What is it about?

Moses’ encounter with God on the summit of Mount Sinai, as told in the biblical book of Exodus, contains a number of peculiarities and puzzles. Early Christian mystics seized on these as clues to the spiritual understanding of Moses’ experiences, and as guides to the practice of contemplation. This paper shows how Gregory of Nyssa's articulation of a never-ending journey into the infinite divine and Pseudo-Dionysius' concept of 'union' in the darkness of unknowing depend on the ways in which they resolve the enigmas of Exodus 33-34.

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Why is it important?

This paper demonstrates the importance of scripture in the development of Christian mystical theology. In putting forward their understanding of contemplation of the divine, Gregory and Dionysius are not simply dependent on their philosophical and theological commitments, or on their personal experience, but on specific details in the biblical text. They read Exodus carefully, noticing the contradictions and ambiguities of the text. Rather than smoothing over the difficulties, they elevate enigmas to paradoxes, which then feed their distinctive conceptions of the goal of the mystical journey.

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This page is a summary of: Exegetical Puzzles and the Mystical Theologies of Gregory of Nyssa and Dionysius the Areopagite, Vigiliae Christianae, June 2020, Brill,
DOI: 10.1163/15700720-12341449.
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