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Dionysius the Areopagite

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Very little hard evidence exists regarding the first century figure Dionysius the Areopagite. He is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 17:34) as a judge of the Areopagus, an ancient Greek high court of appeal, who converted to Christianity after hearing a sermon by St. Paul. According to Christian tradition, Dionysius became the first bishop of Athens.

Dionysius the Areopagite

Dionysius the Areopagite and Paul's Sermon

Paul’s Areopagus sermon, as described in Acts 17, resulted from his being taken to the Areopagus for preaching about a foreign god in Athens, which was illegal. Paul’s sermon became of the foundations for Christian theological thought. It was after the sermon that Paul gained a number converts, including Dionysius, one of the judges.

In the 6th century AD, a number of writings surfaced that were attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite. These essays used Neo-Platonic thought in order to explain Christian theology. However, they are now recognized to be pseudepigraphia, or falsely attributed to Dionysius. In attributing the writing to a legendary first century Christian, the 5th century Syrian author of these works hoped to lend credibility and authority to his philosophy.

Dionysius and the Bishop of Paris

Dionysius the Areopagite was also commonly confused for the third century Bishop of Paris, Dionysius, more frequently known as St. Denis, the martyr and patron saint of Paris.

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