Reading Eusebius as a Political Theologian: The Peterson-Schmitt Debate
Christian, Political, Theology
This paper will examine the place Eusebius of Caesarea played in the debate between erstwhile friends Carl Schmitt (1888-1985) and Erik Peterson (1890-1960) on the possibility and the propriety of a Christian political theology. Schmitt is well-known as the person who more than anyone re-introduced “political theology” into political and theological discourse. Peterson is well-known, at least among patristics scholars, for his monograph Monotheismus als politisches Problem (1935), denying such a thing as a Christian political theology was possible. For his part, Eusebius is of course known for his apologetic literature on behalf of Constantine and the politically accommodationist drift of his authorial corpus, for which Peterson excoriated him and Schmitt defended him. My paper will focus on Schmitt’s defense of Eusebius in his last book, Politische Theologie II: Die Legende von der Erledigung jeder politischen Theologie (1970), and will argue that Schmitt, who had none of Peterson’s philological or historical expertise, was nevertheless more attuned to enduring Christian challenges to read the signs of the times. The paper grows out of a book-length project on the reception history of Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History.