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Headword: *dionu/sios o( *)arewpagi/ths
Adler number: delta,1170
Translated headword: Dionysios the Areiopagite, Dionysius the Areopagite
Vetting Status: high
Bishop of Athens, a most illustrious man, who reached the highest level in Greek culture. A disciple of Paul, who introduced him to the Christian faith,[1] Dionysius was enthroned by him as the bishop of Athens itself.[2] As for the skills in the Greek disciplines, his inherited culture,[3] he was judged the most eminent of all [his equals], for generally speaking he had gained great experience in each study field they [sc. the pagan Greeks] cultivated. This man was an auditor of Paul, when the latter was teaching at Athens and openly proclaiming among the Greeks the good news of the Christ and His resurrection. After he put faith in Paul's preaching Dionysius was appointed by him as the bishop of the city. So during the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when he also was in the prime of his manhood, he left for Egypt, because he longed to meet with the learned men of that country. Along with him also came the well-known Apollophanes the Sophist,[4] whose disciple at Smyrna was Polemon of Laodicea,[5] the master of Aristides.[6] At the time of the saving passion of Christ the Lord, the two of them were staying at Helioupolis, the city of Egypt.[7] Now, since the solar eclipse took place in an unnatural way[8] -– it was not the appointed time for conjunction -– it is said that Apollophanes the Sophist addressed the blessed Dionysius with these words: "my good Dionysius, [these are] the requitals for divine things!". It is Dionysius himself that mentions all of these events in the letter he wrote to Polycarp the Great, bishop of Smyrna,[9] as Apollophanes was attacking Dionysius because of his adherence to the Christian religion. And [Dionysius] said: "but you say that Apollophanes the Sophist is railing at me, and calls me parricide on the grounds that I impiously use the [thought] of the Greeks against the Greeks.[10] However, it would be more true for us to reply to him that the Greeks impiously use divine things against [other] divine things, because they attempt to overthrow the respect due to God through the wisdom which comes from God".[11] A little later, [he said]: "but even Apollophanes himself is impiously using divine things against [other] divine things. The true philosophers ought indeed to be led by the knowledge of reality, which he does well to call 'philosophy' and the divine Paul has called 'wisdom of God',[12] toward the Cause of the reality itself and the knowledge of that [reality]". And again a little later: "since Apollophanes is a wise man, he should be aware that of the order and the movements of Heaven, nothing could otherwise be altered, [than] if it were moved to that point by the one who holds it together and causes its existence, [the one] who creates and transforms everything, according to the Scriptures."[13] And after a while again, "tell then[14] to him: what do you say about the solar eclipse that took place at the time of the saving Cross? Then indeed, when both of us were present at Helioupolis and were together, we saw the Moon falling upon the Sun, contrary to any expectation, for it was not the appointed time for conjunction. And again the Moon from the ninth hour up to the evening was set up against the solar disk in an unnatural way. And let him remember some further detail: he [sc. Apollophanes] knows that we saw the contact itself starting from east and moving up to the edge of the Sun, then stepping back with a retrograde motion; and again the contact and the end of the eclipse did not take place from the same direction, but from diametrically opposite points. So great were the prodigies of that time, possible only for Christ, the cause of all, the One who makes great and extraordinary things, so numerous that it is impossible to count them.[14a] "If you think you can do it righteously and are able to, Apollophanes" [said Dionysius], "try to deny it in front of me, who was with you on that occasion, and who has seen, examined and wondered with you at these events. Actually, I don’t know whence, Apollophanes at that time started prophesying, and said to me as if he was interpreting the things which happened: ‘My good Dionysius, [these are] the requitals of divine things’".[15] Such marvelous events the great Dionysius narrated in his letter to the inspired Polycarp. A demonstration giving a precise idea of his wisdom and his eloquence is the style of the books he wrote, that could never be surpassed: his knowledge was great in both kinds of culture, the one so-called by the pagans, and ours, the divine one. Indeed, if one looks at the beauty of his words and the depth of his thoughts, one would think that they are the offspring not of a human nature, but of an incorruptible, divine power.
