Khalil Alwan is Professor, Université Libanaise, Beirut, Lebanon.
Jacob of Serugh and the Mystics of His Time, Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and Sṭephanos bar Ṣudayli: Were They Inspired by the Same Theological Source?
November 17, 2021, at 10:00 am (Washington, DC Time)
Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (5th-6th c.) has been considered for centuries as the first writer to address in his works the subject of the hierarchy of the nine groups of angels. He is also known as a chief author of the via negativa in Christian theology, integrating Neoplatonism into his theological reflection.
The recent discovery of a mimro by Jacob of Serugh entitled On Adam and on the Good and Evil contradicts this hypothesis.
Although Jacob and Pseudo-Dionysius treat similar topics, they clearly diverge in style and method, be it in form or content.
Moreover, at the same time in Edessa, another Syriac mystic appeared. His name was Sṭephanos bar Ṣudayli (+end of 5th c.), whom Jacob considered a friend. The “Book of Hierotheos” has been attributed to this enigmatic personality. It contains many elements that seemed to be in common with the Dionysian Corpus.
These historical and theological facts will revive many questions that have been asked and discussed at length over the centuries. Did Pseudo-Dionysius live in the East? Was he Sṭephanos bar Ṣudayli? Was he another Syriac mystic, or did he write his works in Syriac?
Since Sṭephanos was a contemporary of the Bishop of Baṭnan of Serugh, that raises other questions: Did Jacob know the Corpus Areopagiticum in Syriac? Was he influenced by his works? Did he draw, along with the Pseudo-Dionysius, from a common Neoplatonic source or another?
In the light of the content of the mimro and the historical facts, I will try to provide answers and open up new avenues for reflection.
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Jacques de Saroug. Quatre homélies métriques sur la Création. CSCO 508-509, Syr. 214-215. Louvain: Peeters, 1989.
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