There is only one history of the Church before Constantine. By Eusebius the father of Church History,
the first to enter upon the subject.
He has a narrative in mind. The continuous line of Church leaders since the first followers of Jesus (
successions of the holy apostles), the internal disputes (
love of innovation have run into the greatest errors) and the persecutions (
ways and the times in which the divine word has been attacked by the Gentiles). And of course, the misfortunes of the Jews (
came upon the whole Jewish nation in consequence of their plots against our Saviour).
to relate the many important events which are said to have occurred in the history of the Church is a difficult task …
I am unable to find even the bare footsteps of those who have traveled the way before me, except in brief fragments
He must pad from non Church men …
plucked like flowers from a meadow the appropriate passages from ancient writers, we shall endeavor to embody the whole in an historical narrative
What outsiders? He makes much of Philo and Josephus for the Jewish calamities, but then has little or nothing. He backs the commonly believed with the vaguest of attribution. Take …
Pilate himself, who was governor in the time of our Saviour, is reported to have fallen into such misfortunes under Caius … This is stated by those Greek historians who have recorded the Olympiads, together with the respective events which have taken place in each period.
even those writers who were far from our religion did not hesitate to mention in their histories … For they recorded that in the fifteenth year of Domitian Flavia Domitilla, daughter of a sister of Flavius Clement, who at that time was one of the consuls of Rome, was exiled with many others to the island of Pontia in consequence of testimony borne to Christ.
Eusebius is a collator, someone backing the believed, not fabricating a narrative. Interesting is who formed the key pieces of this story and when (a big chase for another day: The Church - the story makers). Revealing is how unrecognized the Church was before Constantine, even in its bastion of the east. Nevertheless, after Constantine, its story of prophesy fulfilled, of righteousness punished but triumphant would frame much of the fourth century. Recognition changed history. Literally.