15. Origen, Eusebius, the Doctrine of Apokatastasis, and Its Relation to Christology

Ilaria Ramelli
In Origen’s thought, the doctrine of apokatastasis is interwoven with his anthropology, eschatology, theology, philosophy of history, theodicy, and exegesis; for anyone who takes Origen’s thought seriously and with a deep grasp of it, it is impossible to separate the apokatastasis theory from all the rest, so as to reject it but accept the rest. Eusebius was an admirer of Origen and a follower of his thought; [1] this is also why he, significantly, chose to present himself as “Eusebius of Pamphilus”—that is, as the spiritual child of the strenuous defender of Origen, marking his adherence to the Origenian tradition. This, too, is probably why Eusebius always endeavored to avoid dealing with eschatology, and in particular with the doctrine of apokatastasis. His seems to have been a cautious move. However, upon close scrutiny, Eusebius does reveal his penchant for the doctrine of apokatastasis—a tendency not generally recognized by scholars [2] —in a few passages, especially those where he is commenting on 1 Cor 15:24–28. Here, Origen’s influence is palpable, just as it is on Didymus, Gregory of Nyssa, and Evagrius, all of them supporters of the apokatastasis doctrine, and on Gregory Nazianzen. [3] It is natural that it is so, in that 1 Cor 15:28 announces the final submission of all creatures to Christ and Christ’s submission to God, who will be “all in all.” This was indeed one of the strongest New Testament testimonia in support of the doctrine of apokatastasis.
Indeed, Eusebius depends on Origen’s interpretation of 1 Cor 15:28 and inclines to his conception of apokatastasis, also using this very term. My systematic investigation into Eusebius’ use of ἀποκατάστασις and ἀποκαθίστημι (respectively “restoration” and “to restore”) reveals, in addition to more trivial meanings (such as returning a possession to someone, or the well-known astronomical meaning of the return of a heavenly body to its initial position after a cycle), a frequent use of the terminology and notion of apokatastasis, strongly influenced by Origen’s conception. For instance, commenting on the title of Psalm 5, “For the end, on her who inherits” (εἰς τὸ τέλος, ὑπὲρ τῆς κληρονομούσης), in Commentary on Psalms PG 23.581.25–30, Eusebius clearly joins eschatology and apokatastasis, by referring the latter to the telos and the inheritance of God. He also cites Psalm 15: “In Psalm 15 the inheritance [κληρονομία] itself was indicated, according to the words, ‘The Lord is the portion of my inheritance’ [. . .] you are the one who restores my inheritance to me” (ὁ ἀποκαθιστῶν τὴν κληρονομίαν μου ἐμοί: these very same words are repeated in Commentary on Psalms PG 23.157.38). Indeed, Eusebius sees important references to the notion of apokatastasis in the Psalms. In Commentary on Psalms PG 23.68.30, he reads Psalm 14 in reference to the “restoration [ἀποκατάστασις] of the perfect according to God.” Likewise, in Commentary on Psalms PG 23.72.26, he deems Psalm 124 entirely devoted to the idea of apokatastasis, as is clear from its title itself: “Apokatastasis.” And, given the akolouthia that both Eusebius and Gregory Nyssen read in the Psalms, the eschatological context is shown very well by the “titles” of the immediately following Psalms, all eschatological themes: “125: Expectation of the things to come; 126: Edification of the Church; 127: The call of the Gentiles; 128: The victory of the army of Christ; 129: The prayer of the martyrs.”
An allusion to the notion of the eventual apokatastasis is even found in the Oratio ad sanctorum coetum, or Constantine’s Speech to the Gathering of the Saints, written for Constantine (probably, rather than by Constantine), [4] at 11.16, in the context of a discussion of the relationship between free will and divine grace, which Origen also found compatible. [5] Above all, Eusebius insists on the notion of anastasis as apokatastasis, “resurrection” as “restoration,” as did Origen and then Gregory of Nyssa. In Commentary on Psalms, Eusebius speaks of the eventual resurrection in terms of “renovation of humanity” and of apokatastasis, giving the very same definition of resurrection as restoration that will be offered by Gregory of Nyssa shortly after:
Eusebius: ἡ γὰρ ἀνάστασις εἰς τὸ ἀρχαῖόν ἐστιν ἀποκατάστασις.
Commentary on Psalms PG 23.1285.56
Gregory of Nyssa: ἀνάστασίς ἐστιν ἡ εἰς τὸ ἀρχαῖον τῆς φύσεως ἡμῶν ἀποκατάστασις
On the Soul and the Resurrection 156C
The resurrection is the restoration of humanity to its original condition, before the fall. The same expression, in its verbal form, is used again by Eusebius in Commentary on Isaiah 1.83.120: αὖθις ἀποκατασταθήσῃ εἰς τὸ ἀρχαῖον (“you will be restored again to your original condition”). Resurrection is described as a restoration to life, brought about by Christ, in Oratio ad sanctorum coetum 11.12: ἀντὶ δὲ θανάτου πάλιν εἰς τὸ ζῆν ἀποκατάστασις (“instead of death, being restored to life again”).
