A 3000-year general history on the Book of Psalms numbering and divisional systems.
The structural development of the Book of Psalms has an interesting and complex history.
The results are the examination of documents spanning a 3000 year time period. The reader will be journeying through Hebrew, Greek, Syriac, Latin and English texts. Don’t worry. You don’t need to know the languages itself to join in this expedition. This work is designed for both the researcher and the passionate lay reader. Many pictures will be provided that will assist. One can marvel at the beauty of the handwritten text without understanding it.
The findings show that the Psalms began as an unordered list with no assigned numbers. The arrival of the Greek translation called the Septuagint brought about a numbering scheme for the Book of Psalms. The Septuagint also limited to the Book of Psalms to 151 poems, though this was not adhered to by other traditions which went up to 155. Verses were not introduced until much later. Verses were covered in a previous article titled, A History of Chapters and Verses in the Hebrew Bible.
As demonstrated by the Dead Sea Scrolls, the order of the poems in the Book of Psalms was not established in the early centuries. This happened after the widespread acceptance of the Septuagint later on.
The Septuagint assignments of numbers and order were assumed by the Latin translators, which in turn had an influence on the English Bible tradition.
The headers introducing most of the Psalms are the most controversial and misunderstood. In regards to the headers only, we are not so sure today on the meaning behind the original Hebrew or even the Greek translation. This has led to a multitude of interpretations even within the English Bible translation tradition.
These are mere generalities and the readers of this blog prefer details and substantiation. The following is how the above conclusions were arrived at.
Did the ancient Greek prophetesses, especially the Pythian priestesses in Delphi, speak in tongues and the Christians later adapted it?
The alleged connection between the two is an important one in the speaking in tongues debate. A dispute which this article seeks to look deeper into.
The approach used to find an answer is to locate the primary Hellenistic texts that make this connection and evaluate them. English translations will be listed along with the majority having Greek or Latin sources paralleled with them. A short analysis will be provided. The reader is not required to know either one of these languages in order to examine the works and can easily skip over these foreign texts.
For those readers who want a quick answer and do not want to look into the details, the conclusion is no, the ancient Greek prophetesses did not speak in glossolalia. Many readers that habitually come to this website won’t take such a conclusion literally until substantiation is shown that the following will provide.
Here is an introductory video on the Delphi temple and how the Greek priestesses operated. It is an investigation into whether gases from the cracks in the temple caused the prophetesses to go mad and prophesy. It does not address glossolalia but covers almost every other aspect of the Delphic priestess role and provides a good background to the subject matter.
Table of Contents
The connection between ancient Greek prophetesses and glossolalia
The classical sources on alleged glossolalia
Herodotus The Histories
Virgil in The Aeneid
Lukan’s The Civil War
Rohde’s Psyche: Cult of Souls
The connection between ancient Greek prophetesses and glossolalia
The christian doctrine of speaking in tongues has had three major movements over the 2000 years. The first one was the traditional one that lasted for 1800 years that it was either a miracle of speaking, hearing or both. The second one was far smaller in influence and began shortly after the Reformation called cessationism. This is a conservative Protestant faction that believes all miracles had ceased in the earlier church and thus any practice of speaking in tongues is false. This doctrine continues today. A third movement sprung up in the 1800s through the agency of German protestant scholars who used a groundbreaking methodology called higher criticism to interpret speaking in tongues. This resulted in a new doctrine called glossolalia. Instead of tracing the christian history of speaking in tongues through church literature and ultimately ending up at Pentecost, higher criticists took an entirely different path. They felt that most ancient christian literature was based on myth and could not be used as objective data. The better alternative was to trace speaking in tongues through classical sources such as Plutarch, Strabo, and others. Therefore, their history goes to ancient Greece before the advent of Christianity and focuses on the caves of Delphi and Dadona where the ancient Greek prophetesses would utter their prophecies.
Glossolalia is the dominant interpretational schema today. As outlined in the series, A History of Glossolalia, it has dominated the modern discussion so greatly that it has all but erased the memory of the traditional definition that existed for 1800 years. Glossolalia is found ubiquitously throughout the primary, secondary and tertiary literature. However, the Hellenistic sources used by higher criticists that trace back to the beginnings of Christianity or earlier have hardly been critically evaluated. The following is a collation and analysis of the major sources in Hellenistic writings on the Greek prophetesses allegedly speaking in tongues.
