An earlier church etymology of χάρισμα

An etymological exploration of the word χάρισμα from select writings of the Church Fathers.

Χάρισμα has a much wider semantic range than most realize and assists in a better understanding of St. Paul’s usage.

By going through a select set of writers from the third to fourth centuries, Athanasius*1, Eusebius, and Gregory of Nazianzus, a clearer picture is developing on how the ancients understood the word.

In a traditional English translation, one is forced to use gift in every instance of χάρισμα. In my translations below, I am breaking this tradition because the Church Fathers indicate a wider semantic range. Really, I am not sure if there is a one word equivalent in English for this word. The sense from these authors is that χάρισμα means this: the giving of your talents and service as an expression of thanks for what He has done in your life and reflecting God’s image in all that you do. I think endowment, expression or manifestation may be better English choices depending on the circumstance. These words do not completely match the Greek either and appear too simplistic, but comes closer in many instances.

These words positively work in most cases while in a few others gift prevails.

How were these English words decided? It was through examining the above authors. Many readers of the website are critical in a good way and want evidence. So I compiled a list of short texts that have χάρισμα in it from these authors.

The following are English translations made by me and mixed with a few translations by other authors with the original Greek and parallel Latin translations included. My English translations are experimental, and I did not perform deep etymological studies outside of the Logeion or Perseus databases for problem words. In the case of words not in these databases, I depended on the Latin. They are rough translations, and perhaps over the life of this article, may see revisions.

These alternatives are toyed with because they are closer to the Greek writers intent than gift.

I am also playing with the word, πνευματικός, and use religious observances instead of spiritual gifts or spiritual ones or the like in this document. This will be explained in a future article.

One pattern I am constantly witnessing in the ancient writers with this word is less appeal to the supernatural and more to human capability and natural talents. We all have unique talents and abilities, and these underly the understanding of χάρισμα in the ancient sense. However, one must keep in mind that mysticism and the supernatural were part of the daily life of the ancients. This aspect should never be ruled out.

Another important observation is that the ancient Greek writers had no problems with this word. They understood it quite well, and never sought to define or explain it. The barrier is our English mindset and our lack of Greek resources to understand. This challenge prevents us from fully appreciating the context in which the Apostle Paul used it.

There are many more authors and references, but I had to limit my selections due to time constraints. I am touching on probably less than 3% usage in ecclesiastical literature. The selection was filtered through results found at the University of California, Irvine’s TLG database.

This Church Fathers etymology is intended to substantiate an article in development on χάρισμα that looks at the word from a variety of perspectives.

Eusebius MPG 22. Supplementa Quaestionum ad Marinum. X (from Macarii Chrysocephali) Col. 1013–1014.

Therefore I see no matter what that He gave them a sort of particular authority and spiritually inspired grace here. Not as the ability to raise the dead and to bring about wonders but as for the purpose of remitting sins. For there are diverse gifts of the Spirit. For which reason he adds: “If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven,” (John 20:23) etc. An indication that this kind of spiritual type of expressions was given. After His resurrection the Spirit descended, and indeed furnished abundantly works and the manifestation of signs and of all the other expressions to them. Through which he said without the article (Πνεῦμα instead of τὸ Πνεῦμα) “holy Spirit receive;” showing that a sort of particular work of the Spirit given to them.

ἐτέρῳ δέ πίστις ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ Πνεύματι, ἄλλῳ δὲ ἐνεργήματα δυνάμενων, ἄλλῳ δὲ τροφητεῖσαι, ἄλλῳ δὲ διακρίσεις πνευμάτων, ἐτέρῳ δὲ γένη γλωσσῶν. — from I Corinthians 12:20.

