The Towers of Jerusalem and Ontological Presuppositions of Creation: Exegesis and Philosophy in Maximus the Confessor’ Quaestiones ad Thalassium

This paper examines Maximus the Confessor’s Quaestiones ad Thallasium 48, where an analogical exegesis of 2. Chronicles 26 is presented with the aim to provide an interpretation for the towers, gates and corners of Jerusalem. This paper argues that Maximus employs this biblical narrative in order to display the cosmological, epistemological and onto-logical presuppositions of creation. The paper will first focus on how Maximus interprets the biblical narrative in the context of the five cosmological divisions embedded in creation identifying them with corners or extremes. The corners are reconciled with Christ as the gate and are incorporated in the towers of divine meanings that correspond to the cosmos free from all divisions. In doing so, Maximus finds a scriptural basis for his views on the five divisions famously articulated in Ambiguum, 41. Second, the paper will turn to how Maximus identifies the towers with the knowledge of divine principles acquired through contemplation and the gates and corners with the combination of knowledge and virtue, highlighting the links of the biblical text with Maximus’ epistemological doctrine fully elaborated in Mystagogia 5. Third, it will be demonstrated that Maximus develops his interpretation of this biblical narrative along the lines of Neoplatonic logic. However, in contrast to modern Maximian scholarship, who considers that Maximus elucidates the onto-logical connection between individuals and universals by using the Porphyrian tree model, this paper will claim that he does so by applying the biblical terms ‘towers’, ‘gates’ and ‘corners’ to particulars, universals and middle terms. Finally, based on this analysis, it will be possible to demonstrate that Maximus’ exegesis deeply reflects his idea that the logoi of cosmos correspond to the logoi of scripture and that the key for understanding both is the incarnation of Christ.