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St Athanasius the Great ON THE OPINION OF DIONYSIUS, Complete

Translated by Cardinal Newman.

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Introduction to Athanasius' ON THE OPINION OF DIONYSIUS (6 pages - Jump directly to the treatise)

The following tract, like the last, is a letter to a person engaged in discussion with Arians, who were openly finding fault with the Definition of Nicaea, and especially with the word Co-essential (S:19). Montfaucon suggests that both epistles were addressed to the same person, the de Decretis (S:25) having as it were challenged the Arians to cite passages from Dionysius on behalf of their own doctrine, whereupon their opponent came back to Athanasius with a request for further help. But the language of the first sentence of our present tract seems to imply that Athanasius had not previously heard of the discussions in question. However, slender as such grounds are, the tract furnishes no more decisive indication of date. (On certain expressions which might seem to carry the date back to the lifetime of Arius, see Prolegg. ch. ii. S:7.)

Dionysius 'the Great,' Bishop of Alexandria 233-265, was a pupil of Origen (Eus. H. E. vi. 29), and equally distinguished as a ruler of the Church and as a theologian. In all the controversies of his age (the lapsed, rebaptism, Easter, Paul of Samosata, Sabellianism, the authorship of the Apocalypse) his influence made itself felt, and his writings were very numerous (Westcott in D. C. B. i. p. 851 sq.; a good account of Dionysius in vol. I. of this series, p. 281 note). The most celebrated controversy in which he was involved was that which, a century later, gave rise to the tract before us.

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