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John of Damascus on Tongues: Notes

Notes on John of Damascus’ work, Commentary of I Corinthians, chapters 13 and 14, as it relates to the christian doctrine of tongues.

John of Damascus

John of Damascus was an eighth-century church leader who lived in Syria under Muslim rule. The Greek texts originally written by him have been passed on through the ages and may have been heavily edited. Whatever historical information exists about him tends to be of mythical proportions. It is hard to separate the man from the myth.

A commentary on I Corinthians is credited to him. Whether the text accurately represents his original thought isn’t the most important point. For the purpose of the Gift of Tongues Project it represents the perception of tongues during the eighth- to tenth-centuries.

Discovering an old commentary on I Corinthians is always exciting because it offers potential to solve the Corinthian’s tongues riddle. However, his work doesn’t solve the problem but does offer a small clue. His text suggests Paul was addressing a problem of foreign languages. This will be explained in more detail below.

The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia claims that he was the “the last of the Greek Fathers.” How the article arrived at this conclusion is not known. The same article proceeds to add, “His genius was not for original theological development, but for compilation of an encyclopedic character.” This became clearer as the translation of his Commentary on I Corinthians proceeded. His style reminded me of the structure and style used by the Latin writer, Thomas Aquinas, four centuries later. Aquinas liked to stitch together thoughts from a variety of sources and offer those considerations with the fewest words possible, assuming the reader understood the background and meaning. Damascus did the same thing. It gave some sense that John of Damascus was thinking in Latin and writing in Greek. Perhaps this wasn’t the correct approach and so the following was contemplated: he was thinking in Arabic and writing in Greek. The Greek style had a heavy dependency on participles rather verbs which showed something different not seen before and there was nothing that could explain this. However, there was not enough information to substantiate either claim.

His coverage of tongues and angels in I Corinthians 13 follows the thought originally penned by Origen that it was hyperbolic language and then borrows from Chyrsostom that angels don’t have bodies,(1)Catenae Graecorum Patrum in Novum Testamentum. Vol. 5.J.A. Cramer. Oxonii. 1844. Catenae in Sancti Pauli Epistola Ad Corinthios. Pg. 251 using the same verbs and nouns, but constructed slightly different than what Chrysostom used.

Damascus made one important omission in his commentary — he doesn’t refer to Gregory Nazianzus on the doctrine of tongues. One would expect a Greek author and Church writer such as John of Damascus to quote liberally from the fourth-century Nazianzus who covered the topic in great detail and caused a great deal of controversy for centuries. This is surprising. The only logical conclusion found so far is that the controversy that Nazianzus began was discussed in the Western Latin Church — a large portion of the argument in the Western circles had to do with the improper Latin translation and hinged on this. It wasn’t an issue on the Eastern Greek front, nor in Damascus’ mind.

For more information on Gregory Nazianzus theory on the miracle of speaking or hearing, and transmission problems into Latin see: Rufinus’ Grand Omission.

The actual Greek text is found in Migne Patrologia Graeca, Vol. 95. Epistola in Corinth. The text itself is divided into two: Biblical citation followed by a short commentary. The Biblical citations have only minor differences than the standard Greek Bible text. I did not spend much time on translating the Greek when Biblical citations were made, relying instead on what is found in the New American Standard Bible. However, I had to make some changes to reflect what Damascus understood the text to mean. For example, I changed the English noun tongues which now has a much wider semantic range than what was intended 500 years ago, to languages, which is more specific to the initial intention.(2)See the The Difference Between Language and Tongues

Now that the details have been examined it is time to move on to the important global question. What did John of Damascus believe speaking in tongues to be? His commentary lacks any serious historical narrative and is a homily divided on love, and the subject of corporate good instead of individualism. He briefly touches on the gift of tongues as the human power to speak in a foreign language. He does not ascribe any emotional or supernatural attachment to this office.

His commentary on 14:10-12, does mildly clarify his understanding of the text:

[v10-12a] “There are, perhaps, a great many kinds of languages in the world, and no kind is without meaning. If then I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be to the one who speaks a barbarian, and the one who speaks will be a barbarian to me.(3)]NASB So it is also with you.”

That is, so many languages, so many sounds, Scythian, Thracian, Roman, Persian, Mauretanian, Egyptian, other myriads of nations.

He directly connects foreign languages with Paul’s I Corinthians text.

This commentary does not recognize any controversy or doctrine inherited from the Montanist movement relative to tongues. This is consistent with the overwhelming majority of ecclesiastical texts on the subject. ■

Want to know more about what John of Damascus wrote? The following is a link to his actual text: John of Damascus on Tongues: an English Translation.

References   [ + ]

Lightfoot on the Problem Tongues of Corinth

John Lightfoot

A digitalization and short analysis of John Lightfoot’s Commentary on the tongues of Corinth.

John Lightfoot was a seventeenth century English Churchman and rabbinic scholar whose exegetical system was significantly advanced for that time period.

A small but brief window had opened in England during the Reformation for Hebrew studies, but the roadblocks to full public acceptance was great. England had long banished Jews from living in England(1)See John Lightfoot: the English Hebraist for more information during Lightfoot’s era, and if later novels like Ivanhoe by Walter Scott, and Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens indicate, negative English perceptions concerning the Jews was strong. Lightfoot was a time anomaly. He shouldn’t have succeeded in this field of studies, but he did, and his work, though with some defects, has withstood the test of time.

Unfortunately after the death of Cromwell in 1658 and a number of Governmental interdicts within the Church realm, Hebrew studies once again lost its footprint in the English speaking world. This prevented Lightfoot’s works from gaining ubiquitous traction. Lightfoot’s focus on a complex multilingual comparative narrative rather than a theological emphasis, along with his lack or just average use of critical analysis, may also have contributed to a limited audience.

Lightfoot’s major critical omission is that of dating. The Jewish sources he cited are approximately 400 or more years later than the Corinthian saga. The Jewish sources on the subject may have been more fluid during the first century AD. The initial arguments that spawned the later Rabbinic opinion may have been different. Lightfoot never looked into this. Neither does Lightfoot seriously delve into ecclesiastical literature using his comparative method. This too weakens his position.

Even with these weaknesses, the comparative work itself between Judaism and the problem tongues of Corinth is outstanding, and must be considered in developing a historical context for understanding this Pauline text.

You can decide if this is an accurate statement. Below is Lightfoot’s coverage of I Corinthian’s 14. The work was originally written in Latin, but has been translated into English. The translation provided here is from Horæ Hebraicæ et Talmudicæ(2)See Horæ et Talmudicæ: Hebrew and Talmudical Exercitations Upon the Gospels, the Acts, Some Chapters of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, and the First Epistle to the Corinthians. New Edition by Robert Gandell. Volume IV. Oxford: At the University Press. 1859. Pg. 257ff by Robert Gandell. The footnotes do not always follow his copy. They include some additional thoughts and background by me on the text.

On problem points the English was compared against the original Latin version, Joannis Lightfoot: Opera Omnia. Tomus. II.(3)See Joannis Lightfoot: Opera Omnia. Tomus. II. Rotterdami. Regneri Leers. 1686. Pg. 917ff . These are noted in the footnotes.

