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Title: Not to Abolish, but to Fulfill: the Intersection of Pagan, Jewish, and Christian Thought in Eusebius of Caesarea’s Church History
Authors: Bacon, Michael
Advisors: Shawcross, Clare Teresa M.
Department: History
Class Year: 2015
Abstract: Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 263-339 AD) was the first historian to write a history of the Christian Church. The Church History tells the story of the Church from the life of Christ through the reign of Constantine, aiming to demonstrate God’s favor for his people. While the work is regarded as foundational for a genre and vital for the sources it preserves, many of his conclusions are written off as the fabrications of a man eager to glorify and promote his own religion. Something about his Christian identity causes modern historians to view him as less legitimate than men like Livy or Josephus. When one fully fleshes out that comparison, however, one finds something new. Eusebius’ worldview and historical methodology were shaped not by a desire to artificially prop up the Church, but by a complicated set of influences from the pagan and Jewish intellectual traditions and the Christian intellectual milieu. The traits which damn Eusebius in the eyes of modern critics somehow seem less of a problem when they appear in a non-Christian setting. Pagan historiography was characterized by moralizing and retribution in a political setting and Jewish historiography is likewise morally didactic, but with the belief that God is guiding history according to His purpose. When Christianity arose, the Christian intelligentsia appropriated certain elements of these traditions for their own use – from the pagans, the political nature of the Church and the notions of ultimate moral justice; from the Jews, the role of God and the antiquity of the true religion. What emerged was a new worldview, which saw its first properly historical manifestation in the works of Eusebius.
Extent: 99 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:History, 1926-2020

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