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E00172: Eusebius of Caesarea recounts the martyrdom of *James (the Apostle, son of Zebedee, S00108) combining information from the Acts of the Apostles and the Hypotyposes of Clement of Alexandria (late 2nd c.). Account in his Ecclesiastical History, written in Greek in Palestine in 311/325.

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posted on 2014-11-13, 00:00 authored by robert
Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History 2.8.2-9.3

8. (2.) τὸν δὲ κατὰ Κλαύδιον λιμὸν ἐπισημηνάμενος ἐν ταῖς Πράξεσιν ὁ Λουκᾶς ἱστορήσας τε ὡς ἄρα διὰ Παύλου καὶ Βαρναβᾶ οἱ κατὰ Ἀντιόχειαν ἀδελφοὶ τοῖς κατὰ τὴν Ἰουδαίαν ἐξ ὧν ἕκαστος ηὐπόρει διαπεμψάμενοι εἴησαν, ἐπιφέρει λέγων· 9. (1.) «κατ’ ἐκεῖνον δὲ τὸν καιρόν, δῆλον δ’ ὅτι τὸν ἐπὶ Κλαυδίου, ἐπέβαλεν Ἡρῴδης ὁ βασιλεὺς τὰς χεῖρας κακῶσαί τινας τῶν ἀπὸ τῆς ἐκκλησίας, ἀνεῖλεν δὲ Ἰάκωβον τὸν ἀδελφὸν Ἰωάννου μαχαίρᾳ». (2.) περὶ τούτου δ’ ὁ Κλήμης τοῦ Ἰακώβου καὶ ἱστορίαν μνήμης ἀξίαν ἐν τῇ τῶν Ὑποτυπώσεων ἑβδόμῃ παρατίθεται ὡς ἂν ἐκ παραδόσεως τῶν πρὸ αὐτοῦ, φάσκων ὅτι δὴ ὁ εἰσαγαγὼν αὐτὸν εἰς δικαστήριον, μαρτυρήσαντα αὐτὸν ἰδὼν κινηθείς, ὡμολόγησεν εἶναι καὶ αὐτὸς ἑαυτὸν Χριστιανόν. (3.) «συναπήχθησαν οὖν ἄμφω, φησίν, καὶ κατὰ τὴν ὁδὸν ἠξίωσεν ἀφεθῆναι αὐτῷ ὑπὸ τοῦ Ἰακώβου· ὁ δὲ ὀλίγον σκεψάμενος, εἰρήνη σοι, εἶπεν καὶ κατεφίλησεν αὐτόν. καὶ οὕτως ἀμφότεροι ὁμοῦ ἐκαρατομήθησαν».

8. (2.) 'Now Luke, after describing in the Acts the famine under Claudius, after setting forth how, by the intercession of Paul and Barnabas, the brethren in Antioch succoured those in Judea, each one according to his ability, adds the following: 9. (1.) "Now about that that time Herod the King stretched forth his hands to harm some of the church, and killed James the brother of John with the sword". (2.) On this James, Clement, in the seventh book of his Hypotyposes, relates a story worth mentioning: presumably from traditions of those who had lived before him, he says that the man that led him to the court was moved, as he saw him bearing his testimony, and confessed that he himself also was a Christian. (3.) "They were thus both," he says, "taken away together; and on the way he asked to receive forgiveness from James. And he, after considering for a little, said, 'Peace be with you', and kissed him. And thus they were both beheaded together".'

Text: Schwartz et al. 1999. Translation Efthymios Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

James the Apostle, son of Zebedee, ob. 1st c. : S00108

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region


Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Caesarea Maritima

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Caesarea Maritima

Major author/Major anonymous work

Eusebius of Caesarea

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Transmission, copying and reading saint-related texts


Eusebius lived in Caesarea Maritima in Palestine between c. AD 260 and 340. He was a pupil and friend of the martyred Christian intellectual Pamphilus. Under Constantine, he emerged as one of the most influential Christian figures of the Roman Empire, and was ordained bishop of Caesarea. Written between 311 and 325, Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History is the first literary work to employ the methodology and objectives of classical historiography – which, since Herodotus and Thucydides, had traditionally focused on military and political events – in a novel field, the history of the Christian community. The first paragraphs of the work outline its chronological framework and thematic range: it is a narrative of events in the life of the Christian community from the times of Christ and the Apostles to the times of Eusebius (c. AD 260-340); it records the leaders of the most important communities (i.e. successions of bishops in Alexandria, Antioch, Rome and Jerusalem); it records the most notable exponents of Christian doctrine and their works, and also the main heresies and their proponents; it finally records persecutions and people that suffered and were martyred during them. The Ecclesiastical History is mostly a synthesis of quotations and summaries from other sources, for which Eusebius often gives concrete references. Thus his work preserves excerpts from early Christian texts which do not survive any more in their full form. Eusebius’ source material is mostly Greek texts, originating from Christian communities in Anatolia, Syria, Palestine and Egypt. These areas constitute the main geographical range of his narrative, while his information about Christianity in the European provinces of the Roman Empire (except Rome) and North Africa is very limited. The text survives in several Greek manuscripts, in a Latin translation by Rufinus, and in Syriac and Armenian translations.


This passage captures an early moment in the development of a martyr’s legend and literature. One of the earliest martyrdoms of Christendom, the decapitation of James the Apostle, the son of Zebedee, is first mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. Eusebius refers to it here, combining information from the canonical text with a story typical of martyrial literature, derived from the lost book of the Hypotyposes of Clement of Alexandria (late 2nd century). The passage is also an interesting example of Eusebius’ historical methodology, as he uses the text of Acts in order to reach a chronology for the event. Thus the martyrdom of James is dated to the time after the famine of Syria under Claudius, which Orosius (7.6.12) places in AD 46/47. It is remarkable that Eusebius, although living and writing in Palestine, drew his information from Clement of Alexandria rather than from local sources or traditions in Jerusalem.


Edition: Schwartz, E., Mommsen, T., and Winkelmann, F., Eusebius Werke II: Die Kirchengeschichte. 3 vols. (Die Griechischen Christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte; Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1999). Translations: Lake, K., Oulton, J.E.L., and Lawlor, H.J., Eusebius of Caesarea: The Ecclesiastical History. 2 vols. (Loeb Classical Library 153; London and Cambridge, Mass: W. Heinemann and Harvard University Press, 1926). Williamson, G.A., and Louth, A., Eusebius: The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine (London: Penguin, 1989). Further reading: Chesnut, G. The First Christian Histories: Eusebius, Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret, and Evagrius. Atlanta: Mercer University, 1986.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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