Now, the following are the books he wrote:
to Timothy, bishop of Ephesus, who was himself a disciple of Paul, 12 books On Divine Names;[16] [these include:] On Unity and Distinction of Divine Word;[17] On the question "What is the might of prayer?" and On the blessed Hierotheus, On Piety, Theological summary;[18] On the Good; On Light; On Beauty; On Love; On Ecstasy; On Zeal; Evil is not a being, nor derives from existing things, nor is inside existing things[19]; On Being, therein Examples;[20] On Life [21]; On Wisdom; On Mind; On Reason; On Truth; On Belief;[22] On Power; On Justice; On Salvation; On Purification;[23] On the great and the small; On Identity; On Alterity; On Similarity; On Difference; On Rest; On Movement; On equality;[24] On the Sovereign of All, the Ancient of days, therein On Eternity and Time; On Peace;[25] What is meant by "being itself"; On the Holy of Holies, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, God of Gods.[26] Another book, dedicated to the same Timothy, [is] On Ecclesiastical Hierarchy,[27] including 15 chapters; another book, to the same Timothy, On Celestial Hierarchy,[28] also in 15 chapters, another book to the same Timothy On Mystical Theology,[29] including 5 chapters, On the heavenly orders and what their number is.
Letters[30] of Dionysius are transmitted to the monk Gaius in number of four; one to the deacon Dorotheus; one to the priest Sopatros; one to Polycarp, hierarch of Smyrna; one to the monk Demophilos; one to John the Theologian, the apostle and evangelist. We should know that some of the pagan philosophers, and especially Proclus, often have used the theories of the blessed Dionysius, and they did it also with his bare words. One might suppose from that, that the earlier Athenian philosophers, after having usurped his works -– as Dionysius himself mentions, writing to Timotheus -– hid it, in order to be seen as the authors of his divine books.
Thus, Dionysius, the revealer of God, already aged and old, died as a martyr for Christ under the reign of Traian Caesar, when also the inspired Ignatius at Rome entered the combat for immortality.
An Encomium on the Great Dionysius has been written by Michael Syncellus of Jerusalem, in which he says:[31] "what we have received through his written or unwritten teaching, we come to explain it to you all, who are willing to listen. A narration has come down to us, transmitted from father to son, that the above mentioned great Dionysius, at the time of the saving Passion, when at noon the Sun was obscured, astonished at the extraordinary phenomenon and going beyond the [limits of] human understanding, said 'An unknown God is suffering, for the sake of whom all things are being darkened and shaken'.[32] And immediately, right at the moment this universal miracle was produced, he had conjectured [the reasons] and was observing by himself, waiting for the meaning that would be announced by that. He himself mentions that most frightening solar eclipse in the letter to the bishop Polycarp. For Apollophanes, a philosopher, follower of the Greek religion, was railing and attacking this thrice-fortunate man, as, albeit he was his beloved companion, of his same origin, he felt disgusted for the religion of his country and chose the one of the Christians, embraced a faith and fought for it most bravely, and used Greek writings against the Greeks. In the attempt to refute that attack and anger, or rather to give it as a suggestion to Polycarp, since the mockery was also directed against him by the fellow, Dionysius says the following words: "but you say that Apollophanes the Sophist is railing at me, and calls me parricide" etc.
