This is a critical look at the references and controversies regarding Origen on the gift of tongues.
This work was produced because there is so much contradictory often even misleading statements concerning Origen’s position. It necessitated a closer look into all the available materials made by Origen on the subject in order to arrive at a definitive conclusion.
This work is divided into 9 sections. Click on the header of the section to read its contents.
The divergent opinions about Origen can be found in the most dominant pieces of religious literature and these contradictory opinions create more problems than solutions. There are many examples. For instance Cleon Rogers Jr. stated in the well-known Bibliothecra Sacra that Origen wrote nothing on it, while C.M. Robeck Jr. believed it to be for cross-cultural preaching. T.C. Edwards believed Origen along with other Church Fathers indicated that it was no longer in existence in the third century, to which R. Leonard Carrol wrote that Origen believed it did still occur.
Many modern writers have read Origen simply to find out if the gift had ceased or persisted like Richard Quibedeaux who concluded that Origen simply didn’t approve of the phenomenon,“Origen, in the third century, and Chrysostom, in the fourth, both disparaged the accounts of speaking in tongues, and rejected its continued validity.” However, this approach fails to recognize that Origen was seldom black and white in anything. Origen’s works are a complex mixture of Christian piety and philosophy along with a fundamental knowledge Jewish and Greek literature. He has to be understood on his own terms.
On the other hand a school of thought known as higher-criticism promoted tongues as an ecstatic utterance within the works of Origen. For example, Johannes Behm, author of the gift of tongues in the highly praised Theological Dictionary of the New Testament associated one of Origen’s sentences to mean that tongues was an ecstatic utterance. PKE Feine in the The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge also corroborates with a similar theme to Behm.
These differing conclusions demonstrate the need to examine Origen in a comprehensive and detailed way.
Origen lived around 185-254 AD and is traditionally held that he lived in Alexandria, Egypt. His works are one of the few pre-300 AD Patristic publications available today. Because of this, his works hold special interest. Origen had a broad range of competencies: from the the use of the Hebrew language to Greek philosophy, and this was reflected in his writings. He used Neo-Platonist and Neo-Pythagorean frameworks to interpret Scripture. This has to be understood in approaching, translating and explaining the results of his writings concerning the gift of tongues.
The methodology used to discover Origen’s position was fourfold. First it was to collate a comprehensive corpus of materials by Origen on the subject from the available Latin and Greek texts, which was completed by visually scanning each page of the Origen writings found in Migne Patrologia Graeca and two medieval texts known as the Corinthian Catena attributed to him as the author. Secondly it was to translate them into English with critical notes. Third, it was to compare any existing popular traditional English translations with my translations. This will answer two important questions: have the past translations and the lack of comprehensiveness misled readers in his intent? Does the translation clearly portray what Origen intended? Last of all this is a literary approach using historical-criticism. It is not to look for texts that validate modern-day conservative or pentecostal theologies. It is to pursue Origen speaking on his own terms which may or may not line-up with our present day theologies.
There is an important note on the following English translations provided by me. Some small pieces appear to be rough or almost a machine-like translation. This is done on-purpose. This means the translation has a degree of difficulty, debate or controversy that cannot be easily translated or understood, so it remains in a static translation.
Translating Origen is not a simple task. The Greek that the manuscripts are supplied in has its own regional style, use and vocabulary which is consistent with other texts influenced by those who had a close connection to the Christian centre of Alexandria, Egypt. Some words are rare and the only the usage can be found in John Chrysostom’s works. A number of key-words are lacking in the source dictionaries. In many portions of Migne Patrologia Graeca, the aide of the Latin parallel text allows one to often lean on the Latin for translation or at least have a good source to compare against. In Origen, there are many locations where there was no Latin parallel. So this made the task even more challenging.
Where there are Bible quotations within the Origen texts, it was initially intended to simply insert the English from either the New American Standard Bible with the Greek texts or the Douay-Rheims version with the Latin version. On many occasions where there are no textual problems, this is defaulted to, but in many other situations this was not tenable. The Bible citations made by Origen are translated by myself as well with an attempt to capture the nuances of his text and how it slightly differs from ours.
The following English translations are works by myself unless otherwise specified.
Below is a list of the passages that Origen wrote, or other writers have attributed to being a tongues sequence by Origen that will be translated, analyzed and compared.
3. In Jeremiah Homilia
MPG. Vol. 13. Col. 384ff.
This text relates to the division of languages as described in the Book of Genesis. The Genesis account of language division was an important passage to many Church fathers who built a framework for defining the tongues phenomenon.
“For that reason also at that time men were not moving from the east, nor had God scattered them. When at that time they were moving from the east and a man said to his neighbour, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven” (NASB). God speaksconcerning these things. “Come and going down, let us confuse there their language.” And each one is scattered upon a certain place of the earth. The people, the one of Israel who were in Judaea, indeed was not sinning. The one who had sinned indeed is being confounded [and] then is scattered everywhere from the inhabited world. Understand such a thing about me and about all of us. Some in the Church of the first born ones having been registered their name in heaven, in which [is] mount Zion and the living city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem.”
This interpretation reflects an old Christian tradition. A number of other Church Fathers interpreted this passage to mean that all the people spoke one language at Babel, and due to their sin, many languages came into being so that mankind could not universally participate in evil.
Secondly, his allusion to the pre-existence of Israel within the division of languages story in the book of Genesis causes some confusion. Israel had yet to exist as a person or race at the time of the dispersion at Babylon. Origen understood it in a Jewish context which believed Jerusalem pre-existed before the world was created. This can be found in Rabbinic thought. They taught that Jerusalem existed in heaven and a copy on earth. “The Jerusalem of this world is not like the Jerusalem in the next world [in Heaven] – The Jerusalem of this world, anyone who wants to ascend there, may ascend – but the one of the next world, only those who are prepared for it may ascend.”* (Talmud: Baba Batra 75b), and, “The Holy One, blessed be He, said, ‘I will not enter the heavenly Jerusalem until I can enter the earthly Jerusalem’. Is there then a heavenly Jerusalem? – Yes; for it is written, Jerusalem thou art builded as a city that is compact together” (Talmud-Ma. Ta’anith 5a). Origen was simply reaffirming the fact that the Jewish people and the city of Jerusalem were already ordained before the creation of the world. Their destiny was already chosen.
Last of all, Origen doesn’t make any unusual claims here at the division of languages that leads to any alternate solution what Luke or Paul wrote about.
4. Selecta in Ezechielem
MPG. Vol. 13. Chapter 3. Col. 773
This piece is remotely related to his concept of tongues but does provide some background.
