Tag Archives: Michael Psellos

A Summary of the Gift of Tongues Project: 30 to 1600 AD

How the tongues of Pentecost has passed down through seventeen-centuries of christian living.

Pentecost Graphic

People will always be inspired by the pentecostal narrative described in the Book of Acts and the mysterious tongues found later on in the New Testament epistle called I Corinthians. Those accounts have propelled many ardent students of the Bible and the christian faith to reproduce this phenomenon in their lives. The passion for a new Pentecost has cycled for twenty-one-centuries. How communities and persons perceived, practised and passed-on the right throughout these centuries is the goal of this study.

The christian rite of speaking in tongues has been controversial, especially over the last one-hundred years. Speaking in tongues is a practice expressed by Renewalists. Renewalism is the fastest growing christian faith in the world. Many have tried to explain this rite through experiential and psychological terms, but few have attempted an extensive study through historical literature.

This summary fills in the blanks of the historical record that have, up until now, been neglected.

This work is broken up into a three part series. Part I, which you are now reading, traces the evolution of Pentecost from the first to seventeenth-centuries which is inclusive of catholic perceptions. Part II covers the diverging definitions from the Reformation until modern times. Part II especially focuses on the protestant perceptions culminating in the early 1900s with the pentecostal movement. Part III is an in-depth look into the Corinthian tongues saga.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
    • What is speaking in tongues today?
    • The absence of historical literature in the modern tongues debate
    • The start and later acceleration of the Gift of Tongues Project
    • Glôssa better translated as language rather than tongue
  • Pentecostal Tongues
    • First to third-centuries
    • The golden age of the christian doctrine of tongues: the fourth-century
      • The connection between Babel and Pentecost
      • Hebrew as the first language of mankind and of Pentecost
      • Pentecost as a temporary phenomenon
      • Augustine on tongues transforming into a corporate identity
      • Gregory of Nyssa and the one voice many sounds theory
      • Gregory Nazianzus on the miracle of speech vs. the miracle of hearing
    • The expansion of the christian doctrine of tongues from the tenth to sixteenth-centuries
      • Later Medieval accounts of speaking in tongues
      • The legend of Francis Xavier speaking in tongues


    This summary is the result of the Gift of Tongues Project which is designed for the advanced researcher. The Gift of Tongues Project has attempted to identify, collate and digitize the source texts in the original Greek, Latin, with some Syriac, French and a sprinkling of a few other languages. English translations have been provided with almost every text, along with my own analysis. The Gift of Tongues Project differentiates itself from others because the source texts available on the website allow for you to research and draw your own conclusions. All the legwork is already done. All one has to do now is read instead of the time consuming and never ending task of finding the source files. Better yet, the majority is digitally searchable.

    Speaking in tongues owes its heritage to a book of the Bible called the Book of Acts. This book was written by a first-century christian follower and a physician named Luke. He only wrote 206 words(1)According to the NIV English Bible to describe the formative event called Pentecost. Pentecost established the foundations for Messianic Judaism and its universal message. This event was described as the Holy Spirit arriving and causing the apostles and 120 others to instantly preach in diverse foreign languages that they did not previously study or know. This explanation is the standard one to help the reader to get started on the subject. The summary will proceed to demonstrate there are many alternative viewpoints.

    Perhaps one could argue 800 words when you throw in the defense of the experience by Peter in Acts chapter 2 and the three other instances throughout the Book of Acts. Perhaps Paul could be credited with writing about Pentecost if his coverage in his first letter to the Corinthians contains a parallel, though Part III will show these are not connected. Why all the fuss over 206 words? If it was so important, why didn’t Luke go into much greater detail? This would have spared the modern day reader such a confusion. The clarification is going to take over 10,000 words and the parsing through a magnitude of documents found throughout the centuries to explain those few written words two thousand years ago.

    Luke is vague on the actual mechanics and certainly short on details. This leaves his Pentecost and subsequent tongues narratives with many unanswered questions; did every inspired person speak in a single different language and together they were speaking the languages of all the nations? Was it one sound emanating and changed during transmission so that the hearers heard their own language? If it was a miracle of hearing, what was that sound? Were the people conscious of what they were saying or were they completely overtaken by a divine power and had no comprehension about what they were speaking? Was it a heavenly, non-human or prayer language? Did this miracle continue after the first-century? How did this tongues-event get passed down to the next generation? Did it become part of the church liturgy?

    The various source manuscripts on the Book of Acts available today do not have any variance that brings about new clues. This necessitates digging deeper into other records.

    The Gift of Tongues Project and this summary believe that Pentecostals and Charismatics have brought positive contributions to the greater society, and have made the world a better place. The purpose of this examination is not to attack or denigrate their character. The goal is simply to find the truth of the matter. Nothing more.

    As a person who attends a charismatic church and involved in these type of communities for decades, I wanted the results to parallel their experiences. Unfortunately, the findings did not allow for this. Everyone who approaches the 2000 year narrative on speaking in tongues has to allow history to speak for itself – not to rewrite history to justify contemporary experience.

    In comparison to the detailed articles posted within the Gift of Tongues Project, few footnotes will be given here, and some ancient authors and minor movements will be ignored. One can find substantiation at the Gift of Tongues Project webpage. Links to the Gift of Tongues Project pages will be highlighted throughout. The results are subject to change as new information comes forward.

    This work traces the perception of tongues speaking through the centuries. Perception is not necessarily reality. On many occasions, the work will reference the perception with no remarks about the integrity of the event or person. This is up to the reader to decide.

    What is speaking in tongues today?

    Speaking in tongues is an inherent part of the present pentecostal and charismatic identities. This practice is one of the key features that distinguish them apart from other christian movements.

    How popular is speaking in tongues? A Pew Forum study has concluded one-quarter of all Christians are Renewalist Christians – a term given for those who emphasize miracles, supernatural occurrences, and oftentimes speaking in tongues within the Christian’s everyday life. Really, it is an umbrella term for Pentecostals, Charismatics, Third-Wavers and those who remain in mainstream denominations influenced by Pentecostals and Charismatics. There are an estimated 584 million Renewalists in the world. Perhaps even more. (2)http://www.pewforum.org/2011/12/19/global-christianity-movements-and-denominations/ This does not mean all those defined as Renewalists emphasize this doctrine and practice it. The same Pew study further demonstrates that no more than 53% of Renewalists speak in tongues in any country they examined. In most instances, it is less.(3)Spirit and Power: A 10-Country Survey of Pentecostals. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. October 2006. Pg. 16 My conservative estimate tallies about 150 million people consistently practising the christian rite of speaking in tongues throughout the world.

    The Renewalist faith, with its emphasis on holiness, mysticism, independence, and easy adaptability to different cultures, is the fastest growing segment of Christianity in the world. Their christian mystic framework along with its distinctive theology of speaking in tongues makes a historical study imperative.

    What do Renewalists presently believe speaking in tongues to be? There is a general agreement that speaking in tongues is a supernatural phenomenon — one that cannot be measured or defined by science. Some Renewalists call it a heavenly language that only the individual, God, and a special interpreter understands. Others say it is a private prayer language or a form of exalted worship. There a those who just shrug their shoulders and say it is simply a God thing that defies explanation. A handful may say speaking in tongues is the spontaneous ability to speak a foreign language. Most Renewalists believe that speaking in tongues is a deliberate outcome of a controlled mind – in other words, they are not crazies or kooks whose erratic behavior is in an uncontrolled hallucinatory state. They are regular people like the helpful neighbor across the street, the taxi driver, teacher, dentist, nurse, plumber, politician, lawyer or construction worker. Renewalists are found in all walks of life.

    A good example of a Renewalist speaking in tongues is found in this video clip of the late Kenneth Hagin. He was a highly respected and influential pentecostal preacher in the mid-1900s.

    Hagin appears as an elder statesman. He has a father like persona that the people in the audience are attracted to and appreciate. The young lady who is a distance behind Hagin in the video approves his message with an accepting smile. About four minutes into the video, he utters, “Memen hatsu toro menge kanga deging bango ondu konste fre peffe hemo outse,” and then begins to laugh. The laughter implies an overabundance of a spiritual force that overwhelms the senses, forcing the speaker into an uncontrolled fit. The audience cheered Hagin for more.

    This is a typical example, though speaking in tongues is not always done in a Sunday service. It is practised more frequently in weekday services, prayer sessions, pastoral settings, and special events.

    A more contemporary example is Reinhard Bonnke. Bonnke is a German-born evangelist whose work in Africa, especially Nigeria has earned him the rank of one the top preachers of all time in respect to audience reach. The example here is his public speaking in tongues at a large indoor gathering somewhere in Asia. His Christ for the Nations website claims over 55 million documented decisions for Christ under his ministry.

    Bonnke’s demonstration is not as obvious as Hagin’s. He mixes regular language and charismatic, excitable speech between short outbursts of tongues-speech. The audience is energized but not surprised by this presentation. This is quite common in renewalist circles.

    The absence of historical literature in the modern tongues debate.

    After an exhaustive approach of locating, digitizing, translating and analyzing two-thousand years worth of texts, the results of the Gift of Tongues Project has found one of the main challenges to solving this debate is overcoming the embedded ignorance of history.

    This finding was not anticipated at the start. The Project assumed at the beginning there was little christian literature throughout the centuries to build a case. Rather, there is a substantial corpus of ancient christian literature on the subject. The discovery about the abundance on the subject has created two rival stories. The first allows the building of a compelling narrative on the doctrine of tongues throughout the centuries. The second is the narrative about the ignorance of christian literature over the last two centuries and how it has contributed to the modern definition. Both play an important story in the modern definition and I am not sure which one is more important. They share a complex interplay that is difficult to untangle.

    The start and later acceleration of the Gift of Tongues Project.

    The Project was started in the 1980s, but little was done until the early 2000s. The initial goal was to parse through the collection of church writings found in the massive Migne Patrologia Graeca series and its Latin counterpart, Migne Patrologia Latina. There is no digital version of MPG available, so a page-by-page visual scan was required. This was a very time-consuming process – especially with over 135 volumes averaging 1200 pages each. This was a long process.

    Thankfully the internet age came along. Museums and other institutions have posted many manuscripts online. Better manuscripts are now available than the ones found in MPG. The ability to do digital searches with Google’s search engine reveals even more texts. The Gift of Tongues Project is one of the direct benefactors of the digitization of libraries, museums, and institutions.

    Glôssa better translated as language rather than tongue

    Glôssa (γλῶσσα) is the pivotal key word for the doctrine of tongues in the original Greek text. This word is the central theme found in Paul’s address to the Corinthians and Luke’s description of the first Pentecost. This noun is further used by later Greek ecclesiasts and authors on the subject.

    The challenge is how a contemporary researcher is to translate this word without a modern bias.

    When the Greek keyword appears, or if it is found in a Latin text, which is lingua, my mind always wants to automatically translate it as tongue.

    The word tongues, which is seldom used in our modern language to specifically mean a modern, regular or contemporary language, is usually understood to be something out-of-this-world, unusual or even weird. Sometimes it is used a synonym to language, but rarely in contemporary literature is it a predominant descriptor.

