Maximos the Confessor on Male and Female: A Review of "Origen's Revenge" (Part 2)

Updated: Jan 7

Jordan Parro, Boston College


This is the second of a two-part review. Read Part 1 here.


In part one of this review, I gave a general overview of Brian Patrick Mitchell’s recent book Origen’s Revenge: The Greek and Hebrew Roots of Christian Thinking on Male and Female, and gestured at some of the strengths, weaknesses, and limitations of his thesis. In that review, I bracketed Mitchell’s treatment of Maximus the Confessor’s understanding of male and female, since it is one of the more contested elements of Mitchell’s argument. In what follows, I examine Mitchell’s reading of Maximus and some of the limitations of his interpretation, especially as they relate to the place of sexual difference in the eschaton.



Introduction


In the last seventy-five years, the works of Maximus the Confessor have garnered renewed and vigorous scholarly attention. Only within the last decade however have Maximus’ magna opera (the theological tour de force known as the Ambigua and the Responses to the Questions of Thalassius, the apogee of the Confessor’s scriptural exegesis) become available to the anglophone world in their entirety.[1] As a result, the emerging secondary literature on Maximus is becoming vast. The major studies on Maximus from the last several decades (e.g., by Sherwood, Thunberg, von Balthasar, Blowers, and others) have all addressed Maximus’ teaching on male and female in varying degrees of depth.[2] To be clear, Origen’s Revenge is not about Maximus per se. Neither is it about Origen, as the title might suggest. Rather, Maximus is identified in Mitchell’s discussion as the most developed proponent of a pernicious “anti-sex” tradition that Christianity inherited through a nexus of inlets, including Hellenized Jewish writings, pagan converts to Christianity, and especially gnostic-leaning Christian intellectuals like Origen. Mitchell’s reading of Maximus is thus central to his thesis. As the most recent entry in this contested dialogue on sexual difference, Origen’s Revenge demonstrates that Maximus’ teaching on male and female, especially in Ambiguum 41, will continue to be a locus of scholarly and theological engagement.



Mitchell’s Reading of Maximus


Mitchell understands Maximus to teach that, in light of Galatians 3:28 (“There is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus”), God will purge or destroy bodily difference between male and female in the eschaton, making all people into sexless humans. To Mitchell, this reading is consistent with the Hellenistic anti-sex bias he sees in Maximus that characterizes sexual difference as an accidental bodily feature that “exists solely for the sake of sexual reproduction” (p. xxv). In Mitchell’s genealogy, Maximus (and his predecessors) uncritically adopted this negative view resulting in the Confessor’s speculation that there would be an eschatological elimination of sexual difference. Maximus’ anthropology is so tainted, in Mitchell’s view, that Mitchell accuses the Confessor of “always ignoring the context and literal meaning of [Galatians 3:28]” (p. 146) in order to advance his view that there will be no gender in the eschaton. Mitchell bases this claim about Maximus on his reading of Ambiguum 41, in which Maximus writes that it is mankind’s vocation to achieve union with God in the eschaton by


completely shaking off from nature, by means of a supremely dispassionate condition of divine virtue, the property of male and female which in no way was linked to the original principle of the divine plan concerning human generation, so that he might be shown forth as, and become solely a human being according to the divine plan, not divided by the designation of male and female.[3]


This passage is challenging to interpret, since only a few lines earlier Maximus appears to claim that the division into male and female is something God intended as an important step on the human path toward deification.[4] Perhaps the first challenge of reading Maximus here is how to resolve this apparent contradiction. As Mitchell acknowledges, much modern scholarship does not take Maximus to be speaking about literal bodily difference here. The question then arises: Why have so many scholars favored other interpretations? But rather than give the scholarship a fulsome hearing and then argue for a particular interpretation (as he does quite deftly on the topic of ‘pre-existence’ in Origen), Mitchell’s evaluation of scholarly division on this topic rings only a single note, namely, that Maximus scholars who do not interpret Maximus literally have failed to take Maximus seriously (pp. 9-10).


