The new title pretty much sums it up. Most older editions are called Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History. For those of us who know theology, we recognize that the big word in the middle there means “church.” Since this is so, it is natural to ask why the translators couldn’t simply write down “church”? We may never know the answer, but thankfully, in this new translation and edition, Paul Maier has done just that. It is not called Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, but rather Eusebius: The Church History. Much better, right?
And the rest of the book follows suit. In the introduction, Maier informs the reader that while he has tried to make a careful translation of everything Eusebius wrote, Eusebius was in desperate need of an editor. Most earlier editions slavishly translate everything Eusebius wrote, which makes for tedious and repetitive reading. In this edition, Paul Maier carefully edited Eusebius so that his ideas and information remain intact, but the paragraphs are more succinct and readable than the earlier English editions (pp. 18-19). I found this to be very helpful.
The book follows the original structure of Eusebius, which divides his history into ten books, beginning with the birth of Jesus and going all the way through the legalization of Christianity under Emperor Constantine. Each section (or book) closes with a summary from Paul Maier about the time period Eusebius has written about, and some notes about the prominent church leaders at that time.
Of great interest to me, as with all documents written during the first three centuries of the church, is to read what things were like before the conversion of Constantine when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, and transformed from a simple way of following Jesus into the powerful Christendom that still rules today.
This transition was particularly clear in Book Ten where Constantine grants authority over cities and regions to church leaders, giving them many buildings and constructing numerous churches. He also puts clergy on the payroll of the government, and sends large sums of money to various leaders and churches around the empire. It is quite shocking to read what Eusebius records about Jesus and the apostles in Books 1-3, and then contrast this with what Eusebius records about the church in Books 9-10. Of course, Eusebius though the transition was perfectly wonderful, and wrote about the newfound wealth, power, and freedom under Constantine in glowing terms. But this almost makes the contrast more striking.
All in all, Eusebius is one of the best historians of the early church, and this new edition by Paul Maier is the best available edition of Eusebius. If you have been wanting to read Eusebius, or had a hard time reading one of the earlier editions, I recommend this new version by Paul Maier.