The Divine Processions and the Divine Energies

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1 Scopus citations


The concept of the divine energies (energeiai) is commonly associated with the late Byzantine theologian Gregory Palamas. In fact, however, it has biblical origins and figures prominently in Greek patristic theology from at least the fourth century. Here I briefly trace its history beginning with the Pauline usage of energeia and continuing through the Cappadocian Fathers, Dionysius the Areopagite, Maximus the Confessor, and Gregory Palamas. I argue that the divine processions in Dionysius function much as do the divine energies in the Cappadocians, although Dionysius enriches the concept by setting it within the context of a Neoplatonic pattern of procession and return. Dionysius’s own work was in need of a further synthesis in that he does not explain the relationship between the divine processions and the divine logoi, the “divine and good acts of will” by which God creates. Maximus the Confessor then introduced a further element into this complex tradition through his argument that certain “natural energies” must necessarily accompany any nature. I argue that the real importance of Palamas from the standpoint of the history of philosophy lies not in originating the concept of the divine energies, but in using it to synthesize these disparate elements from the Cappadocians, Dionysius, and Maximus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-70
Number of pages12
JournalPhilosophy of Religion: Analytic Researches
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 9 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© David Bradshaw.


  • Cappadocian Fathers
  • Dionysius the Areopagite
  • Gregory Palamas
  • Maximus the Confessor
  • divine energies
  • divine logoi
  • divine processions
  • essence/energies distinction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • Philosophy


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