St. Matthew Speaking in Tongues

A Medieval account on the apostle Matthew speaking in tongues.

The following is a modified version of William Caxton’s 1483 English translation of the Latin work, Legendae Aurea, commonly known in English as the Golden Legend. A highly popular book during the Medieval era.

The text as it is found in the Golden Legend

Matthew appeared with two names: Matthew and Levy. Matthew is meant a hasty gift, or a giver of counsel, or Matthew is said of the Latin ‘magnus,’ and Greek ‘theos,’ that is God, as it were a great God. Or of the Latin ‘manus,’ that is a hand, and the Greek ‘theos,’ that is God, as it were the hand of God. He was a gift of hastiness by hasty conversion, a giver of counsel by wholesome preaching, great to God by perfection of life, and the hand of God by writing of the gospel of God. Levy is interpreted obtained, or applied, or added, or appointed. He was obtained and taken away from gathering of taxes, he was applied to the number of the apostles, he was added to the company of the evangelists, and appointed to the catalogue of martyrs.

Matthew the apostle preaching in a city that is called Nadaber in Ethiopia, found there two enchanters named Zaroes and Arphaxat, who enchanted the men by their art, so that they desired everything that should seem deprived in soundness of mind and use of limbs. Which were so elevated in pride that they were adored by men as if God himself. Then Matthew the apostle entered into that city and was lodged with the eunuch of Candace the queen, whom Philip baptized. Then he laid bare the illusions of the enchanters, that whatever they did to men for destruction, that Matthew turned into health. Then this eunuch demanded of S. Matthew how he spoke and understood so many languages. And then St. Matthew told him when the Holy Ghost descended He had given knowledge of all the languages. As to those who had wanted to build a tower up into heaven, because the confusion of languages, they ceased from building, rather the Apostles built a tower not of stones but of upright qualities through the knowledge of all the languages, by the which all that believe shall mount up into heaven.(1)Modification and modernization of Caxton’s text done by me. The original English text can be found at: http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/goldenlegend/GoldenLegend-Volume5.asp#Matthew Volume 5: 71. English by William Caxton, 1483

Here is the original Latin text.

As taken from Jacobi A. Voragine. Legendae Aurea: Vulgo Historia Lombardica Dicta. Dr. Th. Graesse ed. Lipsiae. 1850. Pg. 622ff.

Matthaeus binomius exstitit, scilicet Matthaeus et Levi. Matthaeus autem interpretatur donum festinationis vel donator consilii. Vel dicitur Matthaeus a magnus et theos, quod et Deus, quasi magnus Deo, vel a manus et theos, quasi manus Dei. Fuit enim donum festinationis per festinam conversionem, donator consilii per salubrem praedicationem, magnus Deo per vitae perfectionem, manus Dei per evangelii conscriptionem. Levi interpretatur assumtus vel applicatus sive additus aut appositus. Fuit enim assumtus ab exactione vectigalium, applicatus numero apostolorum, additus consortio evanglistarum et appositus catalogo martirum.

Matthaeus apostolus in Aethiopia praedicans in civitate, quae dicitur Nadaber, duos magos nomine Zaroen et Arphaxat reperit, [623] qui ita homines suis artibus dementabant, ut, quoscunque vellent, membrorum officio et sanitate privare viderentur. Qui in tantam superbiam eruperunt, ut se quasi Deos ab hominibus facerent adorari. Matthaeus autem apostolus praedictam civitatem ingressus et apud eunuchum Canadacis reginae, quem Philippus baptizaverat, hospitatus ita magorum praestigia detegebat, quod quidquid ipsi faciebant hominibus in perniciem, hoc ipse converteret in salutem. Eunocho autem sanctum Matthaeum interrogante, quomodo tot linguas loqueretur et intelligeret, exposuit ei Matthaeus, quod spiritu sancto descendente omnium linguarum scientiam reperisset, ut, sicut illi, qui per superbiam turrim usque in coelum aedificare volebant, prae confusione linguarum ab aedificatione cessaverunt, sic apostoli per omnium linguarum scientiam turrim non de lapidibus, sed de virtutibus construant, per quam omnes, qui crediderint, in coelum adscendant.

The above narrative describing Matthew speaking in tongues is a later addition to the tongues doctrine. The narrative is from the Legendae Aurea which can draw from some very old oral traditions, and others more recent to its time. Although this does not reflect the actual life of Matthew, it gives a valuable insight on how the late Medieval Church understood speaking in tongues. In this case, it was the supernatural ability to speak in foreign languages.

For more information on Medieval Catholic literature on speaking in tongues, see the following introductory article, Late Medieval Speaking in Tongues.

charlesasullivan

charlesasullivan

Charles Sullivan is a researcher and writer on topics of textual criticism, linguistics, theology, Christian mysticism and philosophy. He also frequently likes to delve into contemporary social and ethical issues from a faith perspective.
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