Christian Platonists and Christian Neoplatonists

Christian Platonism and Christian Neoplatonism

Christian Platonists and Platonizing Christians in History

The following is a list of Christian philosophers, theologians, and writers with Platonist/Neoplatonist interests or influences. Their main works, and especially those relevant to the topic of Christian Platonism, are also shown.

"Platonic influence" is broadly defined here; a writer may be both influenced by Plato and at the same time very critical of specific Platonic or Neoplatonic tenets.

Note the literal explosion of interest in Christian Platonism during the Renaissance, followed by a striking absence from 1700 until the 20th century. The latter reflects several factors: the Reformation, the Age of Reason, the Industrial Revolution, and the modern empiricist- materialistic worldview. In a post-modern world we may expect to see Renaissance humanism and mysticism re-emerge, and along with them Platonism and Christian Platonism.

See also: Islamic Platonists and Neoplatonists.

The Triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas - Benozzo Gozzoli (1471) - St. Thomas flanked by Aristotle (left) and Plato (right)

Contents


Part 1: 60 AD - 700 AD

Apostolic Age

Possible Platonic influence on St. Paul, Gospel of John (e.g., John 1), James, Hebrews (influenced by Philo Judaeus?), Epistle of Barnabas

Patristic Era

St. Justin Martyr (100 - 165)
     - Dialogue with Trypho
     - On the Soul
     - Discourse to the Greeks

St. Theophilus of Antioch (? - c. 185)
     - Apologia ad Autolycum

St. Irenaeus of Lyons (d. c. 200)
     - Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies)

St. Hippolytus of Rome (d. 235)
     - Refutation of all Heresies

Marcus Minucius Felix? (3rd century)

St. Methodius of Olympus (d. c. 311)

St. Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 263 - c. 339)

Arnobius of Sicca (fl. c. 300; North African)

Lactantius (c. 250 -c. 325; North African; student of Arnobius; Platonist, Epicurean, Stoic influences) [more]

Alexander of Lycopolis (fl. c. 300; Egyptian)
     - Against the Manicheans (PG 18 409-448)

Alexandrian Christianity

Athenagoras of Athens (c. 133 - 190)
     - Apology or Embassy for the Christians
     - Treatise on the Resurrection

St. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 - c. 215)
     - Stromata (Miscellanies)
     - Protrepticus (Exhortation to the Greeks)

Ammonius Saccas? (d. c. 240; possible Christian; see St. Jerome, On Illustrious Men 55)

Origen (c. 185 - 254; heard Ammonius Saccas?; knew Plotinus?) [IEP]
     - On First Principles (de Principiis)
     - Against Celsus (Contra Celsum)
     - Commentary on the Song of Songs

Heraclas (associate of Origen; auditor of Ammonius Saccas?)

St. Athanasius (c. 293 - 373; Bishop of Alexandria)
     - Contra Gentes (Against the Heathen)
     - De Incarnatione Verbe (On the Incarnation)
     - Orationes contra Arianos (Against the Arians)

Didymus the Blind (Didymus Caecus; c. 313 - c.398)

Cappadocian Fathers (next three)

ST. GREGORY OF NYSSA (c. 335 - c. 394)
     - Life of Moses
     - Commentary on the Song of Songs

St. Basil of Caesarea (c. 329 - 379)
     - On the Hexaemeron (the Six Days of Creation)

St. Gregory of Nazianzus (the Theologian; c. 330 - c. 389)

Evagrius Ponticus (345 - 399) [Dysinger] [Prodromos]
     - On the Thoughts
     - Praktikos
     - Gnostikos
     - Kephalaia Gnostica

Synesius of Cyrene (c. 373 - c. 414; bishop; pupil of Hypatia)
     - The Egyptian Tale (Aegyptus sive de providentia)
     - On Dreams

Nemesius of Emesa (4th century)
     - De Natura Hominis (On Human Nature)

St. Theodoret of Cyrus (c. 393 - c. 457; bishop)