The connection between ancient Greek prophetesses and glossolalia
Herodotus The Histories
“The Histories. . . of Herodotus is now considered the founding work of history in Western literature. Written in 440 BC in the Ionic dialect ofclassical Greek, The Histories serves as a record of the ancient traditions, politics, geography, and clashes of various cultures that were known in Western Asia, Northern Africa and Greece at that time.Although not a fully impartial record, it remains one of the West’s most important sources regarding these affairs.”(1)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Histories_(Herodotus).
Herodotus refers to the ancient Delphian prophetess speaking in hexameter verse(2) Hdt. 1.47 http://data.perseus.org/citations/urn:cts:greekLit:tlg0016.tlg001.perseus-eng1:1.47 see also Hdt. 1.65, 1.66, 1.67, 5:60, 5:61, 7:220 that was clearly spoken. The actual citations can be found in the footnote and there is nothing in any one of them that relates to tongues-speech. Therefore, the Greek will not be provided.
Plato is one of the most revered Greek writers and philosophers of all time. If one wants to substantiate any Greek theme and it is supported in Plato’s work, then the argument has a winning probability. In the case of an ancient Greek priestess speaking ecstatically in his work, there are only two references that are close. These are not substantial. He lived in the fourth-century BC.
“Plato’s Phaedrus is a rich and enigmatic text that treats a range of important philosophical issues, including metaphysics, the philosophy of love, and the relation of language to reality, especially in regard to the practices of rhetoric and writing.”(3)http://www.english.hawaii.edu/criticalink/plato/ It is hard to see what the connection with glossolalia is here.
[244b] and the priestesses at Dodona when they have been mad have conferred many splendid benefits upon Greece both in private and in public affairs, but few or none when they have been in their right minds; and if we should speak of the Sibyl and all the others who by prophetic inspiration have foretold many things to many persons and thereby made them fortunate afterwards, anyone can see that we should speak a long time. And it is worth while to adduce also the fact that those men of old who invented names thought that madness was neither shameful nor disgraceful.(4)Plato in Twelve Volumes. Translated by Harold Fowler. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1925
“Timaeus . . . is one of Plato’s dialogues, mostly in the form of a long monologue given by the title character Timaeus of Locri, written c. 360 BC. The work puts forward speculation on the nature of the physical world and human beings. . .”(6)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timaeus_(dialogue) Plato is describing how the human mind can touch the divine. He believed a normal rational mind cannot connect and must be in an altered state to do such. Whatever vision, apparition or speech that occurs in an altered state must be interpreted by a person of a stable or rational mind. The speech itself that Plato refers to is not glossolalia or ecstatic speech, rather he relates the process required finding out the meaning behind the difficult imagery or words.
[71e] as good as they possibly could, rectified the vile part of us by thus establishing therein the organ of divination, that it might in some degree lay hold on truth. And that God gave unto man’s foolishness the gift of divination a sufficient token is this: no man achieves true and inspired divination when in his rational mind, but only when the power of his intelligence is fettered in sleep or when it is distraught by disease or by reason of some divine inspiration. But it belongs to a man when in his right mind to recollect and ponder both the things spoken in dream or waking vision by the divining and inspired nature, and all the visionary forms that were seen, and by means of reasoning to discern about them all
[72a] wherein they are significant and for whom they portend evil or good in the future, the past, or the present. But it is not the task of him who has been in a state of frenzy, and still continues therein, to judge the apparitions and voices seen or uttered by himself; for it was well said of old that to do and to know one’s own and oneself belongs only to him who is sound of mind. Wherefore also it is customary to set the tribe of prophets to pass judgement
[72b] upon these inspired divinations; and they, indeed, themselves are named “diviners” by certain who are wholly ignorant of the truth that they are not diviners but interpreters of the mysterious voice and apparition, for whom the most fitting name would be “prophets of things divined.”
For these reasons, then, the nature of the liver is such as we have stated and situated in the region we have described, for the sake of divination. Moreover, when the individual creature is alive this organ affords signs that are fairly manifest, but when deprived of life it becomes blind and the divinations it presents are too much obscured to have any(7)Plato. Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 9 translated by W.R.M. Lamb. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1925.
Virgil or more accurately, Publius Vergilius Maro, is a first-century BC ancient Roman poet. His alleged contribution to the tongues connection is small.
