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A Catholic History of Tongues: 30 to 1748 AD

A catholic history of speaking in tongues from the first Pentecost until the rule of Pope Benedict the XIV, 1748 A.D.

This summary is the first portion of a three-part series on the christian doctrine of tongues from inception until the 1920s. For a general overview about the christian doctrine of tongues and the framework that governs the following research, see Summary of the Gift of Tongues: Introduction.

The following are the results of a detailed study of early church, medieval and later medieval catholic writers through seventeen-centuries of church life. The results are drawn from the Gift of Tongues Project which had a fourfold purpose to:

  • uncover new or forgotten ancient literature on the subject
  • provide the original source texts in digital format
  • translate the texts into English and add some commentary
  • to trace the perception of tongues in the church from inception until modern times.

Table of Contents

  • A pictorial essay on the catholic history of speaking in tongues.
  • A short observation on pentecostal tongues
  • The doctrine of tongues from the first to third-century
  • The golden age of the christian doctrine of tongues: the fourth-century
    • The connection between Babel and Pentecost
    • Hebrew as the first language of mankind and of Pentecost
    • Pentecost as a temporary phenomenon
    • Augustine on tongues transforming into a corporate identity
    • Gregory of Nyssa and the one voice many sounds theory
    • Gregory Nazianzus on the miracle of speech vs. the miracle of hearing
  • The expansion of the christian doctrine of tongues from the tenth to sixteenth-centuries
    • Later Medieval accounts of speaking in tongues
    • The legend of Francis Xavier speaking in tongues

A pictorial essay on the catholic history of speaking in tongues

The graphic below is to assist the reader in quickly understanding the passing tradition of speaking in tongues throughout the centuries in the Catholic Church. The rest of the document will describe these findings. Click on the links throughout this document for more details, or go directly to the Gift of Tongues Project for actual source texts.

Catholic perceptions of pentecostal tongues from inception until 1750; Origen in the second-century, he wrote very little though many have diverse opinions on his stance; Pachomius, knew only Coptic Greek but miraculously spoke in Latin; Gregory Nazianzus in the fourth-century, wrote an argument that pentectostal tongues could either be a miracle of speaking or hearing. He believed it to be a miracle of speech. Tyrannius Rufinus translates Nazianzus text into Latin and misunderstands the text and leaves both the miracle of speaking and hearing as equal options. This begins a thousand-year debate. The Venerable Bede in the eighth-century initially believed it to be a miracle of hearing but changed his mind. Michael Psellos in the tenth-century resolved the paradox but it was in Greek. The Latin world was still waiting. Thomas Aquinas solved it as a miracle of speech but his stance was never adopted. The church concluded that tongues can be both a miracle of speech or hearing. Medieval Hagiographers had many biographies of saints speaking in tongues-- the endowment of speaking a foreign language or those hearing in their native tongue. Andrew the Fool spoke in confidential tongues. Francis Xavier was partly canonized on speaking in tongues but later shown he never had this ability. Much to the embarrassment of the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict the XIV wrote a powerful treatise on tongues and defined a process on what the gift of tongues is, is not, and a process for investigating. His efforts caused the expression to become remote or actively pursued.

A short observation on pentecostal tongues

The large corpus of material studied and compared demonstrate that the christian doctrine of tongues was related to human languages for almost 1800 years. The mechanics of how this happened differed. There were perceptions of it being a miracle of speech, hearing or both. There were no references to angelic speech, prayer language, glossolalia, or ecstatic utterances until the nineteenth-century. The glossolalia aspect is covered in Part 2 of this series.

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

The focus of this summary is the nature and mechanics behind speaking in tongues. The exploration of tongues as a theological symbol can be found throughout the source texts documented in the Gift of Tongues Project.

