Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (Greek: Διονύσιος ὁ Ἀρεοπαγίτης), also known as Pseudo-Denys, was a Christian theologian and philosopher of the late 5th to early 6th century, who wrote a set of works known as the Corpus Areopagiticum or Corpus Dionysiacum.
The author pseudonymously identifies himself in the corpus as "Dionysios", portraying himself as Dionysius the Areopagite, the Athenian convert of Paul the Apostle mentioned in Acts 17:34.[note 1] This false attribution to the earliest decades of Christianity resulted in the work being given great authority in subsequent theological writing in both East and West.
The Dionysian writings and their mystical teaching were universally accepted throughout the East, amongst both Chalcedonians and non-Chalcedonians, and also had a strong impact in later medieval western mysticism, most notably Meister Eckhart. Its influence decreased in the West with the fifteenth-century demonstration of its later dating, but in recent decades, interest has increased again in the Corpus Areopagiticum.
Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite
(5th–6th century AD)
(5th–6th century AD)
Denys the Areopagite
The Corpus is today composed of:
Seven other works are mentioned repeatedly by pseudo-Dionysius in his surviving works, and are presumed either to be lost or to be fictional works mentioned by the Areopagite as a literary device to give the impression to his sixth-century readers of engaging with the surviving fragments of a much larger first-century corpus of writings. These seven other works are:
In attempts to identify a date after which the corpus must have been composed, a number of features have been identified in Dionysius' writing, though the latter two are subject to scholarly debate.
In terms of the latest date for the composition of the Corpus, the earliest datable reference to Dionysius' writing comes in 528, the year in which the treatise of Severus of Antioch entitled Adversus apologiam Juliani was translated into Syriac — though it is possible the treatise may originally have been composed up to nine years earlier.
Another widely cited latest date for Dionysius' writing comes in 532, when, in a report on a colloquy held between two groups (orthodox and monophysite) debating the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon, Severus of Antioch and his monophysite supporters cited Dionysius' Fourth Letter in defence of their view. It is possible that pseudo-Dionysius was himself a member of this group, though debate continues over whether his writings do in fact reveal a monophysite understanding of Christ. It seems likely that the writer was located in Syria, as revealed, for example, by the accounts of the sacramental rites he gives in The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, which seem only to bear resemblance to Syriac rites.
The author pseudonymously identifies himself in the corpus as "Dionysios", portraying himself as the figure of Dionysius the Areopagite, the Athenian convert of Paul the Apostle mentioned in Acts 17:34.[note 1]
Various legends existed surrounding the figure of Dionysius, who became emblematic of the spread of the gospel to the Greek world. A tradition quickly arose that he became the first bishop of Cyprus or of Milan, or that he was the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews; according to Eusebius, he was also said to be the first bishop of Athens. It is therefore not surprising that that author of these works would have chosen to adopt the name of this otherwise briefly mentioned figure.
The authorship of the Dionysian Corpus was initially disputed; Severus and his party affirmed its apostolic dating, largely because it seemed to agree with their Christology. However, this dating was disputed by Hypatius of Ephesus, who met the monophysite party during the 532 meeting with Emperor Justinian I; Hypatius denied its authenticity on the ground that none of the Fathers or Councils ever cited or referred to it. Hypatius condemned it along with the Apollinarian texts, distributed during the Nestorian controversy under the names of Pope Julius and Athanasius, which the monophysites entered as evidence supporting their position.
The first defense of its authenticity is undertaken by John of Scythopolis, whose commentary, the Scholia (ca. 540), on the Dionysian Corpus constitutes the first defense of its apostolic dating, wherein he specifically argues that the work is neither Apollinarian nor a forgery, probably in response both to monophysites and Hypatius—although even he, given his unattributed citations of Plotinus in interpreting Dionysius, might have known better. Dionysius' authenticity is criticized later in the century, and defended by Theodore of Raithu; and by the 7th century, it is taken as demonstrated, affirmed by both Maximus the Confessor and the Lateran Council of 649. From that point until the Renaissance, the authorship was less questioned, though Thomas Aquinas, Peter Abelard and Nicholas of Cusa expressed suspicions about its authenticity; their concerns, however, were generally ignored.
