How Moses’ ascent of Mount Sinai inspired Gregory of Nyssa, Evagrius of Pontus, Pseudo-Macarius and Dionysius the AreopagiteSatisfaction:
Moses’ encounter with God on the summit of Mount Sinai, as told in the biblical book of Exodus, contains a number of peculiarities and paradoxes. Early Christian mystics seized on these as clues to the spiritual understanding of Moses’ experiences, and as guides to the practice of contemplation. In this course we will examine five moments in Moses’ ascent of Mount Sinai: his entry into the darkness; the elders’ vision of the sapphire pavement; the pattern of the tabernacle revealed; God’s placing of Moses into the cleft of the rock; and Moses’ shining face. We will explore how these intriguing passages inspired four early Christian writers – Gregory of Nyssa, Evagrius of Pontus, Pseudo-Macarius and Dionysius the Areopagite – as they reflected on such topics as the unknowability of God and the state of a mind at prayer. In doing so, we will discover the influence of scripture on the development of the Christian mystical tradition.
Session 1: The Darkness of Unknowing (Exodus 20.18-21)
Session 2: Divine Blue (Exodus 24.9-11)
Session 3: The Heavenly Tabernacle (Exodus 25 – 28)
Session 4: The Cleft in the Rock (Exodus 33:11-23)
Session 5: Transformation (Exodus 34:29-35)
Ann Conway-Jones’ research interest is early Jewish–Christian relations, focussing particularly on biblical exegesis and the origins of mysticism. Her PhD research, involving a range of Jewish and Christian mystical writings about the heavenly temple, has been published by OUP as Gregory of Nyssa’s Tabernacle Imagery in Its Jewish and Christian Contexts.