Fifth-Century Basil of Seleucia on Pentecost

This is part of the series of speaking in tongues according to the ancient church writers. The focus here is an English translation of one of Basil of Seleucia’s homilies on Pentecost. Basil of Seleucia was the bishop of a region titled, Seleucia in Isauria – today a south central Turkish coastal town known as Silifke.

No commentary is provided here. The reader is to decide his understanding of Pentecost from the English translation provided below.

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

Basil of Seleucia. A Select Homily on Pentecost

As it transpired in the past; and the flame was flickering upon mount Sinai and Moses was being taught about establishing the framework of the Law in the midst of the fire. Now then from the highest place a fire was kindling a flame, running above the apostles heads. Moses at that time is the one who set the Laws for the Hebrews in motion for the salvation of the nations. For this reason the memory of the ancient wonder is being mixed together for new things, and once more the fire is being aroused in the same semblance of the exhibitions, that those things in the present times are believed to be about the one and the same God. For that reason it is the fashioning of divided languages so that it would make those who are receiving this, teachers. So that those moved in the midst of the fire, were authorized as masters of the inhabited world.

For in the past, one voice and also one language rules over all, the audacity of the tower brought on division, and a struggle of languages that ensued, brought to an end the war against heaven. And innumerable languages, with myriads of sounds thoroughly frightened, and nevertheless they did not find the one sound heard, because they were not in agreement on the singular voice. But a single language was diced apart, and divided the minds, and a dissolved language restrained the hands. Now, on the other hand, the gift has synthesized the divided tongues upon the mouth into each one the specific language. The outward grace extends the boundaries of the master, and births the many roads of faith.

O incredible wonders! The Apostle was speaking and an Indian was being instructed. A Hebrew was uttering a sound, and a foreigner being educated. The sound of grace being made known, and the hearer understanding the word. Goths were recognizing the sound. The Ethiopians recognized the language. Persians were marveling upon this one speaking, and who was teaching foreign nations by the agency of one language. How much the nature was enlarged for the various races, so great the outward grace was being richly adorned with languages. On this account then the nature of the fire, which is dividing, is multiplying exponentially the work, for a stream of light is the richness of the gift. By all means the nature of the fire which was kindled was not seen to diminish, but the impartation is growing. Thus, the gift being poured forth is multiplying the river. In fact the one torch-fire is in the process of kindling infinite yellow-flames, and demonstrates that all these things are arranged with luminous wonders. And the light of the torches is not passing away. In this way the gift of the Spirit crosses over from one to the other, and fills those, and from these proceeds to the others.

On this account the gift comes at that moment upon the apostles first, and among these as if the gift had seized the Acropolis and flows to the believers. All are being filled and it does not stop the streams of the gift. Therefore, the language of fire was lighting upon. Additionally, each disciple was a vessel of innumerable languages, and they were loquaciously speaking to those present, and these people debate about the teachers prize. And those present were spectators of the wonder. And the multitude of hearers, who have been divided by the nation, was not lacking, because with the words in the local vernaculars belongs the apostle’s persuading language. For even as having been immersed in things, these are receiving the sound by the touch of the fire. The knowledge they grasped was instantaneous. And a faith that was being explained, and a gift that was astonishing, and a God that was made known. ■

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