Christology According to Eusebius
The pre-existence and divinity of our Saviour
The nature of Christ is twofold; it is like the head of the body in that He is recognised as God, and comparable to the feet in that for our salvation He put on manhood as frail as our own. [Acts 15:15, James 5:17] My account of what follows will therefore be complete if I begin my exposition of His entire story with the basic and essential points of the doctrine.
By this means, both the antiquity and the divine character of Christian origins will be demonstrated to those who imagine them to be recent and outlandish, appearing yesterday for the first time.
To explain the origin and worth, the very essence and nature of Christ; no language could be adequate. The Holy Spirit Himself says in prophecy: 'His generation who shall declare? [Isaiah 53:8] For no one has known the Father, except the Son; nor again has anyone ever known the Son fully, except only the Father who begot Him. [Matthew 11:27]
As for the Light that existed before the world, the intellectual and essential Wisdom that was before time itself, the living Word that in the beginning was with the Father and was God – who but the Father could clearly conceive of Him? [John 1:1-2. 9, Proverbs 8:23] Before anything was created and fashioned, visible or invisible, [Colossians 1:15-16]
He was the first and only begotten of God; the commander-in-chief of the spiritual and immortal host of heaven [Joshua 5:14], the angel of mighty counsel [Isaiah 9:4], the agent of the ineffable purpose of the Father; the fashioner, with the Father, of all things; the second cause, after the Father, of the universe; the Child of God, true and only-begotten; of all begotten the Lord and God and King, who has received from the Father lordship and dominion, godhead, power, and honour. [Revelation 5:12-13] To His divinity the Scriptures bear mystic witness:
In the beginning was the Word,
And the Word was with God,
And the Word was God.
All things came into being through Him,
And apart from Him came into being not one thing.
[John 1:1, 3]
This again is the teaching of the great Moses, the earliest prophet of all, when by the Holy Spirit he described the coming into being and marshalling of the whole: the Marshal and Fashioner of the universe gave up to Christ Himself - and to no one, it is plain, but the divine Word, His first-begotten, the making of subordinate beings, and discussed with Him the creation of man:
For God said, 'Let us make man in our image and likeness.'
This saying is confirmed by another of the prophets, who in. hymns deifies him thus:
He spoke, and they were begotten:
He commanded, and they were created.
[A conflation of Psalm 23:9 and Psalm 148:5]
The Father and Maker he introduces as giving commands like a supreme ruler by an imperial fiat; the divine Word, who holds the second place to Him - none other than the One whom we proclaim – as subserving His Father's behests.
Ever since man was first created, all who are said to have been distinguished for righteousness and the purity of their religion – the great servant Moses and his companions; before him Abraham, the very first, and his children; and all the righteous men and prophets who have since appeared – recognised Him in visions seen with the pure eyes of the mind, and paid due honour to Him as God's Son. He for His part, showing no slackness in His veneration of the Father, made Himself for all mankind the teacher of knowledge of the Father. Thus the Lord God is stated to have appeared as an ordinary human being to Abraham as he sat by the oak of Mamre. Abraham fell down at once, and though he saw a human being with his eyes he worshipped Him as God, besought Him as Lord, and owned that he knew who He was; for these were his very words:
O Lord, the Judge of all the world, wilt Thou not do justice?
[Genesis 18:1-2, 25]
Reason would never allow that the uncreated and immutable substance of Almighty God should be changed into the form of a man, or, alternatively, that by the illusion of any created thing it should deceive the eyes of the beholder, or that Scripture should falsely invent such a tale.
Who then could be spoken of as God, and the Lord who is the judge of all the world and does justice, appearing in human shape? As it is not permissible to suggest the First Cause of the universe, there is only one answer – His pre-existent Word. Of Him it is written in the Psalms:
He sent His Word and healed them,
And rescued them from their corruptions.
Of Him Moses is unmistakably speaking, as second Lord after the Father, when he says:
The Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah
brimstone and fire from the Lord.
To Him, when He later appeared to Jacob in a man's shape, Holy Scripture again refers as God - when He said to Jacob:
No longer shall your name be called Jacob,
But Israel shall be your name;
For you have prevailed with God.
Jacob called the name of that place
The Form of God, [Peniel] saying:
'For I saw God face to face,
and my life was spared.'
It is clearly not permissible to regard the recorded theophanies as visitations by subordinate angels and ministers of God; for whenever one of these appears to human beings Scripture makes no secret of the fact, but explicitly declares that they are called not God or Lord, but angels, as can easily be proved by any number of instances.
The name which Moses' successor Joshua gave to Him, as Leader of the heavenly angels and archangels and of the celestial powers, and as the Power and Wisdom of the Father, entrusted with the second place in the kingship and rule over all things, was Commander-in-chief of the army of the Lord; yet Joshua like the others saw Him only in human form and shape. Here is the passage:
When Joshua was in Jericho,
he raised his eyes and saw a man standing facing him,
his sword drawn in his hand, Joshua went up to him and said,
'Are you for us or for our opponents?'
'It is as Commander in-chief of the army of the Lord
that I have now come.'
Then Joshua fell face downwards on the ground and asked Him, 'Master, what do you command your servant?' The Commander-in-chief of the Lord replied,
'Take your sandals off your feet:
the place where you are standing is a holy place.'
Here, too, you will gather from the actual words that this was the very Person who had instructed Moses; for in his case too the words of Scripture are the same:
When the Lord saw that he was coming near to see,
He called out to him from the bush,
He replied, 'What is it?'
The Lord answered,
'Do not come this way:
take your sandals off your feet;
for the place where you are standing is holy ground.'
Then He continued:
'I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham,
the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.'
That this is in truth a Being, living and subsisting before the world, who assisted the Father and God of the universe in the fashioning of all' created things, named the Word of God and Wisdom, the evidence goes beyond the proofs given above: one may hear it from the person of Wisdom herself, who by the mouth of Solomon initiates us most fully into her secret:
I, Wisdom, have made counsel my dwelling,
1 have invoked knowledge and thought.
By me kings reign,
And princes decree justice;
By me the great achieve greatness,
And monarchs by me are masters of the earth.
To this she [Wisdom] adds
The Lord created me the beginning of His ways for His works;
Before time began He established me;
In the beginning, before He made the earth,
Before the springs of water issued forth,
Before the mountains were fixed in place,
And before all hills he begot me.
When He prepared the heaven, I was at His side;
And when He made safe the springs under heaven,
I was with Him, setting them in order.
I was she in whom He delighted every day,
And I rejoiced before Him at every time,
When He rejoiced that He had finished the world.
[Proverbs 8:12-31 with omissions]
Such in outline are the proofs that the divine Word pre-existed and showed Himself to some, if not to all.
[W]hen nearly all mankind had been submerged by a vast surfeit of wickedness, which like complete intoxication overshadowed and darkened almost every human soul, the first-begotten and first created Wisdom of God, the pre-existent Word Himself in His measureless love for mankind showed Himself, now by a vision of angels to· His subjects, now in person as God's saving power to one or two of God's beloved servants of old; but always, always in human form, since in no other way could He appear to them.
What He did and what He suffered accorded with the prophecies, which foretold that a man who was also God would live in the world as a worker of miracles and would be revealed to all nations as a teacher of the worship due to the Father.
[Emphases added to draw the reader’s attention to the fact that Eusebius knew the Son was a different person and personage than the Father and that he appeared frequently in human form before his incarnation]
Abstract from: ‘Eusebius’ ‘History of the Church,’ Penguin, London, 1965.