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A History of the Rise and Influence of Rationalism in Europe

The book A History of the Rise and Influence of Rationalism in Europe (2 vols., 1865) is a seminal piece of literature. This well written work helps to provide valuable insights for the modern reader with the backstory on the conversion of Europe from a mystical to a rational society.

Written by William Lecky, an Irish-Anglican historian and politician (1838–1903), he greatly succeeded in studying and narrating the complex and evolving web of rationalism, morals, miracles, the supernatural, Catholicism, and Protestantism into a systematic and comprehensive portrait.

This book assists this blog in three different ways. Firstly, it demonstrates why the patristic writings were blotted out of the modern history on the doctrine of tongues. Lecky provided the logic behind this notable absence. (The following article on this blog The Historical Rejection of Patristics and its Legacy covers this in detail.)

Secondly, the book provides some history behind the doctrine of cessation in the protestant movement. He gives some hints as to why this doctrine arose.

Thirdly, he contributes to another interest of this blog and that is with the intersection of faith and mental health. He outlined a period that was consistently engaged in moral and spiritual purity – one which was percieved to bring them safety, health, stability, and protection from the elements. It was the antidote for humanities ills. Science was considered tertiary in this struggle for security. The greatest enemy to these four aims was the devil and his army of angels. Society felt that the active pursuit and limitation of the powers of evil would ensure their personal physical, emotional, and spiritual security. This allowed the excess imagination of many to run wild and caused countless executions. This supernatural crusade was especially against women. Many of whom were accused of being witches. Most of these women today would likely be listed with some form of mental illness, but back in this period, there was little concept of such a thing. It is a sad chapter in Western history. However, this was not always the exclusive approach by the Church. Jean Claude Larchet demonstrates in his book Mental Disorders and Spiritual Healing that at least from the Eastern Christian Church perspective, the treatment of mental health by the institutional church has had some progressive and merciful aspects too.

The reader must keep in mind that the irrational social response to the fear of the unknown cannot be restricted or blamed on the christian faith. It is a problem of the human psyche. Today we wrestle with the same problems of fear. Our world has significantly changed after the events of 9/11. The ever apparent fear of terrorists at the door have weakened citizen rights and has created serious suspicion upon any Muslim or anybody who looks Arab. The United States decision to ban citizens from seven Muslim dominated countries from entering their land underscores this irrationalism. This is but one of many examples. North American society is now driven by an irrational culture of fear in almost all of its decision making.

Many readers will not have the time to soak in Lecky’s voluminous treaty. The following are snippets from his work. The book itself is available at the Online Library of Liberty.

Quotes from A History of the Rise and Influence of Rationalism in Europe

Pg. 27 “There is certainly no change in the history of the last 300 years more striking, or suggestive of more curious enquiries, than that which has taken place in the estimate of the miraculous. At present, nearly all educated men receive an account of a miracle taking place in their own day, with an absolute and even derisive incredulity which dispenses with all examination of the evidence. Although they may be entirely unable to give a satisfactory explanation of some phenomena that have taken place, they never on that account dream of ascribing them to supernatural agency, such an hypothesis being, as they believe, altogether beyond the range of reasonable discussion. Yet, a few centuries ago, there was no solution to which the mind of man turned more readily in every perplexity. A miraculous account was then universally accepted as perfectly credible, probable, and ordinary. There was scarcely a village or a church that had not, at some time, been the scene of supernatural interposition. [Pg. 28] The powers of light and the powers of darkness were regarded as visibly struggling for the mastery. Saintly miracles, supernatural cures, startling judgments, visions, prophecies, and prodigies of every order, attested the activity of the one, while witchcraft and magic, with all their attendant horrors, were the visible manifestations of the other.”

Pg. 32 is in reference to cleansing the nation of perceived evil, and of demons, witchcraft and sorcery, the author goes into great detail showing the innumerable deaths that were caused by this superstitious conflagration.

