Eusebius of Caesarea (266-340) was bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, one of the leading men at the Council of Nicea and the favorite theologian of Constantine the Great, conspicuous for his great learning. His fame rests on his Ecclesiastical History from the apostolic times to A.D. 324. Today it is our chief source for the early church, being very comprehensive and beyond doubt reliable. Eusebius lived through the last (and worst) persecution of the Christians under Emperor Diocletian (around 300). This experience prompted him to collect the stories not only of the martyrs of his time but of all Christian martyrs since the beginning. This "Collection of Martyrdoms" was then extensively used in his great church history which was leading up just to the time of the Council of Nicea (which to most left-wing Christian groups later meant the turning point, the downfall of the Christian Church). It is most likely that it was these records of martyrdom which so strongly appealed to the Anabaptists who read in them a confirmation of their own way, the way of the "suffering church." That might account for the fact that Eusebius’ church history is so frequently used as a reference in Anabaptist tracts. This is particularly true for Hutterite devotional, doctrinal, and church historical tracts found in their numerous codices. Eusebius' great popularity among Anabaptists can be inferred from the hymn (Lieder der Hutterischen Brüder, pp. 669-75) entitled, “Ein schönes Lied von den Aposteln und Heiligen Märtyrern, aus Eusebius auf das Kürzeste gezogen und gesangsweis verfasst” (1567, not 1570 as in the Liederbuch). This hymn has 57 stanzas and was possibly composed by one Christoph Scheffman, who wrote several hymns of this kind.
The question as to where the Brethren got their knowledge of Eusebius is not yet solved. Humanists, of course, and Catholic scholars, knew the book as it was written in Latin. But among the Anabaptists very few ever mastered this language (a few converted priests in the earliest period, also Thomas of Imbroich, and a few more) and they hardly translated the book for their group. The main source then seems to have been the various works by Sebastian Franck (e.g., his Chronica, 1531) which were widely read among the Hutterian Brethren and represent the link between Anabaptism and Humanism. Balthasar Hubmaier may also have been instrumental, since he was very learned and widely read. Finally one might assume that pamphlets circulated among the Brethren with excerpts from Eusebius in translation, edited by free-lance scholars of the early 16th century who sympathized with nonconformist movements. Hutterite codices contain many historical references (even an entire sermon by John Chrysostom of the 4th century) which all point to such little-noticed sources of popular education.
Friedmann, Robert. "Eine dogmatische Hauptschrift . . . ." Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte 28 (1931): 233-240.
Cite This Article
Friedmann, Robert. "Eusebius of Caesarea (266-340)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 15 Mar 2014. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Eusebius_of_Caesarea_(266-340)&oldid=80595.
Friedmann, Robert. (1956). Eusebius of Caesarea (266-340). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 15 March 2014, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Eusebius_of_Caesarea_(266-340)&oldid=80595.
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