Tag Archives: Pentecost

Modern Pentecostal Books on Speaking in Tongues

A brief survey of modern Pentecostal and Charismatic books on the practice of speaking in tongues.

This is an addendum to The Gift of Tongues Project whose focus is to trace the evolution of the doctrine tongues from inception until now.

The Gift of Tongues Project started with pentecostal literature and pentecostal historical assumptions. Once I started reading the ancient texts, it forced to abandon such pretexts and let the ancient writers speak for themselves.

Here is a partial list and commentary of pentecostal and charismatic publications and authors pertinent to the history of the pentecostal doctrine of tongues. Some are only available in print, while others have made their way online. This is in no way exhaustive, and many more can be added.

They Speak with Other Tongues.

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John Sherril’s publication, “They Speak with Other Tongues,” is the top selling book from the Pentecostal perspective. First published in 1964, the writeup at Amazon claims over 2.5 million copies have been purchased.

The book is not a theological treatise, but written from an investigative journalist perspective, starting from a sceptical point of view, and then finishing as a convert to contemporary tongues speaking. The strength in the book is its narrative. It is so smooth and personal throughout, and contains an element of mystery that forces the reader to continue reading until it is resolved. It is a masterpiece from a literary perspective, but weak in the history and logical background. This book gave legitimacy to the growing pentecostal, and birthing charismatic movements. Even though it is over 51 years old, the popularity has not been surpassed by any later pentecostal or charismatic writer.

Jesus and the Spirit.

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The next book goes to a non-Pentecostal scholar who is both sympathetic and critical with the Pentecostal experience, James Dunn. He is well-known and respected in the academic theological world, and popular within the greater Protestant realm. His 1974 book, “Jesus and the Spirit,” gave an external third-party legitimization to Pentecostal practice. This may have been the point when Pentecostalism was allowed into the mainstream of the evangelical movement. He draws from classical Greek sources, not Ecclesiastical ones to draw his conclusions, which falls more in line with the Pentecostal experience.

The Hidden Power of Speaking in Tongues.

HiddenPower

The recently published, “The Hidden Power of Speaking in Tongues,” by Mahesh Chavda, a pastor whose bio says his TV ministry reaches a billion households globally, and that he and his wife are responsible for over one million conversions,(1)http://www.newreleasetoday.com/authordetail.php?aut_id=811 is a terribly written book that appears self-serving, lacking theological focus, and creates more problems than solutions. I never finished reading it.

A History of Speaking in Tongues and Related Gifts.

The academic work, “A History of Speaking in Tongues and Related Gifts,” by George H. Williams, and Edith Waldgovel, is built into the psyche of pentecostal intellectual thought. It is the only well-known piece from a contemporary mystical perspective that seriously attempts to reconcile the ancient writings with the modern experience. They produced a convincing reference – much better than any of its predecessors. However, it fails on two crucial points. First of all the two authors restrict their historical exegesis on already available English translations of the Church Fathers. This is seriously problematic because less than 20% of historical Church literature has been translated into English. Secondly, they build their conclusions on what the dominant Greek Dictionaries and Commentaries conclude, which purposely neglected the ancient Church writers because they believed they were not trustworthy. They felt that classical Greek writers were more dependable. This changes the definition of tongues substantially. This goes into a different realm and both their article, and the greater problems they faced are covered in detail in one of the following series of articles called The History of Glossolalia, specifically Patristic Literature on Tongues as an Ecstatic Utterance.

Charisma Magazine

Charisma Magazine, on the other hand, doesn’t even think that there is any historical incompatibility. What Pentecostals and Charismatics do today is assumed to be consistent with the Biblical record without question. Charisma Magazine has a circulation of about 275,000 readers and is highly influential in the pentecostal and charismatic realm.(2)As of 2009, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charisma_(magazine) In the article 5 Things You Need to Know About Speaking in Tongues the author, Brian Alarid, lead pastor of Passion Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico and area coordinator with the Billy Graham Association, writes that “The gift of tongues is a known or heavenly language unknown to the speaker that enables him or her to communicate directly with God.” His statement is full of assumptions based on an ignorance of historic christian literature and tongues movements over 2000 years.

Pentecostal Experience: Towards a Reconstructive Theology of Glossolalia.

Rev. Heidi Baker wrote her PhD thesis on the pentecostal perspective of speaking in tongues. Pentecostal Experience: Towards a Reconstructive Theology of Glossolalia collects and analyzes a large library of pentecostal thought to build a constructive framework for speaking in tongues. She succeeds and this thesis is one of the most formative works on building a pentecostal systematic theology. Her coverage of pentecostal thought after the 1900s is very detailed and helpful.

