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John of Scythopolis on Apollinarian Christology and the Pseudo-Areopagite's True Identity

  • Paul Rorem (a1) and John C. Lamoreaux (a1)


As is well known, the Corpus Dionysiacum (CD) first appeared on the stage of history in the first quarter of the sixth century; what is less well known is that within a generation of its appearance the CD was commented upon by an Orthodox author, John of Scythopolis (d.c. 548). Thereafter, the CD was circulated in a much expanded format—prefaced with John's Prologue and annotated with his Scholia. John's interpretive work, so close in time to the composition of the CD itself, holds forth the promise of great insight into the earliest stage of the reception of the Areopagite's works in the Christian East. Unfortunately, with the passing of time, John's remarks became so intermingled with the comments of later authors (such as Maximus the Confessor and Germanus of Constantinople) that until quite recently modern scholars have been unable to isolate John's Scholia with any degree of certainty. However, investigations of the Scholia are now entering a new stage, thanks in large part to the labors of Beate Regina Suchla. As she has demonstrated in a series of recent publications, it is possible to recover John's work through an early Syriac translation of the Scholia and a shorter Greek recension, both of which preserve the earliest version of the Scholia, that authored by John. To date, however, she has published results for the scholia on the Divine Names alone. Using a similar approach, the authors of this article have tentatively identified John's comments on the rest of the CD as well. It is now possible to begin examining thematic aspects of John's Scholia and to understand something of his intentions in commenting upon the CD. With this goal in mind, we here investigate John's comments on a number of intertwined issues, chiefly, the Christology of Apollinaris and the authenticity of the works of Dionysius.



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For their helpful comments on earlier versions of this study, we are indebted to David Evans, Patrick Gray, and Kenneth Paul Wesche. For helping us attain copies of requisite manuscripts, our thanks to Julian Plante and the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library. For helping with the Syriac manuscripts, special thanks to Saadi Abdul Masih, deacon of the Syrian Orthodox Church and student at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago

1. The 1634 edition by Corderius, B. is reprinted in Migne, J. P., ed., Patrologiae cursus completus, Series Graeca (Paris, 18571866) (hereafter PG), vol. 4.The Prologue and Scholia will be cited from this edition: by column and line number for the Prologue; by column and its number within its column for the Scholia.

2. Until recently, the only significant modern attempt to separate these comments has been by von Balthasar, Hans Urs, “Das Scholienwerk des Johannes von Scythopolis,” Scholastik 15 (1940): 1638, as corrected and expanded in Kosmische Liturgie, 2nd ed. (Einsiedeln, 1961), pp. 644672,under the title “Das Problem der Dionysius-Scholien.” Balthasar, Von was limited, however, by a poor Syriac manuscript, ignorance of the shorter Greek recension, and his own fallible (but brilliant) intuitions.

3. The results of Suchla's researches as they pertain to the unravelling of the Scholia can be found in the following publications: “Die sogenannten Maximus-Scholien des Corpus Dionysiacum Areopagiticum,” Nachrichten der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen I. Philologisch-Historische Klasse (hereafter NAWG) (1980) 3: 3166;Die Überlieferung des Prologs des Johannes von Scythopolis zum griechischen Corpus Dionysiacum Areopagiticum,” NAWG (1984) 4: 176187.Some of these results are also available in the introduction to the new edition of the Corpus Dionysiacum, 2 vols., Suchla, B. R., Heil, G., Ritter, A. M., eds., Patristische Texte und Studien 33/36 (Berlin, 19901991), 1: 3854.This is the edition of the CD used here, though citations are identified according to the columns of the older edition as found in PG 3, which the new edition retains in its margins. In quoting the CD, for convenience we employ the translation of Luibheid, Colm, Pseudo—Dionysms, The Complete Works (New York, 1987). DN = Divine Names;EH = Ecclesiastical Hierarchy;CH = Celestml Hierarchy;MT = Mystical Theology; Ep = Epistles.

4. See below, pages 474–475.

5. On sixth-century Christology in general, see Gray, Patrick T. R., The Defense of Chalcedon in the East (451–553) (Leiden, 1979);Helmer, S., Der Neuchalkedonismus (Bonn, 1962);Grillmeier, A., Christ in the Christian Tradition, trans. Allen, P. and Cawte, J., vol. 2/1 (Atlanta, 1987);idem., Jesus der Christus im Glauben der Kirche, vol. 2/2 (Frieburg, 1989).

6. For the changing theological methodologies, see the important contributions of Patrick Gray, T. R., “‘The Select Fathers’: Canonizing the Patristic Past,” Studia Palrislica 23 (1989): 2136;idem, “Forgery as an Instrument of Progress: Reconstructing the Theological Tradition in the Sixth Century,” Byzantmische Zeitschnft 81 (1988): 284289.

