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Eusebius, Bishop of Vercellae

Wace's Dictionary of Early Christian Biography

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Eusebius (93) , St., bp. of Vercellae (Vercelli), known for his zeal and sufferings in the cause of orthodoxy. He was born in Sardinia, ordained a "reader" at Rome, and in 340 consecrated bp. of Vercelli. St. Ambrose, in a letter to the church there (Ep. 63), especially commends him as the first Western bishop who joined monastic discipline with the discharge of episcopal duties. He took several of his clergy to live with him, and adopted a kind of monastic rule for their daily life. In 354 (Jaffé, Reg. Pontif. p. 15) he was asked by Liberius, bp. of Rome, to go with Lucifer of Cagliari and others to Constantius, to suggest the summoning of a council on the disputes between the Arians and the orthodox. The council was held in the next year at Milan. At first Eusebius absented himself, but ultimately yielded to the united solicitations of the Arian party, of Lucifer and Pancratius, the orthodox delegates of Liberius, and of the emperor. The proceedings were somewhat disorderly, and the action of the bp. of Milan was undecided. The practical question was whether the bishops present should sign a condemnation of Athanasius. Eusebius was so peremptory in refusing as to excite the anger of the Arianizing emperor, who banished him, together with some priests and deacons, to Scythopolis in Syria. Patrophilus, a leading Arian, was bp. there, and Eusebius calls him his "jailer." During his confinement here, two messengers arrived with money and assurances of goodwill from the churches of Vercelli and neighbourhood. In his reply Eusebius gave full particulars of his annoying treatment at Scythopolis. He was a troublesome prisoner, having twice all but starved himself to death because he would not accept provisions from Arian hands. After a while he was removed to Cappadocia, and thence to Egypt. From the Thebaid in Egypt he wrote to Gregory, bp. of Elvira in Spain, praising his anti-Arian constancy. Julian, succeeding Constantius in 361, permitted all banished bishops to return. Eusebius went to Alexandria to consult with Athanasius. The two bishops convoked a council in 362 at Alexandria. One of its objects was to end a schism at Antioch, and after it was over Eusebius went thither to bear a synodal letter or "tome" from the council to the Antiochenes. But Lucifer of Cagliari had preceded him and aggravated the schism by the hasty consecration of Paulinus as a rival bishop; and Eusebius immediately withdrew from Antioch. [See Meletius: Paulinus (6).] Lucifer renounced communion with Eusebius and with all who, in accordance with the decree of the Alexandrian council, were willing to receive back bishops who repented their connexion with Arian heresy. Leaving Antioch, Eusebius visited Eastern churches to confirm them in the orthodox faith. Thence he passed into Illyria, and so to Italy, which, in the words of Jerome, "put off its mourning on Eusebius's return." He now joined the zealous Hilary of Poictiers in endeavours to re-establish orthodoxy in the West. With this view they stirred up opposition to the Arianizing Auxentius, bp. of Milan, but were foiled by his profession of orthodoxy. This was in 364; nothing more is recorded of Eusebius until his death, placed by Jerome in 371.

His extant writings are three letters: one a brief reply to Constantius, that he would attend the council at Milan, but would do there whatever should seem to him right and according to the will of God; and the two to the church at Vercelli and to Gregory of Elvira. They are in Galland, Bibl. Patrum , and Migne, Patr. Lat. t. xii. Jerome says that Eusebius translated, omitting what was heterodox, the commentaries on the Psalms by his namesake of Caesarea; and also names him, with Hilary of Poictiers, as a translator of Origen and the same Eusebius; but nothing further is known of these translations. A famous Codex Vercellensis is thus described by Tregelles: "A MS. of the 4th cent., said to have been written by the hand of Eusebius bp. of Vercelli, where the codex is now preserved. The text is defective in several places, as might be supposed from its very great age. It was transcribed and pub. by Irici, at Milan, in 1748. . . . This MS. is probably the most valuable exemplar of the old Latin in its unaltered state." The chief authority for his Life is St. Jerome, who places him amongst his Viri Illustres , and alludes to him in his letters and elsewhere. There are several letters addressed to him by Liberius, and allusions to him in Athanasius. He is mentioned also by Rufinus, Theodoret, Sozomen, and Socrates. The Sermones relating to him among the works of Ambrose are admittedly spurious. In the Journ. of Theol. Studies , vol. i. p. 126, Mr. C. H. Turner raised the two questions whether Eusebius of Vercelli was the author of the Seven Books on the Trinity by the Pseudo-Vigilius of Thapsus, and whether he could have been the author of Quicunque Vult; and subsequently in the same vol. the Rev. A. E. Burn offered proof that Eusebius was the author of the work of Pseudo-Vigilius, but that there are strong reasons against supposing that he could have written Quicunque , although he says the latter theory throws new light on the history of the theological terms used in the creed.


Bibliography Information
Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Eusebius, Bishop of Vercellae'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography.​dictionaries/​eng/​hwd/​e/eusebius-bishop-of-vercellae.html. 1911.