Pg. 32 “Such was the attitude of the Church of Rome with reference to this subject, but on this ground the Reformers had no conflict with their opponents. The credulity which Luther manifested on all matters connected with diabolical intervention, was amazing, even for his age; and, when speaking of witchcraft, his language was emphatic and unhesitating. ‘I would have no compassion on these witches,’ he exclaimed, ‘I would burn them all!’ In England the establishment of the Reformation was the signal for an immediate outburst of the superstition; and there, as elsewhere its decline was represented by the clergy as the direct consequence and the exact measure of the progress of religious scepticism. In Scotland, where the Reformed ministers exercised greater influence than in any other country, and where the witch trials fell almost entirely into their hands, the persecution was proportionately atrocious.”

Pg. 36 “Indeed, the philosophy of madness is mainly due to Pinel, who wrote long after the superstition had vanished; and even if witchcraft had been treated as a disease, this would not have destroyed the belief that it was Satanic, in an age when all the more startling diseases were deemed supernatural, and when theologians maintained that Satan frequently acted by the employment of natural laws.”

Pg. 37 “It may be stated, I believe, as an invariable truth, that, whenever a religion which rests in a great measure on a system of terrorism, and which paints in dark and forcible colours the misery of men and the power of evil spirits, is intensely realised, it will engender the belief in witchcraft of [pg. 38] magic. The panic which its teachings will create, will overbalance the faculties of multitudes. The awful images of evil spirits of superhuman power, and of untiring malignity, will continually haunt the imagination. They will blend with the illusions of age or sorrow or sickness, and will appear with an especial vividness in the more alarming and unexplained phenomena of nature.”

Pg. 63 “Amid all this strange teaching, there ran, however, one rein of a darker character. The more terrible phenomena of nature were entirely unmoved by exorcisms and sprinklings, and they were invariably attributed to supernatural interposition. In every nation it has been believed, at an early period, that pestilences, famines, comets, rainbows, eclipses, and other rare and startling phenomena, were effected, not by the ordinary sequence of natural laws, but by the direct intervention of spirits. In this manner, the predisposition towards the [Pg. 64] miraculous, which is the characteristic of all semi-civilised nations, has been perpetuated, and the clergy have also frequently identified these phenomena with acts of rebellion against themselves. The old Catholic priests were consuin mate masters of these arts, and every rare natural event was, in the middle ages, an occasion for the most intense terrorism. Thus, in the eighth century, a fearful famine afflicted France, and was generally represented as a consequence of the repugnance which the French people manifested to the payment of tithes. In the ninth century, a total eclipse of the sun struck terror through Europe, and is said to have been one of the causes of the death of a French king.”

Pg. 69 “We find then that, all through the middle ages, most of the crimes that were afterwards collected by the inquisitors in the treatises on witchcraft were known; and that many of them were not unfrequently punished. At the same time the executions, during six centuries, were probably not as numerous as those which often took place during a single decade of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In the twelfth century, however, the subject passed into an entirely new phase. The conception of a witch, as we now conceive it—that is to say, of a woman who had entered into a deliberate compact with Satan, who was endowed with the power of working miracles whenever she pleased, and who was continually transported through the air to the Sabbath, where she paid her homage to the Evil One—first appeared. The [Pg. 70] panic created by the belief advanced at first slowly, but after a time with a fearfully accelerated rapidity. Thousands of victims were sometimes burnt alive in a few years. Every country in Europe was stricken with the wildest panic. Hundreds of the ablest judges were selected for the extirpation of the crime. A vast literature was created on the subject, and it was not until a considerable portion of the eighteenth century had passed away, that the executions finally ceased.”

Pg. 81 “When the belief is confined to the lower class, its existence will be languishing and unprogressive. But when legislators denounce it in [Pg. 82] their laws, and popes in their bulls; when priests inveigh against it in their pulpits, and inquisitors burn thousands at the stake, the imaginations of men will be inflamed, the terror will prove contagious, and the consequent delusions be multiplied.”

