Areopagite's Works

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Areopagite’s Works


religious works including the treatises Divine Names, Celestial Hierarchy, Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, and Mystical Theology and ten letters. These works appeared no earlier than the second half of the fifth century and were signed with the name of the first bishop of Athens, Dionysius the Areopagite (hence their title). The unauthentic nature of the Areopagite’s works was demonstrated by Lorenzo Valla and Erasmus of Rotterdam. The linguistic traits of the works, references to subsequent facts of church history, and their dependence on the later Neo-platonism, especially that of Proclus, also point to their un-authenticity. The Soviet scholar Sh. Nutsubidze (1942) and subsequently the Belgian scholar E. Honigmann (1952) advanced the hypothesis that the author of the Areopagite’s works was the Georgian thinker Peter the Iberian. The Soviet scholar S. Danelia has argued against this hypothesis.

The ideas in the Areopagite’s works concerning the un-knowability and inexpressibility of the divine being, its effusion into matter in the form of light emanations which wane as they move away from the divinity and finally are extinguished in the darkness and nonbeing of matter, the elevation to divinity by means of a transrational ecstasy, and the triune structure of the world and the church have all had a great influence on the religious philosophy of Byzantium and the West. The presence in the Areopagite’s works of dialectical ideas (for example, the thesis of “god’s being in non-being,” the doctrine of various stages of being, which are distinguished by the degree of perfection), as well as pantheistic tendencies, determined the influence of the Areopagite’s works on Renaissance thinkers such as Nicholas of Cusa, Bruno, Ficino (who wrote commentaries on his own translation of Divine Names), and Pico della Mirandola. The Neo-platonic ideas contained in the Areopagite’s works served as the source of certain heresies during the Middle Ages. The Areopagite’s works have been known’ in Russia since the 14th century.


Skvortsov, K. Issledovanie voprosa ob avtore sochinenii, izvestnykh s imenem Sv. Dionisiia Areopagita. Kiev, 1871.
Honigmann, E. Petr Iver i sochineniia Psevdo-Dionisiia Areopagita. Tbilisi, 1955. (Translated from French.)
Danelia, S. I. “K voprosu o lichnosti Psevdo-Dionisiia Areopagita.” In Vizantiiskii vremennik, vol. 8. Moscow-Leningrad, 1956.
Nutsubidze, Sh. Petr Iver i problemy areopagitiki. Tbilisi, 1957.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.