Latin Christian Neoplatonists

Calcidius/Chalcidius? (4th century)
     - Translated the Timaeus

Firmicus Maternus (fl. c. 346)
     - De errore profanarum religionum

Marius Victorinus (c.300 - c.370; translated Porphry; Trinitarian theories) [ Migne Patrologia Latina]

St. Simplician (Simplicianus; ? - 400; friend/mentor of St. Augustine and St. Ambrose)

St. Ambrose of Milan (c. 338 - 397)
     - De Spiritu Sancto (On the Holy Spirit)
     - De mysteriis (On the Mysteries)
     - On Virginity

ST. AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO (354 - 430) [Stanford]
     - Confessions
     - De Trinitate (On the Trinity)
     - De civitate Dei (The City of God)
     - De doctrina Christiana (On Christian Doctrine)

Flavius Mallius Theodorus (fl. 399; friend of St. Augustine; Roman consul)

Favonius Eulogius (fl. 380-400?; taught rhetoric in Carthage)
     - Disputatio de somnio Scipionis

Boethius (St. Severinus Boethius; c. 470 - 524)
     - Consolation of Philosophy
     - Commentary on the Isagoge

Late Greek/Eastern Era Christian Neoplatonists

[Note: compare with Proclus (412 - 485; not Christian)]

School of Gaza

Leontius of Byzantium ('the Hermit'; 475 - 543)

Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (450? - 530?; Syrian?) [Stanford]
     - On the Divine Names
     - Mystical Theology
     - On the Celestial Hierarchy

John of Scythopolis (fl. 540; bishop; early commentator on Pseudo-Dionysius)

Theodore Askidas (or Ascidas; fl. c. 550; archbishop of Caesarea in Cappodocia; Origenst)

Domitian of Ancyra (6th century; Origenist)

Stephen bar Sudaili (fl. 500; Syrian; Origenest; is often associated with Ps.-Dionysius)

John Philoponus (490 - c. 570; Alexandrian/Byzantine; pupil of Neoplatonist Ammonius) [Stanford] [UVA]
     - De opificio mundi
     - De Aeternitate Mundi

Elias (fl. 575?; Alexandrian; pupil of Neoplatonist Olympiodorus)

David (fl. 575?; Alexandrian)

Stephanus of Alexandria (fl. 630?)

St. Maximus the Confessor (c. 580 - 662; influenced by Pseudo-Dionysius)

Theodorus of Raithu (7th century; friend of St. Maximus)

Anastasius Sinaita (7th century)


copyright (c) John Uebersax

Note: y-axis does not correspond strictly to pagan/Christian distinction; e.g., Origen (Christian) is placed amongst other Alexandrians; Macrobius (non-Christian?) with other Latins, etc.

Part 2: 701 AD - present

Islamic Middle East

St. John of Damascus (John Damascene; c. 676 - 749)
     - The Fountain of Wisdom

Theodore Ab Qurrah (750 - 820; disciple of St. John of Damascus)

Catholicos Timothy I (Timothy of Bagdhad; 728 - 823; Nestorian)

Al-Bitriq (8th century; Melkite; translated the Timaeus)

Hunayn ibn Ishaq (808 - 837; Nestorian)
     -- translated the Timaeus
     -- That which ought to be read before Plato's works

School of Baghdad Peripatetics (c. 870 - c. 1023). Muslim and Christian members.

Severus ibn al-Muqaffa (d. 987; Coptic bishop)
     - Lamp of the Intellect
     - Affliction's Physic and the Cure of Sorrows

Middle Ages (East)

Leo the Mathematician (c. 790 - after 869)

Photius (Photios; c. 810 - c. 893; Patriarch of Constantinople)
     - Bibliotecha (Myriobiblon); c. 837/838
     - Lexeon synagoge
     - Amphilochia
     - Diegesis peri tes manichaion anablasteseos (Dissertation Concerning the Reappearance of the Manichæans)

