BiographyPseudo-Dionysius was long believed to have been St. Paul's Athenian convert, Dionysius the Areopagite, mentioned in Acts 17:43. However, the presence, in the writings attributed to him, of concepts and categories derived from the 5th century Neoplatonic philosopher Proclus gradually led to a re-evaluation of this mysterious writer's identity, and so he became known as Pseudo-Dionysius. We can say nothing certain about his life or identity, for we only know his works. These are: The Mystical Theology, The Divine Names, The Celestial Hierarchy, The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, and ten epistles. In these treatises Pseudo-Dionysius develops his apophatic or negative theology, which was to have an immense influence on Christian mysticism in the East and West.
Works by Pseudo-Dionysius
Not much is known about the late 5th to early 6th century author of Celestial Hierarchies apart from what scholars have deduced from his works. In the style of Medieval mysticism and with a strong streak of Neo-Platonism, Dionysus details the authority structures, powers, and domains of the angels. His account influenced St. Thomas Aquinas greatly, and one can find a similar account in part one of his magnum opus, Summa Theologica.
There remains for the Christian reader no theologian or scholar quite as enigmatic as Dionysius the Areopagite, also known as Pseudo-Dionysius. Dionysius is mentioned in Acts 17, as someone who became a follower of Christ through the preaching of Paul. In the fifth and sixth century, a number of works appeared under the name Dionysius the Areopagite. For centuries, the authorship of these writings was debated, and it is now accepted by most scholars that the author of these medieval texts remained anonymous and wrote under the pseudonym of Dionysius. John Parker, the translator and compiler of this specific collection of works, was one of the last to believe the anonymous author was in fact the first century apostle. The question of the exact authorship does not, however, take away from the power of the words and the great influence Pseudo-Dionysius has had on mystical thought, Christian theology, and liturgical awareness.
On the Divine Names and Mystical Theology are two of the greatest works of Dionysius the Areopagite. Also known as Pseudo-Dionysius, he was long thought to be the first century disciple of Paul. Later evidence, however, showed this important and influential theologian to be an anonymous fifth century Christian, neo-platonic thinker. Both On the Divine Names and Mystical Theology emphasize the transcendence of God, and the inability of human language to fully capture God's true nature. Dionysius's theological method--often called "negative theology" because it never made positive affirmations about God--was adopted by many Christians. This particular edition of Dionysius's work also comes with an elaborate and instructive introduction, sure to be of help when understanding Dionysius's writings. Although Dionysius's work was long unavailable in modern translation, now anyone can read and enjoy this impressive and important theologian!
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