"Exegeting the Eschaton: Dionysius the Areopagite and the Apocalypse"


Sergio La Porta

The Hebrew University


Despite its immense popularity, the corpus of works attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite constitutes one of the more controversial bodies of Christian literature. The corpus consists of five texts—the Celestial Hierarchy, the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, the Divine Names, the Mystical Theology, and the Letter—whose authorship, dating, structure, meaning and impact remain debated to this day. Dionysius’ eschatology, however, has not received much scholarly attention.

The Apocalypse did not enjoy uncontested canonical status in the Christian East in Late Antiquity and was avoided by Greek commentators until the sixth century. In light of this, the number of references to the Apocalypse in the Dionysian corpus is worthy of note. Based purely on a quantitative analysis, the Apocalypse is cited or alluded to more than any other biblical text. In this paper, I will discuss the significance of Dionysius’ exegetical methodology, particularly with regard to the Apocalypse, for his eschatological vision. I will further argue that the Dionysian corpus represents an attempt to address contemporary apocalyptic concerns, that the genre of apocalypse influenced the author of the corpus, and that the corpus reflects an important stage in the Christian self-perception of the Empire.