Epistle of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite to Timothy

Epistula Ps.-Dionysii Areopagitae ad Timotheum de passione Petri et Pauli

Other titles: none

Standard abbreviation: Ep. Tim. Dion.

Clavis numbers: CANT 197, BHL 6671, BHO 966–970.

Category: Epistles, Apocryphal Acts.

Related literature: Martyrdom of the Holy Apostle Peter (Acts of Peter); Martyrdom of the Holy Apostle Paul in Rome (Acts of Paul); Pseudo-Linus, Martyrdom of Blessed Peter the Apostle and Martyrdom of the Blessed Apostle Paul; Pseudo-Abdias, Passion of Saint Peter and Passion of Saint Paul; History of Shimeon Kepha the Chief of the Apostles; History of the Holy Apostle My Lord Paul; Martyrdom of Paul the Apostle and the Discovery of His Head; Pseudo-Marcellus, Passion of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul; Acts of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul; Passion of the Apostles Peter and Paul; Preaching of Peter in the City of Rome; Doctrine of the Apostles.

Compiled by: David L. Eastman, Ohio Wesleyan University (dleastma@owu.edu).

Citing this resource (using Chicago Manual of Style): Eastman, David L. “The Epistle of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite to Timothy Concerning the Deaths of the Apostles Peter and Paul.” e-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha. Accessed DAY MONTH YEAR. http://www.nasscal.com/e-clavis-christian-apocrypha/epistle-of-pseudo-dionysius-the-areopagite-to-timothy/.

Posted August 2017.

1. SUMMARY

According to Acts (17:34), Dionysius the Areopagite was one of the first Athenian converts of the apostle Paul. He must be distinguished from the Christian Neoplatonic theologian and philosopher of the same name who wrote in the fifth or sixth century C.E. This letter, written in his name, is addressed to Timothy, the protégé of Paul. It is one of many texts produced in the late antique and early medieval periods that reflect later, often fanciful, traditions about the apostles’ deaths; however, in this case, the martyrdoms are related in the form of an epistle, rather than as one of the apocryphal acts or a martyrdom, and includes lengthy passages of praise and mourning.

The letter opens with praise for Timothy, who is credited with having endured many hardships and abuses alongside Paul, though at least according to the New Testament, Timothy is not known to have done so (1). The author praises Paul as the great teacher, destroyer of sin and demons, enemy of the Jews, builder of the church, etc. and laments that, with his recent death, the people of the faith have lost a great spiritual father and will not longer receive his letters from abroad (2–3).

The author finally turns his attention to the martyrdoms, which he claims to have seen with his own eyes. Dionysius describes the chaotic scene as the founding pillars of the church were led away to their deaths (4). When Peter and Paul were separated, he followed Paul and saw his bloody end (5–7). The author then reports that he saw Peter and Paul ascending into heaven after their deaths. A woman named Lemobia (in a comparable story in Pseudo-Linus, Martyrdom of the Blessed Apostle Paul 14–17, she is named Plautilla) also saw their ascent. Paul had passed her on the way to his execution. Lemobia gave Paul a veil, which he had used to collect his own blood and then returned to her before his ascent (8). The author rejoices that Peter and Paul will never again be separated and encourages Timothy to hold a vigil in honor of their deaths (9.1–10).

The letter ends with a story about the rediscovery of Paul’s head (9.11–19). It was found by a shepherd and miraculous signs drew the attention of the Roman bishop (the otherwise unknown Fabellius; the account of the discovery of Paul’s head in the Martyrdom of Paul the Apostle and the Discovery of His Head identifies this bishop as Xystus, likely to be identified as Sixtus II (257–258 C.E.). It was confirmed to be the true head of Paul when it was placed at the feet of his body and the body turned to rejoin the head.

Named historical figures and characters: Absalom, Amos (prophet), David (king), Elijah, Elisha, Fabellius (bishop), Jesus Christ, Jonathan (son of Saul), Lemobia, Paul (apostle), Peter (apostle), Saul (king), Timothy.

Geographical locations: Asia, Corinth, Galatia, Ramah, Rome, Spain.