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CHAP. XIV

[Pg. 257] VER. 2: Ὁ γὰρ λαλῶν γλώσσῃ· He that speaketh in a tongue. Speaking in a tongue ? In what tongue ? You will find this to be no idle question when you have well weighed these things :

  • I. There is none with reason will deny that this whole church of Corinth understood one and the same Corinthian or Greek language : as also, that the apostle here speaks of the ministers of the church, and not of strangers. But now it seems a thing not to be believed, that any minister of that church would Arabic, Egyptian, Armenian, or any other unknown language publicly in the church ; from whence not the least benefit could accrue to the church, or to the minister himself. For although these ministers had their faults, and those no light ones neither, yet we would not willingly accuse them of mere foolishness as speaking in an unknown language for no reason ; nor of ostentation as speaking only for vainglory. And although we deny not that it was necessary that those wonderful gifts of the Holy Ghost should be manifested before all the people, for the honour of him that gave them ; yet we hardly believe that they were to be shown vainly and for no benefit.

  • II. The apostle saith, ver. 4, ὁ λαλῶν γλώσσῃ, ἐαυτὸν οίκοδομεῖ, he that speaketh in a tongue edifieth himself : which how [pg. 258] could he do from those tongues, when he could have uttered those very things in his mother-tongue, and have reaped the same fruit of edification?

  • III. The apostle tolerates an unknown tongue if an interpreter were present. But I scarce believe he would tolerate that one should prate in Scythian, Parthian, or Arabic, &c., when he could utter the same things in the Corinthian language, and without the trouble of the church and an interpreter.

We are of opinion, therefore, nor without reason that unknown language which they used, or abused rather, in the church, was the Hebrew ; which now of a long time past was not the common and mother tongue, but was gone into disuse ; but now by the gift of the Holy Ghost it was restored to the ministers of the church,(4)”at jam donante Spiritu Sancto reddita est Ministris Ecclesiæ” — but now by the Holy Spirit equipping, it [Hebrew} has been restored to the Ministers of the Church and that necessarily and for the profit of the church. We inquire not in how many unknown languages they could speak, but how many they spake in the church and we believe that they spake Hebrew only.

How necessary that language was to ministers there is none that doubts. And hence it is that the apostle permits to speak in this (as we suppose) unknown language, if an interpreter were present, because it wanted not its usefulness. The usefulness appeared thence as well to the speaker, while he now skilled [calluit] and more deeply understood the original language ;(5)”Utilitas inde emersit tum loquenti, dum linguam jam calleret, & profundiùs intelligeret originalem ;” The usefulness emerged from that moment for the person who speaks, and during that time he developed practical knowledge and profoundly understood the original language. as also to the hearers while those things were rendered truly, which that mystical and sacred language contained in it.

The foundations of churches were now laying, and the foundations of religion in those churches and it was not the least part of the ministerial task at that time, to prove the doctrine of the gospel, and the person, and the actions, and the sufferings of Christ out of the Old Testament. Now the original text was unknown to the common people ; the version of the Seventy interpreters(6) The Greek Septuagint was faulty in infinite places ; the Targum(7)The Aramaic translations of the Bible upon the prophets was inconstant and Judaized ; the Targum upon the law was as yet none at all : so that it was impossible to discover the mind of God in the holy text without the immediate gift of the Spirit imparting perfect and [pg. 259] full skill both of the language and of the sense ‘ that so the foundations of faith might be laid from the Scriptures, and the true sense of the Scriptures might be propagated without either error or the comments of men.

The apostle saith, “Let him pray that he may interpret,” ver. 13. And ‘interpretation’ is numbered among the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit. Now let it be supposed that he spake Latin, Arabic, Persian : either he understood what he spake, or he did not ; if he did not, then how far was he from edifying himself! And yet the apostle saith, he that speak in a tongue edifies himself. If he understood what he spake, how easy was it for him to render it in the Corinthian language ! There are many now learned by the study who are able to translate those tongues into the Corinthian or the Greek, without that extraordinary gift of interpretation immediately poured out by the Holy Ghost. But let it be supposed, which we do suppose, that he spake in the Hebrew tongue, that he either read or quoted the holy text in the original language ; and that he either preached or prayed in the phrases of the prophets ; it sufficed not to the interpretation to render the bare words into bare words, but to understand the sense and marrow of the prophet’s language, and plainly and fully to unfold their mysteries in apt and lively and choice words, according to the mind of God : which the evangelists and apostles by a divine skill do in their writings.

Hear the judgment of the Jews concerning a just interpretation of the holy text. They are treating of the manner of espousing a woman. Among other things these passages occur ; תר” על מנת שאני קריינא “The Rabbins deliver. If he saith, ‘Be thou my espouser if I read : if he read three verses in the synagogue, behold she is espoused. R. Judah saith, ‘Not until he read and interpret.’ יתרגם מדעתיה May he interpret according to his own sense? But the tradition is this : R. Judah saith, המתרגם פסוק כצורתי He that interprets according to his own form behold he is a liar. If he add any thing to it, behold he is a reproacher and blasphemer. What therefore is the Targum ? [Or what intepretation is to be used ?] Our Targum.”(8) Talmud Bavli Kiddushin 49a קידושין מטא

The Gloss there writes thus : “He that interprets a verse [pg. 260] according to his own form, that is, according to the literal sound : for example, לֹא-תַעֲנֶה עַל רִיב Exod. xxiii. 2 ; he that interprets that thus, לא תסהיד על דינה Thou shalt not testify against a judgement, is a liar : for he commands that judgement be brought forth into light. But let him so interpret it, Thou shalt not restrain thyself from teaching any that inquire of thee in judgement. So Onkelos renders it.”

If he add any thing to it : — If he say, ‘Because liberty is given to add somewhat, I will add wheresoever it lists me; he sets God at nought and changeth his words. For wheresoever Onkelos added, he added not of his own sense. For the Targum was given in mount Sinai, and when they forgot it, he came and restored it. And Rab. Chananeel explains these words, ‘He that interprets a verse according to his own form,’ by this example וַיִּרְאוּ אֵת אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל Exod. xxiv. 10. He that shall render it thus, וחזר ית אלהא דישראל and they saw the God of Israel, is a liar ; for no man hath seen God and shall live: and he will add to it who should render it, וחזר ית מלאכא דאלהא and they saw the angle of God. For he attributes the glory of God to an angel. But let him interpret it thus, וחזר ית יקרא דאלהא and they saw the glory of God of Israel. So Onkelos again.”

So great a work do they reckon it to interpret the sacred text. And these things which have bee said perhaps will afford some light about the gift of interpretation.

But although the use of the Hebrew tongue among these ministers was so profitable and necessary, yet there was some abuse with the apostle chastiseth ; namely, that they used it not to edification and without an interpreter. And further, while I behold the thing more closely, I suspect them to Judaize in this matter, which we have before observed them to have done in other things ; and that they retained the use of the Hebrew language in the church, although unknown to the common people, and followed the custom of the synagogue. Where,

A Critical Look at Tongues and Montanism

Did the Montanist’s speak in tongues and is this the historical antecedent for tongues in the church today?

The christian doctrine of tongues can be traced backward in two ways. The first one through ecclesiastical literature which chronicles the passing of this rite through the centuries and marks how it has evolved. The second and more popular way is to trace the lineage back to pagan Greek antecedents. Montanism is one of the key steps in this second order. Pentecostals and Charismatics take this second option further and claim Montanism and their alleged speaking in tongues as their historical parallel.

This article is an in-depth investigation to find an answer to the above question. In accordance with the goals of the Gift of Tongues Project, source texts are provided, analyzed and commented on. Such details may seem boorish for the regular reader, but the lack of source literature and analysis is one of the greatest problems that have plagued the modern christian doctrine of tongues debate.

What is Montanism and the source texts for this controversy?

