Continuing in this series, the historian and Bishop, Eusebius of Caesarea, discusses a number of important historical events which the Scriptures corroborate as the fulfillment of Scriptural prophecies.
First, Eusebius begins by touching upon the tribulation of those in Jerusalem under the reign of Nero Caesar, a topic which he will resume at the end of this section quoted below. Second, he discusses Paul's arrest and transportation from Judea to Rome for criminal allegations, aided by the anti-Christian Jewish authorities as recorded in the book of Acts. Then Eusebius moves on to the martyrdom of James, and how that evinces more of God's judgment upon the corrupt Jewish authorities in Jerusalem. He speaks of those things that "happened to the Jews in requital for James the Righteous," which culminated in 70 A.D. and the destruction of Jerusalem.
In the background of this, Eusebius has very specific prophecies of Jesus and his apostles in mind. Most importantly, he has in mind Matthew 10 and 24, as well as Luke 21, as will be shown explicitly on this blog in future posts.
On pages 91-100 of his Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius writes:
Whilst Claudius held the government of the empire, it happened about the festival of the passover, that so great a sedition and disturbance took place at Jerusalem, that thirty thousand Jews perished of those alone who were crowded out of the gates of the temple, and thus trodden to death by one another. Thus the festival became a season of mourning and weeping to the whole nation and every family. This is almost literally the account given by Josephus. But Claudius appointed Agrippa, the son of Agrippa, king of the Jews, having deputed Felix procurator of all Samaria and Galilee, and also of the region situated beyond Jordan. He died after a reign of thirteen years and eight months, leaving Nero as his successor in the empire.Josephus, in the twentieth book of his Antiquities, relates the sedition of the priests, which happened whilst Felix was governor of Judea, under the reign of Nero, in the following words:
“There arose also a sedition between the chief priests on the one hand, and the priests and the leaders of the people at Jerusalem on the other. Each one of them forming collections of the most daring and disaffected, became a leader, and when these met they encountered each other with invectives and stones. Amid these disturbances there was no one that would interpose to rebuke them, but all was done with the greatest licentiousness, as in a state destitute of a ruler. So great also, was the shamelessness and audacity of the chief priests, that they dared to send forth their servants to the barns, to seize the tithes due to the priests; and thus it happened that those of the priests that were destitute, saw themselves perishing for want. Thus did the violence of the factions prevail over all manner of justice.”
The same author again relates, that about the same time there sprung up a certain species of robbers at Jerusalem, “who,” says he,
“in broad day-light, and in the midst of the city, slew those whom they met; but particularly at festivals, mixed with the multitude, and with short swords concealed under their garments, stabbed the more distinguished of the people. When these fell, the very murderers themselves took part in expressing their indignation with the bystanders, and thus by the credit which they had with all, they were not detected.”
And first, he says, that the high priest Jonathan was slaughtered by them; and after him, many were slain from day to day, so that the alarm itself was more oppressive than the very evils with which they were assailed; whilst every one was in expectation of death, as in the midst of battle.Next in order, after other matters, he proceeds in his narration.
“But the Jews were afflicted with an evil greater than these, by the Egyptian impostor. Having come into the country, and assuming the authority of a prophet, he collected about thirty thousand that were seduced by him. He then led them forth from the desert to the Mount of Olives,1 determining to enter Jerusalem by force, and after subduing the Roman garrison, to seize the government of the people, using his followers as body guards. But Felix anticipated his attack by going out to meet him with the Roman military, and all the people joined in the defence; so that when the battle was fought, the Egyptian fled with a few, and the most of his followers were either destroyed or captured.”