7. Chiat, Marilyn J., “Synagogues and Churches in Byzantine Beit She'an,” Journal of Jewish Art 7 (1980): 624.For earlier bibliography and an overview, see Lifshitz, Baruch, “Scythopolis: L'histoire, les institutions et les cultes de la ville à l'époque hellénistique et impériale,” Aufstieg und Niedergangder römischen Welt 8.2 (Berlin, 1977), pp. 262294.

8. For an overview of references to John, his works, and his citations of various authors, see Flusin, Bernard, Miracle et Histoire dans l'oeuvre de Cyrille de Scythopolis (Paris, 1983), pp. 1729.For an idea of the range of authors cited by John, see also the preliminary list compiled by von Balthasar, pp. 652–653, 655–657, 666–667.More recent studies have documented an intriguing number of unacknowledged citations from Plotinus: Franks, R. M., “The Use of the Enneads by John of Skythopolis,” Le Muséon 100 (1987): 101108;Beierwaltes, W., “Johannes von Skythopolis und Plotin,” Studia Patristica 11.2, Texte und Untersuchungen 108 (Berlin, 1972), pp. 37;Beierwaltes, W. and Kannicht, R., “Plotin-Testimonia bei Johannes von Skythopolis,” Hermes 96 (1968): 247251.

9. Contra Monophysitas, PG 86: 1865BC.See Grillmeier, , Jesus der Christus, p. 253and Gray, , Defense of Chalcedon, pp. 122–123.

10. For Theodosius at the 536 synod, see Schwartz, E., ed., Acta conciliorum oecumenicorum, tom. 3 (Berlin, 1940), p. 188.8.On Theodore, see Cyril of Skythopolis, Life of Sabas, ed. Schwartz, E., Kyrillos, von Skythopolis (Leipzig, 1939), pp. 197.19–26 (hereafter Life of Sabas).For details on the chronology of John's episcopate, see Loof, F.'s overturning of Lequien's views, Leontius von Byzance (Leipzig, 1887), pp. 269272.Leontius of Jerusalem's reference to John as the Bishop of Scythopolis dates from 538 to 544;see note 9 above;Gray, , The Defense of Chalcedon, pp. 122–123;and Perrone, Lorenzo, La Chiesa di Palestina e le Controversie Christologiche (Brescia, 1980), p. 246.

11. The full title, Against Those Who Separate Themselves from the Church, Which is to Say, Against Eutyches and Dioscoros and Those of the Same Opinion Who Refuse to Proclaim Christ in Two Natures, is given by Photius, , Bibliotheque, ed. Henry, R., 8 vols. (Paris, 19581967), Cod. 95, 2: 48. The “high priest” may be Julian the Metropolitan of Bostra, an important Chalcedonian adversary of Severus;see Honigmann, E., Évêques et évêchés monophysites d' Asie antèrieure au VIe siècle, Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium 127 (hereafter CSCO), Subsidia 2 (Louvain, 1951), pp. 7677.Photius suggests that the unknown author being refuted by John may have been Basil of Cilicia, the strict dyophysite Chalcedonian discussed below. But this is unlikely, since the tendency of the work to which John was responding was Monophysite, as noted by Honigmann, , Évêques et évêchés, pp. 80–81;Perrone, , La Chiesa di Palestina, pp. 241–242; and Helmer, , Der Neuchalkedonismus, p. 177, n. 397a.

12. Lebon, J., trans., Severi Antiocheni liber contra impium Grammaticum: Oratio tertiaepars prior, CSCO 94, Scriptores Syri 46 (Louvain, 1952), pp. 201202. Severus wrote this refution during the first year of his exile (519);see Lebon, J., Le Monophysisme Sévérien (Louvain, 1909), p. 153.

13. Photius, , Bibliothèque Cod. 107, 2: 74–78.For the exegetical issues, see Gray, , The Defense of Chalcedon, pp. 113–114.

14. Ibid., 2, 78.5–11. Basil lived well into the reign of Justinian, see Photius, , Bibliothèque, Cod. 42, 1: 26–27.On dating John's work after the outbreak of the theopaschite dispute in 519, see Honigmann, , Evêques et évêchés pp. 80–81.

15. Diekamp, F., ed., Doctrina Patrum de incarnatione Verbi: Ein griechisches Florilegium aus der Wendedes 7. und 8. Jahrhunderts, 2nd ed. (Munster, 1981), pp. 8586;Mansi, G. D., ed., 53 vols., Sacrorum conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio (Florence, 17611772), 10: 1108B and 11: 437D–440C. This last location, the largest version of the fragment, shows John's concern for Apollinaris at 440A.

