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The Post-Nicene Greek Fathers

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THE CHURCH HISTORIANS.

Eusebius so far exhausted the materials for the earlier history of the Church that his successors did not venture upon the same ground. Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret, the three historians next in rank to Eusebius, and who all wrote about A. D. 350, began their works where his history left off. Of the last of these, as well as of the Father of Church History himself, we have already spoken. In addition to the authors given below may be named Philip of Side, a friend of Chrysostom, who wrote a History of Christianity in thirty-six books, the loss of which has been no great calamity to the world; Basil, of Cilicia, who wrote three books of Ecclesiastical History, now lost; and Theodoras the Reader, who made a summary of Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret, which he continued in two books, also lost.

 

SOCRATES.

Of the three nearly contemporaneous writers above named, Socrates probably wrote first. Born and educated in Constantinople, he for some years practiced law in that city, but gave up his professional work to devote himself to ecclesiastical studies. His history, which is in seven books, and comes down to the year 445, evinces large research and good judgment, and, though containing some evident mistakes, is for the most part accurate. Its style is plain and simple, to adapt it, as the author says, to all classes of people. Much care is taken in the matter of dates, and recourse is had to original authorities, such as public records, pastoral letters, and acts of synods. A noticeable peculiarity of Socrates is the favor with which he always speaks of the Novatians, a predilection so strong that he has been thought by some to have belonged to that sect.

 

SOZOMEN.

This writer covers so nearly the same ground with Socrates that Valesius has not hesitated to say that one stole the materials of the other, and his opinion, as indeed the common one, is that Sozomen is the debtor. He, like Socrates, was a lawyer in Constantinople, but seems to have been a younger man, and to have continued his practice at the forum, which the other had abandoned to pursue his researches. His work is in nine books, the principal additions to what Socrates has related being in extended details in regard to monks and solitaries, and in his ninth book, which is devoted almost entirely to political history.

 

PHILOSTORGIUS.

A fourth work, covering the period from the beginning of the Arian to the beginning of the Nestorian controversy, was that of Philostorgius, written in the Arian interest. The work itself is lost, but we have an epitome of it by Photius, in which the orthodox fathers are handled with great severity. Though defending what may be called the rationalistic school of his day, Philostorgius was himself very credulous, and an ultra-supernatural-ist. Having spoken in his last book of certain remarkable earthquakes, he says that the circumstances prove that such things do not happen through natural causes, but that they are sent down upon mankind as scourges of the divine wrath, for the purpose of converting sinners and bringing them to repentance.

 

EVAGRIUS.

Evagrius, an advocate of Antioch, wrote near the close of the sixth century, and continued the histories of the preceding century. Beginning with the Nestorian heresy, he comes down to the year 594. The history, about equal in volume to that of Theodoret, is written in a good style Photius says with elegance and politeness. It gives much space, professedly, to the secular affairs of the period; but is earnest in its defense of orthodoxy, and makes frequent mention of prodigies and miracles.

 

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