The Florentine humanist Lorenzo Valla (d. 1457), in his 1457 commentaries on the New Testament, did much to establish that the author of the Corpus Areopagiticum could not have been St. Paul's convert, though he was unable to identify the actual historical author. William Grocyn pursued Valla's lines of textual criticism, and Valla's critical viewpoint of the authorship of the highly influential Corpus was accepted and publicized by Erasmus from 1504 onward, for which he was criticized by Catholic theologians. In the Leipzig disputation with Martin Luther, in 1519, Johann Eck used the Corpus, specifically the Angelic Hierarchy, as argument for the apostolic origin of papal supremacy, pressing the Platonist analogy, "as above, so below".
During the 19th century modernist Catholics too came generally to accept that the author must have lived after the time of Proclus. The author became known as 'Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite' only after the philological work of J Stiglmayr and H Koch, whose papers, published independently in 1895, demonstrated the thoroughgoing dependence of the Corpus upon Proclus. Both showed that Dionysius had used, in his treatise on evil in Chapter 4 of The Divine Names, the De malorum subsistentia of Proclus.
Dionysius' identity is still disputed. Corrigan and Harrington find Pseudo-Dionysius to be most probably
a pupil of Proclus, perhaps of Syrian origin, who knew enough of Platonism and the Christian tradition to transform them both. Since Proclus died in 485, and since the first clear citation of Dionysius' works is by Severus of Antioch between 518 and 528, then we can place Dionysius' authorship between 485 and 518-28.[note 4]
Ronald Hathaway provides a table listing most of the major identifications of Dionysius: e.g., Ammonius Saccas, Pope Dionysius of Alexandria, Peter the Fuller, Dionysius the Scholastic, Severus of Antioch, Sergius of Reshaina, unnamed Christian followers of everyone from Origen to Basil of Caesarea, Eutyches to Proclus.
In the past half-century, Alexander Golitzin, Georgian academician Shalva Nutsubidze and Belgian professor Ernest Honigmann have all proposed identifying pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite with Peter the Iberian. A more recent identification is with Damascius, the last scholarch of the Neoplatonic Academy of Athens. There is therefore no current scholarly consensus on the question of Pseudo-Dionysius' identification.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy claims:
It must also be recognized that 'forgery' is a modern notion. Like Plotinus and the Cappadocian Fathers before him, Dionysius does not claim to be an innovator, but rather a communicator of a tradition."[note 4]
Others scholars such as Bart D. Ehrman disagree, see for example Forged. However, while the Pseudo Dionysius can be seen as a communicator of tradition, he can also be seen as a polemicist, who tried to alter Neo-Platonic tradition in a novel way for the Christian world that would make notions of complicated Divine Hierarchies more of an emphasis than notions of direct relationship with the figure of Christ as Mediator.
Dionysius attributed his inspiration to pseudo-Hierotheus, professing that he was writing to popularize the teachings of his master. Pseudo-Hieortheus was the author of “The book of Hierotheus on the hidden mysteries of the house of God.” Pseudo-Hierotheus is believed to be the fifth century Syrian monk Stephen Bar Sudhaile.
The works of Dionysisus are mystical, and show strong Neoplatonic influence. For example, he uses Plotinus' well-known analogy of a sculptor cutting away that which does not enhance the desired image, and shows familiarity with Proclus. He also shows influence from Clement of Alexandria, the Cappadocian Fathers, Origen, and others.
According to pseudo-Dionysius, God is better characterized and approached by negations than by affirmations. All names and theological representations must be negated. According to pseudo-Dionysius, when all names are negated, "divine silence, darkness, and unknowing" will follow.
His thought was initially used by monophysites to back up parts of their arguments but his writings were eventually adopted by other church theologians, primarily due to the work of John of Scythopolis and Maximus the Confessor in producing an orthodox interpretation. Writing a single generation at most after Dionysius, perhaps between 537 and 543, John of Scythopolis composed an extensive set (around 600) of scholia (that is, marginal annotations) to the works of Dionysius.