16. Leo, 's Tome reads, “Agit enim utraque forma cum alterius communione quod propriumest,” Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, Tanner, N. et al. , eds., 2 vols. (London, 1991), 1: 79, col. 2, 3–5.For Severus's objections to this statement of the Tome, see Brooks, E. W., ed. and trans., A Collection of Letters of Severus of Antioch from Numerous Syriac Manuscripts, Patrologia Orientalis 12.2 (Paris, 1915), p. 180, Ep. I: To Oecumenius (hereafter Letters of Severus).

17. Photius, , Bibliothèque Cod. 231, 5: 66.

18. Mansi, , Sacrorum Consiliorum, 11: 270C.

19. Severus observes that certain men were slandering the Council of Ephesus (449) in that Dioscorus had there welcomed Eutyches back into communion: “Not only the wretched man from Scythopolis, but many others besides him and after him,” Brooks, , ed., Letters of Severus, Ep. 31, 264.6.

20. As reported by Photius, , Bibliothèque Cod. 107, 2: 74.

21. On John's theopaschism, see Scholia 221.8, 236.10, and 360.7.

22. About a third of the 1,673 Scholia printed in Migne can be assigned to John. Since they are often longer than the others, they constitute perhaps forty percent of the 225 columns of the text as printed by Migne. Suchla reports finding scholia by John which are not in Migne.

23. Scholia 173.8: “And even now some are proceeding from the myths, not teachings, of Origen.”See also Scholia 172.11 and 545.8.See Life of Sabas 188.3–24.

24. Antipater (see Scholia 176.3) was used against the Origenists by Gelasius at the beginning of his hegumenate in 537/538, as noted in the Life of Sabas 189.14–22.

25. Origen is used and named as an authoritative Father in the Prologue (20C), Scholia 549.6 and perhaps 337.5, although the text of the latter scholion could be corrupt. Origen's Hexpla is used without attribution in 421.1. The similar use of Evagrius in Scholia 76.7 is not found in Syr; it is found in FA, where Evagrius is not, however, called “impious,” as in Migne's edition.

26. Suchla, , “Die Uberlieferung,” pp. 176–187.

27. Suchla, , “Eine Redaktion des griechischen Corpus Dionysiacum Areopagiticum im Umkreis des Johannes von Skythopolis, des Verfasser von Prolog und Scholien: Ein dritter Beitrag zur Überlieferungsgeschichte des CD,” NAWG (1985) 4: 179193.

28. This outline of the Prologue is confirmed in the textual criticism and reconstruction of Suchla, , “Die Uberlieferung,” p. 179: integrity, Prologue 16.4 to 17.49; orthodoxy, Prologue 17.50 to 20.27; authenticity, Prologue 20.31 to 21.8.

29. Prologue 16.25–30, 32–35.

30. Prologue 17.36–41.

31. Prologue 20.10–12, 16–30.

32. With regard to John's Prologue, Moeller, Charles exaggerates somewhat in saying that “Tout le prologue est orienté dans le sense antiapollinariste,” in his article “Le chalcédonisme et le néo-chalcédonisme en Orient de 451 à la fin du Vie siècle,” in Das Konzil von Chalkedon: Geschichte und Gegenwart, Grillmeier, A. and Bacht, H., eds., 2 vols. (Wurzburg, 1951), 1: 644, n. 23.

33. On the Apollinarian forgeries, see Lietzmann, H., Apollinaris von Laodicea und seine Schule (Tubingen, 1904), pp. 91124 and Mühlenberg, E., Apollinaris von Laodicea (Göttingen, 1969), pp. 97105.

34. Prologue 20.33–43.

35. Prologue 21.1–4. Suchla notes some textual variants here, but nothing on the basic point.

36. Prologue 21.4–8.

37. Scholia 181.17. The passage “elsewhere” is DN 2 644 31–32, which receives important comments, Scholia 221.8, see note 44 below. When Dionysius said (Ep 8 1088A) that the prodigal son was embraced “wholly,” John adds, “‘Whole,’ he says, meaning that the Lord, having taken soul and body, has saved us whole, of soul and body,” Scholia 545.8.

38. Scholia 157.1. Apollinaris had minimized the distinction between the divinity of the Word and his flesh, see De fide et incarnatione 6, in Lietzmann, Apollinaris von Laodicea, pp. 197–198.

39. Scholia 197.2 (on DN 1 592B). The parallel, Scholia 196.6, is not in Syr. Compare Scholia 220.3 and 229.5, and remarks such as “without change” in Scholia 57.2 and 57.3.

