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Dionysius the Areopagite, Works (1897). Preface to the online edition

John Parker's translation of the complete works attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite requires some introduction, as he held views which were uncommon in his own day, and are not held today.  In particular, there is no doubt that the works are a production of the late 5th or early 6th century.  Likewise the Liturgy which he attributes to the same author is in fact an independent production.  Details on all of these points may be found in the standard handbooks such as Quasten's Patrology.

It is unfortunate that Parker attempts to reinforce his eccentric views by means of two arguments, neither without merit in the right place, but both grossly misapplied.

Firstly he invokes the authority of the Christian church, and suggests that faith in Christ Jesus requires us to accept that these works are genuine.  No doubt he was sincere, and some idea was present in his mind which does not reach us.  But I find no such statement in the scriptures, nor do the fathers make a dogmatic issue of the matter.  The church has no special revelation on the question of the authenticity of these works; that they were considered authentic by many in the pre-modern era reflects only the lack of facilities to determine authenticity in that period.  The unknown author of these works attempted to attribute them to Dionysius the Areopagite -- why, it is hard to imagine.  But their value comes from their spiritual insight, not their author.   At all events, to use the name of God to prop up a theory is to violate the second commandment, that we must not misuse the name of God.  Misuse of the name of God makes people less willing to listen when it is legitimately invoked.

Secondly he attacks the integrity of the scholars -- German scholars -- who stated that the text could not be first century.  Now it is certainly true that scholars of that period practised what the French today call "l'hypercritisme" -- a wasteful, destructive process which ultimately placed the purely subjective as the central authority.  It is likewise true that these same scholars served the cause of Satan by attempting to create a climate in which faithful belief in the scriptures was impossible. Some of them were not ashamed to  create a consensus that rubbished the works of Lucian of Samosata for reasons which have been shown to be taken verbatim from non-scholarly anti-semitic publications.1  Such prostitution of scholarship in the service of malice is disgraceful.  On matters of politics and religion, the consensus of scholarship is never more than a reflection of what Dr. Johnson called 'the clamour of the times.'  But that does not mean that every conclusion of scholarship in the period could be dismissed whenever it was unwelcome.  It was a time of real scholarly progress, even though tainted by unacknowledge bias and revisionism. 

What Parker should have done was to discuss the raw data, and weigh it, for and against.  This he did not do.

Parker's notes therefore are mainly worthless.  They have been transcribed, but the reader will need to look elsewhere for information.

However, it would be unkind to leave matters there.  John Parker did the world a considerable service in making all these works available in English.  Perhaps he would never have done this but for his conviction that they were apostolic. 

Roger Pearse
31st January 2004

1 Niklas Holzberg, Lucian and the Germans, Warburg Institute Surveys and Texts XVI (1988) : The Uses of Greek and Latin, (ed. Dionisotti, A.C.; Grafton A and Kraye, Jill), pp.199-209.

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This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2004.  All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
Greek text is rendered using the Scholars Press SPIonic font, free from here.

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