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American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 82, Issue 4, Fall 2008


John D. Jones
Pages 661-682

The Divine Names in John Sarracen’s Translation
Misconstruing Dionysius’s Language about God?

I draw on earlier research to develop contrasts between interpreting the conception of God in the Divine Names in terms of Neoplatonic, Latin Scholastic (specifically Albertinian and Thomistic), and Byzantine / Eastern Christian frameworks. Based on these contrasts, I then explore whether Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas were influenced, and possibly led astray, by John Sarracen’s translation of key terms and phrases in the Divine Names such as (Greek), (Greek) and its cognates, (Greek), (Greek), and (Greek). I conclude that Sarracen’s mistranslation of (Greek) by essentia clearly reinforces an essentialist interpretation of God in the Divine Names—that is, the view that God is an absolutely simple being identical to its essence. It is not clear that his translations of the other terms do the same, although they are most often read in an essentialist fashion by Albert and Aquinas.