The doctrine of tongues from the first to third-century

The first Pentecost happened somewhere between 29 and 33 A.D., depending on which tradition one chooses to date the crucifixion. The event was listed close to the start of an account written by the physician turned writer, Luke. A work which is universally addressed today as the Book of Acts. The Pentecost narrative is very brief. As already mentioned in the Introduction, the English version of this text describing the Pentecost miracle contains approximately 206 words. Perhaps 800 if one includes Peter’s sermon. 206 words that have echoed throughout history and has inspired hundreds of millions to ponder and often replicate in their own lives.

The readership of this summary is assumed to have thorough knowledge of this passage and have come here for more information. The following is the histories of tongues after the first Pentecost.

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

Origen
Origen, 184 — 254 AD

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

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

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

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

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

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

The connection between Babel and Pentecost

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

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

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

Hebrew as the first language of mankind and of Pentecost

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

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

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

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

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

Pentecost as a temporary phenomenon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Augustine on tongues transforming into a corporate identity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He described Pentecost as each man speaking in every language.

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

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

The Bishop repeatedly answers the question “If I have received the holy Spirit, why am I not speaking in tongues?” Each time he has a slightly different read. What did he say? “this was a sign that has been satisfied” — the individual expression has been satisfied. He then offers a more theological slant in his Enarratio In Psalmum, “Why then does the holy Spirit not appear now in all languages? On the contrary, He does appear in all the languages. For at that time the Church was not yet spread out through the circle of lands, that the organs of Christ were speaking in all the nations. Then it was filled-up into one, with respect to which it was being proclaimed in every one of them. Now the entire body of Christ is speaking in all the languages.”(1)Augustine. Enarratio in Psalmum. CXLVII:19 (147:19)

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

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

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

Gregory of Nyssa and the one voice many sounds theory

Gregory of Nyssa
Gregory of Nyssa, 335 — 394 AD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, pokes at this too, but is unclear. He mentions on many occasions “one man was speaking in every language” or similar.(2)Sermo CLXXV:3 (175:3) What does this mean? How can one man speak simultaneously in all the languages at the same time? Even if a person sequentially went through 72 languages speaking one short sentence, it would take over ten minutes and wouldn’t be considered a miracle – only a simple mnemonic recitation. Augustine didn’t make any attempt to clarify this statement. He was playing with the one voice many sounds theory in a polemical sense and altered the nuance. The idea shifted to the connection between oneness and unity, which in Latin, are similar in spelling. He wanted to emphasize that those who spoke in tongues do it for the sake of unity. He was arguing anyone who promoted speaking in tongues as a device to divide the church is a fleshly and evil endeavor.

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

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

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

Gregory Nazianzus
Gregory Nazianzus, 329 — 390 AD

Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory of Nazianzus were acquaintances in real life, perhaps more so because of Gregory of Nyssa’s older brother, Basil the Great. Gregory Nazianzus and Basil the Great had a personal and professional relationship that greatly impacted the church in their dealings with Arianism and the development of the Trinity doctrine. Unfortunately, a fallout happened between Gregory Nazianzus and Basil the Great that never was repaired.(3)Frienship in Late Antiquity: The Case of Gregory Nazianzen and Basil the Great This has little bearing with the topic at hand, but builds a small portrait surrounding the key figures of the fourth-century who discuss the doctrine of tongues.

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

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

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

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

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

Venerable Bede
The Venerable Bede, 673 — 735 AD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas, 1225-1274 AD

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

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

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

Later Medieval accounts of speaking in tongues

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

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

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

Speaking in tongues was also wielded as a political tool. The French religious orders, l’abbaye Saint-Clément and l’abbaye Saint-Arnould, had a strong competition between each other during the tenth and fourteenth centuries. L’abbaye Saint-Clément proposed their order to be the foremost because their lineage traced back to a highly esteemed and ancient founder. L’abbaye Saint-Arnould countered with St. Patiens who had the miraculous ability to speak in tongues.

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

The legend of Francis Xavier speaking in tongues

Francis Xavier
Francis Xavier, 1506 — 1552 AD

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

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

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

Next article in this three-part series:

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

    References   [ + ]

    St. Anthony of Padua’s Miraculous Speech

    The account of St. Anthony of Padua speaking in tongues early in the thirteenth-century.

