Final thoughts on the texts attributed to Cyril of Alexandria about the dogma of tongues.
The focus here is on what the author(s) understood the dogma to mean.
The technical portions of the text, such as the actual English translations, word studies, analysis, and comparative work relating to the dogma of tongues attributed to Cyril of Alexandria are a series of articles that can be found at the Gift of Tongues Project, under the category of Cyril of Alexandria. The footnotes in the actual translations carry a considerable amount of information, be sure to check them as well.
It has been learned from this study that the writings credited to Cyril of Alexandria is not exactly correct. Portions of the catena on I Corinthians are from Didymus of Alexandria. Which parts are Cyril’s and others Didymus’, we do not know, though for the most part it is Cyril. There also may be medieval editorial emendations too. Even though there remains unanswered questions of authorship, it accurately portrays a fifth century account on the dogma of tongues as understood and practiced in Alexandria, Egypt.
Gleanings from the actual texts demonstrate a wealth of new information on the dogma of tongues, administration, and liturgy in the Alexandrian Christian community. It does not align itself with the contemporary Christian practice, or liberal interpretations. It has its own independent meanings. Here are the findings.
The Commentary on Zephaniah clearly indicates that the Alexandrian author(s) believed it be a foreign language. The “changing of tongues,” that is, the use of foreign languages at Pentecost was a sign for the Jews. It was a miraculous endowment, and those that received this blessing continued to have this power throughout their lives, but it did not persist after their generation.
The Fragment on Acts has some clues but it is not entirely convincing. This work appears to be small snippets of other commentaries patched together, especially the catena on I Corinthians.
The catena on I Corinthians had the most information, and the following was discovered.
The texts related to the dogma of tongues begins with 12:9 which described Pentecost as people speaking in languages that they did not know beforehand.
In 14:2 the author(s) vaguely described a language-liturgy problem, suggesting an Apostle spoke Elamite, while another spoke Mede as hypothetical examples. The author(s) follow this with a description of a congregation divided between Greeks and Jews. The two groups arriving with different outcomes on what was being said. This two groups theory is weak, because the association in the text is not apparent. Drawing from the text of Epiphanius on the Corinthian conflict, strengthens the two-group conflict theory, but it is not air-tight.
The catena on I Corinthians 14:2 and 5 covers the office of prophecy and its more comprehensive ability to deal with understanding thoughts, words, ideas, and language, than simply the production of a language, or a translation of it.
This is all the time the author(s) spent on the historical aspect. They were more concerned how the rite of tongues was applied in their day.
First of all their was the itinerant preachers. The Cyrillian text associates I Corinthians 14 with their itinerant preachers whose duty was to routinely visit Churches throughout the Alexandrian Church empire — a realm which had a number of ethnic, and language groups. The ability to speak in the tongue of the local vernacular was a requirement for these preachers to teach, and pray.
The prayers in the Church were led by leaders called prefects — a ruler over monks, clergy, and bishops.. It was a recitation that the laypeople would follow with their own voices. These prayer sessions were important — especially the recitations. The literacy level in the ancient world was estimated to be around 5%. The exhortation of Scripture, reading, and prayer, led by literate people was an important occupation — if the leaders were not correct in teaching the laypeople, who would in turn memorize mnemonically through recitation, then it could lead a whole community astray.
If someone would speak or pray in the Church, whether priest, prefect, or the itinerant preacher, it would be in a high-priestly voice, similar to preachers who speak in King James English, old style Catholics who perform the liturgy in Latin, or the the use of High-German in Mennonite Churches with people who speak Low-German in their homes. The Church leader could also speak in another language if he chose to do such. What exactly was high-priestly language to them — was it older Greek, or Coptic? It is not known, but it definitely was not Latin. There was antagonism to Rome within the Alexandrian Church.
The important requirement of any Church leader speaking to an audience or any layperson was that the Skopos (σκοπὸς) had to understand what they were saying, or someone available that “sits near and interprets for the beginners.”.
The Skopos played an important position within the Church. The Skopos was an overseer who was to test, examine, and approve everything that was spoken, or done. He was also to translate, but that is likely a later attribute..
There was a function in the Church that assisted the lay-people in understanding what the priests were saying, singing, or doing. A type of translator, but more of an intermediary. In the Biblical text it is the ἀναπληρῶν, anaplérôn, but in Alexandria it is the κείμενος, keimenos.
This may not be the name of the actual office, but only a description of the duties involved. It may be describing a duty done by Skopos. However, that may assume too much — the Skopos may have integrated this function after the fifth century. Keimenos is used here for lack of a better nomenclature.
All messages that the keimonos explained to the people were to be concluded with an Amen.
If the keimonos did not understand the language, or message being spoken, he would not be able to translate or explain on behalf of the laypeople, and therefore would not be able to say Amen.
The Greek text tends to use melodic style of words that was hard to bring across in English. There was Psalm singing, and melody in the Church liturgy. When the keimonos brought the concept in the language of the common person it was formulated according to a musical form. Perhaps it was chanting, or reciting with a specific rhythm, or something similar to what a cantor does while reading a Hebrew text. The text does not go into enough detail to articulate.
The Cyrillian texts are totally oblivious to any Montanist influence on the tongues dogma.
The catena on I Corinthians borrows many Greek keywords from the ancient Greek prophetic realm. Some of them new to the tongues debate. However, they are not used in the classical way. They have become Christianized by this period. For more information, see Notes on the Cyrillian catena on I Corinthians 14:10.
These are the final conclusions for the texts attributed to Cyril of Alexandria on the dogma of tongues. This is one of a growing list of Church Fathers covered in the Gift of Tongues Project.