In a simplified form, it was begun by a man named Montanus around 162 AD and aided by two women, Maximilla and Priscilla. Montanism lasted up until the 6th century. For a deeper historical overview of the Montanist movement, an old publication, Cyclopaedia of Biblical, theological, and ecclesiastical literature, Volume 6 covers the movement in the best detail to help the reader get up to speed with the debate at hand.

The movement is revealed through three major sources, Eusebius of Caesarea, Epiphanius Bishop of Salamis, and Tertullian. The first two write about the Montanists in very negative and vitriolic terms while Tertullian defended them. There are a number of works that allude to Epiphanius correlating Montanism with ecstatic utterances but substantiation or a source text similar to these claims has yet to be found.(1) If information comes forward on this subject this article will be modified There are other citations about Montanists found in the writings of Jerome and Didymus of Alexandria, but these do not refer to the Montanist glossolalia controversy.

The most important source for the Montanists and glossolalia is Eusebius’ account. One must keep in mind that Eusebius’ account is a critical report of the Montanist movement. It contains over-the-top rhetoric which makes the reader wonder why so many resources and time were utilized against them. The strong attack causes one to either pity the Montanists or think there is an ulterior motive by the established church against them. Judging by the voracity of words, the Montanists must have been a populist movement that the institutional church felt threatened by.

Eusebius himself has his own internal doubts about the account provided to him by an unknown author and stated, “They say that these things happened in this manner. But as we did not see them, O friend, we do not pretend to know.”(2)A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church. Second Series. Translated into English with Prologema and Explanatory Notes. Philip Schaff ed. Volumes I-VII. Eusebius Pamphilus. Church History. Volume 1. Michigan: Eerdmans. Pg. 234. For that reason, Eusebius’ history should be taken with a degree of skepticism.

Eusebius’ source was trying to demonize the Montanists in almost every way. The wording and semantics are purposely kept distant from anything familiar to the christian faith.

The actual text used to link Montanist with Pentecostal speaking in tongues

The alleged Montanist experience is a brief account by Eusebius in his Historiae Ecclesiasticae who narrated about two Montanist followers who went into a state of ecstasy and uttered strange sounds. What exactly were the sounds? Were they foreign languages, ecstatic speech, or something else? Is this one of the earliest christian expressions of tongues after the first Pentecost? This is the crux of the discussion.

Here is the actual text :

There is said to be a certain village called Ardabau in that part of Mysia, which borders upon Phrygia. There first, they say, when Gratus was proconsul of Asia, a recent convert, Montanus by name, through his unquenchable desire for leadership, gave the adversary opportunity against him. And he became beside himself, and being suddenly in a sort of frenzy and ecstasy, he raved, and began to babble and utter strange things, prophesying in a manner contrary to the constant custom of the Church handed down by tradition from the beginning.

8. Some of those who heard his spurious utterances at that time were indignant, and they rebuked him as one that was possessed, and that was under the control of a demon, and was led by a deceitful spirit, and was distracting the multitude; and they forbade him to talk, remembering the distinction drawn by the Lord and his warning to guard watchfully against the coming of false prophets. But others imagining themselves possessed of the Holy Spirit and of a prophetic gift, were elated and not a little puffed up; and forgetting the distinction of the Lord, they challenged the mad and insidious and seducing spirit, and were cheated and deceived by him. In consequence of this, he could no longer be held in check, so as to keep silence.

9. Thus by artifice, or rather by such a system of wicked craft, the devil, devising destruction for the disobedient, and being unworthily honored by them, secretly excited and inflamed their understandings which had already become estranged from the true faith. And he stirred up besides two women, and filled them with the false spirit, so that they talked wildly and unreasonably and strangely, like the person already mentioned. And the spirit pronounced them blessed as they rejoiced and gloried in him, and puffed them up by the magnitude of his promises. But sometimes he rebuked them openly in a wise and faithful manner, that he might seem to be a reprover. But those of the Phrygians that were deceived were few in number.(3)A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church Pg. 231

The important sequences are:

  • . . . and being suddenly in a sort of frenzy and ecstasy. . . — πνευματοφορηθῆναί τε καὶ αἰφνιδίως ἐν κατοχῇ τινι καὶ παρεκστάσει γενόμενον, ἐνθουσιᾶν.
    I don’t know how the English translator worked it out that way. An alterntive would be: “that he was inspired by a spirit and suddenly became elated in some type of catatonic stupor and spurious ecstasy.”
  • . . .began to babble and utter strange things. . . — ἄρξασθαί τε λαλεῖν καὶ ξενοφωνεῖν
  • . . .spurious utterances. . . —

The glossolalia connection

The interpretation of this text centres around the word glossolalia. If the Montanists were glossalists, then there is a potential connection to the ancient christian rite of speaking in tongues. If not, then there is no connection with the christian community and the discussion is irrelevant.

Anyone who tries to make this association assumes that glossolalia was a special rite of speech practised by the ancient christian community. This assumption ignores that glossolalia is a new definition added to the christian doctrine of tongues that started in the early 1800s.(4)See my articles on the history of glossolalia for more information. This term should not be used to describe antecedents to the christian doctrine of tongues any earlier than this, but since the term glossolalia is so popular in the minds of contemporary scholars and readers alike, it will be permitted so that this discussion can run its course.

The importance of Montanism in the christian doctrine of tongues

Pentecostal scholars such as Rev. Heidi Baker parallel their tongues-speaking experience with the Montanists.(5)Rev. Heidi Baker. Ph.D. thesis: Pentecostal Experience: Towards a Reconstructive Theology of Glossolalia. Kings College. University of London. 1995 Pg. 79 She also holds a widely held belief in pentecostal circles that the primitivist virtues of the earliest church were lost when the church was institutionalized, regained by the Montanists, then forgotten again, until finally revived by the pentecostal movement 1800 years later.(6)Ibid Baker. Pentecostal Experience: Towards a Reconstructive Theology of Glossolalia. Pg. 79-80 The acclaimed Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements edited primarily by Stanley Burgess, a “distinguished professor of christian history at Regent University and Professor Emeritus, Missouri State University”(7)http://nyupress.org/books/9780814799987/ claims that that gift of speaking in tongues flourished with the Montanists and later influenced the glossolalic speaking eighteenth-century Camisards in south-central France. The Camisards then left a legacy for modern Pentecostals to follow.(8)Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. Stanley M. Burgess, Gary B. McGee, ed. Grand Rapids: Regency Reference Library. 1988. Pg. 339

The Presbyterian minded Biblical scholar who has closely studied the pentecostal movement, F. Dale Bruner, believes there is a connection between the two; “Montanism interests us as the prototype of almost everything Pentecostalism seeks to represent.”(9)Frederick Dale Bruner. A Theology of the Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Co. 1970. Pg. 37

Indeed looking at the Montanist movement, especially the coverage given by the renowned nineteenth-century scholar, August Neander, as found in his book, The History of the Christian Religion and Church during the First Three Centuries (Page 327), demonstrates many parallels between the two parties. However, this commonality does not mean an automatic connection with speaking in tongues which some suggest or want to happen. The pentecostal affinity to the Montanist experience makes it necessary to see if the Montanist story is a serious contributor to the history of christians speaking in tongues.

An essential keyword missing.

If one looks closely into the details, the actual historic evidence that equates Montanism with the gift of tongues is very weak. The critical Greek keyword which is used throughout the New Testament writings in reference to tongues speaking, γλῶσσα — glôssa does not appear in the text. This is required to definitively connect Montanist glossolalia with the church rite. This word connection does not exist.

This omission is a very crucial point. In order to reinforce this fact, the Greek, Latin and an English translation can be found at the following link: Eusebius on Montanism. The source work reinforces the skeptical reader that the critical Greek keyword is not there.