One difficult aspect of Ambiguum 41 is that although the text gestures at Maximus’ protology, the text itself is exceedingly Christological. In Ambiguum 41, Maximus presents a cosmological history in which God creates the world through five primordial divisions beginning with the division between creator and creature and terminating in the division between male and female. According to Maximus, it is the human person’s vocation to unite these divisions in ascending order until he unites the creator/creature division by his own deification. The central thesis of Ambiguum 41 is that Christ has succeeded where Adam failed. Since in uniting the other four divisions Christ does not destroy them, Mitchell must argue that bodily sexual difference is a special case that requires destruction. Mitchell writes that in Maximus, “Christ himself […] does not ‘unite’ male and female” (p. 145), rather, Christ “destroys and replaces” human nature “with the sexless nature that [God] originally intended” (p. 146). Mitchell points to the Maximian language of “driving out” (ἐξωθούμενος) the difference between male and female (Amb. 41.7) to argue that Christ’s salvific work cannot unify and preserve the difference between male and female as it can with the other divisions.


Mitchell’s reading here is not impossible, but it does take upon itself the burden of reconciling why Maximus seems to suggest that male and female can be unified. Maximus begins the very paragraph that Mitchell cites in defense of his own reading (Amb. 41.7)[5] by explaining that in the incarnation Christ was “initiating the universal union [emphasis mine] of all things in Himself, beginning with our own division,”[6] i.e., the division of male and female. This union appears necessary to Maximus’ anthropology, as articulated in the following passage:


This is why man was introduced last among beings…so that, by making of his own division [into male and female] a beginning of unity [emphasis mine] which gathers up all things to God their Author, and proceeding by order and rank through the mean terms, he might reach the limit of sublime ascent that comes about through the union of all things in God, in whom there is no division.[7]


Mitchell is not wrong to call attention to the language of “driving out” or “shaking off” (ἐκτιναξάμενος)[8] the division of male and female. However, the claim that this “driving out” replaces or excludes a concept of union is simply not found in the text.


While there certainly are undeniable eschatological implications for Maximus’ understanding of Christ, there is also a sense in which the driving out of male and female has already been accomplished in Christ. Maximus explains that Christ’s virginal conception and birth “drove out from nature the difference and division into male and female.”[9] This passage is also difficult to interpret, but if Maximus understands Christ’s virgin birth as having driven out the difference between male and female, and the terms “male” and “female” refer to literal bodily difference (as Mitchell contends), the question remains for Mitchell: What does it mean to take Maximus seriously, and indeed, literally here? How does the virgin birth literally destroy sexual difference? Does it require that Christ was sexless at birth, or perhaps after the resurrection? Further, what does Maximus mean when he claims that divine virtue and dispassion are the means by which this “shaking off” of male and female occurs? Regrettably, as much as Maximus represents the definitive anti-sex position for Mitchell, Origen’s Revenge never addresses how Mitchell’s interpretation of Maximus can be read consistently with and provide explanatory value for Ambiguum 41 more broadly.


Even scholars who agree with the destruction/purgation reading of Maximus have noted that Maximus’ concept of union rarely entails the actual destruction of parts.[10] This is due to the fact that, contra Mitchell, Maximus exhibits a particularly high view of both materiality and human bodies.[11] Hans Urs von Balthasar remarked that the way in which Maximus surpasses his predecessors in his esteem of the material “may be the most astonishing thing”[12] in the Maximian corpus, achieving a striking “balance” of spiritual and material, and presenting an “uncanny reciprocal reflectivity of intellect and matter.”[13] Maximus does not relegate this high view of materiality and the body to speculative theology alone. In his Responses to the Questions of Thalassius, Maximus offers an anagogical interpretation of the biblical practice of circumcision in which he explicitly denies that the human body needs to be reduced in order to achieve perfection.


For we know that, when we approach these things from the point of view of nature, perfection is not found in the cutting away or reduction of the fullness given to nature by God (because a nature mutilated by human craft or contrivance adds nothing to the perfection given to it by God in terms of the principle of its creation).[14]


Here, Maximus attributes a certain kind of perfection to the sexed body that circumcision simultaneously threatens and teaches.


Maximus envisions that the body will endure in the eschaton as a fundamental component of theosis. “The result [of divinization] is that God alone shines through both the soul and body, when their natural identifying marks are overcome by an excess of glory.”[15] What is central to Maximus’ thought is the epistemological function of bodies—that our bodies in the eschaton will not be known by their sensible parts, not because God has removed those parts, but because they become completely transparent to divinity. Maximus elaborates on this epistemological aspect of theosis in the Centuries on Charity. He writes that,


He who is perfect in love and has attained the summit of detachment knows no difference between “mine and thine,” between faithful and unfaithful, between slave and freeman, or indeed between male and female. Having risen above the tyranny of the passions and looking to nature, one in all men, he considers all equally and is disposed equally toward all. For in Him there is neither Greek nor Jew, neither male nor female, neither slave nor freeman, but everything and in all things is Christ.[16]


