Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series II/Volume I/Church History of Eusebius/Book II/Chapter 14
Chapter XIV.—The Preaching of the Apostle Peter in Rome.
1. The evil power, who hates all that is good and plots against the salvation of men, constituted Simon at that time the father and author of such wickedness, as if to make him a mighty antagonist of the great, inspired apostles of our Saviour.
2. For that divine and celestial grace which co-operates with its ministers, by their appearance and presence, quickly extinguished the kindled flame of evil, and humbled and cast down through them “every high thing that exalted itself against the knowledge of God.”
3. Wherefore neither the conspiracy of Simon nor that of any of the others who arose at that period could accomplish anything in those apostolic times. For everything was conquered and subdued by the splendors of the truth and by the divine word itself which had but lately begun to shine from heaven upon men, and which was then flourishing upon earth, and dwelling in the apostles themselves.
4. Immediately the above-mentioned impostor was smitten in the eyes of his mind by a divine and miraculous flash, and after the evil deeds done by him had been first detected by the apostle Peter in Judea, he fled and made a great journey across the sea from the East to the West, thinking that only thus could he live according to his mind.
5. And coming to the city of Rome, by the mighty co-operation of that power which was lying in wait there, he was in a short time so successful in his undertaking that those who dwelt there honored him as a god by the erection of a statue.
6. But this did not last long. For immediately, during the reign of Claudius, the all-good and gracious Providence, which watches over all things, led Peter, that strongest and greatest of the apostles, and the one who on account of his virtue was the speaker for all the others, to Rome against this great corrupter of life. He like a noble commander of God, clad in divine armor, carried the costly merchandise of the light of the understanding from the East to those who dwelt in the West, proclaiming the light itself, and the word which brings salvation to souls, and preaching the kingdom of heaven.
- See the previous chapter, note 1.
- See chap. 1, note 25.
- 2 Cor. x. 5.
- The significance of the word “immediately” as employed here is somewhat dark. There is no event described in the preceding context with which it can be connected. I am tempted to think that Eusebius may have been using at this point some unknown source and that the word “immediately” refers to an encounter which Simon had had with Peter (perhaps his Cæsarean discussion, mentioned in the Clementines), of which an account was given in the document employed by Eusebius. The figure employed here is most remarkable.
- Acts viii. 9 sqq. This occurred in Samaria, not in Judea proper, but Eusebius evidently uses the word “Judea” in a wide sense, to indicate the Roman province of Judea, which included also Samaria. It is not impossible, especially if Eusebius is quoting here from a written source, that some other encounter of Simon and Peter is referred to. Such a one e.g. as is mentioned in the Apostolic Constitutions, VI. 8.
- Rome was a great gathering place of heretics and schismatics. They were all attracted thither by the opportunities for propagandism which the city afforded, and therefore Eusebius, with his transcendental conception of heresy, naturally makes it the especial seat of the devil.
- See above, chap. 13, note 11.
- Upon the historic truth of Peter’s visit to Rome, see below, chap. 25, note 7. Although we may accept it as certain that he did visit Rome, and that he met his death there, it is no less certain that he did not reach there until late in the reign of Nero. The tradition that he was for twenty-five years bishop of Rome is first recorded by Jerome (de vir. ill. c. 1), and since his time has been almost universally accepted in the Roman Catholic Church, though in recent years many more candid scholars of that communion acknowledge that so long an episcopate there is a fiction. The tradition undoubtedly took its rise from the statement of Justin Martyr (quoted in the previous chapter) that Simon Magus came to Rome during the reign of Claudius. Tradition, in the time of Eusebius, commonly connected the Roman visits of Simon and of Peter; and consequently Eusebius, accepting the earlier date for Simon’s arrival in Rome, quite naturally assumed also the same date for Peter’s arrival there, although Justin does not mention Peter in connection with Simon in the passage which Eusebius quotes. The assumption that Peter took up his residence in Rome during the reign of Claudius contradicts all that we know of Peter’s later life from the New Testament and from other early writers. In 44 a.d. he was in Jerusalem (according to Acts xii. 3); in 51 he was again there (according to Acts xv.); and a little later in Antioch (according to Gal. i. 11 sq.). Moreover, at some time during his life he labored in various provinces in Asia Minor, as we learn from his first epistle, and probably wrote that epistle from Babylon on the Euphrates (see chap. 15, note 7). At any rate, he cannot have been in Rome when Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans (57 or 58 a.d.), for no mention is made of him among the brethren to whom greetings are sent. Nor can he have been there when Paul wrote from Rome during his captivity (61 or 62 to 63 or 64 a.d.). We have, in fact, no trace of him in Rome, except the extra-Biblical but well-founded tradition (see chap. 25, note 7) that he met his death there. We may assume, then, that he did not reach Rome at any rate until shortly before his death; that is, shortly before the summer of 64 a.d. As most of the accounts put Simon Magus’ visit to Rome in the reign of Nero (see above, chap. 13, note 9), so they make him follow Peter thither (as he had followed him everywhere, opposing and attacking him), instead of precede him, as Eusebius does. Eusebius follows Justin in giving the earlier date for Simon’s visit to Rome; but he goes beyond Justin in recording his encounter there with Peter, which neither Justin nor Irenæus mentions. The earlier date for Simon’s visit is undoubtedly that given by the oldest tradition. Afterward, when Peter and Paul were so prominently connected with the reign of Nero, the visit of Simon was postponed to synchronize with the presence of the two apostles in Rome. A report of Simon’s meeting with Peter in Rome is given first by Hippolytus (VI. 15); afterward by Arnobius (II. 12), who does not describe the meeting; by the Ap. Const., the Clementine Recognitions and Homilies, and the Acts of the Apostles Peter and Paul. It is impossible to tell from what source Eusebius drew his information. Neither Justin, Irenæus, nor Tertullian mentions it. Hippolytus and Arnobius and the App. Const. give too much, as they give accounts of his death, which Eusebius does not follow. As to this, it might, however, be said that these accounts are so conflicting that Eusebius may have omitted them entirely, while yet recording the meeting. Still, if he had read Hippolytus, he could hardly have omitted entirely his interesting account. Arnobius and Tertullian, who wrote in Latin, he did not read, and the Clementines were probably too late for him; at any rate, they cannot have been the source of his account, which differs entirely from theirs. It is highly probable, therefore, that he followed Justin and Irenæus as far as they go, and that he recorded the meeting with Peter in Rome as a fact commonly accepted in his time, and one for which he needed no written authority; or it is possible that he had another source, unknown to us, as suggested above (note 4).
- A most amazing mixture of metaphors. This sentence furnishes an excellent illustration of Eusebius’ rhetorical style.