The Authenticity of Dionysius the Areopagite’s Writings (Part 2)


THE most plausible objection to the genuineness of these [Areopagite] writings is thus expressed by Dupin: “Eusebius and Jerome wrote an accurate catalogue of each author known to them, with a few obscure exceptions, and yet never mention the writings of the Areopagite.” Great is the rejoicing in the House of the Anti-Areopagites over this PROOF; but what are the facts?


Eusebius acknowledges that innumerable works have not come to him; Jerome disclaims either to know or to give an accurate catalogue either of authors or works. The Library of Caesarea contained three hundred thousand volumes, according to the modest computation of Doublet, and according to Schneider, and many more. Jerome says there are some writings, so illustrious in themselves, that they will not suffer from not being mentioned by him. Jerome follows Dionysius on the Heavenly Hierarchy. Jerome’s Catalogue of Illustrious Men contains one hundred and thirty-five names.

Josephus is mentioned for his testimony to Christ. Seneca for his correspondence with St. Paul. Philo for his description of the Therapeutse of Alexandria. Yet Dupin would have the unwary infer that Jerome gives a full catalogue of each Author known to him, with a few obscure exceptions.

The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius treats of the nature of Christ, the companions of the Apostles, the Martyrdoms, the succession of Bishops, the persecutions, and the folk-lore of the Church to the fourth Century. The book would fill about 125 pages, yet Dupin would have us believe that he gives a complete catalogue. He does not give the writings of Hymenseus and Narcissus, of Athenagoras, and Pantaenus, nor a complete list of Clement, Origen, and Dionysius of Alexandria. His silence, in my opinion, is owing to “odium theologicum.” According to Eusebius, Jesus is διττός; according to Dionysius, Jesus is ἁπλοῦς; both true when properly understood, but when misunderstood, “Hinc lachrymae illae”. Dupin formed his premise for his conclusion, not from facts.(1)

Fallacy of Names

Pearson, Daillé, Blundellum, Erasmus, Valla, Westcott, Lupton, pronounce against the genuineness. Who are you? But Pearson demolishes Daillé; Vossius pulverises Blundellum; Erasmus repudiates Valla. Dr. Westcott, following Dupin, assumes the non-genuineness, but his literary instinct places his Article on Dionysius before that on Origen. Dean Colet bumps the scale against Mr. Lupton.

Pearson, in the 10th Chapter of Ignatii Vindiciae, gives the shortest and best summary in favour of the genuineness. Speaking of the scholars of his own day, he says, “No one is so ignorant as not to know that these writings were recognised as genuine by the best judges in the sixth, fifth, fourth, and third centuries.” Unhappily, he also said, every erudite person regarded them in his day as written in the fourth century, and he assumed the date of Eusebius’ death, as the date of the works, to account for his silence. Hence every inerudite persons, who wished to pass for erudite, maintained that opinion for his own reputation. But when Pearson had re-surveyed the evidence, he confessed, with shame, that though he had given, what seemed to him a true opinion, he left the decision of the whole matter to the judgment of a more learned person.

Erasmus, in his Institutio of a Christian Prince, writes thus: “Divus ille Dionysius qui fecit tres Hierarchias.” In his prime work, Ratio Verae Religionis, Erasmus not only enumerates the Divine Names and the Mystical and Symbolic Theology, but calls them, not Stoic, not Platonic, not Aristotelian, but “celestial” philosophy. He so moulds Dionysius into his book, that it becomes Dionysius writing elegant Latin. The only reason which outweighed with him all external testimony was that Erasmus could not imagine that any man, living in apostolic times, and so far removed from the age of Erasmus, could possibly have penned such a mirror of apostolic doctrine. How could the Areopagite, though disciple of Paul, and familiar friend of John the Theologian, possibly be so learned as the author of these writings? Such is the testimony of the two Theologians who have been permitted to be doubtful of the genuineness.