Alii fides in eodem Spiritu, alii prodigiorum virtus, alii prophetiae, alii discretiones spirituum, alii linguarum multitudo : (note the Latin for γένη is multitudo)

. . . Ὅρα τοίνυν μήπως ἐνταυθα ἐξουσίαν τινὰ μερικὴν καὶ χάριν πνευματκιήν δέδωκεν αῦτοις. Οὐκ ῶστε νεκροὺς ἐγείρειν, καὶ δυνάμεις ποιεῖν, ἀλλ`ῶστε ἀφιέναι ἁμαρτήματα. Διάφορα γάρ τὰ χαρίσματα τοῦ Πνεῦματος. Διὸ καὶ συνάπτει λέγων, « Ἄν τινων ἀφῆτε τὰς ἁμαρτίας, ἀφίενται αὐτοῖς, » καὶ τὰ ἑξῆς. Δεικνὺς ὅτι τοῦτο τὸ εἰδος τῶν πνευματικῶν χαρισμάτων αὑτοῖς ἑδωρήσατο. Μετὰ δὲ τὴν ἀνάληψιν αὐτό τὸ Πνεῦμα κατελθόν, καὶ τῶν σημείων καὶ παντὸς ἐτέρου χαρίσματος τὰς δυνάμεις δή καὶ ἐνεργείας αὐτοῖς ἐχορήγησε. Διὰ τοῦτο ἐνταῦθα μὲν ἄνευ ἄρθρου εἶπε, «λάβετε Πνεῦμα ἅγιον, » δηλῶν ὅτι μερικήν τινα τοῦ Πνεύματος ἐνέργειαν δίδωσιν αὐτοῖς. Περὶ δὲ ἐκείνου φησί.

Cogita igitur utrum nunc Christus singularem aliquam gratiam discipulis contulerit, haud quidem ad mortuos suscitandos prodigiaque efficienda, sed ad dimittenda peccata. Sunt enim, at diximus, diversa Spiritus dona. Quamobrem nunc addidit : « Quorum remiseritis peccata, remittuntur, » etc., quibus verbis ostendit a se hoc genus gratiarum nunc illis esse collatum. Post ejusdem vero ascensionem, Spiritus superveniens miraculorum quoque et omnimodae gratiae vim virtutemque ipsis attulit. Quare nunc sine articulo (Πνεῦμα pro τὸ Πνεῦμα) ait : « Accipite Spiritum sanctum ; » signιficans partem se quamdam efficacis Spiritus attribuere.

Eusebius MPG 23. Col 613. Commentario In Psalmos.

According to an alternative meaning, about the Just arriving at perfection with the progressions having been rendered in the end as goodness, the King rejoices and is gladdened, the one and only Son of God gives thanks with His Father for the giving of so great a form of expressions for the nature of humankind.

Καθ` ἐτέραν δὲ διάνοιαν τοῦ δικαίου τελειουμένου κατὰ τὰς ἀποδοθείσας ἐν ἀπετῇ προκοπὰς, χαίρει καὶ εὐφραίνεται ὁ βασιλεὺς, ὁ τοῦ Θεοῦ Μονογενὴς Υἰὸς εὐχαριστῶν τῷ ἑαυτοῦ Πατρὶ, τῷ τὰ τηλικαῦτα χαρίσματα δεδωρημενῳ τῇ τῶν ἀνθρώπων φύσῃ.

Secundum aliam vero sententiam cum justus virtutum profectu auctus consummatur, tunc gaudet rex et exsultat, Unigenitus scilicet Dei Filius. Patri suo gratias referens, qui humanae naturae tanta gratiarum dona contulerit.

Eusebius MPG 23 Col. 860. Commentario In Psalmos.

(about the Father—Son relationship in I John 1:18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him) “And this is a secret treasure of God’s divinity and the fullness of all the goodnesses combined from which the the gifts were given for His worthy ones. Since now from the midst of the bosom He is giving these gifts to the worthy ones; reaching out to those His very own right hand. But of these things He pulls back the right hand from those who are not worthy, of these things no person lays up the gifting of good things made visible in His bosom.

Καὶ ἔστιν ἀποῤῤητος οὖτος τῆς Πατρικῆς θεότητος θησαυρὸς καὶ πλήρωμα τῶν ἀγαθῶν ἀπάντων, ἐξ’ ὧν δίδωσι τὰ χαρίσματα τοῖς ἀξίοις αὐτοῦ. Ἐπεὶ τοίνυν ἐκ μέσου τοῦ κόλπου τὰ χαρίσματα τοῖς ἀξίοις δωρεῖται ἐκτείνων εἰς αὺτους τήν ἑαυτοῦ δεξιὰν, ἀπὸ δὲ τῶν μὴ ἀξίον ἀποστρέφει τὴν χείρα τὴν δεξιὰν, μηδὲν αὐτῶν τῶν ἐν αὐτῷ δηλωθὲντι κόλπῳ τεταμιευμένων ἀγαθῶν δωροῦμενος.

