This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Book 9, chapter 1.
Notes and Commentary:
This opening chapter of book 9 describes the initial joy among Christians that met the announcement of the ending of the Diocletian persecution.
Eusebius begins by noting that Maximin “the tyrant of the East” and “monster of impiety” was not pleased with the order but only begrudgingly complied with it. In fact, he did not publish the imperial edict but only orally communicated to those under him.
An epistle, translated from its original Latin, from the prefect Sabinusis is cited. This noted announced the imperial decision to the provincial governors, stating that Christians were to be “free from molestation” and “from danger.”
Christians were then released from prisons and from the mines. The churches were thronged in every city with large assemblies, at which the pagans marveled, and many extolled their God to be true.
Those who has remained faithful continued in confidence. Those who had wavered “eagerly strove for their own healing.”
It is especially noted that the “noble champions of godliness” returned to their homes from the mines where they had been enslaved “proudly and joyously.” Crowds of men passed through the streets and marketplaces praising God with songs and psalms. Even those who had persecuted the believers rejoiced with them.
Eusebius provides an effusive description of the joy with which the Christians celebrated the end of the Diocletian persecution. The remaining antipathy of the tryant Maximin toward Christians, however, indicates the fact that there were still those who were hostile against them and foreshadows opposition that was still to come.