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Preparation for the Gospel-Demonstration of the Gospel also known as “Praeparatio evangelica”, “Demonstratio Evangelica” Alexopoulos, Lampros


The “Praeparatio Evangelica” and the “Demonstratio Evangelica” of Eusebius of Caesarea are two parts of a single treatise that was apparently the most comprehensive apologetic and polemical work written in the early Christian era. The text attempts to prove the excellence of Christianity over every pagan religion and philosophy, on the one hand. On the other, it focuses on Christianity's relationship to Judaism as the fulfillment of biblical prophecies. The “Praeparatio Evangelica” consists of fifteen books which have been completely preserved, while the “Demonstratio Evangelica” comprised twenty, of which only the first ten have survived. Both works are addressed to the same audience, that is, new Christians of Gentile origin, and curious, educated pagans willing to learn about Christianity. Christian apologists had to fight against the claim that Christianity was a danger to the state, a crime against the official cult and religion and even against the Emperor himself. They fought for their legal and moral right to exist. Emphasizing the superiority of Christian morality and decency over the corrupt and degenerate social mores of the pagans, Christian apologists leveled against them the very same accusations which the pagans had used against Christianity. The apologists sought to weaken anti-Christian bias and to underline the superiority of Christianity over other religions and cults. Their attempt explains the often repeated claim that the Christian faith played a major role in maintaining world order, the status of the Emperor and the integrity of state and society. According to the apologists, a rational defense of the faith was necessary for the establishment of the right of the Christians to exist. Along with their effort to expose the absurdity and corruption of pagan religion, mythology and social norms, the apologists offered proof that only Christianity possessed a true understanding of God and of the universe. In this sense, the “Praeparatio Evangelica” is a quite interesting work, not so much because of its polemical content, but because of the abundance of its citations from the now lost works of ancient authors. Eusebius studded the “Praeparatio Evangelica” with many fragments from historians and philosophers, which are nowhere else preserved. The “Praeparatio Evangelica” preserves Pyrrho's translation of the Buddhist three marks of existence, upon which Pyrrho based Pyrrhonism; the text also provides a summary of the writings of the Phoenician priest Sanchuniathon, of which the accuracy has been shown by the mythological accounts found on the Ugaritic tables; the account of Diodorus Siculus on the wondrous voyage of Euhemerus to the island of Panchaea, where Euhemerus purports to have found the true history of the gods; it preserves fragments from the writings of the neoplatonic philosopher Atticus. There are no quotes from comedy, tragedy, or lyric poetry, but there are references to all the works of Plato and to an extensive range of later philosophic works, largely from Middle Platonists from Philo to the late 2nd century, as well as several more fragments from now lost works. The author of the text, Eusebius of Caesarea, c. 260/265–339, also known as Eusebius Pamphilus, was historian of Christianity, exegete, and Christian polemicist. He became the bishop of Caesarea Maritima, were he was born, in the Roman province of Syria Palaestina in around 314. He composed the texts in question between 313 and 324 CE, as apologetic works for the practice of verbal confrontation with Greeks and Jews. He conceived his apologetic work with a threefold purpose: To shatter the foundations of pagan religion and philosophy; To demonstrate that the Hebrew religion and philosophy are superior in every way to pagan culture; And to explain how Christianity diverges from Judaism and is thereby superior. The first part of the text, the “Praeparatio Evangelica” attempts to prove the superiority of Christianity by criticizing pagan religion and philosophy. The second part, the “Demonstratio Evangelica”, was intended to prove the validity of Christianity and the Gospel as the fulfillment of ancient prophecies. This could happen only after the reader of pagan origin had received suitable “preparation”, that is, the preparation for the presentation-demonstration of the Gospel. Hence, the “Praeparatio Evangelica” treats subjects familiar to the educated pagan, such as religion, mythology, philosophy, cosmology, theology, and ethics. At the “Demonstratio Evangelica” Eusebius proceeds to deal with particular problems that Christian belief presented to the educated pagan, such as the Son of God or the Logos, the incarnation, virgin birth, passion, crucifixion and resurrection.

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