These were in turn prefaced by a long prologue in which John set out his reasons for commenting on the corpus. All Greek manuscripts of the Corpus Areopagiticum surviving today stem from an early sixth-century manuscript containing John's Scholia and Prologue — so John of Scythopolis had an enormous influence on how Dionysius was read in the Greek-speaking world.
The Dionysian writings and their mystical teaching were universally accepted throughout the East, amongst both Chalcedonians and non-Chalcedonians. Gregory Palamas, for example, in referring to these writings, calls the author, "an unerring beholder of divine things".
The Corpus is also present in Syriac and Armenian versions, the former of which, by Sergius of Reshaina in the early sixth century, serves as a terminus ante quem for the dating of the original Greek.
There is a distinct difference between Neoplatonism and that of Eastern Christianity. In the former, all life returns to the source to be stripped of individual identity, a process called henosis, while in orthodox Christianity the Likeness of God in man is restored by grace (by being united to God the Trinity through participation in His divine energies), a process called theosis.
The first notice of Dionysius in the West comes from Pope Gregory I, who probably brought a codex of the Corpus Areopagitum back with him on his return from his mission as papal legate to the Emperor in Constantinople in around 585. Gregory refers occasionally in his writings to Dionysius, although Gregory's Greek was probably not adequate to fully engage with Dionysius's work. In the seventh and eighth centuries, Dionysius was not widely known in the West, aside from a few scattered references.
The real influence of Dionysius in the West began with the gift in 827 of a Greek copy of his works by the Byzantine emperor Michael II to the Carolingian emperor Louis the Pious. King Louis in turn gave the manuscript to the monastery of St Denys near Paris  where, in about 838, Dionysius' works were translated into Latin for the first time by Hilduin, abbot of the monastery. It may well have been Hilduin himself who promoted his work (and his abbey) by developing the legend (which would be widely accepted during subsequent centuries), that Denis was the same person as Dionysius the Areopagite of Acts 17.34, and that he had traveled to Rome and then was commissioned by the Pope to preach in Gaul, where he was martyred. Hilduin's translation, however, is almost unintelligible.
About twenty years later, a subsequent Carolingian Emperor, Charles the Bald, requested the Irishman John Scotus Eriugena to make a fresh translation. He finished this in 862. However, this translation itself did not widely circulate in subsequent centuries. Moreover, although Eriugena’s own works, such as the Homily on the Prologue of St John, show the influence of Dionysian ideas, these works were not widely copied or read in subsequent centuries. The Benedictine monasticism that formed the standard monasticism of the eighth to eleventh centuries, therefore, in general paid little attention to Dionysius.
In the twelfth century, greater use gradually began to be made of Dionysius among various traditions of thought:
During the thirteenth century, the Franciscan Robert Grosseteste made an important contribution by bringing out between 1240 and 1243 a translation, with commentary, of the Dionysian corpus. Soon after, the Dominican Albertus Magnus did likewise. The thirteenth-century Parisian corpus provided an important reference point by combining the "Old Translation" of John Scotus Eriugena with the "New Translation" of John Sarrazin, along with glosses and scholia by Maximus the Confessor, John of Scythopolis and others, as well as the "Extracts" by Thomas Gallus, and several commentaries such as John Scotus Eriugena, John Sarrazin and Hugh of Saint Victor on The Celestial Hierarchy. It quickly became common to make reference to Dionysius. Thomas Aquinas wrote an explanation for several works, and cites him over 1700 times. Bonaventure called him the “prince of mystics”.
It was subsequently in the area of mysticism that Dionysius, especially his portrayal of the via negativa, was particularly influential. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries his fundamental themes were hugely influential on thinkers such as Marguerite Porete, Meister Eckhart, Johannes Tauler, John of Ruusbroec, the author of The Cloud of Unknowing (who made an expanded Middle English translation of Dionysius' Mystical Theology), Jean Gerson, Nicholas of Cusa, Denis the Carthusian, Julian of Norwich and Harphius Herp. His influence can also be traced in the Spanish Carmelite thought of the sixteenth century among Teresa of Ávila and John of the Cross.
