Eusebius update

Long-time readers will be aware that I’ve been engaged, as publisher, in producing the first English translation of Eusebius of Caesarea’s Gospel Problems and Solutions — Quaestiones ad Stephanum et Marinum — and getting it available in printed form.  The long term intention is to make the translation at least freely available online.  But I’ve produced a hardback and paperback, with facing Greek (and Latin, Syriac, Coptic and Arabic) and English pages. 

The book is available from Amazon (hardback, $80; paperback, $45), and if anyone who has bought a copy feels like adding a review, then that would be great!

This evening I’ve set things up so that copies can be ordered through the company website for Chieftain Publishing.  The page is here, and there are Paypal links set up for both paperback and hardback.  There is a slight discount on these, since I don’t have to pay a percentage to Amazon.

There’s also a PDF of some sample pages available for download, so you can see what you’re getting.  You can also “Look Inside” at Amazon.

The book got some more hardback sales in July via Amazon in the US.  But I haven’t promoted it yet.  The big marketing effort comes next week, when all the 850 participants at the Oxford Patristics Conference will get a leaflet in the conference welcome pack.  In addition the book will be on display at the conference, so you can come and browse.  And I’m also taking 20 copies of the paperback, in case people want to give me money there and then!  I wonder if people will?


Eusebius update

The proof copy of the paperback of Eusebius of Caesarea, Gospel problems and solutions (Quaestiones ad Stephanum et Marinum) has arrived this evening, and is perfectly fine.  I’ve marked it as approved on the Lightning Source site, so it should now start to trickle through the distribution system.

Once I know that I can order copies myself, then I shall start letting people know that it’s available and emailing all the supporters of the project who kindly expressed interest.

It’s not as massive a tome as the hardback.  But it is still 432 pages of pretty serious work! 

I’ve also commissioned a leaflet to go in the welcome pack of the Oxford Patristics Conference.  The first draft of this arrived today, and looks very good indeed.  The graphic designer that I use, Add Design, produce very professional-looking materials first cut.  I’ll look at it more carefully this evening and decide what revisions I want.


From my diary

Ordered vol. 2 of Vermaseren’s CIMRM today.  Let’s see if my local library can get it.

Ordered 1,000 flyers from a local designer, to go in the welcome pack of the Oxford Patristics Conference.  These are due by 4th August, so need to be ready by then.  Some poor souls then have to make up those packs by hand.  Also contacted the conference to remind them I exist and intend to have such a flyer.  (Need to think about how personally I am  going to get there, and how to do some kind of book display!)

I also ordered two review copies, one for Vigiliae Christianae, one for the Journal of Theological Studies.  It’s interesting that the journals have a rather stand-offish attitude to publications.  You don’t exactly feel enthused to send them copies.  I wanted to send a copy to the Journal of Early Christian Studies, but I can’t find a contact address!  My email enquiry was ignored.  Rather baffling that.

A couple of days ago I had the offer to review a history of the Successor period, after Alexander, by James Fromm.  I agreed yesterday, and — to my utter astonishment — a copy arrived today.  By international priority post, no less!  That must have cost a bit.  But it’s timely — something to read over the weekend.

I took a load of paperbacks down to the local charity shop — four plastic bags full.  Glad to see the back of books that I know I shall never read again.  I rescued a few from the pile, tho!

I also have a pile of academic books I want to get rid of.  I have an academic in Europe who could use them, and I’d be willing to donate them.  But … you can’t post books from Britain.  You really cannot.  I’ve been into two post offices today, enquiring.  I had with me six small books. Total weight just under 2 kg (about 4 pounds in real weights).  Price to post was over 11GBP (i.e. $17).  It’s more costly for individual books.  If I get 20kg, it will cost me about 90GBP (i.e. $140), just to post them.  Cynically, surface post for printed papers is made more expensive than airmail.

I found myself wondering if the cheapest way to do this is just to hire a student to fly over there by a budget airline with a suitcase.  I bet it would cost less than 90 GBP!


The fate of the manuscripts in Rodosto

I have now located E. Bratke’s article in Theologisches Literaturblatt 15 (1894), cols.65-67.  Here is a translation, with the German at the end.  “Rodosto” is also known as Raidestos, modern Tekirdag, and its inhabitants now live in Nea Raidestos, in Greece.