Et est hic arcanus Paternae divinitatis thesaurus, et plenitudo bonorum omnium, unde gratiarum dona iis qui se digni sunt largitur. Quoniam igitur de medio sinu dona gratiarum dignis erogat, ac dexteram suam in illis extendit, ab indignis vero dexteram suam avertit, nihilque ex bonis in memorato sinu suo reconditis ipsis elargitur;

Eusebius MPG 23 Col. 900. Commentario In Psalmos.

But what you say are the flashes of His lightning, is it the things flashing about the splendours of the expressions* of the holy Spirit throughout the whole world?

Τίνας δ’ ἄν εἴποις τὰς ἀστραπὰς αὐτοῦ ἧ (or is it ᾖ? I am using it this way) τὰ φέγγη τῶν τοῦ ἁγίου Πνεύματοις χαρισμάτων τὰ ἀστράπτοντα καθ’ ὅλης τῆς οἰκουμένης;

Quae fulgura ejus esse dixeris, nisi splendorem charismatum sancti Spiritus qui per totum orbem fulgurat?

Note:

*expressions conveys better here the idea of χαρισμάτων. If I use gift instead, “the splendours of the gifts of the Holy Spirit throughout the whole world?”, it does not make any sense.

Eusebius MPG 23 Col. 1273. Commentario In Psalmos.

These are being watered from the highest places of God Himself, being filled of the gifts of the Spirit, the word of wisdom and such things being added in continued portions.

Πότιζονται δὲ ἐκ τῶν ὑπερῴων αὐτου τοῦ Θεοῦ, πληρούμενοι τῶν τοῦ Πνεύματος χαρισμάτων, λόγου σοφίας καὶ τῶν ἐξῆς ἀπηριθμημένων.

hi autem irrigantur de superioribus ipsius Dei, Spiritus sancti donis repleti, videlicet sermoni sapientiae, caeterisque recensitis.

Eusebius MPG 23 Col. 1300. Commentario In Psalmos.

Thereafter, these ones had the highest confidence to believe and to call upon his name, and thus after these invoke the confession, they are to be deemed worthy of the gifts from God.

ἕπειτα βελτιωθέντας θαῤῤειν καὶ ἐπικαλεῖσθαι τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ, καὶ οὔτως μετὰ τὴν ἐξομολόγησιν ἐπικαλουμένους, καταξιοῦσθαι τῶν παρὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ χαρισμάτων·

deinde vero ad meliora profectos confidere et invocare nomen ejus : sicque ubi post confessionem invocaverint eum, divinis charismatibus donari ;

Athanasius (spuria) MPG 28 Col. 416 Synopsis Scripturae Sacrae

Afterwards he writes about the religious expressions so that they would not discriminate between the expressions, nor should they differentiate against the person who has this expression against someone who has a different type of similar thing.

Εἴτα περὶ τῶν πνευματικῶν χαρισμάτων γράφει· ἵνα μὴ διαφέρωνται ἐν τοῖς χαρίσμασι, μηδὲ προκρίνωσι τὸν ἔχοντα τὸ χάρισμα τόδε τοῦ ἔχοντος τόδε·

Postea de donis spiritualibus scribit, ne charismatum gratia discrimen inter se statuant, neve praeferant eum, qui charisma aliquod habet, ei, qui alio donatus est.

Note:

I could translate this as all as gifts as the English tradition dictates but I am playing with expressions to see if it fits. Note how the Latin uses charisma and donatus.

Athanasius (spuria) MPG 28 Col. 720 Quaestiones in N.T.

This was indeed always and will be, but the gift of the holy Spirit, which after the tenth day of the ascension, the 50th day after the resurrection, had rested upon the disciples of Christ.