Greek Original:
*dionu/sios o( *)arewpagi/ths, e)pi/skopos *)aqhnw=n, a)nh\r e)llogimw/tatos kai\ th=s *(ellhnikh=s paidei/as ei)s a)/kron e)lhlakw/s, a)kousth\s *pau/lou pro\s th\n tou= *xristianismou= qrhskei/an kai\ u(p' au)tou= katastaqei\s ei)s au)ta\s ta\s *)aqh/nas e)pi/skopos. pro\s de\ th\n pa/trion tw=n *(ellhnikw=n maqhma/twn a)/skhsin pa/ntwn prou)ke/krito: e(ka/sths ga\r w(s ei)pei=n ai(re/sews th=s u(p' au)tw=n presbeuome/nhs e)n pollh=| kaqesth/kei th=| pei/ra|. ou(=tos h)/kouse *pau/lou dhmhgorou=ntos e)n *)aqh/nais kai\ to\n *xristo\n kai\ th\n a)na/stasin meta\ parrhsi/as toi=s *(/ellhsin eu)aggelizome/nou. kai\ pisteu/sas tw=| *pau/lou khru/gmati u(p' au)tou= kai\ th=s po/lews e)piskopei=n ta/ttetai. kata\ gou=n th\n a)rxh\n *tiberi/ou *kai/saros, o(/te dh\ kai\ th\n h(liki/an h)/kmazen, a)ph=ren ei)s *ai)/gupton toi=s e)kei=se sofoi=s o(milh=sai glixo/menos. sunh=n de\ au)tw=| kai\ *)apollofa/nhs e)kei=nos o( sofisth/s, ou(= *pole/mwn o( *laodikeu\s e)n *smu/rnh| dih/kousen, o( dida/skalos *)aristei/dou. kata\ gou=n to\n kairo\n tou= swthri/ou pa/qous tou= despo/tou *xristou=, a)/mfw h)/sthn e)n *(hlioupo/lei th=| e)n *ai)gu/ptw|. kai\ dh\ th=s h(liakh=s e)klei/yews ou) kata\ fu/sin gegenhme/nhs, ou) ga\r h)=n suno/dou kairo/s, ei)pei=n le/getai pro\s to\n maka/rion *dionu/sion to\n sofisth\n *)apollofa/nhn tau=ta: w)= kale\ *dionu/sie, a)moibai\ qei/wn pragma/twn. mnhmoneu/ei de\ tou/twn a(pa/ntwn o( au)to\s *dionu/sios e)n th=| pro\s *polu/karpon to\n me/gan e)pistolh=|, to\n *smu/rnhs e)pi/skopon: h)=n ga\r o( *)apollofa/nhs tw=| *dionusi/w| tou= *xristianismou= e(/neka dialoidorou/menos: kai/ fhsi: su\ de\ fh\|s loidorei=sqai/ moi to\n sofisth\n *)apollofa/nhn kai\ patraloi/an a)pokalei=n, w(s toi=s *(ellh/nwn e)pi\ tou\s *(/ellhnas ou)x o(si/ws xrwme/nw|. kai/toi pro\s au)to\n h(ma=s h)=n a)lhqe/steron ei)pei=n, w(s *(/ellhnes toi=s qei/ois ou)x o(si/ws e)pi\ ta\ qei=a xrw=ntai dia\ th=s sofi/as tou= qeou= to\ qei=on e)kba/llein peirw/menoi se/bas. kai\ meta\ mikro/n: a)lla\ kai\ au)to\s *)apollofa/nhs ou)x o(si/ws toi=s qei/ois e)pi\ ta\ qei=a xrh=tai. th=| ga\r tw=n o)/ntwn gnw/sei kalw=s legome/nh| pro\s au)tou= filosofi/a| kai\ pro\s tou= qei/ou *pau/lou sofi/a| qeou= keklhme/nh| pro\s to\n ai)/tion kai\ au)tw=n tw=n o)/ntwn kai\ th=s gnw/sews au)tw=n e)xrh=n a)na/gesqai tou\s a)lhqei=s filoso/fous. kai\ meta\ braxe/a: e)/dei sunidei=n *)apollofa/nhn sofo\n o)/nta mh\ a)\n a)/llws pote\ dunhqh=nai th=s ou)rani/as ti paratraph=nai ta/cews kai\ kinh/sews, ei) mh\ to\n tou= ei)=nai au)th\n kai\ sunoxe/a kai\ ai)/tion e)/xein ei)s tou=to kinou=nta, to\n poiou=nta pa/nta kai\ metaskeua/zonta, kata\ to\n i(ero\n lo/gon. kai\ au)=qis meta\ mikro/n: ei)pe\ de\ au)tw=|, ti/ le/geis peri\ th=s e)n tw=| swthri/w| staurw=| gegonui/as e)klei/yews; a)mfote/rw ga\r to/te kata\ *(hliou/polin