Platonism, Paganism and Early Christianity


Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (Early 6th Century A.D.)

... The works of Dionysius Areopagites have been controversial ever since Martin Luther's dismissal of him as plus platonizans quam christianizans, and particularly since the scholarly labors of Joseph Stiglmayr and Hugo Koch at the close of the 19th century demonstrated his incontestable fondness for the thought of Iamblichus of Chalcis and, especially, Proclus Diadochus. The degree of that fondness and its compatibility or, more often, perceived incompatibility with Christian faith and the patristic tradition have been the primary focus of scholarly literature for the past hundred years. ...

Alexander Golitzin: Dionysius Areopagites in the Works of Saint Gregory Palamas, article originally given as a paper on November 6th, 1999, at the Second International Conference on St. Gregory Palamas, Limassol, Cyprus.

Pseudo-Dionysius was an Armenian monk whose writings were highly recommended by many of the Medieval popes. His works, including Celestial Hierarchies, On the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, Ten Letters and The Divine Names were collectively referred to in the Middle Ages as the Corpus Areopagiticum . In these written works he called himself Dionysius the Areopagite, i.e., the famous first century A.D., Athenian member of the Areopagus (law court) that the Apostle Paul converted per Acts 17:34 (Note 1) of the Bible. Today, he is usually referred to as "Pseudo" Dionysius because it was conclusively shown, as early as the 15th century, that this man actually lived no earlier than the sixth century A.D. The Florentine humanist Lorenzo Valla (1407-1457) was the first academic to provide evidence that the author of the Corpus Areopagiticum could not have been St. Paul's convert. In 1895, two important Roman Catholic scholars, Hugo Koch (Note 2) and Joseph Stiglmayr (Note 3) both working independently of each other, published research papers that showed beyond a reasonable doubt that Dionysius' claim to be the Areopagite was false.


1.  "A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others" (Acts Chapter 17, Verse 34).

2.  "Proklus als Quelle des Pseudo-Dionysius in der Lehre vom Bösen," Philologus 54 (1895) 438-454.

3.  "Der Neuplatoniker Proklos als Vorlage des sog. Dionysius Areopagita in der Lehre vom Übel," Historisches Jahrbuch 16 (1895).

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