Ripheus is most notable for his role in Dante's Paradiso, where he appears in the sphere of Jupiter among the virtuous rulers. His inclusion in Dante's conception of Heaven is surprising, since normally only Christians can be saved. However, Dante claims that Ripheus' devotion to justice gradually allowed him to discover the Christian faith, through the divine virtue of love (or charity).
Here, Dante differs from many Christians in asserting that belief in Christ is not necessary for salvation. He says "Quelle tre donna li fur per battesmo" ("Those three ladies acted as his baptism"), ie the three divine virtues of faith, hope and charity saved him without his having to be a Christian in the formal sense. What is important to Dante is the state of a man's soul: virtue is usually achieved through Christ, but it can be found through other means.
His treatment of Ripheus is a good example of Dante's rejection of the idea that salvation could be fully controlled by the Catholic Church, which was often corrupt in Dante's day. It could be compared to his invention of Antepurgatory, which allowed excommunicated people and those without a Christian burial to be admitted to Heaven, albeit after a protracted waiting period.
- ↑ Paradiso XX, 106-107