Eusebius of Caesarea
These works by Eusebius, the Bishop of Caesarea and the first Church historian, are excerpts from Book 8 of his most famous work Ecclesiastical History and another work entitled The Life of Constantine. Both works were written over a period of several years during the first few decades of the 4th century in between the start of the Great Persecution, during the reign of Constantine, and prior to the death of Eusebius in 339 A.D. The literary form of Ecclesiastical History is a historical account of the early roots of Christianity up until the time of Eusebius with Book 8 detailing The Great Persecution specifically, while the literary form of The Life of Constantine is a biography about the life and rule of Constantine. It can be inferred that the audience of both works were all followers of Christianity at the time as well as Christians for centuries to come since their purposes were to both record the history of the Church which had not been yet accounted for as well as to inform current and future Christians of how the Church got its start, major events that shaped the religion, and also to pay tribute to the early defenders and champions of the Church.
Book 8 of Ecclesiastical History begins with an account of the condition of Christianity prior to The Great Persecution, the relationship between the Church and the empire, and what attitudes and actions led to the commencement of the persecution. Eusebius describes how the worship of Christianity was once “thought worthy by all men, both Greeks and Barbarians” (p. 163), which shows the acceptance of Christianity by the empire. Eusebius then shows how it fell out of favor when “because of greater freedom, our affairs went over to conceit and sloth” (p. 165), which conveys that Christians themselves became lax with the strict tenants and requirements, making them less “ideal” than those who came before.
The next section outlines the...