In recent decades, interest has increased again in the Corpus Areopagiticum, for three main reasons: because of a recovery of the huge impact of Dionysian thought in later Christian thought, because of an increasing repudiation of older criticisms that Dionysius's thought represented a fundamentally Neoplatonic approach to theology, and finally because of interest in parallels between aspects of modern linguistic theory and Dionysius's reflections on language and negative theology.
Andrew Louth offers the following modern appraisal of the Areopagite;
Dionysius/Denys' vision is remarkable because, on the one hand, his understanding of hierarchy makes possible a rich symbolic system in terms of which we can understand God and the cosmos and our place within it, and, on the other, he finds room within this strictly hierarchical society for an escape from it, beyond it, by transcending symbols and realizing directly one's relationship with God as his creature, the creature of his love. There is space within the Dionysian universe for a multitude of ways of responding to God's love. That spaciousness is worth exploring: and therein, perhaps, lies the enduring value of the vision of Dionysius/Denys the Areopagite.
Apophatic theology, also known as negative theology, is a form of theological thinking and religious practice which attempts to approach God, the Divine, by negation, to speak only in terms of what may not be said about the perfect goodness that is God. It forms a pair together with cataphatic theology, which approaches God or the Divine by affirmations or positive statements about what God is.The apophatic tradition is often, though not always, allied with the approach of mysticism, which aims at the vision of God, the perception of the divine reality beyond the realm of ordinary perception.Areopagite
Areopagite may refer to:
Areopagite, a member of the Areopagus
Dionysius the Areopagite, judge and bishop in Athens who lived in the first century AD
Autolycus (areopagite), Athenian who was accused by the orator Lycurgus on account of removing his wife and children from Athens after the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC
Areopagite constitution, the modern name for a period in ancient Athens described by Aristotle in his Constitution of the Athenians
Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, Christian theologian and philosopher of the late 5th to early 6th centuryAreopagus sermon
The Areopagus sermon refers to a sermon delivered by Apostle Paul in Athens, at the Areopagus, and recounted in Acts 17:16–34. The Areopagus sermon is the most dramatic and fullest reported speech of the missionary career of Saint Paul and followed a shorter address in Lystra recorded in Acts 14:15-17.Cataphatic theology
Cataphatic theology or kataphatic theology is theology that uses "positive" terminology to describe or refer to the divine – specifically, God – i.e. terminology that describes or refers to what the divine is believed to be, in contrast to the "negative" terminology used in apophatic theology to indicate what it is believed the divine is not.Christian angelology
For other angelic hierarchies, see Hierarchy of angels.
In Christianity, angels are agents of God, based on angels in Judaism. The most influential Christian angelic hierarchy was that put forward by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite in the 4th or 5th century in his book De Coelesti Hierarchia (On the Celestial Hierarchy).
During the Middle Ages, many schemes were proposed about the hierarchy of demons, some drawing on and expanding on Pseudo-Dionysius, others suggesting completely different classifications.
According to medieval Christian theologians, the angels are organized into several orders, or "Angelic Choirs".Pseudo-Dionysius (On the Celestial Hierarchy) and Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica) drew on passages from the New Testament, specifically in Galatians 3:26-28, Matthew 22:24-33,
Ephesians 1:21-23, and Colossians 1:16, to develop a schema of three Hierarchies, Spheres or Triads of angels, with each Hierarchy containing three Orders or Choirs. Although both authors drew on the New Testament, the Biblical canon is relatively silent on the subject, and these hierarchies are considered less definitive than biblical material.
As referred to in the theological doctrine of the communion of saints, in Paradise there is a common and unique vision of the truth and contemplation of the Face of God, without any kind of difference between angels or human souls. The Summa theologiae states that there exist different degree in respect of the creation, about the power of intercession to God and of direct entrustment in the human lives.De Docta Ignorantia
De docta ignorantia (Latin: On learned ignorance/on scientific ignorance) is a book on philosophy and theology by Nicholas of Cusa (or Nicolaus Cusanus), who finished writing it on 12 February 1440 in his hometown of Kues, Germany.