    As I have worked over both Greek and Latin Patristic texts, from the likes of Greek writers such as Irenaeus, Origen, Gregory Nazianzus, Cyril of Alexandria, Epiphanius, John of Damascus etc., to the Latin writers of Augustine, the Venerable Bede, Thomas Aquinas, the Ambrosiaster authors, and many more, they do not contain references to the gift being a strange, mystical or heavenly language that needs a new definition. It simply means a human language to them. To advance such a thought that it was different from a human language, they would have had to take extra steps to make it distinct. They never did.

    Secondly, one must keep in mind that the noun language was the dominant English word used to translate glôssa/γλῶσσα before the introduction of the Geneva Bible in 1534.

    See The Unknown Tongues in the English Bible for more information.

    It would not be fair to translate the church fathers on the subject using tongues instead of languages. It significantly changes the nuance of the text when it is done.

    One could argue that I am forcing my own interpretation on the text. However, it is believed that language is more accurate to what the writers meant.

    This changes things considerably, instead of Acts 2:4 reading as other tongues the proper reading is other languages. The other tongues creates ambiguities that never existed in the Greek. Other languages immediately starts to clarify a difficult subject.

    Pentecostal Tongues

    The large corpus of material studied and compared demonstrate that the christian doctrine of tongues was related to human languages for almost 1800 years. The mechanics of how this happened differed, but was the common theme. There were no references to angelic speech, prayer language, glossolalia, or ecstasy until the nineteenth-century.

    How it shifted from a concept of foreign languages to that of glossolalia is a major part of the story.

    The Pentecost event as described by the writer Luke in the first part of the Book of Acts has far more coverage than Paul’s address to speaking in tongues throughout ecclesiastical literature. The ancient christian authors were split on the symbolism of Pentecost. Pentecost was either understood as a symbol of the Gospel becoming a universal message beyond the bounds of the Jewish community or a theological symbol for the Jewish nation to repent.

    First to third-centuries

    The earlier church writers who lived between the first and third centuries, did mention the christian doctrine of tongues such as Irenaeous, who stated it was speaking in a foreign language. There was also Tertullian who recognized the continued rite in his church but fails to explain anything more than this. Neither of these writers contain sufficient coverage in their text to make a strong case for anything other than its existence.

    Origen, 184 — 254 AD

    The debate inevitably leads to Origen – one of the most controversial figures on speaking in tongues. Modern theologians, commentators, and writers all over the broad spectrum of christian studies believe Origen supports their perspective. This has created an Origen full of contradictions. Origen was a third-century theologian that can be viewed as either one of the greatest early christian writers ever because of combining an active and humble faith with a deep intellectual inquiry into matters of faith. On the other hand, he was mistakenly labeled a heretic after his death for his limited view of the Trinity. He lived at a time the Trinity doctrine was in its infancy and wasn’t fully developed. His views didn’t correlate with the later formulation and he was posthumously condemned for this. After careful investigation about his coverage on speaking in tongues, Origen hardly commented on it. If one is to draw a conclusion with the limited coverage by him is this: he didn’t think there was anyone pious enough during his time for this task, and if they were, it would be for cross-cultural preaching.

    The golden age of the christian doctrine of tongues: the fourth-century

    Due to the devastating effects of the persecutions by the Roman emperor Diocletian in the third-century, there is hardly any christian literature to choose from the first to third-centuries. This dramatically changes in the fourth-century when Christianity becomes a recognized religion, and later the foremost one within the Roman Empire. This is where things get really interesting.

    The fourth-century began to unfold greater details on speaking in tongues. Cyril of Jerusalem wrote that Peter and Andrew spoke miraculously in Persian or Median at Pentecost and the other Apostles were imbued with the knowledge of all languages. The founder of the Egyptian Cenobite movement, Pachomius, a native Coptic speaker, was miraculously granted the ability to speak in Latin.

    The doctrine of tongues divided into five streams in the fourth-century. The first interpretation was the speaking in Hebrew and the audience heard in their own language. The second was Pentecost as a temporary phenomenon. The third was the one voice many sounds theory formulated by Gregory of Nyssa. Fourth, the transition of a personal to a corporate practice represented by Augustine, and last of all the tongues paradox proposed by Gregory Nazianzus. Some may reckon that two more belong here – the cessation of miracles and the Montanists. Both Cessationism and Montanism are perceptions developed during the eighteenth-century. These theories will unfold further down in the summary chronology.

    Before winding down the path of these five options, it is necessary to take a quick look at the confusion of tongues found in the Book of Genesis. This story has an important relationship with the discussions to follow.

    The connection between Babel and Pentecost

    One would assume that the reversal of Babel would be one of the early streams of thinking about Pentecost. This proposition is surprisingly not the case. The idea that the ancient christian writers would connect the confusion of languages symbolized by the city Babel in the book of Genesis with Pentecost because both are narratives revolving around languages seems logical. The book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, has a brief narrative that described how mankind originally had one language. This oneness changed with their determination to build a tower to reach into the heavens which was stopped by the introduction of a plurality of languages. Although the text is minimal and lacking details, the text suggests some form of arrogance and self-determination apart from God. The tower also represented mankind’s ability to collectively do great evil. In response, God chose to divide the one language into many languages and scatter mankind throughout the earth in order to curb this amassing of power. The overall traditional record does not associate Pentecost as a reversal of Babel.

    The connection between God giving the commandments to Moses on Mt. Sinai would appear to be the better correlation. The old covenant, that is the law of the ancient Israelites, was spoken by God and heard by Moses, then later given in a written form. The Talmud states that God spoke this to Moses in 72 languages – a number understood to symbolically mean in all the languages of the world. The new covenant, the law of grace, was given by the apostles in fiery tongues on the Mount of Olives at Pentecost – these apostles and 120 more miraculously spoke in a whole host of languages. The Jewish community today annually celebrates the giving of the law of Moses and call this day Shevuot which calculates the same days after Passover as Pentecost does. However, this holiday is not an ancient one and does not trace back to the first-century when the first Pentecost occurred. Luke does not mention a direct connection to Shevuot and neither do any of the ancient christian writers.

    The Babel allusion prevailed discreetly in later dialogues, especially two concepts. The first one related to which language was the first language of mankind, and how that fit into the Pentecost narrative. The second relating to the one voice spoken many languages heard theory.

    Hebrew as the first language of mankind and of Pentecost

    There is a substantial corpus about Hebrew being the first language of mankind within ancient christian literature and a tiny allusion to Pentecost being the speaking of Hebrew sounds while the audience heard in their own language. This position about Pentecost does not clearly flow throughout the seas of christian thought, only in the shadows.

    The idea of Hebrew as the first language of mankind starts with the early Christians such as first-century Clement, Bishop of Rome, fourth-century Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, for at least part of his life (He changed his position later). The concept of Hebrew being the original language of mankind was repudiated by fourth-century Gregory of Nyssa and then endorsed again by the eighth-century historian and theologian, the Venerable Bede. In the tenth-century Oecumenius, Bishop of Trikka believed that Hebrew was a divine language, because when the Lord spoke to Paul on the road to Damascus, it was in Hebrew.

    The eleventh-century philosopher-theologian, Michael Psellos, referred to an ideology that placed Hebrew as the first common language. He alluded that Pentecost could have been the speakers vocalizing in Hebrew while the audience heard it in their own language. This was a reflection of a possibility in his mind, not a position he endorsed. Thomas Aquinas too mentioned this explanation, but quickly moved onto better, more rational theories.

    The speaking of Hebrew sounds and the audience hearing in their own language was a small theory that never gained widespread attention. It was played about, but never became a standard doctrine with a vibrant local or international appeal.

    See Hebrew and the First Language of Mankind for more information.

    Pentecost as a temporary phenomenon

    A writing loosely attributed to the fifth-century Pope of Alexandria, Egypt, Cyril of Alexandria, described Pentecost as the “changing of tongues.” Pentecost was the use of foreign languages at Pentecost as a sign for the Jews. This event was a miraculous endowment and those that received this blessing in @31 AD continued to have this power throughout their lives, but it did not persist after their generation.

    Cyril represented the city of Alexandria at the height of its influence and power throughout Christendom. His biography concludes that he was deposed because of quarrelsomeness and violence. There are unsubstantiated claims that he was responsible for the death of the revered mathematician, astronomer, philosopher, and scholar Hypatia. Although his history comes to a sad demise, his earlier stature and his near-universal influence requires careful attention on the subject of Pentecost. His ideas of Pentecost may have been an older tradition passed down and reinforced by him. The theory of a temporary miracle restricted to the first generation of christian leadership is hard to tell because there is little information about this theory before or after his time.

    However, the theory arose again in the thirteenth-century with no references inbetween. The celebrated scholastic writer and mystic, Thomas Aquinas, weighed in on the temporary question. Whenever a theological subject has been addressed by Aquinas, it is worth the time to stop and consider. There is no person in christian history that had assembled such a broad array of the various christian traditions, writers, texts, and Scripture into a systematic form of thought. Not only was Aquinas systematic, but also a mystic. The combination of these qualities gives him a high score in covering the doctrine of tongues.

    He held a similar position on Pentecost to that of Cyril of Alexandria, though he does not mention him by name. He believed the apostles were equipped with the gift of tongues to bring all people back into unity. It was only a temporary activity that later generations would not need. Later leaders would have access to interpreters which the first generation did not.

    Aquinas’ argument is a good and logical one, but the christian history of tongues does not align with this conclusion. After Aquinas’ time, there are numerous perceived cases of the miraculous endowments that contradict such a sentiment. Neither can Cyril’s thought be traced down through the centuries to numerous writers and be claimed as a universal or near-universal teaching.

    The temporary idea of Pentecost was restricted to this miracle alone. There is no implied idea that this temporality extended to miracles of healing, exorcisms, or other divine interventions.

    Augustine on tongues transforming into a corporate identity

    Augustine, Bishop of Hippo
    Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, 354 — 430 AD

    The christian rite of speaking in tongues transferring from a personal to a corporate expression was espoused by Augustine Bishop of Hippo. This was created over his lengthy and difficult battle with the dominant tongues-speaking Donatist movement.

    The Donatists were a northern African christian group; broken off from the official Catholic Church over reasons relating to the persecutions against Christians by edict of emperor Diocletian in the third-century. After the persecutions abated, a controversy erupted in the region over how to handle church leaders who assisted with the secular authorities in the persecutions. This became a source of contention and it conflagrated into questions of church leadership, faith, piety, discipline, and politics. One of the outcomes was a separate church movement called the Donatists. At the height of their popularity, the Donatists statistically outnumbered the traditional Catholic representatives in the North Africa region. At the height, it had over 400 bishops.

    The Catholic Church was in a contest against the Donatist claims of being the true church. One of the assertions the Donatist’s provided for their superior claim was their ability to speak in tongues. This forced Augustine to take the Donatists and their tongues doctrine seriously and build a vigorous offense against them.

    Augustine’s polemic against the Donatists has generated more data on the christian doctrine of tongues than any other ancient writer and gives a good lock into perceptions of this rite in the fourth-century.

    Augustine attacked the Donatist claim of being the true church in a number of ways.

    • One was through mocking, asking when they laid hands on infants whether they spoke in languages or not.

    • Or he simply stated that the gift had passed. The cessation statement was one of many volleys that he made.

