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The Dionysian Mystical Theology
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The Dionysian Mystical Theology

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Fortress Press 2015

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Overview

The Dionysian Mystical Theology introduces the Pseudo-Dionysian “mystical theology” with glimpses at key stages in its interpretation and critical reception through the centuries. In part one, the elusive Areopagite’s own miniature essay, The Mystical Theology, is quoted in its entirety, sentence by sentence, with commentary. Its cryptic contents would be almost impenetrable without judicious reference to the rest of the Dionysian corpus: The Divine Names, The Celestial Hierarchy, The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, and the ten Letters.

Of special importance is the Dionysian use of negations in an “apophatic” theology that recognizes the transcendence of God beyond human words and concepts. Stages in the reception and critique of this Greek corpus and theme are sketched in part two: first, the initial sixth-century introduction and marginal comments (Scholia) by John of Scythopolis; second, the early Latin translation and commentary by the ninth-century Carolingian Eriugena and the twelfth-century commentary by the Parisian Hugh of St. Victor; and third, the critical reaction and opposition by Martin Luther during the Reformation. In conclusion, the Dionysian apophatic is presented alongside other forms of negative theology in light of modern and postmodern interests in the subject.

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Key Features

  • Examines Dionysus the Areopagite’s Mystical Theology sentence by sentence
  • Investigates the reception of Dionysus’ essay over time and its relation to his other work

Praise for the Print Edition

The treatise known as ‘The Mystical Theology’ ascribed to an unknown fifth-century author writing under the pseudonym of ‘Dionysius the Areopagite’ (Acts 17:34) can be described as a founding document for much of the history of Christian mysticism, not only because of its quasi-apostolic authority, but also due to its powerful teaching about how reaching union with God entails going beyond both affirmation and negation. Paul Rorem, who has spent decades studying Dionysius and his writings, provides the contemporary reader with a clear and penetrating commentary on this brief work, one of the most elusive writings in Christian history. He also includes some insightful essays on aspects of the later history of Dionysianism. This is a book to be treasured by anyone interested in the history of mysticism.

—Bernard McGinn, University of Chicago

Centering on ‘The Mystical Theology,’ the concise, but elusive key text of the Areopagite, Paul Rorem offers by his brilliant commentary a thorough introduction to the Dionysian corpus. Further, he presents main stages of reception and discloses in this way the impact of a classic source of the history of both theology and wider culture, including postmodernity. This book is an excellent resource for sharpening one's own theological and philosophical judgment.

—Oswald Bayer, University of Tübingen

The influence of the mysterious early 6th-century ‘ps-Dionysius’ and his writings on both Eastern and Western theology has been profound and pervasive; yet almost no texts in the Christian tradition are more contested in their meaning and theological implications, especially today. In The Dionysian Mystical Theology, Paul Rorem crowns a long career of distinguished work on the Dionysian tradition with an exacting analysis of The Mystical Theology in the context of the complete oeuvre, and of its reception at key moments up to the Lutheran reformation. This is a magisterial little book, condensing years of intricate scholarship.

—Sarah Coakley, University of Cambridge

Paul Rorem is one of the most perceptive scholars of Pseudo-Dionysius writing in English: his works on this mysterious author are fundamental. He has worked on the early transmission of his works in the Greek world, and also on his reception in the West in the Carolingian world and on Luther’s understanding of the Areopagite at the time of the Reformation. Drawing on a lifetime’s scholarship, Professor Rorem provides a clear and engaging introduction to the thought of Ps-Dionysius and his influence in the West.

—Andrew Louth, Durham University, UK

Product Details

  • Title: The Dionysian Mystical Theology
  • Author: Paul Rorem
  • Publisher: Fortress Press
  • Publication Date: 2015
  • Pages: 171
  • Resource Type: Topical
  • Topic: Early Church

About Paul Rorem

Paul Rorem is Princeton Theological Seminary’s Benjamin B. Warfield Professor of Medieval Church History, holds an MDiv from Luther Theological Seminary, an STM from The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, and a PhD from Princeton Seminary. He is author of Hugh of Saint Victor and of several volumes on the Dionysian corpus.

Sample Pages from the Print Edition