Earlier scholars had discussed the question of "learned ignorance". Augustine of Hippo, for instance, stated "Est ergo in nobis quaedam, ut dicam, docta ignorantia, sed docta spiritu dei, qui adiuvat infirmitatem nostram" - "There is therefore in us a certain learned ignorance, so to speak — an ignorance which we learn from that Spirit of God who helps our infirmities"; here he explains the working of the Holy Spirit among men and women, despite their human insufficiency, as a learned ignorance. The Christian writer Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite advises his reader to ἀγνώστως ἀνατάθητι, to "strive upwards unknowingly". Bonaventura of Bagnoregio declared "spiritus noster non-solum efficitur agilis ad ascensum verum etiam quadam ignorantia docta supra se ipsum rapitur in caliginem et excessum" - "we are lifted into divine knowing without directly striving for it".
For Cusanus, docta ignorantia means that since mankind can not grasp the infinity of a deity through rational knowledge, the limits of science need to be passed by means of speculation. This mode of inquiry blurs the borders between science and ignorantia. In other words, both reason and a supra-rational understanding are needed to understand God. This leads to the coincidentia oppositorum, a union of opposites, a doctrine common in mystic beliefs from the Middle Ages. These ideas influenced other Renaissance scholars in Cusanus' day, such as Pico della Mirandola.Denis the Carthusian
Denis the Carthusian (1402–1471), also known as Denys van Leeuwen, Denis Ryckel, Dionysius van Rijkel (or other combinations of these terms), was a Roman Catholic theologian and mystic.Ephrem Mtsire
Ephrem Mtsire or Ephraim the Lesser (Georgian: ეფრემ მცირე) (died c. 1101/3) was a Georgian monk at Antioch, theologian and translator of patristic literature from Greek.
Information as to Ephrem’s life is scarce. Early in life he received a thorough Hellenic education presumably in Constantinople, where his purported father Vache Karich'isdze, a Georgian nobleman from Tao, had removed in 1027. Ephrem then became a monk at the Black Mountain near Antioch, which was populated by a vibrant Georgian monastic community of around 70 monks. Later in his life, c. 1091, Ephrem became a hegumen of the Kastana monastery, probably at the Castalia spring in Daphne, outside Antioch.
Ephrem’s hellenophile translational technique proved to be fundamental for later Georgian literature. He was the first to introduce literal rendering into Georgian, and made scholia and lexica familiar to Georgian readers. Some of his notable translations are the works by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, Basil of Caesarea, Ephrem the Syrian, and John of Damascus. Ephrem’s original work "Tale on the Reason for the Conversion of the Georgians" (უწყებაჲ მიზეზსა ქართველთა მოქცევისასა; uts’qebay mizezsa k’art’velt’a mok’tsevisasa) is yet another manifesto in defense of autocephaly of the Georgian Orthodox Church which was subject of a dispute between the Georgian and Antiochian churchmen in the 11th century.Guardian angel
A guardian angel is an angel that is assigned to protect and guide a particular person, group, kingdom, or country. Belief in guardian angels can be traced throughout all antiquity.
The concept of angels that guard over particular people and nationalities played a common role in Ancient Judaism, while a theory of tutelary angels and their hierarchy was extensively developed in Christianity in the 5th century by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite.
The theology of angels and tutelary spirits has undergone many refinements since the 5th century. Belief in both the East and the West is that guardian angels serve to protect whichever person God assigns them to, and present prayer to God on that person's behalf.Isaija the Monk
Isaija the Monk (Serbian: Инок Исаија; ca. 1300–after 1375), also known as Elder Isaija (Elder Isaiah) (Старац Исаија) and Isaija of Serres (Elder Isaiah of Serres) (Исаија Серски), was a 14th-century Serbian monk, one of many Serbian monk-scribes in the Middle Ages who translated ancient Greek manuscripts into the Serbian recension of Old Church Slavonic. His major work is the translation of the works of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite from Byzantine Greek. Isaija's commentaries on political events occur in the context of the fall of the Serbian principality of Serres in 1371, which led the descendants of these local governors to accept Ottoman suzerainty.