      This cessation needs further clarification. Augustine meant that the individual endowment of miraculously speaking in foreign languages had ceased from functioning. The corporate expression still remained. It cannot be applied to mean the cessation of miracles, healings, or other divine interventions. Augustine was exclusively referring to the individual speaking in tongues. Nothing more.

    • In other words, the individual expression of speaking in tongues changed into a corporate one – the church took over the function of speaking in every language to all the nations.

    He described Pentecost as each man speaking in every language.

    This transformation from individual to corporate identity was referenced by Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth-century in his work, Summa Theologica, but built little strength around this theme. He left it as is in one sentence.

    There is no question that the semantic range of this experience fell inside the use of foreign languages. He used the term linguis omnium gentium “in the languages of all the nations” on at least 23 occasions, and linguis omnium, speaking “in all languages”. Neither does Augustine quote or refer to the Montanist movement in his works.

    The Bishop repeatedly answers the question “If I have received the holy Spirit, why am I not speaking in tongues?” Each time he has a slightly different read. What did he say? “this was a sign that has been satisfied” — the individual expression has been satisfied. He then offers a more theological slant in his Enarratio In Psalmum, “Why then does the holy Spirit not appear now in all languages? On the contrary, He does appear in all the languages. For at that time the Church was not yet spread out through the circle of lands, that the organs of Christ were speaking in all the nations. Then it was filled-up into one, with respect to which it was being proclaimed in every one of them. Now the entire body of Christ is speaking in all the languages.”(4)Augustine. Enarratio in Psalmum. CXLVII:19 (147:19)

    One has to be very cautious with Augustine on this topic. He was pitting the Catholic Church as the true one because of its universality and inferring that the Donatists were not so ordained because of their regionalism. His answers were polemic than theological in nature.

    Augustine’s polemical diatribes against the tongues-speaking Donatists never became a universal doctrine. The individual to the corporate idea has indirect allusions in John Chrysostom and Cyril of Alexandria’s works, but nothing concrete. The concept faded out within a generation and references to him on the subject by later writers is not very frequent.

    See Augustine on the Tongues of Pentecost: Intro for more information.

    Gregory of Nyssa and the one voice many sounds theory

    Gregory of Nyssa
    Gregory of Nyssa, 335 — 394 AD

    Gregory of Nyssa represents the beginning of the evolution of the christian doctrine of tongues that has echoes even today.

    Gregory of Nyssa was a fourth-century Bishop of Nyssa – a small town in the historic region of Cappadocia. In today’s geographical terms, central Turkey. The closest major city of influence to Nyssa was Constantinople – which at the time was one of the most influential centers of the world.

    This church father, along with Gregory Nazianzus and Basil the Great were named together as the Cappadocians. Their influence set the groundwork for christian thought in the Eastern Roman Empire. Gregory of Nyssa was an articulate and a deep thinker. He not only drew from christian sources but built his writings around a Greek philosophical framework.

    Gregory sees parallels between Babel and Pentecost on the nature of language but produces different outcomes. In the Pentecost story, he explained it as one sound dividing into languages during transmission that the recipients understood.

    Gregory of Nyssa’s homily on Pentecost is a happy one which began with his reference to Psalm 94:1, Come, let us exalt the Lord and continues throughout with this joyful spirit. In reference to speaking in tongues, he wrote of the divine indwelling in the singular and the output of a single sound multiplying into languages during transmission. This emphasis on the singularity may be traced to the influence of Plotinus — one of the most revered and influential philosophers of the third-century. Plotinus was not a Christian, but a Greek/Roman/Egyptian philosopher who greatly expanded upon the works of Aristotle and Plato. He emphasized that the one supreme being had no “no division, multiplicity or distinction.” Nyssa strictly adhered to a singularity of expression by God when relating to language. The multiplying of languages happened after the sound was emitted and therefore conforms to this philosophical model. However, Nyssa never mentions Plotinus by name or credits his movement in the writings examined so far, so it is hard to make a direct connection. There is an influence here.

    What was the sound that the people imbued with the Holy Spirit were speaking before it multiplied during transmission? Nyssa is not clear. It is not a heavenly or divine language because he believed mankind would be too limited in any capacity to produce such a mode of divine communication. Neither would he understand it to be Hebrew. Maybe it was the first language mankind spoke before Babel, but this is doubtful. Perhaps the people were speaking their own language and the miracle occurred in transmission. I think speaking in their own language is the likeliest possibility. Regardless, Gregory of Nyssa was not clear in this part of his doctrine.

    This theory did not solely rest with Gregory of Nyssa. He may be the first to clearly document this position, but the idea was older. There are remnants of this thought in Origen’s writing (Against Celsus 8:37) – though it is only one unclear but sort of relevant sentence and hard to build a case over

    Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, pokes at this too, but is unclear. He mentions on many occasions “one man was speaking in every language” or similar.(5)Sermo CLXXV:3 (175:3) What does this mean? How can one man speak simultaneously in all the languages at the same time? Even if a person sequentially went through 72 languages speaking one short sentence, it would take over ten minutes and wouldn’t be considered a miracle – only a simple mnemonic recitation. Augustine didn’t make any attempt to clarify this statement. He was playing with the one voice many sounds theory in a polemical sense and altered the nuance. The idea shifted to the connection between oneness and unity, which in Latin, are similar in spelling. He wanted to emphasize that those who spoke in tongues do it for the sake of unity. He was arguing anyone who promoted speaking in tongues as a device to divide the church is a fleshly and evil endeavor.

    The concept takes us to the fifth-century where Basil of Seleucia, a bishop of Seleucia in a region historically named Isauria – today a south central Turkish coastal town known as Silifke. Basil of Seleucia followed the literary trail of John Chrysostom and copied many of his traits, but in the case of Pentecost, he adds the one voice many sounds description.

    See An analysis of Gregory of Nyssa on Speaking in Tongues for more information.

    Gregory Nazianzus on the miracle of speech vs. the miracle of hearing

    Gregory Nazianzus
    Gregory Nazianzus, 329 — 390 AD

    Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory of Nazianzus were acquaintances in real life, perhaps more so because of Gregory of Nyssa’s older brother, Basil the Great. Gregory Nazianzus and Basil the Great had a personal and professional relationship that greatly impacted the church in their dealings with Arianism and the development of the Trinity doctrine. Unfortunately, a fallout happened between Gregory Nazianzus and Basil the Great that never was repaired.(6)Frienship in Late Antiquity: The Case of Gregory Nazianzen and Basil the Great This has little bearing with the topic at hand, but builds a small portrait surrounding the key figures of the fourth-century who discuss the doctrine of tongues.

    Gregory Nazianzus recognized the theory of a one sound emanating and multiplying during transmission into real languages. He seriously looked at this solution and compared against the miracle of speaking in foreign languages. He found the one sound theory lacking and believed the miracle of speech was the proper interpretation. Perhaps this is a personal objection to Nyssa or a professional one based on research. There are no writings between Nyssa or Nazianzus that allude to a contested difference between them on the subject. Nyssa’s contribution to the christian doctrine of tongues has long been forgotten in the annals of history, but Nazianzus has survived. On the other hand, the theory itself posited by Nyssa never did vanish. These two positions by Nyssa and Nazianzus set the stage for an ongoing debate for almost two millennia.

    Who is Gregory Nazianzus? Most people have not heard of him before but his contributions to the christian faith are many. This fourth-century Bishop of Constantinople’s mastery of the Greek language and culture is exquisite and hard to translate into English. Much of the wonder and power of his writing is so deeply connected with these two elements it feels like an injustice to translate. His works come across as dry and esoteric in an English translation whereas in the Greek he is a well-spring of deep thought. Many church leaders during his period preached and then published the homily. Nazianzus likely wrote first and preached later. His works do not come across as great sermons, but great works of writing. All these factors have contributed to him being relatively obscure in the annals of christian history – even though in the fourth-century he was on the same level of prestige as Augustine or John Chrysostom.

    The description of Pentecost as either a miracle of speaking or hearing became the focal point of Gregory Nazianzus in the fourth-century when he wrote in one of his Orations that these both were potential possibilities, though he clearly believed Pentecost as a miracle of speech. Unfortunately, a Latin translator, Tyrannius Rufinus, misunderstood some finer points of Greek grammar when translating and removed Gregory’s preference of it being a miracle of speech and left both as equal possibilities. The majority of Western church leaders were unfamiliar with Greek and relied on Tyrannius’ Latin text. Tyrannius’ mistake created a thousand-year debate of the miracle being one of either speaking or hearing.

    See Gregory Nazianzus on the doctrine of tongues intro for more information

    The speech versus hearing argument was brought up again the seventh-century by the Venerable Bede, who wrote two commentaries on Acts. The Venerable Bede lived in the kingdom of the Northumbrians (Northern England. South-East Scotland). He was brilliant in so many areas. Astronomy, mathematics, poetry, music and a literature were some of his many passions. His writing is very engaging and fluid – a good read. His Ecclesiastical History of the English People makes him the earliest authority of English history.

    Venerable Bede
    The Venerable Bede, 673 — 735 AD

    His first commentary delved deeply in the debate, and studying only the Latin texts, concluded it was a miracle of hearing. In his second commentary, he was not so convincing. He changed his mind, alluding Pentecost was a miracle of speech and conjectures it could have been both a miracle of speaking and hearing. The outcome didn’t really matter to him. Perhaps he took this conclusion to avoid saying he was initially wrong.

    Another noteworthy discussion about the Nazianzus paradox was presented by Michael Psellos in the eleventh-century. His own biography is not one of the religious cloth, but civic politics. His highest position was that of Secretary of State in the highly influential Byzantine City of Constantinople. He was a Christian who had a love-hate relationship with the church. One of the lower moments in that relationship was his choosing Plato over Aristotle. The Church tolerated the non-christian writings of Aristotle, but frowned on Plato. Psellos studied theology but loved philosophy, and this was a continued source of contention.

    It is surprising that his complex weave of Greek philosophy and christian faith in a very conservative christian environment did not get him into more serious trouble than he encountered. He was way ahead of his time. His approach to faith, Scripture, and intellect took western society five hundred or so more years to catch-up.

    Michael Psellos was caught between two very distinct periods. He lived in the eleventh-century and still was connected to the ancient traditions of the church, but also at the beginning shift of intellectual and scholarly thought that modern readers come to rely on. He bridged both worlds. This is why his work is so important.

    He thought highly of his opinions and liked to show-off his intellectual genius. After reading his text, it is not clear whether he was trying to solve the riddle of Nazianzus’ miracle of hearing or speech, or it was an opportunity to show his intellectual mastery. Regardless of his motives, he leaves us with a rich wealth of historic literature on speaking in tongues.

    What did Psellos write that was so important? Two things. He first clears up the Nazianzus paradox stating that it was a miracle of speaking. Secondly, he particularly clarifies the similarities and differences between the ancient Greek prophetesses going into a frenzy and spontaneously speaking in foreign languages they did not know beforehand, and with the disciples of Christ who also spontaneously spoke in foreign languages.