2. RESOURCES

2.1 Church architecture

Roman tradition fixed the site of the final farewell between Peter and Paul on the Ostian Road, just south of the Gate of St. Paul. A small church commemorates this event, identified in older pilgrimage guides as the Chapel of the Farewell, the Chapel of the Parting, or the Chapel of Saints Peter and Paul. A plaque on the church bore an inscription that incorporated the parting greetings from Pseudo-Dionysius:

On this spot Peter and Paul parted, when they went to martyrdom. Then Paul said to Peter, “Peace to you, founder of the churches and shepherd of the sheep and lambs of Christ.” Peter then said to Paul, “Go in peace, preacher of good tidings, mediator and chief of the salvation of the just.”

Mussolini tore down the church, but the plaque can still be seen in the church of Santissima Trinita dei Pellegrini in the Piazza dei Pellegrini in Rome.

3. BIBLIOGRAPHY

 3.1 Manuscripts and Editions

Behind all of these versions (in Ethiopic, Latin, etc.) there appears to lie a Greek original. Johann Albert Fabricius, citing Peter Lambeck, reports the presence of Greek manuscripts in Florence and Vienna (Bibliothecae graecae [14 vols.; Hamburg: C. Liebezeit, 1705–1728], 5:6–7) but no shelf numbers are provided and the libraries have no evidence of their existence.

3.1.1. Arabic (BHO 969)

Aleppo, Fondation Salem – Sbath, 1008 (1310)

Beirut, Université SaintJoseph, 510 (18th cent.)

Beirut, Université SaintJoseph, 511 (1867)

Beirut, Université SaintJoseph, 512 (16th cent.)

Beirut, American University, 1194 (18th cent.)

Cairo, Coptic Museum, 296 (date undetermined)

Cairo, Coptic Museum, 311B (13th/14th cent.)

Edgbaston, University of Birmingham, Mingana ar. Christ. 92 [87b] (17th cent.)

Edgbaston, University of Birmingham, syr. 461 (in Garšūnī) (19th cent.)

Göttingen, Universitätsbibliothek, ar. 104 (17th/18th cent.)

Göttingen, Universitätsbibliothek, ar. 105 (1268)

Jerusalem, Holy Sepulcher, ar. 46 (13th cent.)

Jerusalem, Church of St. Anna, 38 (1874)

Jerusalem, Church of St. Anna, 84 (1900)

Jerusalem, Church of St. Mark, 53 (in Garšūnī) (1732/1733)

Lebanon, Syro-Catholic Monastery of Charfet, ar. 2/4 (14th cent.)

Leiden, Universiteit Leiden, Or. 129 (14th/15th cent.)

Mount Sinai, St. Catherine’s Monastery, ar. 268 (date undetermined)

Mount Sinai, St. Catherine’s Monastery, ar. 405 (date undetermined)

Mount Sinai, St. Catherine’s Monastery, ar. 448 (date undetermined)

Mount Sinai, St. Catherine’s Monastery, ar. 475 (date undetermined)

Mount Sinai, St. Catherine’s Monastery, ar. 482 (date undetermined)

Mount Sinai, St. Catherine’s Monastery, ar. 502 (date undetermined)

Mount Sinai, St. Catherine’s Monastery, ar. 539 (date undetermined)

Oxford, Bodleian Huntington, 383 (date undetermined)

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Syr. 4771 (19th cent.)

Vatican, Biblioteca apostolica, syr. 196 (in Garšūnī; also listed as 77) (1551)

Vatican, Biblioteca apostolica, ar. 43 (1313)

Vatican, Biblioteca apostolica, Borg. ar. 200 (1670)

Vatican, Biblioteca apostolica, Sbath 86 (16th cent.)

Vatican, Biblioteca apostolica, 523 (17th cent.)

Watson, Syria (17th cent.) (personal copy)

Watson, W. Scott. “An Arabic Version of the Epistle of Dionysius the Areopagite to Timothy.” AJSL 16.4 (1900): 225–41. (Text and translation from a personal copy).

