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Denying DivinityApophasis in the Patristic Christian and Soto Zen Buddhist Traditions$
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J. P. Williams

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780198269991

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198269991.001.0001

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The Greco-Christian background

The Greco-Christian background

Chapter:
(p.14) 2 The Greco-Christian background
Source:
Denying Divinity
Author(s):

J. P. Williams

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198269991.003.0002

Both the Buddhist and Patristic traditions are characterized by an evolution from negation to apophasis proper. In the Christian case, apophasis first becomes explicit in Dionysius, and is thoroughly knitted into the web of Christian dogmatic commitments by Maximus the Confessor, whereas Dogen inherits a tradition in which apophasis has already for some time been explicit and undertaken a further evolution in respect of its Sinitization. To some extent, both Dionysius and Dogen are introducing apophasis to a new situation: Dionysius to a recognized role in Christian theology, and Dogen to Japan. In discussing the Patristic apophasis, this chapter turns to Philo and traces the philosophical development of negation from the proto-apophasis of Plotinus to the apophatic articulation of Proclus. Turning to the Christians, one can notice the distinctive Alexandrian spirituality of Clement and Origen, developing both the systematic use of negation and the place of that negation in the soul's whole relation to God. Gregory of Nyssa deepens the Alexandrian negation and produces the spirituality of perpetual progress that has so much in common with apophasis.

Keywords:   Dionysius, Maximus the Confessor, apophasis, Dogen, Christian theology, Philo, negation, Plotinus, Proclus, Gregory of Nyssa

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