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Maximus of Jerusalem

Maximus (24), an ecclesiastical writer, placed by Eusebius (H. E. v. 27) in the reign of Severus and episcopate of Victor, i.e. in the last decade of 2nd cent. Eusebius says the subject of his work was the origin of evil and whether matter had been created, and elsewhere (Praep. Ev. vii. 22) entitles it, "Concerning Matter" (peri thV ulhV), and preserves a long extract, from which it appears to have been in dialogue form. Routh, whose Reliquiae Sacrae (ii. 87) is by far the best ed. of the remains of Maximus, pointed out that the same fragment is in the dialogue on free will ascribed to Methodius, and that other things are common to the work on free will and the dialogue of Origen against the Marcionites, so that both authors probably drew from Maximus. That the work is rightly ascribed to Maximus the testimony of Eusebius is decisive; and St. Jerome says in his Catalogue, that Methodius wrote on free will, while Photius has preserved large extracts from what he knew as the work of Methodius on free will, which clearly prove that it incorporated much of Maximus. The style, moreover, of the opening of the dialogue on free will resembles Methodius, and differs from that of the part concerning matter. We leave, then, to Methodius the rhetorical introduction to his dialogue, but the context appears clearly to shew that the part which belongs to Maximus begins earlier than the portion quoted by Eusebius and printed by Routh. It must include the statement of the views of the speaker, who maintains matter to have existed from eternity, destitute of qualities, and also the announcement of the presence of the third speaker, who afterwards takes up the controversy, on the hypothesis that matter had been from the first possessed of qualities. In Methodius, the defender of the eternity of matter is apparently represented as a Valentinian, for his speeches are marked Val.; and so also in Adamantius. In Maximus he seems to be no heretic, but a sincere inquirer after truth. He propounds the difficulty concerning the origin of evil; if evil was at any time created, then something came out of nothing, since evil did not exist before; and God Who created it must take pleasure in evil, which we cannot admit. He then offers the solution that, co-eternally with God, there existed matter, destitute of form or qualities, and borne about in a disorderly manner; that God took pity on it, separated the best parts from the worst, reduced the former to order, and left the latter behind as being of no use to Him for His work, and that from these lees of matter evil sprang. The most successful part of the orthodox speaker's reply is where he shews that this hypothesis does not relieve God of the charge of being the author of evil.

Galland conjectures that the author of the dialogue is the Maximus who was 26th bp. of Jerusalem, and whom Eusebius, in his Chronicle, places about the reign of Commodus. It does not absolutely disprove this, that Eusebius, though he twice speaks of the writings of Maximus, does not mention that he was a bishop; probably Eusebius found in the book he used no mention of the author's dignity, and knew no more than we do whether he was the bp. of Jerusalem. But there seems increasing reason to think that Eusebius erroneously attributed to Maximus the work of Methodius: see Zahn in Zeitschr. für Kirchengesch. ix. 224-229, and J. A. Robinson, The Philocalia of Origen (Camb. 1893), pp. xl.-xlix.


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Kirby, Peter. "Historical Jesus Theories." Early Christian Writings. <>.