learn from the inspired Gospel [Mark 6:14 - 29]. Josephus confirms the Gospel narrative, mentioning Herodias by name and telling how Herod married her though she was the wife of his brother, who was still alive, and dismissed his own lawful wife, who was the daughter of King Aretas [IV] of Petra. For her sake also he put John to death and went to war with Aretas, whose daughter he had dishonored. Josephus says that the entire army of Herod was destroyed in battle as retribution for his plot against John. The same Josephus acknowledges that John was especially righteous and a baptizer, confirming the description of him in the Gospels. He also reports that Herod was stripped of his kingship because of the same Herodias and was exiled with her to Vienne, a city of Gaul, The story is found in Antiquities, Book 18, where he writes regarding John as follows:
Now, to some of the Jews the destruction of Herod's army seemed to come from God as a very just recompense, a punishment for what he did to John who was called the Baptist. For Herod had executed him, though he was a good man and had exhorted the Jews to exercise virtue both in practicing justice toward one another and in piety toward God and, so doing, to join in baptism. For thus, it seemed to him, would baptismal washing be acceptable, if it were used not to gain pardon for whatever sins they committed by as a purification of the body, implying that the soul was already thoroughly cleansed by righteous conduct. When others also joined the crowds about him - for they were deeply stirred at hearing his words - Herod grew alarmed: such great influence over the people could lead to an uprising, for they seemed ready to do anything John might advise. Accordingly, Herod decided that it would be much better to strike first and get rid of him before any insurrection might develop than to get himself into trouble and be sorry not to have acted once a rebellion had begun. And so, due to Herod's suspicions, John was brought in chains to Machaerus, the fortress that we have previously mentioned, and there put to death.20
In telling this about John, he says the following concerning our Savior in the same historical work:
About this time lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was the achiever of extraordinary deeds and was a teacher of those who accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. When he was indicted by the principal men among us and Pilate condemned him to be crucified, those who had come to love him originally did not cease to do so; for he appeared to them on the third day restored to life, as the prophets of the Deity had foretold these and countless other marvelous things about him. And the tribe of Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day.21
When a historian, himself a Hebrew, has provided in his own writing this evidence concerning John the Baptist and our Savior, what option is there but to condemn the shamelessness of those who forged the Acts concerning them.
The Disciples of Jesus
12. The names of time apostles are obvious to everyone from the Gospels, but no list of the seventy disciples has survived anywhere. It is said, however, that one of them was Barnabas, cited in the Acts of the Apostles and by Paul in writing to the Galatians [2:1, 9, 13]. They say that another of them was Sosthenes, who wrote with Paul to the Corinthians [1 Cor. 1:1]. Then there is the story in Clement (Outlines, Book 5) that the Cephas about whom Paul says, "But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face" [ Gal. 2:11] was one of the Seventy, who had the same name as the apostle Peter22. Matthias also, who took Judas's place in the list of the apostles, as well as the [Justus] honored with him at the casting of lots [Acts 1:23], was called among the Seventy, according to tradition. They also claim that Thaddeus was one of them23, about whom a story has come to my attention that I shall shortly relate.
There were more disciples of the Savior than the Seventy. Paul states that after his resurrection, Jesus was seen first by Cephas, then by the twelve, and after these by more than five hundred brethren at once, some of whom, he says, had fallen asleep, but the majority were still alive at the time he wrote. Then, he says, he was seen by James, one of the alleged brothers of the Savior, and finally "by all the apostles" like Paul himself, a larger number patterned on the Twelve.
Thaddeus and the Prince of Edessa
13. Because of his miraculous powers the divinity of Christ was noised abroad everywhere, and myriads even in foreign lands remote from Judea came to him in the hope of healing from diseases of every kind. Thus, when King Abgar [V], the celebrated ruler of peoples beyond the Euphrates, was suffering terribly from an incurable illness and often heard the name of Jesus and his miracles, he sent him a request, via letter carrier, pleading for relief from his disease. Jesus did not consent to his request at the time but favored him with a personal letter, promising to send one of his disciples to cure the disease and bring salvation to him and his relatives.
The promise was soon fulfilled. After his [Jesus'] resurrection and ascension, Thomas, one of the Twelve, was divinely inspired to send Thaddeus, one of the Seventy, to Edessa as preacher and evangelist, who fulfilled all the terms of our Savior's promise. There is written evidence of this taken from the archives at Edessa, the then royal capital, which include ancient history as well as the events at Abgar's time. Here are the letters themselves, which I have extracted from the archives and translated word for word from the Syriac:
Copy of a Letter Written by Abgar the Toparch to Jesus, sent to him at Jerusalem by the courier Ananias(He wrote this letter when the divine light had only begun to shine on him. It is appropriate to hear also the letter that Jesus sent him by the same letter carrier. It is only a few Iines long but very powerful:)24
The Reply of Jesus to the Toparch Abgar by the Courier Ananias
The following is appended to these letters in Syriac:25
After the ascension of Jesus, Judas, who is also called Thomas, sent Thaddeus, one of the Seventy, to [Abgar], and he stayed with Tobias, son of Tobias. When Abgar heard that Thaddeus was healing every disease and weakness, he suspected that he was the one about whom Jesus had written. He therefore ordered Tobias to bring Thaddeus to him. So Tobias told Thaddeus, "The Toparch Abgar has instructed me to bring you to him so that you might heal him." Thaddeus replied, "I will go, since I have been sent to him with power."
