Revisiting the Rev. John Parker's defense of the authenticity of the writings of the alleged Areopagite, I was reading some of his defenses. One is a very strong one:
Dionysius gained the title of “Great,” even amongst the teachers of the Didaskaleion, which was a rival of the Serapeum of Alexandria. He was successor of Clement and Origen.
About ten years ago, L’Abbd Martin discovered in the British Museum (Nos. 12151-2) a letter written by Dionysius of Alexandria to Pope Sixtus the 2nd, in which he affirms positively that no one can doubt that Dionysius the Areopagite is the author of the writings which are circulated in his name. In the first Codex we find portions of that Epistle in the conclusion of the work written by John Scholasticus (605), entitled “A New Apology”, written by George, Priest of the great Church of Constantinople, and native of the City of Bozra, with reference to the “Divine Writings,” which are rejected by some ignorant persons, as though they were not the production of that great doctor, but only writings of some heretic, such as Appollinaris or some recent and unknown heretic. Now, that Priest George of Constantinople, after recounting that these Books of the Areopagite had several times been rejected by foolish people, affirms that he is going to produce an argument that will close the mouth of all gainsayers; and that argument is the letter of Dionysius of Alexandria, from which the following is an extract:
“The God Unknown, Jesus, the Word, whom the Greeks worthily honor, although they do not know Him, was crucified by the Jews, when they ought to have adored Him. But they did not know Him (I say that it was the Word that they ought to have adored, the Word of the Father — because I do not wish anyone to believe that I am the advocate of idolators; and I speak only of those Greeks who recognize the God Unknown as the Author of the Universe). Now, having known Him according to the Scriptures, the great Dionysius wished to be baptized by the Apostle, with all his house. He was an eloquent and illustrious man, who became afterwards Bishop of Athens, and made himself celebrated by the Works which he composed on the Divine Theology. He was disciple of St. Paul, by whom the Messiah made known the Gospel to the Gentiles, by speaking Himself through his mouth. Now the Book of that distinguished man shows clearly the brilliancy of his talent, for he is the author of the theological work of which we are now speaking. Further, no one disputes his paternity of it, for, when some people of the contrary opinion have read, with attention and intelligence, that work, at once philosophic and divine, and have been enlightened by the very testimony of the holy Doctor that we have under our eyes, they will easily comprehend that these Divine Writings could only be the work of the great Dionysius, who, with the Divine help and inspiration, piously governed the Church of Athens.
“Now, after Hierotheus, who was his master, what other doctor was there more powerful in word than he who has written, in a manner so sublime, upon Theology and Sciences?
“No one penetrated more profoundly than Dionysius into the mysterious depths of the Holy Scriptures. This is easily proved by reading attentively, and with love of the truth, the works that we have from him. For he is worthy of credit even when he testifies of himself, as he does in his letter to the holy Bishop of Smyrna, Polycarp — that valiant defender of the Faith, — that disciple of John the Evangelist, the Beloved Apostle of our Lord.”
That reference is to Section 1 of the Letter to Polycarp,3 which concludes with these beautiful words, “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.” Bear in mind that since the letter of Dionysius of Alexandria was disentombed by L’Abbe Martin, Professor Frothingham, an American scholar, has found the “Book of Hierotheus” in the British Museum. The Archbishop of Athens gave me, some time ago, this catalogue of the first five Bishops of Athens: 1st, Hierotheus, A.D. 52; 2nd, Dionysius; 3rd, Narcissus; 4th, Publius, 118—124; 5th, Quadratus, who presented the “Apology” to the Emperor Hadrian. Yet, twenty-five years ago, Hierotheus was thought to be a mythical personage, — just as King Lucius of Britain is now, by some, deemed to be a myth — by those who presumably have never read Archbishop Parker’s magnificent book, “De antiquitate Britannicae Ecclesiae”, nor Alford’s two volumes of the “Fides Regia Anglicana”. Would some learned foreigner disentomb those two works in the British Museum, for the instruction of our “Historical Society,” which knows more of the See of Rome than of its own ancient Metropolitan See of London.
Glastonbury is the Cradle of the Christian Church in Great Britain — not the modern graft of Canterbury. It is a curious method of historical criticism to prove the continuity of the Church in Britain from A.D. 33 to 1897, by dating its episcopal succession from St. Augustine, A.D. 597, when that succession died out A.D. 669. Some members of our “Historical Society” wish to impose upon us the “being English” as a third Sacrament, which they seem to regard
“as generally necessary to salvation.”
Joseph of Arimathea, invited to Britain by a Druid Priest, for greater security from the Jews, says of himself,
“After I had buried Christ, I came to the Britons, I taught, I fell asleep.”
Some of our “English” Divines disdain to believe that testimony, apparently because they were not there to see him buried. Even Latin Councils4 are disregarded, when their testimony is in favor of our own Church and Nation.
We affirm, then, that the letter of Dionysius of Alexandria is proof that the Writings of Dionysius were known and regarded as genuine previous to A.D. 250.
Does anyone know where this letter of St. Dionysius the Great to St. Sixtus of Rome be? No one after Parker seems to mention it or address it.