“For you are not being sent to a people of unintelligible speech,” For if they were not having their words from above and their heart was their mouth through the height of perceptions and by no means should should you have entered into the house of Israel. But neither were the ones who have a difficult language. For their language and speech does not have anything heavy, ingenious or mature. These ones are of a vain language.
From whence the necessity that you let yourself go to those under your character. It was asked in praise, “unintelligible speech and difficult language.” For it was asked about these things. And now see whether about those from the gentiles, those other ones are of the house of Israel, it is being prophesied about those, which the Hebrew prophet did not hear on account of their different tongue. Moreover in profound lips these ones are able to speak because they are not receiving the divine books from a surface level but believe according to the depth of the law.”
here Origen once again plays on the role of Israel. He believed how everyone is from the house of Israel, the nation of Israel had disobeyed, and now has to hear from the other house of Israel’s unintelligible speech. Origin used the term έτερόγλωσσον , heteroglôsson, when he described the Hebrew prophet not being able to hear because of “their different tongue,” which is simply referring to a foreign language.
5. Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles
MPG. Vol. 14. Col. 829
Unfortunately there is only a small section of this ancient work available today–a fragment less than one page. It sheds a bit of light, though nothing conclusive.
“It was necessary to fulfill the Scripture which the Holy Spirit foretold out of the mouth of David concerning Judah.” In which it was written in the Psalm concerning Judah. Something might have been perhaps said that the Holy Spirit did not speak. On the other hand clearly the words are of the Saviour speaking. “O God, pass not over my praise in silence; 2 for the mouth of the sinner and the mouth of the crafty [man] have been opened against me: they have spoken against me with a crafty tongue.” And following yet until this [word]; “and let another take his office of overseer.” In what way then, if the Saviour is the one saying these things, does Peter say, “It was necessary to fulfill the Scripture which the Holy Spirit foretold out of the mouth of David”? Perhaps then that we learn in this place such a thing it is. The Holy Spirit adapts the character in the prophets. And if he should personify God, God is not the one who is speaking but the Holy Spirit speaks from the character of God. If he should personify Christ, it is not Christ who is speaking but the Holy Spirit from the character of Christ speaking. Thus if even he should personify the prophet, or those people, or some one at some time he is personifying, the Holy Spirit is every character.”
This is the end of what exists by Origen on the Book of Acts. The most important concept that can be taken from this passage is the yet undefined elements of the Trinity used as a framework to understand the miracle in the Book of Acts. The Trinity here is in an early form, almost as if Origen visualizes three gods. His concern was about choosing which one of the Trinity was doing the speaking not so much about the definition of tongues.
6. Commentary in the Epistle to the Romans
An important piece of the puzzle appears in this commentary. No Greek copy of the original exists, but fortunately an admirer of Origen, Rufinus of Aquileia, translated a copy into Latin around 406 AD–though the copy we are dealing with here seems to be much later and may include numerous interpolations and edits. Secondly, the Latin translators tended to make light or ignore references to neoplatonic words or thoughts and sometimes this may get lost in their translation. Origen’s Greek philosophical ideas in the original may have been stronger.
(a) Romans 1:13
MPG. Vol. 14. Book I:13. Col. 859ff
The following quote is lengthy. The gift of tongues is brief but finely interwoven. He wrote symbolically contrasting the old vine, Israel, with the new vine which was Greece and all the regions outside Israel. He also dealt with the mission of Paul and his obligation to bring the Gospel to all the nations. He described how he accomplished it through the gift of tongues.
“For he desired and beseeched in speech not to hold back any fruit that is put on with the actual ones just like from the rest of the nations. From whence Paul desirous as it were of great riches with many agreeable possessions, he desired to bring together the produce. The fruit assembles together from the Greeks, from the foreigners, from the wise, and gathers anyone from the unwise, while he speaks wisdom to some as it were with perfection, while to others as it were with the unwise, he speaks knowing nothing different about them, except Christ and this crucifixion. While he teaches some from the Law and Prophets, others he persuades by signs and powers. Certainly Paul produces all these fruits because the good branch continues in the true vine, which is Christ, which the Father frequently makes clean by the gardener, and for that reason it produces much fruit. Moreover, He cleanses them in accordance with work, tribulation and persecution. The branches are in some who certainly remain in the vine, truly do not bear fruit, but they are dried up. From which those ones are who in the name only remain in Christ, moreover also the dry ones are being found by the works and activities of unfruitfulness, which are appointed to be cut-off by the Father and is sending into the fire. Just as in fact the first man Adam and the root of the human race existed the select ones of the vine, which brought forth the select ones fruitful branches, as Seth, Enos, Enoch and the rest until Noah.
On the other hand the others unfruitful and useless, that is Cain and every race that has been begotten by him. In order that in Christ, who is the newest Adam, the certain specific fruitful branches exist, just as if it is producing new fruits in the true vine. Also the shriveled ones are to be cut-off by the gardener-Father. The following observation must be made which the Apostle names regarding the good ones in a singular number, “fruit”, used elsewhere as well. “But the fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy, peace,” (Gal. 5:22) but on the other hand he mentions in several places the work of the flesh brings reproach. Because if someone would oppose this which was written in the Psalms, “You will eat the fruit of your labours,”  (Ps. 127:2) and several times the saying with reference to the benefit.
One must understand that even as he who was trading many pearls, discovers a costly one, sold all of them, and acquires that one. That is because the beginnings with the more than enough fruits, he ought to keep the one perfect fruit of perfection. Now one must ask how the Apostle is under obligation to the Greeks and the non-Greeks with the teachers of wisdom and the foolish ones. How is it then he heard from these very ones from which he was bound under obligation? I indeed believe thereupon him to have accomplished the obligation within the diverse nations that he received through the grace of the Holy Spirit [the ability] to speak in the languages of all the nations, even as he himself says, “I speak in tongues more than you all,” because then the knowledge of languages is not according to anything within himself, but he received on behalf of those which were about to be preached. The obligation is being brought forth in all those which he receives from God the knowledge of language.
The obligation is accomplished with the wise men through this which receives wisdom that has been shrouded in a mystery. He was speaking in perfection also to the wise ones. On the other hand, how was it also to the foolish ones? He received in regards with whoever the grace of patience and of long-suffering. And as a matter of fact the produce of the foolish ones is to bear in the greatest hardship. “So (as much as is in me) I am ready to preach the Gospel to you.” He by himself gives evidence to be prepared that he also says elsewhere, “For if I willingly do this, I have a reward,” Indeed having been ready for those things is to speak with skills. Truly in regards to the beginnings it must be understood that which he says, “but if against my will, a dispensation is committed to me” and “For woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel.”
