Monthly Archives: December 2011

Bede on the Problem of 1 AD

“The Venerable Bede Translates John” by James Doyle Penrose (1862-1932)

The Venerable Bede on reconciling ancient calendars and how he thought our 2 B.C. should really be 1 A.D.

Bede convincingly argued that our present 1 A.D. was incorrect by three years. He uncovers the fuzzy Church logic between 550 and 650 A.D. that made this error and subsequently has caused calendar headaches ever since.

The Venerable Bede was an eighth century monk who made a decisive effort to collect all the calendar systems he knew about, whether historic or contemporary to his time, and reconcile them into one dating system. This endeavour sounds easy by today’s standards, but was a massive undertaking during his time.

If any discussion revolves around the development of the yearly calendar system, his writings should be consulted. This study focuses on his works as it relates to Christ’s birth but other pertinent dates fall in as well.

How did he arrive at this conclusion? He did it through comparing different calendar systems and then developing two new time systems – one of them closely parallels the A.D. system in use today.

De Temporibus Liber and De Temporum Ratione.

Bede greatly pondered about time systems and wrote two books on the subject: De Temporibus Liber which is known in English as the The Book of Times and De Temporum Ratione, On the Reckoning of Time.

De Temporibus Liber, the first publication completed in 703, acknowledged the traditional Anno Mundi medieval dating system. The Anno Mundi system was based on totalling the ages of all the patriarchs listed genealogically in the Greek Bible and that was how the age of the world was arrived at. He did attempt to correct the imperfections of this system, finding that the Septuagint (Greek Bible) dated the ages of the patriarchs considerably longer than the Hebrew version. Bede preferred the Hebrew dates over the Septuagint, though the Greek was the standard for measuring time. To argue or change such an equation would be controversial. In order not to be in dispute with Church authority, he entered a Hebrew date with the Greek as an alternative. For example: Continue reading Bede on the Problem of 1 AD

Thomas Aquinas on the Doctrine of Tongues: Conclusion

Answers to the christian doctrine of tongues from the writings of Thomas Aquinas.

Thomas Aquinas

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Aquinas’ aspects of the miracle of tongues in Church history and practice
    • The tongues of Pentecost and Corinth
    • The miracle of speaking over that of hearing
    • The merging of prophecy with speaking in tongues
    • Tongues in the thirteenth-century church liturgy
    • What he meant by unknown tongues
  • Conclusion

Introduction

Aquinas was an immensely influential theologian, teacher, writer, speaker, philosopher and more during the thirteenth-century. His ability to combine Greek philosophy, the intellect, the Bible, Christian principles, especially from a mystical viewpoint, and the use of a diverse library of ecclesiastical writers, creates a rich array of works written by him. His coverage of the gift of tongues combines many of these wide-ranging abilities.

Aquinas lived in an age of heightened christian mysticism and his intellectual inquiry is mixed with mystic elements. If he lived today, he would appeal to an intellectual pentecostal or charismatic audience. He sets the standard high for mystic christianity and in many areas, exceeds the current pentecostal and charismatic theologies. These are still in the development stage whereas Aquinas and his world had built a stable framework.

He wrote considerably on the tongues issue. One of his works on the subject, Summa Theologica, is popularly available in English, but not well understood. Other works, such as his Lectures on Corinthians, has not been available in English, nor critically examined until now. Both an English translation on the topic, along with the Latin original are available by going to this link: Thomas Aquinas and the Doctrine of Tongues Intro.

The tongues of Pentecost and Corinth

It was clear from Aquinas’ texts that the apostles speaking in tongues was a miraculous endowment of every human foreign language, both in speaking and understanding. He made this clear in Summa Theologica:

“It was more fitting that they should speak in all tongues, because they pertained to the perfection of their knowledge, whereby they were able not only to speak, but also to understand what was said by others. . . .Hence a gloss says on Acts 2:6 that “it was a “greater miracle that they should speak all kinds of tongues.”(1) Summa Theologica. IIa IIae q. 176 a. 1 The “Summa Theologica” of St. Thomas Aquinas. Literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Second and Revised Edition. 1920.

