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Klong Comments on Jos. Stiglmayr's 1909 Catholic Encyclopedia Article


Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite

(article written by Joseph Stiglmayr, from the 1909-1911 version of the Catholic Encyclopedia)

By "Dionysius the Areopagite" is usually understood the judge of the Areopagus who, as related in Acts, xvii, 34, was converted to Christianity by the preaching of St. Paul, and according to Dionysius of Corinth (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., III, iv) was Bishop of Athens. In the course of time, however, two errors of far-reaching import arose in connection with this name. In the first place, a series of famous writings of a rather peculiar nature was ascribed to the Areopagite and, secondly, he was popularly identified with the holy martyr of Gaul, Dionysius, the first Bishop of Paris. It is not our purpose to take up directly the latter point; we shall concern ourselves here (1) with the person of the Pseudo-Areopagite; (2) with the classification, contents, and characteristics of his writing; (3) with their history and transmission; under this head the question as to the genuineness of, origin, first acceptance, and gradual spread of these writings will be answered.

Deep obscurity still hovers about the person of the Pseudo-Areopagite. External evidence as to the time and place of his birth, his education, and latter occupation is entirely wanting.

Yes, it must be quite difficult to try to cram the writings into a century where they don't belong! But, in fact, they were written in the 1st Century.

Our only source of information regarding this problematic personage is the writings themselves. The clues furnished by the first appearance and by the character of the writings enable us to conclude that the author belongs at the very earliest to the latter half of the fifth century, and that, in all probability, he was a native of Syria.

Actually, Dionysius gives us quite a lot of information about himself in the writings. He was apparently born into a wealthy pagan family in Athens. He was probably Greek. As a young man he went to a place called Heliopolis and witnessed a most unusual event in the skies above, which he describes in detail, in letter 7. He says that this event occured on the day of the Crucifixion of Christ (circa 29-33 A.D.) He had a famous teacher named "Hierotheus", whose description sounds a lot like Philo of Alexandria. Dionysius was in Athens around the year 48, when the Apostle Paul preached and disputed daily in the marketplace of Athens. (See the Book of Acts, chapter 17).

Dionysius wrote to people who are familiar to us from the New Testament, especially Timothy. Dionysius and his teacher Hierotheus attended a gathering of some of the most famous apostles, including Peter and James (the Lord's brother). No location is given.

Dionysius was quite interested in the writings of John, and alluded often to John's Gospel and the Book of Revelation. This shows that Dionysius must have lived nearly to the end of the 1st Century.

His thoughts, phrases, and expressions show a great familiarity with the works of the neo-Platonists, especially with Plotinus and Proclus.

Aw, you're just saying that, aren't you, Herr Stiglmayr? How can you prove it, if Dionysius the Areopagite came before Plotinus (who lived in the 3rd Century) and Proclus (5th Century)? Surely, if there were copies of the Dionysian writings in the private Greek libraries of Alexandria (where Plotinus studied for a time) and Athens (where Proclus taught Platonic studies), these two Greek philosophers could simply have borrowed the ideas of Dionysius, but not wished to acknowledge him because of his background as a Christian. So who borrowed from whom? If Dionysius came first, then the others borrowed from him. Doesn't that seem logical, Herr Stiglmayr?

He is also thoroughly versed in the sacred books of the Old and New Testament, and in the works of the Fathers as far as Cyril of Alexandria.

Ja ja, Herr Stiglmayr! Dionysius does seem to be familiar with both the Old and the New Testament writings! I don't know about Mr. Cyril of Alexandria! (I was just reading a bit about Mr. Cyril, and I didn't really like what I read about him!) It would not be surprising if Cyril was able to view the writings, since there seems to have been a copy of them in Alexandria. Origen (who grew up in Alexandria) and Clement of Alexandria also seem to echo the writings in certain passages. If there are sections in Mr. Cyril's writings that sound like Dionysius, well, Herr Stiglmayr, as I pointed out above, it is logical to assume that Mr. Cyril copied from Dionysius, because Dionysius came first! Is that not logical, Herr Stiglmayr? But since you don't give us any quotations or references to go by, it is hard to judge whether anybody copied from anybody!

Now, as to the question of Dionysius being very familiar with the Old and New Testaments: this is an important point indeed! Mr. Paul Rorem (Biblical and Liturgical Symbolism within the Pseudo-Dionysian Synthesis, 1984; p. 14) has done a lot of work on this, even listing the number allusions per Old and New Testament book, in the Dionysian corpus. (It might be interesting to see how many allusions there are to Plato!)

Of course, the question is, how is it that Dionysius the Areopagite could allude to so many New Testament books-- he would have had to live too long, wouldn't he? But not really. If Dionysius was a young student at the time of the Crucifixion, which he writes about in letter seven, he may has been, say, 17 years old at the time. If the Crucifixion took place in AD 29 or 30, Dionysius would have been about 36 when Paul came to Athens (Acts 17). That was about the year 48. There is a Church tradition that Dionysius died (martyred?) in the year 97, as Bishop of Athens. That would make him about 85 when he died. That is certainly not unusual for the age. John the Apostle lived to a great age. Apollonius of Tyana lived to very old age. Dio of Prusa, Rabbi Akiba--these are just off the top of my head. Why shouldn't they live to an advanced age if they "lived a clean life" and all that?

To get back to the point, however, Dionysius was clearly a literary man. He must have waited eagerly for each new writing to come from the pens of the Apostles and updated his own works accordingly. It is certainly not stretching belief that by the year 97 AD, Dionysius could have had in hand all the NT writings to which he alludes.

(Passages from the Areopagitic writings are indicated by title and chapter. in this article D.D.N. stands for "De divinus nominibus"; C.H. for "Caelestis hierarchia"; E.H. for "Ecclesiastica hierarchia"; Th.M. for "Theologia mystica", which are all found in Migne, P.G., vol. III).

It's nice of you to tell us where we can go to read the Dionysian works ourselves, Herr Stiglmayr! But since this is an English-language edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia, wouldn't it have been nice if you had mentioned any English translations that were available in 1909! After all, Migne's monumental volumes are all in Greek and Latin! A lot of us poor Americanos don't really read those languages! Maybe you could have mentioned Mr. John Parker's works, then recently published, which made the whole corpus available in English! That's what you would want, isn't it, Herr Stiglmayr, that we could all read these works and judge for ourselves what is their merit, and when they were written, and all that? You wouldn't want to hide anything, or cover it up, or make it hard to understand, would you, Herr Stiglmayr?

In a letter to Polycarp (Ep. vii; P.G., III, 1080 A) and in "Cael. hier." (ix, 3; P.G. III, 260 D) he intimates that he was formerly a pagan, and this seems quite probable, considering the peculiar character of his literary work.

I don't think it is possible that this Polycarp could be the Polycarp who was martyred in the mid-2nd Century. The martyr was 86 years old at the time; by some detective work, scholars have reason to believe he was born in the year 69 A.D. Anyway, Dionysius was supposed to have died, traditionally, in 97 A.D., (although John Parker says at one point that Dionysius lived until the year 117). Anyway, Dionysius calls his Polycarp "the Hierarch"; is it possible that Polycarp the martyr was already in such a position by the age of 28? I don't know. My best guess is that there was more that one Polycarp in the sea--perhaps we are talking about the father or grandfather of the martyr.

But one should be more cautious in regard to certain other personal references, for instance, that he was chosen teacher of the "newly-baptized" (D.D.N., iii, 2; P.G. , III, 681 B); that his spiritual father and guide was a wise and saintly man, Hierotheus by name; that he was advised by the latter and ordered by his own superiors to compose these works (ibid., 681 sq.).

And it is plainly for the purpose of deceiving that he tells of having observed the solar eclipse at Christ's Crucifixion (Ep., vii, 2; P.G., III, 1081 A)....

In the first place, Herr Stiglmayr doesn't seem to be much of an expert in detecting deception! Otherwise, he might have noticed that this entire article was for the purposes of deception!

Many people throughout history, including Thomas Aquinas in the Middle Ages, have believed these writings to be genuine, and believable. What is clear to me is that the strange astronomical observation of Dionysius, on the day of the Crucifixion, was in fact a turning point in his life-- one that disposed him to hearing Paul's words 20 years later in Athens.

I, Homer D. Klong, have done some intensive study in ancient recorded astronomical observations! I believe Dionysius did his best to record what he saw! And it is in fact a much more detailed description than the sort you find, for example, in Pliny's or Seneca's astronomical sections. The reader should examine the books of Corliss, regarding unusual observations of the sun and moon, to gain some perspective. Later on I may examine this seventh letter of Dionysius as a separate link, if you should be so fortunate!

While we are on this subject, it is interesting to examine the arguments of Lorenzo Valla, regarding Dionysius. In the year 1457 he noted that none of the early fathers had quoted Dionysius. In addition, Valla asserted that it was doubtful "whether the Areopagite wrote anything at all: The term 'Areopagite' denotes a judge, not a philosopher; furthermore, the claim of 'Dionysius' in one of the Letters (Ep. 7:2) that he observed the eclipse of the sun at the hour of the Savior's death ouside of Palestine is as blatant a fiction as the epistolary form of the report." (quoted from the article "Pseudo-Dionysius and the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century", by Karlfried Froehlich, in Pseudo-Dionysius, the Complete Works, l987, p. 38).

