Angulus et Christus in the Five‐fold Division and Unification of the World and Nature in Eriugena and Maximus the Confessor
Medieval English Studies, vol. 10 (2002) No. 2
Increasingly in Eriugenian studies, it is necessary to revisit the question of how we locate Eriugena within the wider context of the ninth‐century Caroline synthesis in theology. The Carolingian church and state prompted many theologians like H. Marus (d. 856) and Hincmar (d. 879) to reformulate and synthesize major theological themes. From the late eighth‐century, age‐old topics in Christianity appeared again in turbulent theological debates over the Eucharist, filioque, predestination, and iconoclasm(Chazelle, Otten 65-82). This resulted from the imperial necessity for a strong religious establishment and from the demands of the encounter of Western and Eastern Christianity. The Caroline synthesis was also stimulated by the theological reformulation and the translation of and commentary on the Fathers of Greek and Western Christianity. We have a good example in the transmission and translation of Dionysius’ corpus: the extant Greek manuscripts of Pseudo‐Dionysius, the translation of manuscripts by Hilduin (d. 840) and eventually by Eriugena, and its implication among royal politicians and theologians (Théry 1923, 23-39, Théry 1932, Jeauneau 1987, 13-90).
Eriugena (c.810‐877) is another fine example of a writer who exhibits his own theological genius and originality, while in a faithful and creative manner transmits the Christian theology of the Fathers through his own translations and commentaries.) In De predestinatione, John presents a clever combination of reason and faith, philosophical reasoning and theological justification. Eriugena’s triptych, following the portrait of Dom Cappuyns, Periphyseon, Expositiones on Dionysius’ Celestial Hierarchy, and the Homily on the Prologue to the Gospel of St. John, exposes the high quality and subtlety of John’s thought and theology in general. Periphyseon, Eriugena’s major tome, had a huge impact upon later generations including Hugh of St. Victor and Thomas Aquinas (Rorem 147-163, Moran 267-281, Beierwaltes 1987). John translated the corpus of Pseudo‐Dionysius, several works of Maximus the Confessor and Gregory of Nyssa. Such massive translations in turn influenced the shaping of John’s own theology. The significance of Eriugena as a transmitter can be shown through the fact that Maximus’ Ambigua ad Ihoannem and Quaestiones ad Thalassium are the only extant translations of Eriugena in Western Christianity.