This account is likewise given by Josephus in the second book of his history; and it is worth while to subjoin to this account respecting the Egyptian, that which is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. It was there said to Paul, by the centurion under Felix, when the multitude of the Jews raised a sedition against the apostle, “Art thou not indeed that selfsame Egyptian that excited and led away the thirty thousand assassins into the desert?” Such were the events that happened under Felix.Festus was sent by Nero as successor to Felix. Under him, Paul, after having pleaded his cause, was sent a prisoner to Rome. But Aristarchus was his companion, whom he also somewhere in his epistles calls his fellow-prisoner; and here Luke, that wrote the Acts of the Apostles, after showing that Paul passed two whole years at Rome as a prisoner at large, and that he preached the gospel without restraint, brings his history to a close. After pleading his cause, he is said to have been sent again upon the ministry of preaching, and after a second visit to the city, that he finished his life with martyrdom. Whilst he was a prisoner, he wrote his second epistle to Timothy, in which he both mentions his first defence and his impending death. Hear, on these points, his own testimony respecting himself.
“In my former defence no one was present with me, but all deserted me. May it not be laid to their charge. But the Lord was with me, and strengthened me, that through me the preaching of the gospel might be fulfilled, and all the nations might hear it. And I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth.”
He plainly intimates in these words, “On the former occasion he was rescued from the lion’s mouth, that the preaching of the gospel might be accomplished,” that it was Nero to which he referred by this expression, as is probable on account of his cruelty. Therefore he did not subsequently subjoin any such expression as, “he will rescue me from the lion’s mouth,” for he saw in spirit how near his approaching death was. Hence, after the expression, “and I was rescued from the lion’s mouth,” this also, “the Lord will rescue me from every evil work, and will save me unto his heavenly kingdom,” indicating the martyrdom that he would soon suffer; which he more clearly expresses in the same epistle, “for I am already poured out, and the time of my departure is at hand.” And indeed, in this second epistle to Timothy, he shows that Luke alone was with him when he wrote, but at his former defence not even he. Whence, it is probable, that Luke wrote his Acts of the Apostles about that time, continuing his history down to the time that he was with Paul. Thus much we have said, to show that the martyrdom of the apostle did not take place at that period of his stay at Rome when Luke wrote his history. It is indeed probable, that as Nero was more disposed to mildness in the beginning, the defence of the apostle’s doctrine would by him be more easily received; but as he advanced to such criminal excesses as to disregard all right, the apostles also, with others, experienced the effects of the measures pursued against them.The Jews, after Paul had appealed to Cæsar, and had been sent by Festus to Rome, frustrated in their hope of entrapping him by the snares they had laid, turned themselves against James, the brother of the Lord, to whom the episcopal seat at Jerusalem was committed by the apostles. The following were their nefarious measures also against him. Conducting him into a public place, they demanded that he should renounce the faith of Christ before all the people; but contrary to the sentiments of all, with a firm voice, and much beyond their expectation, he declared himself fully before the whole multitude, and confessed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, our Saviour and Lord. Unable to bear any longer the testimony of the man, who, on account of his elevated virtue and piety was deemed the most just of men, they seized the opportunity of licentiousness afforded by the prevailing anarchy, and slew him. For as Festus died about this time in Judea, the province was without a governor and head. But, as to the manner of James’s death, it has been already stated in the words of Clement, that he was thrown from a wing of the temple, and beaten to death with a club. Hegesippus, also, who flourished nearest the days of the apostles, in the fifth book of his Commentaries gives the most accurate account of him, thus:
“But James, the brother of the Lord, who, as there were many of this name, was surnamed the Just by all, from the days of our Lord until now, received the government of the church with the apostles. This apostle was consecrated from his mother’s womb. He drank neither wine nor fermented liquors, and abstained from animal food. A razor never came upon his head, he never anointed with oil, and never used a bath. He alone was allowed to enter the sanctuary. He never wore woollen, but linen garments. He was in the habit of entering the temple alone, and was often found upon his bended knees, and interceding for the forgiveness of the people; so that his knees became as hard as camels’, in consequence of his habitual supplication and kneeling before God. And indeed, on account of his exceeding great piety, he was called the Just, and Oblias, which signifies justice and protection of the people; as the prophets declare concerning him.