Valla's first two points are arguable, of course. See John Parker's 1899 treatise (elsewhere on this website) for arguments that the early fathers actually did quote Dionysius. As to whether a judge can't also be a philosopher, the reader may decide for himself.

.....and of having, with Hierotheus, the Apostles (Peter and James), and other hierarchs, looked upon "the Life-Begetting, God-Receiving body, i.e., of the Blessed Virgin" (D.D.N., iii, 2; P.G., III, 681 C). The former of these accounts is based on Matt., xxvii, 45, and Mark, xv,33; the latter refers to the apocryphal descriptions of the "Dormitio Mariae".

I've just been reading in Paul Rorem's 1984 book (Biblical and Liturical Symbols, etc. p. 135). Mr. Rorem thinks this passage does not necessarily describe a gathering to view Mary's passing. The Greek is not as clear as Mr. Stiglmayr would lead us to believe. Here is the passage in question from the 1987 Paulist Press translation of Dionysius:

"As you know, we and he and many of our holy brothers met together for a vision of that mortal body, that source of life, which bore God. James, the brother of God, was there. So too was Peter, that summit, that chief of all those who speak of God. After the vision, all these hierarchs chose, each as he was able, to praise the omnipotent goodness of that divine frailty. But next to the sacred writers themselves was my teacher. He surpassed all the divinely-rapt hierarchs, all the other sacred-initiators. He was so caught up, so taken out of himself, experiencing communion with the things praised, that everyone who heard him, everyone who saw him, everyone who knew him (or, rather, didn't know him) considered him to be inspired, to be speaking divine praises." (from Divine Names, chaper 3)

For the same purpose, i.e., to create the impression that the author belonged to the times of the Apostles and that he was identical with the Areopagite mentioned in the Acts, different persons, such as John the Evangelist, Paul, Timothy, Titus, Justus, and Carpus, with whom he is supposed to be on intimate terms, figure in his writings.

Why shouldn't these people figure in his writings, if he lived at the same time and was "Bishop of Athens"? We know that Christian leaders of that era wrote to each other (read, for example, the New Testament!). We also know that Greek literary people liked to keep copies of the letters they wrote.

Why do you say that Dionysius was "supposed to be on intimate terms" with those he wrote to, Herr Stiglmayr? He does not use terms of endearment like Paul does in his letters. I don't feel that these letters display much intimacy.

It seems to me that Dionysius was trying to leave a record of his thoughts, and also a historical record. But you don't want to deal with that, do you Herr Stiglmayr? You just want to go along with your Hierarchy, and hijack these writings into the 5th Century, where you can misdirect and confuse the issue. How, then, can anyone study them in their correct historical context?

I notice, Herr Stiglmayr, that your Jesuit colleague, Hugo Koch, had a big fight with the Church around the time of this article (in the year 1910). (Deutsche Biographische Enzyklopadie, Munich 1997, volume 5, page 641). Didn't he want to go along with the charade?

(Stiglmayr and Koch wrote separate but similar journal articles in 1895 which concluded that Dionysius had copied from Proclus, who was head of the famous Academy in Athens circa 470 A.D. The Academy had been founded by Plato in 387 B.C.)

The doctrinal attitude of the Pseudo-Areopagite is not clearly defined.

Watch out, we're gonna start hearing about 5th-Century "Christology" now-- Not "Love thy Neighbor", not "there is only one Mediator between God and Man", not "In Him there is no darkness at all"; No, no, we gotta undergo some standard-usage misdirection here!

A certain vagueness, which was perhaps intended, is characteristic of his Christology, especially in the question concerning the two natures in Christ.

I'm not surprised that it is vague, Herr Stigmayr, since "Christology" didn't really get going until the 4th and 5th Centuries, and Dionysius the Areopagite lived in the First Century. Nonetheless, since Dionysius came from a background of Platonism and Greek mystery religions, it's not surprising that he was one of the first Christian writers to meditate on such things, as the "nature of Christ."

We may well surmise that he was not a stranger to the latter, and rather modified, form of Monophysitism and that he belonged to that conciliatory group which sought, on the basis of the Henoticon issued in 482 by Emperor Zeno (Evagrius, Hist. Eccl., III, iv), to reconcile the extremes of orthodoxy and heresy. This reserved, indefinite attitude of the author explains the remarkable fact that opposite factions claimed him as an adherent. As to his social rank, a careful comparison of certain details scattered through his works shows that he belonged to the class of scholars who were known at the time as scholastikoi.

Everybody is entitled to his own opinion! Herr Stiglmayr seems somewhat vague in his argument here, and since he gives no actual quotes or references, I can offer little counter-argument. Again, it is not surprising that Dionysius should seem to have a "reserved, indefinite attitude" to theological arguments that engaged 5th-Century clerics, since Dionysius lived and wrote in the 1st Century.

The writings themselves form a collection of four treatises and ten letters. The first treatise, which is also the most important in scope and content, presents in thirteen chapters an explanation of the Divine names. Setting out from the principle that the names of God are to be learned from Scripture only, and that they afford us but an imperfect knowledge of God, Dionysius discusses, among other topics, God's goodness, being, life, wisdom, power, and justice. The one underlying thought of the work, recurring again and again under different forms and phrases, is: God, the One Being (to hen), transcending all quality and predication, all affirmation and negation, and all intellectual conception, by the very force of His love and goodness gives to beings outside Himself their countless gradations, unites them in the closest bonds (proodos), keeps each by His care and direction in its appointed sphere, and draws them again in an ascending order to Himself (epistrophe). While he illustrates the inner life of the Trinity by metaphors of blossom and light applied to the Second and Third Persons (D.D.N., ii, 7 in P.G., III, 645 B).....

Here is the actual quote of the above mentioned passage:

"Or again, we learn from the sacred scriptures that the Father is the originating source of the Godhead and that the Son and the Spirit are, so to speak, divine offshoots, the flowering and transcending lights of the divinity. But we can neither say nor understand how this could be so."--(Pseudo-Dionysius, the Complete Works, Paulist Press, 1987, p. 64)

Notice that there is no mention of the word "Trinity" in the passage. Remember, also, that Jesus himself commanded that the nations be baptized in the name of "the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." (Matt. 28:19)

.....Dionysius represents the procession of all created things from God by the exuberance of being in the Godhead (to hyperpleres), its outpouring and overflowing (D.D.N., ix, 9, in P.G., III, 909 C; cf. ii, 10 in P.G., III, 648 C; xiii, 1 in P.G., III, 977 B), and as a flshing forth from the sun of the Deity (D.D.N., iv, 6 in P.G., III,701 A; iv, 1 in P.G., III, 693 B). Exactly according to their physical nature created things absorb more or less of the radiated light, which, however, grows weaker the farther it descends (D.D.N., xi, 2 in P.G., III, 952 A; i, 2 in P.G., III,, 588 C). As the mighty root sends forth a multitude of plants which it sustains and controls, so created things owe their origin and conservation to the All-Ruling Deity (D.D.N., x, 1 in P.G., III, 936 D). Patterned upon the original of Divine love, righteousness, and peace, is the harmony that pervades the universe (D.D.N., chapters iv, viii, xi). All things tend to God, and in Him are merged and completed, just as the circle returns into itself (D.D.N., iv, 14 in P.G., III, 712 D), as the radii are joined in the centre, or as the numbers are contained in unity (D.D.N., v, 6 in P.G., III,, 820 sq.). These and many similar expressions have given rise to frequent charges of Pantheism against the author. He does not, however, a assert a necessary emanation of things from God, but admits a free creative act on the part of God (D.D.N., iv, 10, in P.G., III, 708 B; cf. C.H., iv, 1 in P.G., III, 177 C); still the echo of neo-Platonism is unmistakable.

Pantheism? Neo-Platonism? A lot of this sounds like Gnosticism to me. Those who want to convince you that the writings are from the 5th Century try to show that Dionysius displays an advanced sort of Neo-Platonism. I'll tell you something straight out: Homer D. Klong doesn't want to become an expert on Neo-Platonism. The scholars don't want to call it Gnosticism because that has negative connotations. As for other influences on Dionysius, the modern scholars don't seem to mention Philo of Alexandria any more-- I guess they don't want you to have the information necessary to make your own judgments! But in fact, here is a quote from the Smith-Wace Dictionary of Christian Biography, originally published circa 1900, vol. 1, p. 846:

"The ninth [letter of Dionysius], also a long letter, addressed to Titus, bishop of Crete, refers to the matters treated of in the Symbolic Theology. Many points are discussed in what to some would appear a strangely neologic spirit [Dionysius enjoyed inventing new words; this is called neologism]. The anthropomorphism of the Old Testament, the bold metaphors of the Song of Songs..., and the like, can only be understood, he says, by the true lovers of holiness, who come to the study of divine wisdom divested of every childish imagination.... In this letter we seem to see before us a disciple of Philo."


