DIONYSIUS THE AREOPAGITE
IN THE CONTEX OF BYZANTINE – SLAVONIC
Cf. also Bibliography
In a massive corpus of philosophic literature, translated and original, current in Medieval Slavic world, the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite occupy a very distinctive place. Along with such texts as treatises by John Damascene, Dioptra by Phillipos Monotropos, popular selections from various Greek authors, the Corpus Dionysiacum, together with the commentaries attributed to Maxumus the Confessor, played an important role in the process of development of Slavonic orthodox theology. In the famous Cyrill book (Кириллова книга), which was compiled in 1644 and contained a list of the books recommended and prohibited for reading by the Orthodox Christians the Corpus is mentioned among the books highly recommended, second only to the Bible.
Composed by an unknown author in a turning point of Byzantine theological history, marked by bitter Church controversies and one of the most serious prosecutions of the Platonic School which culminated in its close in 528, the Corpus Dionysiacum was predestined for rebirth everywhere theological thought began its evolution in Christian society. It was the writing of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite that attracted the attention of the brilliant thinker of the ninth century, John Scottus Eriugena, who translated it into Latin, composed commentaries and made an extensive use of it in his own theological constructions. Five centuries later, in a similar situation, the Slavonic theologian, Starets Isaiah undertook the translation of the Corpus into Church Slavonic.
This period was a ground breaking one in Slavic theological culture, since at the time of Isaiah the Slavic culture was undergoing quick development, when it finally took Christian shape, incorporating the traditional values of Christendom.
In fact the history of Byzantine literary influences
on Slavic thought can be traced back as far as to the time of
Our main concern in this study – the fourteenth century Church Slavonic version of the CD – is an important and somewhat curious piece of writings. Taken together which translator’s foreword, it captures well linguistic situation in Slavonic theological literature, witnesses about certain very touching political and historical circumstances and allows to trace the way the early Slavonic educators approach Byzantine literary heritage and adopt the Greek theology and philosophy to Slavonic language. As the medieval translator acknowledges it in his foreword, this task was difficult, mainly because of virtual absence of developed Slavonic terminology, which could allow rendering the Greek correctly. Notwithstanding this he faced the challenge bravely and definitely succeeded in his job to a degree that the resulting text, I believe, did not loose its interest even for contemporary reader of Dionysius and therefore is worth investigating not only from the philological point of view (which goes without saying), but also for the sake of a better understanding of the ideas of the Dionysian Corpus as such, as long as it contains things which do not depend upon particular linguistic expressions.
Let us now, after a concise general overview, study historical and philological circumstances of Isaiah’s work and then proceed with an analysis of the central point of Dionysian synthesis – the symbolic theology, paying special attention to the Greek and Church Slavonic terminology used both by the unknown author of the CD and its translator.
THE DIONYSIAN CORPUS IN CONTEXT:
A general overview and miscellaneous considerations
To begin with, let us outline the broader context in which our literary event took place. The document we have at hands, the Corpus Dionysiacum, consists of four treatises (De divinis nominibus, De mystica theologia, De coelesti hierarchia, De eccleciastica hierarchia) and ten Epistulae addressed to different persons. The unknown author of the corpus wrote under the name of St. Dionysius the Areopagite, a convert of St. Paul in Athens (Acts 17:16-34), but the ideas and terminology used throughout the text, its general design, numerous literally parallelism with and even verbatim quotations from later Neoplatonic literature prove that the work was probably written as late as at the turn of the fifth/sixth centuries by an unknown Christian (possibly from Syria or some other part of Asia Minor), strongly influenced by later Greek metaphysics. Though it is no longer believed that the corpus is actually the work of the historical Dionysius the Areopagite, one may only guess now who is the real author of this mysterious document.
The reasons usually given to justify this (already common) opinion can be briefly summarized along the following lines. The corpus came into historical being (was mysteriously ‘discovered’) somewhere in the first decades of the sixth century and immediately started to play an important role in the ecclesiastic polemics which was going on in that time. As a work of apostolic authority it was explicitly appealed to by Severus of Antioch, then by John of Scythopolis and some other Church writers and the monophysite bishops at the Colloquium of 533. Therefore it can scarcely be composed much after 500. More precisely, except to the earliest extant references to the CD (the first of which being found in the Dormition of Virgin dated as early as 451 and the second in the 10th chapter of Breviarium causae Nestorianorum et Eutychianorum by Liberatus of Carthage, composed before 560-566, which, as researchers argue, must be considered later interpolations, made on purpose in order to confirm the Dionysius’ legend) the writings ascribed to the name of Dionysius were for the first time definitely referred to by Severus of Antioch in his third letter to John Higumenus. Therefor, as R. Roque summarizes it:
En tout hypothèse, la composition des Areopagitica doit être fixée avant 528, date à laquelle Paul de Gallinice a dejà traduit en syriaque les deux traités de Sévère (...) Si l’on tient compte des délais de traduction et de composition de ces traités, on peut dire sans témérité que les Areopagitica ont dû être écrits : soit avant 525, si la 3e Lettre à Jean l’higoumène est de 532 ; soit avant 510, si telle est la date de cette lettre.