Also, Eusebius, precisely like Origen (see especially in Homilies on Jeremiah 14.18 and Commentary on Matthew 17.19), read Peter’s words in Acts 3:21—which he repeatedly cites—as a reference to the eventual universal restoration. In Against Marcellus, he explains Peter’s expression, “the times of universal restoration,” as the world to come, in which all beings will receive their perfect restoration:
What else does the expression ‘until the times of apokatastasis’ [ἄχρι χρόνων ἀποκαταστάσεως] indicate to us, if not the aeon to come, in which all beings must receive their perfect restoration [δεῖ πάντα τῆς τελείας τυχεῖν ἀποκαταστάσεως]? [. . .] On the occasion of the restoration of absolutely all beings [τῆς ἀποκαταστάσεως ἁπάντων], as Paul says, the creation itself will pass on from slavery to freedom. For he says: ‘Creation itself will be liberated from the slavery of corruption to the freedom of the glory of the children of God,’ (etc).
Against Marcellus 2.4.11
The universality of the eventual apokatastasis is corroborated by Paul’s words regarding the creation that will be liberated from enslavement to corruption. In Eccl. Theol. 3.9.1, Eusebius again cites Acts 3:21, once more connecting it to Paul’s statement concerning the final liberation of all creation from corruption, in practically the same terms. [6] The similarity of the exegesis arises not only from the dependence on Origen’s exegesis in both cases, but also from the common criticism of Marcellus of Ancyra’s thought developed by Eusebius in both passages. The same interpretation of Acts 3:21 and the same criticism of Marcellus are found again at Eccl. Theol. 3.13.1–3. [7] And at Eccl. Theol. 3.14.2, Eusebius compares the “times of universal restoration” mentioned in Acts 3:21 to the second coming of Christ, assembling several Pauline statements on it. [8]
The final apokatastasis is described by Eusebius as a work of divine Providence, which brings about a rectification (διόρθωσις) of sin and the restoration of human nature to its original condition:
What most fits piety is [. . .] to rectify [ἐπιδιορθοῦσθαι] the first sin by means of subsequent good deeds and the speedy return and restoration to what is proper and familiar [ἐπὶ τὴν τῶν οἰκείων. . .ἀποκατάστασιν]. For the end [τέλος] of humanity is not here on earth, nor the return to corruption and destruction, but above there, from where the first human being fell.
Preparation for the Gospel 7.18.9
This is a thoroughly Origenian description of apokatastasis, identified with the very telos of humanity, in line with a notion that was already suggested by Clement of Alexandria. [9] Even the detail that apokatastasis is toward τὰ οἰκεῖα exactly reflects Origen’s declaration that ἀποκατάστασίς ἐστιν εἰς τὰ οἰκεῖα, which in turn will be picked up by Gregory of Nyssa. [10] The idea that the apokatastasis is a work of divine Providence, and specifically dependent on Christ, is another important trait that Eusebius shares with Origen. Eusebius expresses it in Commentary on Isaiah 2.9, in which he explains, with Origen, that Christ-Logos, being the Way to the Father, purifies all those who run that way, leaving nobody contaminated by sin, and can thereby restore all to the Father: “Therefore, the Logos who is salvific [ὁ σωτήριος] and leads to the Father those who run his way and restores [ἀποκαθιστάς] them to the Kingdom of Heaven [. . .] there is nobody who travels this way and remains unpurified [ἀκάθαρτος].”
On another plane, Eusebius uses the notion of apokatastasis to express the action of restoration to life or health that was performed by Christ in his miracles; what is remarkable is that he too, like Origen, interprets this action on both the physical and the spiritual level, so that healing and resurrection also mean restoration. [11] The most interesting passage is Fragments on Luke PG 24.580.21–24, in which the double level of physical and spiritual healing and restoration is manifest: “first he will restore [ἀποκατασήσει] them to salvation and health, having opened the eyes of the blind and healed every illness of their souls; then he will prepare for them the spiritual banquet” (emphasis mine). Also, the notion of therapeutic and purifying punishments followed by the eventual apokatastasis is typical of Origen and reflected in Eusebius’ Demonstration of the Gospel 10.6.3: “First they will be punished for their education [παιδευθέντες] for a short time; then they will be restored again [αὖθις ἀποκατασταθήσονται].” The basic concept of apokatastasis as a return to one’s original condition (expressed by Eusebius, just as by Origen and Nyssen, with τὸ ἀρχαῖον) after an alteration has taken place, is expounded in Eccl. Theol. 2.9.4: “At first she was one thing; then she became something else, and then she is restored again to her original state [πάλιν εἰς τὸ ἀρχαῖον ἀποκαθισταμένην].” Eusebius, in Preparation for the Gospel 15.19.1–2, also reports the Stoic concept of apokatastasis, with which Origen had dealt a great deal, painstakingly underlying the differences between his own, Christian notion of apokatastasis and the Stoic one, characterized by necessity and by an infinite repetition of aeons. [12]
Eusebius was well acquainted with Origen’s Homilies on Jeremiah, in which the reflection on the eventual apokatastasis is prominent because of the insistence on the theme of the restoration/return of Israel, which Origen saw as an allusion to the final apokatastasis. Eusebius too cites Jeremiah, expressly naming him, in reference to the apokatastasis in Commentary on Psalms PG 23.92.7: “after their fall” (διαπεσόντας), God “restores them again to their original condition” (πάλιν εἰς τὸ ἀρχαῖον ἀποκαταστῆσαι). The eventual apokatastasis is characterized in Commentary on Psalms 23.1049.22 as the return of all believers to unity: “the gathering of all the believers—those made worthy of the holy City of God—and their restoration to one and the same choir” (τὴν εἰς ἕνα χορὸν ἀποκατάστασιν).