    St. Anthony of Padua allegedly spoke before a mixed ethnic and linguistic gathering of Catholic authorities while the audience miraculously heard him in their own languages.

    This event perhaps is a later addition to the legend of St. Anthony, but the narrative gives valuable insights into what the people during this era perceived the miracle of tongues to be.

    Anthony of Padua (1195 to 1231 AD) “was a Portuguese Catholic priest and friar of the Franciscan Order. He was born and raised by a wealthy family in Lisbon and died in Padua, Italy. Noted by his contemporaries for his forceful preaching and expert knowledge of scripture, he was the second-most-quickly canonized saint after Peter of Verona. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on 16 January 1946. He is also the patron saint of finding things or lost people.”(1)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_of_Padua

    Such an assertion about speaking in tongues forces the critical reader to look further into the original account itself. In this case, two texts were found written in the Latin describing this same event. In accordance to the goals of The Gift of Tongues Project, English translations are provided along with the Latin originals. Normally the English translations, analysis, and Latin source texts are broken into three distinct blog entries. However, this instance is very brief, so all three are blended together into one blog article.

    The following statements about St. Anthony speaking in tongues should be added to the historical record concerning the Christian doctrine of tongues. The texts themselves carry the idea of the person speaking in one language and the miracle consisted of those hearing it in their native tongues. A critical researcher on St. Anthony’s life, Raphael M. Huber, called this narrative a “multinational sermon.”(2)Raphael M. Huber. St. Anthony of Padua. Doctor of the Church Universal. A Critical Study of the Historical Sources of the Life, Sanctity, Learning, and Miracles of the Saint of Padua and Lisbon. Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company. 1948. Pg. 130 This explanation is a good way to describe this phenomenon.

    The authors of these biographies believed the miracle was one of the audience hearing it in their own language while St. Anthony spoke either in Latin or Portuguese. This is consistent with Pope Benedict the XIV’s view that the miracle of tongues can either be one of speaking or of hearing.(3)See Benedict the XIV on Tongues: An analysis for more info

    The experience was not recognized nor cited in Thomas Aquinas’ theological account of tongues which suggests that Aquinas either didn’t agree with this miracle, or didn’t know about it. The separation of time between this alleged incident and Thomas’ writing would only have been around 30 to 50 years. The miracle would have been fresh in the minds of the theologians during Aquinas’ time. The text concludes a miracle of hearing which Aquinas does not support.

    One would also assume that anyone invited to speak before a high-level gathering of Church leaders would have the ability or requirement to speak and the audience to understand in Latin. Addressing the assembly in a language other than Latin in this period seems a remote possibility. Writers such as Dante Alighieri and Roger Bacon during this period give a higher credence to Latin as the language of faith, piety and instruction and frown upon the ability of other languages to communicate in such lofty speech. Perhaps Alighieri and Bacon represent the ideal context but the reality existed that foreign Church leaders did not possess such Latin fluency in either speaking or hearing.

    The First account is from Acta Sanctorum

    AASS June II: 13 Pg. 216 – 217. AASS – the acronym popularly refers to the work called Acta Sanctorum. This book contains short biographies of the lives of the Saints. Acta Sanctorum first began publication in the late sixteenth century and the last revised publication was completed in 1940. This book likes to give special attention to the miraculous. The Saints are listed in the Acta Sanctorum according to their feast day.

    Chapter I.

    On the miracle of the confusion and the conversion of the heretics.