On the other hand, provided that the
corpus apparently embodies ideas of the later Neoplatonists and those of
Proclus (418-485), it appears reasonable to assume that the Corpus was composed no later than at the
end of the fifth century. In these circumstances, although it would be
interesting to learn the name of the author, it is unlikely that anything more
than conjecture will ever be possible and the historical and philosophical
interest of the writings is due not to the question of its authorship,
intriguing as it were, but to the content, significance and influence of the
text itself. In any event, judging from the text itself the unknown author was
a learned philosopher, possibly a member of a Platonic School, who most
probably came from Syria, Palestine or Egypt in the last decades of the fifth
century to participate actively in the polemics of the monophysite Church with
the orthodox Chalcedonians which was going on in that time. Who can fit this
picture? Having no firm ground for accepting or rejecting this or that possible
candidate we should better honestly leave this question open.
Whoever Pseudo-Dionysius may have been, he was an admirer of the classical
philosophy and much rather a convert of Plato then
already the oldest manuscript tradition preserves the complete corpus in the same form, as we know it today. Consisting of four treatises and ten letters
the corpus constitutes certain unity and, despite frequent self-references to
other writings by the same author is very consistent and well ordered. This
fact alone allows assuming that we deal with a complete work, carefully
designed by the author or an editor. It appears that the unknown author or
editor wanted to be as persuasive and error free as possible. Quite probably
that the prologue and commentary to the corpus, later attributed to Maximus the
Confessor, were composed – partially or completely – simultaneously with the
publication of the corpus. Is it therefore possible that their author, John of
Scythopolis, is an editor or the author of the corpus? Or could Severus of
Antioch, the first person to mention and probably to discover the corpus, play
this role? In any case he made use of it in his argumentation and was certainly
interested in accepting its apostolicity. Immediately after ‘discovery’ of the
Greek CD, already in a form of a complete document (the text and a set of
commentaries), it was translated into Syriac. The translator Sergius (Sargis)
of Resh’aina (d. 536), a theologian and physician, who possibly came from
An accepted chronological sequence of the treatises within the Corpus is DN - MTh - CH – EH. Besides these writings the author of the CD mentions the following treatises: qeologikai\ u(potupw/sei» (DN I 1; I 5; II 1; II 3; II 7; XI 5; MTh III, etc.), sumbolikh\ qeologi/a (DN I 8; IX 5; XIII 4; CH XV 6; MTh III; Ep. IX 1, etc.) and some others, which are either separate works that have been lost, or were never written. But if these treatises ever existed, no trace of them has remained in the later history of the Corpus. The Letters, as it is proved by a multitude of considerations, is also a work of the same author, not only because they are similar in style, but also because Proclus is used in them in the same way as elsewhere in the Corpus and, moreover, because they are not missing in any branch of the manuscript tradition.
The Corpus Dionysiacum, known from the
beginning of the sixth century, played a very ambiguous role in the history of
Byzantine philosophy and theology. Doubts concerning its authenticity followed
it from the very beginning until the Renaissance. Some serious doubts
concerning the Corpus having been
written by Dionysius, the convert of
But the first doubts in its authenticity arose by the time of the very first appearance of the Corpus. In 532/533 at a Colloquium held between the followers of Severus (Severians or moderate monophysites) and the Chalcedonian orthodoxes, the leader of the anti-severian opposition, Hypatius of Ephesus, put into question the authenticity as well as the orthodoxy of these writings. Nevertheless, due primarily to the great commentaries of John of Scythopolis (composed around 530-540), and especially after the addition of those written by Maximus the Confessor in the seventh century, the authenticity of the Corpus was accepted by the majority of the authorities. Later its authority was enhanced in the eighth century by the references made to it by the great doctor of the Eastern Church, St. John Damascene. The commentaries which, following some confusion on the part of the scribes, were entirely attributed to Maximus the Confessor, always followed the text in the manuscript tradition during the Middle Ages, including the Slavonic translation. It should be remembered that one of the factors in the quick success of the Corpus was, on the one hand, the apostolic authority which it conferred to some of the tendencies characteristic to late fifth- and early sixth-century monasticism, reconciling them, on the other hand, with Episcopal authority. In the East, Theodore the Studite appealed to Dionysius in his argumentation against iconoclasm. Among theologians who commented on the CD were Michael Psellus (1018 -1974) and George Pachymeres (1242-1310). During the hesychast controversies both St. Gregory Palamas and his opponent Barlaam of Calabria appealed to the CD.
In the West there are references to Dionysius
in the works of Eulogius, Patriarch of Alexandria (580-607) and Moderatus,
Patriarch of Jerusalem (631-634). Pope Gregory the Great, who was a friend of
Eulogius, referred to Dionysius as an "ancient and venerable Father".
The CD was mentioned during the
monothelitic controversies on the Lateran Council (649), in the letters of Pope
Martin I (Lateran, 649) and of Pope Agatho (Dogmatic letter to the Emperor
Constantine, 680), during the
During the twelfth century, the works of Dionysius attracted the attention of Abbot Suger of St. Denis (d. 1151) and of John Sarrazin (1140, 1165). The former was interested in this work from the point of view of symbolism of light.