Dionysius was a 1st Century fence-sitter. He lived in Athens, he was supposedly one of the nine judges of the Areopagus (Mars Hill). He rubbed shoulders every day with with the Hierarchs of the Hellenistic mystery religions, the heads of philosophical schools, the political movers and shakers at the top of Greek society. His writings reflect the philosophical ideas of his environment.

But Dionysius was a little different than most of his Greek contemporaries. At some point in his development, he'd developed a tremendous interest and respect in the Jewish scriptures. I believe this was as a result of the events he describes in letter 7.

I believe he witnessed these events in Egypt, where there was an ancient sacred city known to the Greeks as Heliopolis, near the beginning of the Delta.

I believe that Dionysius then returned to Alexandria, where he had come to receive his education, and sought out and studied with the most famous Jewish teacher he could find, a man he calls Hierotheus. In the Divine Names (ch. 3,2), Dionysius writes: "I do not aim foolishly to introduce new ideas. I want only to analyze and with some orderly detail to expand upon the truths so briefly set down by Hierotheus."

The point is, that the writings of Dionysius display three sources: the Jewish Scriptures (and their interpretation by Hierotheus), the influence of Hellenistic philosophy (especially Plato), and the New Testament writings. But the most important influence, the umbrella with which he tried to shade everything else, was the Platonic influence. This is why it is logical to think that his writings were preserved in the libraries of the Athenian Hierarchs, but not accepted or preserved by the majority of Christians.

Actually, you have to take everything I say here with a grain of salt! I haven't really read much of the writings of Dionysius! I find them utterly unreadable for the most part! I think: how can anybody claim to know all this stuff!

And to tell you the truth, I've never been able to get into Plato, either!

So let me revise the above statement. Maybe Dionysius was more of a Christian than I give him credit for. I just don't know at the moment. I haven't studied the matter enough. Neither has anybody else, to be making the sort of judgments they make about these writings. They think they can write a bunch of trite overworn garbage about Neo-Platonism and Monophysitism and the like, and confuse your mind into thinking that the Dionysian writings are too complicated for the general reader, so you'll just drop it and not enquire further. Homer D. Klong is interested in the historical truth!

The same thoughts, or their applications to certain orders of being, recur in his other writings. The second treatise develops in fifteen chapters the doctrine of the celestial hierarchy, comprising nine angelic choirs which are divided into closer groupings of three choirs each (triads).

I couldn't help but notice that the number of angelic choirs is the the same as the number of judges of the Areopagus (nine). Is that just a coincidence?

The names of the nine choirs are taken from the canonical books and are arranged in the following order. First triad: seraphim, cherubim, thrones; second triad: virtues, dominations, powers; third triad: principalities, archangels, angels (C.H., vi, 2 in P.G., III, 200 D). The grouping of the second triad exhibits some variations. From the etymology of each choir-name the author labours to evolve a wealth of description, and, as a result, lapses frequently into tautology.

Tautology, according to Webster's New World Dictionary, is "the needless repetition of an idea in a different word, phrase, or sentence; redundancy..."

Quite characteristic is the dominant idea that the different choirs of angels are less intense in their love and knowledge of God the farther they are removed from him, just as a ray of light or of heat grows weaker the farther it travels from its source. To this must be added another fundamental idea peculiar to the Pseudo-Areopagite, namely, that the highest choirs transmit the light received from the Divine Source only to the intermediate choirs, and these in turn transmit it to the lowest.

I don't see this idea as peculiar to the Areopagite. I've read a certain amount of Gnostic literature of this era (and a little goes a long way!), and there doesn't seem anything new in any of this, except for repainting the ideas with some Jewish and Christian colorings.

The third treatise is but a continuation of the other two, inasmuch as it is based upon the same leading ideas. It deals with the nature and grades of the "ecclesiastical hierarchy" in seven chapters, each of which is subdivided into three parts (prologos, mysterion, theoria). After an introduction which discusses God's purpose in establishing the hierarchy of the Church, and which pictures Christ as its Head, holy and supreme, Dionysius treats of three sacraments (baptism, the Eucharist, extreme unction),....

I'm doing some reading of the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy at the moment. I really can't let this slip by. Really, Herr Stiglmayr, why do you use the term "extreme unction"? This is very bad reportage, to use terms which came much later, which Dionysius never used. You are losing your scholarly integrity here, Herr Stiglmayr.

By the way, I wonder what happened to the sacrament of marriage? Dionysius never seems to mention women at all! Is that because his congregation in Athens was for men only, like most of the mystery religions?

.....of the three grades of the Teaching Church (bishops, priests, deacons), of three grades of the "Learning Church" (monks, people, and the class composed of catechumens, energumens, and penitents), and, lastly, of the burial of the dead [C.H., iii, (3), 6 in P.G., III, 432 sq.; vi, in P.G., III, 529 sq.] The main purpose of the author is to disclose and turn to the uses of contemplation the deeper mystical meaning which underlies the sacred rites, ceremonies, institutions, and symbols.

Yeah, well, all this is quite thick for those who aren't steeped in Church liturgy and and all that, which is a specialized subject that not many people really want to study. Many have asked: how can the liturgy and rituals, as described by Dionysius in the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, be so advanced, if he really wrote in the 1st Century? Surely these descriptions show a more evolved state of affairs?

The answer, of course, is very, very simple. In fact, I don't even want to take the energy to put it down here. You figure it out!

Actually, here's a clue to help you out, from the Dictionary of Christian Biography (Smith-Wace, vol. 1, reprint 1967, p. 845). Speaking of the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy: "It is in this treatise that the forced and inflated style of the author is most noticeable, from the fact that the subject under treatment had its own recognised terminology. The ordinary terms are everywhere discarded, and new ones, often suggestive of the ancient mysteries, are introduced." And in the same paragraph of Smith-Wace: "In the terms also chosen to express the three stages of spiritual ascent,...we are reminded of the heathen initiations...."

Dionysius didn't really discard the old terms and introduce new ones. As a 1st Century hierarch, brought up in the tradition of the Hellenistic mystery religions, he used the terms he was familiar with.

On the same topic, here is a quote from a more recent work: "Some evaluation is necessary regarding The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy's claims of a biblical basis. Here, too, the announced intention is to proceed according to the scriptures. Yet this formal claim is largely ignored by the rest of the treatise. Only a few details of the liturgical services are presented as scriptural, and even these concern not a liturgical practice or form but the contents of a prayer or reading. The basis for the discussion of the sacraments is rarely scripture itself but rather an assumed body of post-scriptural tradition." (Paul Rorem, Biblical and Liturgical Symbols within the Pseudo-Dionysian Synthesis, 1984, p. 24-25). This is curious statement indeed! Then are we to assume that later liturgical traditions are not based on scripture, either? I mean, if Dionysius has based his non-scriptural liturgy on an assumed body of post-scriptural tradition, where did this post-scriptural, non-scriptural tradition come from?

The fourth treatise in entitled "Mystical Theology", and presents in five chapters guiding principles concerning the mystical union with God, which is entirely beyond the compass of sensuous or intellectual perception (epopteia). The ten letters, four addressed to a monk, Caius, and one each to a deacon, Dortheus, to a priest, Sopater, to the bishop of Polycarp, to a monk, Demophilus, to the bishop Titus, and to the Apostle John, contain, in part, additional or supplementary remarks on the above-mentioned principal works, and in part, practical hints for dealing with sinners and unbelievers. Since in all of these writings the same salient thoughts on philosophy and theology recur with the same striking peculiarities of expression and with manifold references, in both form and matter, from one work to another, the assumption is justified that they are all to be ascribed to one and the same author. In fact, at its first appearance in the literary world the entire corpus of these writings was combined as it is now. An eleventh letter to Apollophanes, given in Migne, P.G., III, 1119, is a medieval forgery based on the seventh letter. Apocryphal, also, are a letter to Timothy and a second letter to Titus. Dionysius would lead us to infer that he is the author of still other learned treatises, namely: "Theological Outlines" (D.D.N., ii, 3, in P.G., III 640 B); "Sacred Hymns" (C.H., vii, 4 in P.G., III, 212 B); "Symbolic Theology" C.H., xv, 6 in P.G., III,336 A); and treatises on "The Righteous Judgment of God" (D.D.N., iv, 35 in P.G., III, 736 B); on "The Soul" (D.D.N., iv, 2 in P.G., III, 696 C); and on "The objects of Intellect and Sense" (E. H., i, 2 in P.G., III, 373 B). No reliable trace, however, of any of these writings has ever been discovered, and in his references to them Dionysius is as uncontrollable as in his citations from Hierotheus.

Doesn't Herr Stiglmayr get a little carried away here? I mean, every scholar knows that many, many books from ancient times have simply been lost without a trace. Look at today, how many books are simply tossed out of libraries to make room on the shelves for this year's crop. I see no reason why Dionysius should be doubted on these points.

What is strange is that modern scholars have tried to identify Hierotheus with Proclus, the 5th Century Athenian head of the Academy. Is there any record of Proclus being an expert on the Jewish Scriptures? I don't think so!

