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The Letter of Eusebius of Caesarea to the People of his Diocese

By Edited Sep 27, 2015 0 0

This document was created by Eusebius of Caesarea and was presented to his congregation at the conclusion of the great Synod, the Council of Nicaea in A.D 325.  The Council of Nicaea was called by the emperor Constantine I for the purpose of settling disagreements concerning the nature of Christ and to promote greater unity within the empire.  The author, Eusebius, wrote the letter so that his congregation may know the truth concerning some of the matters that were discussed in the council; one in particular being the nature of Christ. 

Eusebius himself was in attendance at this meeting and presented to the council a creed that his congregation used locally.  That creed and the version of the creed that the council adopted are both recorded in this letter.  The version of the creed that the council adopted became known as the Nicene Creed and this letter is one of the oldest recordings of this creed known to exist.

Eusebius could hardly be considered a neutral party in these proceedings as he and his congregation felt strongly about their opinions concerning the nature of Christ.  The main reason for calling the council was to settle a dispute that had risen because of the teaching of Arius. His teachings were not the majority opinion of all bishops but it was significant enough that this dispute would later be known as the “Arian Controversy.”  Eusebius was one of the bishops that were in disagreement with Arius.   His letter is written with wording that suggest that there were rumors spreading amongst the congregation that suggested that maybe Eusebius did not defend his position very strongly.  He writes his letter to set the record straight concerning the rumors and tells what he presented to the council and what things they were willing to compromise on as well as the reason they were willing to compromise.         

This letter that Eusebius wrote was not for his personal use as he was present for the events that he describes in the letter.  He wrote this letter for a large audience because he was writing to the people that he pastored in his congregation.

This document was meant to be a public document because it was written to his congregation to be read in front of them all.  He also had the understanding that this document would be circulated throughout the region, as letters commonly were treated at the time, and he would probably not know all those that might read it. 

Eusebius wrote this letter to inform his congregation of the events that took place during the Council of Nicaea and the things that were decided concerning the issues that were discussed.  According to Eusebius he was writing the letter so that his people would not be misinformed by “other sources” concerning what had taken place.  He recorded exactly the creed that he had presented to the council along with the revisions that the council had made so that there would be no confusion as to what was adopted by the council.  It would have been to the benefit of Eusebius to be honest about what took place at the council because there were many witnesses to the events.  His words could have easily been verified or proven wrong by some two hundred and fifty or by some estimates up to fifteen hundred other people that were in attendance.  

This document was written shortly after the time that the council took place in the year 325 AD.  This is one of the most significant documents that we have describing the council of Nicaea.  It is considered to be one of our most important authorities on the Council of Nicaea and it is the only document that we have that dates to the same year as the event.



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