The Epiphanius Text on the Tongues of Corinth in English

A translation of the text attributed to the fourth century Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis, regarding the problem tongues of Corinth. As translated from the Greek with assistance from a later Latin text:


Schol. 13 and 21. Marcion mistakenly added: “according to the Law,” with, “But I wish to speak five words in the Church with my mind”.

Refut. 13 and 21. Therefore languages are from a grace of the Spirit. Of what kind does the Apostle speak? He knew how not only the different Hebrew sounds, and manifold expressions in every single word with skills adorned with eloquence, but also the proud language of the Greeks; some who boast the ability to speak Attic, Aeolic, and being able to utter the language of the Dorics, of whom had caused the disturbances, and factions within the Corinthians, to which the Epistle was dispatched.

And he agreed that it is a spiritual grace to proclaim and to teach the Law in the Hebrew words.

Not only this but he had in this instance put those others of the boastful language of the Greeks into their place. He said that he speaks more languages than them, because he distinctly was a Hebrew of Hebrews, having been educated himself at the feet of Gamaliel, of which he was placing the writings of the Hebrews in praises, and shows being favors of the gifts of the Spirit. On which account he writes these things to Timothy, he was saying, that “you have learned from youth the sacred Scriptures”.1 And indeed expands (from here), he was likewise affirming the equivalent things to those undertaken by the Greek poets and rhetorics, saying, “I speak in tongues more than you all”2 in order that it would show him to have been endowed with superior experience than the education of the Greek establishment. And indeed his style points him out to be imbued in education3 that while preaching the Gospel to the Athenians with wisdom, not even the Epicureans and the Stoics were able to match. These ones being refuted on account of the eloquence by him, in regards to the altar’s writing which contained a reading entitled, “to the unknown God,” when having been clearly read by him and immediately a clarification had been specified, “ What you worship without knowing, I announce this to you.”4 and (refuted them) again, the following declaration, “A certain prophet of their own said:”

“Cretans always lie, wicked beasts, slothful bellies.”5

In order that he should point out Epimenides who being the ancient philosopher, and founder of the idol in Crete from whom also Callimachus the Libyan who conveyed witness to this himself, concerning the falsehood about Jove saying:

“Cretans always lie. And the grave, O great King, the Cretans have built for you. But you do not die. You are everlasting.”

Now you see how the holy Apostle relates through the agency of languages. “But I wish five words in the Church with my mind,” That is to say with interpretation “to declare.” Just as the prophet brings to the light those things that have been supplied to the mind in the Holy Spirit, it benefits those listening through the office of prophecy. Thus it says, I wish to speak for the hearing and encouragement of the Church, not having acted as a guru that is building oneself up through an arrogance of Greek and indeed Hebrew, and consequently not the Church with respect to a language in which it understands.

For you, O Marcion, have added this: “according to the Law,” as though it is the Apostle writing: “I wish five words in the Church according to the Law.” Be ashamed, a second Babylon and a new confusion of Sodom. How long are you going to confound the languages? How long will you continue to contend against those who are harmed nothing by you? For you seek to subjugate angelic powers, throwing the words of truth from the Church out, saying to holy Lot, “Bring out the men.”6 As a result the thing which you endeavour, you endeavour against yourself. You will not toss away the words of truth, but will impose yourself into blindness, and you tarry in the darkest7 night, groping for the door, and not finding until the sun is to be brought up and you are to see the day of judgement, in which the fire is to meet with your falsehood. As you see, this is expected for you. For it is not ordained by the Apostle “According to the Law,” but this is added by you. Because if the Apostle said, “According to the Law,” he was to speak agreeably with his Lord, He did not come in order to abolish the Law, but that he should fulfill.8

Schol. 14 and 22. It was written in the Law, “In foreign tongues and lips I will speak to this people.”9