It may be asked if these are not fictions pure and simple, designed to strengthen the belief in the genuineness of the actually published works. This suspicion seems to be more warranted because of other discrepancies, e.g., when Dionysius, the priest, in his letter to Timothy, extols the latter as a theoeides, entheos, theios ierarches, and nevertheless seeks to instruct him in those sublime secret doctrines that are for bishops only (E.H., i, 5 in P.G., III, 377 A), doctrines, moreover, which, since the cessation of the Disciplina Arcani, had already been made public. Again, Dionysius points out (D.D.N., iii, 2 in P.G., III, 681 B; cf. E.H., iv, 2 in P.G., III, 476 B) that his writings are intended to serve as catechetical instruction for the newly-baptized. This is evidently another contradiction of his above-mentioned statement.

None of the letters are addressed to Timothy, but all four of the treatises are addressed to Timothy. I don't exactly know what point Herr Stiglmayr is trying to make here. I think the reader should examine the passages for himself.

Let us start with the passage from Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, (chapter 1, paragraph 5):

"The first leaders of our hierarchy received their fill of the sacred gift from the transcendent Deity. Then divine goodness sent them to lead others to this same gift. Like gods, they had a burning and generous urge to secure uplifting and divinization for their subordinates. And so, using images derived from the senses they spoke of the transcendent. They passed on something united in a variegation and plurality. Of necessity they made human what was divine. They put material on what was immaterial. In their written and unwritten initiations, they brought the transcendent down to our level. As they had been commanded to do they did this for us, not simply because of the profane from whom the symbols were to be kept out of reach, but because, as I have already stated, our own hierarchy is itself symbolical and adapted to what we are. In a divine fashion it needs perceptible things to lift us up into the domain of conceptions.

"Now the reasons for such symbolism were revealed to the divine sacred-initiators and it would have been wrong of them to explain them fully to those still on the road to initiation. They understood quite well that those empowered by God to lay down sacred norms went about organizing the hierarchy into fixed and unconfused orders, giving each, as was due, its appropriate allotment.

"I am giving you this gift of God, together with other things pertaining to the hierarchs. I do so because of the solemn promises you made, of which I am now reminding you, promises never to pass to anyone except sacred-initiators of your own order the hierarch's superior sacred words. And I am satisfied that, following the hierarchic ordinance, you will exact a promise to deal in purity with what is pure and to share the divine operations only with men of God, to share perfection only with those who actually are perfected, to share the holy only with the most holy."

Now you tell me, dear reader, are we talking Christianity here, or are we talking Mystery Religions and the Golden Age of Greek Philosophy?

Let us now move on to the second quote mentioned above, from the Divine Names, chapter 3, paragraph 2):

"Now it may be that some explanation is due for the fact that even though Hierotheus, our famous teacher, has put together his splendid Elements of Theology, I too have composed other theological works together with this present one as though what he wrote were not quite sufficient. If he had set out to deal with all theological questions and indeed had provided an account of every area of theology, I would not have been so mad or so foolish as to believe that in dealing with these same theological topics I could have displayed a more divine insight than he, and certainly I would not have wasted time in a repetition of these same things. And it would have been quite an injustice to my teacher and friend if I were to put forward as my own the renowned contemplation and revelation of someone who, next to the divine Paul, has been my elementary instructor. Since he, like an elder, has in fact served as our guide in these divine things, laying down a condensed summary of our boundaries and encompassing so much in one statement for us and for all our teachers of newly converted souls, I am therefore encouraged to explicate and to separate the condensed and singular mental gymnastics of that man's most powerful intellect, although of course in an argument proportionate to my own powers.

"You also have frequently urged me to do the same. Indeed you returned his book to me, claiming that it was too lofty for you. And so while acknowledging his special place as the teacher of those advanced and perfect judgments far ahead of the ordinary, and accepting his writings as second only to the divinely anointed scriptures themselves, I propose to speak, as well as I can, of the things of God and to do so for those of my own kind. If solid food may be given only to the perfect, how much perfection is required when the food is given to others? In fact I believe I am right in saying that a direct look at the conceptual scriptures and at their comprehensive teaching is only for those of an elder's powers, whereas to understand and to learn the thinking preliminary to all this is for the lesser, yet sacred, initiators. Accordingly I have made it a rule to keep away from anything thoroughly dealt with and explained by my own saintly teacher and I have done so to avoid repetitiousness. Furthermore I do not copy the explanation which he may have set down for any given passage."

Finally, from the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, (chapter 4, paragraph 2). Dionysius here is speaking of a certain rite (or sacrament), called the rite of ointment:

"Let us continue. Having looked on the fine exterior appearance of the splendid and sacred ceremony, let us now gaze into its more divine beauty. Let us see it for what it is, stripped of its veils, shiningly available in its blessed splendor, filling us abundantly with that fragrance which is apparent only to people of intelligence. The visible consecration of the ointment is not uncommunicated or unseen by those around the hierarch. Indeed this sacrament is there for them to behold because they can contemplate something which is beyond the ken of the crowd. Actually they have the sacred obligation to hide this spectacle from the common people and to separate it from them. For the ray of the most holy sacred things enlightens the men of God, as kin of the Light, purely and directly; it spreads its sweet fragrance into their mental reception openly. But this fragrance does not spread in a similar way to those on a lowlier plane. Furthermore, to avoid all profanation at the hands of those who do not live in conformity to God, the sacred beholders of what is conceptual conceal the ointment under enigmatic folds, enigmas which are not without value for the well-disposed members of the lower orders because they lift these members up, as they deserve."

Shall we try to place this writing in the 5th Century? How many mental gyrations would we have to undergo?

These excerpts, in my opinion, go to the heart of this whole question of authenticity and pseudonymity. The first and second excerpts show a man struggling to win Timothy over to his way of thinking, a way of thinking that sounds very little like the teachings of Paul or even of Jesus. Dionysius sends Timothy a book written by the famous teacher Hierotheus, but Timothy gives it a negative review and returns it.

Does this have echoes in the 5th Century? Well, maybe we could search around for 30 or 40 years and find something, some Church Council, or a couple of guys that vaguely resonate with this, huh? And we could write a journal article or two and show how erudite we are, and very few people would read it, because basically it would be a big pile of bullshit, anyway.

So let's ask the question--do these passages and this situation between Dionysius and Timothy have echoes in the 1st Century?

We may now turn to the history of the Pseudo-Dionysian writings. This embraces a period of almost fifteen hundred years, and three distinct turning points in its course have divided it into as many distinct periods: first, the period of the gradual rise and settlement of the writings in Christian literature, dating from the latter part of the fifth century to the Lateran Council, 649; second, the period of their highest and universally acknowledged authority, both in the Western and Eastern Church, lasting till the beginning of the fifteenth century; third, the period of sharp conflict waged about their authenticity, begun by Laurentius Valla, and closing only within recent years.

Were you a member of the official committee, Herr Stiglmayr, that dedided this matter was closed? Or was it really closed? Talk about "Disciplina Arcani"!

The Areopagitica were formerly were supposed to have made their first appearance, or rather to have been first noticed by Christian writers, in a few pseudo-epigraphical works which have now been proved to be the products of a much later period; as, for instance, in the following: Pseudo-Origenes, "Homilia in diversos secunda"; Pseudo-Athanasius, "Quaestiones ad Antiochum ducem", Q. viii; Pseudo-Hippolytus, against the heretic Beron; Pseudo-Chrysostom, "sermo de pseudo-prophetis."

Uh, can we get a second opinion? Yes, actually, we can! Please read Rev. John Parker's 1899 treatise, elsewhere on this website.

Until more recently more credit was given to other lines of evidence on which Franz Hipler endeavoured to support his entirely new thesis, to the effect that the author of the writings lived about the year 375 in Egypt, as Abbot of Rhinokorura.

Ah, we're finally getting to the heart of Stiglmayr's argument!

Hipler's attempts, however, at removing the textual difficulties, ekleipsis, adelphotheos, soma, proved to be unsuccessful.

I'm not sure what Mr. Stiglmayr is talking about here, so I'll take a guess: these three Greek words did not come into general circulation until the 5th or 6th century, so Dionysius couldn't have used them in the 1st Century. Is that your argument, Herr Stiglmayr? It seems to parallel an argument from Smith-Wace, vol. 1, p. 847: "...the use of theological terms, compounds...and the like, which did not come into circulation till after the council of Ephesus."

Unfortunately, this is simply another example of circular reasoning. All scholars of Dionysius recognise that his writings did not come into general circulation until the 5th or 6th Centuries. It was then that his many neologisms could have an effect on the language of the day.

It would be nice to read Hipler's arguments in English, but fat chance of that!

Anyway, here is one of those Greek words in context, from Divine Names, chapter 3, 2. Can you guess which word?

"As you know, we and he and many of our holy brothers met together for a vision of that mortal body, that source of life, which bore God. James, the brother of God, was there."

Did you find it? adelphotheos means 'brother of God.'

In fact, those very passages in which Hipler thought that the Fathers had made use of the Areopagite (e.g., in Gregory of Nazianzus and Jerome) do not tell in favor of this hypothesis; on the contrary, they are much better explained if the converse be assumed, namely, that Pseudo-Dionysius drew from them.