    The most glorious father, Saint Antonius of Padua, one of the chosen of the Society of Saint Francis, whom the same holy Father on this account called him Bishop because of his life and reputation of preaching. When he began to preach in the Roman Consistory, according to the mandate of the sovereign Pontiff with innumerable foreigners who attended at that place for the reason of the Indulgences and Council (there were in that place Greeks, Latin speakers, French people, Germans, Slavs, English and many other diverse languages), that he at once made a wonderful display in this way the language of the holy Spirit, because everyone who heard clearly understood with no lack of astonishment to all, and each one heard his own language in which he was born with. And nevertheless he brought up at that time sweet and lofty sounds, so that it was to render everyone who had been sneering into astonishment and wonder. On account of this the Pope called him the ‘Ark of the Covenant’.[ref]my translation of the Latin from AASS June II: 13 Pg. 216 – 217, Legenda Alia Seu Liber Miraculorum. Chronici Ordinis olim insertus et ex MSS erutus a R.P. Luca Waddingo

    The second account is from Actus Beati Francisci et Sociorum ejus

    At one time that wonderful vessel of the Holy Spirit, St. Anthony of Padua, one of the chosen followers and companions of St. Francis, whom St. Francis used to call his bishop, was preaching before the Pope and Cardinals in a consistory where there were men from different countries—Greeks and Latins, French and Germans, Slavs and English—and men of many other different languages and idioms. And being inflamed by the Holy Spirit and inspired with apostolic eloquence, he preached and explained the word of God so effectively, devoutly, subtly, clearly, and understandably that all who were assembled at the consistory, although they spoke different languages, clearly and distinctly heard and understood every one of his words as if he had spoken in each of their languages. Therefore, they were all astounded and filled with devotion, for it seemed to them that the former miracle of the Apostles at the time of Pentecost had been renewed, when by the power of the Holy Spirit they spoke in different languages.

    And in amazement they said to one another: “Is he not a Spaniard? How then are we all hearing him in the language of the country where we were born—we Greeks and Latins, French and Germans, Slavs and English, Lombards and foreigners?” (4)The English translation as found in Christine F. Cooper-Rompato. The Gift of Tongues: Women’s Xenoglossia in the Later Middle Ages. USA: Pennsylvania State University. 2010. Pg. 28

    The Latin original of AASS June II: 13 Pg. 216 – 217:

    Gloriosissiumus Pater, S. Antonius de Padua, unus de electis Sociis S. Francisci : quem idem sanctus Pater, propter vitam et praedicationis famam, suum Episcopum a appellabat ; cum Romae in Concilio, de mandato summi Pontificis, peregrinis innumerabilus, qui illuc propter Indulgentias et Concilium convenerant, prædicaret (erant enim ibi Graeci, Latini, Francigenae, Theutonici, Sclavi, et Anglici, et aliarum linguarum diversarum) sic Spiritus sanctus linguam, ut quondam sanctorum Apostolorum, mirificavit ; quod omnes, qui audiebant, non sine omnium admiratione ipsum clare intelligebant : et unusquisque audiebat linguam suam, in qua natus erat. Et tunc tam ardua et melliflua eructavit, quod omnes reddiderit stupore et admiratione suspensos : propter quod Papa ipsum, Arcam testamenti vocavit.

    The Latin original of Actus Beati Francisci et Sociorum ejus, including the header not included in the translation:

    Qualiter sanctus Antonius prædicans ab hominibus diversarum linguarum fuit clare intellectus. Cap. 48

    1. Vas admirable sancti Spiritus sanctus Antonius de Padua, unus de electis discipulis beati Francisci, quem sanctus Franciscus suum episcopum appellabat, quum prædicaret in consilio coram papa et cardinalibus, ubi erant Græci et Latini, Francigenæ; et Teutonici, Sclavi et Anglici et multi alii diversarum linguarum,

    2. Spiritu sancto afflatus, lingua apostolica inflammatus, eructans mellifluum verbum, omnes illos tam diverarum linguarum in dicto consilio congregatos, luculentissime et clare ipsum audientes et distincte intelligentes, reddidit tanta admiratione et devotione suspensos,

    3. ut videretur renovatum illud antiquum apostolorum mirabile [76 b 2] admirantium et dicentium : « Nonne iste Hispanus est? Et quomodo nos omnes audimus per eam linguam nostram in qua nati sumus, Græci et Latini, Francigenæ et Teutonici, Sclavi et Anglici, Lombardi et Barbari?

