Bishop Gregory (hgr) wrote,
Bishop Gregory

видение Иоанна Евнуха и иерархии Ареопагита (3)

1.1.1.      Hagiographical substrate: Ascension of Isaias


The vision itself occupied three days. Then, “...when he came to himself afterwards, he remained for about thirty (ܐܝܟ ܬܠܬܝܢ) days as one dazed, not wanting to say anything to anyone, or rather he was unable to [speak], for in his mind he was wholly there [at the scene of the vision], and he was supposing that he was no longer dwelling on earth. His face was like the face of an angel, and his whole appearance was different from that of a human being.” The reminiscence of Moses who saw the heavenly realms on Sinai is obvious, and is rightly noted by Horn.[1] But Mosaic parallels say nothing about inability of the visionary to speak. Moses is here archetype, indeed, but the direct prototype is a later avatar of Moses, Isaias from the Ascensio Isaiae.

The most relevant scene is Ascension of Isaias 6:7–13[2]: “And the king [Hezekiah] summoned all the prophets and all the people who were to be found there, and they came. And Micah, and the aged Ananias, and Joel, and Josab were sitting on his right. And when they all heard the voice of the Holy Spirit, they all worshiped on their knees, and they praised the God of righteousness, the Most High, the One who [dwells] in the upper world and who sits on high, the Holy One, the One who rests among the holy ones, and they ascribed glory to the One who had thus graciously given a door in an alien world, had graciously given it to a man. And while he was speaking with the Holy Spirit in the hearing of them all, he became silent, and his mind was taken up from him, and he did not see the men who were standing before him. His eyes indeed were open, but his mouth was silent, and the mind in his body was taken up from him. But his breath was [still] in him, for he was seeing a vision. And the angel who was sent to show him [the vision] was not of this firmament, nor was he from the angels of glory of this world, but he came from the seventh heaven.”

The underlined words are a rather exact parallel to the mutism and being out of this world of John the Eunuch. Needless to say that this parallel is quite relevant because the vision of Isaias is, too, a vision of heavenly hierarchies (seven heavens).

 Moreover, the vision of Isaias was an elaborated, so-to-say, Sinai revelation of Moses. In the Matryrium of Isaias Isaias is accused for positioning himself as someone greater than Moses (Ascension of Isaias 3:8­­–9). The tradition of Isaias as New Moses is, however, much earlier and goes back to the canonical books of the Old Testament.[3]

Thus, the scene of the vision of John the Eunuch is not simply a scene of the imitatio Mosis topics which is a leitmotif of the Life of Peter the Iberian.[4] This is a scene of the imitatio Isaiae who, in turn, imitated Moses. Ascensio Isaiae is the hagiographical substrate[5] underneath this scene.


1.1.2.      Ascension of Isaias and Corpus Dionysiacum


Cornelia Horn has already noticed that the Moses typology of the Life of Peter the Iberian is recalling the Moses typology of the Corpus Dionysiacum.[6] But, in fact, in the Corpus, too, the Moses typology is intermediated by the typology of Isaias, especially Isaias from the Ascension of Isaias. This intermediation is not limited to the parallel in contents, that both are dealing with a vision of heavenly hierarchies.

The problem of breaking of the hierarchical order in the process of revelation to a human, just mentioned in the Ascension of Isaias (“And the angel who was sent to show him [the vision] was not of this firmament, nor was he from the angels of glory of this world, but he came from the seventh heaven”), is dealt with at length in De coelesti hierarchia, chapter 13. Here, Dionysius insists that the angel seen by Isaias was, indeed, a seraphim, that is, a member of the highest angelic hierarchy and not an angel from the lowest hierarchy.

Moreover, the scene of revelation to Isaias when other prophets were standing around has striking resemblance with the Dormition scene in DN 3:2. Dionysius mentions by name only four: himself and Timotheos (his addressee), Peter, and James. Similarly, in the Ascension of Isaias, only four prophets are explicitly mentioned: Micah, Ananias, Joel, and Josab. The prophets were standing before the motionless and speechless body of Isaias, while the apostles were gathered around the body of Theotokos, whose condition was similar: this body was apparently death but containing in itself the “principle of life” (being ζωαρχικός).

Thus, the Ascension of Isaias is a common background for both vision of John the Eunuch and the Corpus Areopagiticum. The topics borrowed from this source is dealt with in both description of the vision of John (from the mouth of Peter the Iberian who was here the source of John Rufus) and in Corpus.

This is an important argument for both interpreting the vision of John as related to the Dormition/Assumption and, especially, for attributing the core of the Corpus to the vision of John as explained by Peter the Iberian.


1.1.3.      Internal chronology of the vision account and the Nativity of Theotokos feast


The vision of John the Eunuch itself was occupying three days, and the subsequent “out of this world” condition of John—“about thirty” days more. It is unlikely that there is no any symbolism here. We are in the hagiographical realm, though. Given that three days are, very likely, some liturgical triduum — that of the Dormition/Assumption, as I supposed above —, it is likely, too, that 30 days are some other liturgical cycle. Thus, we have to find out, within the Palestine liturgical year of the second half of the fifth century, a pair of feasts where the first feast consists from three days and the second one starts at about thirtieth day after the third day of the first feast.

