Inspired Text, or Inspired Author? Theosis to Write, Theosis to Interpret in Maximos the Confessor

As with most of his Ambigua, Maximos the Confessor (580-662 C.E.) devotes his tenth Ambiguum to explicating a passage from Gregory Nazianzen. One of Maximos’ chief aims is to explicate how reason and contemplation must pass, as Gregory says, through a cloud or veil to achieve union with God. He argues that the saints, including many from the Old Testament, have reached this union, theosis, but lingers on the disciples who were present at Christ’s Transfiguration (Peter, James, and John). For Maximos, the glory of the Lord is what begets knowledge, and in this case, it illuminated the disciples, unveiling both the witness of Scripture and creation. Divine glory, for Maximos, not only inspired the disciples to read their Scriptures, but it also inspired them with further revelation. Maximos’ argument about inspiration emerges from the matrix of his exegesis and understanding of theosis. In this study, I make two arguments about the tenth Ambiguum. First, Maximos’ understanding of inspiration is relatable. By this, I mean to say that he places the three disciples on the same plane as any human who undergoes theosis. Thus, to speak of the Scriptures as inspired, for Maximos, is as much of a reflection on the texts’ authors as it is about the texts themselves. Second, while it is only the Synoptic Gospels that narrate the Transfiguration, Maximos prioritizes John’s Gospel and author in his discussion on divinized interpretation and revelation. Maximus communicates much of the content revealed by Christ’s transfigured glory in the grammar of John’s Gospel. Further, he reflects not only on the nature of inspiration as such, but particularly the inspiration of a particular author and human, John. In this sense, he finds a kindred spirit in Augustine, whose reading of John’s Gospel also prioritizes theosis.