Then to Phoebus and Trivia will I set up a temple of solid marble, and festal days in Phoebus’ name. You also a stately shrine awaits in our realm; for here I will place your oracles and mystic utterances, told to my people, and ordain chosen men, O gracious one. Only trust not your verses to leaves, lest they fly in disorder, the sport of rushing winds; chant them yourself, I pray.” His lips ceased speaking.(9)Virgil. Eclogues, Georgics, Aeneid. Translated by Fairclough, H R. Loeb Classical Library Volumes 63 & 64. Cambridge, MA. Harvard University Press. 1916
And the Latin
Tum Phoebo et Triviae solido de marmore templum instituam, festosque dies de nomine Phoebi. Te quoque magna manent regnis penetralia nostris: hic ego namque tuas sortes arcanaque fata, dicta meae genti, ponam, lectosque sacrabo, alma, viros. Foliis tantum ne carmina manda, ne turbata volent rapidis ludibria ventis; ipsa canas oro.” Finem dedit ore loquendi.(10)Vergil. Bucolics, Aeneid, and Georgics Of Vergil. J. B. Greenough. Boston. Ginn & Co. 1900.
The question that surrounds Virgil is his reference to mystic utterances. What does he mean by that? The Latin translation is incorrect and should read, Here therefore I will place your lots and secret fates(11)https://2010bhslatinap.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/book-6-lines-64-82/ Regardless of the translation, it is a stretch to make this sequence out to be glossolalia.
Lukan’s The Civil War
Lukan was a well known poet who was a friend of the unstable and often cruel Emporer Nero. This relationship that brought him to fame also led him to the grave. He was ordered to death by Nero for treason. His work, De Bello Civili (On the Civil War), covered the war between Julius Caesar and Pompey. The important part of his work relating to speaking in tongues relates to his narrative on a Delphian priestess. He reported a story of Appius Claudius Pulcher coming to a Delphic priestess to find out the future, possibly if he should go to war. The priestess, named Phemenoe, fakes such a prophecy which Appius rightly identified. Appius seriously threatened her and forced Phemenoe to flee to the ancient prophetic cave. The inspiration the cave once offered had ceased for some time already but in this instance, Apollo returned and filled Phemenoe. She went into madness, raving, and uttered a prophecy. She foretold Appius was to die.
There is no reference to her being in a trance and uttering strange or foreign words at all. For the sake of substantiation, here is the English and Latin with what is the closest parallel.
At last Apollo mastered the breast of the Delphian priestess ; as fully as ever in the past, he forced his way into her body, driving out her former thoughts, and bidding her human nature to come forth and leave her heart at his disposal. Frantic she careers about the cave, with her neck under possession ; the fillets and garlands of Apollo, dislodged by her bristling hair, she whirls with tossing head through the void spaces of the temple ; she scatters the tripods that impede her random course ; she boils over with fierce fire, while enduring the wrath of Phoebus. . . first the wild frenzy overflowed through her foaming lips ; she groaned and uttered loud inarticulate cries with panting breath ; next, a dismal wailing filled the vast cave ; and at last, when she was mastered, came the sound of articulate speech : ” Roman, thou shalt have no part in the mighty ordeal and shalt escape the awful threats of war ; and thou alone shalt stay at peace in a broad hollow of the Euboean coast.” Then Apollo closed up her throat and cut short her tale.”(12)Lukan: with an English Translation by J. D. Duff. The Civil War. Books I—X (Pharsalia) (Book V) London: William Heineman Ltd. 1962. Pg. 249Ff
165 Pectore Cirrhaeo, non umquam plenior artus
Phoebados irrupit Paean: mentemque priorem
Expulit, atque hominem toto sibi cedere iussit
Pectore. Bacchatur demens aliena per antrum
170 Colla ferens, vittasque dei Phoebeaque serta
Erectis discussa comis, per inania templi
Ancipiti cervice rotat, spargitque vaganti
Obstantes tripodas, magnoque exaestuat igne,
Iratum te, Phoebe, ferens. . .
190 Spumea tunc primum rabies vesana per ora
Effluit, et gemitus, et anhelo clara meatu
Murmura: tunc moestus vastis ululatus in antris,
Extremaeque sonant, domita iam virgine, voces:
Effugis ingentes, tanti discriminis expers,
195 Bellorum, o Romane, minas: solusque quietem
Euboici vasta lateris convalle tenebis.