Arethas of Caesarea (c. 860 - c. 944; Arethas of Patras; archbishop of Caesarea; disciple of Photius)
     - commentaries/scholia on Plato's works

John Mauropus (11th century; Constantinople; teacher of Psellus; later metropolitan of Euchaita; wrote poems beseeching God's mercy on Plato and Plutarch, "because both of them in word and character adhere closely to your laws." [Wilson, Scholars of Byzantium, p. 151])

Michael Psellus (11th century; Byzantine; re-introduced Plato; admired Proclus; commented on Aristotle)
     - Explanation of the Platonic Chariot-driving of Souls in the Phaedrus
     - De Operatione Daemonum
     - writings on the Chaldean Oracles

John Italus (Byzantine; student of Psellus)

Eustratius of Nicaea (c. 1060 - 1120; Byzantine; Metropolitan of Nicaea; pupil of Italus; Neoplatonic influenced; commentator on Aristotle) [Stanford]

Michael of Ephesus (12th century; Byzantine; Neoplatonic influenced; commentator on Aristotle) [Stanford]

Theodore Metochites (1270 - 1332; Byzantine)

Nicephoros Gregoras (c. 1295 - 1360; Byzantine; student of Metochites)

St. Gregory Palamas (1296 - 1359; parts of Platonic/Neoplatonic asceticism, via Origen, the Desert and Cappadocian Fathers, Pseudo-Dionysius, etc. becomes absorbed into Hesychasm?)

Middle Ages (West)

John Scotus Eriugena (c. 815 - 877; translated Pseudo-Dionysius) [Stanford]

St. Anselm of Canterbury (Augustinian; 1033 - 1109) [Stanford] [Hopkins]

William of Champeaux (c. 1070 - 1122; studied with St. Anselm) [Stanford]

Peter Abelard (1079 - 1142) [Stanford] [IEP]

Suger of Saint Denis (1081 - 1151; studied Ps.-Dionysius; influenced Gothic cathedral architecture)

Hugh of Balma (12th century) [Hopkins]
     - Mystical Theology

School of Chartres

Bernard Silvesters (1085 to 1178?; associated with School of Chartres, but is not Bernard of Chartres)
     - Cosmographia

Bl. Isaac of Stella (Isaac D'étoile; c. 1100 - c. 1169; France; Cistercian monk; argued for synthesis of Neoplatonic and Aristotelian philosophies) [De Wulf]
     - De anima

Alcher of Clairvaux (12th century) [De Wulf]
     - De spiritu et anima, PL 40 cols. 779-832 (attr. incorrectly)
     - De diligendo Deo (attr.)

Henry Aristippus (fl. 1150; Italian)
     - translated Phaedo and Meno into Latin

Richard of St. Victor (? - 1173)
     - On the Trinity
     - Benjamin Minor
     - Benjamin Major
     - Treatise on the Tabernacle
     - Treatise on Ezekiel

Alain de Lille (c. 1128 - 1202; French)

David of Dinant (c. 1160 - c. 1217; influenced by Eriugena)

Amalric of Bene (Amalric of Chartres; Amaury; d. c. 1205; influenced by Eriugena; pantheist theories)

William of Auvergne (c. 1180 - 1249; Bishop of Paris) [Stanford]

The Franciscan School of Paris [more]

Henry of Ghent (c. 1217 - 1293; active in Paris, studied at Cologne school) [Stanford]

William of Moerbeke (c. 1215 - 1286; Flemish; translated Proclus)

Oxford Franciscan School

Dominican School of Cologne

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 - 1274) [Stanford]
     - Summa Theologica
     - Commentary on Liber de causis

Witelo (c. 1230 - c. 1300; Polish) [De Wulf]
     - De Intelligentiis

Ramon Llull (1232 - 1315; Spanish; Neoplatonist ideas; syncretic)

Renaissance

Figures associated with Florentine Platonism and Italian Renaissance Platonism - copyright (c) John Uebersax

Petrarch (1304 - 1374)

Coluccio Salutati (1331 - 1406; Florentine; encouraged Platonic revival; recruited Chrysoloras)

