Master Class on Maximus the Confessor

Jan 17, 2020
Gavin House
1220 E 58th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
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Fr. John BehrSt. Vladimir's Seminary


Open to current students and faculty. Copies of the readings will be provided to registrants.

St Maximus the Confessor is rapidly becoming one of the most studied of all early Christian theologians; the depths and richness of his writings and theology are being ever more appreciated. This masterclass will focus on one specific—and short—text, Ambiguum 41, perhaps the richest of them all and certainly the one for which is best known. It speaks of five fundamental differences or divisions within being, with the vocation of the human being to unite them: Uncreated and created; intelligible and sensible; heaven and earth; paradise and the inhabited world; male and female. We will work through the Greek text (with a parallel edition), and compare his treatment of the male/female distinction to that which we find in Gregory of Nyssa’s De Hominis Opificio.



  • Maximus the Confessor, Ambiguum 41 (PDF supplied) from Maximos the Confessor: On Difficulties in the Church Fathers: The Ambigua, ed. and trans. Nicholas Constas, Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library, 2 volumes (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2014)
  • Gregory of Nyssa, On the Making of Man (PDF supplied)


Suggested Background Reading:

  • Paul Blowers, Maximus the Confessor: Jesus Christ and the Transfiguration of the World (Oxford: OUP, 2016).
  • L. Thunberg, Microcosm and Mediator: The Theological Anthropology of Maximus the Confessor, 2nd edn. (Open Court Publishing Co. 1995).
  • Torstein Theodor Tollefsen, The Christocentric Cosmology of St. Maximus the Confessor, OECS (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).
  • Melchisedec Törönen, Union and Distinction in the Thought of St. Maximus the Confessor, OECS (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).



1:30pm Coffee, Tea, & Pastries
2:00pm Session I
3:25pm Break
3:35pm Session II
5:00pm End, Wine & Cheese reception


Fr. Behr will also give a lecture on January 16 on Becoming Human in the Light of the Gospel of John.

Fr. John Behr is the Fr Georges Florovsky Distinguished Professor of Patristics at St Vladimir’s Seminary, where he served as Dean from 2007-17, and the Metropolitan Kallistos Chair of Orthodox Theology at the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam; from the summer of 2020 he will be the Regius Professor of Humanity at the University of Aberdeen. His early work was on asceticism and anthropology, focusing on St Irenaeus of Lyons and Clement of Alexandria (OUP 2000). He is writing a series of books on “The Formation of Christian Theology”, two volumes of which have already appeared: vol. 1, The Way to Nicaea (SVS Press 2001) and vol. 2 The Nicene Faith (SVS Press 2003). On the basis of these two volumes, he published a synthetic work, The Mystery of Christ: Life in Death (SVS 2006). This was followed by an edition and translation of the fragments of Diodore of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia, setting them in their historical and theological context (OUP 2011). More recently Fr John published a more poetic and meditative work entitled Becoming Human: Theological Anthropology in Word and Image (SVS Press, 2013) and a full study of St Irenaeus: St Irenaeus of Lyons: Identifying Christianity (OUP, 2013). Most recently he has completed a new critical edition and translation of Origen’s On First Principles, together with an extensive introduction, for OUP (2017), and John the Theologian and His Paschal Gospel: A Prologue to Theology (OUP 2019). He is currently working on a new edition and translation of On the Making of the Human Being by Gregory of Nyssa and a new edition and translation of the works of Irenaeus, both for OUP.