Chapter LI.—That he ordered a Church to be built at Mambre.
Such was the principal sacred edifices erected by the emperors command. But having heard that the self-same Saviour who erewhile had appeared on earth 3284 had in ages long since past afforded a manifestation of his Divine presence to holy men of Palestine near the oak of Mambre, 3285 he ordered that a house of prayer should be built there also in honor of the God who had thus appeared. Accordingly the imperial commission was transmitted to the provincial governors by letters addressed to them individually, enjoining a speedy completion of the appointed work. He sent moreover to the writer of this history an eloquent admonition, a copy of which I think it well to insert in the present work, in order to convey a just idea of his pious diligence and zeal. To express, then, his displeasure at the evil practices which he had heard were usual in the place just referred to, he addressed me in the following terms.
This doctrine, which appears again and again in Eusebius and in Constantine, has a curiously interesting bearing at present theological controversies in America, and England for that matter. It may be called the doctrine of the “eternal Christ,” as over against the doctrine of the “essential Christ,” or that which seems to make his existence begin with his incarnation—the “historical Christ.” He had historical existence from the beginning, both as the indwelling and as the objective, and one might venture to think that advocates of these two views could find a meeting-ground, or solution of difficulty at least, in this phrase which represents him who was in the beginning with God and is and ever shall be, who has made all things which have been made, and is in all parts of the universe and the world, among Jews and Gentiles.533:3285
[The English version in this passage (Gen. xviii. 1), and others, has “plains,” though the Septuagint and ancient interpreters generally render it, as here, by “oak,” some by “terebinth” (turpentine tree), the Vulgate by “convallis.”—Bag.] The Revised Version (1881–1885) has “oaks.”