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Denying DivinityApophasis in the Patristic Christian and Soto Zen Buddhist Traditions$
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J. P. Williams

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780198269991

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198269991.001.0001

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Maximus the Confessor

Maximus the Confessor

(p.93) 5 Maximus the Confessor
Denying Divinity

J. P. Williams

Oxford University Press

This chapter presents a reading of Maximus the Confessor's apophatic theology based on a broad spectrum of his writings. It focuses on three texts that offer slightly different versions of a distinction between two ways of approaching the divine. First, in a celebrated passage from the tenth of the Ambigua, Maximus divides theology into two ‘universal modes’: one that ‘goes first, is simple, and does not refer to the divine as cause’ , and another that is ‘secondary and composite, gleaning a faint indication of the divine from its effects’. Several Dionysian themes are reprised: the uncertain tension between apophasis and silence, and the connection between kataphasis and the divine as Cause. In the paradoxical suggestion that, while affirmations about the divine drawn from its effects may have some value, the ‘true’ affirmations are derived from apophasis, one is reminded of the obverse link made by Dionysius in the fourth Letter: that ‘every affirmation regarding Jesus’ love for humanity has the force of a negation pointing towards transcendence’.

Keywords:   Maximus the Confessor, apophasis, apophatic theology, divine, silence, kataphasis, affirmation, negation, Dionysius, transcendence

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