The key passage relating to his definition of the gift of tongues is, “I indeed believe thereupon him to have accomplished the obligation within the diverse nations that he received through the grace of the Holy Spirit [the ability] to speak in the languages of all the nations.” Clearly he believed here the gift of tongues to be the miraculous endowment of speaking in a foreign language. Then he added, “even as he himself says, “I speak in tongues more than you all,” because then the knowledge of languages not according to anything within himself, but he received on behalf of those which were about to be preached. The obligation is being brought forth in all those which he receives from God the knowledge of language.” The reference especially to “speak in tongues more than you all,” has to be scrutinized more intensely because other Patristic authors have cited this passage as well. Origen was unique with this conclusion, as most Patristic writers felt this ability of Paul to speak Greek was a naturally learned one.
(b) Romans 6:13
This translation is based on two different editions. MPG. Vol. 14. Book VI. Col. 1100 And Origenous ta heuriskomena panta, edited by CHE Lommatzschen.
“For if the Spirit of Christ lives in you, it appears compelling with the Spirit to restore his own dwelling place, and the temple being restored. Yet I prefer this itself because it is said whether the Spirit of Christ, or the Spirit of God or Christ Himself living in us, what kind should be considered: whether that such a Spirit referred to was given from the beginning to all things, and presently let it drive away from the most wicked and foreign God activities, according to that which was written, “My Spirit will not remain as such in man because they are flesh” (Gen. 6:3). Can it be it has been given presently in life as a due reward and in faith as a grace, according to these things which are being pointed out in the Acts of the Apostles that the Holy Spirit came upon each one of them as it were as a fiery language. We certainly even teach in the Gospel when the Saviour Himself, after He resurrected from the dead before the disciples, said, “Receive the Holy Spirit, and He breathed on each one of them” (John 20:22). From where it appears to me that He would be seeking out this house with those having earned merit, and the upright in life are to be preserved, and be increased according to the level of faith and grace to each one. And how much the chaste are being restored to life, the Spirit is pouring out and I am being lavished with so much by it. He also said that, “My Spirit will not continue as such in man because they are flesh” (Gen. 6:3). To that point one considers that, seeing that their soul, the Spirit by means of slaves who have been rejected, transformed all the slaves themselves according to the flesh. In addition themselves belonging to him to whom has connected himself to the flesh and them by which was made one, should receive the name. Now the Spirit is able to possess in diverse ways. Whether he is being possessed of the Spirit of Christ, according to that which we said above, from divine inspiration, whereby he says, “Receive the holy Spirit, and He breathed on each one of them” (John 20:22). And again in the same way which is being said carried out in the Acts of the apostles that the apostles were speaking in diverse tongues. That way is also which is being referred in the book of Kings where the Scripture says, “And the Spirit came upon Saul and he began to prophecy” (I Samuel 10:10).
This is yet another way that when the Savior, after the resurrection, [on] the journey spending time and explaining the Scriptures with Cleopha and another disciple, he blew into them by means of the breath of his mouth in order that they were to speak to those, “Was not our hearts burning within us when He opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32). Are you willing to know that not only while Jesus was speaking He handed over His Spirit to those ones listening, but also who speak the word of God in His name, He handed over the Spirit of God to those ones listening? See in the Acts of the apostles just as Peter is talking to Cornelius, Cornelius himself was being filled by the holy Spirit and who were with him. From which point also if you should speak the word of God and speak faithfully from a pure conscience, nor should you be proven unworthy in your words, as if you were to point out things differently, and urge in a different way, it can happen that the holy Spirit would inflame the hearts of those who have heard by those speaking…”
The key words on tongues appear in this passage, including the reference to Pentecost in the Book of Acts. It is clear in this passage that Origen’s main concern was not the definition but what nature had inspired the miracle. Was it the Holy Spirit or another member of the spiritual realm? For the purpose of defining the mystery of tongues, he gave a slight hint here, though it wasn’t his intent to be didactic on this topic, “And again in the same way which is being said carried out in the Acts of the apostles that the apostles were speaking in diverse tongues.” He thought the miraculous use of tongues to be speaking in foreign languages.
Origen made a parallel between tongues and prophecy. His quoting of I Samuel 10:10 “And the Spirit came upon Saul and he began to prophecy” referred to prophecy and tongues having a similar function. This is not unique. Thomas Aquinas still maintained that position in the 13th century, though his position is more detailed and has an unexpected conclusion. See Thomas Aquinas on the Miracle of Tongues Intro for more information.
(c) Romans 7:6
MPG. Vol. 14. Book VII:6. Col. 1119ff and Origenous ta heuriskomena panta, edited by CHE Lommatzschen Pg. 117ff.
This passage, along with Romans 1:13, was cited by C.M. Robeck Jr. in The New International Bible Encyclopedia as an affirmation that Origen “viewed it as a bridge to cross-cultural preaching.” Romans 1:13, is a good argument, but here in 7:6, it is difficult to find the correlation. This is the closest that could be found:
“…therefore also the Holy Spirit in that place would have seen our spirit to be agitated with the attacks of the flesh and someone who is ignorant would be obliged to pray because it is necessary, just as a teacher himself forwards a prayer. If the student desires that he be with the holy Spirit than our spirit, it ought to be described in detail; he himself offers lamentations, with which our spirit ought to show that one is groaning, as a result that he makes propitiation for himself to God. For if indeed the Spirit teaches and on the other hand our spirit, that is our intellect does not follow, the learning of the teacher becomes unfruitful by one’s own imperfection. And such, Paul, knowing how to manage the mystery within man, was saying,“For if I speak in tongues, my spirit prays, but my mind is without fruit.” His own spirit is the one who is calling for the grace of the holy Spirit which is being given by God to men. From which place also encourages us that we would not have this, an unfruitful benefit of the holy Spirit, he adds and says, “What is is this then? I will pray with the spirit, I will also pray with understanding. I will speak the psalm with the spirit, I will speak the psalm with understanding.” Although Paul then himself expressed these to be indescribable things, and to carry-on with indescribable groanings, yet exactly it was possible for us, a certain likeness of the case which is being divinely managed.”
It is not strong, or it can be argued that there is no real concrete evidence regarding Origen’s view of tongues from this passage. It does once again strengthen Origen’s interest in putting the whole Corinthian saga in the framework of Greek knowledge.
In reading this, Origen’s citation of I Corinthians 14:15 here is unusual, “What is is this then? I will pray with the spirit, I will also pray with understanding. I will speak the psalm with the spirit, I will speak the psalm with understanding.” It is slightly different than the majority of manuscripts, especially those transmitted and used in English translation which generally read, “I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also” (NASB).
Origen believed his Biblical text referred to the reading of the Psalms, not to sing with the spirit.