Here again, Maximus connects being “neither male nor female” to dispassion. A dispassionate person looks beyond our sensible differences toward the unity of our common humanity in Christ—a unity that does not, in this instance, require sexual purgation.[17] Maximus is concerned with how it is that, both in this life and in the eschaton, our bodies reveal God. A persuasive argument for Mitchell’s case would therefore require a demonstration of how he reconciles his reading of Maximus, as deprecating materiality and the body, with Maximus’ own words, which, as most secondary scholarship has acknowledged, appear to point in an ambivalent, if not contradictory, direction. But the absence of such a supporting argument is a conspicuous lacuna in Origen’s Revenge.



Ways of Reading “Male” and “Female”


How have other scholars justified a more figurative reading of the terms “male” and “female” in Maximus? Thunberg, noting earlier Platonic motifs, interprets Maximus as having “spiritualized” the concepts of male and female, making them metaphors for anger (θυμός) and desire (ἐπιθυμία), the characteristic masculine and feminine passions in Hellenic anthropology.[18] Thunberg’s reading, though it is not definitive on its own, is attractive, as it explains why Maximus so often connects dispassion to his reading of Galatians 3:28. Mitchell is aware of the prior philosophical tradition of male and female as metaphors for anger and desire (p. 9) but offers no explanation of how that history is or is not present in Maximus (though he acknowledges it in other patristic authors) (p. 170). But Thunberg had good reason to interpret the Confessor in this way, since Maximus, in his Commentary on the Lord’s Prayer, explicitly interprets “male” and “female” in Galatians 3:28 as referring to the sinful passions of anger and desire. The Confessor writes concerning those who attain the virtue of meekness that “in this configuration, says the divine Apostle, ‘there is neither male nor female,’ that is to say, neither anger nor desire.”[19] Maximus goes on to elaborate that the virtuous soul in Christ becomes free of the passions and that Christ’s own freedom from such passion is what Paul is describing in Galatians 3:28.[20] Mitchell never addresses the implications of this important intertext for his thesis. He nevertheless criticizes Thunberg for being reticent to cite Maximus outright, supposing that he was preoccupied to defend the Confessor against the charge of encratism. Mitchell writes that Thunberg “avoids quoting Maximus’s own words on the subject and does not acknowledge the vehemence of Maximus’s treatment of male and female…” (p. 9) Here, however, it is Mitchell who appears reticent to quote Maximus.


Other problems that arise in Mitchell’s treatment of Maximus in Origen’s Revenge have more to do with method than with content. As others have noted, the systematic coherence of Maximus’ thinking “falls far short of appearing as a system in his own writings.”[21] This particular feature of the Confessor’s thought is problematic for Mitchell’s close reading of Ambiguum 41, since Maximus’ teachings on a single topic are often spread over a large number of works. One notable oversight occurs when Mitchell incorrectly claims that Maximus merely tolerates marriage and the “beastly and inhuman” phenomenon of sexual reproduction (p. 144), “never actually saying that [marriage and procreation are] not evil,” (p. 144). However, Maximus does explicitly deny that reproduction is evil in the Centuries on Charity.[22]


Mitchell’s criticisms are also sometimes at odds with each other. As we have seen, Mitchell accuses Maximus of “ignoring” the literal meaning of Galatians 3:28 because he is beholden to the “allegorizing, Platonizing, Alexandrian tradition begun by Philo… and embedded in Christian thinking by Origen” (p. 140). But there is hardly a more literal reading imaginable than the one Mitchell attributes to Maximus. What could be a less allegorical reading than the destruction/purgation hypothesis as Mitchell has advanced it? Ironically, the spiritualized reading that Thunberg offers would actually support Mitchell’s case that Maximus was following Origen down the dangerous road of allegory and ignoring the biblical praise of male and female. And yet, Mitchell’s reading of Maximus must ironically presume that the Confessor abandoned the possibility of allegorical exegesis in only this one instance, to interpret Galatians 3:28 exclusively, and in fact overly, literally. Mitchell justifies this contradiction by begging the question of his own thesis, namely that Maximus has absorbed an anti-sex, anti-body worldview from the Alexandrians. In the end, this is a peculiar thesis not because Maximus is untouched by philosophical thinking, but because what distinguishes him in many ways from his Hellenic influences is his radical positivity toward materiality and the body, as others have noted.