I must admit my confidence that any such manuscript as the Eusebius Against Porphyry exists takes quite a dive, once I learn that it is associated with such a mythical being as the 16th century Hegesippus.  The latter seems to be a fingerprint for several forged booklists, compiled by some unscrupulous Greek as part of a bait-and-switch scam on Western manuscript hunters.  But here’s the article.

The fate of the manuscripts in Rodosto near Constantinople.

In this journal for 1893, no. 43, Th. Zahn published an interesting article “The Greek Irenaeus and the complete Hegesippus in the 16th and 17th Century” in which he opposed a skeptical remark by A. Harnack [Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur bis Eusebius, ed. under the direction of E. Preuschen by A. Harnack. Vol. 1. 1893, p. 485] to his earlier assertion that Hegesippus had still existed in manuscript in the 16th century, supported in part by new material.  One of his pieces of evidence was something edited by K. Forster [De libris et antiquitatibus manuscriptis Constantinopolitanis Commentatio. Rostochii, 1877] from a Vienna codex, written between 1565-1575, a catalogue of manuscripts which were to be found in that time in and around Constantinople. In this we read, from among many profane and Christian works of literature, housed in the library at Rodosto, a town a few miles west of Byzantium on the sea of Marmara, which in antiquity had the name of Rhaedeste:  Ἡγησίππω ἱστορία and Εὐσεβίου τοῦ Παμφίλου κατὰ Πορφυρίου.

The possibility that these two, until now, lost jewels of early Christian literature, the 5 books of Ὑπομνήματα of the 2nd century from the early Christian tradition by Hegesippus, and the polemic of the Church historian Eusebius against Porphyry, the most brilliant opponent of Christianity in the ancient world, still existed at the end of the 16th Century in Rodosto, cannot be absolutely denied, given the documents produced by Th. Zahn.  His communication must be very appealing to those interested in ancient church history.  But the question is whether there has ever existed a collection of Greek manuscripts in Rodosto, and whether it still exists; and so far hardly anyone has come to grips with it.  Even R. Förster (p. 10, note 1) says only, that a short time after the composition of that catalogue, the traveler Sponius has seen the city, and for the rest, admits (p. 13):  Rhaedesti utrum adhuc bibliotheca extet comperire non potui. Also in the above mentioned Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur by Harnack and Preuschen vol. 1, p. 985 the name of Rhaedeste is provided with a question mark.

I was inclined to take part in answering that question myself, as I had become aware of it just before the publication of Zahn’s article, as part of my studies on the Byzantine chroniclers, by a note of Krumbacher [Geschichte der byzantinischen Literatur, 1891, p. 191] on the publication of R. Förster, and had recognized its value for research into early Christian literature.  I tried to learn, from manuscript catalogues and directories of libraries, whether in Rodosto there was once a collection of books, or still is, but in vain.  As well as the scientific travelogues available in the local Royal University, through European Turkey, especially Constantinople, together with the neighborhood, I found, apart from Sponius, which also says nothing of a library, Rodosto mentioned in Dallaway (1797, p. 368), Lechevalier (deutsch. 1801, p. 5) von Moltke (1841, p.51) and Boue (1854, I, p. 145).  But the brevity of their data shows that these travelers did not have the intention or the time, to carry out an investigation in that humble place about past or present antiquities.  I was not surprised, therefore, to find in them no comment on local manuscript treasures, even if such existed in Rodosto.  Von Hammer (1818, p. 198-200, see also p. 158) reports some modern inscriptions of the 18th century from the Catholic Church at Rodosto, but nothing more.

To obtain the most reliable information about the facts, on 2 December last year I wrote to the Imperial German embassy in Constantinople with a request for a preliminary reconnaissance on whether currently in Rodosto a manuscript collection is preserved, and with the intent, in the case of an affirmative answer, to look on the spot myself for the manuscript of Hegesippus, Eusebius and other important authors given in that catalogue.  The Imperial German Legation, in a most helpful manner, which deserves the greatest thanks, undertook to answer my enquiry.  In a letter of 3 January this year I received a communication, because of the happenstance that a German consular agency is located in Rodosto, and that the current manager of it, Mr P. Asla, in addition to his specific knowledge of the place and its people, has the necessary education and skill to perform the required job, so the gentleman replied to me himself in French.