This textual variation does not exist in any other Greek or Latin manuscript. One may initially think this is simply a problem of a faulty Origen manuscript. However, this same verse does occur again in another of his writings, De Principiis. This makes a strong case that it was part of Origen’s Bible which then requires a closer look.
The Latin Vulgate reads, “psallam spiritu, psallam et mente.“ The keyword is Psallam, which is translated in the Latin to English Bible by Douay-Rheims, “I will sing” Lewis and Short’s Latin Dictionary defines psallam as, “to play upon a stringed instrument; esp., to play upon the cithara, to sing to the cithara. …In partic., in eccl. Lat., to sing the Psalms of David.” The English translation misses out on the liturgical aspect relating to the Book of Psalms.
This forces one to make a comparison to the Greek. The Greek text of I Corinthians 14:15 reads,” ψαλῶ τῷ πνεύματι, ψαλῶ δὲ καὶ τῷ νοΐ.“ The English Bibles are unanimous in it meaning some form of singing, such as the NIV Bible, “I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.” The key-word here is ψαλῶ , psalô, which Liddell and Scott’s, A Greek-English Lexicon defines as, “mostly of the strings of musical instruments, play a stringed instrument with the fingers, and not with the plectron. …later, sing to a harp.” It refers to people playing an instrument, not the vocal chords but it appears to be the only way to translate it. The dictionary also insists that the proper Greek spelling is ψαλλῶ not ψαλῶ psalô as found in the Bible.
ψαλῶ also sounds very similar to the name of the Book of Psalms. Is this coincidence? Or could Origen be getting mixed up with this word himself?
Psalm 138:1 shows the difficulty of this word in translation. Most English Bibles have this translated similarly to the NIV “with all my heart; before the “gods” I will sing your praise,” which doesn’t capture the nuance of the word psalô at all, but it does force an English translator of the Septuagint, L.C.L. Brenton, into some problem-solving. He translated it as, “with my whole heart; and I will sing psalms to thee before the angels.” The Hebrew text offers no further clarification but later Hebrew tradition asserts that Psalm singing was an integral part of synagogue worship. Epiphanius’ description of the Corinthian conflict parallels the same concept of a synagogue liturgy in the early Church. From what Origen wrote above plus Epiphanius’ description, and the synagogue usage of the Psalms, he simply refers here to I Corinthians 14:15 as the public reading or singing of the Book of Psalms.
7. Commentary on Corinthians, Header 49
Claude Jenkins, “Documents; Origen on I Corinthians,” Journal of Theological Studies 10 (1909). Pg. 29ff and Catenae: Graecorum Patrum in Novum Testamentum. Tomus V. J.A. Cramer. ed. Oxonii.1844. Pg. 249
Any Bible reader would get excited to find a copy of Origen on Corinthians. However, Origen has a different idea on how to approach this book. In fact, he takes it into a different direction that is not experiential at all and more into the realm of Greek philosophy. As demonstrated in the works above, the importance of his work does not rest on how he explained the initial miracles espoused by Luke and perhaps by Paul, but in what direction the concept of tongues was heading within his time. Out of all the sections in the document on Corinthians, Header 49 may be both the closest example to a definition and as an illustration where Origen was going with the text.
This Corinthian Catena, found in the Jenkin’s version and the slightly inferior Cramer edition, is strange. Although Jenkins’ attributed the manuscript he worked from around the 16th century, the poor diacritics and punctuation, leads one to think this is based on a 9th century or so manuscript.
Some Biblical quotations are in an earlier Cyrillic type form. Closer examination tends to indicate that this was at one time Slavonic Uncial converted into upper and lower case and conformed to the printers press. This ‘Slavonic’ text only exists in the Jenkin version. This font may not reflect what was actually written, but just simply the most suitable typeface the publisher had, and one may be misled by it. Nothing can be dated by the ‘Slavonic’ represented in the Jenkin document. One wonders if the text is intermingling both Origen and Chrysostom together. Google Book keyword searches indicate on a number of occasions similar uses by Chrysostom in other texts. Should this Catena be attributed to Origen, Pseudo-Origen or simply this reflects Christian thought on the subject in the 9th or so century? The vocabulary very much indicates it is around the third to fourth century. Many rare words can only find parallels in Origen’s other works, Chrysostom, Basil, and even Aristotle. Some words represent early Christian neoplatonism–a movement that did not perpetuate into the 9th century, nor rigidly adhered to by Chrysostom. Therefore it is safe to attribute this to Origen by name, but it is still possible Chrysostom has snuck within various parts.
here is the translation:
XLIX (49) xiii 1-2 [And I show you a still more excellent way. If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. (NASB)”  [Origen] We seek then if whoever is able in this life as well to prophecy and to know all the mysteries outside of love, and the whole thing, if it be given to someone every mystery to be known. For Paul declares, “If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know (NASB).” And again, “in part” he says, “we know and we prophecy in part.” For it is made visible by him to say these about himself and likewise the apostles that he does not have the ability to know all the mysteries or all knowledge. Even so, how does he reply then about the one being empowered as a result of the ability to do these things to know all knowledge and all mysteries? If we should see the introduction concerning the words in which he says, “And I show you a still more excellent way,” and let us apprehend what is ‘more excellent’ it is to be for all things having been clearly explained. Therefore ‘more excellent’ as likewise the Greeks have concurred, the word of emphasis goes beyond for the sake of the truth and these use by example that certain ones being whiter than snow are speaking. Not that anyone has the ability to be whiter than snow but the ‘more excellent’ (way) spoke. And yet certain horses run like the wind. Not that it has the ability such as this but in regards to this emphasis in order that it should provide the swiftness of horses, it is being read of such a thing about them. For also in the Scripture it is being read of the Psalms concerning the sea, “They rose up to the heavens, they went down to the depths (NASB),” for instance unable to do this but spoke in regards to this emphasis. For you will also find written in the Law a more excellent way where it was written, we saw “great cities fortified to heaven (NASB).” So how can this be? But it is being spoken in hyperbole not wholly making it clear regarding alighting the word but that it would make clear the greatness of the waves which they go lower and the greatness of the walls which has some similarity with these things.
