Dionysius the Areopagite - Divine Hierarchy

Steven Avery

Some defend the writings as being 1st century (e.g. John Peck quotes the section from John Parker).

Dionysius the Areopagite

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Are the Writings of Dionysius the Areopagite Genuine?

By Rev. John Parker (1895)



A treatise of dogmatic theology
by Robert Owen (1820-1902)

... the controverted passage, "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one.” I say “with diffidence ” because its genuineness is questioned ; it being supposed from its too direct testimony to have been fabricated by some of those injudicious Christians, who in the fourth century published the Divine Hierarchy of Dionysius the Areopagite and similar works with the hope of benefiting the cause of Orthodoxy. But it may be doubted at least whether the assumed benefit is so obvious; for the passage in question might easily be perverted to a Sabellian sense. And the testimony of S. Jerome is deserving of respect; who, in the Prologue to the Canonical Epistles, complains of unfaithfal translators omitting it in their editions.

The footnote gives Tertullian and the two Cyprian sections, concluding

See Mabillon. in Appendice ad Liturgiam Gallicanam, pp. 476, 77

Launoy, 1660.
Dailld, 1666.
Montet, 1S48.
Hipler, 1861.
Nirschl, 1888, Histpolit Blatter, p. 172—184, and p. 257-270*.

John Parker
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Steven Avery

Earlier, Hypatius of Ephesus (f. 530) disputed the authenticity of the writings.

John of Scythopolis and the Dionysian Corpus: Annotating the Areopagite (1998)
Paul Rorem John C Lamoreaux -

Search Hypatius for the pages, plus there is additional material in the Byzantine era up to Photius. Note the section below which has material for and against.

p. 17-18
p. 104-106

Whatever the origins of this criticism of the works of Dionysius, we know that it was not wholly silenced by John’s exegetical labours. Phocas’ translation of the works of Dionysius included as prefatory material not only the Scholia and Prologue by John of Scythopolis, but also a second Prologue by a certain George of Scythopolis.25 This George composed his Prologue specifically in order to defend the authenticity of the Dionysian corpus.26 Such an apology was needed, Phocas writes, for there are many who impugn the authenticity of these writings, supposing them to be by Apollinaris or some unknown heretic of more recent times. George at any rate thinks such slanders groundless, as he knows of a letter written by Dionysius of Alexandria (d. 264/5) which shows that the latter knew of the Areopagite’s works and even in his own age had had to defend them against those who were condemning them.27 After citing two fragments of this letter, George goes on to offer other arguments in favour of the Dionysian corpus, arguments which very much resemble those of John. The authenticity of these writings is confirmed, writes George, by all the knowledge Dionysius displays of the people and events of the apostolic age. Furthermore, those who ask why Dionysius' works were not mentioned by any of the early church fathers should be aware that the patristic heritage has not come down in full or in its original form, for many books have been corrupted and destroyed by persecuting pagans, Jews, and heretics. With these arguments George draws his Prologue to a close.

Insight into some of the criticisms being levelled against the Dionysian corpus can also be glimpsed in a work written by a certain Theodore and entitled That the Book of St Dionysius is Authentic. Unfortunately we know nothing as to the identity of the author of this work, not even when he was writing. Moreover, this text is no longer extant, though Photius provides a short summary.28

According to Photius, Theodore’s work set itself to counter four possible objections to the authenticity of the corpus. Why did the fathers not mention it? In particular, why was Eusebius silent about it? Why does Dionysius as a contemporary of the apostles seem to show a knowledge of doctrinal developments which took place at later dates in the Church? And finally, how is it that Dionysius can make reference to the letter of Ignatius? Photius concludes his brief summary with a bland remark which could be interpreted to suggest that Photius himself was not totally convinced by the arguments which Theodore had mustered in defence of the corpus: ‘These are the four problems which Theodore has attempted to resolve, thereby confirming to his own satisfaction that the works of the great Dionysius are authentic.’

Steven Avery

Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. Selected Bibliography, 2015
Tim Timofeev


PseudoDionysius the Areopagite and Eastern Orthodoxy: Acceptance of the Corpus Dionysiacum and Integration of Neoplatonism into Christian Theology (2016)
Vladimir Kharlamov, USA

Very interesting - from the Orthodox perspective.


Two Treatises on the Hierarchies of Dionysius (1869)
by John Colet


The Contemporary review
Dionysius the Areopagite - p. 001-028


Eugene Afonasin (Novosibirsk University, Russia)


Are the Writings of Dionysius the Areopagite Genuine? (2012)

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Steven Avery

Raising the Ghost of Arius - p. 185-`186

The best-known setting of the text Duo seraphim is doubtless Monteverdi’s bravura setting from his 1610 Vespers, conspicuous for its gorgiadecoration. The place of the four sacri concentus—Nigra sum, Pulchra es, Duo seraphim and Audi cælum—within Monteverdi’s so-called “Marian Vespers” has caused a good deal of comment, but until now no consensus has been reached. It is clear that Monteverdi was aware of previous settings of this text; the opening motif of his Duo seraphim is apparently a salute to Victoria’s setting, which he certainly knew, as Jeffrey Kurtzman has shown.65 Yet the theological background is certainly also relevant. First is of course the way in which the comma was used to bolster orthodox belief in the Trinity against the attacks of Antitrinitarians. But there might be more to the story. In 1590, Angelo Rocca (1545-1620), founder of the Biblioteca Angelica in Rome, published a commentary on the angelic salutation and annunciation by Augustinus Triumphus (Agostino Trionfo) of Ancona (1245-1328), which Rocca had unearthed in a library in Venice. When Triumphus comes to the verse “the angel Gabriel was sent by God” (Lk 1:26), Triumphus notes that this was something of an exception to the standard operating procedure in heaven. Triumphus notes that ps.-Dionysius the Areopagite had interpreted the verse Duo seraphim clamabant as an illustration of the way in which instructions are passed from one heavenly being to another. Normally divine commands are passed down in an orderly chain of command through the nine ranks of celestial beings, from the seraphim and cherubim down to archangels and angels. But at the Annunciation, God bypassed this chain of command and gave his secret instruction directly to Gabriel. Bernard of Clairvaux had suggested that it would not have been proper for the entire heavenly host to know of God’s plan before Mary did, so he sent the message directly through one angel alone. Triumphus thus forges a direct link from the text Duo seraphim to the Annunciation and hence to the Magnificat, the Marian canticle for Vespers. Triumphus’ text may even suggest a solution to another mystery of Monteverdi’s Vespers: who is supposed to sing the text Audi cælum, a text that appeared on the scene in 1601?66 Is it sung by one of the two seraphim, answered in eco by the other? Or perhaps by Gabriel himself, as he speeds 176towards his encounter with Mary? Although it is impossible to know if Monteverdi knew Triumphus’ text, the rediscovery of a manuscript commentary on Scripture was bound to have attracted at least some attention. Without firm evidence we can only speculate, but the possibility of a connexion between Triumphus’ commentary and Monteverdi’s Vespers is intriguing.
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