George Gemistus Pletho (or Plethon; c. 1355 - 1450; Greek monk; visited Florence in 1439)
     - De differentiis Platonis et Aristotelis (c. 1440)
     - countered by anti-Platonist George Scholarius (Patriarch Gennadios II), Antilepseis hyper
       Aristotelous
(Defence of Aristotle; 1444 [Hankins, p. 208])

Manuel Chrysoloras (c. 1355 - 1415; Byzantine; student of Pletho; taught Greek in Italy [Florence, 1397-1400])
     - translated the Republic and many other dialogues

Uberto Decembrio (c. 1370 - 1427; Milan; student of Chrysoloras)
     - helped translate the Republic

Roberto de' Rossi (?; circle of Salutati; pupil of Chrysoloras; tutor of Cosimo de' Medici)

Guarino da Verona (1374 - 1460; pupil of Chrysoloras; Venice and Florence)

Giacomo da Scarparia (fl. c. 1406; associate of Chrysoloras and Guarino)

Leonardo Bruni (1370 - 1444; Florentine; pupil of Chrysoloras; translated several of Plato's works to Latin)
     - Phaedo (1405)
     - Letters (1411)
     - part of the Phaedrus (1424)
     - Crito and the Apology (two redactions, both before 1427)
     - Alcibiades' speech (215a-222a) from Symposium (c. 1435)

Niccolò de' Niccoli (1364 - 1437; Florentine intellectual; friend/patron of Bruni)

Giovanni Aurispa (1376 - 1459; brought numerous Greek works from Constantinople to Italy [1423] including all of Plato, all of Plotinus, all of Proclus, and much of Iamblichus)

Ambrogio Traversari (1386 - 1439; taught by Chrysoloras; twice prior of the Camaldolese community of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Florence, twice vicar general of the Camaldolese order)
     - translated Diogenes Laertius' Lives, including Vita Platonis...
     - (this was the first biography of Plato in Western Europe)
     - translated Gregory of Nyssa, Origen, Aeneas of Gaza, Pseudo-Dionysius

Traversari's students showed varying degrees of Platonic interest/influence:

Cosimo de' Medici (1389 - 1464; founded Florentine Academy, placing Ficino as head)

George of Trebizond (1395 - 1486; anti-Platonist)
     - Comparatio Aristotelis et Platonis (1450)

Francesco Filelfo (1398 - 1481; student of John Chrysoloras, the nephew of Manuel)
     - translated three of the Letters (1430s)
     - translated Euthyphro (1430s)

Julian Cesarini (1398 - 1444; cardinal; friend Traversari [and Plethon?])

Pietro Candido Decembrio (1399 - 1477; Milan; son of Uberto)
     - revised translation of the Republic (late 1430s)
     - translated Lysis (1456)

Nicolas of Cusa (1401 - 1464; cardinal; German) [Hopkins]
     - De Sapientia (On Wisdom)
     - De Mente (On the Mind)
     - De Docta Ignorantia (Of Learned Ignorance)
     - De Visione Dei (On the Vision of God)

Denis the Carthusian (Dionysius of Riche; Denys van Leeuwen; 1402 - 1471; associate of Nicolas of Cusa)
     - Commentary on Dionysius Areopagite

Cardinal Basilios Bessarion (1403 - 1472)
     - countered George of Trebizond with In Calumniatorem Platonis (Against the Slanderer
        of Plato
; 1459)

Leon Battista Alberti (1404 - 1472; priest, member of Florentine Academy)

John Doget (c. 1430? - 1501; English; priest)
     - Commentary on Phaedrus

MARSILIO FICINO (1433 - 1499; translated Plato, Plotinus, Iamblichus, Pseudo- Dionysius, Hermetica, Chaldean Oracles; priest; headed Florentine Platonic Academy)
     - Platonic Theology
     - De Amore (Commentary on the Symposium)
     - Commentary on Phaedrus
     - The Christian Religion
     - The Book of the Sun (De Sole)