Two scholars, two different outcomes

Christopher Forbes and Rex D. Butler try to answer the question about the Montanists and glossolalia but come up with different results.

Christopher Forbes, who “is a Senior Lecturer in Ancient History, and Deputy Chairman of the Society for the Study of Early Christianity”(10)http://www.mq.edu.au/about_us/faculties_and_departments/faculty_of_arts/department_of_ancient_history/staff/dr_chris_forbes/ at Macquarie University, argued that there is no conclusive evidence the Montanists used glossolalia.

If Montanist prophecy was in any sense analogous to glossolalia it is quite remarkable that no ancient writer ever noticed or commented on this fact. Though it is certainly true that Montanist prophecy was characterised by ecstasy (in the modern sense), and occasionally by oracular obscurity, there is no unambiguous evidence whatsoever that it took glossolalic form.(11) Christopher Forbes. Prophecy and Inspired Speech: In Early Christianity and Its Hellenistic Environment. Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.1997. Pg. 160

Rex D. Butler, Associate Professor of Church History and Patristics, at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary goes in the opposite direction.(12)http://www.nobts.edu/faculty/atoh/ButlerR/Default.html He reported that the elements of the Montanist text all correlate with glossolalia and directly counters Forbe’s claims.

  • His first argument rests on the role of the interpreter. If the prophecy was given in intelligible speech why would the service of the prophetess Maximillia, an interpreter ἑρμηνεύτην, be required?(13) Rex D. Butler. The New Prophecy and “New Visions”: Evidence of Montanism in the Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas Pg. 32

  • Secondly, he charged that Forbes failed to recognize that the prophets utilized both intelligible and unintelligible speech. Third, he argued against Forbes definition of ξενοφωνεῖν. Forbes believed it to mean to speak as a foreigner while Butler believed it to mean to speak strangely. Butler further adds if it is combined with λαλεῖν, which is found in the Eusebius text as λαλεῖν καὶ ξενοφωνεῖν, then the phrase should be translated as chatter or babble. Finally, Butler concluded, “Forbes arguments are not sufficient to overturn the historic understanding that Montanists engaged in glossolalia.”(14) Rex D. Butler. The New Prophecy and “New Visions”: Evidence of Montanism in the Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas Pg. 33

The arguments on both sides rest on ancient sources and linguistics. Therefore, it is necessary to take a further look into the subject matter. Continue reading A Critical Look at Tongues and Montanism

References   [ + ]

A Translation of I Corinthians 14 from the Ambrosiaster Text

A translation of the Ambrosiaster text on I Corinthians 14.

For introductory notes on this translation along with commentary go to: Notes on Translating Ambrosiaster’s Corinthians 12-14.

Comment. In. Epist. I ad Corinthios 14

[Col. 267] (Vers. 1) “Follow after charity, be zealous for spiritual gifts, but rather that you may prophecy.” Rather he urges one is to have after charity the desire of prophesying because to whatever degree greater may be the spiritual ranks which he specifies, this here nevertheless is better which profits to the benefit of the Church that they should learn every matter of the divine law. In fact in that which by he gave the soul. He learns in accordance with it himself the gift. Solomon says, “to know the law is understanding of the best kind” (Wisdom 6:16).(1)This one is considerably different than the Vulgate, “cogitare ergo de illa sensus est consummatus.” The context here in the Vulgate refers to wisdom not law. In fact by relying(2)charitate subnixa on charity, knowledge is not being puffed-up but has been tamed, accomplishing according to the benefit in all things.

(Vers. 2) “For the one who speaks in a tongue is not speaking to men but to God, but no one hears for by the spirit he is speaking mysteries.” This is what he says because he who is speaking in an unknown language is speaking to God because he himself knows all things. Human beings certainly do not know, for that reason as well no one has been accomplished by this thing. “for by the spirit he is speaking mysteries.” It is not making sense because he is unfamiliar with what he is saying.

(Vers. 3) “But the one who prophecies is speaking to men for the edification, exhortation and the encouragement.” For one is being built up when he learns the solution of the inquiries. For the exhortation happens to that one, that he should allow the requirement of prophesying. He should be truly taking counsel because he seems to be making light of the teachings in regard to the hope. For knowledge of the law strengthens souls, and appeals to the increase of a better hope.

(Vers. 4) “The one who speaks in a language [Col. 268] [personally] builds himself up.(3) “Qui loquitur lingua, se ipsum aedificat” I am trying to translate here the emphaticness of se ipsum. The one who certainly prophecies builds up the Church.” That is to say this person, that he only knows by accident what he speaks, edifies only with himself. On the other hand, the one who prophecies, edifies all the common people,(4) “omnem plebem aedificat”. I may be trying to be too modern politically correct here. Ambrosiaster may directly be referencing the “entire lower class”. provided that anyone who is to speak is to be understood by everyone. He teaches the prophets [are] the interpreters(5) “Prophetas interpretes dicit Scripturarum.” This clause makes no grammatical sense. Both prophetas and interpretes are nouns in the accusative plural and not adjectives. I could translate as “he teaches the prophetical interpretations of the Scriptures,” but I don’t think either the noun prophetas can act in this way and the context does not allow for it. It is common for ecclesiastical Latin to omit the present verb, esse, in many obvious situations. However, this is usually in the nominative. Here it is being used in the accusative sense since Prophetas is the accusative of dicit. Both prophetas and interpretes agree in case, number and gender so I think this is the most plausible translation. of the Scriptures just as indeed the prophet is to predict future things which they are in a state of ignorance. Therefore too in this place he makes known it is being appointed to prophesy as long as the sense of the Scriptures, a sense which has been concealed in many ways.

(Vers. 5) “While I wish you all to speak in tongues, however more rather that you should prophecy.” He could not prohibit to speak in languages which he teaches to be such a superior gift of the holy Spirit but rather learning is bound to be had by means of prophecy because it is more productive. “For greater is the one who prophecies than the one who speaks in a language, unless it is being interpreted.” Because if he will be able to interpret, it will not be inferior because it edifies the Church. For this is greater because it profits all. For in fact this one who is speaking in languages by the gift of God which is likewise being interpreted, just as those 12 in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:4).

(Vers. 6) “Now then brothers if I would come to you speaking in languages, what will I profit you unless I should speak to you either in a revelation or knowledge,(6) notitia: the Vulgate has scientia. or prophecy or instruction?” The one signifies all these things, for nobody will be able to teach unless he is being understood.

(Vers. 7, 8) “Yet some things without a soul gives sound whether a pipe or harp, if they did not give a distinction of sound, how will it be recognized,(7)quomodo congoscetur as opposed to the Vulgate’s quomodo scietur what is being played by the pipe or what is being played on a harp?(8) quod per tibiam canitur as opposed to the Vulgate’s quod canitur. Also these instruments are referring to Genesis 4:21 where they represent the first musical instruments invented. And if the trumpet indeed produces an uncertain sound, by such a thing will it prepare them for battle?” Seeing that the examples persuade more easily than words, he points out by examples by which they should easily understand those ones must not to speak in languages in the Church who cannot interpret.(9) interpretari: pres. pass. inf. Whitaker believes it is a deponent. I translated it with this in mind. Namely anyone that should be speaking, is no-one to be understanding anything?

