Dionysius the Areopagite, Saint

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Dionysius the Areopagite, Saint

Saint Dionysius the Areopagite (dīənĬsh´ēəs, ârēŏp´əjīt), fl. 1st cent. AD, Athenian Christian, converted by St. Paul. Acts 17.34. Tradition has made him a martyr and the first bishop of Athens. He has been confused with St. Denis. During the Middle Ages he was revered as the author of certain philosophical writings erroneously attributed to him since the 6th cent. These are ten letters and four treatises (The Celestial Hierarchy, The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, The Divine Names, Mystical Theology) written in Greek, possibly in Palestine, in the late 5th or early 6th cent. It is now customary to refer to their author as Pseudo-Dionysius. Their obscure style was no barrier to their study and repeated translation into Latin, notably by Erigena and Robert Grosseteste. They exerted a lasting influence on the development of scholasticism, particularly through St. Thomas Aquinas. The treatises provided a medium for transmission to Western culture of the concepts of Neoplatonism and of the theology of angels. Feast: Oct. 9.

See studies by D. Rutledge (1965) and R. F. Hathaway (1970).

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