Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Despina Prassas - St. Maximus the Confessor's Quaestiones et dubia: Possible Rabbinic Sources

The interpretative style of Maximus the Confessor is something of a mixture of literal, allegorical, anagogical, tropological, and ascetical.  Yet, in the Quaestiones et dubia, to draw from Manlio Simonetti’s writing on biblical interpretation, the Confessor applies “scripture to the various circumstances of the community’s life . . . so as to adapt it to the needs and purposes with which it may not have had an immediate or obvious link.” In his interpretation of biblical and patristic texts, Maximus attempted to respond to questions that arose from the practical application of a text to the everyday life of the monastic community.  The ultimate goal was to educate his reader, where the word ‘educate’ could be understood in a variety of ways. Yet his scriptural interpretation was not entirely original.  Text studies have shown the similarities between Maximus’s interpretations and those of Origen, Evagrius and Didymus. Were there any other sources of his interpretations?   

During the first six hundred years of the Common Era, Jewish scholars used a variety of methods to comment on the understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures.  By 200 CE, these interpretations had been recorded into the Midrash, which is not only a collection of interpretations but a commentary on the process of the way in which the scholars at the time read scripture.   While the development of the middoh (primarily of Hillel and Eliezer) were highly influential in the way in which scripture would be interpreted, this paper will focus on the content of the interpretations, specifically those of Genesis and the similarities between the Genesis Rabbah and Maximus’s Quaestiones et dubia.  This paper will also address potential implications of this work  with regard to the question of the two vitae and the accessibility of rabbinic sources.  

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