On the other hand, he viewed the Corinthian Church problem as a linguistic one of regular human proportions. He theoretically taught the tongues of Corinth was initially directed at unbelieving Jews to bring them to belief, “his was a sign specifically given for the conversion of the Jewish people”.(2) Lectures on I Corinthians 14:18-22 He devoted much more text in practical terms which reference to the Church of his time. He explained unknown tongues was about speaking in a language that other people didn’t understand. There are a number of examples but this one is the most succinct:

But in Corinth because they were curious, they were more cheerfully wanting this gift than the gift of prophecy. Because it is now being said here to speak in a tongue, the Apostle means in an unknown language, and not having these things explained, as if he was to speak in the German tongue to some Gallic [person] and the result that it is not explained, this is speaking in a tongue. From whence all speech having not been understood nor explained, no matter what it is, is specifically speaking in a tongue.(3) Lectures on I Corinthians 14:1-4

The miracle of speaking over that of hearing

Aquinas was well aware of the different interpretations on the doctrine of tongues, including the one voice being emitted and being understood in the native tongue of the listener. This was an interpretation that had been lingering and debated since at least the fourth-century.(4) See Gregory Nazianzus on the Doctrine of Tongues for more information. He did not agree with this position and clearly supported the traditional interpretation of those divinely inspired to speak in foreign languages. He pointed this out in his Lectures on I Corinthians:

Paul says, “I give thanks, etc.,” and not that they were to understand that all were speaking in one language. He says, “I speak with all your tongues,” “The Apostles were speaking in a variety of languages,”(5) Lectures on I Corinthians 14:18-22

And in Summa Theologica:

“Reply to Objection 2. “It was more fitting that they should speak in all tongues, because they pertained to the perfection of their knowledge, whereby they were able not only to speak, but also to understand what was said by others. …Hence a gloss says on Acts 2:6 that “it was a “greater miracle that they should speak all kinds of tongues.””(6) Summa Theologica. IIa IIae q. 176 a. 1 The “Summa Theologica” of St. Thomas Aquinas. Literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Second and Revised Edition. 1920.

He even goes so far as to quote a gloss on Gregory Nazianzus that the Apostles had the ability understand all tongues.

Aquinas was well aware of the different theories on the tongues of Pentecost and its aftermath. This is especially prominent in his writings found in Summa Theologica where he outlined a number of different positions.

  1. The apostles were given the ability speak but did not have knowledge of all the languages.
  2. The Apostles spoke in Hebrew and everyone heard in their own language.
  3. Christ did not and the present faithful do not speak in more than one language. Therefore, the disciples didn’t speak in all languages either.

He countered these three with:

  • 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. The later leaders would have access to interpreters which the first generation did not.
  • The gift of tongues was restricted for teaching the faith. It did not extend to speaking about acquired sciences like math or geometry.
  • They spoke and understood all languages. If it was a miracle of hearing, it would be much harder to substantiate as a miracle.
  • The gift of tongues had shifted from the individual to the corporate church. He quotes Augustine on this.

The merging of prophecy with speaking in tongues

The emphasis of Aquinas clearly rests on combining prophecy with speaking in tongues. The Aquinas text stated over 21 times in his Lecture on I Corinthians 14 about the “the excellency of the gift of prophecy over the gift of tongues.” He ended the discussion on tongues in Summa Theologica in like manner. In almost every instance the wording is slightly different but has the same intention.

On would first conclude the overuse of prophecy indicates that he did not fully comprehend the Corinthians tongues passages as to exactly what was happening in this first-century Church. However, this is not the case after a closer look at his definition of prophecy.

It is important to understand Aquinas’ definition because the prophecy- tongues relationship becomes a very important part of nineteenth-century studies on the christian doctrine of tongues. Aquinas’ is the first modern writer to make this association, though there are earlier parallels that weren’t so distinct like the fourth-century writings attributed to Cyril of Alexandria.

This relationship can be found outlined in Summa Theologica, where he taught that:

  • Tongues is about words and physically retelling what one sees or hears. It doesn’t necessarily mean the person interpreting is required to understand the meaning.