Thus also in this case the apostle, over the result of having examined a nature of gifts, takes the hypothesis a nature of love. Not that it has the capacity to be a gift and those of such without love, or because any ability in this life to factually know all knowledge without love or to have faith of such even as to remove mountains, but the one being desired to place that if love should set in the yoke in conformity with the supposition about the word which had been spoken. He says then it is necessary they eagerly seek after love. So, are the angels who talk speaking to one another in these languages by which mankind [does] also, inasmuch concerning angels some being on the one hand Greeks and on the other Hebrews and others Egyptians? Or is this strange about naming the realm concerning the division of angels? For instance then aren’t there many languages in mankind, so in the same way are they also in angels? If God should grant to us from the natural one belonging to man to have been arranged to the angelic realm, the Gospel of my Lord Jesus Christ says, they will be “like an angel and sons of God, being sons of the resurrection,” will we no longer be in need with the language of man but with the language of the angelic? As for example one language of children and the other the voice of the ones with perfect clearness, thus every language within mankind as it were a language of children. But the angelic, is it as it were belonging to the perfect and clear ones of men? And languages are equally in that place corresponding to the analogy of order. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal (KJV).” For example “sounding brass” gives an unintelligible voice, like “the tinkling cymbal” nothing clear, the same way, on the other hand a kind of love, a language as if it should be in accordance to the pretext of angels amongst men, it is not understood. For nothing is made belonging to men which is certainly clearly and manifestly belonging to angels as love.
About love not being present, it is as one who is speaking nothing at all. What is the difference between knowledge and the comprehending of mysteries? The apostle speaks concerning the two things. I indeed therefore propose the knowing about the apparent things to be knowledge, a more encompassing essence than that of mysteries. For the expertise of mysteries is within the part of knowledge. The knowing about unspeakable mysteries and more divine things, this is the ability to know the mystery, thus in this aspect being the universal word of knowledge, the other aspect [is] not any longer concerning all knowledge being the mind directly comprehending of the things of mysteries, for which has been spoken “but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory” (NASB). Since I indeed perceive this, then I have the knowledge of mysteries. “And if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains.” It was written in the Gospel, “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, `Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” (NASB) The one having faith the size of a little mustard seed, has the whole faith.”
Origen did not think that it should be interpreted literally when Paul wrote about the tongues of men and angels. He believed it to simply be a literary device known as hyperbole to get across the idea of love. The concept of tongues is clearly not the reason that Origen wrote this. It is about the role of the intellect and knowledge in the Christian life. To get at any tidbits that may relate to the gift of tongues, this passage first has to be waded through. Since there is no easy available English translation, the first task was to translate this passage which was a challenging one. Understanding the words γνώσις–gnôsis, εἲδησις–eidêsis, and επιστήμη–epistêmê are critical to having an acceptable translation into English. These words all pertain different nuances of the word knowledge. Origen is pitting gnôsis against eidêsis and it is difficult for the translator to properly translate this tension. First of all, the English vocabulary does not distinguish between different forms of knowledge as the Greeks did. It is a problem of the limitations of the English language. Thus the responsibility of the translator is to do some dynamic translating. This can lead to the translator’s interpretation. So the translator must fully understand the culture, background, and time-frame that he/she is working in to output the right results. The second problem is understanding what Origen meant by these terms. The concepts of gnôsis, eidenai and epistêmê have not been static and it depends on which era, culture and religion it is being used in. Origen is one of the first Christian authors attempting to integrate such terms and may not reflect medieval usage or what we modernly understand these terms to be.
There have been many attempts to distinguish these words with mixed results. For example “In 1865, philosopher John Grote distinguished between what he described as “knowledge of acquaintance” and “knowledge-about”. Grote noted that these distinctions were made in many languages. He cited Greek (gnônai and eidenai), Latin (noscere and scire), German (kennen and wissen), and French (connaître and savoir) as examples.” Ellen Pagels expanded on this in her book, The Gnostic Gospels, “…gnosis is not primarily rational knowledge. The Greek language distinguishes between scientific or reflective knowledge (‘He knows mathematics’) and knowing through observation or experience (‘He knows me’). As the gnostics use the term, we could translate it as ‘insight’, for gnosis involves an intuitive process of knowing oneself… Yet to know oneself, at the deepest level is to know God; this is the secret of gnosis.”(The Gnostic Gospels, p xviii-xix) Bentley Layton provides a similar definition in The Gnostic Scriptures: “The ancient Greek language could easily differentiate between two kinds of knowledge… One kind is propositional knowing – the knowledge that something is the case (‘I know Athens is in Greece’). Greek has several words for this kind of knowing-for example, eidenai. The other kind of knowing is personal aquaintance with an object, often a person. (‘I know Athens well’; ‘I have known Susan for many years’). In Greek the word for this is gignoskein…The corresponding Greek noun is gnosis. If for example two people have been introduced to one another, each can claim to have gnosis or aquaintance of one another. If one is introduced to God, one has gnosis of God. The ancient gnostics described salvation as a kind of gnosis or aquaintance, and the ultimate object of that aquaintance was nothing less than God” (The Gnostic Scriptures, p 9).”
Another author delved further into the use of eidenai using Aristotle’s work of Metaphysics and concluded “He says that “even when we are not going to do anything, we prefer seeing (one might say) to everything else. (980a25) We are curious, and if we’re not doing anything, even if we don’t need to know what’s going on, we like to look around and see what’s going on.” It isn’t a highly scientific observation or type of knowing, but a casual look into things that piques one’s curiosity. The influential modern German Philosopher Martin Heidegger may be the most important figure in proposing this solution and then added his definition about epistêmê: “To know a person is sometimes eidenai, sometimes gignoskein, which, with the noun gnosis, often has the flavour of knowledge by acquaintance. Epistasthai, ‘to know, etc.’, is, for Heidegger, ‘to be on top of [vorstehen, lit. ‘stand before’] something, know one’s way around it’ – he associates it (controversially) with histanai, histathai, ‘to place, set (up)’, ‘to stand’. The derived noun episteme, ‘knowledge’, means approaching something, knowing one’s way around it, mastering it, penetrating its substantial content (XXIX, 49). Aristotle gave it the meaning of ‘science’, but in a sense distinct from modern scientific ‘research [Forschung]’ and ‘experiment’ (AWP. 74/121. Cf. XIX. 31ff., 91ff.).” Science can be one of the common terms used for epistêmê, but it conjures up the wrong images in the English reader’s mind. The translator should emphasize skill or expertise within this context than an actual methodological system.
