Hence, in considering Eusebius’ apologetic writings, I want to begin by considering Eusebius’ own use of the term apologia and its cognates. Now, it is striking that the only work of Eusebius which he himself calls an ‘apology’ in its title—namely, the apology on behalf of Origen written mainly by Pamphilus, but completed by Eusebius—is not an apologetic writing even in an extended sense, since it does not involve a response to an attack on Christianity or on a Christian on account of his Christianity. What the title shows, though, is the unsurprising fact that Eusebius, following Greek usage, is willing to use the term apologia in a whole variety of familiar and established ways. Thus an ‘Apology of Socrates’ might not be just a writing purporting to tell us how Socrates responded in court to the accusations raised against him; it might easily turn into an apology on behalf of Socrates. And it is obviously in this extended but well-established sense that Eusebius published an ‘apology’ of Origen. The narrowest use of the term apologia in Eusebius we find, for instance, in the account of Apollonius’ martyrdom in Ecclesiastical History, 5. 21. 2—5. The account is not exactly transparent, and the legal background seems unclear, but the story appears to be this: Apollonius is denounced as a Christian; the judge, however hard he tries, cannot but, following the law, condemn Apollonius to death. Apollonius in court makes an apologia, and also addresses an apologia to the senate, which, Eusebius notes, one can still read in his Acts of the Martyrs. There are two uses of apologia involved in this account. The first refers to Apollonius’ defence, or rather response, in court to the charge of being a Christian. Needless to say, this use of apologia is also attested in the Acts of the Martyrs, and comparable uses of apologein or apologia are conspicuously frequent in the Acts of the Apostles. In fact, theActs of Apollonius are presumably still extant, for scholars plausibly assume that the Acts transmitted as those of Apollos in reality are those of the Apollonius whom Eusebius refers to. And in these Acts, Apollonius himself, when questioned, repeatedly refers to his response as an apologia (cf. 4, 5, 8).
There seems to be nothing remarkable about this narrow use. Apologia and its cognates had been used all along in Greek to refer to somebody’s defence in court. Nevertheless, there are two things we may note. In a Christian context it is understood that the apologia will not be a defence in response to any charge whatever, but specifically a defence in response to a charge on account of one’s being a Christian. The second point to note may be less trivial. A defence in court would normally take the form of arguing that the accusation is false, or at least not sufficiently substantiated, or of arguing that, though the charge is justified, the offender should be excused, or that there are extenuating circumstances. But, if we recall Apollonius’ case, the charge here is just this: that Apollonius is a Christian. And though, of course, a defence of the ordinary kind would be open to Apollonius, this, from a Christian point of view, would count as apostasy, rather than as apology. All that Apollonius as a Christian can do is to argue that the charge is perfectly justified, and that this is all for the good, as far as he is concerned. Thus it lies in the nature of the case that a Christian apologia in court is not an ordinary legal defence, perhaps not even a defence of any kind in the legal sense. And this has the consequence that the Christian use of the word apologia, even when it is used to refer to a defendant’s response in court, acquires a certain ambiguity and vagueness, as, by the very nature of the case, a Christian apologia does not stay within the customary or even the legal limits of a defence in court, at least not an ordinary court. One might as a Christian, of course, challenge the fairness, justice, or wisdom of the law or laws under which one is accused for being a Christian. But in this case, it seems, one’s only legal recourse is to the authority of the emperor, a possibility of which Christians availed themselves, as we will see.
As I said, there is presumably a further use of apologia involved in the case described by Eusebius, when Apollonius is said to have sent an apologia to the senate. To judge this use, one would have to know more about the actual case, and in particular about the legal facts relevant to it—for instance, whether Apollonius was of senatorial rank—and so I will pass it over, except to note that this is presumably the apology which Jerome, in his notice on Apollonius (On Famous Men, 42), refers to as an insigne volumen (‘distinguished volume’), suggesting that it was available to him. In any case, Apollonius owes his inclusion in Jerome’s work to this apology, which hence must have had some distribution, and thus has to be taken into account as a possible further source of later apologies.