Pg. 84 -85 “I know, indeed, few stranger, and at the same time more terrible pictures, than are furnished by the history of witchcraft during the century that preceded and the century that followed the Reformation. Wherever the conflict of opinions was raging among the educated, witchcraft, like an attendant shadow, pursued its course among the ignorant; and Protestants and Catholics vied with each other in the zeal with which they prosecuted it. Never was the power of imagination—that strange faculty which casts the shadow of its images over the whole creation, and combines all the phenomena of life according to its own archetypes—more strikingly evinced. Superstitious and terror-stricken, the minds of men were impelled irresistibly towards the miraculous and the Satanic, and they found them upon every side. The elements of imposture blended so curiously with the elements of delusion, that it is now impossible to separate them. Sometimes an ambitious woman, braving the dangers of her [Pg. 85] act, boldly claimed supernatural power, and the haughtiest and the most courageous cowered humbly at her presence. Sometimes a husband attempted, in the witch courts, to cut the tie which his church had pronounced indissoluble; and numbers of wives have, in consequence, perished at the stake. Sometimes a dexterous criminal availed himself of the panic; and, directing a charge of witchcraft against his accuser, escaped himself with impunity. Sometimes, too, a personal grudge was avenged by the accusation, or a real crime was attributed to sorcery; or a hail-storm, or a strange disease, suggested the presence of a witch. But, for the most part, the trials represent pure and unmingled delusions. The defenders of the belief were able to maintain that multitudes had voluntarily confessed themselves guilty of commerce with the Evil One, and had persisted in their confessions till death. Madness is always peculiarly frequent during great religious or political revolutions; and, in the sixteenth century, all its forms were absorbed in the system of witchcraft, and caught the colour of the prevailing predisposition.”

Pg. 86-87 “It is very difficult for us in the present day to do justice to these works, or to realise the points of view from which they were written. A profound scepticism on all subjects [Pg. 87] connected with the Devil underlies the opinions of almost every educated man, and renders it difficult even to conceive a condition of thought in which that spirit was the object of an intense and realised belief. An anecdote which involves the personal intervention of Satan is now regarded as quite as intrinsically absurd, and unworthy of serious attention, as an anecdote of a fairy or of a sylph. When, therefore, a modern reader turns over the pages of an old treatise on witchcraft, and finds hundreds of such aneedotes related with the gravest assurance, he is often inclined to depreciate very unduly the intellect of an author who represents a condition of thought so unlike his own. The cold indifference to human suffering which these writers display gives an additional bias to his reason; while their extraordinary pedantry, their execrable Latin, and their gross scientific blunders, furnish ample materials for his ridicule. Besides this, Sprenger, who is at once the most celebrated, and, perhaps, the most credulous member of his class, unfortunately for his reputation, made some ambitious excursions into another field, and immortalised himself by a series of etymological blunders, which have been the delight of all succeeding scholars.”

Pg. 102-103 “The foregoing pages will, I trust, be sufficient to elucidate the leading causes upon which witchcraft depended. They will show that it resulted, not from accidental circum stances, individual eccentricities, or even scientific ignorance but from a general predisposition to see Satanic agency in life. It grew from, and it reflected, the prevailing modes of religious thought; and it declined only when those modes were weakened or destroyed. In almost every period of the [Pg. 103] middle ages, there had been a few men who in some degree dissented from the common superstitions; but their opinions were deemed entirely incomprehensible, and they exercised no appreciable influence upon their contemporaries.”

Pg. 114-115 “From the publication of the essays of Montaigne, we may date the influence of that girted and ever enlarging rationalistic school, who gradually effected the destruction of the belief in witchcraft, not by refuting [Pg. 115] or explaining its evidence, but simply by making men more and more sensible of its intrinsic absurdity.”

Pg. 119 “The history of witchcraft in Protestant countries differs so little from its history in Catholic ones, that it is not necessary to dwell upon it at much length. In both cases, a tendency towards the miraculous was the cause of the belief; and the degree of religious terrorism regulated the intensity of the persecution.”