αὐτὸ γὰρ ἦν τε ἀεί καὶ ἔσται, ἀλλὰ τὸ τοῦ ἁγίου Πνεύματος χάρισμα, ὅπερ κατὰ τὴν δεκάτην ἡμέραν τῆς ἀναλήψεως, πεντηκοστήν δὲ τῆς ἀναστάσεως, ἐπὶ τοὺς Χριστοῦ μαθητὰς κατεφοίτησεν.

Haec enim erat ante, et est, et erit, sed Spiritus sancti donum, quod post ascensionem, decimo, post resurrectionem vero, quinquagesimo die venti super discipulos Christi.

Athanasius (spuria) MPG 28 Col. 745 Quaestiones in Psalmos

And for the water and the dew in the Scripture, at some points show the expression of God, others the trials and the confusion of the soul.

On the other hand, when he cites: “the one who believes in Me, rivers shall from his belly,” and “as the dew of Mount Hermon descending upon the mountains of Zion,” he says are the expressions of the holy Spirit. Moreover, he says the mountains of Zion are the religious observances they are living according to God.

Καὶ γὰρ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ ἡ δρότος ἑν τῇ Γραφῇ, ποτὲ μὲν δηλοῖ τὸ χάρισμα τοῦ Θεοῦ, ποτὲ δὲ τούς πειρασμοὺς καὶ τὴν ταραχὴν τῆς ψυχῆς.

Ὅταν δὲ λέγει, ὅτι « Ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμέ, παταμοὶ ῥεύσουσιν ἐκ τῆς κοιλίας αὐτοῦ· » καὶ, « Ὠς δρόσος Ἀερμῶν ἡ καταβαίνουσα ἐπὶ τὰ ὄρη Σιὼν, » τὰ χαρίσματα λὲγει τοῦ ἀγίου Πνεὺματος. Ὄρη δὲ Σιών λέγει τοὺς κατὰ Θεὸν ζῶντας πνευματικούς.

Nam aqua et ros, aliquando quidem in Scriptura donum Dei, aliquando vero animae tentationes et animae perturbationem significat.

Quando vero inquit : « Qui credit in me, flumina de ventre ejus fluent; » et, « Ut ros Hermon descendens super montes Sion, » indicat dona Spiritus sancti. Montes vero Sion dicit, spirituales qui secundum Deum vivunt, homines.

Notes:

  • John 7:38 He that believeth in me, as the scripture saith: Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (Douay Rheims)
  • Septuagint Ps. 132:3 ὡς δρόσος Αερμων ἡ καταβαίνουσα ἐπὶ τὰ ὄρη Σιων ὅτι ἐκεῖ ἐνετείλατο κύριος τὴν εὐλογίαν καὶ ζωὴν ἕως τοῦ αἰῶνος It is like the dew of Hermon Coming down upon the mountains of Zion (NASΒ)
  • Expression works better here than gift. Also πνευματικούς works more clearly as religious things than spiritual gifts.

Athanasius (spuria) MPG 28 Col 752 Quaestiones in Psalmos

Statement 90: “The high praise of God shall be in their mouth: and two-edged swords in their hands.”(1)

Interpretation: The high praises of God are the teachings of the law and the religious observances. For just as the religious teachers have the endowments of the holy Spirit giving in their voice box, that is in their mouth and language, and they teach the Law. The two-edged swords are the two Testaments: the old Law and the new. For just as the soldier, brandishing the two-edged sword, destroys the enemies and protects the people.

Κείμενον Ϟʹ. «Αἱ ὑψώσεις τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐν τῷ λάρυγγε αὐτῶν, καὶ ῥομφᾶια δίστομοι ἐν ταῖς χερσὶν αὐτῶν. »

Ἐρμην. Ὑψώσεις τοῦ Θεοῦ εἰσιν αἱ διδασκαλίαι τοῦ νόμου καὶ αἱ πνευματικαὶ διατάξεις* ὥσπερ γὰρ ἔχουσιν οἱ πνευματικοὶ διδάσκαλοὶ ἐκ τοῦ ἁγιου Πνεύματος χαρίσματα δωρεῶν ἐν τῷ λάρυγγι αὐτῶν, ἥτοι τῷ στόματι αὐτῶν καὶ τῇ γλώσσῃ, καὶ διδάσκσουσι τὸν λαόν* ῥομφαὶαι δίστομοι εἰσιν αἱ δῦο Διαθῆκαι, ὁ παλαιὸς νόμος καὶ ὁ νέος* ὥσπερ γὰρ ὁ στρατιώτης, βαστάζων ξίφος δίστομον, τοὺς ἔχθροὺς κατασφάττει καὶ τὸν λαὸν διασώζει*

Propositio XC. «Exaltationes Dei in gutture eorum, et gladii ancipites in manibus eorum.»