Conclusion


Maximus’ two largest and most penetrating theological works deal with “ambigua” or difficulties in making sense of patristic and scriptural sources. In many ways, Origen’s Revenge is a deeply Maximian project, attempting to make sense of ambiguous and difficult teachings in the Church Fathers. Mitchell’s shortcoming in his handling of Maximus the Confessor is not that the destruction/purgation hypothesis is untenable on its face. There are, after all, some scholars who agree that the elimination of bodily sexual difference is a logical conclusion of Maximus’ anthropology.[23] The problem arises, however, when we try to reconcile this interpretation with what Maximus says elsewhere in his writings, and in terms of his broader theological vision.


In this review I have not attempted to argue in favor of a spiritualized reading of “male” and “female” in Maximus, nor have I argued against the destruction/purgation reading. Mitchell’s stance is that Maximus’ deleterious speculations about the eschatological destruction of sexual difference are “much plainer [and] bolder” (p. 150) than those “Greek” Christians who preceded him.[24] However, Maximus is perhaps the most sophisticated thinker of the patristic era, and the labyrinthine manner in which he presents his thought often makes his meaning opaque even to careful readers. What I have presented here are simply examples from Maximus’ corpus that complicate Mitchell’s claims. By drawing attention to these texts, I hope to have gestured at what sorts of questions must be answered prior to, or even simultaneously with, an interpretation of Ambiguum 41. To give an exhaustive account of Maximus’ understanding of male and female would require a profound work of synthesis clarifying a plethora of ambiguities. What seems clear is that Origen’s Revenge is not a work that can, on its own, advance answers to these or related questions and thus will not likely prove valuable to Maximus scholars.


Parro, Review of Origen's Revenge, Part 2
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Read Part 1 of this Review here.

 

[1] The Greek text and English translation of the Ambigua to Thomas and the Ambigua to John, known collectively as the Ambigua, are found in Maximos the Confessor, On Difficulties in the Church Fathers: The Ambigua, trans. Nicholas (Maximos) Constas, 2 vols., Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 28-29 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014). The English translation of the Responses is available in Maximus the Confessor, On Difficulties in Sacred Scripture: The Responses to Thalassios, trans. Fr. Maximos Constas, Fathers of the Church 136 (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2018).


[2] Polycarp Sherwood, The Earlier Ambigua of Saint Maximus the Confessor and His Refutation of Origenism, Studia Anselmiana, Philosophica, Theologica (Rome: Orbis Catholicus Herder, 1955); Lars Thunberg, Microcosm and Mediator: The Theological Anthropology of Maximus the Confessor, 2nd ed. (Chicago, IL: Open Court, 1995); Hans Urs von Balthasar, Cosmic Liturgy: The Universe According to Maximus the Confessor, trans. Brian E. Daley (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2003); Paul M. Blowers, Maximus the Confessor: Jesus Christ and the Transfiguration of the World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016).


[3] Amb. 41.3; DOML 29:105.


[4] Amb. 41.1-2, DOML 29:102-104.


[5] DOML 29:111.


[6] DOML 29:111.


[7] Amb. 41.3, DOML 29:105.


[8] In On the Inscriptions of the Psalms, 1.52, Gregory of Nyssa uses this same word to describe how Moses “shook off” his royal Egyptian dignity when he left Egypt. For the English translation, see Ronald E. Heine, Gregory of Nyssa's Treatise on the Inscriptions of the Psalms (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 101. The Greek text can be found in J. McDonough, Gregorii Nysseni opera, vol. 5 (Leiden: Brill, 1962), 41. “He willingly shook off his royal dignity like so much dust which is stripped off by the stomping of the feet. He banished himself from human society for forty years and lived alone, focusing steadfastly in undistracted solitude on the contemplation of invisible things. After this he was illuminated by the inexpressible light, and freed the lower part of his soul from the dead garment made of skin” (οἷος ἦν Μωυσῆς ἐκεῖνος ὁ ὑψηλός, ὃν ἀκούομεν, ὁ τὴν βασιλικὴν ἀξίαν καθάπερ τινὰ κόνιν περισπασθεῖσαν τῇ βάσει τῶν ποδῶν ἑκουσίως ἐκτιναξάμενος· ὁ τεσσαράκοντα ἔτεσι τῆς μετὰ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἐπιμιξίας ἑαυτὸν ἀποικίσας καὶ μόνος μόνῳ συζῶν ἑαυτῷ καὶ διὰ ἡσυχίας ἀμετεωρίστως τῇ θεωρίᾳ τῶν ἀοράτων ἐνατενίζων· ὁ τῷ φωτὶ μετὰ ταῦτα τῷ ἀρρήτῳ καταυγασθεὶς καὶ τῆς δερματίνης τε καὶ νεκρᾶς περιβολῆς ἐκλύσας τῆς ψυχῆς τὴν βάσιν).


