Friday, 24 May 2019

Sebastian Mateiescu: Maximus the Confessor on the Chalcedonian manner of interpreting differentia

Among the various terminological disagreements that have marked the early Christological debates, the one concerning the status of the difference (διαφορά) between the divine and human natures of Christ become a turning point during sixth and seventh century Byzantium. In general, the Chalcedonians interpreted differentia as a real feature of nature which is preserved after Incarnation, whereas the anti-Chalcedonians granted differentia a conceptual status after the union of the two natures in Christ. This paper analyzes Maximus the Confessor’s reception of these debates on differentia and holds, against the accepted view, that the issue was a matter of philosophical interpretation rather than a linguistic misunderstanding. The argument will uncover Maximus’ allegiance to the Athenian school of philosophy that interpreted differentia as an intermediate between quality and substance, whereas the Anti-Chalcedonians’ influence from the Alexandrian school that constructed differentia as a ‘substantial’ completer of being will be attested with references to Severus of Antioch and John Philoponus. By placing these debates against the traditional philosophical classification of differentia into substance or quality as their key terminological source, this approach will highlight the importance of the philosophical vocabulary as a neutral terrain on which these theological arguments can be reconstructed and further put into dialogue. 

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