Eusebius even refers the notion of apokatastasis to Christ’s return to the Father after his incarnation, death, and resurrection, in many passages: “his divine restoration [ἀποκατάστασιν] to heaven” (HE 1.2.24); “the divine Scripture predicts, literally, the restoration [ἀποκατάστασιν] of Christ” (Demonstration of the Gospel [13] 4.16.42); “his restoration to God after his sojourn with humans” (DE 5.1.28); “the restoration [ἀποκατάστασιν] to the glory of God, which he has done with the help of the angelic and divine powers (DE 6.1.2); “because of his divine restoration [ἀποκατάστασιν] from the depth or because of his divine preexistence pertaining to theology” (DE 7.1.39); “for his glorious restoration/return [ἀποκατάστασιν] to heaven” (Commentary on Psalms PG 23.720.6). [14] In this connection, the very transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain is presented as a figure of Jesus’ restoration to his preexistent divinity in Eccl. Theol. 1.20.79: “he himself was seen as he was being restored [ἀποκαθιστάμενος] to a high mountain; the mountain signifies the preexistence of his divinity.”
Further proofs that Eusebius adhered to Origen’s doctrine of apokatastasis come from his polemic with Marcellus of Ancyra, whom Eusebius extensively quotes or paraphrases and whose exegesis of 1 Cor 15:28 may have influenced Gregory of Nyssa. [15] In Against Marcellus 2.4, [16] both he and Marcellus are taking Origen as an authority, especially with regard to the interpretation of 1 Cor 15:24–28. In Eusebius’ passage, indeed, the submission of all beings to Christ and the eventual destruction of evil are announced. God, who took up humanity, will reign and, thanks to this the human being, who was deceived by the devil at the beginning, now will be constituted king by the Logos, and “will destroy all the authority and power of the devil.” For “he must reign until he has put all enemies under his feet” (C. Marc. 2.4.1). Paul, as Eusebius reports, “says that the aim/end [τέλος] of the reign of Christ is that all be submitted to his feet [. . .] and when all are finally subjected to Christ [. . .] he himself will submit to him who has subjected all to him” (C. Marc. 2.4.1). Eusebius goes on to quote Marcellus, who quotes Paul in turn. Commenting on Psalm 109:1, quoted in 1 Cor 15:25, Eusebius observes that the distinction of two Lords therein (“the Lord said to my Lord ...”) is due to the flesh assumed by the Son; thus it seems that the Son will sit to the Father’s right only “at a certain time,” when all enemies submit, during Christ’s reign, and that the human form assumed by the Logos for the salvific economy (C. Marc. 2.4.7–8) will be abandoned at the end of his reign. For, after all enemies have submitted, another step begins. Indeed, Eusebius, like Origen, who in turn followed Paul’s description of the telos, sees a further step at the end of all aeons and of Christ’s reign, when all enemies have been reconciled and Christ’s dominion is universal: precisely at this final stage comes the eventual apokatastasis. It is not only Marcellus, but Eusebius who supports this conception, since in C. Marc. 2.4.9–10 he continues saying that after Christ has submitted all beings (in what Origen considered to be a salvific submission [17] ), “he will no more need this partial reign, because he will be king of all, in a universal sense [πάντων καθόλου],” together with God the Father (emphasis mine). In this way, Eusebius can maintain that Christ’s reign will have no end, since, after reigning alone and achieving the submission of all enemies, he will hand the kingdom to the Father and will continue to reign along with the Father.
Then, Eusebius declares: “the human being, who once was deceived by the devil, thanks to the power of the Logos will be king and [. . .] will finally defeat the devil.” It is notable that Eusebius explicitly describes this very fact as “the apokatastasis.” Indeed, it is at this point in his discussion that Eusebius inserts the reference to Acts 3:20–21, stating that the restoration of humanity and the complete triumph over evil will occur in “the times of universal apokatastasis” proclaimed by Acts 3:20–21. Eusebius clearly refers to this passage, presenting the times of “consolation” or “comfort” as the “times of universal restoration” (χρόνοι ἀποκαταστάσεως πάντων). As I have mentioned, Origen had already referred Acts 3:20–21 to the eventual apokatastasis.