Lorenzo de' Medici (1449 - 1492; grandson of Cosimo; patron/pupil of Ficino)

Paolo Orlandini (? - 1519; prior of S. Maria degli Angeli monastery in Florence [1487-1498]; later vicar general of Camaldolese order; supported Ficino's teaching/lectures at monastery; friend of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola)
     - De virtute
     - De substantia animae et de ipsius immortalitate
     - Gymnastica monachorum (describes the 'Camaldolese Academy' at S. Maria degli Angeli)
     - Canto de immortalitate de anime
     - Guido di Lorenzo d'Antonio

Vincenzo Quirini (Pietro; Camaldolese; influenced by Orlandini)

Tommaso Giustiniani (Paolo; Camaldolese; influenced by Orlandini)

Giovanni Corsi (disciple/biographer of Ficino)

Girolamo Benivieni (1453 - 1542; poet)

Angelo Poliziano (1454 - 1494; Florentine)
     - Translator of Plato

Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples (c. 1455 - 1536; French; friend of Ficino and Giovanni Pico; Platonist interests)

Johann Reuchlin (1455 - 1522)
     - De Verbo Mirifico (1494)
     - De Arte Cabbalistica (1517).

Francesco Giorgi (1460 - 1540; Franciscan; Cabalist, Neoplatonist)
     - De harmonia mundi totius

Pietro Pomponazzi (1462 - 1525; Aristotelean with Neoplatonic and Stoic interests) [Stanford]

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463 - 1494)
     - Oration on the Dignity of Man (1486)
     - 900 Theses

Desiderius Erasmus? (1466 - 1536)

Francesco Cattani da Diacceto (1466 - 1522; pupil of Ficino; from 1502 taught at the University of Florence; center of Florentine intellectual circle that met at the Orti Oricellari in first two decades of 16th century)
     - De pulchro (1499)
     - De amore (1508)
     - Panegyricus in amorem
     - commento al Simposio di Platone
     - Paraphrasis in libros IV de Coelo

Francesco de' Vieri (1474-1541; il Verino; member of the Diacceto's school; continued the official tradition of Ficinian Platonism; professor of philosophy in Florence/Pisa)
     - De pulchritudine et amore

John Colet (ca. 1467 - 1519; priest; brought Italian Platonism to England)

Symphorien Champier (1471 - 1539; brought Italian Platonism to France)

Pietro Bembo (1470 - 1547; Italian cardinal; literary reformer)

St. Thomas More (1478 - 1535; friend of John Colet)
     - Utopia (1515)

Agostino Nifo (c. 1473 - c. 1540; Aristotelian influenced by Ficino and Neoplatonism)
     - De immortalitate animi (1518 and 1524)
     - De intellectu et daemonibus

Baldassare Castiglione (1478 - 1529)

Agostino Steuco (1497 - 1548; priest)
     - De perenni philosophia (The Perennial Philosophy)

Philipp Melanchthon (1497 - 1560; Lutheran)

Francesco de' Vieri (1524 - 1591; il Verino secondo; grandson of il Verino; taught philosophy at University of Pisa from 1553)
     - Compendio della dotrina di Platone in quello che elle e conforme con la fede nostra (Compendium of Platonic Teachings Which are in Conformity with the Christian Faith; Florence, 1589)
     - Discorso del soggetto, del numero, dell'uso et della dignità et ordine degl'habiti dell'animo (Discourse on the Subject, Number, Use and Dignity and on the Kind of Vestments of the Spirit; Firenze, 1568)
     - Lezzioni d'amore (Lessons on Love; a commentary on Cavalcanti)
     - Discorso intorno ai demonii (1576)

Francesco Patrizi (1529 - 1597)
     - Nova de universis philosophia (1591)

Jean de Serres (Serranus; 1540 - 1597; Huguenot; anti-Neoplatonist; made new Latin translation of Plato's works [Stephanus 1578 edition])

John Case (1546 - 1600; English; Aristotelian with Platonic/Neoplatonic interests)