a(/ma paro/nte kai\ sunestw=te parado/cws tw=| h(li/w| th\n selh/nhn e)mpi/ptousan e(wrw=men, ou) ga\r h)=n suno/dou kairo/s, au)=qi/s te au)th\n a)po\ th=s e)na/ths w(/ras a)/xri th=s e(spe/ras ei)s to\ tou= h(li/ou dia/metron u(perfuw=s a)ntikatasta=san. a)na/mnhson de/ ti kai\ e(/teron au)to/n: oi)=de ga\r o(/ti kai\ th\n e)/mptwsin au)th\n e)c a)natolw=n e(wra/kamen a)rcame/nhn kai\ me/xri tou= h(liakou= pe/ratos e)lqou=san, ei)=ta a)napodi/sasan, kai\ au)=qis ou)k e)k tou= au)tou= kai\ th\n e)/mptwsin kai\ th\n a)naka/qarsin, a)ll' e)k tou= kata\ dia/metron e)nanti/ou gegenhme/nhn. tosau=ta tou= to/te kairou= ta\ u(perfuh= kai\ mo/nw| *xristw=| tw=| panaiti/w| dunata/, tw=| poiou=nti mega/la kai\ e)cai/sia, w(=n ou)k e)/stin a)riqmo/s. tau=ta, ei)/ soi qemito/n, ei)pe/, kai\ dunato/n, *)apollo/fanes, e)ce/legxe kai\ pro\s e)me\ to\n to/te sumparo/nta soi kai\ sunewrako/ta kai\ sunanakri/nanta pa/nta kai\ sunaga/menon. a)me/lei kai\ mantei/as to/te ou)k oi)=d' o(/qen o( *)apollofa/nhs a)pa/rxetai, kai\ pro\s e)me\ w(/sper ta\ gino/mena sumba/llwn e)/fh tau=ta: w)= kale\ *dionu/sie: qei/wn a)moibai\ pragma/twn. tosau=ta w(s kat' e)pistolh\n ei)/rhken o( me/gas *dionu/sios pro\s to\n qeofo/ron *polu/karpon. th=s de/ ge sofi/as au)tou= kai\ th=s eu)glwtti/as e)/ndeicis a)kribh\s h( tw=n par' au)tou= grafeisw=n bi/blwn a)nupe/rblhtos fra/sis: th=| te ga\r para\ tw=n e)/cwqen kaloume/nh| paidei/a|, th=| te qei/a| kai\ h(mete/ra|, pollh\n ei)=xe th\n e)pisth/mhn e)n e(kate/ra|. ei) ga/r tis a)pi/doi pro\s ta\ ka/llh tw=n au)tou= lo/gwn kai\ ta\ ba/qh tw=n nohma/twn ou)k a)nqrwpi/nhs fu/sews tau=ta nomi/soi gennh/mata, a)lla/ tinos a)khra/tou kai\ qei/as duna/mews. kai\ toi/nun au)tw=| ge/graptai ta/de: *pro\s *timo/qeon e)pi/skopon *)efe/sou, kai\ au)to\n maqhth\n *pau/lou tugxa/nonta, peri\ qei/wn o)noma/twn bibli/a ib#, peri\ h(nwme/nhs kai\ diakekrime/nhs qeologi/as, peri\ tou=, ti/s h( th=s eu)xh=s du/namis, kai\ peri\ tou= makari/ou *(ieroqe/ou, peri\ eu)labei/as kai\ suggrafh=s qeologikh=s, peri\ a)gaqou=, fwto/s, kalou=, e)/rwtos, e)ksta/sews, zh/lou: kai\ o(/ti to\ kako\n ou)/te o)\n ou)/te e)c o)/ntwn ou)/te e)n toi=s ou)=sin, peri\ tou= o)/ntos, e)n w(=| kai\ paradei/gmata, peri\ zwh=s, peri\ sofi/as, nou=, lo/gou, a)lhqei/as, pi/stews, peri\ duna/mews, dikaiosu/nhs, swthri/as, a)polutrw/sews, peri\ mega/lou kai\ mikrou=, tau)tou=, e(te/rou, o(moi/ou, a)nomoi/ou, sta/sews, kinh/sews, i)so/thtos, peri\ pantokra/toros, palaiou= h(merw=n: e)n w(=| kai\ peri\ ai)w=nos kai\ xro/nwn: peri\ ei)rh/nhs, kai\ ti/ bou/letai au)to\ to\ au)toei=nai, peri\ a(gi/ou a(gi/wn, basile/ws basile/wn kai\ kuri/ou kuri/wn kai\ qeou= qew=n. e(te/ra bi/blos pro\s to\n au)to\n *timo/qeon peri\ e)kklhsiastikh=s i(erarxi/as perie/xousa kefa/laia ie#, e(te/ra bi/blos pro\s to\n au)to\n *timo/qeon peri\ th=s ou)rani/ou