Early Christian Apologists
The defenders of Christianity in the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius
This article will discuss how the early apologists were perceived, presented and used in Eusebius of Caesarea‘s Ecclesiastical History (historia ecclesiastica, h.e.). Eusebius has been called the first church historian or the ‘father of church history’,1 and his work still stands as one of the primary sources for early church history, including the early apologists. Due to its status as a primary source, the Ecclesiastical History has come to serve as a kind of prism through which early church history has been read and understood. History writing processes the past and gives it a form and structure that makes it recognizable to the reader. The historian draws out elements and establishes patterns which delimit and subdivide the stream of past occurrences, allowing them to appear as parts of a relatively closed sequence of events. History writing thereby helps to relate the past to the present, and the patterns it helps establish can become part of a collective consciousness of the past. History writing thus also influences the future, as consciousness of who ‘we’ were and are also influences the direction ‘we’ wish to take. Seen in this light, Eusebius‘ Ecclesiastical History has not only provided specific information about early Christianity, but has also fundamentally influenced the way the period covered by the work has been perceived. It can even be said to have influenced the way the church as a historical phenomenon has been understood.