  • Prophecy is not just words and retelling, though this is a part of it. Prophecy enlightens the mind so as to understand the meaning. This is why Aquinas uses to interpret as an act of prophecy. He has interpretation broken into two categories. The first one being the literal translation with no regards to the meaning. This is reserved for the office of tongues. The second one is translating and understanding the meaning. This is the office of prophecy.

Further information can be found in reading his Lectures on I Corinthians 14:5-12.

For the gift of tongues with an interpretation is better than prophecy because as it has been written, the interpretation of whatsoever difficulty relates to prophecy. Therefore, the one who speaks and interprets is a prophet and the one who has the gift of tongues and interprets [does so] in order for the Church to be built up.(7) Lectures on I Corinthians 14:5-12

And a short while later:

The interpretation of speeches is reducible to the gift of prophecy, inasmuch as the mind is enlightened so as to understand and explain any obscurities of speech arising either from a difficulty in the things signified, or from the words uttered being unknown, or from the figures of speech employed.”(8) Lectures on I Corinthians 14:5-12

He believed that Paul would have joined tongues with the gift of prophecy when he paraphrased I Corinthians 14:14:

“I said that the gift of tongues without the gift of prophecy has no value.”(9) Lectures on I Corinthians 14:13-17

Aquinas understood intellectual and divine comprehension as separate faculties. The ability to understand through supernatural means was to be infused in two ways: revelation and prophecy. A sudden divine infusion was called a revelation. A progressive infusion that came bit by bit or pieces over an extended period is called prophecy. Learning through natural means was called knowledge and a concept, idea or thought being related by another person was called teaching.(10) Lectures on I Corinthians 14:5-12

Tongues in the thirteenth-century church liturgy

The Lectures on I Corinthians 14 identified the role of tongues in the Church liturgy. He attested to both the history behind the liturgy and what the Church of his day practiced. With the first, all Churches, regardless of their linguistic background practised the Church liturgy in Latin:

But why do they [the priests] not give the blessing in the common [tongue], that they may be understood by the people and adhere themselves more to them? It has been said that this had been done in the early church, but afterwards, the faithful ones were taught and knew what they heard in the common office, the benedictions take place in Latin”(11) Lectures on I Corinthians 14:5-12

The text also recognizes and points out that benedictions was an old one adopted from the early Church. Aquinas goes on to state that public reading too was important. The emphasis was on reading or chanting the Latin. He associates this with speaking in tongues. The reader was obligated do it with proper pronunciation as is documented below:

It is the same to speak in tongues and to speak clearly enunciating [the Latin words] to such a degree for the uneducated. Since then everyone is to speak clearly enunciating in the Church, that all is being said in Latin. It appears that it is madness in the same way. One ought to say to this: Madness existed in the early Church on that account because they were unacquainted in the custom of the Church, consequently they were ignorant of what they should do here unless it was to be explained to them. But certainly in the present all have been educated. Although from this point everything is being spoken in Latin, they still know what is taking place in the Church.(12) Lectures on I Corinthians 14:23-26

R. Anthony Lodge described that Latin during this period was rigorously enforced on the grounds of pronunciation and usage:“Although written Latin had remained homogenous, the pronunciation of spoken Latin had come to vary considerably from one part of Europe to another. How was spoken Latin to be unified as part of the movement to promote the cohesion of the Carolingian state? It was decided that Latin pronunciation should be firmly anchored to spelling and that when Latin was read out it should be pronounced litteraliter, ‘sounding every letter’, without accommodating the speaker’s pronunciation of local phonology as had traditionally happened in Romance-speaking regions.”(13) French, from dialect to standard. By R. Anthony Lodge. Pg. 91

The connection is then made by Aquinas that the public readings originally came from the office of tongues in the early Church, which originally was lifted from the Mosaic Law and it has evolved since then to a formal Church rite.