Interp. Exaltationes Dei, sunt doctrinae legis et statuta spiritualia. Ut enim spirituales doctores habent a Spiritu sancto dona gratiae, in gutture suo, id ….in ore suo et in lingua sua, et docent populum; ancipites autem gladii sunt duo Testamenta, vetus et nova lex; nam sicut miles gladium ancipitem vibrans, inimicus interimit, et populum tuetur;

Notes:

  • πνευματικαὶ often appears in the Athanasius text in conjunction with χαρίς.
  • Propositio: proposition, premiss/case for discussion; statement of facts/case; notion/image
  • Why the modern Greek 90 symbol Ϟʹ is used, I do not know.
  • (1) Psalm 149:6 (Douay Rheims)
  • Religious observances instead of spiritual orders. The use of spiritual in the modern sense conveys an idea of otherworldliness and little to do with order, customs, or organized duties. I think the modern mind has a problem with the word spiritual and gets tripped on the metaphysical aspect and forgets about the boring, practical idea of religious devotion, which I think more so is the emphasis.
  • Could not find a definition for κατασφάττει. Relying on the Latin for this one.

Athanasius (Spurius) MPG 28 Col. 824 Sermo Contra Latinos

Nor indeed anyone of them who says that this has proceeded from the Son or through the Son. Except how some say the alternative pouring out; that is to say the manifestation and mission of the gifts of the Spirit.

Οὐ μέντοιγέ τις αὺτῶν καὶ ἐκ τοῦ Ὑίοῦ καὶ διὰ τοῦ Ὑίοῦ τοῦτό φησιν ἐκπορεύσθαι· εἰ μή πως ἐρεῖ τις τήν ἄλλην πρόχυσιν, εἰτουν φανέρωσιν καὶ ἀποστολὴν τῶν χαρισμάτων τοῦ Πνεύματος.

Nec quisquam est illorum qui ex Filio vel per Filum dicat ipsum procedere : nisi fortasse quispiam id dicat de alia profusione, seu manifestatione se missione donorum Spiritus sancti.

Notes:

Gifts is the preferred translation here, expressions seems awkward in this context.

Athanasius (dubia) MPG 28 Col. 905 Homilia in Nativitatem Praecursoris

And Paul said, “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (NASΒ) But as if one who exalts upon peculiar ones from the different gifts. Added to this, that the salvation is accrued to us by grace and mercy of God, the witness is very much one of a thief, whose prize of virtue did not acquire the kingdom of the heavens, but by the grace and mercy of God.

Καὶ ὀ Παῦλος φησι* « Τί γὰρ ἔχεις ὅ οὐκ ἔλαβες; Εἰ δὲ καὶ ἐλαβες, τί καυχᾶσαι ὠς μὴ λαβών: »(1) ἀλλ` ὡς ἐπ’ἰδίοις τοῖς ἀλλοτρίοις χαρίσμασιν ἐπαιρόμενος. Ὅτι δὲ χάριτι καὶ ἐλέει Θεοῦ ἡ σωτηρία ἡμῖν προσγίνεται, μάρτυς ὁ ληστής ἐκεῖνος, ὅς οὐκ ἀρετῆς ἔπαθλον τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν ἐκομίσατο, ἀλλὰ χάριτι Θεοῦ καὶ ἐλέει.

Et Paulus sit : « Quid enim habes quod non acceperis ? Si autem accepisti, quid gloriaris quasi nom acceperis ? » sed de alienis donis quasi de tuis extolleris. Quod autem nobis gratia et misericordia Dei salus accedat, testis est latro ille, qui non in virtutis praemium regnum coelorum adeptus est ; sed gratia et misericordia Dei.