The above solutions do not easily work with Origen’s Commentary on Corinthians. A more religious framework for this use can be found at Wikipedia, “Gnosis (from one of the Greek words for knowledge, gnôsis is the spiritual knowledge of a saint or mystically enlightened human being. In the cultures of the term (Byzantine and Hellenic) gnosis was a special knowledge or insight into the infinite, divine and uncreated in all and above all, rather than knowledge strictly into the finite, natural or material world which is called Epistemological knowledge.  Gnosis is a transcendential as well as mature understanding. It indicates direct spiritual experiential knowledge and intuitive knowledge, mystic rather than that from rational or reasoned thinking. Gnosis itself is obtained through understanding at which one can arrive via inner experience or contemplation such as an internal epiphany of intuition and external epiphany such as the Theophany.” At first reading, one may conclude that this Wikipedia text was a result of medieval Christian writings, so more inquiry has to be done. Stanford University’s webpage on philosophy is a good starting point, where they outline the usage by the neo-Platonic position of Plotinus, who had an influence on Origen, “In the first place, epistêmê refers to the particular cognitive state of the first hypostasis from the One, Nous, in which there is an identity between knowledge and what is known (VI. 6. 15). Our souls gain true knowledge by the presence of Nous, although Nous knows non-discursively while our souls characteristically know in a discursive way (V. 9. 7; IV. 3.18). It does all these things with certain knowledge (epistêmê) and not by opinion (I. 3. 4).” Here Plotinus defines epistêmê as a “certain knowledge.”The translator has to be careful about the Christian definition of gnosis, as the early Church fathers such as Clement used the term but made it distinct from the actual term used by the gnostic movement itself. “To be sure, he constantly opposes the concept of gnosis as defined by the Gnostics.”
Arthur Versluis, in his book, Magic and mysticism: an introduction to Western Esotericism, is one of the best sources for defining the early Church understanding of these words. He documents their use by Origen and other Christian leaders in this same time-frame; “If heretical Gnosticism in its various forms died out relatively early, the concept of gnosis did not disappear from the Christian world. While heresiarchs like Valentinus and Basilides were remembered in the context of diatribes against them, still the concept of an orthodox Christian gnosis did continue into the medieval period through the workd of those we might call “orthodox gnostics:” chiefly Origen, Clement of Alexandria, and most of all, Dionysius the Areopagite. These figures, and particularly the latter two, were imensely influential in later Christianity, and they insisted on the possibility, indeed, the necessity for direct experiential spiritual knowledge. Of these three seminal Christian writers, Origen discusses gnosis the least and largely by implication. For instance, in his Commentary on John, Origen distinguishes between “The Somatic [Bodily] and the Spiritual Gospel” and insists on the importance of both. He affirms the bodily coming of Christ but also affirms the immense importance of John’s “eternal Gospel,” properly called the “spiritual Gospel,” which concerns the “mysteries” and “enigma” of Christ’s life and words. We must, Origen concludes, be Christians “both somatically and spiritually” and partake in the Word (Christ) (I.9). And in his De Principiis. Origen alludes to the celestial “ordering and arrangement of the world,” to the “holy and blessed orders” through which humanity can ascend back to the condition of happiness from which many have fallen (VI.2). Here Origen is referring to the hierarchic orders of thrones, principalities, and dominions, of angelic hierarchies that, by implication, are realms through which humans can ascend to return to their divine condition. But whereas Origen is somewhat oblique about gnosis-it exists as a concept implicit in his work-Clement of Alexandria is much more implicit. In his Stromata, or Miscellanies, Clement writes at length about how “the gnostic alone is truly pious” (VII.1) and affirms that gnostic souls “surpass in the grandeur of contemplation” even the “holy ranks,” for the gnostic who is perfect in virtue and contemplation attains to the “nearest likeness possible to God and his son.” Clement is not at all endorsing heretical Gnosticism but rather is insisting on how gnosis is “a perfecting of man as man, [which is] consummated by acquaintance with divine things,” for by gnosis is faith perfected” (VII.10) In brief, the “gnostic soul, adorned with perfect virtue, is the earthly image of the divine power” (VII.11). The “life of the gnostic,” in Clement’s own view, is “nothing but deeds and words corresponding to the tradition of the Lord” (VII.16).” But this is still questionable. Perhaps too much is being emphasized out of these words. Origen quotes I Corinthians 12:8-10 in the Header 48 “ἄλλῳ δὲ λόγος γνώσεως” and it simply means gnôsis as knowledge with no hidden, secret or divine meaning. The Septuagint also reflects this with epistêmê meaning only knowledge, ” ἐν πολλῷ χρόνῳ σοφία, ἐν δὲ πολλῷ βίῳ ἐπιστήμη.”” “In length of time is wisdom, and in long life knowledge.”
It is quite a jump from the use of these words in the Bible to how many thought Origen used them. To make such a leap, Origen would have resorted to adding adjectives or other forms of qualifiers to make this clear for the audience he wrote to.
The modern Pentecostal movement may provide a clue. They make this distinction. There is an intellectual knowing, which is the result of using ones deductive reasoning and then there is ‘knowing’: a type of knowledge that changes ones perceptions and decision making processes, resulting in transformation, personal growth and changed behaviour. It is the prime impulse that motivates ones Christian life and witness. It is not necessarily possessed by those with intellectual ability. They also believe that the intellect on occasion can impede the real knowing.
One also has to factor in two more important things: Origen was firstly a Christian religious zealot, and he not only was influenced by Greek philosophy, but by Jewish writings as well. He cannot be interpreted solely from classical Greek influences but all three. There isn’t strong enough evidence to demonstrate that Origen departed substantially from the Biblical use, but it is fair to assume a slight shift had occurred based on his play of gnôsis against eidenai, but not to the degree many of the above authors have suggested. With these above in mind Origen means gnôsis to be simply knowledge, the type that changes ones world-view and thought processes, ultimately being expressed in action. This is why Clement could write, “the gnostic alone is truly pious”. So it is best to be left as ‘knowledge’. Eidenai is simply a factual knowing. ‘Grasping’ or ‘comprehending’ may be the most suitable English words as it refers the attempt to understand something from an intellectual perspective. Epistêmê is the skill, art or expertise in acquiring facts.
A different aspect not relating to knowledge was Origen’s understanding of Angels and language. The ancient Jews believed in Angels using the Hebrew tongue as the language of supernatural discourse, and the Jews thought they had a direct connection into the Angelic realm with this, “What is the difference between the prophets of Israel and the prophets of the Gentiles? …He communicated with the Gentile prophets only in half speech but with the prophets of Israel He communicated in full speech, in language of love, in language of holiness, in the language wherewith the ministering Angels praise Him.” This is very similar to what Origen wrote. Origen first began his treatise on Angels comparing their language with the language of mankind with no real clear resolution. In the end, just as the Jewish sage wrote, angels speak in the language of love and holiness.
One can conclude here that Origen was aware of the angels and language theme, and much like Paul and the ancient Jewish sages, the answer to this question is irrelevant, but the concept of holiness and love remained intact. Another portion relating to angels is the vocabulary that Origen used, “will we no longer be in need with the language of man but with the language of the angelic? As for example one language of children and the other the voice of the ones with perfect clearness, thus every language within mankind as it were a language of children. But the angelic, is it as it were belonging to the perfect and clear ones of men?”
