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St.

Maximus the Confessor's Questions and Doubts (review)


Joshua Lollar

Journal of Early Christian Studies, Volume 19, Number 1, Spring 2011, pp. 150-152 (Article) Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press DOI: 10.1353/earl.2011.0012

For additional information about this article


http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/earl/summary/v019/19.1.lollar.html

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contenuto liturgico della Benedictio nale (Tract. XI) inducono Conti ad attribuire lo scritto allinizio del movimento religioso, intorno alla met degli anni Settanta del IV secolo. I Canoni, che condensano in 90 brevi sezioni linsegnamento paolino, sono lunica opera di cui si pu affermare con certezza la paternit di Priscilliano; essi subirono lintervento correttivo di un certo Peregrino, il quale miglior il testo, eliminando alcune espressioni eterodosse. Lo stile piano e chiaro del prologo, cos diverso da quello della maggior parte dei Trattati, si spiega con il genere e lo scopo particolare dellopera, che tuttavia, secondo Conti, presenta delle somiglianze con il tono e lo stile del Tract. III. Il frammento citato da Orosio, che costui afferma appartenere a quaedam epistula scritta da Priscilliano in persona, presenta alcuni termini che si riscontrano nei Trattati e rivela afnit di stile con il Tract. III; per questo Conti giudica con interesse il breve passo che non va collocato nel contesto gnostico in cui lo pone Orosio, ma che si accorda con il moderato dualismo che emerge dai Trattati. Tuttavia la brevit del passo, lignoranza del contesto generale della lettera da cui tratto e limpossibilit di valutare lintervento di Orosio inducono a valutare con cautela questo testo. Tra le opere spurie il De Trinitate dei catholicae, che rivela una tendenza fortemente monarchiana, fu ascritto al milieu priscillianista, forse a Priscilliano stesso, da G. Morin, che per primo pubblic il testo (1913); Conti concorda con H. Chadwick (1976) sulluso di termini e citazioni bibliche tipiche dei priscillianisti, ma esclude la paternit di Priscilliano e sottolinea la distanza di stile e di contenuto rispetto ai Trattati di Wrzburg. Lipotesi dellorigine priscillianista dei Prologhi monarchiani ai vangeli, avanzata da J. Chapmann (1906) sulla base di analogie lessicali e contenutistiche, ripresa e sostenuta da J. Regul (1969) e da Chadwick, condivisa anche da Conti, il quale tuttavia scarta lidea che lautore possa essere proprio Priscilliano. Il commento, accurato e ben documentato sui risultati della recente bibliograa scientica, affronta le principali questioni che emergono dai testi e consente un inquadramento storico generale delle tematiche ivi espresse.

Maria Veronese, Universit degli Studi di Foggia

St. Maximus the Confessors Questions and Doubts Translated by Despina D. Prassas DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 2010 Pp. x + 236. $40. In St. Maximus the Confessors Questions and Doubts, Despina D. Prassas provides a translation with introduction and annotation of Jos Declercks critical edition of the Confessors Quaestiones et Dubia (hereafter QD), found in volume ten of the Corpus Christianorum Series Graeca and originally published in 1982. It is the rst English translation of the text and is, therefore, a welcome addition to the literature on Maximus. Prassas begins her introduction with a brief account of the rather unclear details