(Vers. 9) “So also you by means of a language except you have produced expressive speech,(10) nisi singificantem sermonem dederitis as opposed to the Vulgate’s “nisi manifestum sermonem dederitis”. Significantem is referencing the musical instruments and its artistic merit. I think “expressive” is better than “meaningful”. how will it be known what it is you are speaking? For you will be speaking into the air.” This is accomplishing nothing. “For suppose(11) Ambrosiaster text reads, “Nam multa, ut puta, genera linguarum…” Vulgate reads, “Tam multa ut puta genera linguarum.” The question here is how to translate “..,ut puta,”. The text has it closed with commas. It is almost a sentence unto itself. The question here is whether it should be taken adverbally “namely, for instance” or as a verb. English translations for almost 800 years have always used it adverbally. But it just doesn’t seem exactly right, but not enough wrong to challenge with an alternative. However, “suppose” gives a better feel for the context here and does fit in the semantic range. I will compromise with this selection. there are many kinds of languages in this world and none without a voice.”(12)Ambrosiaster has “…et nihil sine voce. Multa (quidem) generea sunt linguarum”. The “multa (quidem)…” does not exist in the Vulgate. I think it is a printer’s error. The quote marks are set wrong. It should read “…et nihil sine voce.” “Multa (quidem) generea sunt linguarum”. This conclusion is based on his system of quoting and commenting throughout the document. The end of the citation with “inquit” makes this the obvious choice. “There are (certainly) many kinds of languages,” it says, but they possess [their] very own meanings of voice so that they may be understood.

(Vers. 10,11) “If then I would not know the power of the voice, I am to him to whom I am speaking a barbarian and he who is speaking to me a barbarian.” Certainly he does not teach it being desirous that in turns they be seen with each other by a foreign language of a barbarian. But because it is a matter of mutual agreement it has to be in good shape with them in order that they should boast to the delight on either side through the unity of understanding.

(Vers. 12) “So also you, seeing that you are zealous imitators, seek that you prophecy for the building-up of the Church.”(13) “…,ut prophetetis” whereas the Vulgate has “ut abundetis.” My English translation would prefer, “strive for the building-up of the Church, as a result you should prophecy.” It varies from Douay-Rheims on this one because of the placement of the comma in the Ambrosiaster text. My translation may be doubtful because an alternative text has “aemulationem Ecclesiae quarite in prophetis” “you are to seek for the building up of the Church with regards to the prophets.” (See MPL: 17. Col. 268 note at the bottom). This Latin text doesn’t appear conclusive. It does demonstrate that the point of translation has some point of historic controversy. However, my case is far from conclusive so the Douay-Rheims approach has to be maintained. Because it is useful to explain the Scriptures (for the mind is being inspired and rejoices when it learns something about the Scriptures and how much more does it become the importance in this office, so much it abandons sins)(14) This whole text in parenthesis has a vocabulary that is not consistent with the rest of the text. I don’t know if the editor of Migne put the parenthesis there for that reason, or it was someone else previous, but it simply doesn’t correctly fit in. The vocabulary, at my novice experience, suggests it is a later addition. [269] therefore he teaches transformational learning by this office.

(Vers. 13) “Therefore the one who speaks in a language, he should pray that he may interpret.” Him who desires to speak in tongues, he teaches that one ought to pray in order that he should receive the gift of interpreting for the purpose that he may be useful in(15) proficiat:The verb, proficio, usually is reserved for “make, accomplish, effect” according to Whitaker. Lewis agrees but goes on to write some alternate usages, “In partic., to be useful, serviceable, advantageous, etc., to effect, accomplish; to help, tend, contribute, conduce.” I think Ambrosiaster has a heavy emphasis in his writing on benefit or usefulness. Therefore I think ‘usefulness’ is the best choice, though it does not work well with an accusative case and I had to put the sentence into a dative form. his zeal to others.

(Vers. 14) “For if I will have prayed in a language, my spirit prays but my mind is without fruit.” It is clear to disregard our soul, if he should speak in a language which he does not know just as Latin men who are singing Greek, by being a delightful sound of words, yet these ones do not know anything they would say. However the Spirit which was given in baptism, knows anything the soul may pray for, while speaking or whether he concludes in a strange language himself. But on the other hand the mind which is the soul is without fruit. For who can have fruit who does not know what he is to be speaking?

(Vers. 15) “What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, I will also pray with understanding. I am also to say a Psalm by the spirit and I am to say a Psalm also with understanding.”(16) “Quid est ergo ? Orabo spiritu, orabo et mente ; psalmum dicam spiritu, psalmum dicam et mente.” The Vulgate has, “quid ergo est orabo spiritu orabo et mente psallam spiritu psallam et mente.” Ambrosiaster has psalmum dicam instead of psallam. He says this, because when he speaks in any specific language which he was [previously] unfamiliar with, so by the spirit, which he prays with understanding but yet again the soul is not ignorant in the like manner and of the Psalm.

(Vers. 16) “Else, if you should bless with the spirit.” It is this, if you are to be speaking the praise of God to those who are hearing in a unknown language, “who is to supply the realm of the uneducated? How is he to say amen upon your blessing because he does not know(17) Ambrosiaster: “Quis supplet locum idiotae ?” Note the grammatical insertion of the question mark. This is not in the Vulgate. This concept is completely separated which the Vulgate and the Douay-Rheims translates as part of a longer sentence. The Vulgate reads, “ceterum si benedixeris spiritu qui supplet locum idiotae quomodo…” Also “quia nescis quid dicas” “You do not know what you are to be saying.” The Vulgate reads, “quid dicas nescit.” I think the Ambrosiaster text has a typographic error and nescis should really be nescit. The context really suggests that it is an error. what you are to be saying.” The unskilled is the one who hears what he does not understand, he is ignorant of the end of the speech, and does not respond amen, it is the truth, in order that the benediction be confirmed. For the confirmation of the prayer is being satisfied through these who respond “amen” in order that they should approve everything that has been said as the testimony of truth by the minds of those who hear.

(Vers. 17) “For you give thanks well.” He teaches about him, who had become acquainted with speaking to himself because he knows what he is to be saying. “But no other is being built-up.” If, by all means you are meeting for the purpose of building up the Church, they ought to speak in it, a place where those who are hearing may understand. For instance of what benefit is it that anyone should speak in a language which he only knows that everyone who hears it would profit nothing? For that reason he ought to be silent(18) It is printed “tecere” here instead of “tacere.” I am assuming it is another misprint or is it simply a regionalism? I am not sure, but it doesn’t match any dictionary entry. There is no such verb that exists as tecere. It is likely a misprint. in the Church, that if two should be speaking, that they should profit those who are hearing.

(Vers. 18) “I thank God that I speak in the language of every one of you.” Seeing that he stated to speak in languages as being the higher gift of the holy Spirit, for that reason he assigns to God that he was to be able to speak in every language. And lest by chance a competitor was appearing to speak this by means of jealousy, he indeed shows himself to speak in the languages of all of these and because it does not greatly benefit.

(Vers. 19) “But in the Church,” it is said, “I wish to speak five words according to the Law that I may also build up others than ten thousand words in a tongue.” He [Paul] says it to be more useful speaking in small words in the making of a speech in order that everyone should understand than to have a lengthy speech in obscurity. [Col. 270] These were from the Hebrew who at length in the Syrian language and for the most part by Hebrew women who were indulging in homilies or presentations for approval. For they were boasting calling themselves Jews according to the right of Abraham, that the same apostle held this to no account teaching, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14). Indeed these ones who are mimicking, they prefer to speak in their unknown language to the people in the Church which belongs to them.(19) ie.: they will speak in a language that is native to them such as Hebrew or Syriac. An alternate codex has “Hos quidam imitantes… restitutum est,” ” Indeed these ones who are mimicking, they prefer to speak in their unknown language which has been restored to the people in the Church.” Restitutum est doesn’t exactly fit here well, and I think this is why it got relegated to a footnote than an actual part of the text.