Perfect clearness and clear ones are from the same Greek word τετρανωμένων tetranômenôn. It is a hard one to translate as the occurrence of this root is so rare. It is only found in Origen, Epiphanius and Chrysostom’s writings, but definitely not in abundance. The Latin equivalents provided along with Lampe’s aide from his Patristic Lexicon give the best clues. Perhaps the best help is from Origen himself when he described the speech of angels being wise and perfect in his commentary on the Gospel of John, though this exact word is not found here, “Indeed also the Holy Spirit, or an angelic spirit, when he should speak, he is not speaking by his own self, but speaks by the Word of truth and wisdom.”
8. Against Celsus
Origen wrote this piece as a rebuttal against a well-known anti-Christian literary work published 70-80 years previous called, The True Word by an author named Celsus. Not much is known about Celsus; his original writings lost to us today, except that which can be found in Origen’s work. Against Celsus is the most popular work of Origen known to the Western reader, and is the most controversial relating to the gift of tongues.
(a) Against Celsus 3:46
“And if you come to the books written after the time of Jesus, you will find that those multitudes of believers who hear the parables are, as it were, “without,” and worthy only of exoteric doctrines, while the disciples learn in private the explanation of the parables. For, privately, to His own disciples did Jesus open up all things, esteeming above the multitudes those who desired to know His wisdom. And He promises to those who believe upon Him to send them wise men and scribes, saying, “Behold, I will send unto you wise men and scribes, and some of them they shall kill and crucify.” And Paul also, in the catalogue of “charismata” bestowed by God, placed first “the word of wisdom,” and second, as being inferior to it, “the word of knowledge,” but third, and lower down, “faith.” And because he regarded “the word” as higher than miraculous powers, he for that reason places “workings of miracles” and “gifts of healings” in a lower place than the gifts of the word. And in the Acts of the Apostles Stephen bears witness to the great learning of Moses, which he had obtained wholly from ancient writings not accessible to the multitude. For he says: “And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.” And therefore, with respect to his miracles, it was suspected that he wrought them perhaps, not in virtue of his professing to come from God, but by means of his Egyptian knowledge, in which he was well versed. For the king, entertaining such a suspicion, summoned the Egyptian magicians, and wise men, and enchanters, who were found to be of no avail as against the wisdom of Moses, which proved superior to all the wisdom of the Egyptians.”
This passage makes it very clear where Origen’s priority lies in Biblical exegesis. Wisdom and knowledge are key and provides the framework for interpretation and why he emphasized so much the knowledge words in Corinthians at the expense of a literal interpretation. His ranking of wisdom first in the order of importance, with faith being the third, and tongues being off the list, demonstrates that the concept of tongues was not high on his priority list.
(b) Against Celsus 7:3
“Celsus goes on to say of us: “They set no value on the oracles of the Pythian priestess, of the priests of Dodona, of Clarus, of Branchidæ, of Jupiter Ammon, and of a multitude of others; although under their guidance we may say that colonies were sent forth, and the whole world peopled. But those sayings which were uttered or not uttered in Judea, after the manner of that country, as indeed they are still delivered among the people of Phœnicia and Palestine—these they look upon as marvellous sayings, and unchangeably true.” In regard to the oracles here enumerated, we reply that it would be possible for us to gather from the writings of Aristotle and the Peripatetic school not a few things to overthrow the authority of the Pythian and the other oracles. From Epicurus also, and his followers, we could quote passages to show that even among the Greeks themselves there were some who utterly discredited the oracles which were recognised and admired throughout the whole of Greece. But let it be granted that the responses delivered by the Pythian and other oracles were not the utterances of false men who pretended to a divine inspiration; and let us see if, after all, we cannot convince any sincere inquirers that there is no necessity to attribute these oracular responses to any divinities, but that, on the other hand, they may be traced to wicked demons—to spirits which are at enmity with the human race, and which in this way wish to hinder the soul from rising upwards, from following the path of virtue, and from returning to God in sincere piety. It is said of the Pythian priestess, whose oracle seems to have been the most celebrated, that when she sat down at the mouth of the Castalian cave, the prophetic Spirit of Apollo entered her private parts; and when she was filled with it, she gave utterance to responses which are regarded with awe as divine truths. Judge by this whether that spirit does not show its profane and impure nature, by choosing to enter the soul of the prophetess not through the more becoming medium of the bodily pores which are both open and invisible, but by means of what no modest man would ever see or speak of. And this occurs not once or twice, which would be more permissible, but as often as she was believed to receive inspiration from Apollo. Moreover, it is not the part of a divine spirit to drive the prophetess into such a state of ecstasy and madness that she loses control of herself. For he who is under the influence of the Divine Spirit ought to be the first to receive the beneficial effects; and these ought not to be first enjoyed by the persons who consult the oracle about the concerns of natural or civil life, or for purposes of temporal gain or interest; and, moreover, that should be the time of clearest perception, when a person is in close intercourse with the Deity.”
The comments on this section above are combined with (c) below.
(c) Against Celsus 7:8-9
 “I do not know what led Celsus, when saying, “But what things were spoken or not spoken in the land of Judea, according to the custom of the country,” to use the words “or not spoken,” as though implying that he was incredulous, and that he suspected that those things which were written were never spoken. In fact, he is unacquainted with these times; and he does not know that those prophets who foretold the coming of Christ, predicted a multitude of other events many years beforehand. He adds, with the view of casting a slight upon the ancient prophets, that “they prophesied in the same way as we find them still doing among the inhabitants of Phœnicia and Palestine.” But he does not tell us whether he refers to persons who are of different principles from those of the Jews and Christians, or to persons whose prophecies are of the same character as those of the Jewish prophets. However it be, his statement is false, taken in either way. For never have any of those who have not embraced our faith done any thing approaching to what was done by the ancient prophets; and in more recent times, since the coming of Christ, no prophets have arisen among the Jews, who have confessedly been abandoned by the Holy Spirit on account of their impiety towards God, and towards Him of whom their prophets spoke. Moreover, the Holy Spirit gave signs of His presence at the beginning of Christ’s ministry, and after His ascension He gave still more; but since that time these signs have diminished, although there are still traces of His presence in a few who have had their souls purified by the Gospel, and their actions regulated by its influence. “For the holy Spirit of discipline will flee deceit, and remove from thoughts that are without understanding.” But as Celsus promises to give an account of the manner in which prophecies are delivered in Phœnicia and Palestine, speaking as though it were a matter with which he had a full and personal acquaintance, let us see what he has to say on the subject. First he lays it down that there are several kinds of prophecies, but he does not specify what they are; indeed, he could not do so, and the statement is a piece of pure ostentation. However, let us see what he considers the most perfect kind of prophecy among these nations. “There are many,” he says, “who, although of no name, with the greatest facility and on the slightest occasion, whether within or without temples, assume the motions and gestures of inspired persons; while others do it in cities or among armies, for the purpose of attracting attention and exciting surprise. These are accustomed to say, each for himself, ‘I am God; I am the Son of God; or, I am the Divine Spirit; I have come because the world is perishing, and you, O men, are perishing for your iniquities. But I wish to save you, and you shall see me returning again with heavenly power. Blessed is he who now does me homage. On all the rest I will send down eternal fire, both on cities and on countries. And those who know not the punishments which await them shall repent and grieve in vain; while those who are faithful to me I will preserve eternally.’” Then he goes on to say: “To these promises are added strange, fanatical, and quite unintelligible words, of which no rational person can find the meaning: for so dark are they, as to have no meaning at all; but they give occasion to every fool or impostor to apply them to suit his own purposes.””