i(erarxi/as perie/xousa kai\ au)th\ kefa/laia ie#, a)/llh pro\s to\n au)to\n *timo/qeon bi/blos peri\ mustikh=s qeologi/as perie/xousa kefa/laia e#, *peri\ tw=n ou)rani/wn tagma/twn kai\ o(/sa tw=| a)riqmw=|. fe/rontai de\ au)tou= kai\ e)pistolai\ pro\s *ga/i+on qerapeuth\n d#, pro\s *dwro/qeon leitourgo\n a#, pro\s *sw/patron i(ere/a a#, pro\s *polu/karpon i(era/rxhn *smu/rnhs a#, pro\s *dhmo/filon qerapeuth\n a#, pro\s *)iwa/nnhn to\n *qeolo/gon, to\n a)po/stolon kai\ eu)aggelisth\n a#. i)ste/on de/, w(/s tines tw=n e)/cw sofw=n kai\ ma/lista *pro/klos qewrh/masi polla/kis tou= makari/ou *dionusi/ou ke/xrhtai kai\ au)tai=s de\ chrai=s tai=s le/cesi. kai\ e)/stin u(po/noian e)k tou/tou labei=n w(s oi( e)n *)aqh/nais palaio/teroi tw=n filoso/fwn sfeterisa/menoi ta\s au)tou= pragmatei/as, w(=n au)to\s mnhmoneu/ei pro\s *timo/qeon gra/fwn, a)pe/kruyan, i(/na pate/res au)toi\ o)fqw=si tw=n qei/wn au)tou= lo/gwn. o( toi/nun qeofa/ntwr *dionu/sios h)/dh pou makro\n e)la/sas xro/non kai\ plh/rhs h(merw=n gegonw\s tw=| tou= pneu/matos marturi/w| tw=| u(pe\r *xristou= teleiou=tai e)pi\ *trai+anou= *kai/saros, o(/te kai\ o( qeofo/ros *)igna/tios e)n *(rw/mh| to\n th=s a)qanasi/as dih/qlhsen a)gw=na. o(/ti ei)s to\n me/gan *dionu/sion e)/grayen e)gkw/mion *mixah\l *su/gkellos *(ierosolu/mwn, e)n w(=| fhsin: o(/sa de\ di' a)gra/fou parado/sews h)\ e)ggra/fws pareilh/famen, h(/komen u(mi=n toi=s filakroa/mosi paraqhso/menoi. toiou=tos ou)=n ei)s h(ma=s kath/nthke lo/gos, a)ne/kaqen pro\s patro\s paidi\ paradedome/nos, w(s o( me/gas *dionu/sios ou(=tos kata\ to\n tou= swthri/ou pa/qous kairo/n, h(ni/ka mesou/shs h(me/ras o( h(/lios e)kru/pteto, e)pi\ tw=| parado/cw| sfo/dra teqhpw\s kai\ th\n a)nqrwpei/an u(perbebhkw\s gnw=sin, katanoh/sas to\ gegono/s, a)/gnwstos, e)/fh, pa/sxei qeo/s, di' o(\n to/de to\ pa=n e)zo/fwtai/ te kai\ sesa/leutai. kai\ paraxrh=ma to\n xro/non, kaq' o(\n touti\ to\ pagko/smion e)tete/lesto teratou/rghma, tekmhriwsa/menos e)th/rei par' e(autw=|, tou)nteu=qen diaggelou/menon karadokw=n. me/mnhtai me/ntoi kai\ au)to\s e)n th=| pro\s *polu/karpon e)pistolh=| th=s h(liakh=s e)klei/yews e)kei/nhs th=s frikwdesta/ths. *)apollofa/nous ga/r, a)ndro\s filoso/fou, th\n qrhskei/an *(/ellhnos tugxa/nontos, nemesw=nto/s te kai\ loidoroume/nou tw=| trisolbi/w| tou/tw| w(s e(tai/rw| dh=qen o)/nti filta/tw| kai\ o(mogenei=, ta\ patrw=|a me\n musattome/nw| seba/smata, th\n de\ tw=n *xristianw=n protimw=nti kai\ a)spazome/nw| pi/stin kai\ tau/ths a)gwnistikw/tata proaspi/zein, kai\ toi=s *(ellh/nwn kata\ tw=n *(ellh/nwn xrwme/nw|, th\n loidori/an kai\ ne/mesin a)naskeua/zein peirw/menos, ma=llon de\ u(potiqe/menos tw=| *poluka/rpw|, pro\s o(\n kai\ o( sustratiw/ths e)poiei=to ta\ skw/mmata, ta/de fhsi/: su\ de\ fh\|s loidorei=sqai/ moi to\n sofisth\n *)apollofa/nhn kai\ patraloi/an a)pokalei=n: kai\ ta\ e(ch=s.
