Scripture and a Christian Empire
prophecy, Eusebius, Augustine, Donatism, military service, Judaism, empire, apocalyptic
The chapter examines the role of scriptural interpretation in both rationalizing and criticizing the rise of a Christian empire. Special attention is given to Eusebius of Caesarea and his grand vision of the providential union of Church and empire, key biblical elements of which are the discrediting of apocalyptic, the historical fulfilment of prophecy, and the supersession of Judaism. A ‘Eusebius consensus’ became widespread, even on the empire’s periphery, as shown in Syriac authors like Aphrahat and Ephrem. Augustine of Hippo created an alternative version that criticized key aspects of the consensus but retained the assumption of a religio-political establishment. Even the conspicuous dissent of Donatism is shown to have been reluctant to imagine a clean break with the empire. The last section of the chapter considers how the fourth-century legitimization of military service was justified on biblical grounds.
The Oxford Handbook on Early Christian Biblical Interpretation