The Pentecostal Three

EncycPentChar

Anything by the following Pentecostal scholars, Stanley Burgess, Vinson Synan or Gary B. McGee, are well researched and substantiated works. Gary B. McGee’s small publication for the Overseas Ministries Study Center, “Shortcut to Language Preparation?” covers the old Pentecostal tension between divine inspiration of tongues, or the regular route of language study, is a seminal work. Vinyan has written copiously on pentecostal subjects. His 1999 article printed in Christianity Today, “The Second Comers,” first caught my attention, and saw his name tagged in the “Encyclopedia of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity,” which in itself is a grand work worth mentioning. These scholars and the Encyclopedia shows that the Pentecostal brand of Christianity has matured and willing to deal honestly with its own history, even if it is different from today’s expressions.

For more information:

Conyers Middleton’s Essay on Tongues

Conyers Middleton, a controversial church historian from the 18th century, became famous for his work Divine Inquiry but also wrote a small work dedicated to the topic on the Gift of Tongues.

It is an essay found in The Miscellaneous Works of the Late Reverend and Learned Conyers Middleton Vol. II, published in 1752, Pg. 79, properly entitled, An Essay on the Gift of Tongues.

It is one of the better works on the topic, and surpasses the level of arguments written by George H. Williams and Edith Waldvogel, A History of Speaking in Tongues and Related Gifts, published in Michael Hamilton’s 1975 work, The Charismatic Movement, which is ubiquitous in charismatic and pentecostal circles, or John Macarthur’s 1993 cessationist publication, Charismatic Chaos. (I haven’t read Macarthur’s new work, Strange Fire to comment on it.)

Middleton quotes a larger than usual number of Church Fathers when he covers the tongues of Pentecost, painting a portrait that it was the spontaneous speaking in a foreign language that the speaker previously did not know. He was not aware of any doctrine of a private prayer or heavenly language.

He makes the mistake of lumping both the tongues of Pentecost and the problem tongues of Corinth as the same entity, which is very problematic. He certainly leans upon Greek and Latin authors and excludes almost completely Hebrew and Jewish sources. By doing so he is working with a restricted set of tools.

His citing of Church literature is more extensive than most, but still falls considerably short. He does not grapple with the difficult texts offered by Gregory Nazianzus, which set the pace and discussion on the subject for centuries, nor of Augustine, who may have been the most prolific writer on tongues, which is a great oversight.

His work is plain quotation and there is no attempt to perform any textual criticism. He does delve into the Delphic oracles in a brief fashion, explaining that Christians were being accused by others of being of similar nature, but does not syncretize these two camps.

Technical Notes on Chrysostom’s Pentecost Text

Notes on the translation of John Chyrsostom’s, On the Holy Pentecost, Homily 1:4(b) to 5.

An overview of the techniques, challenges and solutions found in translating the text. On the Holy Pentecost is an important text that outlines Chrysostom’s theological viewpoint on the tongues of Pentecost. It adds more information to his already known thoughts found in his Homilies on Acts, and his Homilies on I Corinthians.

This is intended to be the last of the translations for the Gift of Tongues Project, not because the list of ecclesiastical writers has been exhausted on the subject, but is more than enough to build an accurate portrait of tongues from ecclesiastical literature. The remaining writers on the matter will be scanned and the source texts will be posted in pdf format on the website at a later date.

The approach to translating the Chrysostom text relating to the doctrine of tongues

The methodology behind translating this text was very different than the previous ones. It was desired to significantly reduce the amount of time to complete the task. First of all it intended to use the online Perseus Greek Dictionary almost exclusively without having to open the bulky pdf-based dictionaries. These pdfs of Greek dictionaries, especially Stephanus’ voluminous Greek Lexicon, is a tediously slow process to find and retrieve entries. Secondly, the blocks of translation done were significantly larger at any given sitting. In the past, only a few lines of text were translated per day, and the next line was not proceeded to until everything was understood. If a new grammatical item was introduced, much time would be spent on learning this aspect before proceeding. This was dramatically curtailed in the initial translation effort. Another factor to reduce time was to post the work immediately after the first pass was done, without letting it sit for a week, and then reviewing it.

The end result of this initial translation was a flop. After eight hours of revisions, the work is now at the same standard as the previous ones done on this site. The lesson learned is that short-cuts never work.