The widespread influence of the Corpus can be observed at this time. Hugh of St. Victor (d.1141), Richard of St. Victor (d.1173), St. Bernard of Clairvaux, William of St. Thierry, Aelred of Rievaux, Alan of Lille (c.1120-1202) and Isaac of Stella (d.1169) in their works made much use of it. Robert Grosseteste (d.1253) carried out a new translation of the Corpus and the Scholia between 1240 and 1243. There are commentaries of Albert the Great (d.1280) and of St. Thomas Aquinas (who around 1261 wrote an Exposition on the Divine Names). St. Bonaventura hailed Dionysius as "the prince of Mystics". Finally, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries we have references, discussions and commentaries on the CD in the works of Master Eckhart (d.1327), Tauler (d.1361), Ruysbroeck (d. 1381), Nicolas of Cusa (d.1464), Dionysius Carthusianus (d.1471), Marsilio Ficino (d. 1499) and the Spanish Mystics Abbot Cisneros (d.1510), Francis of Osuna and John of the Cross.
The reader will excuse me for such a wearisome but still incomplete list of names, but all this complicated story cannot remain untouched in our study of the destiny of the corpus in Slavonic philosophy and theology, since the translation of it into the Church Slavonic, accomplished in the fourteenth century, must necessarily have inherited the widespread tradition of commentaries together with the text of Pseudo-Dionysius himself.
Let us come back in
Modern scholars made
the situation even more complicated. In his monograph on the development of
Christology W. Elert tries to prove that this Theodorus Rhaithuensis actually
was Theodorus the bishop of Pharant and the founder of Monothelitismus.
In relation with the 1073 year’s Izbornik this hypothesis was further
developed and somewhat corrected by B. Peichev.
There is no reason to repeat the arguments here. It is sufficient to note that
if it is really the case that Theodorus Rhaithuensis and the founder of
monothelitismus are identical, as
Maximus the Confessor testifies (PG, t. 91, col. 136) that Theodorus of Pharant composed a treatise On substance and nature (peri\ ou)si/a» kai\ fuse/w»), where he addressed the controversial problems of hypostasis, personae and the like, and that his interpretation, due to some efforts on part of patriarch Sergius, become quite widespread. This small fact is highly relevant to the present study, since in the Izbornik we find a peace of writings of uncertain origin on the similar subject (on the meaning of terms substance and nature), ascribed to the name of Theodorus Rhaithuensis and placed immediately after the letter of Maximus the Confessor addressed to Theodorus the Monk (from Opuscula theologica et polemica ad Marinum =PG, t. 91, col. 276ab), presumably as an answer to it. It is clear that the composer of the Greek protograph of the Izbornik considered this two Theodori identical. In order to reaffirm Maximus’ authority and superiority the composer of the Izbornik concludes the section with another extract from Maxumus (Izbornik, p. 223g-237b), that is to say, gives him the last word to summarize this exchange. This is also suggestive: if the composer had taken this text directly from the Dialectic of John Damascene, he would not need all this and we would expect that the name of Damascene be mentioned.
Thus, in the Izbornik we find an extract from the author who was quite interested in Dionysius. Moreover, a quote from the CD is also found in the Izbornik (p. 47v), unfortunately of no philosophic value. The name of Dionysius is mentioned twice. The first time it is spelled as ДИОНУСИА АРЕОПАГИТА and the second time as ДИWНИСИИ. It is curious to note how the spelling of the same Greek name can differ within the same Slavonic text.
It is clear that all
the sources included in the Izbornik (or rather its Byzantine
protograph) have something to do with the monophysits.
The authors selected are not contemporaries but mainly belong to the previous
epoch of Byzantine theological history when the monophysitic controversy still
raged. It appears as if having mastered it the Byzantine church authorities now
passed their experience to a newly christianized state under their spiritual
In relations with the heretics the CD is mentioned around the same time
in a letter of Anastasius the Papal Librarian dated by March 23, 875
(Anastasius was the same erudite who made some clarifying remarks and revision
of John Scotus’ translation of the CD in Latin).
It is said that
Generally speaking one can remember many situations when the Corpus Dionysiacum as a work of apostolic authority had played an important role in the development of orthodox theology. It is commonly believed that Dionysius made a successful attempt to harmonize Platonism and Christian doctrine in order to construct, as a result, a Christian-Platonic theological synthesis and this fact determined the role that the CD played in the history of theology and continues to play nowadays. Needless to say, that the problem of orthodoxy of this synthesis, which was questioned already in 533, still intrigues the minds of Dionysius' readers. Byzantine theologians spilled much ink to prove this fact. The modern orthodox authors do the same. For example, a Russian researcher of the nineteenth century, I. Smirnov, took the doctrine of Dionysius as orthodox beyond any doubt. He says:
“As for the religious system of Dionysius, all mistakes and ideas that contradict the Christian doctrine are removed from it. For example, the world is considered by Dionysius as a direct creation of God, matter is not a cause and source of evil; he accepts resurrection, body for him is not a source of evil and sin in men; although in a few words, he rightly teaches about the Holy Trinity.... All these ideas are basically orthodox, despite some details that still remain of his Neoplatonism, not entirely rejected for the sake of the Christian doctrine...”