Pg. 157 “Nothing could be more common than for a holy man to be lifted up from the floor in the midst of his devotions, or to be visited by the Virgin or by an angel. There was scarcely a town that could not show some relic that had cured the sick, or some image that had opened and shut its eyes, or bowed it head to an earnest worshipper.”

Pg. 159 “All this has now passed away. It has passed away, not only in lands where Protestantism is triumphant, but also in those where the Roman Catholic faith is still acknowledged, and where the mediæval saints are still venerated.”

Pg. 161 “If these propositions be true—and I scarcely think that any candid person who seriously examines the subject can [Pg. 162] question them—they lead irresistibly to a very important general conclusion. They show that the repugnance of men to believe miraculous narratives is in direct proportion to the progress of civilisation and the diffusion of knowledge.”

Pg. 163 “We find, accordingly, that from the very beginning, Protestantism looked upon [Pg. 164] modern miracles (except those which were comprised under the head of witchcraft) with an aversion and distrust that contrasts remarkably with the unhesitating credulity of its opponents. The history of its sects exhibits, indeed, some alleged miracles, which were, apparently, the result of ignorance or enthusiasm, and a very few which were obvious impositions.”

Pg. 169 “Middleton met it by an attack upon the veracity of the Fathers, which was so eloquent, so uncompromising, and so admirably directed, that all England soon rang with the controversy. He contended that the religious leaders of the fourth century had admitted, eulogised, and habitually acted upon principles that were diametrically opposed, not simply to the aspirations of a transcendent sanctity, but to the dictates of the most common honesty.”

Pg. 171 “If the Fathers were in truth men of the most unbounded credulity and of the laxest veracity; if the sense of the importance of dogmas had, in their minds, completely superseded the sense of rectitude, it was absurd to invest them with this extraordinary veneration. They might still be reverenced as men of undoubted sincerity, and of the noblest heroism; they might still be cited as witnesses to the belief of their time, and as representing the tendencies of its intellect; but their pre-eminent authority had passed away. The landmarks of English theology were removed. The traditions on which it rested were disturbed. It had entered into new conditions, and must be defended by new arguments.”

Pg. 186 “Whatever is lost by Catholicism is gained by Rationalism; wherever the spirit of Rationalism recedes, the spirit of Catholicism advances. Towards the close of the last century France threw off her allegiance to Christianity, endeavoured to efface all the traditions of her past, and proclaimed a new era in the religious history of mankind. She soon repented of her temerity, and retired from a position which she had found untenable. Half the nation became ultramontane Roman Catholics; the other half became indifferent or Rationalist.”

Pg. 194-195 “. . .and the spirit of Rationalism has become the great centre to which the intellect of [Pg. 195] Europe is manifestly tending. If we trace the progress of the movement from its origin to the present day, we find that it has completely altered the whole aspect and complexion of religion. When it began, Christianity was regarded as a system entirely beyond the range and scope of human reason: it was impious to question; it was impious to examine; it was impious to discriminate. On the other hand, it was visibly instinct with the supernatural. Miracles of every order and degree of magnitude were flashing forth incessantly from all its parts. They excited no scepticism and no surprise. The miraculous element pervaded all literature, explained all difficulties, consecrated all doctrines. Every unusual phenomenon was immediately referred to a supernatural agency, not because there was a passion for the improbable, but because such an explanation seemed far more simple and easy of belief than the obscure theories of science. In the present day Christianity is regarded as a system which courts the strictest investigation, and which, among many other functions, was designed to vivify and stimulate all the energies of man. The idea of the miraculous, which a superficial observer might have once deemed its most prominent characteristic, has been driven from almost all its entrenchments, and now quivers faintly and feebly through the mists of eighteen hundred years.”

Gregory of Nyssa on Speaking in Tongues – English texts

English translations of Gregory of Nyssa’s references to speaking in tongues.

