Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series II/Volume I/Church History of Eusebius/Preface
The present translation of the Church History of Eusebius has been made from Heinichen’s second edition of the Greek text, but variant readings have been adopted without hesitation whenever they have approved themselves to my judgment. In all such cases the variation from Heinichen’s text has been indicated in the notes. A simple revision of Crusè’s English version was originally proposed, but a brief examination of it was sufficient to convince me that a satisfactory revision would be an almost hopeless task, and that nothing short of a new and independent translation ought to be undertaken. In the preparation of that translation, invaluable assistance has been rendered by my father, the Rev. Joseph N. McGiffert, D.D., for whose help and counsel I desire thus publicly to give expression to my profound gratitude. The entire translation has been examined by him and owes much to his timely suggestions and criticisms; while the translation itself of a considerable portion of the work (Bks. V.–VIII. and the Martyrs of Palestine) is from his hand. The part thus rendered by him I have carefully revised for the purpose of securing uniformity in style and expression throughout the entire work, and I therefore hold myself alone responsible for it as well as for the earlier and later books. As to the principle upon which the translation has been made, little need be said. The constant endeavor has been to reproduce as nearly as possible, both the substance and form of the original, and in view of the peculiar need of accuracy in such a work as the present, it has seemed better in doubtful cases to run the risk of erring in the direction of over-literalness rather than in that of undue license.
A word of explanation in regard to the notes which accompany the text may not be out of place. In view of the popular character of the series of which the present volume forms a part, it seemed important that the notes should contain much supplementary information in regard to persons, places, and events mentioned in the text which might be quite superfluous to the professional historian as well as to the student enjoying access to libraries rich in historical and bibliographical material, and I have therefore not felt justified in confining myself to such questions as might interest only the critical scholar. Requested by the general editor to make the work in some sense a general history of, or historical commentary upon, the first three centuries of the Christian Church, I have ventured to devote considerable space to a fuller presentation of various subjects but briefly touched upon or merely referred to by Eusebius. At the same time my chief endeavor has been, by a careful study of difficult and disputed points, to do all that I could for their elucidation, and thus to perform as faithfully as possible the paramount duty of a commentator. The number and fulness of the notes needed in such a work must of course be matter of dispute, but annoyed as I have repeatedly been by the fragmentary character of the annotations in the existing editions of the work, I have been anxious to avoid that defect, and have therefore passed by no passage which seemed to me to need discussion, nor consciously evaded any difficulty. Working with historical students constantly in mind I have felt it due to them to fortify all my statements by references to the authorities upon which they have been based, and to indicate at the same time with sufficient fullness the sources whose examination a fuller investigation of the subject on their part might render necessary. The modern works which have been most helpful are mentioned in the notes, but I cannot in justice refrain from making especial reference at this point to Smith and Wace’s Dictionary of Christian Biography which has been constantly at my side, and to the first and second volumes of Schaff’s Church History, whose bibliographies have been especially serviceable. Many of Valesius’ notes have been found very suggestive and must always remain valuable in spite of the great advance made in historical knowledge since his day. For the commentary of Heinichen less can be said. Richardson’s Bibliographical Synopsis, published as a supplement to the Ante-Nicene Library, did not come into my hands until the greater part of the work was completed. In the preparation of the notes upon the latter portion it proved helpful, and its existence has enabled me throughout the work to omit extended lists of books which it would otherwise have been necessary to give.
It was my privilege some three years ago to study portions of the fourth and fifth books of Eusebius’ Church History with Professor Adolf Harnack in his Seminar at Marburg. Especial thanks are due for the help and inspiration gained from that eminent scholar, and for the light thrown by him upon many difficult passages in those portions of the work.
It gives me pleasure also to express my obligation to Dr. Isaac G. Hall, of New York, and to Dr. E. C. Richardson, of Hartford, for information furnished by them in regard to certain editions of the History, also to the Rev. Charles R. Gillett, Librarian of Union Theological Seminary, and to the Rev. J. H. Dulles, Librarian of Princeton Theological Seminary, for their kindness in granting me the privileges of the libraries under their charge, and for their unfailing courtesy shown me in many ways. To Mr. James McDonald, of Shelbyville, Ky., my thanks are due for his translation of the Testimonies for and against Eusebius, printed at the close of the Prolegomena, and to Mr. F. E. Moore, of New Albany, Ind., for assistance rendered in connection with the preparation of the indexes.
Arthur Cushman McGiffert.
Lane Theological Seminary,
April 15, 1890.