This all took place in the year 340.26
Let this useful and literal translation from the Syriac suffice for now.
1. The Gnostics, as prime representatives of heresy.
2. Selections from Prov. 8:12 - 31.
3.. Eusebius combines the description of the nephilim (Gen. 6:4) with the account of the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-9).
4. The high priest is described as "anointed" in Lev. 4:4, 16 and in 6:22. The words Christ and anointed, though in English, are the same in Greek, as translations of the Hebrew messiach or "Messiah."
5. Num. 27:12-23 refers to Joshua, which is the Greek transliteration of "Jesus."
6. Eusebius calculates Augustus's reign as beginning with the death of Julius Caesar in 44 b.c., hence 2 b.c. for the birth of Jesus, which accords also with twenty-eight years after the deaths of Antony and Cleopatra in 30 b.c. This date, however, is too late, since Jesus was born in 4 b.c. at the latest and most probably 5 b.c.
7. Antiquities 18.1, 4. The census causing Judas's revolt took place in a.d. 6, ten years after Jesus' birth, a chronological problem long debated among scholars.
8. Jewish War 2.118.
9. In Eusebius's Proof of the Gospel 8.2 and Selections from the Prophets 3.45. Dan. 9:24 - 27 speaks of "seventy weeks of years" (70 x 7, or 490 years) and other such "weeks of years," which Eusebius and some scholars since have applied to Jesus' birth and ministry.
10. See Deut. 25:5-6
11. "Belonging to the master" in Greek, since Jesus was Lord or "Despot." In a spiritual context the Greek flavor of "despot" was not politically pejorative.
12. Antiquities 17.168-70.
13. Although Eusebius gives Book 2 of the Jewish War as his reference, this extract occurs in Book 1.656-60, 662 in our texts.
14. See 9.5 of this Church History. The Acta (the Memoirs) to which Eusebius refers were forgeries circulated at the time of the persecution under Maximin Daia (c. 312). The so-called Acts of Pilate extant today are apocryphal documents of Christian origin but just as fraudulent.
15. Antiquities 18.32ff., 85ff. Pilate was governor a.d. 26 - 36. His title was not "procurator," which is an anachronism in both Josephus and Tacitus, but "prefect," according to an inscription discovered at Caesarea in 1961.
16. Tiberius became emperor in a.d. 14, and his fifteenth year was a.d. 28-29. Eusebius inaccurately condenses Luke 3:1 here. Herod was in charge of Galilee, Lysanias of Abilene, and Philip of territories northeast of the Sea of Galilee.
17. This is incorrect. The Romans did change the high priesthood frequently, but there was no set term of office. Caiaphas, for example, was high priest for seventeen or eighteen years.
18. Antiquities 18.33-35.
19. The chronologies of Josephus and the Gospels do agree, but Eusebius's argument is faulty. In trying to interpret Luke 3:2 ("during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas") as meaning the period between the two, he constructs his less-than-four-year time grid for Jesus' ministry. but this founders on the fact that Annas was dismissed by Gratus in a.d. 15. A better explanation of Luke's passage would point out the honorific nature of Annas's title as "high priest" even after leaving office, since he was the gray eminence in Jerusalem, the priestly patriarch who set a record in having five of his own sons and a son-in-law, Caiaphas, succeed to the high priesthood.
20. Antiquities 18.116-19.
21. Antiquities 18.63. This citation is of great importance because it demonstrates that this (unfortunately interpolated) version of Josephus's famous passage on Jesus read this way already in Eusebius's time. Scholars justifiably deny that Josephus, who did not convert to Christianity, ever claimed that Jesus was the Messiah who rose from the dead. Josephus's most probable original wording is in Appendix 1.
22. Clement of Alexandria (c. 155 - c. 220) wrote the Hypotyposes (Outlines) as a biblical commentary. The suggestion that this Cephas was different from the apostle Peter is unfounded and merely an attempt to protect Peter from the apostolic squabble at Antioch that used to bother a few of the church fathers.
23. But one of the Twelve, according to Matt. 10:3 and Mark 3:18, and apparently identical with Jude.
24. The passage in parentheses is missing in some manuscripts.
25. This addendum is somewhat condensed, since the original is incredibly redundant and obviously contrived. No factual material, however, has been surrendered.
26.The year is according to the Edessene calendar, which began in 310 b.c.; thus it is a.d. 30, three or four years too early to reflect the most accurate date for the Crucifixion (a.d. 33).
Taken from Eusebius: The Church History, copyright 2000. Used by permission of Kregal Publications Grand Rapids, MI 49501. You can order Eusebius: The Church History for a total of $24 by calling the Issues, Etc. resource line at 1-800-737-0172.
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