Oratio de Spiritu Sancto sive in Pentecosten

I could not find an English translation of this text, so I took the time to provide one. The following is a passage from Gregory of Nyssa’s Oratio de Spiritu Sancto sive in Pentecosten. This portion directly reflects Gregory of Nyssa’s perspective on speaking in tongues.

For the complete copy in the Greek see, Gregory of Nyssa Speaking in Tongues: Source Texts

Translation by Charles A. Sullivan based on the text found in Migne Patrologia Graeca. Vol. 46. Col. 695ff.

For today is a sign in reference to the annual time of the year of 50 days being complete. Seeing that, in respect to the actual hour, we are upon the third hour of the day, the event of grace happened that is beyond words. For the Holy Spirit mingled again with men, the very thing which previously because of man begotten as flesh, ceased to be among our nature. And because of the violence of this wind, then the spiritual powers of evil and of all the dirty demons have been driven out from the air by the descent of the Holy Spirit — those who remained in the upper room were begotten with fillings of divine power in the form of fire. For no person otherwise has the ability to have begotten a share of the Holy Spirit nor those dwelling of this life in the upper room. How great are these people upwardly comprehending things, the citizens being inhabitants of the high room are transforming their citizenship from earth to heaven — they are coming into an alliance with the Holy Spirit. Consequently, the narrative of the Book of Acts says that while these people are gathered in the upper room, is the dividing up in each one the pure and supernatural fire in the form of languages according to the number of disciples.

So then these people are thus discoursing in Parthian, Mede, and Elamite in the other remaining nations, adapting their voices with respect to authority to every state language. Even as the Apostle says, “I wish five words to speak with my mind in the Church in order that I may benefit others than a thousand words in a tongue.” Truly at that time the benefit was the same language begotten into foreign languages so that the preaching to those ignorant of the truth would not be in vain when those preaching thwart them by a single voice. Now indeed while existing according to the same sounding language, it is necessary to seek after the fiery tongue of the Spirit for the illumination of those who dwell in darkness through error.

Contra Eunomium

Gregory of Nyssa’s treatise on divine and human languages along with some snippets to Pentecost can be found in his work Contra Eunomium. This translation is available at Gregory of Nyssa: Against Eunomium from a Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church. second series. Volume 5. Philip Schaff, Henry Wace, ed. Edinburgh: T & T Clark. 1892. Pg. 275ff.

St. Patiens Speaking in Tongues

The story of second-century St. Patiens going to the city of Metz in northeast France and speaking in tongues.

St. Patiens of Metz is a mysterious figure in the annals of ecclesiastical biographies. His existence is sure, but the details are sketchy. We do know he died around 157 AD,(1)https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patient_de_Metz and was the fourth bishop appointed to the city of Metz – a northeastern city in France that is a geographic intersection between many other European cultures and languages.

Where St. Patiens came from, it is not known. However, he was not originally from the Metz region, nor did he speak whatever language was spoken there. I hesitate to write that these people spoke French because the land of the Gauls (ancient France) did not have a unified language and some regions had no relationship to the French language at all. According to the Acta Sanctorum, the people of Metz spoke a barbaric language. The term barbaric is reserved for languages and peoples that are remote, isolated or hostile. French may have been included in the list of barbaric languages during this period, but this is not certain.

The following English translation is drawn from only one source, Acta Sanctorum . This book may be drawing from a fabricated myth relating to his name because of a fight between two religious orders. The religious orders, l’abbaye Saint-Clément and l’abbaye Saint-Arnould, had a strong competition between each other during the tenth and fourteenth centuries. L’abbaye Saint-Clément asserted their ministry was based on St. Clement of Metz, arguably the first-ever bishop of Metz.(2) This person had no association with Clement of Rome or by his other name Pope Saint Clement I Later mythology had Clement of Metz as a “vanquisher of a local dragon.”(3)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clement_of_Metz

The rival L’abbaye Saint-Arnoud countered with their version of St. Patiens. They argued that he was a follower of the Apostle John and met him on a trip to Asia minor.(4)https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patient_de_Metz They may have also supplied the myth that he supernaturally spoke in tongues to support their claim as the more credible church order. However, it is hard to validate any of these claims or to understand the actual dating of Clement of Metz or Patiens. There are many contradictions. There simply isn’t enough information to build a proper framework.

