Eusebius of Caesarea (c.260-340) initiated his Ecclesiastical History with reference to “the successions from the holy apostles” [I.1] thereby enunciating the principal one of those several themes by which he intended to tell his story [cf. Grant 1980, esp.ch.VI]. As a consequence those major urban centers of the Roman imperial world, including its second city, Alexandria, could provide Eusebius with the main points of reference wherein he could document literally by named persons those who were in that succession and thereby presided over the ministry of their respective urban communities.
For Alexandria, while the point of reference began with “Mark the Evangelist” (q.v.; cf. H.E. II.15-16.1) though in an era, and even Eusebian context, where the word “bishop” was not yet appropriate, by the point when Eusebius’ account had entered the “second Christian century” (Carrington 1957: volume II), the title “bishop” was fully operative. When “Primus (q.v.), the fourth from the apostles, departed this life about the same time, in the twelfth year of his presidency, (he) was succeeded by Justus” [IV.1,4]. For Eusebius “about the same time” has reference to the accessions at Rome both of the imperial Publius Aelius Hadrianus (January 24, 76 - July 10, 138, ruled from August 8, 117) and of the episcopal Xystus (cf. ODP 9) in Hadrian’s third year [IV.3.1,4.1].
Beyond their accessions, Eusebius knows only of their respective deaths. While somewhat vague of exact particulars, the succession at Alexandria is denominated in terms of the succession at Rome. Thus “in the twelfth year of (Hadrian’s) government, Xystus, having completed a period of ten years as bishop of the Romans, was succeeded by Telesphorus, the seventh from the apostles.” “And after a lapse of a year and some months, Eumenes (q.v.) succeeded in the sixth place to the presidency of the community of the Alexandrians,” with the indirect indication that “his predecessor,” which must mean Justus, “had continued for eleven years” [IV.5.5].
Clearly some break at Alexandria had to be acknowledged; one cannot ignore that the well-documented Second Jewish War under the leadership of Bar Cochba broke out in this era with its devastating impact upon Jerusalem [IV.6; cf. Carrington 1957:II.40-51; Grant 1970:84-85], and while Christians took no part therein, as Eusebius would next observe, “the church there (including Alexandria!) was (now) composed of Gentiles” such that “the first to be entrusted with the ministry of its members (“after Eumenes had completed thirteen years”), in succession to the bishops of the circumcision, was Mark (q.v.)” [IV.6.4; 11.6]. But of these Alexandrians, there remains nothing more within the tradition that can be adduced pertaining to them.
Clyde Curry Smith
Bibliography (see link to abbreviations
GEEC 33 (FWNorris)
Carrington 1957 The Early Christian Church, by Philip Carrington. Cambridge: At the University Press. 2 volumes.
Grant 1970 Augustus to Constantine: The Thrust of the Christian Movement into the Roman World, by Robert McQueen Grant. New York, Evanston, and London: Harper and Row.
Eusebius as Church Historian, by Robert McQueen Grant. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Oulton 1927 Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, The Ecclesiastical History and the Martyrs of Palestine, translated with Introduction and Notes, by Hugh Jackson Lawlor and John Ernest Leonard Oulton. London: SPCK. 2 volumes. Volume I: Translation, by John Ernest Leonard Oulton. (Specific references also cited as H.E. with book and chapter).
This article, received in 2004, was researched and written by Dr. Clyde Curry Smith, Professor Emeritus of Ancient History and Religion, University of Wisconsin, River Falls.