Notes:

  • (1) I Corinthians 4:7
  • I used “gifts” here because readers would not otherwise capture the intent of the writer. Expressions would be better, but requires a presupposition that most readers do not have.

Gregory Nazianzus MPG 35 Col 480. Oratio II Apolgetica LXXII

72. When will this be, say they who are swift but not sure in every thing, readily building up, readily throwing down. When will the lamp be upon its stand, and where is the talent? Forso they call the grace.

Πότε ουν εσται ταῦτα, φασὶν οἱ ταχεῖς τὰ πάντα, καὶ οὐκ ἀσφαλεῖς, οἱ ῥᾳδίως οἰκοδομοῦντες, καὶ καταλύοντες; Καὶ πηνίκα ὁ λύχνος ἐπὶ τὴν λυχνίαν; Καὶ ποῦ τὸ τάλαντον; οὕτω τὸ χάρισμα λέγοντες.

LXXII. Quando igitur haec erunt, inquient homines ad omnis celeres, nec satis cauti, facil aedificantes, et diruentes? Quando Incerna supra candelabrum? Ubi talentum? Sic enim gratiam vocant.

Notes:

  • τάλαντον is a synonym for χάρισμα.
  • The translator here footnotes that charisma relates to the office of the priesthood in NPNF
  • The χάρισμα is an official office of the priest who has exceptional talent and leadership skills.
  • See http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/03d/0329-0390,_Gregorius_Nazianzenus,_Apologetica_[Schaff],_EN.pdf Pg. 416 for more information

Gregory Nazianzus MPG 35 Col 512. Oratio II Apolgetica CXIV

My translation: “I refer again to the historical record and considering the most reputable of the ancient days. I find such ones yet called for the purpose of leadership, or prophecy, or grace, have been many people who readily accepted to the calling, and on the other hand, others have deferred the gift, and blameworthy neither of the two: neither the cowardice of those who withdrew, nor the zeal of those who were eager to rush in.”

Schaff Translation Pg. 430: “I resort once again to history, and on considering the men of best repute in ancient days, who were ever preferred by grace to the office of ruler or prophet, I discover that some readily complied with the call, others deprecated the gift, and that neither those who drew back were blamed for timidity, nor those who came forward for eagerness.”

Ἀλλὰ γὰρ πάλιν ἑπι τὴν ἱστορίαν φέρομαι, καὶ τῶν παλαιῶν τοὺς εὑδοκιμωτάτους ἁνασκοπῶν, εὑρίσκω ὅσους πώτοτε εἰς ἐπιστασίαν ἥ προφητείαν ἥ χάρις προὺβάλετο, τοὺς μὲν εἴξαντας προθύμως τῇ κλήσει, τοὺς δὲ ἀναβαλομένους τὸ χάρισμα· καὶ οὐδετέρων μεμπτὴν, οὔτε τῶν ὑποχωρησάντων τὴν δειλίαν, οὔτε τῶν ὁρμησάντων τὴν προθυμίαν.

CXIV. At enim rursus ad historiam feror, ac veterum pobatissimos quosque considerans, eos omnes, quos divina gratia, vel ad gubernandam plebem, vel ad prophetiae munus unquam elegit, partim alacri animo vocationi paruisse, partim oblatae gratiae moram injecisse reperio : nec, vel eorum, qui pedem subduxerunt, cuplandam timiditatem, vel eorum, qui ad impositum sibi munus obeundum impigre se accinxerunt, reprehendendam aliacritatem.

Gregory Nazianzus MPG 35 Col 728. Oratio VI De Pace I.

And I seek the crown of graces and of joy upon my head, that is in fact the manifestations of wisdom, the beacon of showing light and of reason within us and of shining to us the steps(1) according to God.

καὶ ζητῶ τῇ ἐμῇ κεφαλῇ τὸν στέφανον τῶν χαρίτων καὶ τῆς τρυφῆς, ἅ δὴ σοφίας χαρίσματα, καὶ λόγου τοῦ ἐν ἠμῖν τὸ ἡγεμονικὸν καταλάμποντος, καὶ φωτίζοντος ἡμῖν τὰ κατὰ Θεὸν διαβήματα.

ac quaero capiti meo coronam gratiarum et deliciarum, hoc est, sapientiae dona, et rationis nobis iusitae, partem eam, quae principatum in nobis tenet, collustrantis, nostrosque secundum Deum gressus illuminatis.