Like Origen, Eusebius characterizes the final apokatastasis as unity. [18] He writes that “the times of universal restoration” will be when humanity attains unity (ἡνῶσθαι) with the Logos and in the future aeon all will receive complete restoration. It is significant that Eusebius uses ἀποκατάστασις again here, and thrice at that, to claim that “the apokatastasis of all” will be when all are finally liberated from captivity and can enjoy “the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (with the aforementioned quotation of Rom 8:21):
The expression “until the times of restoration” [. . .] indicates to us the world to come, in which all beings [πάντα] must receive the perfect restoration [τῆς τελείας ἀποκαταστάσεως] [. . .] on the occasion of the restoration of all beings [τῆς ἀποκαταστάσεως ἁπάντων] creation itself will be transformed [. . .] from the slavery of corruption to the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
C. Marc. 2.4.11 (emphasis mine)
Rom 8:21 was already used by Origen to describe the apokatastasis, especially in Exhortation to Martyrdom 13, in which he explains that God will reveal his treasures “when the whole creation is delivered from the bondage of the enemy into the glorious liberty of God’s children.” Origen evidently inspired Eusebius in this case too.
Both Eusebius and Marcellus speak Origen’s language. After all aeons, they maintain, there will come the restoration, the telos, as in Origen’s view. [19] The telos (1 Cor 15:24) will be after the sequence of all aeons, the submission of all enemies, and the elimination of evil, when Christ hands his kingdom to the Father (C. Marc. 2.4.12). This telos, after the Judgment, will conform to God’s Providence (τῇ ἀὐτοῦ προνοίᾳ. . .τέλους τεύξεται). Again, the idea expressed here by Eusebius, that the eventual apokatastasis in the telos is the triumph of God’s Providence, is a characteristic of Origen’s apokatastasis doctrine. [20] From Origen, Diodore of Tarsus inherited it as well. [21]
Some of Marcellus’ ideas are criticized by Eusebius in C. Marc. 2.4.13–14; in particular, Eusebius attacks his notion that the Logos will lose human flesh after the Judgment, the universal rectification (διόρθωσις), and the disappearance of all opposing powers. What is most remarkable in relation to my present argument is that Eusebius does not criticize the concept of the eventual vanishing of evil and universal rectification, which coincides with apokatastasis; rather, he takes on other issues concerning Christ and his keeping or discarding his humanity in the telos. Moreover, Marcellus only spoke of Christ as the Logos. Eusebius is concerned with criticizing Marcellus’ Christology and, more generally, his Trinitarian “monoprosopic” theology, [22] rather than his eschatological notion of apokatastasis (C. Marc. 2.4.18–22). This is evident from the subsequent section, in which Eusebius’ refutation develops exclusively on the Christological plane. But when Marcellus speaks of universal rectification and restoration, Eusebius has no objection whatsoever; indeed, he explicitly describes the scenario depicted by Paul in 1 Cor 15:24–28 as the eventual apokatastasis, the universal restoration that will take place in the telos. This is also why in C. Marc. 2.4.28 Eusebius defines Christ “the common savior of absolutely all.”
Another work in which Eusebius criticizes ideas of Marcellus of Ancyra other than the doctrine of apokatastasis (which he endorses) is Ecclesiastical Theology. Here, at 2.8, Eusebius challenges Marcellus for, in his view, rejecting the begetting of the Son. However, Eusebius does not object to the doctrine of the final universal restoration. After the judgment, the following progression is delineated:
  • First, the “rectification of all” or “setting right of all things” (τὴν τῶν ἁπάντων διόρθωσιν);
  • next, “the disappearance of any opposing power”;
  • and then the submission of the Son to the Father, “so that the Logos will be in God, as it was before the world existed.”
  • After the end of this action, the Logos will be one with God, that God may be “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28 is quoted here).
This is Origen’s conception of the apokatastasis as unity, which Eusebius does not attack; he only criticizes Marcellus’ view that for a time the Logos was not with God. Eusebius returns to 1 Cor 15:28 in Eccl. Theol. 3.14–16, 18–20. In 3.14, he opposes Marcellus’s conception of the Son and his interpretation of two crucial passages: Ps 109:1 (= 1 Cor 15:25) and Acts 3:21. Again, he explicitly refers “the times of universal restoration” of the latter passage to the submission of all to Christ. He refers 1 Thess 4:16 to the second coming of Christ: the Lord will descend from heaven, the dead will rise, and “we shall be always with the Lord.” For “the Lord must remain in heaven until the end / accomplishment [ἕως τῆς συντελείας]. Then, at the end of all he will make his second and glorious coming, and will take his saints with him, so that they will be always with him, without end.” Eusebius quotes 1 Cor 15:25–28 in full and insists that Marcellus in his exegesis was mistaken, but only on Christological and theological matters, and not on the universal apokatastasis itself. 1 Cor 15:28, Eusebius argues, does not predict a “universal confusion” of substances, but the spontaneous submission of all. This is in line with Origen’s interpretation of these verses: the eventual submission of all to Christ and thence to God will be spontaneous and will coincide with the salvation of all. Eusebius too stresses that 1 Cor 15:26–28 predicts a universal submission that will be spontaneous and will coincide with universal salvation. Therefore, Christ is given glory as “the savior of all in a universal sense,” because he will render all worthy of God:
When the apostle says that all beings [τὰ πάντα] will submit to the Son, he did not indicate a substantial union, but the voluntary obedience and glory [. . .] which all beings [τὰ πάντα] will render to him qua Savior and King of all in a universal sense [τῶν ὅλων]. In the same way, also the fact that he will submit to the Father means nothing else but [. . .] the voluntary obedience that he too will render to God the Father, once he has prepared all [τοὺς πάντας], that they may become worthy [ἀξίους] of the divinity of the Father.
