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E00273: Eusebius of Caesarea, in his Ecclesiastical History, recounts that, in the 210s, *Alexandros (bishop and martyr of Jerusalem, S00149) was miraculously designated in dream visions to serve as assistant bishop to *Narkissos (bishop of Jerusalem, S00148). Written in Greek in Palestine, 311/325.

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posted on 2015-02-03, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History 6.11.1-2

(1.) καὶ δὴ μηκέθ’ οἵου τε ὄντος λειτουργεῖν διὰ λιπαρὸν γῆρας, τὸν εἰρημένον Ἀλέξανδρον, ἐπίσκοπον ἑτέρας ὑπάρχοντα παροικίας, οἰκονομία θεοῦ ἐπὶ τὴν ἅμα τῷ Ναρκίσσῳ λειτουργίαν ἐκάλει κατὰ ἀποκάλυψιν νύκτωρ αὐτῷ δι’ ὁράματος φανεῖσαν. (2.) ταύτῃ δ’ οὖν, ὡς κατά τι θεοπρόπιον, ἐκ τῆς Καππαδοκῶν γῆς, ἔνθα τὸ πρῶτον τῆς ἐπισκοπῆς ἠξίωτο, τὴν πορείαν ἐπὶ τὰ Ἱεροσόλυμα εὐχῆς καὶ τῶν τόπων ἱστορίας ἕνεκεν πεποιημένον φιλοφρονέστατα οἱ τῇδε ὑπολαβόντες οὐκέτ’ οἴκαδε αὐτῷ παλινοστεῖν ἐπιτρέπουσιν καθ’ ἑτέραν ἀποκάλυψιν καὶ αὐτοῖς νύκτωρ ὀφθεῖσαν μίαν τε φωνὴν σαφεστάτην τοῖς μάλιστα αὐτῶν σπουδαίοις χρήσασαν· ἐδήλου γὰρ προελθόντας ἔξω πυλῶν τὸν ἐκ θεοῦ προωρισμένον αὐτοῖς ἐπίσκοπον ὑποδέξασθαι· τοῦτο δὲ πράξαντες, μετὰ κοινῆς τῶν ἐπισκόπων, οἳ τὰς πέριξ διεῖπον ἐκκλησίας, γνώμης ἐπάναγκες αὐτὸν παραμένειν βιάζονται.

'(1.) Now, when he [Narkissos] was no longer able to perform his ministry due to great age, God’s dispensation called the above-mentioned Alexandros, who was then bishop of another community, to the ministry alongside Narkissos, by a revelation which appeared to him in a dream vision. (2.) So then, as if driven by some oracle, he journeyed from the land of Cappadocia, where he was first honoured with the episcopate, to Jerusalem, in order to pray and visit the [holy] places. The locals received him most cordially, and did not permit him to return home, because another revelation had appeared to them in a dream, uttering the same and most clear message to the most zealous among them: it instructed them namely to come out of the gates, and to welcome the man that was designated by God to be their bishop. And so they did, and, by the consent of the bishops who administered the neighbouring churches, they compelled him to stay, in spite of his own will.'

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

History

Evidence ID

E00273

Saint Name

Alexandros, martyred bishop of Jerusalem, ob. 250 : S00149

Saint Name in Source

Ἀλέξανδρος

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)

Language

  • Greek

Evidence not before

311

Evidence not after

325

Activity not before

210

Activity not after

325

Place of Evidence - Region

Palestine

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

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Revelation of hidden knowledge (past, present and future) Other specified miracle Miraculous appointment to office

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Other lay individuals/ people

Source

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 in their full form. Eusebius’ source material consists mostly of 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 western provinces of the Roman Empire (except Rome) is very limited. The text survives in several Greek manuscripts, in a Latin translation by Rufinus, and in Syriac and Armenian translations.

Discussion

The story of Alexandros of Jerusalem is of major interest as an early example of the preserving the memory of bishops as holy men. One of the main themes discussed by Eusebius in the Ecclesiastical History is the successions of bishops at the main catholic communities of the Roman world, which he follows systematically for Jerusalem, Caesarea Maritima, Alexandria, Antioch and Rome, and less systematically for Ephesus, Corinth and other cities. His focus on episcopal successions parallels his interest in martyrdoms, which Eusebius understood as the two axes of the existence and development of the Church through history. Eusebius recognises the working of God through the life and acts of bishops no less than through the feats of martyrs. The bishop of Jerusalem Alexandros died as a martyr, but, interestingly, it is the story of his miraculous election to the episcopate of Jerusalem that was preserved by Eusebius. Alongside the election of *Fabianus as bishop of Rome (E00266), also recorded by Eusebius, this is the earliest instance of the hagiographical topos of miraculous elections of bishops. Special devotion to the memory of holy bishops is attested at both Jerusalem and Rome in the early 4th century(see E00266, E00272), according to Eusebius, and one may plausibly assume that they were indeed early centres of the development of the cult of this particular category of saints. Stories like that of Alexandros, however, are not common in the Ecclesiastical History and it is unknown whether they evolved into more than oral legends – Eusebius seems to have obtained this story through oral transmission. The earliest and most extensive work of hagiography concerning a holy bishop is probably the 3rd or 4th century Life of Polycarp of Smyrna which describes the life and miracles of *Polycarp, omitting his martyrdom. Themes known from Eusebius’ passages about holy bishops, such as *Narkissos and *Alexandros of Jerusalem, and *Fabianus of Rome (miraculous election, various miracles, ascetic life), feature centrally in the narrative of the Life of Polycarp, setting a model for this particular hagiographical category (see E00453).

Bibliography

Edition: Schwartz, E., Mommsen, T., and Winkelmann, F., Eusebius Werke II: Die Kirchengeschichte. 3 vols (Die Griechischen Christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte NF 6/1-3; 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; London and Cambridge, MA: 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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