3.1.2. Armenian (BHO 966–967)

Jerusalem, Gulbenkian Library, 74 (1318)

Muş (Mush), Surb Karapet, 333 (date undetermined; now lost or destroyed)

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Arm. 118 [46/3] (1307)

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Arm. 120 [47] (14th cent.)

Venice, San Lazzaro degli Armeni, 17 (1224)

Venice, San Lazzaro degli Armeni, 200 (date undetermined)

Venice, San Lazzaro degli Armeni, 201 (date undetermined)

Venice, San Lazzaro degli Armeni, 204 (date undetermined)

Venice, San Lazzaro degli Armeni, 301 (date undetermined)

Venice, San Lazzaro degli Armeni, 693 (13th cent.)

Venice, San Lazzaro degli Armeni, 1014 (12th/13th cent.)

Venice, San Lazzaro degli Armeni, 1252 (1695)

Venice, San Lazzaro degli Armeni, 1553 (1215)

Venice, San Lazzaro degli Armeni, 2154 (17th/18th cent.)

Venice, San Lazzaro degli Armeni, 2724 [301] (18th cent.)

Yerevan, Matenadaran, 993 (date undetermined)

Martin, Paulin. “Dionysii Areopagitae.” Pages 249–54 in Joannes B. Pitra, Analecta sacra spicilegio solesmensi 4: Patres antenicaeni. Paris: Roger and Chernoviz, 1883.

Tsherakian (Tcherakhian), K. Libri apostolorum spurii: Libri apostolici non canonici. Thesaurus litterarum armeniarum antiquarum et recentium 3. Venice: 1904 (Edition based primarily on Venice, San Lazzaro degli Armeni, 1014, pp. 110–22.

3.1.3. Ethiopic (BHO 970)

London, British Library, Orient. 677 (18th cent.)

London, British Library, Orient. 678 (15th cent.)

London, British Library, Orient. 679 (18th cent.)

London, British Library, Orient. 680 (18th cent.)

London, British Library, Orient. 681 (18th cent.)

London, British Library, Orient. 682 (18th cent.)

London, British Library, Orient. 683 (17th cent.)

London, British Library, Orient. 684 (18th cent.)

London, British Library, Orient. 685 (18th cent.)

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Abbadie 64 (date undetermined)

Budge, Ernest A. W. The Contendings of the Apostles, being the Histories of the Lives and Martyrdoms and Deaths of the Twelve Apostles and Evangelists. Vol. 1: The Ethiopic Text. London: Henry Frowde, 1899 (pp. 1:50–65).

3.1.4. Georgian

Mount Athos, Iviron, 57 (date undetermined)

Mount Athos, Iviron, 59 (date undetermined)

Oxford, Bodleian Library, Georg.b.1 (1038–1040)

Tiblisi, National Centre of Manuscripts, A-382 (date undetermined)

Tbilisi, Tbeth, A-19 (8th/9th cent.)

3.1.5. Latin (BHL 6671)

Admont, Stift Admont, 383 (14th cent.)

Bamberg: Staatliche Bibliothek, Q. III. 33 [Msc. Theol. 93] (15th cent.)

Brussels, Bibliothèque royale, 1900-05 [Van den Gehn 1063] (15th cent.)

Brussels, Bibliothèque royale, 2415-18 [Van den Gehn 1423] (14th cent.)

Cesena, Istituzione Biblioteca Malatestiana, D.XI.7 (15th cent.)

Dijon, Bibliothèque Municipale, Ancien Fonds 640-641 (11th/12th cent.)

Klosterneuburg, Stift Klosterneuburg, 1112 (date undetermined)

Liège, Université, 57 (15th cent.)

Liège, Université, 134 (15th cent.)

Lilienfeld, Stift Lilienfeld, 96 (1263)

Melk, Stift Melk, 363 (15th cent.)

Melk, Stift Melk, 722 (15th cent.)

Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, 3 supp. (date undetermined)

Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, 25 supp. (1231–1285)

Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, 139 supp. (date undetermined)

Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, 202 supp. (date undetermined)

Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, 216 supp. (1426–1475)

Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, 251 inf. (1376–1425)

Munich, Universitätsbibliothek der LMU, lat. 18535 [Tegernsee 535a] (15th cent.)