According to this man, there were, in the local bishop’s residence until 1838, valuable manuscript documents, which had been assembled into a library long before from monastery and private owners by members of a family named Lerei, originating from the island of Leros. But a fire broke out in that year, and the entire collection was destroyed, and such Rodosto manuscripts as remained in the hands of private individuals have already found other buyers.  Currently, in Rodosto only a single old manuscript is still available.  It belongs to the local Greek club [Σόλλογος], bears neither a date nor the name of the author and is, according to an unnamed Russian archaeologist who studied it several years ago, has geographic / historical content.

This certificate of the destruction of the Library of Rodosto can only be read with sadness by theologians and classical philologists. But my investigation is not without positive elements. The credibility of the Vienna catalogue is considerably increased from this.  If the list is not an empty collection of book titles, but a real directory of manuscripts, then it is worth while to look more thoroughly into the whereabouts of the other libraries inventorised in it than has yet been done.

Das Schicksal der Handschriften in Rodosto bei Konstantinopel.

In diesem Blatt, Jahrg. 1893, Nr. 43, hat Th. Zahn einen interessanten Artikel „Der griechische Irenaeus und der ganze Hegesippus im 16. und im 17. Jahrhundert” erscheinen lassen, in welchem er gegenüber einer zweifelnden Bemerkung A. Harnack’s [Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur bis Eusebius, hrsg. unter Mitwirkung von E. Preuschen von A. Harnack. I. 1893, S. 485] seine frühere Behauptung, dass Hegesipp im 16. Jahrhundert handschriftlich noch existirt habe, wiederholt und durch zum Theil neues Material stützt. Zu seinen Beweisstücken gehört der von K. Förster [De antiquitatibus et libris manuscriptis Constantinopolitanis commentatio. Rostochii, 1877] aus einem Wiener Kodex herausgegebene, zwischen 1565 und 1575 verfasste Katalog von Handschriften, welche sich seiner Zeit in und bei Konstantinopel befunden haben sollen. In diesem liest man nämlich, dass zu den vielen profanen und christlichen Literaturwerken, welche die Bibliothek zu Rodosto beherbergte, jenes wenige Meilen westlich von Byzanz am Marmarameer gelegene Städtchen, das im Alterthum den Namen Rhaedeste führte, auch gehörten:  Ἡγησίππω ἱστορία und Εὐσεβίου τοῦ Παμφίλου κατὰ Πορφυρίου..

Die Möglichkeit, dass diese zwei für uns bisher verlorenen Kleinodien der altchristlichen Literatur, die dem 2. Jahrhundert angehörenden 5 Bücher Ὑπομνήματα des noch aus urchristlicher Ueberlieferung schöpfenden Hegesipp und die Streitschrift des Kirchenhistorikers Eusebius gegen Porphyrius, den geistreichsten Gegner des Christenthums in der alten Welt, noch am Ende des 16. Jahrhunderts in Rodosto existirten, lässt sich angesichts des von Th. Zahn beigebrachten Materials schlechterdings nicht bestreiten. Und seine Mittheilung muss auf die Freunde der alten Kirchengeschichte um so reizvoller wirken, als der Frage, ob in Rodosto jemals eine Sammlung griechischer Handschriften existirt hat und noch existirt, bisher schwerlich jemand näher getreten ist. Selbst R. Förster (S. 10, Anmerk. 1) sagt nur, dass kurze Zeit nach der Abfassung jenes Katalogs der Reisende Sponius die Stadt gesehen hat, und gesteht im Uebrigen (S. 13): Rhaedesti utrum adhuc bibliotheca extet comperire non potui. Auch in der oben genannten Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur von Harnack und Preuschen I, S. 985 gehört Rhaedeste zu den mit einem Fragezeichen versehenen Namen.