“In the mouth of two or three, etc..” (Deuteronomy 17:6) but it must be noted that this habit for the most part is being served in the Church for we have the [public] readings and the epistles and also the gospels in the place of tongues, and for that reason it follows in Mass two are being delivered, because only two are being said whose antecedent is to the gift of tongues, specifically the epistle and the gospel. Accordingly, in Matins many are done, in fact you say three readings in one. For in the former times they used to read a nocturn the next three night watches separately. Now however they are being spoken at the same time but on the other hand the procedure is not only to be preserved in regard to the number of those who are speaking but as well in regards to the way [it is done].(14) Lectures on I Corinthians 14:27-33

He identifies in his time that the office of tongues had changed into public readings of the Epistles and Gospels alternating by two in one instance to three in the other. It was read in Latin on a regular basis. Whether this is daily or weekly rite, Aquinas does not make clear. At present, the Catholic Church practices it this way, “On Sundays and solemnities, three Scripture readings are given. On other days there are only two.”(15) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_(liturgy) There have been many arguments over the centuries on how the office of tongues died since the early Church but many writers had failed to see it had evolved. Whether they disagreed with this evolution is another question but they failed to realize this existence in their conclusions.

What he meant by unknown tongues

Another important theme that Aquinas addressed was the use of unknown tongues. This is the earliest Latin usage found so far in Ecclesiastical literature as it relates to tongues. It predates the tongues controversy that erupted during the Reformation 300 years later. This term unknown tongues was a cornerstone of the Protestant revolt against the Catholic Church and was a political instrument infused in Protestant English Bibles. (16)For more information on this see Uncovering the Unknown of the Unknown Tongues. The important part here is to find out what he meant by it. As previously quoted:

. . .the Apostle means in an unknown language, and not having these things explained, as if he was to speak in the German tongue to some Gallic [person] and the result that it is not explained, this is speaking in a tongue. From whence all speech having not been understood nor explained, no matter what it is, is specifically speaking in a tongue.”(17) Lectures on I Corinthians 14:1-4

and also:

“Preachers have become accustomed to preserve that way when they are to preach to men of an unknown tongue by means of an interpretation.”(18) Lectures on I Corinthians 14:27-33

Unknown tongues, which is the English equivalent of lingua ignota, simply means to Aquinas a foreign language which the hearer is not experienced or familiar with. There was nothing mystical to it.

Conclusion

Thomas Aquinas believed that the gift of tongues had merged with the public reader and no longer had an office. This was reinforced when he stated that those who originally spoke in tongues needed a supernatural aid because they did not have access to interpreters or other tools to go out into the world and preach to the nations. Christianity after this initial thrust acquired those natural tools to sustain the message and therefore the miracle of tongues was no longer necessary. He also agreed with Augustine that the gift had transferred from the individual to the corporate church. If he was asked if tongues-speaking in the church had died, he would answer no. He would proceed to explain that this is the duty of the church now. Pentecost is still alive and active seeing that the church is speaking in all the languages of the world the message of salvation.

Aquinas holding of Augustine’s position of the gift switching from the individual to the corporate has a basis in the historic church – though it was never a universal one. Later medieval catholicism works do not adhere to such a policy. In fact, Pope Benedict XIV in the eighteenth-century did a major work on defining speaking in tongues. The Pope’s work was done to clarify the process for those individuals promoted for sainthood. An investigation for sainthood requires a proven miracle, and speaking in tongues was on the list. A few individuals and controversially, Francis Xavier, were considered for sainthood for producing this. Pope Benedict did refer to Aquinas, but ignores his argument on the transition of the gift of tongues from an individual to a corporate entity.

From reviewing all of Aquinas’ texts, he was not aware of any argument that represented a heavenly, ecstatic or prophetic language. This doctrine was a later development.

This is the end on the series of Thomas Aquinas on the miracle of Tongues. Aquinas was clearly not silent on the issue. He had much to write on the topic and is in the middle time line of the ever evolving tongues doctrine. He is a reference for the past, a source for the most major change in the tongues movement and an icon for the future development. All these features are represented in his writings.

For more information on the complete articles and translation of this series, please click on the following link: Thomas Aquinas on the Doctrine of Tongues Intro.

References   [ + ]

Aquinas on Tongues: ICor 14:27-33

A translation of Thomas Aquinas on I Corinthians 14:27-33 from the Latin into contemporary English.