We are getting to the heart of Herr Stiglmayr's argument now, which is basically that "Pseudo-Dionysius" borrowed heavily from the writings of Proclus, an Athenian Philosopher and famous teacher who lived in the 5th Century. In other words, "Pseudo-Dionysius" must have lived and written his works in the late 5th Century. Both Gregory of Nazianzus and Jerome lived and flourished in the 4th Century. Hipler apparently found passages in their writings that he thought were borrowed from the Areopagite (who lived in the 1st Century). But Herr Stiglmayr argues the converse proposition, that "Pseudo-Dionysius" borrowed from Gregory and Jerome.

Actually, I'm confused. Who is Stiglmayr calling the Areopagite? Is it the supposed writer from Rhinokorura, circa the year 375? Was this fellow a member of the Areopagus in Athens also? I doubt it.

Please, Herr Stiglmayr, let's get our terms straight so we can avoid confusion. Have you forgotten that there really was a Dionysius the Areopagite? It seems to me that the term "Areopagite" should be completely reserved for the New Testament character of Acts 17:34.

While we are on the subject, I would like to give the reader a more exact idea of Stiglmayr's position. It is, in fact, a strong-sounding argument, which I will do my best to refute. Here is a quote from F. S. Marsh that sums up Stiglmayr's argument in a convenient sound bite:

"These writings consist of four treatises and ten letters in which a Greek writer, who calls himself Dionysios (Ep. vii 3) and poses as the convert and pupil of St Paul, professes to reveal certain mysteries into which he has been initiated by his teachers. Throughout the middle ages, and even by John Parker who published the first English version of them in 1897-1899, the Areopagite writings were accepted as genuine works of the first century A.D. But any lingering doubts concerning their real date and purpose have been dispelled by the investigations of the last thirty years. Pseudo-Dionysios lived and wrote when the official victory of Christianity over Hellenism was almost won; when a pagan philosopher, speaking in his own name, could no longer gain a hearing amongst Christians. He himself believed that the Neoplatonic philosophy, as set forth in the works of Proclus, contained more truth than the Church could afford to lose, and he wished to present the system of Proclus to Christendom in an acceptable form. But, at that period, the only form of teaching which the Church as a whole would accept was teaching which had behind it the authority of the great names of the past, especially of the names of the first generation of Christians. In order to be heard at all, therefore, our author was compelled to adopt a pseudonym; and, possibly because the philosophy he wished to commend was that of the Athenian Proclus, he took the name of the only Athenian mentioned in the New Testament. However that may be, the "mysteries" which pseudo-Dionysios reveals are simply, mutatis mutandis, the cardinal doctrines of Proclus, whose thoughts and phrases appear with great frequency in the Dionysian writings. The chief differences between the two are that pseudo-Dionysios uses a certain amount of Christian phraseology and transforms into a hierarchy of persons what in Proclus is a chain of causes; and that arguments which stand in their logical order in Proclus appear in almost any order in pseudo-Dionysios (cf Stiglmayr, Historisches Jahrbuch XVI p. 261). Since Proclus died in 485 A.D. and the Areopagite writings are quoted before 520 A.D., pseudo-Dionysios must have written about the end of the fifth century A.D." (F.S. Marsh, from The Book of Hierotheus, Philo Press, 1927, p. 234-6).

This is really a wonderful bit of sophistry, isn't it? How can anyone argue against this? It all sounds so perfectly logical and reasonable!

I was just wondering, did they throw a big victory party when 'the official victory of Christianity over Hellenism' was won? When exactly was that? I don't remember. It seems to me, from the little I've read of that era, that every Christian cleric had at least some education in the Greek "classics". If there was a victory, it was hardly a complete victory.

Mr. Marsh tells us in a footnote that he took the foregoing account from the works of Hugo Koch.

Hipler himself, convinced by the results of recent research, has abandoned his opinion.

What did they do, threaten to take away his pension?

Other events also, both historical and literary, evidently exerted a marked influence on the Areopagite: (1) the Council of Chalcedon (451), the Christological terminology of which was studiously followed by the Dionysius;

"The doctrinal attitude of the Pseudo-Areopagite is not clearly defined. A certain vagueness, which was perhaps intended, is characteristic of his Christology, especially in the question concerning the two natures in Christ." (Joseph Stiglmayr, from the article "Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite", in the Catholic Encyclopedia, 1909-11) (see above)

So which is it, Herr Stiglmayr? Is Dionysius vague concerning Christology, or does he studiously follow the terminology of the Council of Chalcedon?

Since Herr Stiglmayr didn't give us any references or quotes, it will be a bit difficult for us to examine this matter for ourselves.

Actually, with further research, I think I've discovered what Stiglmayr is talking about. Here is an enlightening quote from a 1993 journal article:

"When 'Dionysius' revealed his Christology, usually tangental to his core arguments, he....eschewed most of the terminology of the Chalcedonian formula, presenting instead a prior, indeed 'apostolic,' way of speaking about the incarnation. There is, however, an important exception. Several times Dionysius used the Chalcedonian (and Neoplatonic) adverb "unconfusedly" to describe Christ's incarnation..." (from the article "John of Scythopolis on Apollinarian Christology and the Psuedo-Areopagite's True Identity", in Church History, vol. 62 (1993), p. 477-78.)

In other words, Dionysius is uses one word that is also found in the Chalcedonian formula. This could be a coincidence. Or, it could be that the Dionysian writings were simply becoming more known by the time of Chalcedon (451 A.D.). After all, Dionysius lived and wrote before the Council of Chalcedon! Is it then so hard to understand that later works would show his influence!

(2) the writings of the neo-Platonist Proclus (411-485), from whom Dionysius borrowed to a surprising extent;
This is an issue that was known and argued in the 6th Century, when the works became available in the East. Here is a passage from John and the Dionysian Corpus, by Paul Rorem (1998, p. 106-7):

“We turn first to comments which may well stem from John Philoponus (d. circa 580). As Suchla has shown, the Prologue to the Dionysian corpus as printed in Migne contains near the end a rather lengthy passage that is a later interpolation into the authentic Prologue by John of Scythopolis. In form, the passage probably originated as a marginal note or scholion on John’s own Prologue.?

Mr. Rorem now gives the quote of John Philoponus, which I reproduce, in part, here:

‘One must know that some of the non-Christian philosophers, especially Proclus, have often employed certain concepts of the blessed Dionysius....It is possible to conjecture from this that the ancient philosophers in Athens usurped his works (as he recounts in the present book) and then hid them, so that they themselves might seem to be the progenitors of his divine oracles. According to the dispensation of God the present work is now made known for the refutation of their vanity and recklessness....Some say that these writings do not belong to the saint, but to someone who came later. Such as say this must likewise agree that the forger of these works was an abandoned wretch—and this, because he falsely presented himself as a companion of the apostles and as corresponding with men he was never with and never corresponded with.?

John Philoponus was the author of a treatise entitled ”On the Eternity of the World against Proclus". Mr. Rorem (ibid, p. 107) says “Philoponus was an expert in the works of Proclus and would have been well able to note the verbatim similarities between the Dionysian corpus and the works of Proclus."

(3) the introduction (c. 476) of the Credo into the liturgy of the Mass, which is alluded to in the "Ecclesiastical Hierarchy" [iii, 2, in P.G., III, 425 C, and iii, (3), 7 in P.G., III, 436 C; cf. the explanation of Maximus in P.G., IV, 144 B];
According to latest research, the Nicene Creed was not introduced into the liturgy until approximately A.D. 515. (John of Scythopolis and the Dionysian Corpus, Oxford, 1998, p. 9).

In the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy,(3.3.7), Dionysius gives a detailed description of the hymn in question, which I copy here:

“The most sacred celebrants of the sacred things and those fond of visions reverently behold the most holy of the sacraments and they sing that most universal song of praise in honor of that source who is the worker and the dispenser of good, who has established for us those saving sacraments by means of which the participants are divinized. This hymn is sometimes called a confession of praise, sometimes a symbol of adoration, sometimes?and here I think one is closer to things divine?a hierarchic thanksgiving, for this hymn is a summary of all the blessed gifts which come to us from God. To me it seems that this song is a celebration of all the work of God on our behalf. It reminds us that we owe to God’s goodness our being and our life, that, using the everlasting model of beauty, God has made us in his image and that he has given us a share of the divine condition and uplifting. Then it reminds us that when we had lost the divine gifts because of our own folly, God took the trouble to recall us to our original condition through adventitious gifts, that he gave us a most perfect share of his nature by completely taking on our own, and that in this way he made it possible for us to enter into communion with himself and with divine reality.?

I thought, perhaps, this could be the Shema, or a version of it. Then I thought, maybe it is an old hymn from Greek mystery religions. Then I thought, maybe it is simply a Christian hymn. Here are two Christian hymns that are preserved, at least in part, in the New Testament letters of Paul.

First, from Philippians, chapter 2:

"6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Now, from Colossians, chapter 1:

"15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; 20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven."

Here is the Nicene Creed, for comparison. I don't know whether it was ever sung as a hymn. Our church simply recited it together when I was young. This version of the Creed is is taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia, 1909-11, which is on the internet. According to the encyclopedia article, this version was in use circa 500 A.D.