[9] Amb 41.7, DOML 2:111.


[10] Emma Brown Dewhurst, "The Absence of Sexual Difference in the Theology of Maximus the Confessor," Philosophy and Society 32.2 (2021): 208.


[11] In his Mystagogy, Maximus explains that “it is necessary that [the visible and invisible] things that signify one another possess entirely true and distinct reflections of one another and an unbroken relationship with these reflections.” (Myst. 2, trans. Jonathan J. Armstrong, On the Ecclesiastical Mystagogy, Popular Patristics, (Yonkers, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2019), 56-57. Armstrong’s translation features the Greek text edited by Christian Boudignon in CCSG 69 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2011): Δεῖ γὰρ τὰ ἀλλήλων ὄντα δηλωτικὰ πάντως ἀληθεῖς καὶ ἀριδήλους τὰς ἀλλήλων ἔχειν ἐμφάσεις καὶ τὴν ἐπ’ αὐταῖς σχέσιν ἀλώβητον. While Maximus orders spiritual realties above the material (as was common for virtually all patristic authors), he is adamant that the material world, including bodies, and the spiritual world are contained within each other and manifest one another as if “imprinted” (τυπούμενος) onto one another (Myst. 2; Armstrong, 56).


[12] Balthasar, Cosmic Liturgy: The Universe According to Maximus the Confessor, 176.


[13] Balthasar, Cosmic Liturgy: The Universe According to Maximus the Confessor, 176.


[14] Maximus the Confessor, Responses to Thalassios 65.20 (Contas, 534). Greek in C. Laga and C. Steel, Maximi confessoris quaestiones ad Thalassium, 2 vols., CCSG 7 and 22 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1980-1990), 22:279: Οἴδαμεν γάρ, φυσικῶς ἐπιβάλλοντες τοῖς πράγμασιν, ὡς οὐκ ἔστι τελειότης ἡ τῆς ἐκ θεοῦ κατὰ φύσιν ἀρτιότητος περιαίρεσις—οὐ γὰρ ποιεῖ τελειότητα φύσις διὰ τέχνης κολοβουμένη καὶ διὰ περινοίας ἀποτιθεμένη τὸ προσὸν αὐτῇ θεόθεν κατὰ λόγον δημιουργίας.


[15] Maximus, Chapters on Theology 2.88 (PG 90:1168AB), trans. Luis Joshua Salés Saint Maximus the Confessor: Two Hundred Chapters on Theology (Yonkers, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2015), 170-71. Cf. Amb. 7.26. Describing the final state of creation Maximus writes: “For God in His fullness entirely permeates them, as a soul permeates the body, since they are to serve as His own members... filling them with His own glory and blessedness... He will likewise be present in the body (in a manner that He knows), so that the soul will receive immutability and the body immortality. In this way, man as a whole will be divinized, being made God by the grace of God who became man” (DOML 28:113).


[16] Maximus. Four Centuries on Charity 2.30, trans. Polycarp Sherwood, The Ascetic Life and The Four Centuries on Charity, Ancient Christian Writers (New York: Newman Press, 1978), 158. Ὁ τέλειος ἐν ἀγάπῃ καὶ εἰς ἄκρον ἀπαθείας ἐλθὼν οὐκ ἐπίσταται διαφορὰν ἰδίου καὶ ἀλλοτρίου ἢ ἰδίας καὶ ἀλλοτρίας ἢ πιστοῦ καὶ ἀπίστου ἢ δούλου καὶ ἐλευθέρου ἢ ὅλως ἄρσενος καὶ θηλείας· ἀλλ’ ἀνώτερος τῆς τῶν παθῶν τυραννίδος γενόμενος καὶ εἰς τὴν μίαν φύσιν τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἀποβλεπόμενος, πάντας ἐξ ἴσου θεωρεῖ καὶ πρὸς πάντας ἴσως διάκειται. Οὐκ ἔστι γὰρ ἐν αὐτῷ Ἕλλην καὶ Ἰουδαῖος οὐδὲ ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ οὐδὲ δοῦλος καὶ ἐλεύθερος, ἀλλὰ τὰ πάντα καὶ ἐν πᾶσι Χριστός (ed. Aldo Ceresa-Gastaldo, Massimo Confessore: Capitoli sulla Carità [Rome: Editrice Studium, 1963], 106).