Translated from the Latin text: Reportationes 088 R1C cp 14 Pg. 390 lc6

I Corinthians 14:27 – 33


The Apostle maps out here how they ought to conduct themselves in regards to the gift of tongues. In respect to this, he does it in two ways. With the first he shows in which they ought to utilize the gift of tongues. With the second when they ought to cease from [its] use. In that place it says, “But if there will be no [interpreter], etc..” he then says, with the first, that the manner in which the gift of tongues ought to be applied is to be such among you that “If any,” which is if someone should speak in a tongue, that is he is going to narrate visions or dreams, of such things, a speech probably cannot be done by many on account of the occupation of time in tongues and no place remains for the prophets and generates confusion but, “Let it be by two,”(1) Douay-Rheims that is by two persons, and if necessary it ought to have been done according to “the most three,” that it should be enough at three.

“In the mouth of two or three, etc..” (Deuteronomy 17:6) but it must be noted that this habit for the most part is being served in the Church for we have the [public] readings and the epistles and also the gospels in the place of tongues, and for that reason it follows in Mass two are being delivered, because only two are being said whose antecedent is to the gift of tongues, specifically the epistle and the gospel. Accordingly in Matins many are done, in fact you say three readings in one. For in the former times they used to read a nocturn the next three night watches separately. Now however they are being spoken at the same time but on the other hand the procedure is not only to be preserved in regard to the number of those who are speaking but as well in regards to the way [it is done]. And this is what he says, “and through sharing,”(2) I Corinthians 14:27 “et per partes” that is in order that those who are speaking are to follow in turns with one another, a fact that one is to speak after another, or “through sharing,” that is interrupted, specifically that one is to speak on part of a vision or of instruction and is to explain it, and afterwards another and explains the very thing being shared and so follows one after another. Preachers have become accustomed to preserve that way when they are to preach to men of an unknown tongue by means of an interpretation.(3)”interpretationem” The Elementary Lewis Latin dictionary says that it can also mean translation. The Aquinas text is stating that the preacher would speak to foreigners which would require a translation And for that reason it says, “Let one interpret.”(4)Only one interpret so as to not cause any confusion as he result he says, “if there will not be available, etc.,” he shows when it is not to be practiced with tongues, saying that the one who is about to speak is through sharing and the one ought to interpret but, “if there will not be available,” anyone [who is an], “interpreter,” that is who understands, [then] those who have the gift of tongues, “are to keep silent in the Church,” that is he(5) Men are only to speak in the Church, not women so this is gender correct for this time period. is not to speak because he himself understands and this silence is to be manifested in prayer or in meditation. “I will speak in the bitterness of my soul, I will speak to God, etc.,”(6) Douay-Rheims (Job 10:1). “on the other hand the prophets two [or three let them speak], etc.,” The apostle is setting out here for them as to how they ought to conduct themselves with respect to the use of prophecy. In regards to this he does two things. With the first he shows in which way prophecy is to be utilized also in respect to the number and to the order [of things]. With the second he shows to whom the use of prophecy is being prohibited. In which place it says, “the women in the Church [let them keep silent], etc.,” In regards to the first he does three things. With the first he points out the order by which the gift of prophecy ought to be applied. With the second he applies a reason regarding this, where it says, “for you can all [prophecy], etc..” With the third he removes and objection where it says, “the spirits of the prophets [are subject to the prophets], etc..” With the first he defines the number of those using the appointed gift. With the second he points the manner or order by which it ought to be utilized where it says, “But if any thing [be revealed to another sitting], etc.,”(7) Douay-Rheims In regards to the first it is noted that the use of prophecy [is] according to what the apostle seems to grasp here. It is to forward the word of encouragement to the people, by which [the word] clarifies the sacred Scriptures. Because also there was in the early Church many who possessed this gift from God and the faithful were not yet multiplied, but confusion and weariness did not exist, the apostle wishes that all who are qualified to explain the prophecies and the sacred Scripture are to prophecy, but also to those ones who have been designated. And this is what he says, “the prophets [two or three let them speak], etc.,” as if he was saying: “I do not wish that everyone who comes together [prophecy]” but “two” only or at most, “three” as the need requires for one to perform as a speaker, “let them speak,” that is they are to encourage and furthermore this is designed to agree to Scripture. “In the mouth of two or three [witnesses every word may stand],”(8) Douay-Rheims. The Aquinas text also has “supra xvii, v. 6” which normally would mean “see I Corinthians 17:6” but there is no such chapter. Larcher ignores this reference and I agree with him and follow suit. (Matthew 18:16).