Some of the seven sects, therefore, of the people, mentioned by me above in my Commentaries, asked him what was the door to Jesus? and he answered, ‘that he was the Saviour.’ From which some believed that Jesus is the Christ. But the aforesaid sects did not believe either a resurrection, or that he was coming to give to every one according to his works; as many however, as did believe, did so on account of James. As there were many therefore of the rulers that believed, there arose a tumult among the Jews, Scribes, and Pharisees, saying that there was danger that the people would now expect Jesus as the Messiah. They came therefore together, and said to James, ‘We entreat thee, restrain the people, who are led astray after Jesus, as if he were the Christ. We entreat thee to persuade all that are coming to the feast of the passover rightly concerning Jesus; for we all have confidence in thee. For we and all the people bear thee testimony that thou art just, and thou respectest not persons. Persuade therefore the people not to be led astray by Jesus, for we and all the people have great confidence in thee. Stand therefore upon a wing of the temple, that thou mayest be conspicuous on high, and thy words may be easily heard by all the people; for all the tribes have come together on account of the passover, with some of the Gentiles also.’ The aforesaid Scribes and Pharisees, therefore, placed James upon a wing of the temple, and cried out to him, ‘O thou just man, whom we ought all to believe, since the people are led astray after Jesus that was crucified, declare to us what is the door to Jesus that was crucified.’ And he answered with a loud voice, ‘Why do ye ask me respecting Jesus the Son of Man? He is now sitting in the heavens, on the right hand of great Power, and is about to come on the clouds of heaven.’ And as many were confirmed, and glorified in this testimony of James, and said, Hosanna to the son of David, these same priests and Pharisees said to one another, ‘We have done badly in affording such testimony to Jesus, but let us go up and cast him down, that they may dread to believe in him.’ And they cried out, ‘Oh, oh, Justus himself is deceived,’ and they fulfilled that which is written in Isaiah,
‘Let us take away the just, because he is offensive to us; wherefore they shall eat the fruit of their doings’.2
Going up therefore, they cast down the just man, saying to one another, ‘Let us stone James the Just.’ And they began to stone him, as he did not die immediately when cast down; but turning round, he knelt down saying, ‘I entreat thee, O Lord God and Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ Thus they were stoning him, when one of the priests of the sons of Rechab, a son of the Rechabites, spoken of by Jeremiah the prophet, cried out saying, ‘Cease, what are you doing? Justus is praying for you.’ And one of them, a fuller, beat out the brains of Justus with the club that he used to beat out clothes. Thus he suffered martyrdom, and they buried him on the spot, where his tombstone is still remaining by the temple. He became a faithful witness, both to Jews and Greeks, that Jesus is Christ. Immediately after this, Vespasian invaded and took Judea.”
Such is the more ample testimony of Hegesippus, in which he fully coincides with Clement. So admirable a man indeed was James, and so celebrated among all for his justice, that even the wiser part of the Jews were of opinion that this was the cause of the immediate siege of Jerusalem, which happened to them for no other reason than the crime against him. Josephus also has not hesitated to superadd this testimony in his works. “These things,” says he,
“happened to the Jews to avenge James the Just, who was the brother of him that is called Christ, and whom the Jews had slain, notwithstanding his pre-eminent justice.”
The same writer also relates his death, in the twentieth book of his Antiquities, in the following words:
“But Cæsar having learned the death of Festus, sends Albinus as governor of Judea. But the younger Ananus, whom we mentioned before as obtaining the priesthood, was particularly rash and daring in his disposition. He was also of the sect of the Sadducees, which are the most unmerciful of all the Jews in the execution of judgment, as we have already shown. Ananus, therefore, being of this character, and supposing that he had a suitable opportunity, in consequence of the death of Festus, and Albinus being yet on the way, calls an assembly of the judges; and bringing thither the brother of Jesus who is called Christ, whose name was James, with some others, he presented an accusation against them, as if they had violated the law, and committed them to be stoned as criminals. But those of the city that seemed most moderate and most accurate in observing the law, were greatly offended at this, and secretly sent to the king, entreating him to send to Ananus with the request not to do these things, saying that he had not acted legally even before. Some also went out to meet him as he came from Alexandria, and inform him that it was not lawful for Ananus to summon the Sanhedrim without his knowledge. Albinus, induced by this account, writes to Ananus in a rage, and threatening that he would call him to an account. But king Agrippa, for the same reason, took from him the priesthood, after he had held it three months, and appointed Jesus the son of Dammæus his successor.”
