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The Works of Dionysius the Areopagite, tr. by John Parker, [1897], at


SECTION I. To Polycarp--Hierarch.

I, at any rate, am not conscious, when speaking in reply to Greeks or others, of fancying to assist good men, in case they should be able to know and speak the very truth, as it really is in itself. For, when this is correctly demonstrated in its essential nature, according to a law of truth, and has been established without flaw, every thing which is otherwise, and simulates the truth, will be convicted of being other p. 146 than the reality, and dissimilar, and that which is seeming rather than real. It is superfluous then, that the expounder of truth should contend with these or those 74 . For each affirms himself to have the royal coin, and perchance has some deceptive image of a certain portion of the true. And, if you refute this, first the one, and then the other, will contend concerning the same. But, when the true statement itself has been correctly laid down, and has remained unrefuted by all the rest, every thing which is not so in every respect is cast down of itself, by the impregnable stability of the really true. Having then as I think well understood this, I have not been over zealous to speak in reply to Greeks or to others; but it is sufficient for me (and may God grant this), first to know about truth, then, having known, to speak as it is fitting to speak.


But you say, the Sophist Apollophanes rails at me, and calls me parricide, as using, not piously, the writings of Greeks against the Greeks. Yet, in reply to him, it were more true for us to say, that Greeks use, not piously, things Divine against things Divine, attempting through the wisdom of Almighty God to eject the Divine Worship. And I am not speaking of the opinion of the multitude, who cling tenaciously to the writings of the poets, with earthly and impassioned proclivities, and Worship the creature 75 rather than the Creator; but even Apollophanes p. 147 himself uses not piously things Divine against things Divine; for by the knowledge of things created, well called Philosophy by him, and by the divine Paul named Wisdom of God, the true philosophers ought to have been elevated to the Cause of things created and of the knowledge of them. And in order that he may not improperly impute to me the opinion of others, or that of himself, Apollophanes, being a wise man, ought to recognise that nothing could otherwise be removed from its heavenly course and movement, if it had not the Sustainer and Cause of its being moving it thereto, who forms all things, and "transforms them 76 " according to the sacred text. How then does he not worship Him, known to us even from this, and verily being God of the whole, admiring Him for His all causative and super-inexpressible power, when sun 77 and moon, together with the universe, by a power and stability most supernatural, were fixed by them to entire immobility, and, for a measure of a whole day, all the constellations stood in the same places; or (which is greater than even this), if when the whole and the greater and embracing were thus carried along, those embraced did not follow in their course; and when a certain other day 78 was almost tripled in duration, even in twenty whole hours 79 , either the universe retraced contrary routes for so long a time, and (was) p. 148 turned back by the thus very most supernatural backward revolutions; or the sun, in its own course, having contracted its five-fold motion in ten hours, retrogressively again retraced it in the other ten hours, by traversing a sort of new route. This thing indeed naturally astounded even Babylonians 80 , and, without battle, brought them into subjection to Hezekiah, as though he were a somebody equal to God, and superior to ordinary men. And, by no means do I allege the great works in Egypt 81 , or certain other Divine portents, which took place elsewhere, but the well-known and celestial ones, which were renowned in every place and by all persons. But Apollophanes is ever saying that these things are not true. At any rate then, this is reported by the Persian sacerdotal legends, and to this day, Magi celebrate the memorials of the threefold Mithrus 82 . But let him disbelieve these things, by reason of his ignorance or his inexperience. Say to him, however, "What do you affirm concerning the eclipse, which took place at the time of the saving Cross 83 ?" For both of us at that time, at Heliopolis, being present, and standing together, saw the moon approaching the sun, to our surprise (for it was not appointed time for conjunction); and again, from the ninth hour to the evening, supernaturally placed back again into a line opposite p. 149 the sun. And remind him also of something further. For he knows that we saw, to our surprise, the contact itself beginning from the east, and going towards the edge of the sun’s disc, then receding back, and again, both the contact and the re-clearing 84 , not taking place from the same point, but from that diametrically opposite. So great are the supernatural things of that appointed time, and possible to Christ alone, the Cause of all, Who worketh great things and marvellous, of which there is not number.


These things say, if occasion serves, and if possible, O Apollophanes, refute them, and to me, who was then both present with thee, and saw and judged and wondered with thee at them all. And in truth Apollophanes begins prophesying at that time, I know not whence, and to me he said, as if conjecturing the things taking place, "these things, O excellent Dionysius, are requitals of Divine deeds." Let so much be said by us by letter; but you are capable, both to supply the deficiency, and to bring eventually to God that distinguished man, who is wise in many things, and who perhaps will not disdain to meekly learn the truth, which is above wisdom, of our religion. p. 150


146:74 Greeks or others.

146:75 1Corinthians 2:7.

147:76 Dan. ii. 21. See note, p. 184.

147:77 Joshua x. 12-14; Eccl. xlvi. 4; Isaiah xxviii. 21.

147:78 Of twelve hours: 2Kings 20:9-11; Isaiah xxxviii. 8.

147:79 The "twenty hours" which made one day almost equal to three are reckoned thus. A degree represents an hour. The Sun went down ten degrees = ten hours. The Sun had then run already a course of ten hours, from 6 A.M. to 4 P.M. In returning there were ten hours more, and in retracing the route ten hours more, which together make thirty hours. The two hours, to complete the day of twelve hours, make thirty-two hours. The thirty-two hours are four hours less than thirty-six, the time of three days of twelve hours each. One day was thus nearly equal to three. Whatever we may think the facts, the Babylonians commemorated the threefold Mythra --the Sun--in consequence. See Dulac.

148:80 Isaiah xxxix. 1; 2Kings 20:12; 2Chronicles 32:31.

148:81 Ex. vii. 14.

148:82 See Dulac.

148:83 Mark xv. 33; Luke xxiii. 44.

149:84 The contact or adumbration refers to the moon, the re-clearing to the sun. See notes on this letter in Ant. Ed. and Schema, p. 258, vol. 2.

Next: Letter VIII. To Demophilus, Therapeutes. About minding ones own business, and kindness.