    Psellos had a detailed knowledge of the pagan Greek prophets and explains that the ancient female prophets of Phoebe would go in a form of frenzy and speak in foreign languages. This is a very early and important contribution to the modern tongues debate because there is a serious scholarly connection given to the ancient Greek prophets going into ecstasy and producing ecstatic speech with that of Pentecost. The christian miracle is named a synergism of the ancient Greek practice of ecstatic speech in order to make the christian faith a universal one.

    Psellos may be the oldest commentator on the subject and must be given significant weight. His knowledge of ancient Greek philosophy and religion is unparalleled even by modern standards. It is also seven hundred years older than most works that address the relationship between the christian event and the pagan Greek rite.

    He described the Pentecostal speakers spoke with total comprehension and detailed how it exactly worked. The thought process remained untouched but when attempting to speak, their lips were divinely inspired. The speaker could change the language at any given moment, depending on what language group the surrounding audience belonged to. He thought this action a miracle of speech, and sided with Nazianzus.

    The total control of one’s mind while under divine influence was what differentiated the christian event from the pagan one. The Greek prophetesses, as he went on to describe, did not have any control over what they were saying. There was a complete cognitive disassociation between their mind and their speech while the Apostles had complete mastery over theirs.

    Last of all Psellos introduces a concept of tongues-speaking practised in the Hellenic world that has to do with the use of plants to arrive in a state of divine ecstasy. He also quickly described pharmacology too in this context, but it seems the text infers it was used in the art of healing. His writing is somewhat unclear at this point, but there was a relationship between the two. Perhaps tongues speaking practised by the ancient Greeks was part of the ancient rite of healing. It is hard to be definitive with this because his writing style here is so obscure. He warns to stay away from the use of exotic things that assist in going into a state of divine ecstasy.

    Thomas Aquinas tried to conclude the tongues as speech or hearing debate. Aquinas proceeded to use his argument and objection method for examining the Nazianzus paradox. In the end, he clearly stated it was a miracle of speech. His coverage was well done. However, this attempt was not successful in quelling the controversy.

    Thomas Aquinas
    Thomas Aquinas, 1225-1274 AD

    Another aspect that Aquinas introduced was the relationship between the office of tongues and prophecy. The topic has lurked as early as the fourth-century but never in the forefront. Aquinas put the topic as a priority. Given that he was a mystic and lived in the world that heavily emphasized the supernatural, this comes as no surprise. He believed that the gift of tongues was simply a systematic procedure of speaking and translating one language into another. The process required no critical thinking, spiritual illumination, or comprehension of the overall narrative. He believed the agency of prophecy possessed the means for translating and interpreting but added another important asset – critical thinking. One must be cognisant of the fact that his idea of critical thinking is slightly different from ours. He includes spiritual illumination along with intellectual acuity as a formula for critical thinking. The prophetic person had the ability to understand the meaning behind the speech and how it applied to one’s daily life. Therefore, he felt prophecy was a much better and superior office than simply speaking and translating.

    The expansion of the christian doctrine of tongues from the tenth to eighteenth-centuries

    The tenth to sixteenth-centuries could be held as the golden age of tongues speaking in the Catholic Church, and arguably the biggest era for the christian doctrine of tongues. The next two-hundred years that reached into the eighteenth-century was the civil war that raged between protestants and catholics that put miracles, including speaking in tongues, in the epicenter. These eight-centuries were the era of super -supernaturalism in almost every area of human life. Speaking in tongues was common and attached to a variety of celebrity saints – from Andrew the Fool in the tenth to Francis Xavier in the sixteenth. This period had established the doctrine of tongues as either a miracle of hearing, speaking or a combination of both.

    Later Medieval accounts of speaking in tongues

    For example, the later legend of thirteenth-century had Anthony of Padua, a popular speaker in his time, spoke in the language of the Spirit to a mixed ethnic and linguistic gathering of catholic authorities who heard him in their own language. What was the language of the Spirit? This was never clarified in the text or by any other author and remains a mystery.

    Vincent Ferrer in the fourteenth-century was a well-known evangelist, perhaps in the top 50 in the history of the church. He visited many ethnic and linguistic communities while only knowing his native Valencian language. His orations were so great and powerful that it was alleged people miraculously heard him speak in their own language.

    There were also revisions by later writers to earlier lives of saints such as Matthew the Apostle, Patiens of Metz in the third, and the sixth-century Welsh saints, David, Padarn and Teilo. They were claimed to have spoken miraculously in foreign languages.

    Speaking in tongues was also wielded as a political tool. The French 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 proposed their order to be the foremost because their lineage traced back to a highly esteemed and ancient founder. L’abbaye Saint-Arnould countered with St. Patiens who had the miraculous ability to speak in tongues.

    The account of Andrew the Fool has an interesting twist in the annals of speaking in tongues. Andrew the Fool, often cited as Andrew of Constantinople, or Andrew Salus, was a tenth-century christian follower known for his odd lifestyle that would be classified under some form of a mental illness by today’s standards. However, many biographers believe it was a ruse purposely done by Andrew. There is a rich tradition of holy fools in Eastern Orthodox literature who feigned insanity as a form of a prophetic and teaching device. The story of Andrew the Fool’s miraculous endowment of tongues was used to facilitate a private conversation between Andrew and a slave while attending a party. This allowed them to talk freely without the patron of the party becoming privy to the conversation and becoming angry about the matter being discussed.

    The legend of Francis Xavier speaking in tongues

    Francis Xavier
    Francis Xavier, 1506 — 1552 AD

    The sainthood of Francis Xavier in the sixteenth-century, and the incredulous notion that he miraculously spoke in foreign languages brought the gift of tongues to the forefront of theological controversy. Protestants used his example of how Catholics had become corrupt, to the point of making fictitious accounts that contradict the evidence. A closer look demonstrated that the sainthood investigation process was flawed on the accounts of him speaking in tongues. On the contrary, a proper examination showed Francis struggled with language acquisition. His sainthood with partial grounds based on speaking in tongues was a later embarrassment to the Society of Jesus to whom Francis belonged to. The Society of Jesus is an educational, missionary and charitable organization within the Catholic church that was ambitiously counter-reformation in its early beginnings. The Society of Jesus still exists today and is the largest single order in the Catholic Church.

    The mistaken tongues miracle in Francis’ life also was a headache for the Catholic Church leadership itself. This led to Pope Benedict XIV to write a treatise on the gift of tongues around 1748 and describe what it is, isn’t and what criteria should be used to investigate such a claim. He concluded that the gift of tongues can be speaking in foreign languages or a miracle of hearing.

    This treatise was a well-written and researched document. No other church leader or religious organization, even the Renewalist movement, have superseded his work in validating a claim for speaking in tongues. After his publication, the investigation of claims for tongues-speaking in the Catholic Church had significantly declined.

    Next article in this three-part series:

  • A Summary of the Gift of Tongues Project: the Protestant Experience is in development.
  • For further reading:

    References   [ + ]

Commentary of Psellos’ Tongues of Pentecost

A commentary on Michael Psellos’ text concerning the miracle of Pentecost as outlined in the Book of Acts.

The eleventh-century Michael Psellos resolves a number of critical issues in the contemporary debate over the meaning and definition of the tongues of Pentecost.

The results are gleaned from the translation and analysis of his Greek text found in Michaelis Pselli Theologica. Vol. 1. Paul Gautier ed. BSB B.G. Teubner Verlagsgesellschaft. 1989. Pg. 293-295. In this portion of Pselli Theologica, he covers the Pentecost event and the controversies that have surrounded it.

He first of makes it abundantly clear that the miracle was the ability to speak in foreign languages that the speaker did not know beforehand. He also added new Greek keywords that point to this fact.

Secondly, he clarified the old tongues debate that had raged over seven centuries which started with Gregory Nazianzus. Nazianzus posited two theories, that it was either a miracle of hearing or speaking. He sided with Gregory’s preference that it was a miracle of speaking. Psellos reinforced this with a further explanation.

He was not aware, or at minimum does not cite, any other alternative movements or theories than this.

Psellos had a detailed knowledge of the pagan Greek prophets and explains that the ancient female prophets of Phoebe would go in a form of frenzy and speak in foreign languages. This is a very early and important contribution to the modern tongues debate where there has been much contemporary scholarly attention given to the ancient Greek prophets going into ecstasy and producing ecstatic speech. A connection is made by many modern scholars to the christian miracle as simply being a synergism of the ancient Greek practice of ecstatic speech — an attempt to make the christian faith a universal one.

This has been a large source of controversy within scholarly circles, and has been noted in this blog before in A Critical Look at Tongues and Montanism where Christopher Forbes argued that there is no substantive evidence that the ancient Greek prophets ever spoke in ecstatic utterances — and his argument is quite strong because there is indeed little direct evidence. Rex D. Butler countered that ancient texts do infer ecstatic utterances. Michael Psellos declared that it was simply foreign languages that the Greek prophets practised. He does not make any reference to ecstatic utterances.

This may be the oldest direct text on the subject and must be given significant weight. His knowledge of ancient Greek philosophy and religion is unparalleled even by modern standards. It is also seven hundred years older than most works that address the relationship between the Christian event and the pagan Greek rite.

Psellos went on to describe that those who spoke at Pentecost did so with total comprehension. He went into detail how it exactly worked. The thought process remained untouched but when attempting to speak, their lips were divinely inspired. The speaker could change the language at any given moment, depending on what language group the surrounding audience belonged to.

The total control of ones mind while under divine influence was what differentiated the Christian event from the pagan one. The Greek prophetesses, as he went on to describe, did not have any control over what they were saying. There was a complete cognitive disassociation between their mind and their speech while the Apostles had complete mastery over theirs.

Last of all Psellos introduces a concept of tongues-speaking practised in the Hellenic world that has to do with the use of plants to arrive in a state of divine ecstasy. He also quickly described pharmacology too in this context, but it seems the text infers it was used in the art of healing. His writing is somewhat unclear at this point, but there was a relationship between the two. Perhaps tongues speaking practised by the ancient Greeks was part of the ancient rite of healing. It is hard to be definitive with this because his writing style here is so obscure. He warns to stay away from the use of exotic things that assist in going into a state of divine ecstasy. ■

For more information:

Technical Notes on the Psellos Translation

Thoughts on the challenges of translating Psellos’ text on Pentecost, notes on stylizations, important words, and some etymologies.

The translation of Michael Psellos on the tongues of pentecost is a work in progress. The English translation posted is in beta and has been updated a number of times since. It may remain in beta for a long time for a number of reasons.

The first reason is Psellos’ love of Platonic literature. The whole framework of his writing is based on this logic. Patristics and ecclesiastical theology is a distinct second. It is quite surprising to find an eleventh century writer devoted to such a genre. The first attempt of translating this work was based on the assumption of a Patristic framework with some theology, and a sprinkling of philosophy. This left me scratching my head. It didn’t make sense. It became apparent that Psellos would liken himself to being Plato reborn. Once the words were traced back to Platonic theory, it all made clear sense.

The second reason is that Psellos assumed his readers understood and appreciated Platonic logic. This is not the case for the modern reader. Most readers will find this translation intellectual gobbley-gook because of this. The dependance of specific Greek words of logic such as ὕλη and εἶδος which arguably are translated as matter and form, doesn’t do justice in the English on their central importance. These are the key cornerstones in Psellos’ logic. In an effort to make this clear, they are highlighted in italics to alert the English reader to its importance, but this still seems very weak. Psellos used these words as a vehicle to describe the nature and purpose of the tongues phenomena. The matter was the indwelling presence of God, but in what form was it expressed? Was it an internal or external type of phenomena? In the English translation, the importance of these words are lost.