These words of apology by the well-known Russian scholar is just a repetition of constant remarks of the ancient commentators who also tired to prove that any doubts concerning the orthodoxy of the 'divine Dionysius' lack any real foundation. It is to prove this fact that such skillful and detailed commentaries, which follow the text of Dionysius in the corpus, were written. They clearly intend to demonstrate that Saint Dionysius is an orthodox Father; otherwise people would have to consider him a great heretic. Having this in mind, for example, the author of the Prologue and the commentary to the Corpus says that the reader "should not think that this divine man performs an act of impiety towards God" (PG t. 4, col.429), proclaiming that God as above everything and in this sense non-existent. According to him, the notion of divine darkness in the Mystical Theology is difficult to grasp and should be interpreted in a symbolic manner, therefore nobody has any reason to accuse Dionysius of impiety only on this basis, and so on. Wherever possible John of Scythopolic tries to maximize the Trinitarian orthodoxy of Dionysius and certainly greatly “improves” Dionysius’ Christology. It is important to understand therefore that as a document of medieval culture the Corpus existed only within the framework of these commentaries, the "pure" text of Dionysius being an invention of modern times. And if you take the text alone it will not appear as straightforward and compatible with the orthodox doctrine as it is commonly believed.
CHURCH SLAVONIC TRANSLATION
OF THE CORPUS DIONYSIACUM
As an important theological document the Corpus Dionysiacum was translated and commented upon throughout the
Middle Ages by Latin and Greek authors and enjoyed high esteem, not only among
mystics but also among professional writers on theology and philosophy such as
John Damascene, Albert the Great, and Thomas Aquinas. In this capacity the Corpus Dionysiacum is considered a great
Besides Greek and Latin manuscripts, today we have several codices from the sixth to ninth centuries that contain Syriac translations of the Corpus. From 712 - 718 an Old Armenian and from the twelfth century an Old Georgian translations of this work exist. There is a partial translation the Corpus into Arabic.
The Church Slavonic translations of the writings ascribed to Dionysius the Areopagite, accomplished in the fourteenth century, became an event in Slavic culture. It was important not only because knowledge of this famous Byzantine theological and philosophical corpus of treatises now allowed Slavic theologians to understand a wide range of problems of traditional and contemporary Byzantine theology, but also because, thanks to the extremely rich and creative language of the Corpus itself, its translation opened new horizons for the development of Slavic theological terminology.
As we already know the translation of the Corpus from Greek into Church Slavonic has its pre-history in the earlier epoch. There are witnesses that works of the 'Great Dionysius' were considered to be an important power against heretics as early as during the Slavic mission of St. Constantine and Method. Euthymius of Tarnovo also translated a part of the CD. One can say now that a long work of translation and adoption of the CD, which was brought to an end in the second part of the fourteenth century, reaped the harvest of at least three previous centuries of scholarship.
The second part of the fourteenth century was a crucial point in the history of Balkan countries: it was the period of heroic struggle with the Turkish invasion, the defeat and final fall of the most powerful Slavic armies, and this fact meant the desperate enslavement of the Balkan's Slavic population.
The author of translation, monk Isaiah, flourished in
the time which immediately preceded this period of Balkan history, and his
destiny was to witness and to describe the events of this time, namely the
battle of Maritsa and the Turkish conquest of
Researchers note that the language of the Introduction to the translation is
strongly influenced by Russian and most of them have accepted that Monk Isaiah
was the Abbot of the Russian Monastery of St. Panteleimon on Mount Athos, that
is to say Staretz Isaiah, who was
probably a very educated person and, as an Abbot, one of the influential
figures in Church diplomacy of that time.
His theological and literary works were connected with the city of
According to his own words he received an official request from Theodosius, the
metropolitan of the city of
'on the fall of the Sunday of my life', I managed to learn Greek, but very
little, only to understand the pithiness of this language and the difficulty in
translating from it into our language. Really, Greek language – from the very
beginning and thanks to God's gift – is very expressive [художенъ - artistic] and is able to contain a lot of
things [пространъ - rich in content]. Moreover, it was greatly improved by the long
tradition of philosophising. On the contrary, our language is well created –
since all God's creation is perfect – but it was not awarded [не удостоися] the same
improvement as the Greek because of the lack of philosophical works of those
lovers of literature [любоученia любочестивых слова
мужей хытрости]. Therefore, though knowing this language, I myself did not dare
even to touch the things that are beyond my understanding (I mean the
translation from the Greek), because, according to the expression of the
Scripture: 'Do not search for things that are beyond your abilities, and do not
test those that are more profound than the limits of your understanding'. So, I
was very afraid that I could damage the divine things, if I dared to touch upon
them, or offend those things that are contained in the Old or New Scripture.
But the metropolitan of the god-saved city of
The work of translation took years and was finished around 1371. This
date can be inferred from the very words of Isaiah himself, who, in the Introduction to his translation, says
that he started it in good days and finished it in "the most evil of all
evil days" meaning by this the Turkish occupation. In fact, it was exactly
in September 1371, after the catastrophic defeat and fall of the most powerful
“As I have
already said I started the translation of this book of St. Dionysius in good
days, when Churches of God and the Holy Mount flourished like Paradise, a
garden in full bloom, constantly nourished by founts of water, but I have
finished it in the most evil of all evil days, when all Christians of the
Western countries perished in flame. Despot Ugljesha gathered together all
Serbian and Greek armies, and those of his brother King Vukashin and of other
noble dukes; and all these armies extended to six thousand [soldiers]. Now he
moved them to
The translation of the Corpus was a very difficult task both because of the complexity and the flexibility of the language of Dionysius and because of the fact that the translator had to face the problem of creating rather than using a similar system of philosophical categories and theological language in Slavonic. The translation of Isaiah is very literary but, on the other hand, following the Greek original almost word by word, it gives a complicated and skilful interpretation of each passage. At the same time it gives an impression of an outstanding philosophical work.