The original text used and the biggest translation challenge

The translation is based on the text found in Migne Patrologia Graeca alone which isn’t typically done on the majority of my translations which usually start with MPG and migrate to a better version. This one is an exception to this method.

There are no authorship issues here. The internal text seems to be consistent, and it does not appear to have different grammatical structures or vocabulary unsuited for the time.

It starts out as an easy translation with 4b, and then his Greek vocabulary and structure gets significantly more difficult in 5.

The hardest portion found is this:

Here is the Greek:

Ὅτι ἐκεῖνος μὲν ἀπῄει κατηγορήσων ἁμαρτημάτων, καὶ θρηνήσων συμφορὰς Ἰουδαϊκάς·
οὗτοι δὲ ἐξῄεσαν τὰ τῆς οἰκουμένης ἁμαρτήματα δαπανήσοντες·

And the Latin:

Quod ille quidem abiret insectaturus peccata, calamitatesque memoriae suggereret deploraturus; hi vero peccata orbis terrarum absumpturi exirent.

The use of the future participles κατηγορήσων, and θρηνήσων were an initial challenge to understand here. Whether I never knew how future participles operated in Greek, or that I have simply forgot this element, I don’t know. However, I tried to force the meaning of the Latin future participle on the Greek one in this instance. It made up for a unusual mechanical translation that was originally posted. It did not make sense.

With some help from Alex Poulos, who maintains a blog on church literature, The Poulos Blog, this translation was pointed on the right track.

The future participle found here in the Greek brought about reviewing the participle structure. The participle is a rich contributor to the ancient Greek language. Daniel B. Wallace, a Greek Professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, has posted an excellent article covering participles, aptly called The participle. It is a comprehensive work that portrays the wide ranging use of the Greek participle. In the above instance, it is considered a telic participle, to which he instructs:

First, to clarify that a particular participle is telic (purpose), one can either translate it as though it were an infinitive, or simply add the phrase with the purpose of before the participle in translation.

Second, since purpose is accomplished as a result of the action of the main verb, perfect participles are excluded from this category (since they are typically antecedent in time). The future adverbial participle always belongs here; the present participle frequently does. The aorist participle also has a representative or two, but this is unusual.

Third, many present participles that fit this usage are lexically influenced. Verbs such as seek (ζητέω) or signify (σημαίνω), for example, involve the idea of purpose lexically.

Fourth, the telic participle almost always follows the controlling verb. Thus, the word order emulates what it depicts. Some participles, when following their controlling verbs, virtually demand to be taken as telic…

So how does this passage translate?:

“Because the former goes forth to speak out against sins, and to mourn the Jewish calamities. The latter were going forth to destroy the sins of the world.”

The difference between δωρεά and χάρισμα

The original translation did not distinguish between δωρεά and χάρισμα. Many commentaries and New Testament grammars believe these are synonyms for the word “gift”. However, I think Chrysostom, and most ecclesiastical writers distinguished these words with slightly different meanings. An editorial decision has been made for this translation, Δωρεά is translated as “gift,” and χάρισμα as “grace.”

Throughout the text being translated, it was found he used the subjunctive infrequently, and the articular infinitive was not dominant. There was no optative located. There was a hint of a Doric vocabulary but not overwhelming.

Some Chyrostom grammar nuances

The aorist was his tense of choice when referring to past action. Often it was used in a punctiliar fashion. Otherwise it is simply used as a past tense.

The utilization of the grammatical structure pointers, μὲν and δὲ are an always initial point of reference for understanding the flow of thought with a Greek writer. Chrysostom’s text deviates from the normal pattern. Μὲν seldom occurs, and δὲ can be repeated for a long string of text. It appears that γὰρ takes the place of μὲν.

The high use of γὰρ has never been seen before in any other texts. Typically the English equivalent “for” is used almost exclusively, but here, it is obvious it cannot be done that simply. Some investigation into the New Testament text usage of γὰρ revealed the following synonyms, actually, after, after all, although, because, indeed, since, then, though, well, what, why, yes,”(1)NASB word count found for γὰρ as found at Bible Hub The majority of these synonyms are seen sprinkled through this translation.

Lastly the word οἰκουμένη which had me nervous, as originally it was thought to be from the same root as the verb οἰκονομέω or the noun οἰκονομία which has special religious meanings, depending on the era and region. Fortunately, it was not, and according to Lidell and Scott, simply means something like this, ‘inhabited region, then the Greek world, opp. barbarian lands, the inhabited world (including non-Greek lands, as Ethiopia, India, Scythia), as opp. possibly uninhabited regions, loosely, the whole world, the Roman world’.(2)As found at Perseus Greek Dictionary at their website.

