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Notes on the Cyrillian catena on I Corinthians 14:10

Some quick thoughts on concepts, and critical words in the translation of the I Corinthians 14:10 catena attributed to Cyril of Alexandria.

This text outlines a number of very interesting particulars: how ancient Greek words previously used in classical Greek rituals had become Christianized, and the office of the circuit preacher which required the knowledge of many languages. These elements are examined in more detail below.

A number of words have Greek antecedents to them that must be carefully examined. Did the Christian community in Alexandria import these into their vocabulary as is, or did they change the meaning to match what their experience was?

The text being discussed is contained in a sequence not found in Migne Patrologia Graeca, but in Phiippus Edvardus Pusey’s, Cyrilli: Archiepiscopi Alexandrini In D. Joannis Evangelium. Pusey based his text on a copy found at the Library of Pantokratoros on Mount Athos.

Both Migne and Pusey claim the origins of their works to be from Cardinal Angelus Maius, but contain different texts. Migne’s version has fewer words. It is also clear and concise. Pusey’s version has more text with some sentences being repeated with a few slight variations. It also appears some words are missing. Reading it feels choppy.

The Greek used in Pusey’s version is old. It has Doric, Attic, and Ionic representations in them. This would not be unusual for an international centre that the City of Alexandria was. It was a melting pot of many Greek languages and dialects.

It also does not contain a Latin parallel text. The Latin typically provides quick clues on how to translate problem words.

The first important word to note is εἰσεφοὶτων. This word is used exclusively in this text. It is found nowhere else (at least so far). A scouring of the internet, and all the major dictionaries, provided no clues. However, the root of εἰσεφοὶτων is φοιτάω, which means:

  • Perseus online: go to and fro, backwards and forwards, keep going from one part to another, roam wildly about, roam about in frenzy or ecstasy of a Bacchant; of sexual intercourse go into a man or woman; resort to a man, woman or place for any reason; As object of commerce—to come in constantly or regularly, be imported

  • Lampe’s Patristic Lexicon: spring-up, pollulate, of doctrines (Pg. 1847)

  • Donnegan’s A New Greek and English Lexicon; Principally on the plan of the Greek and German Lexicon of Schneider: to wander, roam about, come frequently, to go to school as a disciple or learner, wander about in a state of frenzy (Pg. 1348)

  • Schrevelius’ Greek Lexicon Translated into English: to frequent as a scholar, not as a master, come, go, approach, rave, be mad (Pg. 616)

  • Stephanus’ Thesaurus Graecae Linguae: This text is in Latin but all the definitions above, with perhaps the exception of Perseus, are taken from this source text. (Didot Bros. Volume 8. Pg. 989)

Perseus has defined φοιτάω from classical Greek sources. This is not surprising because Perseus uses Liddel and Scott’s Greek Dictionary as their basis. Lidell and Scott hardly reference Patristic writings in any of their dictionary definitions. However it does show where the word originated. It was used to describe the Bacchants who roamed about in a frenzy or ecstasy, but it also had other meanings as well.

Stephanus, Lampe, Donnegan, and Schrevelius recognize that φοιτάω has the quality of raving, or frenzy, but another principal attribute was that of frequently visiting or traveling to a place. It also became associated with going to school, discipleship, and learning. Lampe put a more developmental aspect to it. It was to initially seed doctrine within a community. Schrevelius specifically stated that φοιτάω was a verb referring to a scholar, not a master.

There are also other words that come from the same root that give hints on how to translate εἰσεφοὶτων. Donnegan is especially descriptive of these:

  • φοὶτητήρ one who goes and comes, any place, especially a school. A disciple, learner. One who is frantic (Pg. 1349).

  • φοῖτος roaming about, the wandering of the mind, insanity, also frenzy, that of the frantic votaries of the Bacchus and Cybele (Pg. 1349).

Schrevelius, spells φοὶτητήρ as φοιτητής as one who comes frequently to a master or scholar (Pg. 616).

These definitions give greater confidence in correctly translating the I Corinthians 14:10 catena portion.