    4. Papi etiam stupens ad tam profunda de scripturis divinis a sancto Antonio prolata, dixit: « Vere ist arca testamenti et divinarum Scripturarum armarium est. »

    References   [ + ]

    The Language of Instruction in the Corinthian Church

    The role of Hebrew, Aramaic, or both as the language of religious instruction in the earliest Corinthian Church.

    This is a discussion based on a text supplied by Epiphanius, who believed the Corinthian conflict was because of the arrogance of the Greek rhetorics, who specialized in the various nuances of the Greek languages, did not recognize the Hebrew tongue as a sacerdotal language.

    Paul presents a serious literary difficulty when addressing the use of tongues in the first century Corinthian Church. He assumed the reader understood the context which is lost to us today. The problem generally was about a person or persons speaking in a language which was not in the common vernacular of the audience. He mandated that any person speaking in a foreign language must have it immediately communicated in the local tongue. If there was no one available to interpret or the speaker(s) were incapable of interpreting their speech themselves, then the speaker was not allowed to speak. For example if a Rabbinic lecturer from Yavneh, Israel, stood up and gave a powerful speech on redemption in Hebrew, but did not have the ability to later translate it into the local Greek dialect, then he must not speak. It was of no benefit to the audience except for the speaker himself.

    Paul also legislated that only one person can speak at a time and that each one must have a turn. This type of legislation parallels very much with ancient Jewish customs on reading, speaking and interpreting as outlined earlier in this series.

    Why didn’t Paul name the Hebrew language, or the Greek languages that Epiphanius outlined as sources of the conflict? Paul was confronted with ethnic, linguistic and political forces in his writing that persuaded him not to name the specific language or languages that were in dispute. The Church could have disintegrated into factions by him naming them.

    If Paul was emphasizing this to be a problem of liturgical reading, his word choice selection would have been different. The noun reader or the verb read can’t be found anywhere in the key-text. Paul wouldn’t have used the verb to speak such as λαλῶν found in I Corinthians 14:1 ὁ γὰρ λαλῶν γλώσσῃ, the one who speaks in a language in reference to a reader. He would have used something similar to ἀναγιγνώσκων anaginôskôn instead. Therefore the Corinthian problem being that of liturgical reading of the text in Hebrew was not the problem — at least according to the Epiphanius’ text anyways.

    This is a difficult obstacle to overcome, and because of this, the Hebrew reader/interpreter theory cannot be held as a viable solution. However the Epiphanius text should be understood differently. The Epiphanius text was asserting Hebrew as an instructional language; a Messianic Jewish sage would speak in the religious tongue of Hebrew concerning the Christian life and an interpretation would be supplied in the local vernacular. This practice was adopted from a Jewish custom contemporary at that time.

    Talmud Babli Yoma 20b demonstrates this Jewish rite of teaching in Hebrew and a simultaneous translation in the local tongue. This passage reflects a teaching session given by R. Shila. His instruction was performed in Hebrew, which was demonstrated here as the language of Jewish religion and polity — a sacerdotal tongue. An interpreter was required for the common people to understand the speech. The text makes this out to be standard procedure during this time.

    Rab(1)Abba Areka came to the place of R. Shila, when there happened to be no interpreter to stand next to R. Shila, so Rab took the stand next to him and interpreted, ‘keriath hageber’ as ‘the call fo the man’. R. Shila said to him” Would you, Sir, interpret it as: Cockrow! Rab replied: ‘A flute is musical to nobles, but give it to weavers, they will not accept it’.(2)Talmud Babli Yoma 20b. As found as a pdf at halakhah.com There are no page numbers. The pdf is attributed to Tarmo Jeskanen as the author. See also Yoma 20b in the original

    The eleventh century Rashi chose to explain further the mechanics between the teacher and the interpreter:

    The one who interprets stands beside a sage who gives the homily and the sage whispers the Hebrew language to him and he translates to the common language they hear in.(3)My translation Yoma 20b

    Where Rashi got the idea of the Sage whispering to the translator is not known. This may be a much later tradition than Paul’s time.