Caetera suppressit, faucesque obstruxit Apollo.(13)Pharsaliae Libri X. M. Annaeus Lucanus. Carolus Hermannus Weise. Leipzig. G. Bassus. 1835
Out of all the literature referring to the rites of the Delphic priestesses, Plutarch contains the most information. Plutarch was a biographer and writer who lived in the middle to late first century (46 – 120 AD). His work, Moralia explored the customs and lores of his time. His thirty-odd years as a priest at Delphi may be the reason why he covers the topic of Delphic priestesses so often.
A drawback to Plutarch’s Moralia is that it is a large composition that would be time consuming to do a comparative analysis. Fortunately, an old series of publications entitled, Moralia, in fifteen volumes, with an English translation are digitally searchable at archive.org. This has immensely helped. A search in Volume 4 demonstrates that the office of the Delphic priestess was an important one in Greek society that required the prophetess to speak in direct terms. All the prophecies given were coherent and readily understood. There is no shadow of strange or incoherent language being spoken.
The Oracles at Delphi
Volume 5 continues with the same tone but gets far deeper. In Plutarch’s letter titled, The Oracles at Delphi, he writes that the prophecies given by the priestesses were done in prose and metre. He also believed it was done in a formal, eloquent style. Here are some quotes that demonstrate this.
“It is very pleasant to listen to such conversation as this, but I am constrained to claim the fulfilment of your first promise regarding the cause which has made the prophetic priestess cease to give her oracles in epic verse or in other metres.”(14) Vol. 5. The Oracles at Delphi Pg. 301
“those who do not believe that in his time the prophetic priestess used verse in her oracular responses. Afterwards, wishing to prove this, he has found to support his contention an altogether meagre number of such oracles, indication that the others were given out in prose, even as early as that time. Some of the oracles even to-day come out in metre…”(15) Vol. 5. The Oracles at Delphi Pg. 311
“Now we cherish the belief that the god, in giving indications to us, makes use of the calls of herons, wrens, and ravens ; but we do not insist that these, inasmuch as they are messengers and heralds of the gods, shall express everything rationally and clearly, and yet we insist that the voice and language of the prophetic priestess, like a choral song in the theatre, shall be presented, not without sweetness and embellishment, but also in verse of a grandiloquent and formal style with verbal metaphors and with a flute to accompany its delivery! What a statement, then, shall we make about the priestesses of former days?”(16) Vol. 5. The Oracles at Delphi Pg. 321
“And as for the language of the prophetic priestess, just as the mathematicians call the shortest of lines between two points a straight line, so her language makes no bend nor curve nor doubling nor equivocation, but is straight in relation to the truth…”(17) Vol. 5. The Oracles at Delphi Pg. 341
I don’t think it is even necessary to produce the Greek original text because Plutarch is very clear on how the prophecy was spoken. There is no ambiguity that it was clear, refined, and direct speech. But if some really want to read the Greek, a good start would be with a book called: Pythici dialogi tres.
On the Fame of the Athenians
Plutarch lifts a line from Aristophane’s comedy called, Frogs where he writes:
the ones who’ve never seen or danced
the noble Muses’ ritual songs,
or played their part in Bacchic rites
of bull-devouring Cratinus(18)https://records.viu.ca/~johnstoi/aristophanes/frogs.htm
These lines appear to be an esoteric piece, except Johannes Behm cites them in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. He partially uses this to connect speaking in tongues with Hellenism.(19)Johannes Behm γλῶσσα, ἑτερόγλοσσος as found in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Vol. 1. Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich eds. Trans. By Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. 1964 Behm cites the original Aristophanes text with only γλώττης βακχει and the actual footnote is very brief. It was hard to locate the actual source, so this required some guesswork. The above was the closest representation found. The Plutarch version had the best English translation, so it was utilized. These lines are a weak correlation. I don’t even know why this reference was included.
Strabo “(64 or 63 BC – c. 24 AD) was a Greek geographer, philosopher, and historian who lived in Asia Minor during the transitional period of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire.”(20)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strabo Strabo seems to retell the same story by that of Plutarch. The Delphic prophetesses would go into a trance and prophesy in verse. These words then would be recorded by the priests.