“However the others,”(9) “Caeteri vero,” whereas the Vulgate has just “ceteri”. namely those who do not gain [from it] “let them judge,” them who are being put forward by these demonstrations, specifically whether good or bad may have been said: what good has been said can result in commendation, and what bad has been said can result in causing one to retract [the statement]. See I Corinthians 2:15 “the spiritual man is to judge everything.” On the other hand it is the order which is being observed in the designated gift which is waiting to be used, that if one of those who were sitting and remain silent, and they judge, had made some better revelation than those who were encouraging are currently standing in front, now those who are standing ought to sit and him to whom is a better revelation ought to rise and encourage. And this is what he said, “But if anything,” to the one sitting “has been revealed” in fact by the holy Spirit, “the prior” one standing, “let him keep silent” and grant him [the honor]. “come before one another in honor” (Romans 12:10). And it is for this reason because according to this way “you are able” as one who has submitted “to prophecy by one at a time,”(10) Aquinas text has “prophetare per singulos,”the Vulgate has “per singulos prophetare” that is everyone namely “that all,” that is the greater “may learn, and all” that is the lesser “may be encouraged.” “A wise man who hears [shall be wiser],” (Proverbs 1:5).

And if someone should say “O apostle, I cannot keep silent while another is to prophecy or yield to sitting from which I have become [stirred] because I cannot restrain the Spirit who speaks in me,” follow that with Job 4:2, “Who is able to hold words which have been conceived?” As a result the Apostle removes this when he says, “and the spirit of the prophets, etc.,” as if he is to say, on the contrary he can well be silent and sit down because, “the spirit of the prophets that is the spirit who gives the prophecies, and sets in plural with the number on account of the many revelations roused in him, “are subject to prophets” even in reference to knowledge. Because as Gregorius says that the spirit of prophecy is not always present to the prophets, from whom it is not a habit, as it certainly is with knowledge. In fact it [knowledge] was intended to follow in a different way, that furthermore in reference to knowledge, it would be subject to them, and they could have utilized it whenever they so desired, and not to have used [as well]. But [prophecy] it is a certain power or impression by God who illumines and touches the heart of the prophets, and then only when they are being touched in this way do they become aware. One arrives at the fact that he is not subject to them in the same way [as knowledge]. Neither is the word of the Apostle to be understood according to this, but the spirit of the prophets are subject to prophets in reference to the proclamation because in fact it is in their power when they want to pronounce or not to pronounce that which they are being shown to them. And so the excuse has no such value worth mentioning because the spirit does not compel that you are not able to keep silent.

And this is to be true, he demonstrates when he says, “for He [God] is not of dissension, etc.,” and he made so great a reason. God never compels to that from which a quarrel or conflict is to arise but peace. But if the spirit of prophecy was to compel men for the purpose of speaking, then it would be a cause of dissension, because they want so much to always speak or teach or to not keep another from speaking regarding things which others were likely being thrown into confusion. Therefore, the holy Spirit does not compel man to speak. “The God of peace and life will be with you, etc..”(11) Aquinas text has “dues pacis et dilectionis erit vobiscum,”the Vulgate has “Deus dilectionis et pacis erit vobiscum” But nevertheless because to this point one is able to object that he was not doing this, that he only mandated with those which he refers specifically to and not to other Churches, from which place also it can appear as an annoyance, therefore the Apostle supplies this is not only to them but also to be taught in every Church. And this is what he says, “as also I teach in all the churches of the saints, ”(12) Douay-Rheims. It is odd here that the Douay-Rheims follows something similar to the Aquinas text when the Vulgate is missing “doceo” “I teach.” specifically about the use of tongues and prophecy. (See I Corinthians 1:10) “that you all speak the same thing.”


This is the last significant reference to the doctrine of tongues in I Corinthians 14. Therefore, the rest of the chapter has been left untranslated.

For more information:

References   [ + ]