Francesco de' Vieri (1547 - 1590)
     - Compendium of Platonic Teachings

Giordano Bruno (1548 - 1600)

Tommaso Campanella (1568 - 1639; Dominican priest) [Stanford]
     - Metaphysica
     - The City of the Sun

Francesco Piccolomini (1582 - 1651; Jesuit Superior General; Aristotelean with Platonic and Stoic interests)

Christian Mysticism

Most medieval, Renaissance, and later Christian mysticism was strongly influenced by Platonism via Pseudo-Dionysius [Figure]. Major traditions and representatives include the following:

For an excellent summary of these traditions see this article.

Christian Esotericism

Renaissance esotericists influenced by Platonism and Neoplatonism - copyright (c) John Uebersax

Jacob Boehme (1575 – 1624), Christian theosophists (Faivre 2006 gives extensive discussion), Christian Cabalists (Scholem, 1997; Yates, 1979) and esotericists, and the early Rosicrucians (Yates, 1972), show clear Neoplatonic/Neopythagorean influences.

Cambridge Platonists

Jeremy Taylor (1613 - 1667)

Giambattista Vico (1668 - 1744; Naples) [Stanford]
     - Le orazioni inaugurali (Six Inaugural Orations, On Humanstic Education;1699-1707)
     - De antiquissima Italorum sapientia ex linguae originibus eruenda librir tres (On the Most Ancient Wisdom of the Italians Unearthed from the Origins of the Latin Language; 1710)
     - Scienza nuova (1725)

Nicolas Malebranche (1638 - 1715) [Stanford]

Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher (1768 - 1834) [Stanford]

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 – 1834; philosopher, poet, critic)
     - Aids to Reflection (1825)

August Neander (1789 - 1850; Calvinist pastor)

American Transcendentalists and Unitarians

Virtually the entire New England Transcendentalist movement could be seen as Christian Neoplatonism. The Transcendentalists were strongly influenced by Cambridge Platonism, and also by Coleridge. Although some Transcendentalists (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Thoreau, Margaret Fuller) made a public break with institutional Christianity, they remained, we might say, strongly 'culturally Christian.' Others in the movement retained a formal Christian affiliation (e.g., James Marsh, Frederic Henry Hedge, Caleb Sprague Henry). See Frothingham (1876), Wells (1943), Uebersax (2013a,b).

Christian Platonism is also very much in evidence within Christian Unitarianism, a movement with close connections to New England Transcendentalism (e.g., William Ellery Channing, Edward Tyrrel Channing, James Walker, James Freeman Clarke, Andrew Preston Peabody, Abiel A. Livermore, Octavius B. Frothingham). See Howe (1988/1997).

Going back even earlier in American history, a plausible argument could be made that Jonathan Edwards was a Christian Platonist.

Modern Christian Platonists

William Ralph Inge (1860 - 1954)
     - Platonic Tradition in English Religious Thought

Paul Elmer More (1864 - 1937)
     - The Religion of Plato (1921)

Alfred Edward Taylor (1869 - 1945)

Jacques Maritain (1882 - 1973) [Stanford]
     - The Degrees of Knowledge

Pavel Florensky (1882 - 1937)
     - The Pillar and Ground of the Truth (1924)

Alexei Losev (1893 - 1988)
     - The Dialectics of Myth (1930)

Simone Weil (1909 - 1943)

Vladimir Lossky? (1903 - 1958)
     - The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church

Karl Rahner, S.J. (1904 - 1984)

Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905 - 1988)

Joseph Pieper (1904 - 1997)

A. H. Armstrong (1909 - 1997)

20th Century French Neoplatonism

Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger; 1927 - )
      - doctoral research on St. Augustine, Plotinus, and Porphyry

Stephen R. L. Clark (1945 – )
      - From Athens to Jerusalem


Acknowledgments

The helpful suggestions of Michael Chase and Dennis Clark are gratefully acknowledged.


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Orig 04 Apr 2008
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