The portion about signs becoming less used, “and after His ascension He gave still more; but since that time these signs have diminished, although there are still traces of His presence in a few who have had their souls purified by the Gospel, and their actions regulated by its influence, “ is a difficult passage to nail-down. He failed to clarify in this document or any other about how much the signs had diminished, or whether there was simply not enough pious people available capable of producing such divine power as there was in the past. It is not enough information to base any conclusion on. Book 7 chapters 8 and 9 were pillars for defining the gift of tongues by modern scholars. The attempt made a parallel between the gift of tongues and historic Greek practices. Origen’s writing here provided such a perceived opportunity. The popular dictionary in the early 20th century, The Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, wrote; “Origen, Contra Celsum vii., ix “quotes Celsus to the effect that both in and outside the sanctuaries people exhibited ecstatic phenomena and uttered unknown, unintelligible speech.” and then concluded, “But in the passages in the New Testament under discussion it is best to take glossa in the metaphorical sense as a technical term denoting a strange and unwonted form of words. With the meaning it occurs not only in the literary moments but as employed by the common people especially in referring to phenomena which seemed supernatural or unordinary, like the utterances of the pythia, of poets, or of the muses. This could then easlily be taken over by Christianity…”
Johannes Behm pointed this out as well in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, “Nor is there lacking a connection between Hellenistic prophecy… or Celsus description of the impulse of Christian ecstatics (Orig. Cels., 7, 8 f.), namely, after prophetic utterances, which are intelligible even though uttered with the claim to be spoken by a divine Ego.” The ubiquitous Greek dictionary, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature, also used these two chapters to make the correlation, “There is no doubt about the thing referred to, namely the broken speech of persons in religious ecstasy. The phenomenon, as found in Hellenistic religion, is described esp. by ERhode (Psyche’ 03, Eng. trans. ‘25, 289-293) and Reitzenstein; sf. Celsus 7, 8;9.” A simple reading observation of the passages along with further investigation into the these two chapters themselves, and an awareness of Origen’s other works on the subject of tongues makes their conclusions very weak and even improperly quoted. First of all, the important keyword, γλωσσα-glôssa, ‘tongue/language,’ does not even appear in these texts. Secondly, the above references from Origen were very broad statements. The scholars who made such citations do not specifically indicate inside these chapters what Origen exactly wrote. It is hard to find substantiation to what they asserted when looking more closely. After reviewing the quoted sections, this was what could be deduced as their evidence.
1) 7:3 “The prophetic Spirit of Apollo entered her private parts; and when she was filled with it, she gave utterance to responses which are regarded with awe as divine truths.” Utterance (ἀποφθἐγγεται) here is the same root as used in Acts 2:3.
2) 7:3 “Moreover, it is not the part of a divine spirit to drive the prophetess into such a state of ecstasy and madness.” Ecstasy (ἔκστασιν) is not found in the important Biblical tongues passages. It is used in Genesis 2:21, Numbers 13:32, Mark 5:32, Luke 5:26 (which have no correlation) and Acts 3:10. In Acts 3:10, the ecstasy is concerned about the response of the people to the miracles, and is typically translated as amazed or astonished. It doesn’t refer to the state of the person filled with the tongues of fire. Madness (μανικην) doesn’t appear in any of the Biblical texts.
3) 7:9 “Then he goes on to say: “To these promises are added strange, fanatical, and quite unintelligible words, of which no rational person can find the meaning: for so dark are they, as to have no meaning at all; but they give occasion to every fool or impostor to apply them to suit his own purposes.” This is a very hard passage to translate. Frederick Crombie, goes into dynamic mode here in his English translation and doesn’t quite capture the essence.
A machine-like, unrefined translation of the Greek appears to read like this:
“then he says next after that, “to these things being held out, they add thereupon unknowable things, also the puroistra and all the hidden stuff which no one who has knowledge is able to find the meaning. To such a degree also the knowledge is nothing. But they give the nexus of all to stupidity or to every wailing in whatever way he pleases, that which was being said was being made up.”
The following which has rarely been quoted is a more important passage with far-reaching implications:
(d) Against Celsus 8:37
“In the next place, Celsus forgets that he is addressing Christians, who pray to God alone through Jesus; and mixing up other notions with theirs, he absurdly attributes them all to Christians. “If,” says he, “they who are addressed are called upon by barbarous names, they will have power, but no longer will they have any if they are addressed in Greek or Latin.” Let him, then, state plainly whom we call upon for help by barbarous names. Any one will be convinced that this is a false charge which Celsus brings against us, when he considers that Christians in prayer do not even use the precise names which divine Scripture applies to God; but the Greeks use Greek names, the Romans Latin names, and every one prays and sings praises to God as he best can, in his mother tongue. For the Lord of all the languages of the earth hears those who pray to Him in each different tongue, hearing, if I may so say, but one voice, expressing itself in different dialects. For the Most High is not as one of those who select one language, Barbarian or Greek, knowing nothing of any other, and caring nothing for those who speak in other tongues.”
The above translations and commentaries provide a deep insight into Origen’s world. Origen wasn’t concerned with the gift of tongues and didn’t specifically teach on the subject. We find evidences of the gift of tongues as happenstance while he pursued building frameworks on the importance of knowledge and wisdom in the Christian daily life. When he does briefly write on the topic, he expressed it as the miraculous endowment of a foreign language. This definition explains his stance on the miracle at Pentecost, but nowhere in any presently available manuscript does he describe the problem at Corinth. There is not enough information from him to state that this practice had ceased or propagated — though if one would wish to promote the latter, Origen would attribute the problem to the lack of religious devout persons in his generation to carry on the task. Scholars that have quoted from his works to defend their positions have been too vague, especially the ones promoting the idea of tongues as a syncretism with Greek ecstatic utterances. The passages, when looked into more detail, do not support such presuppositions.