Notes:

(1)Proverbs 20:24 has διαβήματα as “goings” in English while Perseus has it as “a step.”

Gregory Nazianzus MPG 35 Col 901. De Pauperum Amore.

For they cannot sustain that God is wiser than themselves, they potentially become confused for anything that comes to pass. Rather, it is neccesary to toil about the reason, as perhaps in the industry of going about to discover the truth, or to join in study with those who are more religiously aware and wiser than them, since this is also among the gifts and not the knowledge of everyone, or to pursue the thing of a consecrated life and seek wisom from the one who is real Wisdom.

Alternative translation from another author: “Such people cannot allow that God is wiser than themselves. As soon as something unexpected happens, they are taken with dizziness; when they ought rather to seek a reason for what they see and with a little care and diligence they might perhaps come to understand the reason. Or they could seek counsel with men who are wiser and more spiritual than themselves; for this is also among the gifts of the Spirit, and not at all possess this knowledge. Or lastly they should seek understanding by means of the purification of their lives, and pray for wisdom from Him Who is Wisdom.”2

Οὐ γὰρ ἀνέχονται σοφώτερον αὐτῶν εἶναι τὸν Θεὸν, ἂν πρός τι τῶν συμβαινόντων ἰλιγγιάσωσιν· ἢ καμεῖν περὶ τὸν λόγον δέον, ὡς τάχ᾿ ἂν τῇ φιλοπονίᾳ δοθησομένης τῆς ἀληθείας, ἢ σοφωτέροις ἑαυτῶν ταῦτα συμφιλοσοφεῖν καὶ πνευματικωτέροις, ἐπειδὴ καὶ τοῦτο χάρισμα ἑν (ἕν)(1), καὶ οὐχὶ πάντων ἡ γνῶσις, ἢ καθάρσει βίου ταύτην θηρεύειν, καὶ παρὰ τῆς ὄντως Σοφίας σοφίαν ἐπιζητεῖν.

Neque enim Deum sapientiorem se esse sustinent : statim ut inopinatum quid acciderit, quasi vertigine correpti haerent, cum econtra oporteret eos, vel in indaganda ratione laborare, ut cura ac diligentia veritatem fortasse consequi possint : vel de his rebus sapientiores viros magisque spirituales consulere, quandoquidem id quoque inter Spiritus dona numerature, nec omnium est scientia : vel eam denique per vitae purgationem aucupari, atque a vera Sapientia sapientiam postulare.

Notes:

Gregory Nazianzus MPG 35 Col 1049. Ad Julianum Tributorum Ex Aequatorem

7. Each one, who is able to do such a thing, let him bear fruit to God in every season, and in every form and of things pertaining to life and fortune, according to the measure of the ability manifested in him, according to the endowments(1) granted to him. So that we may fill in all places thence in every kind of virtue’s measure, in fact so great a harvest, we sowed so great, all the more having stored up so great a mass by those treading the wine vats in divine things, we sowed so great.

Ζ`. Ἓκαστος, ὅ τι ἄν οἷός τε ᾖ, καρποφορείτω τῷ Θεῷ ἑν καιρῷ παντὶ, καὶ ἰδέᾳ πάσῃ καὶ Βίων καὶ περιστάσεων, κατὰ τὸ μέτρον τῆς παρούσης αὐτῷ δυνάμεως, κατὰ τὸ δοθὲν αὐτῷ χάρισμα· ἵνα πᾶσι μέτροις τῆς ἀρετῆς, πάσας τὰς ἐκείθεν μονὰς πληρώσωμεν, τοσοῦτον θερίσσαντες, ὅσον ἐσπείραμεν, μᾶλλoν δὲ τοσοῦτον ἐναποθίμενοι ταῖς θείαις ληνοῖς, ὅσον ἐσπείραμεν.