Eccl. Theol. 3.15.3–6 (emphasis mine)
Soon after, Eusebius emphasizes that Christ is “the savior of all in a universal sense,” and his reign will be rectifying and healing, according to a notion that was dear to Clement and Origen: [23]
Whenever they are unworthy [οὐκ ἄξιοι] of it, he himself, qua common Savior of absolutely all [κοινὸς ἁπάντων σωτήρ], assumes his reign, which rectifies those creatures that are still imperfect and heals those which need healing [διορθωτικὴν τῶν ἀτελῶν καὶ θεραπευτικὴν τῶν θεραπείας δεομένων] and thus he reigns, by putting the enemies of his kingdom under his feet.
Eccl. Theol. 3.15.6 (emphasis mine)
Christ’s reign is thus the eschatological period during which Christ will exercise his power as Physician and during which the universal rectification will take place. In this way he will make all worthy of the encounter with the Father and of the enjoyment of eternal life. Eternal life will belong to those “worthy of the Kingdom,” but Eusebius has just stated that Christ will make all worthy of it. All will then submit in a “salvific submission” (σωτήριον ὑποταγήν). This will coincide with the apokatastasis, which is described as θέωσις. As Origen did, Eusebius links the eschatological picture in 1 Cor 15 to Phil 3:20–21, [24] both passages that proclaim the eschatological submission of all to Christ. In Eccl. Theol. 3.15–16, Eusebius insists on the salvific character (again σωτήριον ὑποταγήν) of the eventual universal (τὰ πάντα) submission. In this perspective, if submission is universal, salvation too will involve all. In this way, Christ will be the source of “all goods,” for all: Eusebius interprets the statement that “God will be all in all” (1 Cor 15:28) exactly as Origen has done. This will be the “perfect accomplishment” of the teaching of Paul concerning the telos: that God may be “all in all.”
This eventuality was foretold in the Old Testament: God will inhabit not only a few who are worthy (βραχεῖς τοὺς ἀξίους), as is the case now, but “all” (ἅπασιν), who “will then have become worthy of the Kingdom.” Origen likewise claimed that in the telos “not only in few or in many, but in all God will be all” (On First Principles 3.6.3). Eusebius adds that the Godhead will be “all in all” by offering itself to all (πᾶσιν) according to each one’s capacity, which is also drawn from Origen; Gregory of Nyssa, too, an active reader of both Origen and Eusebius, elaborates on this idea.
Apokatastasis is described by Eusebius as “the culmination of the most blessed hope” (τῆς τρισμακαρίας ἐλπίδος . . . τῷ τέλει) [25] and identified with the very telos, when God will be “all in all” and will fill all (ἐμπιπλῶν τοὺς πάντας) and when the Son will rejoice in God’s salvific action, here called κατόρθωμα or morally perfect action, and will continue in his never-ending reign. He will hand, safe, to the Father “all [πάντας] those who are ruled by him,” or “his kingdom.” Christ will return “all” to the Father once he has made all of them (τοὺς πάντας) perfect (τελειωθέντας), saved and completely healed (σώαν καὶ κατὰ πάντα ἐρρωμένην τὴν παραθήκην), after having sanctified them all as high priest. Even this last detail echoes Origen’s exegesis of Hebrews. [26] “All” will be able to enjoy the Father’s ineffable goods. Soon after, Eusebius expands on this: “God will then be ‘in all [ἐν πᾶσιν],’ namely those who have been made perfect by the Son [τοῖς ὑπὸ τῷ υἱῷ τελειωθεῖσιν][. . .] the Son will hand the Kingdom to God, showing him safe those with whom he was entrusted [σώαν τὴν παραθήκην] and prepared to adore God and to be saints; and God will be ‘all in all,’ becoming all to them.”
Two other times Eusebius describes the final apokatastasis as the “the culmination of the most blessed hope,” both at the end of the above-quoted passage, where it concerns the Son and “all the others” (λοιποῖς ἅπασιν), and in 3.18: “the most blessed telos” will be when the divinity, the supreme Good, will give itself as a gift to those who constitute the kingdom of Christ and have been saved and perfected by Christ during his reign, so that God will be all in all. Soon afterward, this final blessedness is again described as unity, according to Jesus’s great prayer in John 17, [27] that all be “perfected into unity.” Indeed, Eusebius, like Origen, strongly insists on unity, with quotations from John, especially John 17. In his view, as in Origen’s, [28] all humanity’s unity with God in the apokatastasis will be not a confusion of substance (συναλοιφὴν μιᾶς οὐσίας), but supreme perfection in virtue (τελείωσιν τῆς εἰς ἄκρον ἀρετῆς), to which “all” (οἱ άντες) will be led, once “made perfect” (τέλειοι κατεργασθέντες). All (οἱ πάντες) will achieve unity with God. As the Son is one with the Father, so will “all” imitate this oneness (πάντας). This is all Origenian material. Eusebius interprets other Old and New Testament passages as referring to the eventual apokatastasis, and concludes with an anti-heretical statement: unity does not mean mixing up Father and Son in their hypostases, [29] nor humanity and divinity in their οὐσίαι. It is therefore clear that, exactly like Origen and Gregory of Nyssa, [30] Eusebius supports the doctrine of apokatastasis in a context of defense of orthodoxy.