These accounts are given respecting James, who is said to have written the First of the epistles general; but it is to be observed that it is considered spurious. Not many indeed of the ancients have mentioned it, and not even that called the epistle of Jude, which is also one of the seven called catholic epistles. Nevertheless we know, that these, with the rest, are publicly used in most of the churches.Nero was now in the eighth year of his reign, when Annianus succeeded the apostle and evangelist Mark in the administration of the church at Alexandria. He was a man distinguished for his piety, and admirable in every respect.
Nero now having the government firmly established under him, and henceforth plunging into nefarious projects, began to take up arms against that very religion which acknowledges the one Supreme God. To describe, indeed, the greatness of this man’s wickedness, is not compatible with our present object; and as there are many that have given his history in the most accurate narratives, every one may, at his pleasure, in these contemplate the grossness of his extraordinary madness. Under the influence of this, he did not proceed to destroy so many thousands with any calculation, but with such indiscriminate murder as not even to refrain from his nearest and dearest friends. His own mother and wife, with many others that were his near relatives, he killed like strangers and enemies, with various kinds of death. And, indeed, in addition to all his other crimes, this too was yet wanting to complete the catalogue, that he was the first of the emperors that displayed himself an enemy of piety towards the Deity. This fact is recorded by the Roman Tertullian, in language like the following:
“Examine your records. There you will find that Nero was the first that persecuted this doctrine, particularly then when after subduing all the east, he exercised his cruelty against all at Rome. Such is the man of whom we boast, as the leader in our punishment. For he that knows who he was, may know also that there could scarcely be any thing but what was great and good, condemned by Nero.”
Thus Nero publicly announcing himself as the chief enemy of God, was led on in his fury to slaughter the apostles. Paul is therefore said to have been beheaded at Rome, and Peter to have been crucified under him. And this account is confirmed by the fact, that the names of Peter and Paul still remain in the cemeteries of that city even to this day. But likewise, a certain ecclesiastical writer, Caius by name, who was born about the time of Zephyrinus bishop of Rome, disputing with Proclus the leader of the Phrygian sect, gives the following statement respecting the places where the earthly tabernacles of the aforesaid apostles are laid. “But I can show,” says he,
“the trophies of the apostles: for if you will go to the Vatican, or to the Ostian road, you will find the trophies of those who have laid the foundation of this church, and that both suffered martyrdom about the same time."
Dionysius bishop of Corinth bears the following testimony, in his discourse addressed to the Romans.
"Thus, likewise you, by means of this admonition, have mingled the flourishing seed that had been planted by Peter and Paul at Rome and Corinth. For both of these having planted us at Corinth, likewise instructed us; and having in like manner taught in Italy, they suffered martyrdom about the same time.”
This testimony I have superadded, in order that the truth of the history might be still more confirmed.
Josephus in his account of the great distresses that seized the Jewish nation, relates also, in his writings, that beside many others, vast numbers also of those that were of the first rank among the Jews, were scourged with rods, and nailed upon the cross at Jerusalem, by Florus. For he, happened to be procurator of Judea at the commencement of the war, in the twelfth year of Nero’s reign. “Then,” says he,
“throughout all Syria a tremendous commotion seized upon the inhabitants, in consequence of the revolt of the Jews. Every where did the inhabitants of the cities destroy the Jews without mercy. So that you could see the cities filled with unburied corpses, and the dead bodies of the aged mixed with those of children, and women not even having the necessary covering of their bodies. The whole province, indeed, was filled with indescribable distresses. But greater still than the crimes already endured, was the anticipation of those that threatened.”
Such is the statement of Josephus, and such was the condition of the Jews at this time.3
1 In Matthew 24:4-6, Jesus refers to these events: "See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am the Messiah,' and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet."
2 Isaiah 3:10 LXX
3 Valesius. (1847). Life of Eusebius Pamphilus. In Parker S.E. (Trans.), An Ecclesiastical History to the 20th Year of the Reign of Constantine (pp. 91–100). London: Samuel Bagster and Sons.