Eusebius’s Argument: That Polytheism is Atheism
The Theory of Origins
Eusebius argues polytheists explain the origin of the universe as pure chance, and not by creation of God or gods. And since they believe that chance is the creator of all things, then they are atheists in their beliefs about origins. This conclusion points to them as the true atheists. He supports this conclusion by citing the Library of History compiled by Diodorus. Diodorus begins by describing the creation of the cosmos in the following manner:
According to the original constitution of the universe, heaven and earth. . . had one form, their nature being mixed: but afterwards, when their corporeal particles were separated from each other. . . the air was subjected to continual motion. The fiery part of it gathered towards the highest regions. . .. but the muddy and turbid part of the air . . . settled down together because of its heaviness, and by revolving in itself and continually contracting made the sea out of the moist parts, and out of the more solid parts made the earth. . .. The moist parts then being quickened into life by the warmth in the way mentioned, during the nights they received their nourishment direct from the mist which falls from the surrounding atmosphere, and during the days became hardened by the heat; and at last, when the pregnant cells attained their full growth, and the membranes were thoroughly heated and burst asunder, all various types of living things sprang up (p. 22).
In this history, Diodorus never makes mention of God or of beings which made life, even though on the onset of his book he clearly displays his belief in gods (p. 21). This atheistic view of origins is supported by no less than twelve other Greek philosophers, even though these were not at all in agreement on the exact nature of origins.
The Development of Primitive Theology
Eusebius argued that the earliest theology of mankind was simply the worship of the stars alone. Again, he resorted to Diodorus who noted how the first gods of Egypt and Phoenicia were the sun and the moon (p. 30). Eusebius drew further support from Theophrastus, who noted how the earliest of mankind sacrificed herbage to the stars (p. 32). As a final support for his position, Eusebius drew from Plato, who noted that the word for god (θεος)came from the word for running (θεοντα), because the stars were observed to run (θεειν) across the sky (p. 33).
In agreement with those philosophers, Eusebius concluded: “This is what our holy Scriptures also teach, in which it is contained, that in the beginning the worship of the visible luminaries had been assigned to all the nations.” In contrast to those nations, “to the Hebrew race alone had been entrusted the full initiation into the knowledge of God the Maker and Artificer of the universe, and of true piety towards Him” (p. 34). Thus, Christians follow the Hebrews in true piety worship the true God, but the polytheist do not even worship the gods originally assigned to all mankind but followed later gods, which were “men’s inventions, and representations of our mortal nature, or rather new devices of base and licentious dispositions” (p. 34).
To be continued….