Another problem is his mystery style of writing. Psellos was known for purposely being unclear. The book “The Argument of Psellos’ Chronographia” clearly makes this case:

“We are now entitled to ask whether Psellos himself practiced the serpentine art of secret writing, and whether his own works, like those of Plato and Aristotle, contain, “hidden” or esoteric teachings. . . .We know that Psellos was a superb practitioner of the art of rhetoric. As I hope to demonstrate, this philosopher, who disguised himself as an orator who merely fancied himself a philosopher, was acutely aware of the potential of rhetoric for allusion, subtely, deception, misdirection, and veiled pronouncement.”

This can be seen in a number of ways. One of them being his metaphors. On two occasions his use of metaphors were either a misdirection, a veiled pronouncement, or simply on a tangent. An example of a tangent was when he correlated the miracle of tongues with that of giving birth.

…inasmuch the sound was sent into the Apostles not corresponding to language, but it was only necessary to tap the lip and open the mouth, even as I have certainly been often amazed at the midwives about which procures the newborns from the fetus in the wombs, or about her which is in the process of giving birth. For these women, whenever a child has been born or also when they remove the child which is sliding out of the mother with faintings. Thus at that moment they simply put the hands around the foreheads, next they are presaged to breathe a little air, then [the infant] bellows out with mighty [sounds].

The second one is a veiled pronouncement. Psellos inserts the following metaphor after he promoted the option that the miracle can occur in different ways depending on how one perceives it:

And as an example, while the sun has stood in the midday, locusts and the things that see in the night take in something faint of the light, but men and elephants more or less gaze corresponding to the physical tendency which belongs to each one.

The example does not flow properly in his text and once again leaves the reader wondering where his is going with all of this.

Another reason is that of language. Michael Psellos has incorporated Classical, Doric, Ionic and Attic Greek in his writing. The classical is mostly related to his love of Platonic works. There are a number of Doric words that have slipped in with his Attic, and a few Ionic. His political life put him in the epicenter of the Byzantine Greek world where linguistic, theological, and philosophical fields intersected. This makes it very difficult to translate because the presently available toolkits for this era hardly exist. Add to the fact that Psellos is incorporating various sub-dialects into his work makes the level of accuracy even more difficult to attain.

His writing style is very extensive. He used synonyms frequently, so his vocabulary range is very broad. This work cannot be translated simply using the Lidell Scott Jones dictionary found at Perseus, rather, this can be misleading at times. The expansive Stephanus dictionary, the dictionary of ancient Greek dictionaries, helps but is not aimed for this time period. A large number of other dictionaries were consulted but it was found that Lampe’s Patristic Lexicon and James Donnegan’s A New Greek and English Lexicon; Principally on the plan of the Greek and German Lexicon of Schneider were the two best sources. The internet was helpful at times too. A problem Greek word would by typed in Google Search with the name, Aristotle or Plato inputted beside it, and some good clues could be found. There were a few words that I could not be certain what they meant, so they were left untranslated.

This translation is done with great fear and trepidation because most of the dictionaries are based on words used about six hundred years earlier, and some words after his period. The words may have slight shifts in Psellos’ time, but I have few resources to draw upon that reflect that.

A good example is the word νυκτάλωπες which Perseus, and Lampe has nothing, and Donnegan, “a disease, consisting of loss of vision by night” (Pg. 879). A quick Google search of the Greek word will bring up Nyctalopia: “Night blindness, impaired vision in dim light and in the dark, due to impaired function of certain specialized vision cells (the rods) in the retina.” (medterms.com) However this definition does not fit in with the Psellos text. A look into Stephanus Greek Dictionary implies that it can be a certain type sight problem in low light conditions, but it can be the opposite as well (Stephanus Vol. 5 col. 1589). The French language has adopted this word and called it nyctalope which refers to an animal with night vision. The Psellos text appears to flow with the Stephanus night vision and the French animal night vision. It shows that one should not be so quick to accept the regular dictionary definitions when working with this text.

There are slight nuances in grammar that are different too, but there are no popular grammars that adequately cover this period.

Psellos liked to clearly structure his content using the particles μέν and δὲ. He went a step further and created a more complex particle construct including the masculine definite article, ὁ μέν “the former” and ὁ δὲ “the latter”.

ὥσπερ γὰρ μιᾶς ἀπηχηθείσης ἐν ὑπαίθρῳ φωνῆς ὁ μέν τις ἡμῶν ἤκουσεν, ὁ δὲ ἀδρανέστερον ἀντελάβετο κατὰ τὴν ἀναλογίαν τῆς διαστάσεως καὶ τῆς εἰλικρινοῦς ἀκοῆς, τῶν δὲ μὴ ἀκουσάντων ὁ μὲν διὰ τὸ πολὺ διεστάναι οὐκ ἀντελάβετο, ὁ δὲ διὰ τὸ ἐμπεφράχθαι αὐτῷ τὸν τῆς ἀκοῆς πόρον, ἐμψυγέντος κατ᾽ἐκεῖνο τὸ μέρος τοῦ φλέγματος. . .

For it is like one voice that had been re-echoed in public, the former somehow heard by us, while the latter was not heard, and the former is something more distinct with those who heard and in latter was apprehended [at that moment] more fainter according to the proportion of the distance of the pure sound heard. In respect to those who did not hear, the former was not grasped because of what appears to have been too far apart, the latter was because the sound’s path had been actively blocked from him [regarding] the person possessed in reference to this matter of fire. . .

On the topic of particles, it became tiring and redundant to use on the one hand… and on the other hand throughout. This could become too repetitive for any English reader following the text so creativity with the translation was required. Synonyms to this phrase can be the first option… the second option, on the one hand… alternatively, in the first manner… in the second manner or one way… another way were options for consideration and sometimes utilized.

He tended to use the optative frequently. The subjunctive mood is almost or entirely absent. The use of the articular infinitive is also used sparingly. This goes against the evolutionary stream of the Greek language. The optative was considered dead by this period. Many books and authors, like the Companion to the Ancient Greek Language have emphatically stated this. I think that Psellos wrote in retro-Greek — that is to emulate the great Greek thinkers of the past. His love of the ancient Greek philosophers was embraced and reflected in his style of writing.

His alternating usage of γλῶσσα and γλῶττα throughout the text was initially perplexing. They both are the same word, just different branches of the Greek language. The first being what is found in the Bible and Ionic Greek in Origin. The second being Attic and the language which Psellos communicated in. Psellos used the Biblical spelling when relating to the historic mystical event along with its theology, while he used the Attic spelling when writing in a non-theological context.

Psellos used the keywords, φωνή, διαλέκτος and γλῶσσα within his text. Psellos does not depart from the traditional definitions. Φωνή is the speech/sound or emittance with little reference to the type or nature. Διαλέκτος is becoming more specific. Sophocles dictionary describes it as “language; dialect, a variety of a particular language” (Page 365). It relates to a language family and sometimes to a particular dialect. It is the characteristic that distinguishes men from animals. Γλῶσσα is very close to διαλέκτος in meaning and in most occasions could be used as a synonym. In other cases it is more specific, relating to a specific language or dialect.

Here are a few of the new words used by Psellos in describing the pentecostal tongues phenomena. The definitions given are from a number of dictionaries and is shown in shortened form here:

  • αἴσθησις ➞ perception of the senses
  • ἀνεπαίσθητος ➞ unperceived, imperceptible
  • ἀνεπιστήμων ➞ ignorant, unskilful
  • ἀσώματος ➞ incorporeal
  • ἀπηχέω ➞ re-echo, utter
  • αὐτόπτης ➞ detected by a fact, eyewitness
  • αὐτοπτικός ➞ concerned with a direct vision of divinity
  • διάνοια ➞ thought, intention, the faculty of reasoning
  • διαλέγομαι ➞ to speak
  • διίστημι ➞ to separate, be divided
  • ἐνθεαστάς ➞ divine enthusiasm
  • ἐνθεαστικός ➞ divinely or prophetically inspired
  • ἐνηχέω ➞ to be resonant, ringing in the ears
  • ἐπιπνοια ➞ inspiration
  • ἐπόπτης ➞ visible, watcher, highest level of esoteric knowledge
  • εὐγλωσσία ➞ glibness of tongue, fluency of speech
  • θεοληψία ➞ inspiration
  • μαίνομαι ➞ burn with enthusiasm or devotion
  • μεταβάλλω ➞ distribute, change, alter
  • ὁμιλία ➞ instruction, lecture
  • προσομιλέω ➞ discourse, lecture
  • προσφθέγγομαι ➞ to call, address
  • φαντάζω ➞ to form an idea or image in the mind
  • φανταστικός ➞ to see with the mind’s eye
  • φῶς ➞ light — a divine light, something Psellos was concerned about how it worked inside the person
  • ὠνόμαζω ➞ to name, speak or call by name

Φαντάζω and φανταστικός are words that are scantly described in any of my Greek dictionaries, but the same type of formula is found in the writings of the Latin scholar, Thomas Aquinas, who appeared about two centuries later. I had previously translated Aquinas on a similar theme and his insights are an influence in translating the Platonic themes presented by Psellos.

In the last paragraphs, Psellos delves into the role of plants, mysticism, healing and ancient Greek practices on these subjects. They are a sharp departure from the previous paragraphs in content, style, and word usage. It almost appears part of a different theme and later stitched in with the earlier text. If it is a piece of the original text, then one would could surmise that the ancient Greek prophetesses entrance into ecstasy, and subsequent speaking in foreign languages, was part of the ancient Greek ritual of healing.

Many thanks to Alex Poulos for discovering and doing some initial translation work on this writer. His translation and introduction can be found here, Michael Psellos 11th century Greek text and commentary regarding Gregory’s On Pentecost

Psellos on the Tongues of Pentecost

An English translation of Michael Psellos complex text on the tongues of Pentecost.

Michael Psellos was an eleventh-century Byzantine politician, philosopher, historian, writer and, perhaps at times, a monk. He especially had a fondness for pagan Greek literature, especially that of Plato. His coverage of the tongues of Pentecost combine his Christian faith, Gregory Nazianzus, pagan Greek ecstasy and speech, neoplatonism, and pharmacology. He mixes this all together with his unique writing style which makes translating and reading difficult. It is not an easy read. Some basic understanding of Greek classical philosophy may help the reader in understanding this text.

However, the portions which are comprehensible have serious ramifications on the christian doctrine of tongues. His work was at least five-hundred years ahead of its time. If this work was ubiquitous and known when the modern tongues outbreak first started occurring in the early 1800s, it may have changed the course of the discussion entirely.

This translation is in a beta state with many revisions likely to come in the future. There is a good possibility that there will be no final edition because of the level of difficulty with the text in a number of areas. This will be outlined in a future article.

The Greek edition can be found at Psellos on the Doctrine of Tongues in the Original Greek.

The following translation is from the Greek text found in: Michaelis Pselli Theologica. Vol. 1. Paul Gautier ed. BSB B.G. Teubner Verlagsgesellschaft. 1989. Pg. 293-295.