Before we turn to the text and consider a number of
examples of Isaiah’s translation, a few words should be said concerning the
history of further development of the manuscript tradition of the CD in the Slavic countries and
The Ottoman occupation and the destruction of many
centres of education in Balkans determined the further destiny of the Corpus Dionysiacum Slavicum. Fortunately
approximately at the same time, the victory in the battle on Kulikovo-Field and
the establishment of Metropolitan in
played an important and ambiguous role in Russian history. It was used both by
The writings of Dionysius were included in the first great corpus of Monthly Reading [Великие Минеи Четии], arranged according to the days of memory of the saints. This edition, prepared under direction of Makary, Metropolitan of Moscow, in 1552, become standard and had then been reprinted for almost three hundreds years. It should be noticed here, that according to the considerations of Gelian M. Prokhorov, the text of this first printed edition of the Slavonic translation of the CD belonged to the same manuscript tradition as the Serbian codices of Isaiah's time.
In the above-mentioned book G.M. Prokhorov publishes a
part of the manuscript of the last part of the 14th century (namely, the Church
Slavonic translation of the Mystical
Theology and the Ninth Letter of
Dionysius together with commentaries of John of Scythopolis). This manuscript
from A.F.Gilferding's collection (Gilf. # 46) of the State Public Library in S.
Petersburg can (according to Prokhorov’s suggestion) be the ‘autograph’ of
Isaiah himself or one of the earliest copies from it and (which is important)
the scribe or translator must have followed the structure of the Greek
fact the situation (as usually happens in such cases) is more complicated. As
Generally speaking the manuscript tradition of the Corpus dionysiacum slavicum is very widespread. Almost a hundred of various manuscripts of the CD in Church Slavonic are now found, but Gilf. #46 or – it will be much safer to say – its protograph seems to influence almost the entire Russian manuscript tradition. Except to the above-mentioned oldest known manuscript, the most important are two manuscripts of Serbian origin from ГИМ, собрание Воскресенского новоиерусалимского монастыря (Voskr. # 75 and Voskr. # 76), manuscripts from РГБ, собрание Московской духовной академии № 144, ГИМ, собрание Уварова № 264-1 and some others. Two Slavonic manuscripts of the CD are kept in Novosibirsk (the Department of Rare Books and Manuscripts, State Public Scientific Library, Krasnoyarsk collection F. I.12 and F. VI.6), dated respectively to the end of the 17th and the end of the 15th centuries. Vladimir Itkin has described the latter of these manuscripts in details.
The edition of Metropolitan Makary constitutes an important, but in no means final step in the history of the Slavonic Dionysiaca. This very difficult text continued to be copied and re-edited many times, more or less successfully. The theology of Dionysius played a great role in Russian ecclesiastical and even political controversies that made it necessary for theologians to attempt an exact understanding of the text. But they had to face at least two serious problems that made the proper understanding of the text difficult. On the one hand, the changes in the Church Slavonic made some expressions of the old translation incomprehensible and, on the other hand, careless copying made it almost impossible to distinguish the text from the commentaries. The accumulation of the mistakes as well as new interest in the CD in seventeenth century induced the monk Evfimy Chudovsky to undertake a new redaction of Isaiah's translation. This translation, still unpublished, was finished in about 1675.
The next step in the history of the Slavonic translations of Dionysius is connected with the work of the Moldavian monk, (Saint) Paisy Velichkovsky from the eighteenth century. For his translation of the CD into Church Slavonic he already used the printed Corderius' edition of the Greek text of Dionysius and shortened most of the commentaries. Some of them he excluded completely, but at the same time added selections taken from the paraphrases by George Pachymeres (13th century) from the edition of Corderius.
Monk Moisej made the last translation of the CD into Church Slavonic already at the beginning of the nineteenth century (and this translation was already a kind of a scholarly exercise). Since this time the CD has been several times translated into modern Russian.
Finally Gelian M. Prokhorov, who, in his book on the
Slavonic translation of the CD mentioned above, talked about the importance of
reconstructing the whole document, that is to say the Slavonic text of
Dionysius with all the commentaries added to it in the course of centuries, has
begun this task, having published in
To conclude this short outline I shall note that, as it appears the future research could go in two directions.
from a general historical prospective, it will be extremely interesting to
trace the ways the CD was used (and misused) in train of theological polemics.