"We believe (I believe) in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, and born of the Father before all ages. God of God, light of light, true God of true God. Begotten not made, consubstantial to the Father, by whom all things were made. Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven. And was incarnate of the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin Mary and was made man; was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried; and the third day rose again according to the Scriptures. And ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of the Father, and shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, of whose Kingdom there shall be no end. And (I believe) in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father (and the Son), who together with the Father and the Son is to be adored and glorified, who spoke by the Prophets. And one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. We confess (I confess) one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for (I look for) the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen."

From Dionysius's description of the hymn, I don't see any conclusive evidence that it was the Nicene Creed. I do see a lot of evidence that scholars have studiously avoided examining this issue with any respect for truth. I hope the reader is beginning to realize how utterly one-sided all these arguments are. I have to conclude that the Catholic Hierarchy simply made the decision to stifle any real examination of the Dionysian writings. This ban, I theorize, was implemented in the year 1895, when the journal articles of Stiglmayr and Koch were published. I believe that Protestants, in general, were no longer interested in Dionysius, because the writings had long been used by the Catholic Church to defend the Papal Hierarchy. There were many scholars in the Catholic Church who still believed in the authenticity of the writings, but I believe these scholars were given the order to cease. Of course, all this is my own opinion, but I am Homer D. Klong!

Why would the Catholic Hierarchy do these things? I hope to examine this issue as we proceed.

(4) the Henoticon of the Emperor Zeno (482), a formula of union designed for the bishops, clerics, monks, and faithful of the Orient, as a compromise between Monophystism and orthodoxy. Both in spirit and tendency the Areopagitica correspond fully to the sense of the Henoticon; and one might easily infer that they were made to further the purpose of the Henoticon.
The Henoticon was such a vague document that it never pleased either side of the debate. Stiglmayr's argument here is, simply, that both the Henoticon and the Dionysian Christology are vague, and therefore they "correspond fully". However, Rorem and Lamoreaux would disagree that there is necessarily a connection:

"To be sure, our mysterious author studiously avoided the traditional Christological formulae, but this may have had little to do with the influence of the Henoticon. It may rather have arisen from the Areopagite's attempt to preserve an overall apostolic ambience for his works." (John of Scythopolis and the Dionysian Corpus, 1998, p. 10.)