An der Beantwortung jener Frage mich zu betheiligen, war ich um so geneigter, als ich kurz vor dem Erscheinen des Zahn’schen Artikels bei meinen Studien in den byzantinischen Chronisten durch eine Notiz Krumbacher’s [Geschichte der byzantinischen Literatur. 1891, S. 191] auf die Publikation von R. Förster aufmerksam geworden war und ihren Werth für die Forschung in der altchristlichen Literatur erkannt hatte. Ich habe mich bemüht, aus Handschriftenkatalogen und Bibliothekenverzeichnissen mich darüber zu unterrichten, ob in Rodosto einst eine Büchersammlung war oder noch ist, aber vergeblich. Unter den auf der hiesigen Königl. Universitäts bibliothek vorhandenen wissenschaftlichen Reisebeschreibungen, der europäischen Türkei, speziell Konstantinopels nebst Umgegend fand ich, abgesehen von Sponius, der ebenfalls von einer Bibliothek nichts sagt, bei Dallaway (1797, S. 368), Lechevalier (deutsch. 1801, S. 5), v. Moltke (1841, S. 51) und Boue (1854, I, S. 145) Rodosto erwähnt. Aber die Kürze ihrer Angaben zeigt, dass diese Reisenden nicht die Absicht oder nicht die Zeit gehabt haben, über die an jenem bescheidenen Ort etwa vorhandenen oder vorhanden gewesenen Alterthümer Nachforschungen anzustellen. Ich brauchte mich daher nicht zu wundern, dass ich bei ihnen keine Bemerkung über dortige Handschriftenschätze fand, selbst wenn solche in Rodosto existirten. v. Hammer (1818, S. 198—200, vgl. auch S. 158) theilt zwar einige moderne Inschriften des 18. Jahrhunderts aus der katholischen Kirche zu Rodosto mit, aber eben auch weiter nichts.

Um eine möglichst zuverlässige Auskunft über den Thatbestand zu erhalten, wandte ich mich am 2. Dezember vorigen Jahres brieflich an die Kaiserl. deutsche Gesandtschaft in Konstantinopel mit der Bitte um vorläufige Rekognoszirung, ob zur Zeit in Rodosto eine Manuskriptensammlung aufbewahrt liegt, und mit dem Vorsatz, im Falle einer bejahenden Antwort, an Ort und Stelle selbst nach der Handschrift des Hegesipp, Eusebius und anderer in dem genannten Katalog angeführter hervorragender Autoren zu suchen. Die Kaiserl. deutsche Gesandtschaft hat in entgegenkommender Weise, welche den grössten Dank verdient, es sich angelegen sein lassen, mich zu befriedigen. In einem Schreiben von 3. Januar d. J. erhielt ich die Mittheilung von dem glücklichen Umstand, dass in Rodosto sich eine deutsche Konsular-Agentur befindet, sowie dass der jetzige Verwalter derselben, Herr P. Asla, neben genauer Kenntniss des Ortes und seiner Bewohner die nöthige Bildung und Umsicht besitzt, um den gewünschten Auftrag auszuführen, und dazu den französisch geschriebenen Bericht des genannten Herrn selbst.

Gemäss demselben haben sich thatsächlich in der dortigen bischöflichen Residenz bis zum Jahre 1838 werthvolle handschriftliche Dokumente befunden, welche vor langer Zeit durch Mitglieder einer von der Insel Leros stammenden Familie Namens Lerei aus den Klöstern und aus den Händen von Privaten zu einer Bibliothek zusammengestellt worden sind. Aber durch eine in dem genannten Jahre ausgebrochene Feuersbrunst ist der ganze Bestand derselben zerstört worden, und der noch etwa in Händen von Privaten verbliebene Rest Rodosto’er Handschriften hat bereits anderweitige Käufer gefunden. Gegenwärtig ist in Rodosto nur noch eine einzige alte Handschrift vorhanden. Sie gehört dem dortigen griechischen Verein [Σόλλογος], trägt weder ein Datum noch den Namen des Verfassers und ist nach Angabe eines ungenannten russischen Archäologen, der sie vor einigen Jahren studirt hat, geographischhistorischen Inhaltes.