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of Maximuss life. She tends to give more weight to the Greek vita tradition, which reports a Constantinopolitan milieu for Maximuss upbringing and education, than to the earlier Syriac life, which was published by Sebastian Brock in 1973, and which claims that Maximus was born in Palestine and received his spiritual formation among Origenists in a monastery there. Readers will also want to be aware of the recent and compelling argument for a Palestinian and Alexandrian context for Maximuss early formation made by Christian Boudignon in Maxime le Confesseur etait-il Constantinopolitain? (in B. Janssens, B. Roosen, and P. Van Deun, eds., Philomathestatos: Studies in Greek and Byzantine Texts Presented to Jacques Noret for his Sixty-Fifth Birthday [2004]). The Syriac life seeks to taint the image of Maximus with its charge of Origenism, and this question, because most scholars place the composition of the QD before Maximuss involvement in the christological polemics of his day, is indeed the primary doctrinal-historical issue Prassas considers relevant to the QD. She acknowledges the obvious and undeniable inuence of Origen and Evagriusand especially Didymus the Blind in the QDon Maximus, but notes that there is only one direct reference to Origens doctrine in the QD, in question 19, which treats Gregory of Nyssas use of the term apokatastasis (restoration). Prassas writes, it is not entirely clear whether Maximuss explanation is precisely the same as Origens and therefore she rejects the claims of the Syriac life regarding Maximuss intellectual formation (13). This does not seem to be a very strong argument. The QD are so thoroughly Origenian (if not Origenist) in inspiration that to say the question on apokatastasis is the only direct reference to any teaching of Origen in the QD is to focus too narrowly upon the sixth-century anathemas. Nor does such a statement appreciate what was most likely the heart of an intellectually orientedi.e. Origenian or Evagrianmonastic life, which Prassas herself ably describes in the core of her introduction to the content of the QD: the theoretical contemplation of the inner meaning of Scripture and its application to the ascetical practices of the monks (see 2137). While Prassas rightly tries to avoid systematizing the diverse questions of the QD, she does offer some rubrics for orienting the reader to the content of the translation. Within the general scope of the workteaching on the ascetic lifePrassas identies a number of principles, or components of the general intellectual framework of the QD, such as principles of (biblical) interpretation, theological anthropology, anagogy, and typology (22). She identies typical monastic topoi found in the QD: the passions, the virtues, and evil, as well as theoria and praxis. Finally, Prassas discerns certain tools used by Maximus for the conveying of his teaching: allegory, typology, etymology, number symbolism or arithmology, military terminology, anthropomorphosis, and so on. Regarding the translation itself, which is the most important contribution of the work, it is clear that Prassas has chosen to render Maximuss Greek in an English idiom that corresponds as far as possible to Maximuss own style and syntax. This is helpful in certain ways and indeed makes it easy to follow along with Declercks edition. However, the English is rather rough in places, occasionally ungrammatical, and sometimes hard to follow on its own terms. In addition,

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while the translation is a helpful tool for the study of the Greek text, it does contain mistakesboth typographical and of translationand must therefore be used with care. There are words or phrases left untranslated in, for example, QD 43, 61, 130, and 180. These are, no doubt, merely accidental omissions. There is also a clear mistranslation in the last sentence of QD 170, as well as some lesser inaccuracies in, for example, QD 35, 63, 158, and 159. Nevertheless, the translation is generally reliable and Prassas has rendered us a great service by striving so vigorously with Maximuss difcult Greek. The collection of Quaestiones et Dubia itself is an excellent text for beginning a study of Maximus. It contains many of the themes that pervade Maximuss thought more generally, but his style of interpretation, both of Scripture and of the fathers, is easier to follow in the QD than in, for example, the two collections of Ambigua or in the Questions to Thalassius. Prassass work is, therefore, denitely to be recommended.

Joshua Lollar, University of Notre Dame

Jason David BeDuhn Augustines Manichaean Dilemma 1: Conversion and Apostasy, 373388 C.E. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010 Pp. viii + 402. Traditionally, the so-called conversion of Augustine from the error of Manichaeism to the emerging orthodoxy of Nicene Christianity has been viewed by scholars as simply one, often preliminary, episode in his later career and legacy as a revered theologian. Few have paid any real attention to what initially attracted Augustine to Manichaeism in the rst place and to the pivotal role his experience within that community played in his later intellectual and theological development. Typically, historians are content to take Augustines own version of these events, as recounted in his Confessions, for granted and to dismiss his attachment to the Manichaeans as the product of an immature mind. In this book, however, Jason BeDuhn puts Augustines Manichaean experience under a microscope, meticulously dissecting it in vivid and compelling detail, demonstrating once and for all the crucial importance this period has within the wider arc of Augustines career. The journey begins in backwater Numidia, in the town of Thagaste, where Christianity was still an amorphous mixture of sectarian communities, some Donatist, some Nicene, and others Manichaean (26). In fact, as BeDuhn reminds us, Augustines membership in Manichaeism did not mean participating in another religion, but rather in a community that saw itself as the True Church (26). While Manichaeans certainly never outnumbered other Christians in terms of their membership, the relative coherence of their doctrinal system, ritual program, and organization did pose a serious and competitive threat to its rivals