American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 82, Issue 4, Fall 2008


Christian Schäfer
Pages 561-580

The Anonymous Naming of Names
Pseudonymity and Philosophical Program in Dionysius the Areopagite

The key to understanding Dionysius is the methodical acceptance of the literary fiction involved in reading an author who tries to recreate the immediateness of the first encounter of pagan wisdom and Christian doctrine. Dionysius’s method consists of the presentation of a Platonic ontology by way of biblical theonyms. These theonyms express whatever we can grasp of God by His self-communication toward us, yet they ultimately cannot reveal Him as He is. It is rewarding to compare biblical theonym and author’s allonym at this point: the allonym “Dionysius Areopagita” expresses how the author wants to be read and received but not who he really is. Th us the Dionysian writings present themselves as if they were the communication of an early Christian author whose objective it is to proclaim the “unknown God” to philosophically educated Greeks, naming Him with the biblical theonyms and explaining them in a Platonic way.