[17] Ironically, unity within a common nature is one of the features of “Hebrew” thinking on male and female according to Mitchell (Origen’s Revenge, 65).


[18] Thunberg, Microcosm and Mediator: The Theological Anthropology of Maximus the Confessor, 380. For the use of this metaphor in Plato, Philo, Clement of Alexandria see Constas, Responses to Thalassios, 270, n. 13.


[19] Maximus, Commentary on the Lord’s Prayer 4 (trans. [modified] George C. Berthold, Maximus Confessor: Selected Writings, The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1985), 108. I render the Greek ἐπιθυμία as “desire” for consistency. Berthold renders it “lust.” Greek edited by P. van Deun, Maximi confessoris opuscula exegetica duo, CCSG 23 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1991), 47: «Ἐν ᾗ» φησὶν ὁ θεῖος ἀπόστολος, «οὐκ ἔστιν ἄρρεν καὶ θῆλυ», τουτέστι θυμὸς καὶ ἐπιθυμία.


[20] Maximus, Commentary on the Lord’s Prayer 4 (Berthold, 110): “The passions associated with this generation and corruption, as I was saying, do not belong to Christ…if we can believe the one who says, ‘For in Christ there is neither male nor female,’ thus clearly indicating the characteristics and the passions of a nature subject to corruption and generation.”


[21] John Meyendorff, Christ in Eastern Christian Thought (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1975), 99.


[22] Maximus, Four Centuries on Charity 3.3-4 (Sherwood, 173). “The vices, whether of the concupiscible, the irascible, or the rational element come upon us with the misuse of the faculties of the souls…. If this is so, nothing created by God is evil. Food is not evil, but gluttony; nor is the begetting of children, but fornication…If this is so, nothing among creatures is evil except misuse which comes from the mind neglecting to cultivate itself as nature demands” (Κατὰ παράχρησιν αἱ κακίαι τῶν τῆς ψυχῆς δυνάμεων ἡμῖν ἐπισυμβαίνουσιν, οἷον τῆς τε ἐπιθυμητικῆς καὶ τῆς θυμοειδοῦς καὶ τῆς λογιστικῆς… εἰ δὲ τοῦτο, οὐδὲν τῶν ὑπὸ Θεοῦ κτισθέντων καὶ γεγονότων ἐστὶ κακόν. Οὐ τὰ βρώματα κακά, ἀλλ’ ἡ γαστριμαργία· οὐδὲ ἡ παιδοποιία…Εἰ δὲ τοῦτο, οὐδὲν ἐν τοῖς οὖσι κακόν, εἰ μὴ ἡ παράχρησις, ἥτις ἐπισυμβαίνει ἐκ τοῦ νοῦ ἀμελείας περὶ τὴν φυσικὴν γεωργίαν) (Ceresa-Gastaldo, 144).


[23] For those in favor of a more spiritualized reading see Blowers, Maximus the Confessor: Jesus Christ and the Transfiguration of the World; Thunberg, Microcosm and Mediator : The Theological Anthropology of Maximus the Confessor; Adam G. Cooper, The Body in St. Maximus the Confessor : Holy Flesh, Wholly Deified (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Verna E. F. Harrison, "Gender, Generation, and Virginity in Cappadocian Theology," The Journal of Theological Studies 47, no. 1 (1996). For those who think sexual purgation more likely see Sotiris Mitralexis, "Rethinking the Problem of Sexual Difference in Ambiguum 41," Analogia : The Pemptousia Journal for Theological Studies 2, no. 01 (2017); Karolina Kochańczyk-Bonińska, "The Philosophical Basis of Maximus’ Concept of Sexes: The Reasons and Purposes of the Distinction Between Man and Woman," in Maximus the Confessor as a European Philosopher, ed. Sotiris Mitralexis, Georgios Steiris, and Marcin Podbielski (Eugene: 2017); Dewhurst, "The Absence of Sexual Difference in the Theology of Maximus the Confessor." One of the first focused explorations of Maximus’ teaching on male/female that advanced the destruction/purgation hypothesis was Cameron Partridge’s "Transfiguring Sexual Difference in Maximus the Confessor" (ThD Dissertation, Harvard University, 2008). Mitchell does not seem to be aware of Partridge’s work.


[24] For Mitchell’s unique use of the term “Greek Christian” see part one of this review.