Eusebius of Caesarea against Paganism (review)

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Journal of Early Christian Studies 10.2 (2002) 296-298 This volume provides a comprehensive study of Eusebius of Caesarea's apologetic works, which the author believes have received little scholarly attention up to now because of Eusebius' alleged lack of theological originality and inspiration. As a result, the literature survey that opens the work is brief. In chapter 1 the author outlines a general history of Christian apologetics prior to Eusebius and describes the specific Caesarean context in which Eusebius composed his own apologetic works. In chapter 2, Kofsky examines apologetics and polemics in Eusebius's non-apologetic works (including the Chronicle, the Ecclesiastical History, the Life of Constantine, and In Praise of Constantine) and early apologetic works (the General Basic Introduction, the Prophetic Extracts, Against Hierocles, and Against Porphyry). The six central chapters in this study are devoted to a detailed examination of the two-volume apologetic work, the Preparatio Evangelica and the Demonstratio Evangelica. After describing the general plan, basic characteristics, and principal questions of this work in chapter 3, Kofsky in the next three chapters examines major themes pertinent to its apologetic purpose. Chapter 4 considers Christian prehis-tory (i.e., the notion that Christianity is the continuation of the true "Hebrew" religion that was revealed to Abraham as opposed to historical Judaism, which begins with the giving of the Law to Moses); chapter 5 discusses prophecy; and chapter 6 addresses miracles. Chapter 7 discusses the minor apologetic arguments in the work, while chapter 8 analyzes its rhetorical technique and Porphyry's role in shaping it. Kofsky does not think that the Preparatio and its sequel were composed specifically in opposition to Porphyry's work Against the Christians. Instead, he argues that Eusebius refers to Porphyry positively and negatively throughout the work as the most prominent representative of pagan religious and philosophical opinion in his day. The final chapter of this study considers Eusebius' last apologetic work, the Theophany, whichwasaddressed to a more popular audience than was the more erudite Preparatio/Demonstratio and which was composed between the years 333 and 337. The author concludes that apologetics was a central part of Eusebius' theological project, a fact which testifies to the vitality of this Christian literary genre in the early fourth century. He suggests that in view of its importance in Eusebius' work, further study should be undertaken to examine its influence in later antiquity. The third in a Brill series entitled "Jewish and Christian Perspectives," this volume is a careful work marked by a detailed knowledge of the primary sources. Kofsky sees most of Eusebius' apologetic work as directed to educated pagans or newly converted gentiles. Nevertheless, one of the more interesting aspects of the study is Kofsky's explanation of how Christian appropriation of the Old Testament tradition needed to be justified in the context of polemical debate with pagans because pagans often chided Christians for deviating from the Jewish tradition whose Scriptures they continued to use. The author helpfully provides the reader with the appropriate information on dating and textual history for the numerous works he covers, and he presents the prehistory of various apologetic motifs in Eusebius' works in earlier writers such as Justin, Clement, and Origen. The book is based on a 1990 thesis submitted to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, but the author has made some effort to update his bibliography. However, I suspect more efforts might have been made in this regard, especially on the topics of late antique pagan religion, fourth-century asceticism (an impor-tant element in Eusebius' apologetics), and Eusebius' contributions to trinitarian and Christological debate. The final bibliography does not list the primary texts referred to in the study, a fact which makes it less user-friendly. However, there are indices of names, subjects, and sources. Translated from the original Hebrew, the work has a style that is clear, but the peculiar lack of direct quotations from the primary sources and the consistent reliance on paraphrase give the book a relentlessly expository tone that makes for difficult reading...

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