(Vers. 20) “Brothers, do not wish to produce [things] by the senses of a child but let one be in malice of childhood that you would be perfect in senses.”(20) ie.: that your sins and problems would be those things that children do, not the major ones that adults do, and that you would have the maturity of an adult in the good things that adults can do. He wishes those to be perfect, that they are to understand that it is to be necessary for the instruction of the Church. The ones who are withdrawing from malice and errors, they were eager for these things which they were accomplishing for the benefit of the brothers.(21) I could use “brethren” here instead of “brothers” which makes it gender neutral and more modern, but this is not accurate to the text. Ambrosiaster wrote during a time of strong male dominance and purposely thought this way. To alter the translation to a more gender neutral term doesn’t reflect accurately what he was thinking. For this is perfect in sense that he urges it in order that he should be useful to anyone, especially with the brothers.

(Vers. 21) In the law it was written,(22) The printer put the quote mark in the wrong position and I have corrected it in my English translation. “For it was written in the law” assumes Isaiah is part of the law, which according to Hebrew tradition is not correct. There are certain Christian circles in history, which I cannot substantiate but have learned from previous readings, that all of the Bible is considered to be the Law and a full legal text. This is why I am assuming Ambrosiaster included Isaiah as part of the Law. “Because in other languages and in other lips I will speak to this people and they still will not here me, says the Lord” (Isaiah 28:11). The Lord spoke this about this that He knew these ones would not believe in the Saviour. For speaking in other languages and in other lips the New Testament is to be preached as Jeremiah the prophet says: “Behold the days will come, says the Lord, and I will accomplish the New Covenant to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah, not according to that which I made with their fathers” (Jeremiah 31:31). It is this, for the method had been altered to speak in a different way which they themselves had the words of the old law. When they hear to release the Sabbath, the new moon being purged, to be free of circumcision, to be altering the sacrifices, to be permitting foods which have been prohibited to eat a little while ago, preaching Christ the God of God.(23) Deum de Deo. This may be some sort of maxim I am missing but perhaps this is similar to a majestic plural in Hebrew. This is speaking in other languages and other lips. And so neither did the faithless want to listen to God. Thus one is able also to understand that because many of the Jews were spiteful and therefore it was not worthy to speak to them the Gospel in a revelation, that they spoke to them in parables, and therefore that it is not being shown to them who are the ones who understand because they were wicked neither also would they reform themselves. While the ones who have merit(24) merentes: nom. or acc. pl. pres part. common from mereor, which Ambrosiaster uses frequently from chapter 12 onwards as a verb and noun. This is one of his premium points. were benefitting themselves to hear the words of God by means of the the exposition. From whence the disciples say to the Lord: “Lord, why do you speak to those in parables?” (Matt. 13:10).(25) “Domine, quare in parabolis loqueris illis” while the Vulgate has “quare in parabolis loqueris eis.” And the Lord, “because it was given to you”, it says, “to know the mystery of the kingdom of God, but not to those, that those who do see, are not to see, and those who hear are not to understand” (Matt. 13:11 and 13 [parts]).(26) It is not uncommon for Latin commentators to string together various verses from different parts. They assume one has advanced knowledge to know that unimportant pieces of Biblical text have been purposely left out for brevity and that the reader will fill in the missing pieces. Ambrosiaster quoted from a Biblical Latin text that utilized the subjunctive in subordinate clauses here whereas the Vulgate did not. The translation here reflects this fact and tries to capture the nuance. Lest the unworthy ones would secure salvation that these ones judged achievement according to their own merit, neither in any way did the ones who had been driven back to God want to make amends.

(Vers. 22) “Therefore languages they are as a sign.” It is this, the words of God have been concealed by a veil of unknown languages, nor do they appear by deceit, and when the unknown languages are being heard, it is to be a sign, because it was made on account of faithlessness, lest the ones hearing are to understand. “By all means it is not for those who believe, but for the non-believers.”(27) “Non utique iis qui credunt, sed non credentibus.” The Vulgate reads “Itaque linguae in signum sunt non fidelibus sed infidelibus” [Col. 271] This is what he said, because they go on in languages to the unbeliever(28) incredulis dative/ablative plural of incredulus. “unbelieving, disbelieving, incredulous; disobedient”. Also the Biblical text, “Prophetia autem non incredulis, sed iis qui credunt” as opposed to the Vulgates, “prophetia autem non infidelibus sed fidelibus,” I believe the emphasis here in the Old Itala is on disobedience. This is especially done in light of Thomas Aquinas, whose ancient interpretation of the Corinthian text aligns tongues as a sign against the disobedience of the Jews against the New Covenant but I don’t think Ambrosiaster catches this concept. He simply thinks it means unbeliever. for the purpose of hiding the meanings. “but prophecy is not for the disobedient but for those who believe.” This is, it is not relevant for the believers to hear a language which they should not understand. But to the unbeliever, they are not worthy to understand even as Isaiah the prophet Isaiah says, “Go and say to this people, you will able to listen by hearing and you will not understand, etc.,” (Isaiah 6:9).

(Vers. 23) “If the whole Church will come together as one and they are to speak in every language, but when infidels or common persons are to enter, will they not say because you are mad?” It is clear that if everyone is to speak in diverse languages, a certain undisciplined commotion of the people occurs as if the madness of suffering.(29)quasi phrenesin patientis. This is the first time the author clearly used a Greek loan word, phrenesin. It even appears to be left in the Greek accusative case. It usually means madness, patientis is in a participle form here, and the semantic range is quite large. Owing to the fact that it is attached to a Greek loanword, it is hard to get this one right. I leave my translation of these two words as doubtful.

(Vers. 24, 25) “But if everyone is to prophecy, and moreover any infidel or uneducated is to enter, being rebuked in all, being proved false in all, the secrets of his heart are made manifest. Then at that time this one who falls on [his] face will pay homage to God, proclaiming that God is among you.” For when he understands and is being understood, the ones who hear are praising God and giving glory to God, he discerns [it] to be true and is bound to give homage in worship, by which he sees nothing to carry-on according to colour, nothing according to darkness, just as [it is] with the pagans, to which the eyes are veiled from. Not that they can call those ones who can see sacred, they see for the purpose to be making sport(30) “variis se vanitatibus cernant illudi.” Illudi: pres. pass. inf. “to play at or with any thing, to sport with, amuse one’s self with… To make sport or game of, to jest, mock, or jeer at, to ridicule.” I think this passage could well read, “Not that they can call those ones who can see sacred, they see for the purpose to be taking advantage [of the situation] with their foolish ways.” with their various foolish ways. For all who desire the dark corners of deceit also demonstrate false things instead of true ones. For that reason there is nothing crafty, [and] nothing under the veil, but simply one God is to be praised. “From whom they are all things, and one Lord Jesus Christ by whom is all things” (I Cor. 8:6). For if it is being shown whether no one exists who is to understand or rather by that [situation] itself he is being brought to nothing, one is able to say that there exists a certain separation and emptiness which therefore is being sung in languages because it is of shame.