Mit Bedanern werden die Theologen und klassischen Philologen diese Bescheinigung des Unterganges der Bibliothek von Rodosto lesen. Doch ist meine Nachforschung nicht ganz ohne positiven Gewinn. Denn durch sie wird die Glaubwürdigkeit des Wiener Katalogs erheblich gesteigert. Wenn aber derselbe keine leere Büchertitelsammlung, sondern ein wirkliches Handschriftenverzeichniss ist, dann verlohnt es sich, nach dem Verbleib der übrigen durch ihn inventarisirte’n Bibliotheken noch gründlicher, als es bisher geschehen konnte, zu suchen.

Bonn. – Bratke.


Papers on Eusebius at the SBL, 2009-11

Aaron Johnson added a comment to a previous post which is most interesting, and liable to provoke separate discussion.  Here it is!

Here’s the list of past and upcoming papers on Eusebius delivered at the SBL (2009-2011).  Sections 5-6 below are the ones slated for this November (in San Francisco).

“Eusebius and the Construction of a Christian Literary Culture in Late Antiquity”
Organized by Aaron P. Johnson, Lee University
SBL Consultation Group, 2009-2011

1.  Christian Literary Culture and Eusebius

“Constructing Christian Literature in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History”
       Enrico Norelli, University of Geneva

“Christians and the Library of Edessa”
       William Adler, North Carolina State University

“Christian Literary Culture in Practice and Theory: The Case of Eusebius”
       Megan Hale Williams, San Francisco State University

“Christian Literary Culture in Late Antiquity: A Response”
        Elizabeth A. Clark, Duke University

2.   Eusebius and Biblical Scholarship

“Eusebius and Biblical Scholarship : Soundings Back and Forth (And Back Again)”
       Joseph Verheyden, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

 “Eusebius, the Psalter and the Creation of Christian Literary Culture”
       Michael Hollerich, University of St. Thomas

 “Eusebius, Isaiah and Empire”
       Jeremy Schott, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

 “Eusebius of Caesarea and the Biblical Text”
       Bart Ehrman, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

3.  Eusebius the Historian and Biographer

“Through the Lens of Hegesippus: Eusebius on the Jews and Judeo-Christians”
       Oded Irshai, Hebrew University

“Eusebius, Porphyry, and the Testimonium Flavianum”
       Ken Olson, Duke University

“Eusebius and images of truth in the Life of Constantine”
       Peter Van Nuffelen, University of Ghent

“Revisiting Eusebius’ use of the figure of Moses in the Vita Constantini”
       Finn Damgaard, University of Copenhagen

4.  Eusebius and Origen

“Origen as an exegetical source in Eusebius’ Prophetical Extracts”
       Sebastien Morlet, University of Paris – Sorbonne

“The History of Caesarean Present: Eusebius and Origen Narratives”
       Elizabeth C. Penland, Yale University

“Quotations from Origen and the Theologies of Textuality in Eusebius’ Apology for Origen, Against Marcellus, and On Ecclesiastical Theology”
       Jeremy Schott, University of North Carolina – Charlotte

 “Origen, Eusebius, and the Doctrine of Apokatastasis” 
       Ilaria L.E. Ramelli, Catholic University, Milan

5.  Eusebius the Theologian

“How Binitarian/Trinitarian is Eusebius’ Theology?”
       Volker Drecoll, University of Tuebingen

“Eusebius of Caesarea’s Defense and Critique of Asterius the Sophist in the Anti-Marcellan Writings”
       Mark DelCogliano, University of St. Thomas

“The Selective Use of Numenius in Eusebius’ Theology”
       Jon Robertson, Multnomah College

“Eusebius and Lactantius: Rhetoric, Philosophy, and Christian Theology”
       Kristina Meinking, Elon College

6.  Eusebius and Literary Culture

“Eusebius’s Harnessing of Saintly Charisma in his Treatment of the Martyrs of Lyon”
       Candida Moss, University of Notre Dame

“Tampering with Tradition: How Eusebius Manipulated the Tradition of Papias”
       Timothy Manor, University of Edinburgh

“Profiles in Brilliance: Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History and the Construction of a Christian Intellectual Heritage”
       David DeVore, University of California, Berkeley

“Reading Rome: Irenaeus and Eusebius on the Early Christian Urban Vision”
       D. Jeffrey Bingham, Dallas Theological Seminary

“New Perspectives on Eusebius’ Questions and Answers on the Gospels”
       Claudio Zamagni, University of Lausanne

I think we can all say that there is a tremendous amount of interesting material in there.  I wish I could be at the SBL to hear the forthcoming papers, particularly that by Claudio Zamagni!

