Friday, 1 May 2015

Dmitrij Bumazhnov: The Syriac Autobiography of Dionysius the Areopagite: Some Considerations about its Message and Context

M.A. Kugener edited the Syriac text of the autobiography of Dionysius the Areopagite in 1907. In the first part of the last century, O. von Lemm, N. Akinian and P. Peeters made available the Coptic fragments and the Armenian, Arabic, and Georgian versions of this document. No serious attempt, however, has been made so far to clarify either the history of the text or its significance. More or less obvious is the dependence of the autobiography on the 7th letter of Dionysius: the autobiography adopts the irenic treatment of paganism so prominently expressed there and makes Dionysius a witness and interpreter of the total solar eclipse during the crucifixion of Christ, a notion which likewise goes back to the 7th letter. The interest of the author in astronomy can also be seen from his usage of a Syriac astronomic treatise likewise ascribed to Dionysius. The paper proposes some considerations concerning the milieu where the interest in astronomy and in friendly treatment of paganism could produce Christian texts like the autobiography of Dionysius the Areopagite.

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