(Vers. 26) “What is it then brothers? When you come together each one of you has a song.” That is they are speaking praise to God through song.(31) “Unusquisque vestrum canticum habet” whereas the Vulgate has, “unusquisque vestrum psalmum habet.” Why he has canticum instead and totally underplays the concept of psalmum, I don’t know. “He has a teaching.” This is, he has a narration of the meaning by spiritual wisdom. “He has a revelation.” That is, prophecy regarding the hidden things by the agency of the holy Spirit is a basis for discussion which reaches to the mind of every person. “He has a language.” That those who were able to speak in a language, they were not to be discouraged, he permitted them to speak in languages. Still yet interpretation was to follow. He therefore says, “He has an interpretation.” That if an interpreter(32)interpres: according to Whitaker it also means translator as well as interpretor. I don’t know which one to choose but will remain conservative and stay with the traditional English Bible choice. was to be present, a spot was to be given belonging to those preparing to speak in languages.

“Let all things be done for the edification of the Church.” This conclusion is that no one is to be useless in the Church, and this to the greater extent the one who is bound to exert himself, that even the unskilled ones are to contribute. Neither that it is to be through the inexperience of a gloomy person.(33)”ne quid sit corporis per imperitiam tenebrosum”. Although corporis is dominantly translated as body, I take corporis here to mean something more generic, according to Lewis and Short it can also mean, person, body, community. I think person fits in here best but I could always change this. Therefore for that reason he wishes all persons who have been prepared to come together with the diverse spiritual gifts, in order that the minds are watchful for these ones in greed, encouraging each other in turns, they were to emulate the best gifts for the glory of the brothers.

(Vers. 27) “If any speaks in a language, by two, or at the most three and specifically that one shall interpret,”(34)”et particulatim ut unus interpretetur” whereas the Vulgate, “et per partes et unus interpretetur” This is, two or three and no more are to be speaking in languages but one at a time, not each at the same time. Lest they were to appear to be insane. “at the most three.” Lest the ones speaking in languages and their translations were to occupy the day and prophets do not have the time explaining the Scriptures which they are illuminators of the whole Church.

[Editors note: There is a substantial shift in vocabulary, grammar and style begins after verse 27 until the end of this chapter. It is often incoherent and hard to follow as a translator. I have left parts of the following in a machine-translation state. The remainder of this chapter from verse 28 on is not guaranteed for complete accuracy]

(Vers. 28) “That if there would be no interpreter, let him be silent in the Church. He is to speak to himself and to God.” This is, let him silently pray inside himself or he is to speak to God who hears all [any type of] silence. For the person ought to speak in the Church which should be profitable for everyone.

(Vers. 29) “For two or three prophets are to speak, and others are to examine or to inquire.”(35)”Prophetae autem duo vel tres loquantur, et alii examinent, vel interrogent.” The Vulgate reads, “prophetae duo aut tres dicant et ceteri diiudicent.” He insisted the method itself by which it was about to be asserted, “Two or three are to speak.” However each one at a time as above. While the others are entrusted to examine those who come in a doubtful state, or those whom anyone cannot understand, whose characters have been turned away, in order that they are to make clear to be an impostor in the discussion.(36)”ut disputatione pianiore dilucedentur.” This is a difficult piece to translate. Pianiore does not exist in any Latin dictionary at the root level. Nor does Google come up with the usage of this word outside of Ambrosiaster. I am assuming it is a typo and my guess is that it should be planiore. Still no verb exists with this infinitive state. A noun does exist, planus, which has a number of definitions including “even, level, flat, plane” and “a juggler, impostor, cheat.” My guess given the context is that this means cheat or impostor here and I have converted the noun into a verb. Secondly, dilucedentur does not exist either. The closest I have been able to arrive at anything is from a Spanish word, dilucido, which means to elucidate. If more information comes on these two words, it may change my translation on this clause substantially.

(Vers. 30) “That if it [any thing] would be a revelation to someone else who is sitting, the first is to be silent.” That is, [it is] preferable he is to allow for the one below [his status] in order that if he is able, he should speak. Not that it is to be done reluctantly, because the gift can be given also to that person. While he appears to be inferior because he has not been allowed for more useful things. For just as the whole cannot be parceled out in one, although better, it cannot be for some, however much inferior [they are] that nothing is being imparted [to them], for no one is devoid [of some type of gift] in the grace of God.

(Vers. 31) “For you are all to prophecy by each one at a time, that all are to learn, and all are to be encouraged.” This tradition is of the Synagogue which he wishes us to continually follow because he is certainly writing to Christians but to those who have been reared Gentiles, not from the Jews. That the ones that remain(37)He is meaning that there are no more Jews left in the congregation. are possibly debating, seniors with rank according to the throne, attending on the tribune’s seats, the most extraordinary on the pavement above the mats.(38)”ut sedentes disputent, seniores dignitate in cathedris, sequentes in subselliis, novissimi in pavimento super mattas.” I really am not catching the nuance here. It definitely is a polemic against the heirarchy of the Church and he is using the symbols of the Church as his symbolic references. I am not familiar with these symbols. The translation could come across much stronger and critical (which I think Ambrosiaster is beginning to do here) but I have to remain conservative because of the lack of information to bring the translation to the next level. If anyone would be [in] a revelation, the one that must be gifted is to receive in advance a designated place, neither one ought to be looked down upon, because they are the members of the body.

(Vers. 32) “And the spirit of prophets is(39) “Et spiritus prophetarum prophetis subjectus est.” The Vulgate reads, “et spiritus prophetarum prophetis subiecti sunt”. I tend to like Ambrosiaster’s version better, but this is simply personal opinion. subject to the prophets.” Namely because it is one and the same Spirit, that to such a degree by the prophets who are speaking about the future that they who reveal the Scriptures [are] by the same [prophets], he mixes each one [together] with the reckoning and character of the original sources, for that reason he said; “is subject to prophets.” It was for the purpose to illuminate the natural tendencies from this expectation because the Spirit is to encourage useful endeavors. For he comes to assist a matter which is about to be expounded-on for the optimal desire nearest to God. That he is to fulfill the will of the noblest intention. For instance the same thing was also written concerning the Saviour. “for they were drinking of of the spiritual rock which follows, for the rock was Christ.”(40) “Bibebant autem de spiritali sequente petra, petra autem erat Christus.” The Vulgate reads, “bibebant autem de spiritali consequenti eos petra petra autem erat Christus” This is, that also [those] being the subject, which are also being followed, for he was following, that with those who are failing by human standards, he was to draw near to provide help. Therefore the one having been made subject of the Spirit was being called that it was to help the noblest attempts, when he furnishes, for the one having been made subject appears that he completes in the beginning one or the other.

[Col. 273] (Vers. 33) “For he is not the author of dissension but of peace.”(41) “Non est enim dissensionis auctor, sed pacis.” The Vulgate reads, “non enim est dissensionis Deus sed pacis.” Because he is then the author of peace, by which the Saviour is saying, “My peace I give to you, peace I leave with you” (John 14:27).(42)”Pacem meam do vobis, pacem relinquo vobis.” The Vulgate reads, “pacem relinquo vobis pacem meam do vobis.” No one is not to govern the other one [from] speaking, nor should one be obliged for speaking, the eagerness is bound to be contradicted, that it is resisted, lest it potentially makes for discord in the body. Namely which those being called upon in peace, they ought to be eager in patience, lest the laws of peace be unbound. “Even as I teach in all the Churches of the saints.”(43)”Sicut in omnibus Ecclesiis sanctorum doceo.” The Vulgate seems to be missing doceo, “sicut in omnibus ecclesiis sanctorum,” though Douay-Rheims translates it as though it does exist. With this assertion he encourages them, that he anticipates in advance what they are doing, when similarly he shows himself to preach in the Churches of the saints.