In his exegesis of Luke [31] as well, Eusebius shows his close, albeit creative, adherence to Origen’s eschatological conceptions. Here, Eusebius manifests the same choice as Origen, who had composed both Homilies on Luke—thirty-nine of which survive in Jerome’s translation and in fragments—and a commentary on Luke, which is lost apart from some uncertain catenary fragments. [32] Indeed, the only patristic exegetical works on Luke that survive are Origen’s homilies, 156 homilies by Cyril of Alexandria, handed down in Syriac, and ten books of Ambrose’s Expositions on the Gospel of Luke, the first two of which depend closely on Origen, plus fragments from the homilies of Titus of Bostra.
What is more, in PG 24.549.6–36 Eusebius presents a description of the telos that is immersed in universalism, like that of Origen, and precisely follows Origen’s very scheme, that in the end not only a few will be in communion with God, but all (“and not only in a few or in many, but in all God will be all, when there will be no more death, nor death’s sting, nor evil, absolutely; then God will truly be ‘all in all,’” On First Principles 3.6.3). It is notable that Origen expressed the very same idea precisely in his exegesis of Luke, by which Eusebius was clearly inspired for his own interpretation of that gospel: “John [sc. the Baptist] converts many; the Lord converts, not only many, but all. For this is the work of the Lord: to convert all to God the Father” (Homilies on Luke 4).
Eusebius even reiterates this scheme—not only a few, as in the present, but all, in the telos—thrice in just a few lines. At lines 8–13, he observes that, at the Transfiguration, only Moses and Elijah and three disciples were with Christ, but “at the end of the world, when the Lord comes with the glory of his Father, not only [οὐκέτι μόνον] Moses and Elijah will escort him, and not only three [οὐδὲ τρεῖς μόνοι] disciples will be with him, but all [ἀλλὰ πάντες] the prophets, the patriarchs, and the just will be.” Again, at lines 19–25, Eusebius remarks that the divinity was only partially manifested, and only to Moses, but in the telos it will be manifested to all the saints, so that all will be able (δύνασθαι πάντας) to say that they have seen the glory of the Lord with an unveiled face.
The most important passage, and the most explicitly universalistic, is at the end of the short section I am considering, but its structure is the very same as that of the other two. Eusebius remarks that at the Transfiguration only three disciples fell down upon their faces, but in the telosno longer only three disciples like at that time” (οὐκέτι ὥσπερ τότε οἱ τρεῖς μαθηταὶ μόνοι), but every knee will bend before the Lord, definitely “all knees” (πᾶν γόνυ) of all creatures in heaven, on earth, and in the underworld (with reference to Phil 2:10–11). Moreover, the conflation of Phil 2:10–11 and 1 Cor 15:24–28 for the description of the telos is typical of Origen, [33] and Eusebius continues it here.
Eusebius describes the eventual apokatastasis in Commentary on Isaiah 1.85 as well, calling it “the culmination of the goods” foreseen by the prophets, again with a reference to Acts 3:20–21, the importance of which for Eusebius’ and Origen’s view of the final apokatastasis I have already illustrated. Eusebius adds, in this connection, that the eventual restoration is in fact the ἀρχαία βουλή or “original intention” or “will” established by God “before the creation of the world and fulfilled at the end of the aeons” and described in Paul’s terms as the submission of all enemies and destruction of evil and death, [34] when God will be “all in all” at the end of all aeons. The annihilation of evil is, in Eusebius as in Origen and Gregory, a conditio sine qua non for the eventual apokatastasis, and at the same time a robust argument in defense of it. The very notion that universal restoration will come at the end of all aeons is in perfect line with Origen’s philosophy of history and eschatology. [35]
Following Isaiah’s text, Eusebius foretells punishment for sinners, expressed in the form of the destruction of their cities in Isa 25:2. At the same time, however, he also predicts that the inhabitants will be saved and will escape from ruin (διασωθέντες). He praises Jesus as helper and defender, who will even save the pagans, although idolaters. The latter, in fact, would be “hopeless,” and this is why Isa 25:8 says that “death swallowed” them, but Christ, whom Eusebius has just named the “Savior of all,” frees them from error and spiritual death and prevents so many souls from perishing: “The Savior of all, who loves humanity, having liberated the souls of human beings from death [. . .] removed every tear from every face, [. . .] thus sparing the perdition of so many souls, out of his love for humanity.” Within the same framework, Eusebius interprets Isa 25:8 as announcing the eventual eviction and disappearance of death, which had ruled over all; this eviction is indeed foretold in 1 Cor 15:26. Death, the destroyer of all humans, will be destroyed: “the Lord will destroy it so that it will not appear any more in any place [. . .] thus the last enemy, death, will be annihilated [. . .] the one who once destroyed all [τοὺς πάντας] will be destroyed.” Eusebius, like Origen, [36] conceives of death as both physical and spiritual, and says that it will be eliminated thanks to Christ’s salvific action for all, who will achieve eternal life, once liberated from evil (προτέρων ἠλευθερωμένοι κακῶν) and made by Christ worthy of God’s promises (τῶν δ’ ἐπαγγελιῶν τοῦ θεοῦ καταξιωθησόμενοι). According to Origen’s and Eusebius’ twofold conception of death, what Eusebius has described is liberation (not only from physical death, but from evil) and justification.