Thank you, Aaron, for making this better known to us all!


Eusebius update — the proof has been approved

Much rejoicing here at Pearse Towers.  The proof copy of the hardback of Eusebius, Gospel Problems and Solutions, has arrived.  I examined it, and I’ve gone onto the printer’s website and given my approval.  It’s done, basically.

The next question is when we can buy copies.  I have emailed Lightning Source asking this question.  I suspect that I can order copies direct from LSI myself right now.  But I don’t know how long it will take before we can buy copies from Amazon.  More news when I have it!


Eusebius update

The revised cover has now been uploaded to Lightning Source and a proof ordered.  If that is OK, then we are go!

This is the hardback cover, of course.  Nick the designer has spotted a glitch with the paperback cover.  I’ve asked him to come up with a slightly smaller bitmap for the cover, which I shall send to Ben the editor once it’s available.


Eusebius update

Still trying to get the cover together.  At the moment it is one step forward, one step back!  I’ve now got the hardback and paperback covers, which look very good.  Unfortunately we have now lost in the process at least one important graphic element.  But Ben who is doing the final edits is picking up on various subtle problems that might otherwise spike the process.

The real cause of all these problems is Adobe, and the absurd prices that they demand for Adobe Indesign.  At $600 a copy, people just cannot buy it.  I can’t afford to buy it, even.  Nick the designer is forced to stick with Indesign CS3.  Bob the typesetter and Ben the editor are using CS5.  Adobe have made sure  that files cannot be exported from CS5 to CS3. 

If Indesign were cheap, I would just buy a couple of copies.  As it is, it’s like wrestling with a mass of sticky grass.

We’ll get there, I’m sure. 


Eusebius update

The revised cover design now seems OK to me.  I’ve asked Ben, who is doing the revising, to make sure it’s exported to PDF precisely as Lightning Source want.  Once that’s done, I’ll reupload, order a new proof, and … hopefully … we can go to print. 

The process has been delayed by a fortnight because I was starting a new job, and then starting a house purchase.  Neither will be of importance in the long run.  But of such delays and difficulties is the stuff of life made.

On a different note, I am hoping to have John the Lydian’s chapter on the month of March from On the Roman Months book IV available and online in English soon.


Did Eusebius attack science?

Browsing a usenet forum today, I came across a vitriolic post attacking the Christians by quoting all the ancient Christian authors who did not happen to hold the same views of science as those living nearly a score of centuries later.  For some reason the poster did not include the ancient non-Christian authors in his survey.  Nor, of course, did he provide references for any of his “quotations”. Instead he was repeating an usenet post from sci.physics from May 10, 1993, by a certain Gregory Aharonian, who wrote as follows:

Recently Will Brandt at Caltech posted a very excellent timetable of significant historical events in the field of science.  Given that science is a much a search for the new as a fight against the old (or at least that’s my opinion), I thought I would post a list of historical events where religion did something against science or unscientific.  There is no particular significance to the events I have included, other than I came across them while researching various things.  Incidents touch on physics, mathematics, engineering, medicine and computers.

After a quantity of stuff, arranged by date, there is this:

#Noted Catholic Bishops declare science to be of no interest to Christians
The attitude of most of the Church Fathers towards science, however, was one of indifference or hostility. Bishop Eusebius, the noted historian of the early Christian Church, says of scientists: “It is not through ignorance of the things admired by them, but through contempt of their useless labor, that we think little of these matters, turning our souls to better things“.  Basil of Caesarea declares it “a matter of no interest to us whether the earth is a sphere or a cylinder or a disk, or concave like a fan”. Lactantius calls the study of astronomy “bad and senseless”. Like many other churchmen, he combats the pagan Greek notion that the earth is round and argues on scriptual grounds that it must be flat.