As a young boy, Isaija joined the monastic life of the Serbian Orthodox Church affiliated to St. Joachim of Osogovo Monastery on Osogovo Mountain in northern Macedonia, and then to Hilandar Monastery on Mount Athos in Greece, where he spent the rest of his life. In Hilandar, he worked as a translator and became very respected by Serbian rulers as attested to by the anonymous author of The Life of the Monk Isaija, probably written in late 14th century.
Isaija was a very prominent individual during the reign of Stephen Dushan and Lazar of Serbia. He was a monk with an excellent reputation and he also excelled as a writer, translator, and diplomat. Between 1353 and 1363 he traveled throughout Serbia; he later served as a Serbian diplomat, and he proved to be very skilled during the negotiations initiated by Prince Lazar in order to reconcile the Serbian and the Greek Church, which was achieved in 1375 after resolving difficult diplomatic and ecclesiastical issues with Patriarch Philotheus I of Constantinople. Isaija's dragoman on the mission to Constantinople was Nicodemus of Tismana, Prince Lazar's relative.
At the end of his Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite translation, Isaija added an inscription and used a cryptogram to write his name.
Isaija had an anonymous disciple, known only as Isaija's Disciple, who wrote the biography of "Isaija the Monk". No biographical data of this author is extant. He is known in Serbian literature only as Nepoznati Svetogorac, the Anonymous Athonite.John III of Naples
John III (died late 968/early 969) was the longest-reigning Duke of Naples (928–968). He was the son and successor of Marinus I.
At the beginning of his reign, he warred against the Saracens and then made a treaty with them after they appeared beneath his walls in 929. He then allied with Lombards Atenulf III of Benevento, with whom he signed a pact, and Landulf I, joint-prince of Benevento, against the Byzantines. A Greek force was sent to Apulia and the rebellious vassals were constrained to recognise the authority of the emperor in Constantinople. John then confirmed a treaty with the princes salve fidelitate sanctorum imperatorum.
In 946, he allied with Landulf II of Benevento in an invasion of Salerno with the intent of deposing Prince Gisulf I. They were defeated by an army of Mastalus I of Amalfi and John retired to Naples. Landulf turned around and joined with Gisulf in attacking the Neapolitan duchy. They took Nola.
In 949, John made a donation to the church of Saints Severinus and Sossus, which had possibly been founded by one of his predecessors. In 950, he himself founded the church of Saint Michael Porta Nova in Naples. In 955, he attempted again to throw off the imperial yoke and again an army was sent to Italy under the strategos of Calabria and Langobardia, Marianos Argyros. Refused entry into Naples, it landed in the harbour and pillaged the city, forcing John to submit. In 962, however, John switched his allegiance to the new emperor in the West, Otto I. In 958, Naples was subject to another Muslim siege.
John's wife was the Roman senatrix Theodora, daughter of the famous Theodora and Theophylact I, Count of Tusculum. John was thus related by marriage to the famed Marozia. He sent his son Landulf to be raised in Rome by Marozia. His sister Orania married Docibilis II of Gaeta, cementing alliance between Gaeta and Naples. His elder son, Marinus, would succeed him in Naples. In 944, Marinus was appointed co-duke, and, in that same year, Odo of Cluny visited and influenced John to affirm the possessions of the monasteries in his domains.
John was a man of letters and an amateur philosopher. He and Theodora commissioned the archpriest Leo to go to Constantinople as ambassador and bring back as many Greek manuscripts as possible. Leo returned with the Chronographia of Theophanes, the Antiquities of the Jews by Flavius Josephus, De Prodigiis by Livy, the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, and the Historia Alexandri Magni. After Theodora's death, John took to reading and theorising, contemplation and translation into Latin, according to Leo.
An interesting anecdote is told of this duke by Peter Damian. The legend probably dates from 981 and may have basis in historical fact. In a vision, John saw a group of devils leading a line of horses drawing carts full of hay for the purpose of burning Pandulf Ironhead, the deceased prince of Capua, and himself, still very alive. John decided then and there to abdicate, but only with the permission of the Emperor Otto II first. This he died before receiving.Mythical theology
Mythical theology (theologica mythica) is one of three types of theology defined by the Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro (116–27 BC) in his lost work Antiquitates rerum humanarum et divinarum. The other two are political theology (theologia civilis) and natural theology (theologia naturalis).