    This passage used two different words to define the concept of interpreter. The first one was אמורא Amora. The Jewish Encyclopedia explains that this term had two functions. The first one represented all the Rabbinic teachers that flourished during a period of about three hundred years, from the time of the death of the patriarch R. Judah I. (219) to the completion of the Babylonian Talmud (about 500)(4)Amora as found in the Jewish Encylopedia. The second definition applies here. While the lecturer generally pronounced his sentences in the academic language, which was chiefly Hebrew, the Amora gave his explanations in Aramaic…”(5)Amora as found in the Jewish Encylopedia.. The article states that the term Amora as an interpreter or translator was a later usage to that of the word meturgeman and often was interchanged with it.

    The second word used for interpreter is פרש peresh — to interpret, expound, clarify.

    Understanding the word interpret in I Corinthians 14 is one of the keys to unlocking what Paul meant. The Syriac version of this passage is especially helpful which is ܦܫܩ pashek. J. Payne Smith’s Dictionary describes at as to explain, expound, to write commentaries, to translate. The dictionary demonstrated how the word ܦܫܩ was used in the Syrian Church: “he expounds the Six Days of Creation to the congregation,” which exemplifies the fact that Paul wasn’t meaning interpreter to be a literal word for word translation from one language to another but it could be dynamic, or amplified.(6)J. Payne Smith’s (Mrs. Margoliouth) A Compendious Syriac Dictionary. Pg 468 as found at Dukhrana’s website.

    This passage from the Talmud also exhibits that it was Jewish tradition for the teacher to speak in Hebrew while an interpreter translated it into the common tongue of the audience. The Epiphanius text believed this practice was still being performed in the earliest Corinthian Church. Yet there is one difference between Paul’s exhortation and two hundred years or so later to the time of R. Shila — during Paul’s time a teacher instructing in Hebrew could provide his own translation. Rabbinic tradition during R. Shila’s time did not allow this. Someone else was obligated to do the translation.

    If one takes face-value the information provided so far, Paul was referencing the the one who speaks in tongues as one teaching or lecturing in Hebrew. The interpreter was the speaker or another person familiar with both Hebrew and the target language, translating it on the fly. Paul mentioned in I Corinthians 14:13 that a person who speaks in a foreign unnamed tongue should himself interpret it. Later on in 14:28 he exhorts those who speak in a tongue should not speak at all if a third party interpreter is not available. In the context of what has been discussed so far, Paul was stating a rule about instruction and translation. If the teacher who taught in Hebrew had no knowledge of the local vernacular and there was no one available to translate who knew both Hebrew and the local language, the teacher was to remain silent.

    The Epiphanius text stated that there was a conflict between three different Greek ethnic groups. This tension was likely over the translation or elucidation of the original speech done in Hebrew or Aramaic. Doric, Attic and Aeolic interpreters were simultaneously translating in their own mother tongue. This would be very confusing for those not familiar with Jewish customs, especially non-Jews. It would seem like mayhem and would be an obstacle to natural growth. It could also have been a dispute over what the standardized Greek language ought to be in the Corinthian Church. None of the Greek ethnic groups would cede their language to the authority of another Greek dialect.

    This renders a difficult section of Paul’s writing to simplicity. This may not entirely be the case. The fourth century or later Latin based Ambrosiaster text on I Corinthians wrote that the Corinthian problem wasn’t about the Hebrew language but Aramaic — a language which surpassed Hebrew as the common language of the Jewish community by Paul’s time. The Ambrosiaster text outlined the conflict being Jewish members (specifically women) of the Corinthian congregation speaking Aramaic as a form of religious superiority above the non-Jewish Greeks in the Corinthian Church. This does not come as a surprise. As outlined in an earlier article, Liturgy, Race and Language in the Corinthian Church, there were tensions between Hebrew and Aramaic in the Jewish religious life. This could also had been reflected in the earliest Corinthian Church over the proper language of instruction. There could have been Hebrew and Aramaic factions competing for preeminence.