The above definitions, plus the context of the Cyril text, demonstrate that εἰσεφοὶτων is considered as a localization of φοιτάω or perhaps intensified. The person is repeatedly going into Churches for the purpose of teaching the doctrines. The above dictionary definitions give the appearance that it was an entry or mid-level position, educating on the doctrines of the Church, but not by a Bishop or a Cardinal.

The English equivalent would be a circuit rider. This was a system devised by the Methodists for clergy to serve more than one congregation at a time. In Cyril’s explanation, the emphasis was on teaching in a circuit where the the Churches were linguistically different, and the base requirement for this person was to be multilingual.

The second term that is used to describe tongues-speaking was κεχρῆσθαι. This is not an exclusive term used by Cyril but one shared by Origen. This one has a wide semantic range. Perseus defines it as to furnish what is needful, to declare, pronounce, proclaim. In the passive it is to be translated as: to be declared, proclaimed by an oracle, to consult a god or oracle, to inquire of a god. It hasn’t really changed. In the instance of this catena, to proclaim was used, but this may be too weak. “To prophecy,” in the traditional religious sense, would be more suited, but this word now carries a number of contemporary meanings that would mislead many readers.

The verb ἐρεύγεσθαι is another unique word. Its root is ἐρεύγομαι: to belch out, bellow, or roar. Hence, to loudly utter, as in a public display, or simplified, to utter, is a good English word choice.

Μανθάνοντος. This present active participle masc. gen. sg form of μανθάνω was used in the Septuagint and also by Origen. One of the dictionaries defines it as: learn, especially by study but also by practice, learn by heart, acquire a habit of, and in past tenses, to be accustomed to, perceive, remark, notice, understand. Hence it is not a supernatural phenomenon, in this context of I Corinthians 14:10 people hearing a language that they have learned or is their principle language.

It is clear from the text that the standard Greek words that were used for the Bacchus Greek prophets in the past, had evolved and changed into Christian definitions. The past history of the word was known and understood, but fell out of popular usage.

Introduction to the History of Glossolalia

An examination on why the traditional doctrine of tongues as a supernatural endowment of a foreign language all but died and was replaced by the doctrine of glossolalia.

This series of articles will demonstrate how the new definition originated in the early 1800s and has progressed to the strong doctrine that presently exists.

The reader will discover a rich story behind the development of this concept with exact names, disputes, and places. The series will clearly show the change from a miracle of speech or hearing to glossolalia. This change was a process that took over a century to develop and became universally and unquestionably entrenched.

What is glossolalia and were the ancient Christian writers aware of this practice?

Though there are a number of words to describe modern tongues speaking such as ecstasy, ecstatic utterance, frenzy, etc., glossolalia will be used throughout this series as a blanket term.

Glossolalia, ecstasy, and ecstatic utterances are the same words to explain something that is unintelligible and meaningless. “Glossolalia is language-like because the speaker unconsciously wants it to be language-like.”(1)a quote from William Samarin as found in: Robert Carroll. The Skeptic’s Dictionary. A collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions. New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons. 2003. Pg. 135

This new definition has its own history separate from that of the ecclesiasts who guarded the old doctrine of tongues as a miracle of either a person spontaneously speaking a foreign language or the recipient hearing sounds in one’s own tongue. Rarely has the new definition of glossolalia been critically examined or traced from its initial beginnings to the present. This is what the series, A History of Glossolalia, is all about.

This series is part of the Gift of Tongues Project that has a fourfold purpose of collecting, digitizing, translating and analyzing important texts relating to the christian doctrine of tongues. The overwhelming evidence collected so far maintains the church had always understood the miraculous use of tongues at Pentecost as either spoken or heard as foreign languages. Historical leaders such as Augustine, Gregory Nazianzus, Epiphanius, John Chrysostom, Cyril of Jerusalem, Cyril of Alexandria, the Ambrosiaster text, Pachomius, the Venerable Bede, Pope Benedict XIV and more have covered the subject. The details may be different but all agree that it was a foreign human language. Their critical debates were whether it was a miracle of hearing or speaking, or whether the language constructed itself in the mind or converted at the last moment on the lips.(2)For more information on whether it was a miracle of speaking or hearing, see Gregory of Nazianzus on Pentecost and Michael Psellos Michael Psellos on the Tongues of Pentecost.

