Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works

Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works

Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works

Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works

Synopsis

Here are the complete works of the enigmatic fifth- and sixth-century writer known as the Pseudo Dionysius, prepared by a team of six research scholars.

Excerpt

Paul Rorem

The writings attached to the name of Dionysius the Areopagite (Acts 17:34) are all introduced, translated, and annotated in this single volume. The reader will face the unanswered questions of Dionysian scholarship: Who was the author of these Greek works, which actually date from the fifth or sixth century? Were his (or her?) sympathies Christian or Neoplatonic or both? What was the influence on the spirituality of medieval Christianity and on the modern world? More importantly, nonspecialists can now explore for themselves the actual contents of these famous but seldom-read writings instead of only hearing or reading about them.

The texts themselves are not long, although their dense style has given many that impression. They are here presented in the order suggested by the author's internal allusions, since there are no dependable historical references. The Divine Names uses the various biblical names for God, such as "Good," "Being," and "Life," as a starting point for a thorough philosophical discussion of the divine attributes. Yet whatever is affirmed about God must also be denied. The Mystical Theology provides an extremely brief summary of the author's method of affirmative and negative theology and its spiritual goal. It begins with Moses ascending into the dark "cloud of unknowing" and ends with the negation of all presumed attributes of the transcendent God. The Celestial Hierarchy considers the three triads of angelic beings, as described in the scriptures. The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy presents the rites and offices of the church: the three sacraments (baptism, Eucharist, and consecration of the myron-ointment), the three ordinations (of the hierarch or bishop, priests, and deacons), monastic tonsure, and funerals. To describe the relationship of the hierarch to those below him, Dionysius invented the word "hierarchy." The nine Letters consider different aspects of these same topics.

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