    This idea of Hebrew and Aramaic competing as the language of instruction fits in better with Paul’s admonition on tongues because on a number of occasions he refers to tongues in the plural, not in the singular.

    The Greek community has so far been left of the equation within the formative Corinthian Church. It may have not been Hebrew, as the Epiphanius text states, but which Greek language ought to be the language of instruction and translated into the local vernacular. Doric Greek for example, was the language connected to the historical Corinthian city — whether the people during the first century still spoke Doric locally as the daily tongue or Attic had overcome it is not known. Doric was also the language used for composing choral lyric poetry in the international Greek world.(7) See Choral Doric for more information. Doric could have possibly been wanted as the language of instruction and certain sects within the initial Corinthian community were pressing for this. Since other Greek members of the Church did not know Doric, a translator was required to interpret it into the local vernacular. The Greeks thought their language to be superior to anyone else and would have had a hard time submitting to a foreign language such as Hebrew or Aramaic as the definitive one for religious devotion.(8) See Liturgy, Race and Language in the Corinthian Church for more information.

    There is not enough information to substantiate Doric but it does show a potential state for conflict. It could also have been Aeolic or Attic pushed as the premier language of instruction. More research is required in this area.

    The probability of the Greeks pressing for a Greek language to be the one for instruction is not as strong as that of Hebrew, Aramaic, or both being the initial language of instruction in the Church with an accompanying interpretation into the local tongue. The Epiphanius text should be understood that the instruction was done in Hebrew and the conflict was in which Greek language should be the primary base tongue in the Corinthian Church.

    This was the environment Paul was up against in writing his letter to the Corinthians. It was a church composed of Jewish-Hebrew, Jewish-Aramaic, Jewish-Greek, and non-Jewish Greek members. It was a time where all things of religious faith were allowed to be reexamined, especially in context of Jewish tradition; what rituals were to be included from previous liturgical traditions, what were to be removed, and what new traditions should be started. The Jewish tradition was the underlying base. The Church was both restorative to the ancient Jewish identity but forward looking at the same time. It was more inclusive of many different ethnic groups and practices. Paul seemed unconcerned about the language issue itself but wanted to maintain some type of order so that all these different language speaking groups could operate cohesively together.

    One must be aware that there is a lack of complete information on the use of Hebrew in first century Israel and the diaspora. It has been asserted here that it is a religious language used by by the leaders and teachers on matters of Jewish religious and civil matters while most of the Israeli public spoke Aramaic while the diaspora Jews spoke whatever local language they lived in. This is a controversial point. The publication, The Language Environment of First Century Judaea edited by Randall Buth and Steven R. Notley, strongly argue that Hebrew was the common language of communication in first century Judaea.(9) Jerusalem Studies in the Synoptic Gospels—Volume Two The Language Environment of First Century Judaea Randall Buth, Steven R. Notley ed..

    If one reads the Pauline passage with the idea of Hebrew/Aramaic as the language of instruction and understands the Jewish structure of speaking and interpretation in Jewish tradition as outlined in this series, the text is clearly understood. It is not a mystical out-of-this-world experience but the re-imaging of Jewish structure in a newly formed Church.