VII. Unusquisque Deo, quod poterit, offerat, quovis tempore, quovis genere vitae et fortunae, pro praesentis facultatis modulo, pro gratia sibi contessa, ut, per omnes virtutis modos, omnes coelestis regui mansiones impleamus, tantum scilicet metentes, quantum severimus; vel ut exactius loquar, tantum in divinis horreis reconditum habentes, quantum messeurimus.

Notes:

  • See also https://repository.library.brown.edu/studio/item/bdr:419484/PDF/, Or. 45.2 [PG 36.625]
  • (1) Traditionally, “gift” should be the English equivalent here but I am playing with the text to see if endowment is a better rendering. Perhaps I am right, maybe not.

Gregory Nazianzus MPG 36 Col. 361. Oratio XI. In Sanctum Baptisma

Just as Christ is the giver of this, He is referenced in many and diverse names, and so He is also the giver of such. Whether exceeding joy of the deed has befallen us (for these ones exceedingly love about anything being in state of a loving condition, that is joyfully combined also with the names) or because there is a multitudinous benefit, and the names have been articulated for us: We call a gift, expression, baptism, anointing, enlightenment, garment of incorruption, washing of regeneration, seal, everything which any or all hold in high honor.

The gift, as they also conferred nothing previously, is given. On the other hand, an expression as they are also obligated.

Δ`. Καλεῖται δὲ, ὥσπερ Χριστὸς ὁ τούτου δοτὴρ, πολλοῖς καὶ διαφόροις ὀνόμασιν, οὕτω δὲ καὶ τὸ δώρημα· εἴτε διὰ τὸ περιχαρὲς τοῦ πράγματος τοῦτο παθόντων ἡμῶν (φιλοῦσι γὰρ οἱ σφόδρα περί τι ἐρωτικῶς διακείμενοι, ἡδέως συνεῖναι καὶ τοῖς ὀνόμασιν), εἴτε τοῦ πολυειδοῦς τῆς εὐεργεσίας πολλὰς καὶ τὰς κλήσεις ἡμῖν δημιουργήσαντος. ∆ῶρον καλοῦμεν, χάρισμα, βάπτισμα, χρίσμα, φώτισμα, ἀφθαρσίας ἔνδυμα, λουτρὸν παλιγγενεσίας, σφραγῖδα, πᾶν ὅ τι τίμιον· δῶρον μὲν, ὡς καὶ μηδὲν προεισενεγκοῦσι διδόμενον· χάρισμα δὲ, ὡς καὶ ὀφείλουσι·

IV. Quemadmodum autem Christus, hujus doni datur, multis se diversis nominibus appellatur, ita ipsum quoque donum varia nomina sortitur : sive id nobis ob miram quamdam rei laetitiam accidat [et enim fere, ut qui rem aliquam impensissime amant, nomina quoque ipsa libenter usurpent]; sive quod multiplex hujus beneficii utilitas, multas quoque appellationes nobis pepererit. Donum vocamus, gratiam, baptismum, unctionem, illuminationem, incorruptionis indumentum, regenerationis lavacrum, sigillum, ac denique excellentissimo quovis nomine appellamus. Donum dicitur, quia iis, qui nihil prius contulerunt, datur; gratia, quia etiam debentibus ;

Notes:

  • Greek text as found at Documenta Catholica Omnia starting at line [00031]
  • λουτρὸν παλιγγενεσίας, “the washing of regeneration” (Titus 3:5; comp. Ephesians 5:26; and see Acts 2:38, note). See BibleHub for more info.
  • “Gift” is specifically mentioned here as ∆ῶρον. Gregory doesn’t use χάρισμα with this intent or a synonym. He groups it with other religious symbols as part of the names of which Christ has given to us, and we in part reflect this same giving– χάρισμα being one of them. In Gregory’s thinking, this excludes the idea of χάρισμα being gift but something close. I think expression of one’s gratitude with your life and talents is closer. In short expression works better in this passage.

Conclusion

An etymology of χάρισμα through the eyes of the Church Fathers is one aspect of an important word used by Paul in I Corinthians. There is more to come on this controversial, difficult, and complex word.

Footnotes

  1. Well, not really Athanasius. These ones are mistakingly attributed to him. However, they still have important value
  2. https://academic.mu.edu/phil/jonesj/courses/P222/Nazianzen_PovertySermon.pdf

Leave a Comment