The punishment of Moab, as mentioned in Isa 16 and Jer 31, is contrasted by Eusebius with blessedness, but it is significant that Moab does not represent any part of humanity. It rather represents the powers of evil; what applies to Moab in the prophets is seen by Eusebius as referring to the opposing powers. Eusebius stresses the final destruction of death and adverse powers, in contrast with the humans’ salvation; he does not speak of destruction or eternal damnation of human beings. When he mentions human creatures worthy of the promises (τῶν ἐπαγγελιῶν ἄξιοι), he indicates those who will have been rendered worthy by Christ. They will dwell in Jerusalem, that is, Christ himself, who will be “all” (πάντα) for all of them, with further reference to 1 Cor 15:28 and God’s eventually being “all in all.”
Eusebius clearly depends on Origen’s doctrine of apokatastasis in several respects, and in particular in his exegesis of 1 Cor 15:28, a biblical pillar for Origen’s doctrine of apokatastasis. [37] Origen’s exegesis in turn proves extremely influential on Gregory of Nyssa, in De Anima et Resurrectione and In Illud: Tunc et Ipse Filius. As Origen in Princ. 3.5.7 opposes a subordinationistic interpretation of 1 Cor 15:28, Gregory opposes its “Arian” subordinationistic interpretation. He explains that Paul’s statement indicates, not the Son’s inferiority to the Father, but rather all humanity’s salvific submission. [38] The background provided by Origen for Gregory’s In Illud is evident in every passage of this work. The fact that Eusebius interprets 1 Cor 15:28 in the same way as Origen and, later, Gregory of Nyssa depends on his adherence to Origen’s doctrine of ὁμοουσία between the Father and the Son and an anti-subordinationistic conception of their relationship. This may sound surprising in the light of the accusations of “Arianism” or “semi-Arianism” leveled against Eusebius, but in fact it is a natural consequence of his profound adherence to Origen’s thought. Origen’s anti-subordinationism and his concept of ὁμοουσία between the Father and the Son have been demonstrated and it can even be asked whether it was through Eusebius that Constantine supported the inclusion of ὁμοούσιος in the Nicene creed. [39] Indeed, Christoph Markschies recently remarked that Eusebius is, not only an Origenian in general, but an Origenian theologian. [40] Nonetheless, this aspect in particular has scarcely been acknowledged or studied. It is hoped that the preceding examination will contribute to such an appreciation.

Works Cited

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Hübner, R. 1971. “Gregor von Nyssa und Markell von Ankyra.” In Écriture et culture philosophique dans la pensée de Grégoire de Nysse, ed. M. Harl, 199–229. Leiden.
Hübner, R. 1974. Die Einheit des Leibes Christi bei Gregor von Nyssa. Leiden.
Johnson, A. 2010. “The Tenth Book of Eusebius’ General Elementary Introduction: A Critique of the Wallace-Hadrill Thesis.” Journal of Theological Studies 62:144–160.
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Lienhard, J. 1983. “The Exegesis of 1 Corr. 15:28 from Marcellus of Ancyra to Theodoret of Cyrus.” Vigiliae Christianae 37:340–359.
Lienhard, J. 2009, second ed. (original ed. 1996). Origen: Homilies on Luke. Washington, DC.
Markschies, C. 2007. “Eusebius als Schriftsteller. Beobachtungen zum sechsten Buch der Kirchengeschichte.” In Origenes und sein Erbe: Gesammelte Studien. Berlin.
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[ back ] 1. On Eusebius’s adherence to Origen, see Kannengiesser 1992:435–466; Ramelli 2011:21–49.
[ back ] 2. His reticence on eschatology was ascribed to scarce interest or to the idea that perfection was realized under Constantine. See respectively, e.g. Trisoglio 1978:173–182; Sirinelli 1961:480–481.
[ back ] 3. See further the discussion in I. Ramelli, The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis: A Critical Assessment from the New Testament to Eriugena. Leiden: Brill, 2013.
[ back ] 4. Or at least it was drafted by Constantine and written by Eusebius, as is indicated by the latter in VC 4.52. I do not intend to tackle this question here; the second solution is defended by Edwards 2007, to which I refer readers also for the relevant bibliography.
[ back ] 5. Cf. 12.1.
[ back ] 6. “On the occasion of the ‘restoration of all beings [τῆς ἀποκαταστάσεως ἁπάντων],’ as Paul says, the creation itself will pass on from slavery to freedom. For he says: ‘Creation itself will be liberated from the slavery of corruption to the freedom of the glory of the children of God.’”