Chrysostom also wrote on a few occasions in the first person, which is highly unusual for an ecclesiastical piece of literature. ■

References   [ + ]

A snippet from Chrysostom’s “The Holy Pentecost”

A translation from a portion of John Chrysostom’s On the Holy Pentecost as it relates to the miraculous event of Pentecost found in the Book of Acts.

As translated from the Greek: Εἰς τὴν Ἁγίαν Πεντηκοστήν by S. Joannis Chrysostomi. MPG Vol. 50, Col. 458 – 461. Homily 1:4(b) — 5. Translation by Charles A. Sullivan.

Draft 3

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4(b). Therefore why does it say that such a sign does not happen now? Keep your attention with me along with important details here. For I hear from many, continually and always seeking this question. Why then were all those speaking in languages at that time, and now no longer? We must first learn in this instance what is the act of speaking in languages and then we will discuss the case as well. Therefore, what does it mean to speak in languages? The person in the process of being baptized immediately was uttering in the sound of the Indians, Egyptians, Persians, Scythians, and Thracians — one man was taking on many languages. And indeed if these ones back then had been baptized now, then you are to immediately hear at that moment these uttering in different sounds. Additionally, with Paul, it says [in Scripture], since he found some who were baptized in the baptism of John, he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.””(1)Acts 19:2, NASB And he immediately urged them to be baptized. “And when Paul lays his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they were speaking in all languages.”(2)Acts 19:6, My translation. καὶ ἐλάλουον ἄπαντες γλώσσαις this Bible verse is unique to Chrysostom who added ἄπαντες “all” to the Biblical text.

Why then had the gift been limited, and now this has been removed from mankind? Do you see that the manifestation of signs which has been withdrawn is not a feature of God dishonoring but of Him exceedingly honoring us? How? I am going to relate. Men were disposed to a most stupid ideal back then. Since these ones were recently delivered, their reason was still really thick-witted, and lacking common sense. For they had been fervent and occupied with anything pertaining to the corporal, and not once, never did the thought of the incorporal gifts exist with them, neither did they know at some point what a grace is seen only with the mind,(3)οὐδὲ εἴδεσαν τί ποτέ ἐστι νοητὴ χάρις and being observed by faith alone. For that reason the grace begat signs.

For regarding the gifts of the spirit, some are invisible, and are understood by faith alone and some display a visible sign for the sake of assuring unbelievers. But on the other hand concerning these invisible things, it is exhibited as an observable sign for the sake of assuring unbelievers. I am going to relate such a thing. The remission of sins is a matter of heart and mind,(4)ἁμαρτιῶν ἄφεσις νοητόν ἐστι πρᾶγμα a grace that is invisible. For how our sins are being removed, we do not see with eyes of the flesh. What kind of thing is this? Because the soul is the thing which is being cleansed, the soul does not observe with the eyes of the flesh. Therefore, the cleansing of sins is a kind of gift that is apprehended by the mind, which cannot be visible to the eyes of the body. Now even though speaking in tongues itself comes from the spiritual work of the Spirit, it nevertheless provides a sign that is physically perceptible and easily seen by unbelievers. For regarding the work which happens inside the soul, I say of the invisible, because the external language being heard is a certain manifestation and proof. According to this thought Paul says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”(5)I Corinthians 12:7 NIV

I emphatically do not have the need for signs now. On what account? I have obviously learned to believe in the Master also apart from a giving of a sign. For the unbeliever requires an assurance. I believe that I am in no need of an assurance nor a sign. But even if I should not speak in a language, I know that I have been cleansed from sins. However, these ones were not to believe at that time, unless they received a sign. For this reason a sign was given to them, which they believed as an assurance of the faith. Therefore, the giving of the signs was not as for the believers, but as for the unbelievers in order that they should have become believers. So that Paul likewise says, “The signs are not for those who believe, but for those who are unbelievers.”(6)Chrysostom’s key position here rests on a slightly different Biblical text than ours, “Τὰ σημεῖα οὐ τοῖς πιστεύουσιν῾rather than what the majority of standard manuscripts, or the SBL Greek New Testament 2010, which has “ὥστε αἱ γλῶσσαι εἰς σημεῖόν εἰσιν οὐ τοῖς πιστεύουσιν ἀλλὰ τοῖς ἀπίστοις, ” (biblehub.com/texts/1_corinthians/14-22.htm) Do you see that the manifestation of signs which has been withdrawn is not a feature of God dishonoring but of Him honoring us?(7)Ὁρᾶτε, ὅτι οὐχὶ ἀτιμάζοντος ἡμᾶς τοῦ Θεοῦ, ἀλλὰ τιμῶντός ἐστι τὸ συστεῖλαι τὴν τῶν σημείων ἐπίδειξιν;, For if one wishes to demonstrate our faith, we believe this has been done without an assurance of a pledge or signs with it. Except those ones who have received first the sign and pledge, do not believe it concerning the unseen things. I, on the other hand, indeed show a complete faith without this. This is therefore the reason why signs are not happening now.