His biography demonstrates how the Medieval Catholic writers of Acta Sanctorum understood the Christian rite of speaking of tongues. Acta Sanctorum is an encyclopedic text of Christian saints organized on their feast day. It was first begun in the early 1600s with additions and corrections being made until 1940. It is not an old document in the literary sense, but has value in reflecting the beliefs of tongues at the time.

The definition of speaking in tongues is clearly defined in their story of St. Patiens. They believed this operation was the spontaneous speaking in a foreign language unknown beforehand. This is abundantly clear with no concept of an alternative definition. Nor do the authors delve deeply into the mechanics behind this miracle.

Enclosed is an English translation. Late Medieval Latin is new to me and there are definite variations from Classical Latin. I was unprepared for these challenges before starting the Medieval translation series. It is a work in progress.

My rough English translation from the Latin source text


7. Blessed Patiens is therefore emboldened by such a great miracle and with the ancestral recollection. He took up the pastoral office, he asks for the blessing of this very gift named by the many and relics of the Saints and by the Book of the Gospel. He takes an unknown road with those through sea bays of Illyria and the Adriatic. He avoids the wide-ranging difficulty of the journey with Christ as the guide and finally ended-up in the territory of the Gauls. O Miracle! The language of the uncivilized peoples, which he previously did not understand, he understood, and responded, and as necessity required. This was the sign of the miraculous relating to the first ones established in the Church, that whom the Apostles anointed and appointed for the purpose of preaching to the nations. Immediately they openly received the knowledge of languages, even as the Acts of the Apostles describes of Cornelius. And so with this certain proof, the blessed St. Patiens arrived at the city of Metz, who the ecclesiastical order along with the people of faith rejoice about the arrival. And then is encouraged from this state which from the revelation previously had been celebrated is registered as the successor of St. Felix who was the third after the blessed Clement ruled the city.


The Latin from Acta Sanctorum

AASS: Jan. 8 Pg. 469-70 verses 7 – 8(5)Joannes Bollandus. Acta Sanctorum. Godefrido Henscheno, Danielle Papebrochio. Joanne Camandet, ed. Paris: Victorem Palmé. 1867


7. Confortatur itaque tanto B. Patiens miraculo, et admonitione paterna. Pastorale suscepit officium, multisque Sanctorum pignoribus ac ipsius Evangelii codice donatus benedictionem petit, accipit : ignotum iter cum suis per Illyrici et Adriatici sinus maria arripit : tandemque Christo duce difficultatem itineris multimodam evadit, Gallorum fines intravit. Mirare ! Linguam Barbarorum, quam pridem ignorabat, intelligebat, et respondebat, necessariaque requirebat. Fuit hoc insigne miraculum in Ecclesia primitivorum, ut quos Apostoli chrismate præsignabant, vel ad prædicandum gentibus ordinabant, illico manifeste scientiam linguarum accipiebant, sicut de Cornelio Actus Apostolorum narrant. Itaque certo indicio B. Patiens Metim civitatem devenit : quo deveniente Ecclesiasticus ordo cum fideli populo lætatur,et tam ex habitu quam ex revelatione pridem celebrata, de successore S. Felecis, qui tertius post B. Clementem rexerat Urbem, certificatur, consolatur.


References   [ + ]

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.

References   [ + ]

St. Anthony of Padua’s Miraculous Speech

The account of St. Anthony of Padua speaking in tongues early in the thirteenth-century.

St. Anthony of Padua allegedly spoke before a mixed ethnic and linguistic gathering of Catholic authorities while the audience miraculously heard him in their own languages.