Gregory of Tours (2)

Gregory is the great authority of those who think that the St. Denis of France is not identical with Dionysius the Areopagite. The authority is worthy of their critical acumen. Gregory collects the more obscure martyrdoms, in Gaul, under Nero, and subsequent Emperors. He gives several martyrdoms under Nero, and thus proves the Apostolic Evangelization of Gaul. Gregory quotes, and misquotes, and misunderstands the ancient document (3), “Concerning seven men sent by St. Peter into Gaul, to preach.”(4) “Under Claudius-sub CLDIO-Peter the Apostle sent certain disciples into Gaul to preach, they were Trophimus, Paulus, Martial, Austremonius, Gatianus, Saturninus, Valerius, and many companions.” These men were sent 42-43 AD. Gregory omits Valerius, and inserts Dionysius, who was not converted to the Christian Faith till 44 or 49 AD. Then Gregory misreads “Claudio” for “consulibus Decio”, and adds “Grato” as the fellow-consul. Thus a disciple of the Apostles, sent by Clement, successor of Peter, arrives in Gaul in 250, and the identical names of his companions recur miraculously in the third century. At the very time that Trophimus (5) is thus supposed to have arrived at Aries, we have a letter from Cyprian, 254 AD, urging Pope Stephen to depose Marcion, 15th or 18th Bishop of Aries from Trophimus. Such is the basis upon which our critical friends build their house upon the sand.

The Pères Bolandistes

The Pères Bolandistes are a wonder in Christendom. They are critical, and yet follow the gross blunder of Gregory of Tours. They belong to the papal obedience, and yet prefer Gregory of Tours when wrong to Gregory XIII when right. They pronounce the solemn declaration of Pope John XIXth, “that Martial of Limoges was an apostolic man (6),” as of no historic value. They think that St. John Damascene did not possess the same critical apparatus for proving the authenticity of the writings of Dionysius that we possess in the 19th Century. Their “actes authentiques”(7) of Dionysius acknowledge that he was sent to Gaul by Clement, successor of Peter; and yet they affirm that he arrived in Gaul in 250. After Clement I, who succeeded Peter and Paul, there was not another Clement Bishop of Rome for a thousand years (8). Happily, Les petits Bolandistes are more rational and critical than their Pères.

General Objection

“The style, the theological learning, the language and allusions, prove the writings written after the apostolic age.”

Is the Epistolary style the proof? St. Paul, St. John, St. Peter, St. Luke, and nearly the whole of the New Testament is written under the form of Epistles. The Epistle of St. James, the first written in the Canon of the New Testament, will bear comparison with the book of Job for ornate diction. Consult the marginal references to the Epistle of St. Peter to see the scriptural knowledge of the Apostles. Men use the testimony of the High Priests, that the Apostles were unlearned and ignorant men, but omit their testimony that they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus; and the further testimony that Jesus opened their understanding, that they should understand the testimony of the Scriptures respecting Himself; and further, that the Holy Spirit should recall to them whatever He had said to them. Those who would rather assume twenty miracles, than acknowledge one natural fact, surmise that a Syrian, in the fourth century may have written Greek permeated with technical expressions of Plato and Aristotle. There is not a single allusion to persons or events after the first century, unless it be supposed that the Epistle of Ignatius, 108 AD, is quoted. The works abound in names recorded in the New Testament. The Apostolic Epistles allude to the leaven of heresy already working. The Antwerp edition gives about five hundred references to Holy Scripture in the Writings of Dionysius. He quotes every book in the Bible, except the two last particular Epistles of St. John, or John the Presbyter. Dionysius writes four letters to Gaius, to whom St. John wrote his third Epistle. We have, therefore, in the writings of this Apostolic man, a proof that the Canonical Scriptures were quoted as the Oracles of God, in the first century, and a triumphant testimony that Faith is more trustworthy than criticism.

Thanks be to God!

Printed by James Parker and Co., Crown Yard, Oxford.


1. Vidieu, page 107.

2. L’Abbé Darras. St. Denys 1’Areopagite, p. 34.

3. Ibid., p. 51.

4. See Monuments inédits de M. Faillon, t. ii. p. 375.

5. Darras, p. 14.

6. See Surius.

7. Darras, 293-300.

8. Clement I., A.D. 67, Cl. II. 1046.


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