apologetics

Dionysius the Areopagite and the Alexandrine School

Alexandria became the home of Christian Philosophy, but Athens was its birthplace. Pantaenus and Ammonius-Saccus were chief founders of the Alexandrine School. They were both Christian. They both drew their teaching from the Word of God, “the Fountain of Wisdom,” and from the writings of Hierotheus, and Dionysius the Areopagite—Bishops of Athens. For several centuries there had been a Greek preparation for the Alexandrine School. As the Old Testament was a Schoolmaster, leading to Christ, so the Septuagint, Pythagoras, Plato, Aristobulus, Philo, and Apollos were heralds who prepared the minds of men for that fulness of light and truth in Jesus Christ, which, in Alexandria, clothed itself in the bright robes of Divine Philosophy.

Pantaenus was born in Athens, 120 AD, and died in Alexandria, 213 AD. He was Greek by nationality, and Presbyter of the Church in Alexandria by vocation. First Stoic then Pythagorean, he became Christian some time before 186 AD, at which date he was appointed chief instructor in the Didaskeleion of Demetrius, Bishop of Alexandria. Pantaenus recognized the preparation for the Christian Faith in Greek Philosophy. Anastasius of Sinai describes him as “one of the early expositors who agreed with each other in treating the first six days of Creation as prophetic of Christ and the whole Church.”

Eusebius says that “Pantaenus expounded the treasures of the Divine dogmas preserved direct, as from father to son, from St. Paul and other Apostles. Photius records that Pantaenus was pupil of those who had seen the Apostles, but that he certainly had not listened to any of them themselves. Now, if Pantaenus was pupil of those who had seen the Apostles, and yet had not listened to their oral teaching, it is natural to infer that he was pupil through their writings. I am a pupil of Dr. Pusey, but I never listened to his oral teaching; I am pupil through his writings. Now, there exist, to this day, the writings of two Presbyters who had seen the Apostles—both, converts to the faith through St. Paul,—-whose writings contain the treasures of the Divine dogmas, received from St. Paul and the other Apostles. Those two Presbyters are Hierotheus and Dionysius the Areopagite, both ordained Bishop of Athens by St. Paul. Dionysius the Areopagite expressly calls St. Paul his “chief initiator,” and as such, gives his teaching on the holy Angels, in the sixth chapter of the Heavenly Hierarchy; and frequently describes St. Paul as his “chief instructor.”

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