This event perhaps is a later addition to the legend of St. Anthony, but the narrative gives valuable insights into what the people during this era perceived the miracle of tongues to be.

Anthony of Padua (1195 to 1231 AD) “was a Portuguese Catholic priest and friar of the Franciscan Order. He was born and raised by a wealthy family in Lisbon and died in Padua, Italy. Noted by his contemporaries for his forceful preaching and expert knowledge of scripture, he was the second-most-quickly canonized saint after Peter of Verona. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on 16 January 1946. He is also the patron saint of finding things or lost people.”(1)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_of_Padua

Such an assertion about speaking in tongues forces the critical reader to look further into the original account itself. In this case, two texts were found written in the Latin describing this same event. In accordance to the goals of The Gift of Tongues Project, English translations are provided along with the Latin originals. Normally the English translations, analysis, and Latin source texts are broken into three distinct blog entries. However, this instance is very brief, so all three are blended together into one blog article.

The following statements about St. Anthony speaking in tongues should be added to the historical record concerning the Christian doctrine of tongues. The texts themselves carry the idea of the person speaking in one language and the miracle consisted of those hearing it in their native tongues. A critical researcher on St. Anthony’s life, Raphael M. Huber, called this narrative a “multinational sermon.”(2)Raphael M. Huber. St. Anthony of Padua. Doctor of the Church Universal. A Critical Study of the Historical Sources of the Life, Sanctity, Learning, and Miracles of the Saint of Padua and Lisbon. Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company. 1948. Pg. 130 This explanation is a good way to describe this phenomenon.

The authors of these biographies believed the miracle was one of the audience hearing it in their own language while St. Anthony spoke either in Latin or Portuguese. This is consistent with Pope Benedict the XIV’s view that the miracle of tongues can either be one of speaking or of hearing.(3)See Benedict the XIV on Tongues: An analysis for more info

The experience was not recognized nor cited in Thomas Aquinas’ theological account of tongues which suggests that Aquinas either didn’t agree with this miracle, or didn’t know about it. The separation of time between this alleged incident and Thomas’ writing would only have been around 30 to 50 years. The miracle would have been fresh in the minds of the theologians during Aquinas’ time. The text concludes a miracle of hearing which Aquinas does not support.

One would also assume that anyone invited to speak before a high-level gathering of Church leaders would have the ability or requirement to speak and the audience to understand in Latin. Addressing the assembly in a language other than Latin in this period seems a remote possibility. Writers such as Dante Alighieri and Roger Bacon during this period give a higher credence to Latin as the language of faith, piety and instruction and frown upon the ability of other languages to communicate in such lofty speech. Perhaps Alighieri and Bacon represent the ideal context but the reality existed that foreign Church leaders did not possess such Latin fluency in either speaking or hearing.

The First account is from Acta Sanctorum

AASS June II: 13 Pg. 216 – 217. AASS – the acronym popularly refers to the work called Acta Sanctorum. This book contains short biographies of the lives of the Saints. Acta Sanctorum first began publication in the late sixteenth century and the last revised publication was completed in 1940. This book likes to give special attention to the miraculous. The Saints are listed in the Acta Sanctorum according to their feast day.

Chapter I.

On the miracle of the confusion and the conversion of the heretics.

The most glorious father, Saint Antonius of Padua, one of the chosen of the Society of Saint Francis, whom the same holy Father on this account called him Bishop because of his life and reputation of preaching. When he began to preach in the Roman Consistory, according to the mandate of the sovereign Pontiff with innumerable foreigners who attended at that place for the reason of the Indulgences and Council (there were in that place Greeks, Latin speakers, French people, Germans, Slavs, English and many other diverse languages), that he at once made a wonderful display in this way the language of the holy Spirit, because everyone who heard clearly understood with no lack of astonishment to all, and each one heard his own language in which he was born with. And nevertheless he brought up at that time sweet and lofty sounds, so that it was to render everyone who had been sneering into astonishment and wonder. On account of this the Pope called him the ‘Ark of the Covenant’.[ref]my translation of the Latin from AASS June II: 13 Pg. 216 – 217, Legenda Alia Seu Liber Miraculorum. Chronici Ordinis olim insertus et ex MSS erutus a R.P. Luca Waddingo