In the time when John Rufus wrote, in about 500, the main day of the Dormition/Assumption in Palestinian liturgical rite was, most likely, August 15,[7] 30 days before September 14, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. But the feast of August 15 in the lifetime of John the Eunuch was a quite another feast of Theotokos, incorporated into the cycle of the Nativity of Christ (ancient Palestinian feast of Annunciation).[8]

Here, we need to take into account two important facts:

·         Dormition cycle during the lifetime of John the Eunuch was from August 7 to 9,

·         John Rufus describes John the Eunuch’s vision out of its biographical context, certainly with no understanding of the genuine liturgical content.

Very probably, the figure “30” was of no specific value for John Rufus; thus, he wrote “about” thirty. However, let us put his data in the context of the Dormition feast from August 7 to 9.

August 9 plus 30 days results in September, 8, another Theotokos feast while of uncertain origin, Nativity of Theotokos. Its existence in both Byzantine and anti-Chalcedonian rites gives the terminus ante quem in about 518, but its most likely date of origin is somewhere in the second half of the fifth century. The earliest datable document connected with this feast is a kontakion by Romanos the Melodos whose two first strophes are still in liturgical usage (before 548, death of Empress Theodora: Romanos mentions “emperors” in plural, which leads to the period from 527 to 548).[9] Let us recall that Romanos, yet under Monophysite Emperor Anastasius, became a clergyman in the Church of Theotokos constructed by Cyrus Panopolitanus. His background was in a liturgical tradition still shared with the Monophysite world.

In the Western Syrian rite, as well as in the Byzantine one, its date is September 8, with no further explanation. In the Coptic rite, there are two alternative traditions, Thout 10 (September 8) and Pashons 1 (April 26). The latter appears in some liturgical books but is never used de facto.[10] The Ethiopic Synaxarium on Maskaram 10 (September 8) refers to the two different traditions of celebration, on Maskaram 10 and on Genbot 1 (April 26) considering both of them as equally actual while based on different liturgical books.[11] Thus, the Nativity of Theotokos on September 8 is a mainstream tradition of the epoch preceding the anti-Monophysite policy of Justin I (since 518), and its dating to the fifth century is most likely.

The internal chronology of the vision of John the Eunuch can be interpreted as covering the three-day Dormition/Assumption feast from August 7 to 9 and, then, 30-day period up to the Nativity of Theotokos feast on September 8. Our interpretation of the vision as taking place on the three days of Dormition/Assumption becomes much stronger now, when it covers the whole internal chronology of the vision account.

[1] Horn, Phenix Jr, John Rufus…, 91, n. 5.

[2] M. A. Knibb’s translation, according to J. H. Charlesworth (ed.), The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 2 (Garden City, NY, 1985) 164–176.

[3] M. O’ Kane, Isaiah: A Prophet in the Footsteps of Moses, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 21 (1996) 29–50.

[4] Horn, Asceticism..., 238–244.

[5] For this theoretical concept of the critical hagiography, see M. van Esbroeck, Le substrat hagiographique de la mission khazare de Constantin-Cyrille, Analecta Bollandiana 104 (1986) 337–348.

[6] Horn, Asceticism..., 248, n. 49. She refers to P. Rorem, Moses as the Paradigm for the Liturgical Spirituality of Pseudo-Dionysius, Studia Patristica 18.2 (1989) 275–279, but see now a more detailed exposition in P. Rorem, Pseudo-Dionysius: A Commentary on the Texts and an Introduction to Their Influence (New York/Oxford, 1993), passim, but especially on the pages dedicated to the Mystical Theology.

[7] Probably, with the triduum occupying August 13, 14, and 15. The reconstruction of this phase of evolution of the feast is highly conjectural. Its main witness is a Georgian canon for gathering of apostles, see van Esbroeck, Ein georgischer liturgischer Kanon...

[8] On the evolution of this feast, see, first of all, Walter D. Ray, August 15 and the Development of the Jerusalem Calendar. A Dissertation. Directors: Paul F. Bradshaw, Maxwell E. Johnson. Notre Dame University, Department of Theology (Notre Dame, IN, 2000). A large article of the same author is forthcoming.

[9] P. Maas, C. A. Trypanis, Sancti Romani Melodi Cantica. Cantica genuina (Oxford, 1963 [reprint: 1997]) 276–280.

[10] U. Zanetti, Les lectionnaires coptes annuels. Basse-Égypte (Louvain-la-Neuve, 1985) (Publications de l’Institut orientaliste de Louvain, 33) 44.

[11]  G. Colin, Le Synaxaire éthiopien. Mois de Maskaram. Édition critique du texte éthiopien et traduction (Turnhout, 1986) (PO 43, 3, N 195) 68/69–70/71. The entry for Genbot 1 is of no specific interest. The origin of the date Bashans/Genbot 1 is unclear.


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