Was the Corpus really a “sharp sword» directed against the heretics as
Secondly, as far as the Church Slavonic translation is concerned, the endless possibilities of comparative research are open, and first of all it will be interesting to trace the ways of adaptation of Greek philosophic terminology of the CD, not only in this particular translation of it, but also in other writings of later times it had influenced.
paper was started as a part of my MA thesis at the department of Medieval
Studies of the
ELEVATED LANGUAGE AND PHILOSOPHIC TERMINOLOGY
OF ISAIAH’S TRANSLATION
(to be downloaded as an archive,
which includes the text in WinWord format and relevant fonts)
 For general overview see: Мещерский Н.А. Источники и состав древней славяно-русской переводной письменности IX-XV веков (Ленинград, 1978); especially on John Damascene in Church Slavonic translation cf.: Гаврюшин Н.К. «Диалектика» на Руси, Памятники науки и техники 1987-1988 (Москва, 1989) с. 202-236; Weiher E. Die Dialektik des Johannes von Damaskus in kirchenslavischer Uebersetzung (Wiesbaden, 1969).
 Cf. Miklas H. Die Dioptra des Phillippos Monotropos im
Сперанский М.Н. Переводные сборники
изречений в славяно-русской письменности. Исследование и тексты (Москва,
1904); Бондарь С.В. Философско-мировоззренческое содержание «Изборников»
1073 и 1076 гг. Киев,
 For selections from this book cf.: Гpицевская И.М. Индекс истинных книг в составе "Киpилловой книги". – ТОДРЛ. Т. XLIV. СПб., 1993. С.125 – 134 and М.Н. Громов, Структура и типология русской средневековой философии (Москва, 1997), с. 239-242.
Among the earliest texts is the aforementioned Izbornik 1073 goda as well as the Izbornik 1076 goda, which also included various translated materials as well as an interesting collection of original texts moulded under the Greek influence. It is worth noting that a quote from the CD and a part of a Vita of St. Dionysius are included in the former collection. For the text and study upon this selection cf.: Helmut Keipert, Velikij Dionisie sice napisa: Die Uebersetzung von Areopagita-Zitaten bei Euthymius von Tarnovo, T’rnovska Knizhovna shkola, t. II (The second international Symposium, Veliko Tarnovo, May 20-23 1976), S. 326-349. (We shall return to this subject later.)
The most recent
critical edition of the Greek text (which however does not include the Scholia)
is the following:
 One can take as an example the treatise by certain Theodorus Rhaithuensis, mentioned by Photius (Bibl., cod. 1), where the reasons for this doubts are listed. (This mysterious person will later come up again in our discussion of the earliest Slavonic translations from the CD).
 On John of
Scythopolis work see now a comprehensive study by Rorem Paul, Lamoreaux John C.
John of Scythopolis and the Dionysian Corpus. Annotating the Areopagite.
 R. Roque, ‘Denys
l’Aréopagite’, in: Dictionaire de
spiritualité, ascétique et mystique (
For an extended
but still incomplete survey of different opinions held by various researchers
about the problem of the authorship of the CD cf.: R. Hathaway. Hierarchy and the Definition of Order in the
Letters of Pseudo-Dionysius (The Hague, 1969), pp. 31-
 Did Pseudo-Dionysius
know the works of Philo of Alexandria? One may suppose he did, since the monks
are called in the CD the therapeutae. This fact is duly noticed by the
commentator (a scholion to the title of the First Letter), but, as Paul Rorem
and John Lamoreaux note, the commentator most probably has acquired this
information from Eusebius (John of Scythopolis and the Dionysian Corpus.
Annotating the Areopagite.
translation see especially: Gernot Wiessner, 'Zur Handschriftenüberlieferung
der syrischen Fassung des Corpus Dionysiacum', Nachrichten der Akademie der Wissenschaft in Goettingen (NAWG) 3
(1972), S.165-216 and H. Baltasar,
Kosmische liturgie. Maximus der Bekenner, 2.aufl (Einsiedels, 1961), S.
644-672. Phoqa bar Sargis made a new Syriac translation of the Corpus in the ninth century. Recent
studies by Istvan Perczel of the
Certain comments on this see: H. Ruh, Die mystische Gotteslehre des Dionysius Areopagita (München, 1987), S. 13-14.
Peri\ yuxh=», peri\ dikai/ou kai\ qei/ou dikaiwthri/ou, peri\ nohtw=n te kai\ ai)sqhtw=n, peri\ tw=n qei/wn u(/mnwn, peri\ tw=n a)ggelikw=n i)dioth/twn kai\ ta/cewn -- cf. Dictionaire de la spiritualite et de la mystique, T. 1, col. 259; CD II, Register, S. 230.
See R.F. Hathaway. Hierarchy and the Definition of Order in the Letters of Ps.-Dionysius (The Hague, 1969) pp. 6, 10-11.
On this subject see:
H. Koch. 'Proclus als Quelle des Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagita in der Lehre von
Bösen', Philologus 54 (1895), S.
253-273 (here the author shows direct parallels between the CD and the treatises of Proclus, first
of all the De malorum subsistentia
written by Proclus in around 440?); H. Koch. Pseudo-Dionysius in seinem Beziehungen zum Neoplatonismus und
 On political and ecclesiastical circumstances of this event cf. two papers by Milton V Anastos: The Immutability of Christ and Justinian’s Condemnation of Theodore of Mopsuestia. – Dumbarton Oaks Papers 6 (1951): 123–160 and Nestorius was Orthodox. – Dumbarton Oaks Papers 16 (1962): 118–140.