9.3.5 They say that the seat of the oracle is a cave that is hollowed out deep down in the earth, with a rather narrow mouth, from which arises breath that inspires a divine frenzy; and that over the mouth is placed a high tripod, mounting which the Pythian priestess receives the breath and then utters oracles in both verse and prose, though the latter too are put into verse by poets who are in the service of the temple. They say that the first to become Pythian priestess was Phemonoe; and that both the prophetess and the city were so called from the word pythésthai,” though the first syllable was lengthened, as in athanatos, akamatos, and diakonos.
An eleventh-century AD Christian by the name of Michael Psellos, a statesman and lover of literature who lived in Constantinople, unearths a different interpretation.
And seeing that from the work of Apollo: the prophetess, by the mouth, the word follows, she became overcome around the tripod, she was pronouncing on the one hand to the Persians, and on the other to the Assyrians, and the Phoenicians — all according to metre and also rhythm which she had not known with beautiful language which she not had learned.
Psellos wrote that the Pythian prophetess was miraculously speaking in foreign languages. This is not consistent with any other interpretation. Psellos loved to play with ancient classical literature to parade his literary genius, but this doesn’t explain why he would do this. However, he felt that this was not the same phenomena as the christian rite of tongues. He believed the Apostles controlled what they spoke and were personally engaged. The Pythian priestess was out of her senses when she spoke.
This is an odd addition that needs more scrutiny, but it does not lead into the direction of glossolalia.
Although his work is a little over one hundred years old, it has withstood the test of time. It is not a widely known work outside of scholastic circles, but it deserves public praise.
A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature: Fourth Revised cites Rohde to assert: “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 ERohde.”(22)Walter Bauer. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian lterature: Fourth Revised. Translated by F.W. Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 1979. Pg. 162 However, a closer analysis of the page numbers (289-293) cited in Rohde’s work does not validate such. There is no such connection or any concrete evidence for glossolalia. The closest reference found was this; “ In hoarse tones and wild words, the Sibyl gave utterance to what the divine impelling power within her and not her own arbitrary fancy suggested ; possessed by the god, she spoke in a divine distraction.”(23)Erwin Rohde Psyche: The Cult of Souls and the Belief in Immortality among the Greeks, Books for Libraries Press 1972 edition, reprinted from the English translation of 1920. W.B. Hillis translator. Pg. 293 One has to be cautious with Rohde because he is writing with a narrative style and may have been too descriptive. He nowhere substantiates such a claim from authorities such as Herodotus, Plutarch or anyone else that the Sibyl did such types of discourse.
The works examined so far demonstrate there is no vital connection between the ancient Greek prophetesses and speaking in tongues. These stories definitely lack any features of glossolalia. The actual accounts from Lukan, Plutarch, Virgil, Plato, Strabo, Herodotus and Michael Psellos show no correlation at all. It would take a large leap to connect these two disparate genres together.
Perhaps I have missed something in this argument because of my lack of proficiency in the German language which most of the original discussions are found. Even so, this conclusion lines up with Christopher Forbes who is a “is a Senior Lecturer in Ancient History, and Deputy Chairman of the Society for the Study of Early Christianity,”(24)https://www.mq.edu.au/about_us/faculties_and_departments/faculty_of_arts/department_of_ancient_history/staff/dr_chris_forbes/ at Maquarie University in Australia. He wrote a dissertation on this subject and converted it into a book called, Prophecy and Inspired Speech: In Early Christianity and Its Hellenistic Environment. In it he stated:
The obscurity of Delphic utterances is not a matter of linguistic unintelligibility at all. It is simply that some such oracles were formulated, at the level of literary allusion and metaphor, in obscure, cryptic and enigmatic terms. They were, in a word, oracular.(25)Christopher Forbes. Prophecy and Inspired Speech: In Early Christianity and Its Hellenistic Environment. Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. 1997. Pg. 109
There is a potential parallel between the ancient Greek prophetesses and the Old Testament seers in their role and function in society. The prophetic dimension is an interesting set of readings. A comparative work between ancient Israel’s and Greece’s prophetic office is a worthy topic on its own but it does not fit into the tongues paradigm.
Johannes Behm γλῶσσα, ἑτερόγλοσσος as found in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Vol. 1. Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich eds. Trans. By Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. 1964
Strabo. ed. A. Meineke, Geographica. Leipzig: Teubner. 1877.
Walter Bauer. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian lterature: Fourth Revised. Translated by F.W. Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 1979. Pg. 162
Erwin Rohde Psyche: The Cult of Souls and the Belief in Immortality among the Greeks, Books for Libraries Press 1972 edition, reprinted from the English translation of 1920. W.B. Hillis translator. Pg. 293
The Latin translation from the Greek text of Gregorii Nysseni, Oratio de Spiritu Sancto Sive in Pentecosten.