We are on somewhat safer ground again when we turn to a clearly yet further extended use of apologia, which does not refer to a particular case actually brought, or to a particular defendant, but does involve a particular judge—namely, the emperor—as the ultimate legal authority. Perhaps in its most narrow construal it also involves actually pending cases, though it does not refer to them; and it crucially involves somebody who, though he is not himself actually accused, makes use of his right to plead before the emperor, either in person or by submitting a libellum on behalf of Christians that they should not be prosecuted on account of their Christianity. If we look at Eusebius’ account of the so-called Apologists in theEcclesiastical History, it is striking that he calls ‘apologies’ only those of their writings which were, at least fictitiously, addressed to the Emperor in his role as ultimate judge. He does so in the cases of Quadratus (4. 3. I), Aristides (4. 3. 3), Justin Martyr (4. 8. 3), Melito and Apollinarius (4. 26. I), and Miltiades (3. 17. 3). But he does not, at least in this context, give the title ‘apology’ to a great number of other writings we traditionally classify as ‘apologetic’—for instance, Theophilus’ To Autolycus or Tatian’s To the Greeks or Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho or Apollinarius’ To the Greeks and To the Jews, to mention just a few.
In the Ecclesiastical History Eusebius also repeatedly refers to Tertullian’s Apology as an apologia (2. 2. 4; 3. 33. 3; 5. 5. 5). It is addressed to the antistites of the Roman Empire. This seems standardly to be taken to refer to the governors of the Roman provinces; Eusebius (5. 5. 5) assumes that it is addressed to the Roman senate. Possibly he goes on the more than questionable assumption that the senate has some legal standing in the matter. Perhaps he is also influenced in this by the parallel of Apollonius. But Eusebius recognized yet another, much wider use of apologia. Whereas an apologia in the narrow sense is the defence a Christian advances when asked in court to account for himself on account of his Christianity, or at least a defence advanced on behalf of Christians before the emperor, an apologia in this wide sense is a defence a Christian advances when anybody asks him to account for himself on the basis of his Christianity or specific Christian beliefs and practices. Eusebius twice quotes (Preparation for the Gospel, i. 3. 6; I. 5. 2) from the first letter attributed to Peter (3: 15), which enjoins us ‘to be ready to give an apologia to anybody who demands from us an account concerning the hope we have’. There is a certain ambiguity here. If we read this verse in context, it is clear that Peter is talking about Christians who suffer unjustly on account of their being Christians. It requires some interpretation to see that the text presumably does not refer just to Christians who are dragged into court because they are Christians, but quite generally to Christians who are reproached and harassed for being Christians. But the way Eusebius quotes Peter, out of context, one is immediately tempted to understand it in the sense that a Christian has to be ready to defend his Christianity not only in court in front of a judge, but in whatever context, in front of anybody who objects to Christianity. And Eusebius here seems to be relying on this larger understanding for his argument. For, having quoted this apostolic injunction, he immediately goes on to say that in response to this injunction a myriad of writings have been composed. And the way he then characterizes these writings, it seems clear that he is now referring to a much larger class of apologetic writings than just those he referred to as ‘apologies’ in the Ecclesiastical History. For he now refers to treatises in support of Christian doctrine and biblical commentaries, which offer scriptural proof for the truth of Christian doctrine. Indeed, he seems to be referring to the same class of writings he had referred to two paragraphs earlier in I. 3. 4. There, too, he said that a great number of authors before him had devoted themselves at length to the task of vindicating the Christian message against criticism. And he listed (i) authors who wrote refutations of, and antirrhetikoi logoi against, treatises opposing Christianity; (ii) authors who wrote commentaries or homilies on biblical writings or particular passages therein; and (iii) authors who advocated Christian doctrines in polemical treatises. Here we seem to have at least the notion of a very wide class of writings which, in one way or another, defend Christian doctrines and practices as such against any accusation, whatever its source, tied to the use of the term apologia in I Peter 3: 15. Eusebius seems to go out of his way to emphasize the diversity among these writings, even in literary genre. And he clearly subsumes some of his own writing—for instance, the Preparation for the Gospel itself—under this broad category of apologetic writings. Indeed, in book II, preface 5, he refers to the enterprise in which he is engaged in writing thePreparation as ‘our apologia’. Hence it would seem that Eusebius himself is prepared to recognize even among his own writings a class of apologetic writings in the wide sense indicated, and to refer to them as ‘apologies’.