It is always a good idea to verify such things.  First, for the Eusebius quotation, I did a google search for “the things admired by them, but through contempt of their useless”.  This indicated that the text was widely used on a certain kind of website, such as this one

But far more usefully, it led me to an article in Popular Science, Vol. 8, No. 25, Feb. 1876.  Pp.385-409 (and “to be continued”!) contain an article entitled The Warfare of Science, and written by a certain Andrew D. White, stated to be “President of Cornell University”.  On page 387 appears something very like our material. 

But we must start on page 386 to see the context:

Among the legacies the thought left by the ancient world to the modern, were certain ideas of the rotundity of the earth.  These ideas were vague; they were mixed with absurdities, but they were germ ideas, and, after the barbarian storm which ushered in the modern world had begun to clear away, these germ ideas began to bud and bloom in the minds of a few thinking men, and these men hazarded the suggestion that the earth is round — is a globe. [1]

The greatest and most earnest men of the time took fright at once.  To them, the idea of the earth’s rotundity seemed fraught with dangers to Scripture: by which, of course, they meant their interpretation of Scripture.

Among the first who took up arms against the new thinkers was Eusebius.  He endeavored to turn off these ideas by bringing  science into contempt.  He endeavored to make  the innovators understand that he and the fathers of the Church despised all such inquiries. Speaking of the innovations in physical science, he said: “It is not through ignorance of the things admired by them, but through contempt of their useless labor, that we think little of these matters, turning our souls to better things.”[1]

The first footnote refers to Plato and the Timaeus; and also to Cicero’s works.  The second footnote may be given in full.

1.  See Eusebius, “Praep. Ev.,” xv., 61.

There is a certain confusion in Dr White’s eloquent paragraphs, for he seems to suppose that Eusebius lived, not in ancient times, but in the Middle Ages; and in days when society was entirely Christian, rather than in the days of the persecution of Diocletian.  But doubtless this is merely an accident.

But what does Eusebius say? 

Well, in the days when I was scanning large quantities of literature, one of the items I scanned was the only English translation of the Praeparatio Evangelica.  This is a large and scholarly work, stuffed to the gills with word-for-word extracts of Greek philosophy.  Book 15 may be found here.

The book consists of listing the opinions of a whole range of Greek philosophers on a wide range of subjects, and thereby showing that they cannot be used as an authority, since they disagree violently among themselves on all of them.  The quotations run to some 50 chapters, and are too long to reproduce here.  Let us merely give the last section, from chapters 59-61 (I have abbreviated the chapter titles, which may not be authorial anyway):

So much, then, concerning the Sea.

But as to those who professed to give physiological explanations about the whole world, and things celestial and ethereal, and the conception of the universe, how little they knew even of their own nature, you may learn from their discordant utterances on these points also, as follows.


PYTHAGORAS, Plato: in the first analysis the Soul has two parts; for it has one part rational and another irrational. But in close and exact consideration, its parts are three: for they distinguish the irrational into the irascible and the appetitive.

‘The Stoics: it is composed of eight parts; five senses, sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch; and a sixth, speech; a seventh, generation; and an eighth, the actual ruling principle, from which proceeds the extension of all these through their proper organs, in a similar manner to the tentacles of the polypus.

‘Democritus, Epicurus: the Soul consists of two parts, its rational faculty being settled in the breast, and the irrational diffused over the whole complexity of the body.

‘But Democritus thought that all things, even dead bodies, naturally partake of a certain kind of soul, because in an obscure way they have some warmth and sensation, though the greater part is dissipated.’

LXI.  ‘PLATO, Democritus: it is in the head as a whole.

‘Straton: between the eyebrows.

‘Erasistratus: about the membrane of the brain, which he calls the epicranis.

‘Herophilus: in the cavity of the brain, which is also its base.

‘Parmenides: in the breast as a whole.

‘Epicurus, and all the Stoics: in the heart as a whole.

‘Diogenes: in the arterial cavity of the heart, which is full of breath.

‘Empedocles in the composition of the blood.

‘Others in the membrane of the pericardium: and others in the diaphragm. Some of the more recent philosophers say that it reaches through from the head to the diaphragm.

‘Pythagoras: the vital power is around the heart; but the rational , and intelligent faculty in the region of the head.’