See the report of the colloquium in: Acta conciliorum oecumenicorum. Strasburg, 1914. 4-II, S. 172, 173 (the answer of Hypatius). A detailed analysis of this and also of the evidences of Severus of Antioch cf.: Rorem and Lamoreaux, John of Scythopolis, p. 9-18.
In addition to the
above-mentioned book by Rorem and Lamoreaux see the following seminal
contributions: H. Baltasar, 'Das Scholienwerk des Johannes von Scythopolis', Scholastik, 25.1, S. 7-38. B.R. Suchla,
'Eine Redaktion des griechischen Corpus Areopagiticum im Umkreis des Johannes
von Skythopolis, des Verfassen von Prolog und Scholien. Ein dritten Beitrag zur
Ueberlieferungsgeschichte des Corpus Dionysiacum', NAWG (4) 1985, S.
For the Greek text and a Latin translation of these commentaries cf.: PG, t. 4.
Cf: Opera sancti
Dionysii Areopagitae cum scholiis sancti Maximi et paraphrasi Pachymerae, a
Balthasare Corderio Soc. Jesus Doct. Theol. latine interpretata et notis
theologicis illustrata... PG, t. 3 (
Meyendorff, 'Notes sur l'influence dionysienne en Orient', Studia Patristica (
In Euang. Homily 34, 12. PL t. 76, col. 1254.
It should be
noticed that before this time in 838 Hilduin, abbot of St. Denis, also
undertook a translation of the Corpus
at the request of King Louis. The immediate reason for this was that people in
Anastasius the Papal Librarian made some clarifying remarks and revision of the translation in 875. After that time this translation was adopted and did not change throughout the Early Middle Ages. For the text of the commentaries of John Scottus cf: 'Joannis Scoti expositiones super hierarchiam caelestem s. Dionysii', in PL t. 122, col. 125-266. The CD was translated several times in Latin: by John Scottus Eriugena and Hilduin (as we have said) in the 9th c., by John Sarrazin in the 12th c., by Robert Grosseteste and Thomas Gallus in the 13th c., by Ambrose of Camaldule and Marsilio Ficino in the 15th c., by Joachim Perion in the 16th c., and by Pierre Lanssel and Balthasar Cordier in the 17th c. Cf. Ph. Chevallier, Dionysiaca, t. 1, pp. XV-XVI. This monumental work includes the text of all these translations.
See: McGinn, 'Pseudo-Dionysius
and the Early Cistertians', in: One Yet
Two. Monastic Tradition East and West (
 He wrote the Commentaries on the Celestial Hierarchy (1115-1137), see: PL t. 175, col. 923-1134.
See: The Spirituality of Western Christianity. Ed. by E.R. Elder (1976). For a brief history of influence of the CD in the western theology and philosophy cf.: H. Kuh, Gotteslehre, S. 50-63.
About commentaries of Robert see: D.A. Callus (ed.), Robert Grosseteste, Scholar and Bishop (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1955) pp. 44ff.
Beati Alberti Magni opera omnia..... Volumen decimum quartum: commentarii in libros B. Dionysii Areopagitae. Parisiis: Vives, 1892.
Doctori angelici, divi Thomae Aquinatis, sacri ordinis EF. Praedicatorum opera omnia....... Tomus vigesimus nonus, pp. 374-580: in libri beati Dionysii de divinis nominibus expositio. Parisiis: Vives, 1876, 1889, 1927.
See: V. Lossky, Theologie negative et connaissance de Dieu
ches Maitre Eckhart (
Doctoris Ecstatici D.Dionysii Cartusiani opera omnia......Tomus quintus decimus et tomus sextus decimus: in libros s. Dionysii Areopagitae et epistulas undecim expositio. Tornaci, MDCCCCII.
 Elert W. Der
Ausgang der altkirchlichen Christologie.
 Пейчев Б. Философский трактат в Симеоновом сборнике. Киев, 1983.
 Cf. Rorem and
Lamoraux, John of Scythopolis, p.
 This text is anonymously used in the Dialectics of John Damascene.
 Extracts from various writings of Anastasius Sinaita, who was the major authority on this, form the bulk of the Izbornik. Cf. for instance the 6th chapter of his Viae duc (Hodegos), directed against Severus of Antioch (PG, t. 89; CChSG, t. 8).
 No doubt that
this text both in
Germaniae Historica. Epist. T. VII. Karolini Aevi V. S.433. Cf. H.Goltz, Notizien zur Traditionsgeschichte des
Corpus Areopagiticum slavicum, Byzanz in der europaischen Staatenwelt (
The list of the
works devoted to the CD and its place in the history of Christian doctrine and
Neoplatonic philosophy is already extremely extensive. For bibliographical
summaries cf.: B. Brons. Gott und die
Seienden. Untersuchungen zum Verhaltnis von neoplatonischer Metaphysik und
christlicher Tradition bei Dionysius Areopagita (Göttingen, 1976).
J.M. Hornus 'Les recherches recentes sur le Ps.-Denys l'Areopagite (depius
1932)', Revue d'histoire et de
Philosophie Religieuses, 35 (1955), pp. 404-448 and 'Le recherches
 Though not always, as Rorem and Lamoreaux rightly suggest (John of Scythopolis, p. 68).