    This also answers the question of why the language problems of Corinth existed. If there was no Jewish antecedent forcing the use of a sacerdotal language, the Greek audience simply would have performed all the liturgical rites in their native tongue, and consequently there would have never been a mysterious tongues controversy.■

    References   [ + ]

    Commentary of Psellos’ Tongues of Pentecost

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    For more information:

    Rufinus on Gregory Nazianzus’ work on Pentecost

    Tyrannius Rufinus Latin text of Gregory Nazianzus’ Oration 41:15-17

    As found in Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum. Augustus Engelbrecht ed. Vol. 46. Tyranii Rufini Opera. Pars I: Orationum Gregorii Nazianzeni Novem Interpretatio. Vindobonae/Lipsiae. 1910

    [Pg. 160] 15. Loquebantur igitur uariis et diuersis linguis apostoli et proferebatur sermo ignotus usque ad praesens ipsis illis qui loquebantur. et hoc erat signum quod infidelibus populis olim fuerat praenuntiatum, cum dicitur quia in aliis linguis et aliis labiis loquar populo huic, et nec sic me exaudient, dicit dominus. sed requiritur in hoc loco, quomodo unusquisque audiebant(1)Should read audiebat as found in MPL. Vol. 92 Bedæ Venerabilis: Super Acta Apostolorum Expositio. Col. 947 linguis suis loquentes eos magnalia dei: utrum hi qui loquebantur diuersis sermonibus uniuscuisque linguae hoc quod dicebatur proferebant, id est, ut uerbi causa unusquisque eorum loquens una lingua rursum intermissa hac iterum se ad aliam conuerteret et inde iterum ad aliam et sic per multas uel per omnes linguas percurreret; [Pg. 161] an in eo potius erat mirabile, quod sermo eorum qui loquebantur, qualibet lingua fuisset pronuntiatus, unicuique audienti secundum suam linguam intellegebatur, ut uerbi causa uno quocumque apostolo in ecclesia dicente — necesse enim erat tacentibus reliquis unum loqui et sermonem unum ad auditum omnium peruenire –, qui sermo hanc in se uim haberet, ut, cum diuersarum gentium auditores adessent, unusquisque secundum suam linguam illius ipsius unius sermonis, qui ab apostolo fuerat pronuntiatus, susciperet auditum et caperet intellectum, nisi si forte secundum hoc magis uideatur audientium esse miraculum quam loquentium. hi autem qui ita loquebantur etiam ebrii esse ab incredulis putabantur nescientibus scilicet audire sancti spiritus uoces.

    16. Admiranda quidem fuit et illa linguarum antiqua diuisio, cum ad turris superbam et inpiam constructionem male sibi sociata iniquorum unanimitas concordabat. sed discissione uocis atque in ignotum sonum uersae inpiae conspirationis reprimuntur conatus. uerum multo admirabilior est ista diuisio. quod enim fuerat tunc ab una in plures sibi inuicem ignotas discrepantesque diuisum, id nunc per plures ad unam concordem et consonam reuocatur. et sunt quidem dona diuersa, sed datur etiam discretionis donum, quo discerni et intelligi possit a [Pg. 162] bono quod melius est. sed ne illud quidem mihi inutile uidetur quod ait Dauid: submerge, domine, et diuide linguas eorum. quare? quia dilexerunt omnia uerba praecipitationis, linguam dolosam. numquid non manifeste per haec istas indicat linguas, quas nunc uidemus naturam deitatis et unitatem diuinae substantiae concidentes? uerum de his sufficiat.

    17. Quoniam autem Parthos et Medos et Elamitas, Aegyptios et Libycos, Cretenses quoque et Arabas, Mesopotamenos quoque et meos Cappadoces adesse dicit scriptura, quibus loquebantur apostoli, sed et ex omni gente quae sub caelo sunt Iudaeos, conuenions puto perquirere, quinam isti sunt et ex qua captiuitate Iudaei, quoniam quidem illa, quae in Aegypto fuerat uel in Babylonia, absoluta iam fuerat, Romanis autem nondum uenerant in captiuitatem, licet iam et ipsa inmineret ultrix commissi de saluatore piaculi. superest ergo ut illa intellegatur captiuitas, quae sub Antiocho facta est, quae utique non multis ante temporibus acciderat.

    Forgotten books has an online version of the same copy: Tyrannii Rvfini Orationvm Gregorii Nazianzeni novem interpretatio.(2)Vindobonae: F. Tempsky. 1910]

    References   [ + ]