The second account is from Actus Beati Francisci et Sociorum ejus

At one time that wonderful vessel of the Holy Spirit, St. Anthony of Padua, one of the chosen followers and companions of St. Francis, whom St. Francis used to call his bishop, was preaching before the Pope and Cardinals in a consistory where there were men from different countries—Greeks and Latins, French and Germans, Slavs and English—and men of many other different languages and idioms. And being inflamed by the Holy Spirit and inspired with apostolic eloquence, he preached and explained the word of God so effectively, devoutly, subtly, clearly, and understandably that all who were assembled at the consistory, although they spoke different languages, clearly and distinctly heard and understood every one of his words as if he had spoken in each of their languages. Therefore, they were all astounded and filled with devotion, for it seemed to them that the former miracle of the Apostles at the time of Pentecost had been renewed, when by the power of the Holy Spirit they spoke in different languages.

And in amazement they said to one another: “Is he not a Spaniard? How then are we all hearing him in the language of the country where we were born—we Greeks and Latins, French and Germans, Slavs and English, Lombards and foreigners?” (4)The English translation as found in Christine F. Cooper-Rompato. The Gift of Tongues: Women’s Xenoglossia in the Later Middle Ages. USA: Pennsylvania State University. 2010. Pg. 28

The Latin original of AASS June II: 13 Pg. 216 – 217:

Gloriosissiumus Pater, S. Antonius de Padua, unus de electis Sociis S. Francisci : quem idem sanctus Pater, propter vitam et praedicationis famam, suum Episcopum a appellabat ; cum Romae in Concilio, de mandato summi Pontificis, peregrinis innumerabilus, qui illuc propter Indulgentias et Concilium convenerant, prædicaret (erant enim ibi Graeci, Latini, Francigenae, Theutonici, Sclavi, et Anglici, et aliarum linguarum diversarum) sic Spiritus sanctus linguam, ut quondam sanctorum Apostolorum, mirificavit ; quod omnes, qui audiebant, non sine omnium admiratione ipsum clare intelligebant : et unusquisque audiebat linguam suam, in qua natus erat. Et tunc tam ardua et melliflua eructavit, quod omnes reddiderit stupore et admiratione suspensos : propter quod Papa ipsum, Arcam testamenti vocavit.

The Latin original of Actus Beati Francisci et Sociorum ejus, including the header not included in the translation:

Qualiter sanctus Antonius prædicans ab hominibus diversarum linguarum fuit clare intellectus. Cap. 48

1. Vas admirable sancti Spiritus sanctus Antonius de Padua, unus de electis discipulis beati Francisci, quem sanctus Franciscus suum episcopum appellabat, quum prædicaret in consilio coram papa et cardinalibus, ubi erant Græci et Latini, Francigenæ; et Teutonici, Sclavi et Anglici et multi alii diversarum linguarum,

2. Spiritu sancto afflatus, lingua apostolica inflammatus, eructans mellifluum verbum, omnes illos tam diverarum linguarum in dicto consilio congregatos, luculentissime et clare ipsum audientes et distincte intelligentes, reddidit tanta admiratione et devotione suspensos,

3. ut videretur renovatum illud antiquum apostolorum mirabile [76 b 2] admirantium et dicentium : « Nonne iste Hispanus est? Et quomodo nos omnes audimus per eam linguam nostram in qua nati sumus, Græci et Latini, Francigenæ et Teutonici, Sclavi et Anglici, Lombardi et Barbari?

4. Papi etiam stupens ad tam profunda de scripturis divinis a sancto Antonio prolata, dixit: « Vere ist arca testamenti et divinarum Scripturarum armarium est. »

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