Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History: the highlights, XI

Continuing our journey through the classic historical text from 324 AD.


About 180 AD, a philosopher with Christian affinity—or a Christian with philosophical tendencies—decides to head east to further the gospel. I note that increasingly about this time in our record, philosophers become talked about in glowing terms. Don’t get me wrong, that is not to put down philosophers, but the faith of the Tanahk is based on divine revelation passed on by oral and written tradition from the prophets. Philosophy is generally based on man’s reason to reach spiritual truth; whereas, the idea of prophets is that we can’t reach up, so Elohim reaches down. So when you have all these “Christians” start to speak highly of philosophers as if their learning has made them so great…I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it doesn’t seem to fit with what we see of the godly in scripture.

Pantaenus goes east as far India, where—lo and behold!—“…he there found his own arrival preceded by some who were acquainted with the Gospel of Matthew, to whom Bartholomew, one of the apostles, had preached and had left them the Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew, which was also preserved until this time.” Again, the supremacy of Mattityahu. Writers have let us know that Mark, Luke, and John existed in times before this, but which one is always put forward? Mattityahu. Which one appears to be first? Mattityahu? Which one was clearly in Hebrew? Mattityahu.

Which one was lost? Mattityahu in Hebrew.

I also note, if Hebrew or Aramaic was all but lost, outside of Isra’el, why is Bartholomew preaching a book in Hebrew? The conclusion would have to be that his audience understood Hebrew/Aramaic. Were these perhaps, scatted Israeli? Probably, but based on Eusebius’ tendency to illuminate if someone was a ‘hebrew’ or say nothing if they were gentiles, one would think gentiles were in the mix too, so that would mean you had gentiles who were also Hebrew-Aramaic speakers. Is that because, recognizing the God of Israel, and his Mashiach, lead them to closer affinity with Hebrews?

Dillusions Arising

More heretics (this feels like a broken record) arise around Asia and even out of Rome. Some believe that there are two gods, after the manner of Marcion—one of the “old testament” and one of the new. Both arise out of very low opinions of the Torah and prophets.

Others arise via false prophets. A certain Montanus put himself forward as a prophet with two prophetesses by his side. His utterings seem to have been characterized by “a certain kind of frenzy and irregular ecstasy…but of those that happened to be present, and to hear these spurious oracles…These bore in mind the distinction and the warning given by our Lord, when he cautioned them to be vigilantly on their guard against false prophets. Others, as if elated by the holy spirit, and the gift of grace not a little puffed up, and forgetting the distinction made by our Lord…being themselves captivated and seduced by [this spirit]…” Apollinaris goes on to talk about the two prophetesses, describing their likewise ecstatic frenzies. This sounds rather like some spiritual movements in the church today… He notes in the close of his work, the backlash against those who challenged these prophets, but rebukes the followers, not on the basis of doctrine, but works! He points out that none of these great prophets or prophetesses never suffered persecution. He makes the mark of legitimacy, at least in part, that one endures suffering.

Another writer, Miltiades describes this cult, “The false prophet is carried away by a vehement ecstasy, accompanied by want of shame…” He then compares them to the prophetess daughters of Philip who never acted this way.

An interesting note is mentioned that “the apostle shows that the gift of prophecy should be in all the church until the coming of the Lord…” He then infers that every prophet should have a designated successor.

Montanus is rebuked also because he taught the dissolutions of marriage, that his prophetesses left their husbands and taught that Prisca of the Paul’s letters was a virgin. This is interesting to me because the Catholic church presently will give annulments and dispensations to allow a married person to walk away from their marriage obligations to serve the church. More over, you begin again to see this push for virginity being its own end. About this same time, there were other stories of famous virgins like Thecla (Acts of Paul) where the whole story revolves around complications from a woman being unwilling to marry. Some writings even suggested that salvation was put in danger even by married sexual relations.

This might be surprising because many assume pagans considered promiscuity as the norm, it is less well known that virginity was also mystically honored. Just think about the concept of “virgin sacrifice.” Also virgins were often made oracles who maintained their ‘powers’ by abstaining from sex. Virginity was even honored by promiscuity—hang with me, here—the pagan temple prostitutes saw their giving up of their chastity as an offering.

So, the normal relations between one man and one woman are perverted at both ends of the spectrum. Either there is no intimacy as the goal, or no faithfulness. I can’t help noticing the similarity to some church doctrines, nor to the strange emphasis the church has had on “the virgin Mary” especially including her “perpetual virginity.” That’s not just a catholic problem, by the way, many of the original protestant reformers believed mixes of these doctrines.

To be continued…

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