So far, then, as to their opinions on these matters.

Eusebius then draws the natural conclusion.  For if these men are authorities, what use is their authority to anyone?

Do you not think therefore that with judgement and reason we have justly kept aloof from the unprofitable and erroneous and vain labour of them all, and do not busy ourselves at all about the said subjects (for we do not see the utility of them, nor any tendency to benefit and gain good for mankind), but cling solely to piety towards God the creator of all things, and by a life of temperance, and all godly behaviour according to virtue, strive to live in a manner pleasing to Him who is God over all?

But if even you from malice and envy hesitate to admit our true testimony, you shall be again anticipated by Socrates, the wisest of all Greeks, who has truthfully declared his votes in our favour. Those meteorological babblers, for instance, he used to expose in their folly, and say that they were no better than madmen, expressly convicting them not merely of striving after things unattainable, but also of wasting time about things useless and unprofitable to man’s life. And this shall be testified to you by our former witness Xenophon, one of the best-known of the companions of Socrates, who writes as follows in his Memorabilia:

LXII.  [XENOPHON] ‘No one ever yet saw Socrates do or heard him say anything impious or unholy. For he did not discourse about the nature of the universe or the other subjects, like most of them, speculating upon the condition of the cosmos, as the Sophists call it, and by what forces of necessity the celestial phenomena severally are produced: rather he used to expose the foolishness of those who troubled themselves about such things.

‘Such, then, was the nature of his remarks about those who busied themselves with these matters: but he himself was always discoursing of human interests, inquiring what was, pious, what impious; what noble, what base; what just, what unjust; what sanity, what madness.’

These, then, were the opinions of Socrates. And next after him Aristippus of Cyrene, and then later Ariston of Chios, undertook to maintain that morals were the only proper subject of philosophy; for these inquiries were practicable and useful, but the discussions about nature were quite the contrary, neither being comprehensible, nor having any use, even if they were clearly understood.

For it would be no advantage to us, not even if soaring higher in the air than Perseus,

‘O’er ocean’s wave, and o’er the Pleiades,’

we could with our very eyes survey the whole world, and the nature of all ‘beings,’ of whatever kind that is.

For we certainly shall not be on that account wiser, or more just or brave or temperate, nay, not even strong, or beautiful, or rich, without which advantages happiness is impossible.

Such are the remarks of Eusebius.

Is this an attack, in desperate fear of novelty, on the idea that the world is round?  It is not.  The subject is remote from the author’s mind.  He is concerned with one thing, and one only; to prepare men to hear the gospel, to point out that the teachings of the Jews are of no value, and those of the Greeks also except insofar as they point men to the need for moral improvement.

It is meaningless to complain that Eusebius attacks “science”.  In his day nothing of the kind existed.  Our own modern systems were unknown to him, and equally unknown to those he attacked.  He attacked, rather, the Greek philosophers, or rather Sophists, the peddlers of ideas to those willing to pay to be entertained thereby.

We remember Pythagoras for his theorems.  But in the ancient world he was just another teacher, with a set of invented ideas and rituals, such as not eating beans.

But to return to Dr. White: are his words found here?  There are not.  Rather they are found in chapter 1 of book 15:

As we have been deferring up to the present time our final discourse hereon, which is the fifteenth Book of the treatise in hand, we will now make up what is lacking to the discussions which we have travelled through, by still further dragging into light the solemn doctrines of the fine philosophy of the Greeks, and laying bare before the eyes of all the useless learning therein. And before all things we shall show that not from ignorance of the things which they admire, but from contempt of the unprofitable study therein we have cared very little for them, and devoted our own souls to the practice of things far better.

I suspect that Eusebius would have been amused by A. D. White.  For after all, Eusebius has already answered White’s objection by quoting Socrates.  It is not an attack on the value of science to point out the futility of empty speculation.  It is not an attack on learning and reason to follow the path of moral self-improvement advocated by all the best philosophers of antiquity, and the moralists of every age and country.  Only a man of White’s limited sympathies could suppose it.

As for the modern poster with whom we started, we may feel confident that he had never read a line of Eusebius, nor verified whether what he said was true.  Eusebius was not discussing “scientists”, nor science.