As found in Migne Patrologia Graeca, Vol. 46. Col. 697 – 699
Hodie enim transactas, juxta annui orbis stata tempora, quinquaginta a Paschatis festivate diebus, hac ipsa, tertia scilicet diei hora, donum illud hominibus largitus est Deus, quod omnem dicendi vim superat. Rursus enim homini admistus est ille Spiritus, qui antea, propterea, quod homo esset caro, a natura nostra recesserat, et spiritualibus nequitiae potestatibus per vehementem illum spiritum disjectis, cunctisque foedis daemonibus ejusdem adventu ex aere expulsis, divina virtute, speciem ignis prae se ferente, repleti sunt, qui in superiore domus parte degebant ; neque enim fieri potest, ut quis sancti Spiritus particeps fiat, nisi in sublimiori hujus vitae instituto versetur. Nam qui ea, quae sursum sunt, sapiunt, et vitae conversatione, e terra in coelum translata, in coenaculo sublimis illius vitae rationis habitant, hi sancti Spiritus participes fiunt. Congregatis enim in coenaculo discipulis, ut in Actuum apostolorum historia narratur, ignis ille divinus omnisque materiei expers, ad linguarum instar, pro eorumdem discipulorum numero, divisus est. Illi ergo Parthos, Medos, et Elamitas, ac reliquas gentes alloquebantur, ad quarumlibet earum linguas voces suas pro libitu accommodantes. At ego, ut inquit Apostolus, malo, sensu meo quinque verba loqui in Ecclesia, ut aliis etiam prosim, quam decem millia verborum in lingua. Verum tunc quidem multum profuit, apostolorum vocem aliarum gentium linguis aptari, ne praeconum linguam ignorantibus Evangelii promulgatio incassum fieret; nunc autem quoniam una eademque lingna(1)I think this an MPG printer error. This should read lingua utimur, igneam debemus Spiritus linguam exquirere, qua eos qui per errorem in tenebris versantur, illuminemus.
Gregorius Nyssenus Theol., Contra Eunomium
The portion relating to the confusion of tongues at Babel, the nature of human and divine speech, and slight reference pentecostal speaking in tongues.
The original text can be found in two locations:
Thesaurus Linguae Graecae: Gregorius Nyssenus Theol., Contra Eunomian (2017.030) Book 2, Chapter 1 [247ff] – as taken from W. Jaeger, Gregorii Nysseni opera, vols. 1.1 & 2.2. Leiden: Brill, 1960.
Migne Patrologia Graeca Vol. 46. Lib. XII Col. 993ff. A pdf of the relative pages are provided here. mpgvol45col993ff
An English translation can be found 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
The following are quotes from the principal sources on the real Francis Xavier and the legend of his speaking in tongues. This is a quotes only document — a comparative analysis of all this information is in the final stages and will be posted as a separate article.
The debate and controversy that surrounded St. Francis Xavier’s alleged speaking in tongues was a source of internal friction within Catholicism, especially the among the Jesuits themselves, and a rallying point for Protestants. The real Francis Xavier did not speak in tongues, but the legend of Francis did.
How this legend began and grew is an interesting and complex story.
This leads into a journey about how Medieval Catholics viewed speaking in tongues; what it meant to them, how it was applied, and the politics that surrounded this practice.
The legend of Francis Xavier speaking in tongues ranks within the top five themes throughout the two-thousand-year history of the christian doctrine of tongues. There is no doubt that this legend is the most complex one out of any documents in the Gift of Tongues Project. There are numerous reasons why the mystery of Francis Xavier is difficult. The original documentation is multilingual; spanning Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Latin, and French. The subject is wrapped in Medieval Catholicism, which has its own unique history, customs, personalities and procedures that outsiders such as myself have a difficult time to grasp. Xavier’s gift of tongues is deeply embedded with international and national politics. The topic is shrouded in religious symbols and shifts into the Protestant realm where Rationalists especially took critical aim. It spans across continents and new worlds that most Europeans hardly knew at the time. The maps, names and locations mentioned in the texts are far from the modern English mind.