Here is the translation:

For this, “The Apostles were filled with the holy Spirit and they began to speak in other tongues, even as the Spirit gave them to utter.”

Many held a contrary miracle, where concerning the matter of the fiery tongues the divine implanted voice parted. And how, they say, is it not incredible, if many languages germinated from one and the same voice? Similarly, as from one stalk [are the] antherikes, and also akides and sheaths and husks. It is the ability to change to the native voice for those who are hearing, thus also a man who travels to many cities and has become acquainted with the greatest knowledge in languages could produce. And we now behold many among us are uttering the Arabic voice, and converse among the Phoenicians or Egyptians, and through these same ones dividing also the tongue with [the] Persians, Iberians, Galatians, and Assyrians, [and so] we are amazed on the one hand [by] those ones who surely possess fluency of speech, as some have the capacity to speak, on the other hand, we certainly do not assign this manifold sound a sign of a divine manifestation. If someone ought to divide the one common speech into many languages, so as the Phoenician, Assyrian, Scythian, and Ethiopian understands it, we are naturally to assume this in communication.

But the great father marveled at the opposite of this, the superior option is all the languages together spontaneously happening in the same place attributed to the Apostles, and added the case in dispute. If then these persons were speaking in one tongue, while those present were taking hold of it, the miracle of apprehending with the mind was to be reasonably supposed of them, so that these ones were drawing off the one common language into conformity with the native tongue for themselves.

If, on the other hand, the Jew, to whom is of a minority, who had learned only the sound of the Jews, speaks hereafter to the Assyrians then according to the tongue of others and back to Mede, and next those to the Babylonians, while he clearly [and] entirely did not know the names, in this way the divine inspiration was to have been demonstrated, as in many kinds having been immediately shown forth and from one fount by which the Jew is speaking articulately many streams. According to these things the great man deemed this rather than the other of a theophany.

How then was it also that they were uttering one voice, then those alighted upon were to have many kinds heard? For if some type of matter was itself consisting of the form of discourse, a type of thing which was uniquely a breathing sound, springing forth from the lung down below, it sends up to the tongue through the wind-pipe, inasmuch the sound was sent into the Apostles not corresponding to language, but it was only necessary to tap the lip and open the mouth, even as I have certainly been often amazed at the midwives, about which procures the newborns from the fetus in the wombs, or about her which is in the process of giving birth. For these women, whenever a child has been born or also when they remove the child which is sliding out of the mother with faintings. Thus at that moment they simply put the hands around the foreheads, next they are presaged to breathe a little air, then [the infant] bellows out with mighty [sounds].

If, the apostles were therefore uttering according to such a matter of the voice, they were not spreading out something at all concerning things such as the idle babbles of old women. On the other hand, if they were producing the speech with assistance by the form of discourse, what kind of thing was it?

If on the one hand they were comprehending the very thing from the beginning after the building of the tower, or, alternatively, if it was important to believe about those speaking, the first one, specifically Adam, possessed with God in paradise, what was the new thing being uttered, the Jewish [tongue] as the common language, or did the fiery tongue do something more with these ones?

If, on the other hand, the language of these [people] had been changed to a different voice, Iberian or Assyrian, through whatever one is upon that is causing such amazement, would it not rather have appeared more powerful and lofty than over the process of dividing all the languages? If someone had the ability to thoroughly learn at the immediate moment the Egyptian voice and was given the ability upon some persons of articulate sounds in them, except to be conversant of the language by the Spirit alone, we marvel at the fluency of the speech and suitableness to the training. Indeed, what is the new kind of thing which has been proclaimed in public instruction to be reckoned for what it produces? But we nevertheless are both delighted with the mastery of the [completely] foreign language and moved with these most excellent things that they immediately had learned.

If the person who had learned [only] one language [and] after that is to call out all at once this new one therefore in every [language] to everyone, neither had this person learned beforehand nor after, is this man certainly not enviable, blessed, and a really pure vessel of elevated inspirations? Could this not be a pen of a quick writer, for is it as the writer having a strong inclination and who delivers and produces also in a single motion of this? For if the tongue had been conformed to every language but does not utter anything corresponding to a specific one without training. In fact all the languages at that instant have poured into the apostles [like] a way of a river through the soul, they were manifested like a spring [of running water] on the tongue. How is it then that a person is conversing in their language? How is it that a person is changing into the speech of each one? [How is it that a person has ] the skill with the many language families? But by no means had they learned this. But is it the nature of the soul? And it was certainly necessary through this that all were to suddenly be conversant in all these languages. But the mind, [how does it work in all of this]?

But with this, the nature is to be intelligibly grasped [by the mind] about the forms [being expressed], but by no means to converse in languages for the purpose of a lecture. It was therefore not evident that some sort of divine inspiration was animated to those around Peter, rather on this issue the divine presence rested in the upper part of the soul, like some queen, who was to convey and change the subjugated tongue to her own desire.

In fact this therefore had been correctly a matter of doubt by the father and was lit upon of a fitting remedy [for such a difficult problem]. I have also placed doubt in this instance. Did in fact the apostles who are sequentially [going from] one [language] to another, know the language in the distinct utterances of those conversing and which some are to utter? Or were they vocalizing the solitary sound such as this, moreso could it be unperceptible things were lit upon of a certain nature of the nations? And seeing that from [the work] of Apollo: the prophetess, by the mouth, the word follows, she became overcome around the three-legged boiler 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.

How therefore were the unskilled and those who are disciples in Christ happening to do this of whom were in fact conversant with and speaking? By no means [for this claim is contradictory of each other]. For this is opposite those who are mad and a deviation from those who support the common thought. Certainly even as the the ones who burned with madness which the ones long ago were calling the persons possessed of Phoebe, and neither of those things they were beholding, nor certainly of those things they were speaking did they obtain wise things.

But the inspiration in these ones was spontaneously upon them and was bursting forth in many voices and affecting holy visions. Those around Peter were not out of their senses regarding the natural reasoning power and they were partaking of something much better from which in fact they had the knowledge for this intellectual work. Therefore, each one of the disciples knew that who will be next to him is Persian, that it was necessary to send forth to him in the Persian voice, with regard to the Mede also that it was necessary to utter in [the language of] the Medes.

Therefore on the one hand it was of the ability to know and intelligence that those alighted upon had the ability to distinguish apart from the forms of the domestic [language]. On the other hand these ones who put on new clothes in foreign styles have the ability to understand and utter, that each one would have known the voice in the greatest and highest degree, and about such a thing, they were in fact held in high esteem at that time.

Regarding the difficult problem and in fact concerning the tongues that they had certainly marveled at, and that I should have been relating the word to the general characteristic of what was perceived, I am approaching most diligently with the theory and I am at a loss in any way whatever physical form demonstrates the divine things, and how these things work themselves out, and how the light spreads out with those. Seeing that there are two camps of thought about these things, on the one hand are our opinions, and on the other are those of the eminent Greeks. It is necessary for me to explain both to you. First of all then, the opinions belonging to us. The divine nature, that whatever it is, which is incorporeal, for the powers of those who are receiving, it produces the indigenous theophanies more distinctly fainter than clearer, and additionally being revealed to those with a display of feeling and on the other hand is made clear to them beyond the mode of sense.

Rather, I would prefer on this occasion to speak more accurately, on the one hand this remains unchangeable and unalterable, but on the other we are being changed and altered through this. For it is like one voice that had been re-echoed in public, the former somehow heard by us, while the latter was not heard, and the former is something more distinct with those who heard and in latter was apprehended [at that moment] more fainter according to the proportion of the distance of the pure sound heard. In respect to those who did not hear, the former was not grasped because of what appears to have been too far apart, the latter was because the sound’s path had been actively blocked from him, [regarding] the person possessed in reference to this matter of fire.

In this same way, it was to be acted out in different means, and this different variety was producing not according to a voice which had been brought forth, but a hearing that had been brought forth, in this way in relation to God, He is certainly not about to change, we have been changed concerning this and such as this or that, we have come into a new state.

And as an example, while the sun has stood in the midday, locusts and the things that see
in the night take in something faint of the light, but men and elephants more or less gaze corresponding to the physical tendency which belongs to each one.

Therefore because of these things, those surrounding Peter and those happening to be near at that time beheld these fiery tongues, the divine presence had been not formed through a language, but that the work of the spirit was destined to be produced through language. But those Apostles were contemplating the theophany in respect to the value of the soul, while others were certainly about to be witnesses of a great spectacle.

These things certainly belong in our own house. The children of the Greeks, of whom Proklos the last sacred torchbearer and teacher of sacred truths happened to belong to, divided the act of bringing forward the gods by physical incantations in these three [categories]: first they say an witnessing the fact of it, then the entrance into the highest mysteries, and lastly, that which pertains to divine inspiration, seers with special inner wisdom and divine inspirations.

If anything in fact with the intellectual part of the soul, a form of illumination, and a sereneness, as possessing of a nature that sees God, being also a spectator itself, this is a personal fact. Whatever images is being brought forward of the divine things in the mode by seeing with the mind’s eye inside the soul, for this one is aroused by a different divine influence according to these things.

It is dependent whatever the seer might call upon. If it is both not to publicly show in reference to the mind or what is seen with the mind’s eye, indeed being carried by these alone with some type of forms of the divine into the air, this then inspires the divine influence all around these, and an inspired state is to be declared. They say also the light that is being spread throughout the body by the gods, they do not certainly grasp with the mind, on the one hand these ones happen to be governed of the nature of sight, such as Socrates and Plotinus formed, while on the other hand according to some periods of time by the moon in like manner with light these ones are undergoing change in intellectual capacities. The Egyptians, they say the eyes, whether by what is called the tarro or by the perforation of the libanos tree or the bdellion shrub and also sap drinks and unguents, in certain compounding of sentences and in those things which cannot be spoken will be expressed and in secret letters [of those things mystically revealed] in the priestly leaves these ones cleanse themselves, they contemplated in admiration the light spreading with incorporeal powers.

Indeed Porphurios, Iamblichus, and the marvelous Proklos speak nonsense about these things. For let it be made plain by me none of these things has happened to be right. But we certainly ought not to know only the plants which do healings but the poisonous ones, as well, as though we are to be restored to health by these, on the other hand far from these things are we able to arrive in a new state, and we ought to not fall into those peculiar exotic things. ■

Psellos on the dogma of tongues in the original Greek

Eleventh Century Michael Psellos work on the pentecostal tongues in the original Greek.