These church writers were not aware of an alternate interpretation of tongues as ecstasy or glossolalia.

Michael Psellos in the eleventh century was well aware of the Greek prophetesses going into an ecstatic state and speaking in foreign languages. He knew that there could have been a relationship between this and the Christian practice but dispelled the correlation outright. Neither did he believe that the ancient Greek prophetesses spoke gibberish or a highly exalted language. He believed they were speaking a foreign human language. When the connection between the Greek prophetesses and Christian tongues was made in the early 1800s, Psellos important contribution to the debate was neglected out of ignorance or wilfully ignored.(3)Michael Psellos on the Tongues of Pentecost.

The initial problem connecting glossolalia with the christian doctrine of tongues.

An implicit bias in the doctrine of glossolalia is its absence or little use of the church fathers. Many scholars who were proponents of tongues as glossolalia failed to recognize or integrate base christian texts, selectively choosing weaker ones instead. They neither wrestled with the church texts in any detail to assert or repudiate their claims.

The church fathers focused mainly on the Day of Pentecost in Acts where they believed the experience to be people supernaturally endowed with the ability to speak in foreign languages. Paul’s coverage of the tongues problem in Corinth has been more difficult for the ancient church writers to cover. Most have avoided literally explaining it, choosing to go into allegory or emphasizing the moral force of the text: the need for charity instead of pride. Noted exceptions to this were: Epiphanius, who saw the Corinthian problem as an ethno-linguistic conflict, the Ambrosiaster text, which summed it up as conflict between Aramaic and Greek speaking Jews; and the Cyril of Alexandria text which explained problems arising from hypothetically speaking in Eastern languages such as Mede in a Greek speaking community. These church writings can be found documented at the Gift of Tongues Project.

Problems connecting Montanism and their glossolalia with the christian doctrine of tongues.

Scholars from the realm of higher criticism have introduced Eusebius’ coverage of the Montanist movement and their ecstasies as the historical definition of speaking in tongues in the church. However, the Greek keyword for tongues doesn’t even occur in the text. This omission is very problematic and weakens this solution. The ecclesiastical writers made no connection with the Montanists regarding speaking in tongues. Neither can any person find documents with the church specifically arguing for or against Montanist tongues. The Montanist experience for explaining Christian tongues didn’t arrive until 1500 years after the Montanist experience by Conyers Middleton in his publication, Free Inquiry.(4)see Conyers Middleton and the doctrine of tongues This is a later interpretation that cannot be substantiated through early historical literature.

An overview on the history of glossolalia series.

How the doctrine of glossolalia first appeared and took over this subject matter is a complex journey that requires a series of articles to answer. To get started, here are a number of brief thoughts to set things up for the articles to follow:

The nineteenth-century Irvingite Movement can be blamed for renewed interest into the subject. They brought the tongues theology out of a deep sleep and into the critical attention of the international community; from the layperson to magazines, newspapers and scholars. It summoned a deep theological debate that was in the cross-hairs between the traditional supernaturalists and the quickly rising rationalist movement. The Irvingite event was the litmus test for both parties credibility.

The rise of the glossolalia definition and the abandonment of the traditional one was also largely due to the casualty of ecclesiastical writings being dropped as historical literature and switched to the category of legends and myths. There is a purposeful de-emphasis of ecclesiastical writings in the primary, secondary and tertiary sourcebooks from the 19th century onwards.

This has had a profound impact on the controversies surrounding this doctrine. In fact, if this de-emphasis on ecclesiastical writings did not exist, it would change the modern debate altogether.(5) A more detailed account on why and how the Ecclesiastical writings were dropped and not considered a legitimate source for scholarly study can be found at this link, The Historical Rejection of Patristics and its Legacy

The series of articles.

These are all generalizations here, which the Gift of Tongues Project normally tries to avoid. In this case, some introduction was necessary. This is a large work and is broken into a number of articles. Here is the complete listing:

References   [ + ]