S.Petersburg's researcher G.M. Prokhorov, is quite right in pointing out this unity of the commentaries and the text as an essential feature of the CD. Cf. Пpохоpов Г.М. Памятники пеpеводной и pусской литеpатуpы XIV - XV веков. Л., 1987, p. 10.
See: P. Sherwood, 'Sergius of Reshaina and Syriac Version of the Ps.-Dionysius', Sacris erudiri 4 (1954) 174-184; G. Wissner, 'Zur Handschriftenueberlieferung der syrischen Fassung des CD', Nachrichten der Akademie der Wissenschaft in Goettingen (NAWG) 3 (1972).
This translation was
made by Stephan of Siunik in
translation of Ephrem Mtsire, Abbot of a Monastery in Kastana, cf. the
extensive literature of modern Georgian researchers. A special interest in the
CD was provoked in
About the Arabian translation of Epistula 8 see especially: W. Scott Watson, 'An Arabic Version of Epistle of Dionysius the Areopagite to Timothy', The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, 16 (1899/1900) 225-241.
 Helmut Keipert, Velikij Dionisie sice napisa: Die Uebersetzung von Areopagita-Zitaten bei Euthymius von Tarnovo, T’rnovska Knizhovna shkola, t. II (The second international Symposium, Veloko Tarnovo, May 20-23 1976), S. 326-349.
 Мошин Б. Житие старца Исайи, игумена русского монастыря на Афоне [Moshin, V. The
Vita of Staretz Isaiah, the Abbot of Russian Monastery on
Cf.: Ангелов Б. Ст. «Исай Серски», Из старата българска, русска и сръбска литература [Angelov B.St. From Old Bulgarian, Russian and Serbian literature]. София, 1967. Т. 2. С. 149, footnote 2.
 For the text of Isaiah’s Introduction cf. the appropriate chapter in the book by B. Angelov, Из старата българска, русска и сръбска литература («Исай Серски», p. 148-161). This text is also published in: Великие Минеи Четии, октябрь, дни 1-3 [Great Monthly Reading. October, days 1-3], СПб, 1870, c. 263-266.
Cf. Angelov, id., p. 148.
 Isaiah's Introduction: Angelov, id., p. 159-160.
 For a general overview cf.: Дмитpиев Л.А. Роль и значение митрополита Кипpиана в истории древнерусской литературы (к pусско–болгаpским литературным связям 14–15 вв.). – ТОДРЛ. Т. XIX. М.–Л., 1963. С. 218–240.
We know this from
the letter of bishop of
«Царево государево послание на крестопреступников его, князя Андрея Курбского с товарищи об их измене», Послания Ивана Грозного (М.-Л., 1951). Cf.: H.Goltz, id., S. 144.
 See a number of passages from various places of the CD and the whole section in Ep. 9.
For the history of these possible contacts cf.: Бетин В.Л. «Митрополит Киприян и Феофан Грек», Études Balkaniques 13 (1977) pp.
109-115; Пpохоpов Г.М. Памятники
пеpеводной и pусской литеpатуpы XIV - XV веков. Л., 1987, c. 20-27 (on the iconography of Sophia); H Goltz, id.
S. 142 and idem, Zur Ikonosophie des Kreises: Teodorus Pediasimos und der
Symbolismus der Rublevschen Troica, Byzantinischer Kunst Export. Hrsg von H.L.Nickel.
 Великие минеи четии, собрание метрополита Макария. Под редакцией С. Палаузова. СПб., 1870. Т. 3. С. 263-786 (the last reprint).
 On the manuscript tradition of this edition see: Пpохоpов Г.М. Памятники пеpеводной и pусской литеpатуpы XIV - XV веков, c.53.
 An international team (headed by H. Goltz and G.M. Prokhorov) is now working upon an edition of this manuscript.
 В.В. Иткин, О некоторых особенностях структуры древнейшего славянского списка корпуса сочинений Дионисия Ареопагита (К вопросу о формировании структуры памятника) – Novosibirsk, 1998 (unpublished).
 Simply because this manuscript was quite unexpectedly discovered by
A.F. Gilferding in
 В.В. Иткин, «Корпус сочинений Дионисия Ареопагита по списку красноярского собрания ГПНТБ СО РАН», Книга и литература (Новосибирск, 1997), с. 107-121. Interestingly enough that this manuscript combines features typical to different groups of manuscripts and therefore was copied from several protographs.
Cf. The first
publication: Opera sancti Dionysii
Areopagitae cum scholies sancti Maximi et paraphrasi Pachymerae, a
Balthasare Corderio Soc. Jesus Doct. Theol. latine interpretata et notis
theologicis illustrata (Antuerpiae, ex officina Plantiniana Balthasaris Moreti,
M.DC.XXXIIII) and reprints:
See: G.M. Prokhorov, id, pp. 57-59.
In 1787 D.I.
Dmitrievsky translated The Mystical
Theology with some of the commentaries of Corderius and paraphrases of
Pachymeres. For this work he used Corderius' edition of the CD. There are two
(unpublished) translations of The Divine
Names at the beginning of the nineteenth century - see: Prokhorov, p. 59.
There are as well several published modern Russian translations of the CD. The Celestial Hierarchy and The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy were
 Cf. a review by
Yu.A. Schichalin in: Museum Grareco-Latinum 2 (