Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Eusebius, EH.7.31: Against Manichaeism

This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Book 7, chapter 31.

Notes and Commentary:

This short chapter briefly describes the gnostic Manichaean heresy which, Eusebius says, arose at this time (mid to late third century).

If we go back to EH 1.1 we see that Eusebius had stated at that time that his goal in this work was not only to present a history of the faithful orthodox teachers of the church, but also the heretical teachers who had ravaged the flock of Christ.

He begins his description of Mani, the leader of the Manichaeans, with a play on words, calling him a “madman” (maneis).

The language he uses in describing Mani is harsh and unsparing.

Mani is said to have had a “mental delusion, to have been “insane”, and to have been possessed by the devil. In mode of life, he was a “barbarian.”

Among his many doctrinal errors Mani is said to have attempted to pose as Christ, even choosing twelve disciples in imitation of Christ, while also making himself out to be the Paraclete, or Holy Spirit.

Eusebius notes that Mani “stitched together” his presumably dualistic false doctrine from the Persians and that he claimed to have “knowledge … falsely so called.” In closing he laments that the profane name of the Manichaeans was still on the lips of men in his day.


This brief chapter continues Eusebius’s task in the EH of compiling a catalogue of the heretical movements of the early years of Christianity by introducing and highlighting that of the Manichaean sect. He uses harsh and unsparing language in order to set a contrast of this false teaching with orthodoxy and to offer a warning to those tempted by this heresy.


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