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On Difficulties in Sacred Scripture
The Responses to Thalassios
Translated by Fr. Maximos Constas
Imprint: Catholic University of America Press
Maximos the Confessor (ca. 580-662) is now widely recognized as one of the greatest theological thinkers, not simply in the entire canon of Greek patristic literature, but in the Christian tradition as a whole. A peripatetic monk and prolific writer, his penetrating theological vision found expression in an unparalleled synthesis of biblical exegesis, ascetic spirituality, patristic theology, and Greek philosophy, which is as remarkable for its conceptual sophistication as for its labyrinthine style of composition. On Difficulties in Sacred Scripture, presented here for the first time in a complete English translation (including the 465 scholia), contains Maximos’s virtuosic theological interpretations of sixty-five difficult passages from the Old and New Testaments. Because of its great length, along with its linguistic and conceptual difficulty, the work as a whole has been largely neglected. Yet alongside the Ambigua to John, On Difficulties in Sacred Scripture: The Responses to Thalassios deserves to be ranked as the Confessor’s greatest work and one of the most important patristic treatises on the interpretation of Scripture, combining the interconnected traditions of monastic devotion to the Bible, the biblical exegesis of Origen, the sophisticated symbolic theology of Dionysius the Areopagite, and the rich spiritual anthropology of Greek Christian asceticism inspired by the Cappadocian Fathers.
""At the time of writing, merely one month after its publication date, the first run of the Responses to Thalassios has already sold out, something without precedent in the history of the Fathers of the Church Patristic Series… It seems fair to say that the Responses to Thalassios is the most important example of one of the last major works of patristic allegorical/anagogical exegesis...This translation is a considerable boost for patristic studies in general and for Maximian studies in particular. It is true that even scholars and specialists are introduced to texts through translations, to say nothing of those for whom Maximos’ Greek, which is among the most difficult in all patristic literature, is virtually impenetrable. Although it would prima facie seem like one, it would not be an exaggeration to state that Maximos the Confessor, a very complex thinker with a particularly frustrating use of syntax, has found an ideal translator in Maximos Constas — something which should not be taken lightly...The introduction is arguably now the best introduction to Quaestiones ad Thalassium. Its chief contribution is the connection made between the problem of the passions and biblical hermeneutics, insofar as the passions constitute a hermeneutical crisis. While this element has been hinted at by earlier research (particularly Paul Blowers), it has not yet been fully fleshed out as it is in Constas’ lengthy introduction, where it emerges as the key to the whole work, which integrates the question of moral psychology with exegesis. Furthermore, the introduction’s discussion of Scripture and creation—especially on the book of nature—is now one of the better discussions available on these topics...Apart from this, the inclusion of the translated scholia is important and valuable, both for understanding the argument and for the reception of the work, since not all the scholia were written by Maximos. A good example of this—and there are many—is the second scholion to Question 2, which points out that the "particular and universals" in question are in fact the movement of multiple human wills to unity, which is not obvious from the text of the Question itself. Apart from Father Maximos Constas’ achievement both in translating and in annotating and introducing this book, Carole Monica Burnett’s good work in editing the volume has to be noted as well.""~Vigiliae Christianae