5. I wished to also speak about the occasion of the festival and demonstrate in the end what Pentecost is, and a reason why in this festival the grace is being given, and the reason why with languages of fire, and why after ten days. But I see that to be a teaching extending out for a long time. On which account I am going to bring an end to the word while adding a few thoughts:

“When the day of Pentecost had come… there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves.”(8)Portions of Acts 2:1-3 as found in the New American Standard Bible

Not “fire,” literally, but “as fire,” so that you should have suspicion of nothing perceptible relating to the Spirit. For with respect with what happened at the Jordan rivers, the dove did not descend literally, but in the form of a dove. Thus, it is also in this place here not literally a fire, but a kind of fire. And it was majestically said, “like a violent rushing wind,”(9)Acts 2:2 NASB Ὡσει φερομένης πνοῆς βιααίας Ὡσει does not appear in any dominant NT manuscript. ὤσπερ appears instead Why did Ezekiel not receive the gift of prophecy through the likeness of fire but through a book,(10)Ezekiel 3:3 but the Apostles receive the gift through the agency of fire? For concerning this it says that he gave the head of a scroll(11)κεφαλίδα βιβλίου into his mouth, and there was written lamentation, a mournful song, and woe, and it had been written on the inside and outside. He ate it and it became in the mouth as sweet as honey. When it comes to the apostles it is not so. Rather “and they appeared to them tongues as fire.”(12)Ὤφθησαν αὐτοῖς γλῶσσαι ὠσεὶ πυρός is missing the participle typically found in this text: Ὤφθησαν αὐτοῖς διαμεριζόμενοι γλῶσσαι ὠσεὶ πυρός Why then was there a scroll and letters there, but tongue and fire here? Because the former goes forth to speak out against sins, and to mourn the Jewish calamities. The latter were going forth to destroy the sins of the world. For this reason Ezekiel was receiving a small book, telling of the coming misfortunes, but the apostles were receiving fire, so as to thoroughly burn-up the sins of the world, and to obliterate all of it. For just as the fire falls upon thistles(13)ἀκάνθας and easily destroys all of it, thus also the grace of the Spirit consumes the sins of mankind. But the stupid Jews, while these things were happening, ought to be fearful, tremble and revere the gift being bestowed, contrarily point it out as a silly state, accusing drunkenness against the apostles who have been filled of the Spirit. “These ones, it says, “are full of sweet wine.”(14)Acts 2:13 NASB Pay attention to the senseless pride of mankind, and contemplate at this moment the integrity of angels. For the angels see the start of our rising-up, they were rejoicing and said, “Lift up your heads, O gates, And be lifted up, O ancient doors, That the King of glory may come in!”(15)Psalm 24:7 These men on the other hand say, who had just seen the grace of the Spirit descending to us, that the ones who are receiving the gift are drunk, and the season of the calendar did not constrain them. For wine in the springtime would not likely have been found at any occasion, nevertheless it was still spring. Therefore, let these ones be left alone. We nevertheless go about considering the reckoning of a benevolent God. Christ received the first fruit of our nature and rewarded us with the grace of the Spirit. Just like it was produced in a lengthy war, and when the battle was in the process of being finished, and peace was going to be accomplished, and those who have enmity towards others offer pledges and securities to these parties. It has also happened in this way between God and human nature. He sent in it pledges and securities, the first-fruit which Christ took up.(16)ἔπεμψεν αὐτῷ ἐνέχυρα καὶ ὅμηρα τὴν ἀπαρχὴν ἣν ἀνήνεγκεν ὁ Χριστός· He himself sent back to us the Holy Spirit in place of pledges and securities.(17)ἀντέπεμψεν ἡμῖν αὐτὸς ἐνέχυρα καὶ ὅμηρα τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον.· Something doesn’t fit right here with the text. τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον. especially stands out of place. I am assuming this is a later insertion. The Latin is used here to make sense: nobis ille Spiritum sanctum pignoris et obsidis loco remisit. That indeed we have pledges and securities, evident from this time forward. For it is necessary the offsprings of royalty to be pledges and securities. It was on this account that the Holy Spirit had been sent down to us, as to whom is the substance of the most high king, and the one who had been raised up was from the offspring of royal lineage on our behalf. After all, he was from the seed of David. On which account I am no longer scared because our first fruit rests on high. Therefore, granted that someone should say to me “endless worm”, even “unquenchable fire,” and about other penalties and retributions, I do not dread any more. Well, I do indeed fear, but albeit I do not despair about my own salvation. Really, unless God was thinking about the great deeds about our offsprings, he would not have taken the first fruit on high. Before this, these ones watch throughout heaven, and reflect upon the non-material deeds, we see more clearly our worthlessness after the comparison regarding the deeds from on high. Now, still while we wished to know our nobility, we look up on high to heaven to the royal throne itself. In fact in that place the first fruit which had been taken up from us, was about to seat down. Thus, the Son of God also will come judging us. On which account we are going to be prepared, so as to not be deprived of this glory, because by all means He will come, the person connected with our Master will last. He will come bringing armies, brigades of angels, companies of archangels, hosts of martyrs, choirs of righteous ones, assemblies of prophets and apostles, and in the midst of these immaterial armies, the King appears in something which is too great for words and unexplainable glory. ■