This article is produced to meet a requirement of the Gift of Tongues Project which is the digital capturing of source texts. The following are actual quotes from testimonies, writers, and publications that highly influenced and perpetuated this myth. These are actual quotes with little or no commentary from myself relating to Xavier speaking in tongues. They are organized according to date; from the earliest publications shortly after Xavier’s death, all the way into the twentieth-century. The Italian, Spanish and Portuguese originals are not digitally captured because I have no knowledge of these languages or the ability to do data-entry in them. However, links to the original text along with an English translation is supplied where appropriate.
This file is designed for the researcher, not for the casual reader. This is the longest article found in the Gift of Tongues Project because of the amount of source material. It may take a few moments to load the full contents into the browser, please be patient.
Translation and analysis of St. Norbert of Xanten. A 12th-century Christian who is claimed to have spoken in tongues.
The medieval biography of the Saints called Acta Sanctorum only includes a brief reference to him and it is not clear whether it was a miraculous act. Perhaps it was a description of St. Norbert as a very charismatic and intelligent communicator. Great eloquence and showmanship can cross linguistic barriers even if the audience doesn’t understand the language being spoken.
If the passage translated below is to be taken as a miraculous intervention, then this incident would be credited as a miracle of hearing.
St. Norbert name lives on as the founder of the Prémontré community – a Catholic organization that still exists throughout the world today. The official Prémontré website gives a brief biography as one who was very ascetic and sought for reforms within his original Xanten community but was rebuffed. He chose then, at the approval of the Pope, to become an itinerant preacher.(1)http://www.premontre.org/chapter/cat/people/perpetual-calendar-of-order-saints-and-blesseds/st-norbert-june-6/ He must have been a charismatic and passionate person because his preachings resulted in numerous monasteries, a substantial following and founder of a movement.
St. Norbert would have been relatively forgotten in the greater annals of history outside of the Prémontré community, but his narrative began a different discussion. His name resurfaced regarding which principle language was spoken in Belgium during the 12th-century. The debate brought in the miracle of tongues, not out of a theological enquiry, but collateral baggage in answering the above question. Fortunately, this discussion brought information on how the gift of tongues was applied and understood within the Church.
Xanten is a city situated in the north-east part of modern Germany. Valenciennes is a city found in northern France near the Belgium border. Valenciennes has traded territories throughout history. It was ceded to France under King Louis the XIV in the mid to late 1600s(2)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/County_of_Hainaut
The Valenciennes language of the 12th century was covered by Philip Mouskes in his 1836 work, Chronique rimée de Philippe Mouskes. This is a historical account of Belgium which included a brief description of city of Valenciennes through the lens of St. Norbert’s life. This is a French work with a good outline of St. Norbert. It is better to translate Mouskes, along with the Latin passage from Acta Sanctorum than to begin an entirely new exposition on the subject.
The following translation is from the Latin found in Acta Sanctorum. AASS, June I, 815 v. 24
When the three came to Valenciennes on Palm Sunday. On the next day then he gave a sermon to the people, clearly hardly knowing or understanding of this Romance language until now,(k) because he never learned it. But then he was without despair, so he began to address in his mother tongue. The Holy Spirit which had formerly taught the 120 people(3)Acts 1:15 different languages, then made the uncivilized of the German(4)Teutonic language and the difficulty of the eloquent Latin language suitable to be understood by the hearers. And therefore, through the grace of God, became acceptable to everyone that they compelled him to carry through to the end of the feast days and somewhat revive parts of the body. While to such an offer he did not wish to relax, in fact his face was of going to the Cologne Episcopate, on account of the people and language which he had familiarity with.
The footnote listed as (k) in Acta Sanctorum states “He understands the poor, the ignorant, unlearned, and the Rustic. It was the Romana language which is presently called Gallican or French.”
The Romana language was interpreted in the 1800s to mean a mixture of Latin and Celtic. Some writers preferred to use Rustic as the definition instead of Romana though the interchangeability between these two words is confusing. The Gallican language was styled after the Romana language.(5)The Southern Review. Vol. 5. February and May, 1830. Charleston: A.E. Miller. 1830. Pg. 376
As shown above, the text itself alludes to St. Norbert speaking in languages as the 120 did in the Book of Acts, but the example afterwards lacks strength. However, a Medieval theological portrait can be gleaned about speaking in tongues. When St. Norbert spoke in either German or Latin, the audience understood him speaking in their own Romana language. The author of Acta Sanctorum understood this was a miracle of hearing.
