The Idea of God: On the Divine Names

Peter Harris


In this paper I intend to look at a debate arising in the early Middle Ages
which focused on the divine names. The topic was so formulated in the 6th
century by the writer who came to be known as the “pseudo-Dionysius” who was
in fact a theological writer in the neo-Platonic tradition in the early 6th century
whose theological/mystical writings were very influential in the 13th century
theological debates. I will refer to him simply as Dionysius. Among his writings
is a work titled On the divine Names—St Thomas Aquinas wrote a detailed
commentary on this book and came to differ from him not in the commentary but
in his own writing in the Summa Theologiae. I am assuming consequently that
this discussion should cast some light on the question as to how we should both
think and speak about God.

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