Refut. 14 and 22. If the Lord did not fulfill what had been foretold in the Law, what use was the Apostle recalling those things are being fulfilled from the Law in the New Covenant? In which way the Saviour also showed, that he was (the embodiment of) this himself, and spoken in the Law at that time, and outlined by a threat, saying to them, “On which account I am offended with this generation,” and he said, “they always err in the heart.” And, “I have sworn, if they will enter into my rest.”10 Therefore he declared the intention to speak in foreign languages to them, as he also has spoken. They (the people) never came. For this matter is found speaking to his disciples: “To you it has been given the mysteries of the kingdom.”11 “For [I speak] to these ones in parables that while seeing, they do not see,” etc.12 And so everywhere in the New Covenant has been fulfilled from the Old, it is in all clearness, not another God and a different one [for each covenant] but the two Covenants are combined together of the same one.


  1. II Timothy 3:15
  2. I Corinthians 14:18
  3. προπαιδείᾳ,
  4. Acts 17:23
  5. Titus 1:12
  6. Genesis 19:5
  7. ἐζοφωμένῃ Latin has: densissima.
  8. Matthew 5:17
  9. Isaiah 28:11
  10. Psalms 95:10, this is reduced from the typical Septuagint: <span class=ὡς ὤμοσα ἐν τῇ ὀργῇ μου as I swore in my wrath
  11. Matthew 13:11
  12. Matthew 13:13

4 thoughts on “The Epiphanius Text on the Tongues of Corinth in English”

  1. I truly admire what you are doing with this research on tongues. My question to you is. Have you tried looking at tongues as the receiving of the spirit as opposed to the gift of the spirit. The prophets spoke as moved by the spirit, not the indwelling. Christians today speak when they receive salvation which I feel has direct correlation to the prophets of old. As Moses spoke prophetically; “would God that all the Lords people were prophets and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them. Num 11:29. What do you think?

    • The expectation of speaking at tongues at conversion or as a sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a tongues doctrine unique to the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements starting in the twentieth-century.
      The Epiphanius text refers to the Gift of the Spirit in Corinthians alone. His assertion was that the Gifts of the Spirit in Corinthians was an entirely human enterprise. It was a problem of the ancient Jewish liturgy of speakers and readers utilizing Hebrew as a religious language and which Greek language ought to be the principal language of the translation: Attic, Ionic, or Doric.
      The Pentecostal tongues found in the Book of Acts is an entirely different phenomenon. The ancient writers believed it to be an immediate supernatural endowment of a foreign language. Some believed this only a temporary phenomenon, while most believed it still existed. Throughout the annals of christian history, this miracle was perceived to occur and many written accounts exist. Nevertheless, it was not an everyday or widespread practice. No ancient literature has been found that contains an expectation that new believers would speak in tongues at the time of conversion or as a natural outcome of being in a state of ecstasy (an older christian definition similar to the baptism in the Holy Spirit).

  2. Wow! Thank you so much for this wonderful work. I pray the Holy Spirit guide and direct your efforts for the building up of the body of Christ Jesus…😁. God’s Peace!

  3. “For you, O Marcion, have added this: ‘according to the Law,’ as though it is the Apostle writing: ‘I wish five words in the Church according to the Law.’”
    Epiphanius is too full of himself to think how Marcion who he and other patristic writers before him accuse of throwing away the Old Testament completely would want to change “according to intelligence” “to according to the law”!
    Now “according to intelligence” would be perfectly fine with Marcion, who opposed the Law just as Paul did or even more than Paul did.
    But IF “according to the law” was the original reading, as in it was sarcastic: “I’d rather preach the law than jibberish” as in “I Paul who oppose circumcision would rather preach circumcision than preach in jibberish tongues!”
    Well then it would be the OT-accepting Catholics who would change the text in order to blunt that sarcasm against the Law and would give us instead “according to intelligence.”
    Its also possible that the reading “according to the Law” is like a backtranslation from Syriac into Greek in some Eastern region, wherein “law” was meant as “instruction”: “I would rather speak according to instruction than jibberish.”
    There are a lot of possibilities, but that Marcion created the reading “according to the law” is the least plausible of them all.


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