As taken from: Michaelis Pselli Theologica, Volume 1. Paul Gautier ed. Leipsig: BSB B.G. Tuebner, 1989. Pg. 293-297

Εἰς τὸ ῾ἐπλήσθησαν οἱ ἀπόστολοι πνεύματος ἁγίου καὶ ἤρξαντο λαλεῖν ἑτέραις γλώσσαις, καθὼς τὸ πνεῦμα ἐδίδου αὐτοῖς ἀποφθέγγεσθαι᾽

Πολλοὶ τὸ ἐναντίον, οὗ περὶ τῶν πυρίνων γλωσσῶν ἡ θεολόγος φωνὴ διηρμήνευκε, θαυμάσιον· καὶ πῶς γάρ, φασίν, οὐ παράδοξον, εἰ ἀπὸ μιᾶς καὶ τῆς αὐτῆς φωνῆς πολλαὶ διάλεκτοι ἀνεβλάστανον; ὥσπερ γὰρ ἀπὸ μιὰς καλάμης τοῦ στάχυος ἀνθέρικές τε καὶ ἀκιδες καὶ θῆκαι καὶ λέμματα. τὸ δὲ μεταλλάττειν τὰς διαλέκτους πρὸς τὴν τῶν ἀκουόντων οἰκείαν φωνήν, τοῦτο καὶ ἀνὴρ πολλαῖς ἐπιπλανηθεὶς πόλεσι καὶ πλείσταις γλώσσαις ἐνωμιληκὼς ποιήσειε. καὶ ἡμεῖς δὲ τεθεάμεθα πολλοὺς τῶν καθ᾽ἡμᾶς νῦν μὲν Ἀράβιον ἀφιέντας φωνήν, νῦν δὲ κατὰ Φοίνικας ἤ Αἰγυπτίους διαλεγομένους, οἱ δ᾽ αὐτοὶ καὶ Πέρσαις καὶ Ἴβηρσι καὶ Γαλάταις, καὶ Ἀσσυρίοις τὴν γλῶτταν διαμερίζουσιν, οὕς δὴ τῆς μὲν εὐγλωττίας, ὡς ἄν τις εἴπη, θαυμάζομεν, οὐ μὴν δὲ τὴν πολλὴν ταύτην φωνὴν σημεῖον θεοφανείας ποιούμεθα. εἰ δέ τις τὴν μίαν διάλεκτον πολλαῖς γλώσσαις διαμερίζοι, ὡς καὶ τὸν Φοίνικα ταύτης συνιέναι καὶ τὸν Ἀσσύριον καὶ τὸν Σκύθην καὶ τὸν Αἰθίοπα, τοῦτον ἄν εἰκότως ἐν μετουσιᾳ λογισώμεθα.

Ἀλλ᾽ ὁ μέγας πατὴρ τὸ ἐναντίον τούτου τεθαύμακε, καὶ πάσας ὁμοῦ τὰς διαλέκτους αὐτομάτως τοῖς ἀποστόλοις ἐπιμαρτυρήσας ἄριστα καὶ τὴν αἰτίαν προσθείς. εἰ μὲν γὰρ ἐκεῖνοι μιᾷ διελέγοντο γλώττῃ, πολυμερῶς δὲ ταύτης οἱ παρόντες ἀντελαμβάνοντο, ἐκείνων ἅν εἰκότως τὸ θαῦμα τῆς ἀντιλήψεως δόξειε, περσπώντων εἰς ἑαυτοὺς τὴν μίαν διάλεκτον κατὰ τὴν οἰκείαν γλῶτταν· εἰ δ᾽ὁ πρὸ μικροῦ Ἰουδαῖος μόνον καὶ τὴν Ἰουδαἰων μεμαθηκὼς μόνην φωνὴν αὖθις Ἀσσυρίοις τε ὁμιλεῖ κατὰ τὴν ἐκείνων γλῶτταν καὶ καὶ πάλιν Μήδοις καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα Βαβυλωνίοις, ὦν οὐδὲ τὰ ὀνόματα πάνυ σαφῶς ἠπίστατο, τούτῳ ἄν εἰκότως μόνῳ ἡ θεία προσμαρτυρηθείη ἐπιπνοια, ὡς πολυειδεῖ ἀθρόον ἀναφανέντι καὶ ἀπὸ μιᾶς πηγῆς πολλοὺς διαμεριζομένῳ τοὺς ὀχετούς. διὰ ταῦτα ὁ μέγάς οὗτος ἀνὴρ τοῦτο μᾶλλον ἤ ἐκεῖνο θεοφανείας ἠξίωσε.

Πῶς δὲ καὶ ἦν μίαν μὲν αὐτοὺς ἀφιέναι φωνήν, πολυειδῶς δὲ ἠκροᾶσθαι τοὺς ἐντυγχάνοντας; εἰ μὲν γὰρ ὕλη τις ἦν αὕτη τοῦ λεκτικοῦ εἴδους, ψοφώδης τις ἦν καὶ μόνον ἐκφύσησις, ἀπὸ μὲν τοῦ πνεύμονος πηγάζουσα κάτωθεν, διὰ δὲ τῆς ἀρτηρίας ἐπὶ τὴν γλῶτταν ἀναπεμπομένη, ὥστε οὐδὲ κατὰ διάλεκτον ἠ φωνὴ τοῖς ἀποστόλοις ἐπέμπετο, ἀλλ᾽ ἔδει μόνον ὑπανοίγειν τὰ χείλη καὶ περιχαίνειν τὸ στόμα, ὥσπερ δὴ πολλάκις ἐγὼ τεθέαμαι τὰς ὀμφαλοτόμους περὶ τὰ τῶν βρεφῶν ποιούσας ἀρτίκοκα ἤ καὶ περὶ αὐτὴν τὴν λεχώ. ἐκεῖναι γάρ, ἐπειδὰν ἡ γεννησαμένη ἤ καὶ τὰ ἄρτι τῆς μήτερας διολισθήσαντα λειποθυμίαις περισχεθῶσιν, ἁπλῶς οὕτω τὰς χεῖρας περὶ τοὺς κροτάφους τιθέασιν, εἴτα δὴ ἐμφυσῶσαι πνευματίῳ βραχεῖ οἴονται τὰς δυνάμεις ἀνακαλεῖσθαι.

Εἰ μὲν οὖν κατὰ τὴν τοιαύτην τῆς φωνῆς ὕλην ἐφθέγγοντο οἱ άπόστολοι, οὐδέν τι διέφερον τῶν φληναφῶν τούτων γραῶν· εἰ δὲ μετὰ τοῦ εἴδους τοῦ λεκτικοῦ ἐπιοιοῦντο τὴν ὁμιλιαν, ὁποῖον τοῦτο ἦν; εἰ μὲν ὅπερ ἐξ άρχῆς ἀπὸ τῆς πυργοποιίας είλήφασιν ἤ, εἰ δεῖ πιστεύειν τοῖς λέγουςιν, ὅ δὴ καὶ ὁ Ἀδὰμ ἐν παραδείσῳ πρῶτος παρὰ θεοῦ εἴληφε, τἰ καινὸν τὸν Ἰουδαῖον κατὰ τὴν οἰκείαν διάλεκτον φθέγγεσθαι, ἤ πλέον αὐτοῖς ἡ τοῦ πυρὸς γλῶσσα πεποίηκεν; εἰ δὲ πρὸς ἑτέραν μετεποιήθη ἠ γλῶσσα τούτων φωνήν, Ἰβηρικὴν ἤ Ἀσσύριον, διὰ τί τὸ ἐφ᾽ ἑνὶ θαυμαζόμενον οὐκ ἄν μᾶλλον κρεῖττον φανείη καὶ ὑψηλότερον ἐπὶ πολλὰς γλώσσας διαμερισθέν; καὶ ἡμεῖς μέν, εἴ τις ἐπὶ βραχεῖ χρόνῳ Αίγυπτίαν ἐκμάθοι φωνὴν καὶ ἐθισθείη ἐπ᾽ ἐνίοις τῶν ἐν ἐκείνοις γραμμάτων ἄνευ γλώττης τῷ πνεύματι μόνῳ προσομιλεῖν, τῆς εὐγλωττιάς θαυμάζομεν καὶ τὴς πρὸς τὴν ἄσκησιν ἐπιτηδειότητος· καίτοι τί καινὸν τὸν μαθήσει μέσῃ χρησάμενον εἰδέναι πρὸς ὅ αὕτη φέρει; ἀλλ᾽ ὅμως ἡμεῖς ἀγάμεθά τε τὸν τῆς ἀλλοτρίας γλώττης ἐπήβολον καὶ μετὰ τῶν κρειττόνων ἄγομεν, ὅτι ταχέως μεμάθηκεν.

Εἰ δὲ τοῦτο καινόν, ὁ μίαν γλῶτταν εἰδώς, εἶτ᾽ἀθρόον ταῖς πάσαις πᾶσι προσφθέγγοιτο, οὔτε προμαθὼν οὔτ᾽ ἐπιμαθών, οὐ ζηλωτὸς οὖτος ἀνὴρ καὶ μακάριος καὶ κρατὴρ ὄντως ἀκήρατος τῶν μετεώρων ἐπιπνοιῶν; οὐ ῾κάλαμος᾽οὗτος ῾γραμματέως ὀξυγράφου᾽, πρὸς ὅπερ ὁ γραμματεὺς βοὺλοιτο καὶ τῇ ἐκείνου μόνῃ ῥοπῇ ἀγόμενος καὶ φερόμενος; εἰ γὰρ καὶ ἡ γλῶττα ἐρρύθμισται πρὸς πᾶσαν διάλεκτον, ἀλλ᾽ οὐκ ἄν οὐδε κατὰ μίαν φθέγξοιτο ἄνευ ἀσκήσεως; τοῖς δ᾽ἀποστόλοις αὐθωρὸν αἱ πᾶσαι διάλεκτοι ποταμοῦ δίκην διὰ τὴς ψυχῆς ἐπεισρεύσασαι, κρουνηδὸν τῇ γλώττῃ ἀνεστομῶθησαν. τίς οὖν ὁ τὴν γλῶσσαν τούτων κινῶν, τίς ὁ μεταβάλλων πρὸς τὴν ἑκάστου διάλεκτον; ἡ τῶν φωνῶν ἐπιστήμη; ἀλλ᾽ οὐδαμοῦ ταύτην μεμαθήκασιν. ἀλλ᾽ἡ τῆς ψυχῆς φύσις; καὶ ἔδει γε κατὰ ταύτην πάντας ἀθρόον τὰ πάντων προσομιλεῖν. ἀλλ᾽ ὁ νοῦς; ἀλλὰ τούτῳ ἡ φύσις νοερῶς ἀντιλαμβάνεσθαι τῶν εἰδῶν, ἀλλ᾽οὐχὶ καὶ πρὸς ὁμιλίαν τὰς γλώττας κινεῖν. οὐ τοίνυν δῆλον ὅτι θεία τις ἐνέπνευσε τοῖς περὶ τὸν Πέτρον ἐπιπνοια, ἥ δὴ ἐν τῇ τῆς ψυχῆς ἀκροπόλει προκαθημένη, ὥσπερ δή τις βασιλίς, πρὸς τὸ ἑαυτῆς βουλητὸν τὴν ὑποκειμένην γλῶτταν μετῆγε καὶ μετερρύθμιζε;