40. Scholia 149.2 (on EH 3 441B), see Grillmeier, . Jesus der Christus, p. 65. John here groups together those who, in his view, denigrate the reality of the incarnation. The name “Akephaloi” (“headless ones”) was originally applied to the strict Monophysites who separated themselves from Peter Mongus following his acceptance of Zeno's Henotikon. It was later used with reference to the Monophysites in general.

41. “Note that this is [said] against the Nestorians and the Akephaloi,” Scholia 57.3, 165.18, and 425.2.otSee Scholia 72.5, 197.6, 216.3, 221.8.

42. Scholia 196.4 (on DN 1 592A), quoting Colossians 2:9.

43. Scholia 144.14 (on EH 3 436D), only the last phrase is in Syr.

44. Scholia 221.8 (on DN 2 644C). The phrase “logical soul” repeats Chalcedon exactly. The theopaschite sentiments are also found in Scholia 236.10 and 360.7. The Phantasiastai were Monophysites who followed Julian of Halicarnassus after he split with Severus around 519.

45. Scholia 216.3 (on DN 2 640C).

46. Scholia 149.15 (on EH 3 444C). FA includes the full text, but Syr omits the phrase έκατέρας φύσεως σώζων τάίδιώματα which repeats Leo's Tome (“salva igitur proprietate utriusque naturae”) and Chalcedon: σωζομένης ζέ μάλλον τνς ίζιότητος έκατέρας φύσεως. See Tanner, Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, pp. 78 and 86.

47. That is, Scholia 57.3: “For one and the same Christ accomplished the great mystery of the economy in two natures.”After quoting Philippians. 2:6, the scholion concludes “behold, two forms.” This portion of Scholia 57.3 is not in Syr; it seems to have been intentionally omitted by the Monophysite Syriac translator, as also is apparently the case in Scholia 149.15 (previous note).

48. Scholia 532.4 (on Ep 4 1072A), see Grillmeier, , Jesus der Chrtstus, pp. 180–181.

49. Grillmeier, , Christ in the Christian Tradition, p. 78.

50. “Excellent” and “divine” quoted above, at Prologue 16.25 and 20.1;“great” at Prologue 16.4 and 17.25;“hagios” at Prologue 17.45.

51. “Blessed” in Scholia 29.3, 33.10, 425.11, 536.5;“sacred” in Scholia 61.4;“divine” in Scholia 248.1, 249.4, 281.4, 373.1, 573.7;“Saint” Dionysius in Scholia 176.4, 253.1, 393.1, and perhaps 248.2;and the “great” Dionysius in Scholia 29.1, 60.1, 65.5, 77.5, 80.7, 109.2, 133.2, 329.1, 336.4, 337.5, 361.1, 373.1, 380.1, 429.3, 537.2, 553.9, and 573.7.

52. Scholia 552.11;Compare “bishop” in Prologue 17.40, quoted above.

53. Scholia 64.4 (on CH 6 200D), quoting 2 Corinthians 12:2. Compare Scholia 56.1 and 64.10. The portion of Scholia 92.2 which refers to the “third heaven” is not in Syr.

54. Scholia 236.8, regarding the Dormition of the Virgin Mary.

55. Scholia 420.2 (on MT 1 1000B).

56. Scholia 393.1 (on DN 11 949A). For “Justus,” see Acts 1:23, 18:17, Col. 4:11.

57. Scholia 360.7 (on DN 8 893A). An offhanded comment about a Dionysian peer could occasion from John a simple, unexplained reference, such as those regarding “the blessed Clement” (at Scholia 329.1 and 332.1); or no remark at all, as when Dionysius slips in a brief quotation from Ignatius of Antioch.

58. Scholia 48.7., with an interesting positive reference to Papias;compare Scholia 176.4.

59. Scholia 573.7 (on Ep 10 1117A). The practice of deacons and priests also shows the “antiquity of the father,” according to Scholia 136.16.

60. The doubts were expressed by Hypatius of Ephesus in 532, according to Innocentius of Maronia, “Epistula de collatione cum Severuanis habita,” Acta Conciliorum Oecumenicorum, Schwartz, E., ed., (Berlin, 1914), 4/2, p. 173.

61. Scholia 85.6 (on CH 9 260D). That Dionysius is “from the Greeks” is also noted at Scholia 32.2.

62. Scholia, 176.4 (on EH 7 553C); compare Scholia 48.7. The whole of the passage is not found in Syr, but FA has the key parts.

63. The passage cited is from Phocas's still unpublished prologue to the CD, London BM 12152, fol. 5v, col. 1, lines 18–21.

64. See note 60 above.

65. On Plotinus in John, see note 8 above. Although von Balthasar seemed unaware of this use of Plotinus, he suspected that John only pretended to believe in Dionysian antiquity and may have known a great deal about the true authorship. See von Balthasar, “Das Problem der Dionysius-Scholien,” p. 680.

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