(Vers. 34) “Your women are to remain silent in the Church.”(44) “Mulieres vestrae in Ecclesia taceant.” The Vulgate has, “mulieres in ecclesiis taceant.” With the addition of vestrae in the sentence, it doesn’t read as well translating the subjunctive as a jussive. Now he relates what he had overlooked namely just as he instructs the women to cover-up(45) velari: to wear a veil in the Church (I Cor. 11:5), in a manner that shows they are peaceful and modest. It is worth the trouble that they are being covered. For if man is in the image of God, [it is] not with the woman, and has been subjected under the male in the law of nature; how much greater ought they to be subject in the Church on account of respect of him [of the male], that it had been entrusted of these that the leader is of a man as well. “Namely, it is not being permitted for them to speak, but to be in silence, as also the law says.”(46) “Non enim permittitur illis loqui, sed esse in silentio, sicut et lex dicit.” There is a variant in another manuscript that reads, “Non enim permittitur illis loqui, sed subditas esse, sicut et lex dicit.” The Vulgate reads, “non enim permittitur eis loqui sed subditas esse sicut et lex dicit.” What does the law say? “Your change is to your husband, and he will be master over you.”(47) “Ad virum tuum conversio tua, et ipse tui dominabitur.” The Vulgate reads, “et sub viri potestate eris et ipse dominabitur tui.” It is interesting to note the English translation found in Saeculum: history and society in the theology of St. Augustine By Robert Austin Markus, (Pg. 202) where he translates the Itala as, “and thou shalt be under thy husband’s power and shall have dominion over thee.” He was quoting from the Douay-Rheims translation of the Vulgate, not the Itala. This law is special. From this source Sara was calling her husband Abraham, lord, and by this they are being ordered to be in silence, lest the decree be diminished in what has been said above in the law, of whom mindful of Sarah, she was subject to her husband, as it was written, however much it is to be one flesh (Gen. 2:24), but it is being commanded to be subject as as result of two reasons, because she is from man and entered into sin through the female gender.

(Vers. 35) “On the other hand if they want to learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home, for it is shameful for women to speak in Church.” It is shameful, because it is against the teaching that in the Church of God, he instructs that the women are to be subject to their husbands who assume to speak on matters of the law. While they understand the man is to have the highest rank in that place and more competent than themselves, that in the house of God they are to be idle with requests, holding back [their] speech. They are to lay open [their] ears that they are to listen in such a way the mercy of God has conquered death through Christ, who had become king over the women. For if they should intend to speak in the Church, it is a dishonour, for that reason because they are being covered-up in order that they are to appear humble. This matter, when they demonstrate shamefulness themselves that it is also a reproach to husbands, for likewise the husbands are being marked according to the haughtiness of [their] wives.

(Vers. 36) “Can it be the word of God had proceeded from you or can it be it came for you only?”(48) “An a vobis verbum Dei profectum est, aut in vos solus devenit ?” The Vulgate has, “an a vobis verbum Dei processit aut in vos solos pervenit.” They are words of accusing, namely like they had become pompous, as if this status was to have been promised for themselves and from the apostles who are preaching, by their example the rest of the gentiles were to be called to the faith whether they were to be some who were able to receive the grace of God. Namely, they were boasting about themselves as if they were granted a greater privilege than they were to receive, these ones are adding to the faith, from which he says, “Or did the word of God come for you only.”(49) “Aut in vos solos devenit verbum dei.” This is different from his first citation from the same source which read, “aut in vos solos devenit.” Why the difference? I can only conjecture but I think this has to do with a later scribe addition. “aut in vos solos devenit” is from the Old Itala and “Aut in vos devenit verbum dei,” is from a later, likely medieval version. For everyone who wants to acquire something which he knows [is] not to be needed by someone, while in some form he approaches to the acquisition with disgust, as if it is a better benefit by selling. For that reason this Apostle argued in regards to the Corinthians that they were showing themselves of such a great many things in the glorification of foolishness, as if these one were not to be listening to the words of the faith, that no one who were to be believing were to be that [way] even as to the Jews he says, “It was necessary to you first to speak the words of this life. But because you rebuffed it, undeserving are you who are preparing for eternal life. Behold, we turn to the gentiles” (Acts 13:46).(50) “Vobis primum oportebat loqui verba vitae hujus : sed quia repulistis ea, indignos vos facientes aeternae vitae, ecce convertimur nos ad gentes”. The Vulgate reads, “vobis oportebat primum loqui verbum Dei sed quoniam repellitis illud et indignos vos iudicastis aeternae vitae ecce convertimur ad gentes.” The Ambrosiaster version does not suggest that the Jews have lost eternal life, rather they are unworthy of something that is still to be attained.

(Vers. 37) “If any are being esteemed to be a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize what I write to you, that they are commandments of the Lord.” This teaching touches on the above having been mindful of the false apostles by which they have been corrupted, who are not divinely inspired for the needs of men, but they were teaching earthly things. For that reason in this place he teaches it is no value to deliver his own personal opinion, but of the Lord, that to anyone who are to pursue securing favour are not to give glory to men but to God,(51)”ut quibus suadet, Deo acquisiti non hominibus videantur.” Another manuscript reads, “ut quibus suadendo acquisiti, non hominibus dent gloriam, sed Deo.” I went with the alternate manuscript because it makes more sense. Literally it reads “that to which are bound to be urged of securing favour are not to give glory to men but to God.” by which confidence he also continually preaches, possessing a free conscience because he does not want to please men but God. From which he does not behave unseemly with sinners so that that they may grow up, but also he admonishes so that they may desist [from sin].

(Vers. 38) “But if anyone does not know, he will not be known.” More correctly that the one who exists who does not know of the Lord which the Apostle speaks about, he will be not known by the Lord in the day of judgement, when the Lord says, “Amen I say to you, I do not know you” (Math. 25:12).

(Vers. 39) “On account of that brothers, cherish the ambition of prophesying.”(52)”Propter quod, fratres, aemulationem habete prophetandi.” The Vulgate reads, “itaque fratres aemulamini prophetare.” As much as you will, he is to argue these things and blames and chastises about many things,(53) “et in multis reprehendat et corripiat.” “in multis” here makes no grammatical sense. It is neither in the ablative or accusative case which the preposition “in” normally precedes. I am pretending it is an ablative though the case suggests it is either a genitive or nominative one. because they had pulled-away from that tradition by him. Yet he still calls them brothers because Isaiah says to the people of the the Lord: “Say to them, they do not rightly walk in my ways, you are our brothers” (Isaiah 66:5).(54)”Dicite iis qui non recte ambulant in viis meis : Fratres nostri estis vos.” This does not resemble what is in the Vulgate and this would be a good discussion on its own which I will not spend the time here to do. That then one was to take comfort with such a thing said after reproofs, [because] he calls them brothers. And he urges for the ambition of prophecy in order that they were to be more prepared with the constant debate and explanation of the divine law [and] that they could learn to identify the perverse things that it are the preachings of false-apostles.

“And be unwilling to prohibit speaking in languages.” And this by means of charity, that whoever can speak in languages, if an interpreter would be at hand, they are not to be forbidden, it is not to be causing dissension.

(Vers. 40) “Moreover let all things be honourably done and according to order.” This is, according to the order which was stated above. For that is to be honourably done because it is being done in peace and instruction.■

Translated from the Latin text found in MPL. Vol. 17. Ad. Opera S. Ambrosii Appendix. Comment. In Epist. Ad I Cor. Col. 257ff

Previous: I Corinthians 13 from the Ambrosiaster text.

The Latin Ambrosiaster text can be found at The Ambrosiaster Latin text on I Corinthians 12-14

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