L. Michael White, in “Scripting Jesus” (pg. 55) notes In Eusebius We Trust…Or Should We?
Perhaps more than any other figure of antiquity, the ability to perform miracles is most closely associated with what is usually called the theios aner(Gk., “divine man”). The title refers to heroes and famous figures who were known for their spectacular deeds or wisdom…Performing spectacular deeds or miracles and having wisdom was not in itself something that made someone a divine man.
the ability to perform miracles was not by itself sufficient to claim divine powers. Charges of “sorcery and magic” were taken seriously and caused some to react against the magical tradition.
Eusebius’ probable first work was called “THE TREATISE OF EUSEBIUS, THE SON OF PAMPHILUS, AGAINST THE LIFE OF APOLLONIUS OF TYANA WRITTEN BY PHILOSTRATUS, OCCASIONED BY THE PARALLEL DRAWN BY HIEROCLES BETWEEN HIM AND CHRIST.” It is commonly called “Against Hierocles.”
It is a response to Hierocles’ work “Lover of Truth.” In the beginning, he quotes this from Hiercoles work:
What then is my reason for mentioning these facts? It was in order that you may be able to contrast our own accurate and well-established judgment on each point, with the easy credulity of the Christians. For whereas we reckon him who wrought such feats not a god, but only a man pleasing to the gods, they on the strength of a few miracles proclaim their Jesus a god.” To this he adds after a little more the following remark : ” And this point is also worth noticing, that whereas the tales of Jesus have been vamped up by Peter and Paul and a few others of the kind,–men who were liars and devoid of education and wizards, –the history of Apollonius was written by Maximus of Aegae, and by Damis the philosopher who lived constantly with him. and by Philostratus of Athens, men of the highest education, who out of respect for the truth and their love of mankind determined to give the publicity they deserved to the actions of a man at once noble and a friend of the gods.
For Hierocles, the followers of Jesus were ignorant liars and wizards who made Jesus out to be a God on the basis of a few magic tricks. On the other hand, intelligent men who were lovers of truth and mankind saw that the magic tricks of Apollonius were noble and that he was a friend of the Gods.
Curiously, Eusebius does not defend Jesus at all in the Treatise, but instead attacks Apollonius. Rather, he is going to prove that that the writers of the works on Apollonius were exactly the type of credulous people who turned a simple wizard into a God that Hierocles claims the apostles were.
I propose that in the rest of his works, Eusebius is proving the older half of the equation. If the followers of Apollonius were credulous half-wits who made a wizard into a God, the followers of Jesus were wise and divine men who cared about the truth and wrote about a true God for the benefit of all men.
We should note that the work by Hierocles “Lover of Truth” was probably the major cause of the Diocletian Persecution of Christians. The refutation of its main thesis was not an abstract matter for Eusebius, but a matter of life and death for his beloved Christian religion.
In “Scripting Jesus,” L Michael White,” notes this about Eusebius’ work:
Instead of possessing divine powers, he argued, those claims were attributable to Apollonius’s natural gifts or to cunning and fraud. In other words, Apollonius was the Imitation; Jesus, the real thing, the son of God. Eusebius thus levels the same charges brought by Lucian against Alexander.
What this shows is that the divine-man paradigm had become a fixture in dealing with the persona of the miracle worker and sage. Yet it shows that in the Greek context, at least, the title “Son of God,” at it had begun to evolve in Christian usage, came closest to the connotation of a divine man, that is, a human who somehow possessed divine attributes and achieved a degree of divinity at the end of this life.
For Eusebius and Hiercoles the question was not whether Jesus was a miracle worker or not, the question was if Jesus did his miracles because he was a man divine man or because he was a wizard. A divine man did works by the help of a God for the benefit and moral education of others, while a wizard did his magic with the help of a demon for his own selfish benefit and to make himself seem great.
The way you could tell the difference was through the followers of the miracle-worker. Did they become better and more holy people because of the miracles or did they just form a cult that benefited only themselves.
Hierocles had argued the latter, Eusebius argues the former in all his works.
Both the Testimonium Flavianum and the Church History can be seen as attempts at proving that Hierocles and Diocletian were wrong about Jesus. He was a divine man as can be seen by the character of his followers. He needed to convince the Emperor Constantine of this. Therefore all his work is dedicated to proving that the behavior of his followers (apostles and the real Church they established) were the work of good, moral and holy men.
Eusebius’ TF encapsulates this view in a single paragraph:
Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.
Thus Josephus just says two things about Jesus:
1. He was a miracle worker.
2. He was a divine man which is proved by
- 1)his fulfilling prophesy and
- 2)his followers being good and faithful.
It is hard not to see this as being 100% the work and thought of Eusebius.
It only makes sense when seen as part of Eusebius’ lifelong attack on Hierocles’ proposition that Jesus was a bad (evil) wizard.
It should be noted that Eusebius ended his work against Hierocles with a blistering attack against the idea of fate.
but for the motives on which we act the responsibility lies not with destiny nor fate, nor with necessity. It lies with him who makes the choice, and God is not to be blamed. If therefore anyone is so foolhardy as to controvert the fact of our responsibility, let him be duly exposed; and let him openly proclaim that lie is an atheist, seeing that he does not recognise either providence or God or anything else except the Fates and necessity. And let him bare-headed enumerate the consequences of these doctrines, let him cease to call anyone wise or foolish, just or unjust, virtuous or vicious, or charlatan ; let him deny that anyone is divine in our humanity, that there is any philosophy, any education, in a word any art of any kind, or science, let him not call anyone else by nature good or evil, but admit that everything whatever is whirled round in an eddy of necessity by the spindles of the Fates.
Eusebius firmly rejects the idea of fate in this work.
Ironically, Eusebius will devote his life to proving fate as he tries to prove that Jesus fulfilled Jewish prophesies. One can propose that the Diocletian Persecutions changed his mind about fate. Eusebius argues the opposite of what he claims about fate in the rest of his works. Instead of arguing that talk about fulfillment of prophesy and fate is a sign of atheism and charlatanism, he will argue that it is proof of Jesus being a divine man. The persecutions scared him into accepting fate and prophecy as a sign of the divine man instead of a wizard.