The result of the foregoing data is that the first appearance of the pseudo-epigraphical writings cannot be placed earlier than the latter half, in fact at the close, of the fifth century.
In the mid-20th Century, a large number of researchers sought to discover the identity of “Pseudo-Dionysius"(See the list in Hierarchy and the Definition of Order in the Letters of Pseudo-Dionysius , Ronald F. Hathaway, 1969, p. 30-35.) Approximately half of these researchers (I counted eight, in Hathaway’s list), championed authors who lived before the time of Proclus (5th Century). It is clear that these researchers didn’t think much of Herr Stiglmayr’s arguments. They must have thought that Proclus copied from “Pseudo-Dionysius" and not the other way around.
Having ascertained a terminus post quem, it is possible by means of evidence taken from Dionysius himself to fix a terminus ante quem, thus narrowing to about thirty years the period within which these writings must have originated. The earliest reliable citations of the writings of Dionysius are from the end of the fifth and the beginning of the sixth century. The first is by Severus, the head of a party of moderate Monophysites named after him, and Patriarch of Antioch (512-518). In a letter addressed to a certain abbot, John (Mai, Script. vett. nov. coll., VII, i, 71), he quotes in proof of his doctrine of the mia synthetos physis in Christ the Dionysian Ep. iv (P.G., III, 1072 C), where a kaine theandrike energeia is mentioned. Again, in the treatise "Adversus anathem. Juliani Halicarn" (Cod. Syr. Vat. 140, fol. 100 b), Severus cites a passage from D.D.N., ii, 9, P.G., III, 648A (abba kai to pases -- thesmo dieplatteto), and returns once more to Ep. iv. In the Syrian "History of the Church" of Zacharias (e. Ahrens-Kruger, 134-5) it is related that Severus, a man well-versed in the writings of Dionysius (Areop.), was present at the Synod in Tyre (513). Andreas, Bishop of Caesarea in Cappodocia, wrote (about 520) a commentary on the Apocalypse wherein he quotes the Areopagite four times and makes use of at least three of his works (Migne, P.G., CVI, 257, 305, 356, 780; cf. Diekamp in "Hist. Jahrb", XVIII, 1897, pp. 1-36). Like Severus, Zacharias Rhetor and, in all probability, also Andreas of Cappodocia,. inclined to Monophysitism (Diekamp, a "Book of Hierotheus"---Hierotheus had come to be regarded as the teacher of Dionysius---existed in the Syrian literature of that time and exerted considerable influence in the spread of Dionysian doctrines. Frothingham (Stephen Bar Sudaili, p. 63 sq.) considers the pantheist Stephen Bar Sudaili as its author. Jobius Monachus, a contemporary of the writers just mentioned, published against Severus a polemical treatise which has since been lost, but claims the Areopagite as authority for the orthodox teaching (P.G., CIII, 765). So also Ephraem, Archbishop of Antioch (527-545), interprets in a right sense the well-known passage from D.D.N., i, 4, P.G., III, , 529 A: ho haplous Iesous synetethe, by distinguishing between synthetos hypostasis and synthetos ousia. Between the years 532-548, if not earlier, John of Scythopolis in Palestine wrote an interpretation of Dionysius (Pitra, "Analect. sacr.", IV, Proleg., p. xxiii; cf. Loof's, "Leontius of Byzantium" (p. 270 sq.) from an anti-Severan standpoint.
John of Scythopolis is a very important personage in our quest to understand the history of the Dionysian writings.
In Leontius of Byzantium (485-543) we have another important witness. This eminent champion of Catholic doctrine in at least four passages of his works builds on the megas Dionysios (P.G., LXXXVI, 1213 A; 1288 C; 1304 D; Canisius-Basnage, "Thesaur. monum. eccles.", Antwerp, 1725, I, 571). Sergius of Resaina in Mesopotamia, archiater and presbyter (d. 536), at an early date translated the works of Dionysius into Syriac. He admitted their genuineness, and for their defence also translated into Syriac the already current "Apologies" (Brit. Mus. cod. add. 1251 and 22370; cf. Zacharias Rhetor in Ahrens-Kruger, p. 208). He himself was a Monophysite. By far the most important document in the case is the report given by Bishop Innocent of Maronia of the religious debate held at Constantinople in 533 between seven orthodox and seven Severian spaekers (Hardouin, II, 1159 sq.). The former had as leader and spokesman, Hypatius, Bishop of Ephesus, who was thoroughly versed in the literature of the subject. On the second day the "Orientals" (Severians) alleged against the Council of Chalcedon, that it had by a novel and erroneous expression decreed two natures in Christ. Besides Cyril of Alexandria, Athanasius, Gregory Thaumaturgus, and Felix and Julius of Rome, they also quoted Dionysius the Areopagite as an exponent of the doctrine of one nature. Hypatius rejected as spurious all these citations, and showed that Cyril never made the slightest use of them, though on various occasions they would have served his purpose admirably. He suspects that these falsifiers are Apollinarists. When the Severians rejoined that they could point out in the polemical writings of Cyril against Diodorus and Theodore the use made of such evidence, Hypatius persisted in the stand he had taken: "sed nunc videtur quoniam et in illis libris [Cyrilli] haeretici falsantes addiderunt ea". The references to the archives of Alexandria had just as little weight with him, since Alexandria, with its libraries, had long been in the hands of the heretics. How could an interested party of the opposition be introduced as a witness? Hypatius refers again especially to Dionysius and successfully puts down the opposition: "Illa enim testimonia quae vos Dionysii Areopagitae dicitis, unde potestis ostendere vera esse, sicut suspicamini? Si enim eius erant, non potuissent latere beatum Cyrillum. Quis autem de beato Cyrillo dico, quando et beatus Athanasius, si pro certo scisset eius fuisse, ante omnia in Nicaeno concilio de consubstantiali Trinitate eadem testimonia protulisset adversus Arii diversae substantiae blasphemias". Indeed, as to the consubstantiality of the Father and the Son the Areopagite has statements that leave no room for misinterpretation; and had these come from a disciple of the Apostles, they would have been all the more valuable. Hereupon the Severians dropped this objection and turned to another. The fact must, indeed, appear remarkable that these very writings, though rejected outright by such an authority as Hypatius, were within little more than a century looked upon as genuine by Catholics, so that they could be used against the heretics during the Lateran Council in 649 (Hardouin, III, 699 sqq.). How had this reversion been brought about? As the following grouping will show, it was chiefly heterodox writers, Monophysites, Nestorians, and Monothelites, who during several decades appealed to the Areopagite. But among Catholics also there were not a few who assumed the genuineness, and as some of these were persons of consequence, the way was gradually paved for the authorization of his writings in the above-mentioned council. To the group of Monophysites belonged: Themistius, deacon in Alexandria about 537 (Hardoiun, III, 784, 893 sq., 1240 sq.); Colluthus of Alexandria (Hardouin, III, 786, 895, 898); John Piloponus, an Alexandrian grammarian, about 546-549 (W. Reichardt, "Philoponus, de opificio mundi"); Petrus Callinicus, Monophysite Patriarch of Antioch, in the latter half of the sixth century, cited Dionysius in his polemic against the Patriarch Damianus of Alexandria (II, xli, and xlvii; cf. Frothingham, op. cit., after Cod. Syr. Vat., 108, f. 282 sqq.). As examples of the Nestorian group may be mentioned Joseph Huzaja, a Syrian monk, teacher about 580 at the school of Nisibis (Assemani, Bibl. orient., vol. III, pt. I, p.103); aloso Ischojeb, catholicos, from 580 or 581 to 594 or 595 (Braun, "Buch der Synhados", p. 229 sq.); and John of Apamea, a monk in one of the cloisters situated on the Orontes, belonging most probably to the sixth century (Cod. Syr. Vat., 93). The heads of the Monothelites, Sergius, Patriarch of Constantinople (610-638), Cyrus, Patriarch of Alexandria (630-643), Pyrrhus, the successor of Sergius in Constantinople(639-641), took as the starting point in their heresy the fourth letter of Dionysius to Caius, wherein they altered the oft-quoted formula, theandrike energeia into mia theandrike energeia. To glance briefly at the Catholic group we find in the "Historia Euthymiaca", written about the middle of the sixth century, a passage taken, according to a citation of John Damascene (P.G., XCVI, 748), from D.D.N., iii, 2, P.G., III, 682 D: paresan de -- epakousas. Another witness, who at the same time leads over to the Latin laiterature, is Liberatus of Carthage (Breviarium causae Nestor. et Euthych., ch. v). Johannes Malalas, of Antioch, who died about 565, narrates, in his "Universal Chronicle", the conversion of the judge of the Areopagus through St. Paul (Acts, xvii, 34), and praises our author as a powerful philosopher and antagonist of the Greeks (P.G., XCVII, 384; cf. Krumbacher, Gesch. d. byz. Lit.", 3rd ed., p. 112 sq.). Another champion was Theodore, presbyter. Though it is difficult to locate him chronologically, he was, according to Le Nourry (P.G., III, 16), an "auctor antiquissimus" who flourished, at all events, before the Lateran Council in 649 and, as we learn from Photius (P.G., CIII, 44 sq.), undertook to defend the genuineness of the Areopagitic writings. The repute, moreover, of these writings was enhanced in a marked degree by the following eminent churchmen: Eulogius, Patriarch of Alexandria (580-607), knew and quoted, among others, the D.D.N., xiii, 2, verbatim (P.G., CIII, 1061; cf. Der Katholic, 1897, II, p. 95). From Eulogius we naturally pass to Pope Gregory thr Great, with whom he enjoyed a close and honourable friendship. Gregory the Great (590-604), in his thirty-fourth homily on Like, xv, 1-10 (P.L.L. XXVI, 1254), distinctly refers to the Areopagite's teaching regarding the Angels: "Fertur vero Dionysius Areopagitica, antiquus videlicet et venerabilis Pater, dicere" etc. (c.f. C.H., vii, ix, xiii). As Gregory admits that he is not versed in Greek (Ewald, Reg., I,28; III, 63; X, 10, 21) he uses fertur not to express his doubt of the genuineness, but to imply that he had to rely on the testimony of others, since at the time no Latin version existed. It is, indeed, most probable that Eulogius directed his attention to the work. About the year 620, Antiochus Monachus, a member of the Sabas monastery near Jerusalem, compiled a collection of moral "sentences" designed for the members of his order (P.G., LXXXIX, 1415 sqq.0. In the "Homilia (capitulum) LII" we discover a number of similar expressions and Biblical examples which are borrowed from the eighth letter of Dionysius "ad Demophilum" (P.G., III, 1085 sq.). In other passages frequent reference is made to the D.D.N. In the following years, two Patriarchs of Jerusalem, both from monasteries, defend Dionysius as a time-honoured witness of the true doctrines. The first is the Patriarch Modestus (631-634), formerly abbot of the Theodosius monastery in the desert of Judah. In a panegyric on the Assumptio Mariae (P.G., LXXXVI, 3277 sq.) he quotes sentences from the D.D.N., i, 4; ii,10; from the "Theologia Mystica", i, 1; and from Ep. ii The second, a still brighter luminary in the Church, is the Patriarch Sophronius (634-638), formerly a monk of the Theodosius monastery near Jerusalem. Immediately after his installation he published an epistula synodica, "perhaps the most important document in the Monothelitic dispute". It gives, among other dogmas, a lengthy exposition of the doctrine of two energies in Christ (Hefele, Conciliengesch., 2nd ed., III, 140 sqq.). Citing from "Eph. iv ad Caium" (theandrike energeia), he refers to our author as a man through whom God speaks and who was won over by the Divine Paul in a Divine manner (P.G., LXXXVII, 3177). Maximus Confessor evidently rests upon Sophronius, whose friendship he had gained while abbot of the monastery of Chrysopolis in Alexandria (633). In accordance with Sophronius he explains the Dionysian term theandrike energeia in an orthodox sense, and praises it as indicating both essences and natures in their distinct properties and yet in closest union (P.G., XCI, 345). Following the example of Sophronius, Maximus also distinguishes in Christ three kinds of actions (theoprepeis, anthropoprepeis and miktai) (P.G., IV, 536). Thus the Monothelites lost their strongest weapon, and the Lateran Council found the saving word (Hefele, op. cit., 2nd ed., III, 129). In other regards also Maximus plauys an important part in the authorization of the Areopagitica. A lover of theologico-mystical speculation, he showed an uncommon reverence for these writings, and by his glosses (P.G., IV), in which he explained dubious passages of Dionysius in an orthodox sense, he contributed greatly towards the recognition of Dionysius in the Middle Ages. Another equally indefatigable of Dyophysitism was Anastasias, a monk from the monastery of Sinai, who in 640 began his chequered career as a wondering preacher. Not only in his "Guide" (hodegos), but also in the "Quaestiones" and in the seventh book of the "Mediations on the Hexaemeron", he unhesitatingly makes use of different passages from Dionysius (P.G. LXXXIX). By this time a point had been reached at which the official seal, so to speak, could be put on the Dionysian writings. The Lateran Council of 649 solemnly rejected the Monothelite heresy (Hardouin, III, 699 sq.). Pope Martin I quotes from D.D.N., ii, 9; iv, 20 and 23; and the "Ep. ad Caium"; speaks of the author as "beatae memoriae Dionysius", "Dionysius egregius, sanctus, beatus, and vigorously objects to the perversion of the text: una instead of nova Dei et viri operatio. The influence which Maximus exerted by his personal appearance at the council and by his above-mentioned explanation of theandrike energeia is easily recognized ("Dionysius duplicem [operationem] duplicis naturae compositivo sermone absus est"---Hardouin, III, 787). Two of the testimonies of the Fathers which were read in the fifth session are taken from Dionysius. Little wonder, then, that thenceforth no doubt was expressed concerning the genuineness of the Areopagitica. Pope Agatho, in a dogmatic epistle directed to the Emperor Constantine (680) cites among other passages from the Fathers also the D.D.N., ii, 6. The Sixth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (680) followed in the footsteps of the Lateran Synod, again defended "Eph. iv ad. Caium" against the falsification of Pyrrhus, and rejected the meaning which the Monothelite Patriarch Macarius assigned to the passage (Hardouin, III, 1099, 1346, 1066). In the second Council of Nicaea (787) we find the "Celestial Hierarchy" of the "deifer Dionysius" cited against the Iconoclasts (Hardouin,IV, 362). This finishes the first and darkest period in the history of the Areopagitica; and it may be summarized as follows. The Dionysian writings appeared in public for the first time in the Monophysite controversies. The Severians made use of them first and were followed by the orthodox. After the religious debate at Constantinople in 533 witnesses for the genuineness of the Areopagitica began to increase among the different heretics. Despite the opposition of Hypatias, Dionysius did not altogether lose his authority even among Catholics, which was due chiefly to Leontius and Ephraem of Antioch. The number of orthodox Christians who defended him grew steadily, comprising high ecclesiastical dignitaries who had come from monasteries. Finally, under the influence of Maximus, the Lateran Council (649) cited him as a competent witness against Monothelism. As to the second period, universal recognition of the Areopagitic writings in the Middle Ages, we need not mention the Greek Church, which is especially proud of him; but neither in the West was a voice raised in challenge down to the first half of the fifteenth century; on the contrary, his works were regarded as exceedingly valuable and even as sacred. It was believed that St. Paul, who had communicated his revelations to his disciple in Athens, spoke through these writings ((Histor.-polit. Blatter, CXXV, 1900, p. 541). As there is no doubt concerning the fact itself, a glance at the main divisions of the tradition may suffice. Rome received the original text of the Areopagitica undoubtedly through Greek monks. The oppressions on the part of Islam during the sixth and seventh centuries compelled many Greek and Oriental monks to abandon their homes and settle in italy. In Rome itself, a monastery for Greek monks was built under Stephen II and Paul I. It was also Paul I (757-767) who in 757 sent the writings of Dionysius together with other books, to Pepin in France. Adrian I (772-795) also mentioned Dionysius as a testis gravissimus in a letter accompanying the Latin translation of the Acts of the Nicaean Council (787) which he sent to Charlemagne. During the first half of the ninth century the facts concerning Dionysius are mainly grouped around the Abbot Hilduin of Saint-Denys at Paris. Through the latter the false idea that the Gallic martyr Dionysius of the third century, whose relics were preserved in the monastery of Saint-Denys, was identical with the Areopagite rose to an undoubted certainty, while the works ascribed to Dionysius gained in repute. Through a legation from Constantinople, Michael II had sent several gifts to the Frankish Emperor Louis the Pious (827), and among them were the writings of the Areopagite, which gave particular joy and honour to Hilduin, the influential arch-chaplain of Louis. Hilduin took care to have them translated into Latin and he himself wrote a life of the saint (P.L., CVI, 13 sq.). About the year 858 Scotis Eriugena, who was versed in Greek, made a new Latin translation of the Areopagite, which became the main source from which the Middle Ages obtained a knowledge of Dionysius and his doctrines. The work was undertaken at the instance of Charles the Bald, at whose court Scotus enjoyed great influence (P.L., CXXII, 1026 sq.; cf. Traube, "Poet. lat. aev. Carol.", II, 520, 859 sq.). Compared with Hilduin's, this second translation marks a decided step in advance. Scotus, with his keen dialectical skill and his soaring speculative mind, found in the Areopagite a kindred spirit. Hence, despite many errors of translation due to the obscurity of the Greek original, he was able to grasp the connections of thought and to penetrate the problems. As he accompanied his translations with explanatory notes and as, in his philosophical and theological writings, particularly in the work "De divisione naturae", (P.L., CXXII), he recurs again and again to Dionysius, it is readily seen how much he did towards securing recognition for the Areopagite. The works of Dionysius, thus introduced into Western literature, were readily accepted by the medieval Scholastics. The great masters of Saint-Victor at Paris, foremost among them the much admired Hugh, based their teaching on the doctrine of Dionysius. Peter Lombard and the great Dominican and Franciscan scholars, Alexander of Hales, Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, adopted his theses and arguments. Master poets, e.g. Dante, and historians, e.g. Otto of Freising, built on his foundations. Scholars as renowned as Robert Grosseteste of Lincoln and Vincent of Beauvais drew upon him freely. Popular religious books, such as the "Legenda aurea" of Giacommo da Varagine and the "Life of Mary" by Brother Philip, gave him a cordial welcome. The great mystics, Eckhadt, Tauler, Suso, and others, entered the mysterious obscurity of Dionysius with holy reverence. In rapid succession there appeared a number of translations: Latin translations by Joannes Sarrazenus (1170), Robert Grosseteste (about 1220), Thomas Vercellensis (1400), Ambrosius Camaldulensis (1436), Marsilius Ficinus (1492); in the sixteenth century those of Faber Stapulensis, Perionius, etc. Among the commentaries that of Hugh of Saint-Victor is notable for its warmth, that of Albertus Magnus for its extent, that of St. Thomas for its accuracy, that of Denys the Carthusian for its pious spirit and its masterly inclusion of all previous commentaries. It was reserved for the period of the Renaissance to break with the time-honoured tradition. True, some of the older Humanists, as Pico della Mirandola, Marsilius Ficinus, and the Englishmen John Colet, were still convinced of the genuineness of the writings; but the keen and daring critic, Laurentius Valla (1407-1457) in his glosses to the New Testament, expressed his doubts quite openly and thereby gave the impulse, at first for the scholarly Erasmus (1504), and later on for the entire scientific world, to take sides either with or against Dionysius. The consequence was the formation of two camps; among the adversaries were not only Protestants (Luther, Scultetus, Dallaeus, etc.) but also prominent Catholic theologians (Beatus Rhenanus, Cajetan, Morinus, Sirmond, Petavius, Lequien, Le Nourry); among the defenders of Dionysius were Baronius, Bellarmine, Lansselius, Corderius, Halloix, Delario, de Rubeis, Lessius, Alexander Netalis, and others. The literary controversy assumed such dimensions and was carried on so vehemently that it can only be compared to the dispute concerning the Pseudo-Isidorian decretals and the pseudo-Constantinian donation. In the nineteenth century the general opinion inclined more and more towards the opposition; the Germans especially, Mohler, Fessler, Dollinger, Hergenrother, Alzog, Funk, and others made no reserve of their decision for the negative. At this juncture the scholarly professor Franz Hipler came forward and attempted to save the honor of Dionysius. He finds in Dionysius not a flasifier, but a prominent theologian of the fourth century who, through no fault of his own, but owing to the misinterpretation of some passages, was confounded with the Areopagite. Many Catholics, and many Protestants as well, voiced their approval. Finally, in 1895 there appeared almost simultaneously two independent researches, by Hugo Koch and by Joseph Stiglmayr, both of whom started from the same point and arrived at the same goal. The conclusion reached was that extracts from the treatise of the neo-Platonist Proclus, "De malorum subsistentia" (handed down in the Latin translation of Morbeka, Cousin ed., Paris, 1864), had been used by Dionysius in the treatise "De div. nom." (c. iv, sections 19-35) A careful analysis brought to light an astonishing agreement of both works in arrangement, sequence of thought, examples, figures, and expressions. It is easy to point out many parallelisms from other and later writings of Proclus, e.g. from his "Institutio theologica", "theologia Platonica", and his commentary on Plato's "Parmenides", "Alcibiades I", and "Timaeus" (these five having been written after 462). Accordingly, the long-standing problem seem to be solved in its most important phase. As a matter of fact, this is the decision pronounced by the most competent judges, such as Bardenhewer, Erhard, Funk, Diekamp, Rauschen, De Smedt, S.J., Duchesne, Battifol,; and the Protestant scholars of early Christian literature, Gelzer, Harnack, Kruger, Bonwetsch. The chronology being thus determined, an explanation was readily found for the various objections hitherto alleged, viz. the silence of the early Fathers, the later dogmatic terminology, a developed monastic, ceremonial, and penitential system, the echo of neo-Platonism, etc. On the other hand it sets at rest many hypotheses which had been advanced concerning the author and his times and various discussions---whether, eg., a certain Apollinaris, or Synesius, or Dionysius Alexandrinus, or a bishop of Ptolemais, or a pagan hierophant was the writer. A critical edition of the text of the Areopagite is urgently needed. The Juntina (1516), that of Basle (1539), of Paris (1562 and 1615), and lastly the principal edition of Antwerp (1634) by Corderius, S.J., which was frequently reprinted (Paris, 1644, 1755, 1854) and was included in the Migne collection (P.G., III and IV with Lat. trans. and additions), are insufficient because they make use of only a few of the numerous Greek manuscripts and take no account of the Syriac, Armenian, and Arabic translations. The following translations have thus far appeared in modern languages: English, by Lupton (London, 1869) and Parker (London, 1894), both of which contain only the "Cael. Hierarchia" and the "Eccles. Hier."; German, by Engelhardt (Sulzbach, 1823) and Storf, "Kirkliche Hierarchie" (Kempten, 1877); French, by Darboy (Paris, 1845) and Dulac (Paris, 1865). For the older literature, cf. CHEVALIER, Bio. bibl. (Paris, 1905). Recent works treating of Dionysius: HIPLER, Dionysius der Areopagite, Untersuchungen (Ratisbon, 1861); IDEM in Kirkchenlex., s.v.; SCHNEIDER, Areopagitica, Verteiligung ihrer Echteit (Ratisbon, 1886); FROTHINGHAM, Stephen Bar Sudaili (Leyden, 1886); STIGLMAYR, Der Neuplatoniker Proklus als Vorlage des sog. Dionysius Areopagita in der Lehre vom Uebel in Hist. Jahrb. der Gorres-Gesellschaft (1895), pp. 253-273 and 721-748: IDEM, Das Aufkommen der pseudo-dionysischen Scriften und ihr Eindringen in die christliche Literatur bis zum Laterankonzil (Feldkirch, Austria, 1895); KOCH, Der pseudepigraphische Charakter der dionysischen Schriften in Theol. Quartalscrift (Tubingen, 1895), pp. 353-420; IDEM, Proklus, als Quelle des Pseudo-Dionysius, Areop. in der Lehrer vom Bosen in Philologus (1895), pp. 438-454; STIGLMAYR, Controversy with DRASEKE, LANGEN, and NIRSCHL in Byzantinische Zeitschrift (1898), pp. 91-110, and (1899), pp. 263-301, and Histor.-polit. Blatter (1900), CXXV, pp. 541-550 and 613-627; IDEM, Die Lehrer von den Sakramenten und der Kirche nach Pseudo-Dionysius in Zeitschrift fur kath. Theol. (Innsbruck, 1898), pp. 246-303; IDEM, Die Eschatologie des Pseudo-Dionysius, ibid. (1899), pp. 1-21; KOCH, Ps.-Dionysius Areop. in seinen Beziehungen zum Neoplatonismus und Mysterienwesen (Mainz, 1900). See also the articles on Dionysius in the Patrologie of BARDENHEWER (Freiburg, 1901), in the Realencyk. fur prot. Theol., and in the Dict. of Christian Biography. JOS. STIGLMAYR Transcribed by

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