[ back ] 7. “In the Acts of the Apostles Peter says, concerning our Savior, that heaven must keep him until the times of apokatastasis [ἄχρι χρόνων ἀποκαταστάσεωϛ]. But Marcellus does not grasp the meaning of what is said and on the basis of this passage endeavors to circumscribe the duration of the reign of Christ, claiming that, by saying ‘until the times of apokatastasis,’ Scripture indicates a limit in the duration of his reign. He states that the same results also from the Psalm that says, ‘Sit to my right, until I put your enemies as a stool for your feet’; and for this reason the apostle Paul said: ‘For it is necessary for him to reign until he has put his enemies under his feet.’ Indeed, Marcellus understood that ‘until’ in these passages indicates a limitation of time.”
[ back ] 8. “Also the words, ‘Sit to my right, until I have put your enemies as a stool for your feet,’ and ‘heaven must keep him until the times of apokatastasis,’ have not been said in the sense that he will be no longer afterwards, but in the sense that, at the end of all, he will rise up from the throne of the Father and descend from heaven for the second time. The apostle teaches about this second descent by saying: ‘The Lord himself, at an order, at the voice of an archangel, at the trumpet of God will descend from heaven, and first the dead will rise in Christ.’” For the translation of the last sentence, from 1 Thess 4:16, see Ramelli and Konstan 2007:579–593.
[ back ] 9. According to Clement, Paul teaches that “the telos is the hoped-for apokatastasis.” See Ramelli 2013, section on Clement.
[ back ] 10. See Ramelli 2010. On Origen’s Christian adaptation of the doctrine of oikei ō sis see eadem forthcoming b.
[ back ] 11. For this duality of levels in Origen’s notion of the resurrection, see Ramelli 2008; in Origen’s conception of Christ’s miracles, see Ramelli 2012. On Eusebius, see Demonstration of the Gospel 9.13.4; Constantine’s Speech to the Gathering of Saints 11.15; cf. Ecclesiastical History (hereafter HE) 5.7.4.
[ back ] 12. See on this Ramelli 2013, introduction and section on Origen.
[ back ] 13. Hereafter DE.
[ back ] 14. See also Commentary on Psalms PG 23.312.8, where the implied reference is to Christ: “restore my soul from their bad deeds; protect my only-begotten daughter from the lions.”
[ back ] 15. See Hübner 1971:199–229; Hübner 1974:29–66; 283–290. See, however, the remarks in Ramelli 2011a.
[ back ] 16. See Lienhard 1983:340–359.
[ back ] 17. See Ramelli 2007.
[ back ] 18. See the volume on John 13–17 in Novum Testamentum Patristicum, forthcoming.
[ back ] 19. Tzamalikos 2006:272–309; Ramelli 2010a.
[ back ] 20. See Ramelli 2011b.
[ back ] 21. See Ramelli 2013, section on Diodore.
[ back ] 22. See on this Ramelli 2011.
[ back ] 23. See Ramelli 2011b.
[ back ] 24. See Ramelli 2005:139–158.
[ back ] 25. Gregory of Nyssa In Illud: Tunc et Ipse Filius 13 analogously describes it as τὸ πέρας τῶν ἐλπιζομένων.
[ back ] 26. See Ramelli 2008a:210–221.
[ back ] 27. See the volume on John 13–17 in Novum Testamentum Patristicum, in preparation.
[ back ] 28. See the item “Deification / Theosis” forthcoming in EBR: Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception, vol. 6, Berlin 2013.
[ back ] 29. See Ramelli 2012a.
[ back ] 30. Origen supported it against Gnosticism and Gregory of Nyssa against Arianism. See Ramelli 2011ab.
[ back ] 31. On which, see Johnson 2010.
[ back ] 32. A problem with these fragments is that it is not always certain whether they come from the commentary on Matthew or that on Luke. Some scholars think that in the commentary on Matthew, which survives partially, Origen also commented on the parallels in Luke, so that in the commentary on Luke he only had to concentrate on the passages that are exclusive to Luke. See Lienhard 2009:xxxvi–xxxviii. Other colleagues, such as Tzamalikos 2012, 2012a, and 2012b, hypothesize that confusions in the attribution to the works on Luke or that on Matthew are due to the catenists.
[ back ] 33. See Ramelli 2010b.
[ back ] 34. Πάσης κακίας ἐκποδὼν ἀρθείσης καὶ τοῦ ἐσχάτου ἐχθροῦ τοῦ θανάτου καταργηθέντος.
[ back ] 35. See Tzamalikos 2007 and Ramelli 2010a.
[ back ] 36. See Ramelli 2008.
[ back ] 37. See Ramelli 2007:313–356.
[ back ] 38. See Ramelli 2011a.
[ back ] 39. Ramelli 2011:21–49. Beeley 2008:433–452, on Eusebius’ Christology in his Against Marcellus, Εcclesiastical Theology, and Theophany, also rightly countered the interpretation of Eusebius’ theology as subordinationistic and “semi-Arian.”
[ back ] 40. Markschies 2007:223–238.