Oxford, Bodleian Library, N-044 (1478)

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, 3711 (14th cent.)

Prague, Státní Knihovan, XIII.E.14.c (1303)

Rostock, Kloster zum Heiligen-Kreuz, 56 (14th cent.)

Stams, Stift Stams, 5 (14th/15th cent.)

Vienna, Dominikanerkirche, 78 (15th cent.)

Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Lat. 3662 (15th cent.)

Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, 3926 (14th cent.)

Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, 4067 (15th cent.)

Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, 4248 (15th cent.)

Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, 4576 (15th cent.)

Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, 4936 (15th cent.)

Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, 4940 (15th cent.)

Vienna, Schottenstift, 29 (15th cent.)

Würzburg, Universitätsbibliothek, Mch. q. 156 (15th cent.)

Eastman, David L. “Pseudo-Dionysius, Epistle to Timothy on the Death of the Apostles Peter and Paul.” Pages 343–65 in The Ancient Martyrdom Accounts of Peter and Paul. WGRW 39. Atlanta: SBL Press, 2015. (Text and translation based on edition of Brunet and Quentin).

Martin, Paulin. “Dionysii Areopagitae.” Pages 261–76 in Joannes B. Pitra, Analecta sacra spicilegio solesmensi. Tome 4: Patres antenicaeni. Paris: Roger and Chernoviz, 1883.

Mombrizio, Bonino. “Epistola beati Dionisii ariopagite de morte apostolorum Petri et Pauli ad Timotheum.” Pages 354–57, 709–10 in volume 2 of Sanctuarium seu Vitae sanctorum. New edition by Albin Brunet and Henri Quentin. Paris: Fontemoing, 1909.

3.1.6. Syriac (BHO 968)

London, British Library, Add. 17214 (7th cent.)

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Syr. 234 [143] (13th cent.)

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Syr. 235 [144] (13th cent.)

Vatican, Biblioteca apostolica, syr. Nitria 123 [19] (8th cent.?)

Vatican, Biblioteca apostolica, syr. Ebedjesu 18 (14th cent. or earlier)

Martin, Paulin. “Dionysii Areopagitae.” Pages 241–49 in Joannes B. Pitra, Analecta sacra spicilegio solesmensi 4: Patres antenicaeni. Paris: Roger and Chernoviz, 1883.

3.2. Modern Translations

3.2.1 English

Budge, Ernest A. W. The Contendings of the Apostles, being the Histories of the Lives and Martyrdoms and Deaths of the Twelve Apostles and Evangelists. Vol. 2: The English Translation. London: Henry Frowde, 1901 (pp. 2:51–69).

Eastman, David L. Pages 349–65 in The Ancient Martyrdom Accounts of Peter and Paul. WGRW 39. Atlanta: SBL Press, 2015.

Eastman, David L. Pages 464–80 in vol. 1 of New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures. Edited by Tony Burke and Brent Landau. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2016. (Translation based on Latin edition of Brunet and Quentin).

Malan, Solomon C. The Conflicts of the Apostles: An Apocryphal Book of the Early Eastern Church. London: Nutt, 1871 (Translation from Ethiopic, pp. 240–43).

Watson, W. Scott. “An Arabic Version of the Epistle of Dionysius the Areopagite to Timothy.” AJSL 16.4 (1900): 225–41. (translation from Arabic).

3.2.2 French

Leloir, Louis. Écrits apocryphes sur les apôtres. Traduction de l’édition arménienne de Venise. CCSA 3. Turnhout: Brepols, 1986 (translation from Armenian, pp. 173–88).

3.3 General Works

Lipsius, Richard A. Die Apokryphen Apostelgeschichten und Apostellegenden. Ein Beitrag zur altchristlichen Literaturgeschichte. 2 vols. Braunschweig: Schwetschke, 1883–1887 (see vol. 1, pp. 227–31).

Théry, Gabriel. “Catalogue des manuscrits dionysiens des bibliothèques d’Autriche.” Archives d’histoire doctrinale et littéraire du Moyen Age 10 (1935): 174–76.