Mythical theology is practiced by story-tellers, especially poets, based on narratives (mythoi) pertaining to divine matters. Divine revelation was claimed or implied by some of these story-tellers, or their disciples.
Theologians of civil or political theology are administrators, defining how the gods relate to daily life and the state (see imperial cult). Theologians of natural theology are philosophers, inquiring into the nature of the gods,
as evidenced by nature and reason.
"Mythical theology" should be distinguished from the theologia mystica of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite.Neoplatonism and Christianity
Neoplatonism was a major influence on Christian theology throughout Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages in the West. This was due to St. Augustine of Hippo, who was influenced by the early Neoplatonists Plotinus and Porphyry, as well as the works of the Christian writer Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, who was influenced by later Neoplatonists, such as Proclus and Damascius.Peter the Iberian
Peter the Iberian (Georgian: პეტრე იბერი, translit.: p'et're iberi) (c. 417-491) was a Georgian royal prince, theologian and philosopher who was a prominent figure in early Christianity and one of the founders of Christian Neoplatonism. Some have claimed that he is the author of the works written under the pen name Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite.His accomplishments include founding the first Georgian monastery in Bethlehem and becoming the bishop of Majuma near Gaza. The oldest Georgian Bir el Qutt inscriptions mention Peter with his father.Pietro Balbi
Pietro Balbi (or Petrus Balbus) (1399–1479), of Pisa, was an Italian humanist, a longtime member of the familia of Cardinal Bessarion who moved in the same circle as Nicolas Cusanus, whom he served with his expertise in Greek. During Pius II's pontificate, Balbi was the most prolific translator of Greek patristics in Rome, probably using the Greek manuscripts in Bessarion's own library. One of the quattrocento defenders of Plato, he translated for Cusanus the epitome of Platonic Philosophy, Disciplinarium Platonis epitome, of the 2nd-century philosopher Albinus and the immense Theologica Platonica of Proclus in 1462, and circulated it in manuscript. Giovanni Andrea Bussi printed his translation of Alcinous, and Cusanus cast Balbi and Bussi as interlocutors in his dialogue De lì non aliud in the winter of 1462.
Balbi played a role in the deconstructing of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, unmasking the dionysian corpus as apocryphal.In 1463 Balbi, who was bishop of Nicotera, was appointed bishop of Tropea in Calabria.Sergius of Reshaina
Sergius of Reshaina (died 536) was a physician and priest during the 6th century. He is best known for translating medical works from Greek to Syriac, which were eventually translated to Arabic. Reshaina, where he lived, is located about midway between the then intellectual centres of Edessa and Nisibis, in northern Mesopotamia.
The ninth-century translator Hunain ibn Ishaq gives the names of twenty-six medical texts by Galen which Sergius translated into Syriac; they were the first significant translations of medical works from Greek into a Semitic language, and presumably were the textbooks Sergius himself had used when he studied at Alexandria. Hunain is not always complimentary about Sergius's translations, though some he thinks are better, as Sergius became more experienced. Sergius also translated various other works, including the Categories of Aristotle, Porphyry's Introduction to the Categories and theological works by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. He also composed two works of his own, On the Influence of the Moon and The Movement on the Sun, probably drawing heavily on Greek sources.
Recently (early 21st century), a palimpsest with an undertext of Galen, translated by Sergius from Greek to Syriac, gathered the attention of scientists. It contains chapters of Galen's On Simple Drugs that had been lost. The imaging and reading of the text is considered crucial, as it will elucidate the role that Sergius played in the transmission of medical knowledge from Greek into Arabic. Sergius' translations of Galen were copied and recopied for centuries, and eventually became a bridge for moving the medical expertise of the ancient Greeks to Islamic societies. Syriac texts were much easier than Greek ones to translate into Arabic.Although Sergius kept in close contact with the mostly Nestorian scholars nearby, he was himself a Monophysite Christian priest. In 535, he was sent to Rome by Ephrem, Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, and escorted Pope Agapetus I to Constantinople. There he died, the following year.Stephen Bar Sudhaile
Stephen Bar Sudhaile was a Syrian mystical writer who flourished about the end of the 5th century AD.