Links to works by and about Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite at web address 1; Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry by Mark Lamarre at web address 2; Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry by Kevin Corrigan and Michael Harrington at web address 3. See also, in brief, OCD(4) s.v. 'Dionysius(4) the Areopagite'.
[1] According to Acts 17.32-34 Dionysius, born at Athens in the first century AD of aristocratic origin, was one of the judges of the Areopagus. He is said to have been converted to the Christian faith by Paul's preaching, along with a woman called Damaris and others. Further evidence about his person is wanting. Down the ages a great number of theological writings were attributed to a "Dionysius of Athens", generally identified with the Areopagite. Moreover, Dionysius was popularly identified with the martyr of Gaul, first bishop of Paris (Saint Denis); many analogies between the worship of the two saints are to be remarked in Western Europe. Other theories identify him with the Egyptian Dionysius of Rhinocolura, or with Dionysius of Gaza. In any event, the first time the works of Dionysius are quoted is by sixth-century writers. That, along with his advanced trinitarian and christological doctrine which cannot be contemporary with the Apostles, and shows many common points to neo-Platonic doctrines, lead us to place Dionysius' life at least at the end of the fifth century. According to this hypothesis, the letter corpus and the passage quoted by the Suda could hardly be ascribed to the same author as the other books.
[2] Dionysius of Corinth in Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 3.4 refers to D. as bishop of Athens.
[3] Literally: "as for the inherited practice of Greek disciplines".
[4] There is no (other) evidence for this Apollophanes. A philosopher of that name is mentioned by Porphyry in Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 6.19.8, but he lived apparently at the end of the second century AD (RE s.v. Apollophanes no.14); see on this passage at omega 182. Other references in the Suda are to be connected with an Athenian comic poet (alpha 441, alpha 3409, omicron 736, upsilon 653, phi 769).
[5] M. Antonius Polemon, of Laodicea (ca. AD 90-146; see pi 1889): a famous orator of the second century AD, active as a teacher and politician at Smyrna, as related in his biography in Philostratus' Lives of the Sophists. He was a disciple of Dion of Prusa (Philostr. 1.25.539), Skopelianos and Timokrates. His treatise on physiognomy survives in an Arabic version.
[6] P. Aelius Aristides (117-180; see alpha 3902), Greek rhetor and orator, among the most representative writers of the movement known as the Second Sophistic. At the age of 26 he had to quit his career as an orator because of health problems, as related in his works. These include speeches on religious and political life, his Sacred Teachings.
[7] A city in northern Egypt, in the Nile delta, 6 miles (10 km) below present-day Cairo, whose Egyptian name was On. Helio(u)polis was renowned as the center of Solar worship and of schools of philosophy and astronomy which lost their importance after Alexandria was founded. However, the city itself kept its role until the first centuries of the Roman empire.
[8] For the solar eclipse on the day of the passion of Jesus Christ see Mark 15.33, Luke 23.44.
[9] See DionysiusLetter 7, to Polycarp. The letter concerns the refutation of Greek errors, according to a widespread tradition; Dionysius, maintaining that the proclamation of the Law of Truth is far more important than any attempt to reply to pagan philosophers and to their errors, refers his own answers to Apollophanes' critics. For Polycarp see pi 1970.
[10] the thought of Greeks (literally, neuter plural, "the things of the Greeks"), i.e. pagan Greek philosophical notions or Greek demonstration procedures, to show the truth of Christian faith against pagan worship.
[11] "which comes from God": literally “the wisdom of God”, the knowledge of things created, philosophy; The expression comes from Paul (see below).
[12] See n.11.