There are thus two noteworthy facts about Eusebius’ use of the word apologia. First, Eusebius sometimes, as in the Ecclesiastical History, uses the term restrictively to refer specifically to writings addressed to the emperor on behalf of Christians and Christianity. These, it would seem, constitute a definite literary genre, defined, on the one hand, by the legal institution of such submissions to the emperor and, on the other, by its specifically Christian purpose. But second, Eusebius also recognizes a rather extended use of the term for any writing composed in defence of Christianity—for instance, in defence of the authority of writings regarded as canonical, and hence definitive of Christianity. And Eusebius himself stresses thatapologiai, thus widely understood, comprise writings of quite different literary genres.
If we adopt what seems to be Eusebius’ own wider category, a remarkably large part of Eusebius’ work is devoted to apologetics. His most important contributions to the genre are clearly the Preparation for the Gospel in fifteen books and theDemonstration of the Gospel in twenty books. Of these, the former as a whole is extant, whereas only the first ten books of the latter and parts of its fifteenth book have come down to us. It is clear from Eusebius’ own indications that these two treatises are meant to form one comprehensive apology, justifying Christianity both in relation to paganism, or rather Hellenism, and in relation to Judaism. This monumental work in two parts had its predecessor in Eusebius’ reuvre, it seems, in a shorter treatise entitled ‘General Elementary Introduction’, to which Eusebius perhaps refers at Preparation for the Gospel, 1. 1. 12. Apart from fragments, only books 6—9 of this treatise are extant, though, under the title peri tou Christou prophetika ekloga (PG 22, 1021—1262). Perhaps, as Schwartz suggested, it is identical with the two treatises Ecclesiastical Preparation and Ecclesiastical Demonstration, which Photius meant to write about in the Bibliotheca (as codd. II and 12), though unfortunately he never got around to doing so.
The Preparation for the Gospel also refers (I. 3. 12) to an earlier treatise on the fulfilled prophecies of Christ, which is lost in its original form, but may have been reworked to form book 4 of an apologetic treatise entitled Theophany in five books, extant only in Syriac, apart from some fragments in Greek. Still extant in Greek is Against Hierocles, whereas an Against Porphyry in twenty-five books, a refutation of Porphyry’s Against the Christians in fifteen books, is lost. In addition, we know from Photius (Bibliotheca cod. 13) that there was a treatise entitled Refutation and Apology in two slightly different versions, directed against pagan objections to Christianity. Moreover, there are the treatise on The Discrepancy between the Gospelsand the tract on The Polygamy of the Patriarchs, both lost, which I mentioned earlier.
This fairly sizeable corpus of apologetic writings, as is well known, stands in a long tradition going back at least to the beginnings of the second century ce. We have to assume that it was well represented in the library in Caesarea which had been built up with such care by Origen and by Pamphilus (cf. Ecclesiastical History, 6. 33. 2), whose work in this regard Eusebius obviously continued. If we want to get some measure of Eusebius’ familiarity with this tradition, we just have to look at, for instance, his Ecclesiastical History, which, as we have noticed, mentions many apologetic writings. Only some of these have come down to us. And thus Eusebius’ remarks are an invaluable source of information about this tradition. To Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, for instance, we owe the single fragment of Quadratus’ writing, perhaps the oldest apology. But he also provides us with such information as that in his day Quadratus’ book was still widely available, and that he had a copy of it. Similarly, he quotes from other apologetic treatises, or provides information about them. Thus the picture one gets, just on the basis of the Ecclesiastical History, is that this is a tradition which Eusebius is thoroughly familiar with, and hence could draw on freely for his own apologetic writings.
So the question naturally arises: what does Eusebius think he can contribute to this tradition by adding to the already existing vast body of apologetic literature, whose considerable extent he himself remarked on, a good number of further apologetic treatises, some of them of staggering length. This must be a question that Eusebius himself thought needed an answer. For, in the passage we already briefly discussed, Preparation for the Gospel, I. 3. 4, it seems that Eusebius thinks that he owes us an explanation as to why, given all the apologetic literature which is already available, he is now writing the Preparation and Demonstration. He tells us that he has a distinct approach of his own to the matter, which, unfortunately, he characterizes only negatively, by telling us that his writing will not fall into one of the three classes mentioned above, under which the writings of his predecessors can be subsumed. What matters for our purposes for the moment is not what Eusebius’ claim to originality may positively amount to, or whether it is justified, but the mere fact that he seems to think that he has to explain why we are getting yet another apologetic writing.