The following is translated from the book: Philip Mouskes. Chronique rimée de Philippe Mouskes. Vol. 1. Bruxelles: Le Baron De Reiffenberg. 1836. Pg. CXXVIff.
Note that the text was written in French but he sometimes left quotes in the original Latin, which are translated into English too.
“The life of saint Norbert, founder of the order of the Premonstratensians,(6) Prémontré – http://www.premontre.org/ is written by one of his contemporaries and gathered by the Bollandistes, gives us a subsequent and overabundant proof, that in 1119, the only common language in Valenciennes(7)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valenciennes and in Fosse,(8)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fosses-la-Ville near Namur, was the Romance language, and that the German language was entirely unknown by the people there.
Norbert was born in Xanten, in the land of Cleves. After his conversion, he embraced the austere missionary life. Having travelled in Germany, Italy and crossed a part of France, he arrived at Valenciennes with three companions, the eve of Palm Sunday, in 1119, with the intention of going to Cologne in order to preach there. Although he did not know how yet to speak the Romance language, which was the language of the land which he had not learned, the strength of his zeal gave him the determination to preach the following day in the presence of the people. He was so favourably received by the entire public that they vigorously solicited him to stay for the Easter celebrations at Valenciennes, and to rest there of his tiredness; to which he did not want to agree, (his intent was to go to the diocese of Cologne because he knew the language and the inhabitants), it happened through the dispensation of God, that his companions having been fallen upon with a sudden illness, that he could not then depart any further at that time.
[Translation from the Latin] When the three came to Valenciennes on Palm Sunday. On the next day then he gave a sermon to the people, clearly hardly knowing or understanding of this Romance language until now, because he never learned it. But then he was without despair, so he began to address in his mother tongue. The Holy Spirit which had formerly taught the 120 people(9)Acts 1:15 different languages, then made the uncivilized of the German(10)Teutonic language and the difficulty of the eloquent Latin language suitable to be understood by the hearers. And therefore, through the grace of God, became acceptable to everyone that they compelled him to carry through to the end of the feast days and somewhat revive parts of the body. While to such an offer he did not wish to relax, in fact, his face was of going to the Cologne Episcopate, on account of the people and language which he had familiarity with.[end of Latin and back to French]
This preaching probably consisted in a fervent elocution, of multiple gestures and expressions and these shouts, these vivid accents which rarely miss their effect on the multitude. It was a lively expressive gesture of some tonic phrases and where the enthusiasm of the actor connects with the spectators.
Norbert, despite his resistance, nevertheless had been forced to spend some time at Valenciennes because his associates had fallen sick and all three died in this city. Meanwhile, Burchard, Bishop of Cambrai, arrived there and Norbert, who had known him at the court of the emperor, thought that he ought to make a visit with him. He presented himself there under the most modest attire of a poor missionary who travelled by bare feet despite the hardship of the season.
The Bishop had a priest named Hugh for a chaplain, native of Fosse, near Namur, and who had been a student of the monastery of this city. Hugh showed Norbert into the mansion of the Bishop who had difficulty recognizing his old friend in a raiment so different than those which he formerly wore at the Court. But when he recognized him, he tenderly kissed him and showed him the most affectionate feelings. Hugh the priest, who was standing and present about their conversation, however, understood nothing from it because they were speaking in German, but astonished about the ways of the Bishop towards this singular character. He took the liberty to step forward near the Dignitary and asked him who this stranger was. Then the Bishop related to him the story of St. Norbert. Hugh was so touched by all this which he learned about this subject that, after a few days, he formed a resolution to follow the missionary and become his most faithful companion, the same one who many authors attribute the life of Saint Norbert and where they draw these details from.
[Translation from the Latin] In fact, while the previously mentioned cleric who introduced him stands and saw the affection of the Bishop towards the man, yet hardly understands at all their conversation because they are speaking in German, dared to venture closer and asked who then is this person? Immediately the Bishop says, etc.,(11)Mouskes took this from Pg. 816 of Acta Sanctorum. AASS, June I[end of Latin and back to French]
This account is a little long, but nothing of being boring. We have already documented the outcome that we claim to draw such out of.
Another point of interest that is yet longer, of where the result clearly is that at the City of Liége, the people did not speak German between each other. At the end of 1146 and what was the demarcation of languages the same as today – a state of affairs which might have been spontaneously realized and which the time had inevitably prepared.”