Τοῦτο μὲν οὖν καὶ διηπορήθη καλῶς τῷ πατρὶ καὶ τῆς πρεπούσης τετύχηκε λύσεως. ἐγὼ δὲ ἐκεῖνο προσαπορήσαιμι· ἆρά γε ταῖς τῶν ἐντυγχανόντων διαλέκτοις τὴν γλώσσαν καταλλήλως μετάγοντες οἱ ἀπόστολοι ἤδεσαν ὅ τι καὶ φθέγγοιντο, ἤ τὴν μὲν τοιάνδε φωνὴν ἔπεμπον, ἀνεπαίσθητοι δὲ ποίου τῶν ἐθνῶν εἴη ἐτύγχανον; ἐπεὶ καὶ ῾ἡ᾽τοῦ Ἀπόλλωνος ῾προφῆτις, τῷ στομίῳ᾽ ὡς ὁ λόγος ῾περικαθίσασα᾽ περὶ τὸν ῾τριποδικὸν λέβητα᾽, ἔχρα μὲν καὶ Πέρσαις, ἔχρα δὲ καὶ Ἀσσυρίοις καὶ Φοίνιξι, καὶ πάντα ἐς μέτρα τε καὶ ῥυθμούς, οὕς οὐκ ἤδει, μετὰ καλλιεπείας, ἥν οὐ μέμαθηκεν. ἆρ᾽οὖν ἀνεπιστήμονες ετύγχανον καὶ οἱ τοῦ Χριστοῦ μαθηταὶ ὧν δὴ προσωμίλουν καὶ διελέγοντο; οὐδαμῶς· τοῦτο γὰρ ἄντικρυς μαινομένων ἐστὶ τῆς οἰκείας διανοίας ὑποστάντων παράλλαξιν, ὥσπερ δὴ καὶ οἱ μεμηνότες, οὕς δὴ φοιβολήπτους οἱ πάλαι ὠνόμαζον, οὔθ᾽ ὧν ἐθεώρουν οὔτε μὴν ὧν διελέγοντο ἐτύγχανον ἐπιστήμονες, αλλ᾽ἡ κατ᾽ἐκείνους θεοληψία αὐτομάτως αὐτοῖς καὶ τὰς φωνὰς ἀνεδίδου καὶ τὰ ὁρώμενα ἔπλαττεν. οἱ δέ γε περὶ τὸν Πέτρον οὔτε τοῦ οἰκείόυ ἐξισταντο λογισμοῦ καὶ μετεῖχον τοῦ κρείττονος, παρ᾽οὗ δὴ καὶ ἐπεστομοῦντο πρὸς τὴν νοερὰν ταύτην ἐνέργειαν. ἤδει τοιγαροῦν ὁ καθ᾽ ἕνα τῶν μαθητῶν ὅτι Πέρσης ὁ προσιὼν αύτῷ καὶ ὅτι δεῖ τὴν Περσίδα τούτῳ ἀφεῖναι φωνήν, ὅτι τε Μῆδος καὶ ὅτι δεῖ κατὰ Μήδους φθέγγεσθαι. τὸ μὲν οὖν ἀπὸ τῶν σχημάτων διαγινώσκειν τοὺς ἐντυγχάνοντας τῆς οἰκείάς στολαῖς ἦν γνώμης τε και συνέσεως, τὸ δὲ καὶ τοὺς μεταμπισχομένους ἀλλοτρίαις στολαῖς ἐπιστασθαι καὶ φθέγγεσθαι, ἥν εἰδεῖεν ἐκεῖνοι φωνήν, τῆς ὑψηλοτέρας καὶ κρείττονος καὶ ἦς δὴ τὸ τηνικαῦτα κατηξιώθησαν.

Ἀπορῶ δὲ καὶ περὶ τῶν γλωσσῶν, ὅπως δὴ καὶ τεθέανται· καὶ ἵνα πρὸς τὸ καθόλου τὸν λόγον ἀναβιβάσω, φιλοπονώτερον τῇ θεωρίᾳ πρόσειμι, καὶ διαποροῦμαι ὅπως δήποτε σωματικῶς ὁρᾶται τὰ θεῖα, καὶ τίνες αἱ τούτων προβολαί, καὶ τί τὸ ὑπεστρωμένον αὐτοῖς φῶς. ἐπεὶ δὲ δόξαι διτταὶ περὶ ταῦτα, αἱ μὲν ἡμέτεραι, αἱ δὲ τῶν ἄκρων Ἑλληνικῶν, δεῖ με ἀμφοτέρας εἰπεῖν πρὸς ὑμᾶς. αἱ μὲν οὖν ἡμέτεραι αὗται. τὸ θεῖον, ὅ τι ποτέ ἐστιν, ἀσώματον ὄν, πρὸς τὰς τῶν ὑποδεχομένων δυνάμεις τὰς οἰκείας φαίνεται, θεοφανείας ἀδρανεστέρας ἥ τρανεστέρας ποιεῖ, καὶ τοῖς μὲν ἐν αἰσθήσει φαίνεται, τοῖς δὲ ὑπὲρ τὴν αἴσθησιν ἐμφανίζεται· μᾶλλον δέ, ἵνα τὸ ἀκριβέστερον εἴπω, ἐκεῖνο μὲν ἀμετάβλητον μένει καὶ ἀναλλοίωτον, ἡμεῖς δὲ περὶ ἐκεῖνο μεταποιούμεθα καὶ μεταβαλλόμεθα. ὥσπερ γὰρ μιᾶς ἀπηχηθείσης ἐν ὑπαίθρῳ φωνῆς ὁ μέν τις ἡμῶν ἤκουσεν, ὁ δὲ ἀδρανέστερον ἀντελάβετο κατὰ τὴν ἀναλογίαν τῆς διαστάσεως καὶ τῆς εἰλικρινοῦς ἀκοῆς, τῶν δὲ μὴ ἀκουσάντων ὁ μὲν διὰ τὸ πολὺ διεστάναι οὐκ ἀντελάβετο, ὁ δὲ διὰ τὸ ἐμπεφράχθαι αὐτῷ τὸν τῆς ἀκοῆς πόρον, ἐμψυγέντος κατ᾽ἐκεῖνο τὸ μέρος τοῦ φλέγματος, ὁ δὲ διὰ τὸ πρὸς ἑτέροις εἶναι, καὶ ἡ πολυμερὴς αὕτη ἀλλοίωσις οὐ κατὰ τὴν ἀπηχηθεῖσαν φωνὴν ἐγένετο, ἀλλὰ κατὰ τὴν ἐνηχηθεῖσαν ἀκοήν, οὕτω δὴ καὶ τοῦ θείου μὴ μεταβαλλομένου ἡμεῖς περὶ ἐκεῖνο μεταβεβλήμεθα καῖ τοιοίδε γινόμεθα· ὥσπερ δὴ και τοῦ ἡλίου ἑστῶτος ἐν μεσημβρίᾳ πάρνοπες καὶ νυκτάλωπες ἀμυδρόν τι τοῦ φέγγους εἰσδέχονται, ἄνθρωποι δὲ καὶ ἐλέφαντες κατᾶ τὴν προσοῦσαν ἑκάστῳ διάθεσιν μᾶλλον ἤ ἧττον ἐνοπτρίζονται. διὰ ταῦτα τοιγαροῦν καὶ οἱ περὶ τὸν Πέτρον καὶ οἱ τότε παρατυχόντες τὰς πυρίνους γλώσσας ἐκείνας ἐθεάσαντο, οὐχ ὅτι κατα γλῶσσαν τὸ θεῖον διεσχημάτισται, ἀλλ᾽ ὅτι περὶ τὴν γλῶσσαν ἔμελλεν ἡ τοῦ πνεύματος ἐνέργεια γίνεσθαι. οἱ δ᾽ἄλλοι, ἵνα δὴ μάρτυρες εἶεν τοῦ μεγάλου θεαματος.

Ταῦτα δὴ τὰ τῆς ἡμετέρας αὐλῆς. Ἑλλήνων δὲ παῖδες, ὧν δὴ τελευταῖος δᾳδοῦχος καὶ ἱεροφάντης ὁ Πρόκλος ἐγἐνετο, εἰς τρία δὴ ταῦτα τὴν θεαγωγίαν καταμερίζουσι, καὶ τὸ μὲν αὐτῆς αὐτοπτικόν φασι, τὸ δὲ ἐποπτικὀν, τὸ δὲ ἐνθεαστικόν, ὡς εἶναι καὶ τοὺς ὁρῶντας αὐτόπτας καὶ ἐπόπτας καὶ ἐνθεαστάς. εἰ μὲν οὖν τις τῷ νοερῷ τῆς ψυχῆς καὶ αὐγοειδεῖ καὶ αἰθριὠδει ὡς ἔχει φύσεως τὸ θεῖον ὁρᾷ αὐτος ὤν καὶ κλήτωρ καὶ θεατής, αὐτόπτης οὗτός ἐστιν· ὅστις δὲ τῷ φανταστικῷ τῆς ψυχῆς ὀχήματι τὰ θεῖα φαντάζοιτο, ὑφ᾽ἑτέρου θεολόγου κατ᾽ ἐκείνους πρὸς τοῦτο ἀνακινούμενος, ἐπόπτης ἄν οὗτός καλοῖτο· εἰ δὲ μήτε κατὰ νοῦν θεωροίη μήτε κατὰ φαντασίαν, αὐτοῖς δὲ μόνοις τοῖς ὄμμασι θείας τινὰς ὁράσεις τῷ ἀέρι ἐμφερομένας, ἐνθεάζει τε οὗτος περὶ αὐτάς, καὶ ἐνθεαστης ὀνομάζοιτο. φασὶ γᾶρ καὶ φῶς σωματικὸν ὑπεστρῶσθαι τοῖς θείοις, οὖ δὴ ἀντιλαμβάνονται, οἱ μὲν ἀπραγματεύτως τοιαύτης τυχόντες ὀμμάτων φύσεως, οἷος δὴ καὶ Σωκράτης καὶ Πλωτῖνος ἐγένοντο, οἱ δὲ`κατά τινας περιόδους τῷ σεληναίῳ ἴσως φωτὶ τρεπόμενοι τὴν διάνοιαν· Αἰγύπτιοι δὲ τοὺς ὀφθαλμούς, ὥς φασι, χρίοντες ἤ τῷ καλουμένῳ τάρρῳ ἤ τῷ τῆς λιβάνου ὀπῷ ἤ τῷ βδελλίῳ, αὐθωρὸν πρὸς τὰς ὀπτασίας ἀνέβλεψαν· Ἀσσύριοι δὲ χαίρειν εἰπόντες πόαις τε καὶ ὀποῖς καὶ ἐγχρίσμασι, συνθήκαις τισὶ καὶ ὀνόμασιν ἀῤρήτοις καὶ γράμμασιν ἀπορρήτοις ἐν ἱερατικοῖς πετάλοις ἑαυτοὺς καθαγιάζοντες, τὸ ὑπεστρωμένον φῶς ταῖς ἀσωμάτοις δυνάμεσιν ἐθεάσαντο.

Ταῦτα δὴ Πορφύριος καὶ ἸάμΒλιχος καὶ ὁ τερατολόγος Πρόκλος ἐλήρησαν· ἐμοὶ γὰρ ἀποπεφάνθω μηδὲν τοὺτων τυγχάνειν ἀληθές. ἀλλ᾽ἡμεῖς γε οὐ τὰς θεραπευούσας μόνον βοτάνας, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὰς φαρμακώδεις εἰδέναι όφείλομεν, ὡς ἄν ταύταις μὲν ὑγιαζοίμεθα, ἐκείνων δὲ πόρρω γιγνοίμεθα καὶ μὴ ὡς οἰκείοις τοῖς ἀλλοτρίοις περιπίπτοιμεν.