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DIONYSIUS AREOPAGITES IN THE WORKS OF SAINT GREGORY PALAMAS: ON THE QUESTION OF A «CHRISTOLOGICAL CORRECTIVE» AND RELATED MATTERS

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Citations of the Corpus Dionysiacum are exceedingly frequent in the works of Gregory Palamas. Much, indeed, of the latter's Triads in Defense of the Holy Hesychasts is devoted to interpretation of the Areopagite, most often in counter argument to the reading of Dionysius insisted on by Palamas' opponent through-out the Triads, Barlaam the Calabrian. In his seminal work on St. Gregory, the late Father John Meyendorff was clearly troubled by this Dionysian ubiquity in the Doctor of Hesychasm, particularly since Meyendorff accepted the prevailing scholarly view of Dionysius as, at best, a dubious Christian. In response to this «problem», Meyendorff insisted that Gregory supplied a «Christological corrective» to the Areopagite, i.e., diluted or even eliminated the latter's notion of hierarchy as mediated knowledge in favor of the assertion of Christ's immediate availability to the believer. Palamas thus re-interprets Dionysius, baptizes him, as it were. Throughout his studies, Meyendorff effectively equates the proper reading of the Dionysian corpus with Barlaam's interpretation. This article argues that, to the contrary, Gregory's was a much better reading of the Areopagite than that of either Barlaam or of more modern scholars, and that the key to his insight lies in the ascetical and mystical tradition of the Christian East common to both. Certain key passages from the Triads singled out recently by Professor Adolf Ritter as proving Meyenforff's thesis are taken up in the second section of the article. Read closely, and with an eye on both prior Christian ascetical literature and the latter's own roots in the ancient apocalypses, the passages in question, and the Dionsyian texts on which they are based, reveal a common understanding. The article then turns to a brief analysis of Dionysius himself, particularly to his notion of hierarchy and its relation to ascetical tradition as revealed especially in the eighth epistle of the corpus. The «Christological correctives» emerges in sum as a scholarly construct without serious relation to the texts in question.

10.1163/18177565-90000151
/content/journals/10.1163/18177565-90000151
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/content/journals/10.1163/18177565-90000151
2007-03-30
2017-10-24

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