The earlier part of his career was passed at Edessa, of which he may have been a native. He afterwards removed to Jerusalem, where he lived as a monk and endeavoured to make converts to his peculiar doctrines, both by teaching among the community there and by letters to his former friends at Edessa. He was the author of commentaries on the Bible and other theological works. Two of his eminent contemporaries, the Monophysites Jacob of Serugh (451-521) and Philoxenus of Mabbogh (d. 523), wrote letters in condemnation of his teaching. His two main theses which they attacked were (1) the limited duration of the future punishment of sinners, (2) the pantheistic doctrine that all nature is consubstantial with the Divine essence that the whole universe has emanated from God, and will in the end return to and be absorbed in him.
The fame of Stephen as a writer rests on his identification with the author of a treatise which survives in a single Syriac manuscript (Brit. Mus. Add. MSS. 7189, written mainly in the 13th century), The book of Hierotheus on the hidden mysteries of the house of God. The work claims to have been composed in the 1st century AD, by a certain Hierotheus who was the disciple of Saint Paul and the teacher of Dionysius the Areopagite. But, like the works which pass under the name of Dionysius, it is undoubtedly pseudonymous, and most Syriac writers who mention it attribute it to Stephen. The author of the Book of Hierotheus is sometimes referred to as Pseudo-Hierotheus as his follower, Dionysius the Areopagite, is called Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite to differentiate them from the biblical figures.
An interesting discussion and summary of the book have been given by AL Frothingham (Stephen bar Sudhaili, Leiden, 1886), but the text is still (1910) unpublished. From Frothingham's analysis we learn that the work consists of five books; after briefly describing the origin of the world by emanation from the Supreme Good it is mainly occupied with the description of the stages by which the mind returns to union with God, who finally becomes all in all. To describe the contents in a few words: at the beginning we find the statement regarding absolute existence, and the emanation from primordial essence of the spiritual and material universes: then comes, what occupies almost the entire work, the experience of the mind in search of perfection during this life. Finally comes the description of the various phases of existence as the mind rises into complete union with, and ultimate absorption into, the primitive essence. The keynote to the experience of the mind is its absolute identification with Christ; but the son finally resigns the kingdom unto the Father, and all distinct existence comes to an end, being lost in the chaos of the Good (Frothingham, p. 92).
One of the most curious features of the work is the skill with which the language of the Bible is pressed into the service of pantheistic speculation. In this and other respects the book harmonizes well with the picture of Stephens teaching afforded by the letter of Philoxenus to the Edessene priests Abraham and Orestes (Frothingham, pp. 28–48). The Book of Hierotheus is probably an original Syriac work, and not translated from Greek. Its relation to the Pseudo-Dionysian literature is a difficult question; probably Frothingham (p. 83) goes too far in suggesting that it was prior to all the pseudo-Dionysian writings (cf. Ryssel in Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte).
The unique manuscript in which the Book of Hierotheus survives furnishes along with its text the commentary made upon it by Theodosius, patriarch of Antioch (887–896), who appears to have sympathized with its teaching. A rearrangement and abridgment of the work was made by the great Monophysite author Bar-Hebraeus (1226–1286), who expunged or garbled much of its unorthodox teaching. The copy that he used is the manuscript which now survives in the British Museum.The Enneads
The Enneads (Greek: Ἐννεάδες), fully The Six Enneads, is the collection of writings of Plotinus, edited and compiled by his student Porphyry (c. AD 270). Plotinus was a student of Ammonius Saccas and they were founders of Neoplatonism. His work, through Augustine of Hippo, the Cappadocian Fathers, Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and several subsequent Christian and Muslim thinkers, has greatly influenced Western and Near-Eastern thought.Thrones
In Christian angelology, thrones (Ancient Greek: θρόνος, pl. θρόνοι; Latin: thronus, pl. throni) are a class of angels. This is based on an interpretation of Colossians 1:16. According to 1 Peter 3:21-22, Christ had gone to Heaven and "angels and authorities and powers" had been made subject to him.Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite includes the thrones as the third highest of 9 levels of angels.
Philosophers and theologians associated with Death of God theology
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