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The Greek text can be found at the Orthodox Fathers website, Εἰς τὴν Ἁγίαν Πεντηκοστήν

References   [ + ]

Basil of Seleucia on Pentecost: Notes

A brief analysis of the fifth-century tongues of Pentecost text by Basil of Seleucia.

As found in Migne Patrologia Graeca Vol. 64. Col. 420 to 421. Supplementum Ad S.J. Chrysostom Opera. Homilia in S. Pentecosten.

It is a difficult but important text.

The complexity resides in the fact the writer assumes a basic knowledge and background to the first Pentecost that is not shared by the modern reader.

Basil of Seleucia was the bishop of a region titled, Seleucia in Isauria – today a south central Turkish coastal town known as Silifke. His writing style has thought to be greatly influenced by John Chrysostom,(1)The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. As found at CCEL but a connection cannot be made when it comes to the doctrine of tongues. Chrysostom’s view was very limited, while Basil’s was extensive.

There is no doubt that Basil believed the tongues of Pentecost to revolve around the miracle of language and sound. He believed the purpose of this outward grace was for the proclamation of the Gospel throughout all the nations. The question of how Basil thought this miracle occurred is puzzling. He stitched three different opinions on the mechanics behind the miracle into one narrative without completely resolving the tensions between them.

  • It follows in a similar thought pattern found in Gregory Nazianzus’ work on the subject. Whereas Nazianzus posited two interpretations, one being a miracle of speech, and the other of hearing(2)See Nazianzus’ Tongues of Pentecost Paradox — though Basil’s second has little to do with a miracle of hearing, but on the producing of a divine sound.

  • The reader could understand it as the restoration of the primordial language that first was spoken before the fall of Babel, which the human mind has never lost the capacity to understand the sound heard. And when this first language was revived, those of every linguistic background understood it.

  • However, towards the end of the text, the emphasis shifts to the instantaneous ability to speak in a foreign language, but it is not entirely clear.

He nowhere intimates this was a non-human, divine, or prayer language. He was not aware of such theories during his time.

The grammar is impeccable in the Greek language. He consistently utilized synonyms throughout. It also has numerous words that can be traced to Ionic Greek — this is something I have never come across before within Greek Patristic writers.

His use of the noun tongue/language is intriguing. He used the multi-Greek noun (Doric, Aeolic, Ionic, Epic), γλῶσσα, on most occasions, but in others he switched to the Attic noun, γλῶττα. Why?

An analysis of the noun γλῶττα in the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (TLG) shows that it commonly interchanged with γλῶσσα. Particular attention was paid to Chrysostom whose texts have this same characterization. Attic Greek was the common language throughout Byzantium and γλῶττα would have been the preferred pronunciation. However, the Biblical text and christian doctrines are built around γλῶσσα. It is part of the christian religious vocabulary which the Attic speaking and writing Greeks had to honor. In the cases where the noun was not being used in the strictest religious sense, the authors would switch to γλῶττα.

Over time, my thoughts may change on this piece as more information from other authors come to light. There is a tension here that is not completely explained. ■

For more information see:

References   [ + ]