[13] Amos 5.8 LXX.
[14] This passage should be referred to the omitted lines of the Letter to Polycarp in order to be correctly understood. There Dionysius refers to other astronomical phenomena or ‘Divine portents’, referred to by some Persian sacerdotal legends, which he interprets according to the Bible and Apollophanes refuses to recognize as true. The only thing Apollophanes could never deny -– says Dionysius -- is the astonishing eclipse following Jesus’ death, for he too was an eye-witness at that time.
[14a] cf. Job 5.9, 9.10 LXX.
[15] Letter to Polycarp 3.
[16] The following titles are not to be connected with separate works, but refer to the chapters of the treatise On Divine Names. The introduction to Timothy describes God as omniscient, beyond all human understanding and description. Therefore there is no way of expressing God but using through symbols, that is, the names we find in the scriptures. The contemplation of these Divine Symbols allows one to see the truth of God. Such a conception has many points in common with the philosophical notion of the One developed by the neo-Platonic school.
[17] This chapter introduces the notion of "divine procession", which can be understood as the counterpart of the Neoplatonic "emanation".
[18] In these sections Dionysius mentions Hierotheus as his teacher and refers to a theological work this last had written. The work itself does not survive.
[19] These chapters include the explanation of the Divine Names used in the scriptures, constituting the so-called apophatic (negative) theology. This applies to God the particular predicates of created beings (good, beauty, life etc.), but denies that any intelligible name could properly denote God, for it is beyond every created being. According to Dionysius, theology must speak of God by denying any predicate that could be affirmed of creatures: God "is not" Life, "is not" Light, etc., since it is "more than" these things. He also explains the concept of "longing" for the union (e(/nwsis) with the Good and the Beautiful, which can be realized in the total absence of any word or thought, of any rational processes. That is very similar to the union with the One, which Plotinus experienced four times in his life, and Porphyry only once. Even the doctrine concerning evil can be understood on the ground of a Platonic conception of it and finds many analogies in Proclus’ treatise on the existence of evil.
[20] The chapter on Being discusses its metaphysical causes.
[21] Here Life is taken as absolute and eternal.
[22] These chapters are concerned with the Divine Wisdom and its relationships with human intelligence.
[23] The topic of these sections is the order of the Universe and its correspondence to divine laws.
[24] The basic unity of God is shown through different aspects of reality, both at a macrocosmic and microcosmic level.
[25] Peace is here the communion based on the harmony deriving from God’s laws.
[26] Names related to different aspects of God: purity, order, stability and providence. A thirteenth chapter is not recorded here, On Perfect and One, concerning the synthesis of the whole treatise.
[27] On the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy describes the human beings within the church as divided into eight ranks: the hierarchs or bishops, priests, deacons, monks, laity, catechumens, penitents, and the demon–possessed. The attempt is evident to create a hierarchy correspondent to the celestial one.
[28] On the Celestial Hierarchy describes the intelligible realm as divided into nine ranks of beings: the seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominions, powers, authorities, principalities, archangels, and angels.
[29] The Mystical Theology concerns the gradual ascent from the world of material things to God, through the intermediate realm of intelligible reality.
[30] The letters deal with a wide range of topics. Those addressed to the monk Gaius concern negative theology (like the one to Dorotheus), the mystery of Jesus, His humanity and transcendence, the notion of Good. To pagan cults and beliefs refer the letter to Polycarp, here quoted, and the letter to the priest Sopatros. The letter to Demophilus is addressed to a monk who refused a sinner who wanted to return to the Church and turned him away; Dionysius is discussing the need of accepting the repentant sinners and exalting the virtues of clemency and meekness. To John the Apostle, Dionysius addresses word of support during his exile. The Suda does not mention the letter to the hierarch Titus, concerning the symbolism of "spiritual nourishment". A letter to Apollophanes survives in a Latin version.
[31] Michael Syncellus, Praise of Dionysius the Great (PG IV, 625d, 628 a-c). For the author see mu 1141.
[32] See alpha 2231.
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Keywords: biography; Christianity; chronology; ethics; geography; philosophy; religion; rhetoric; science and technology
Translated by: Antonella Ippolito on 11 April 2005@20:49:09.
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Catharine Roth (initial cosmetics) on 16 April 2005@13:24:42.
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