Monthly Archives: June 2012

Cyril of Alexandria on Tongues: Conclusion

Final thoughts on the texts attributed to Cyril of Alexandria about the doctrine of tongues.

A significant amount of time and labour has been spent on works attributed to Cyril of Alexandria on the Christian doctrine of tongues and for good reason. The Cyrillian coverage offers critical insights into the ancient practice of the gift of tongues within the earlier Church.

These works originate under the influence of the ancient city of Alexandria, Egypt, which gives these works particular significance. The language of the New Testament is Alexandrian Greek with a Semitic influence which means the influence of Alexandria on early Christianity is centrally important. Without Alexandria, there may no Gospel, or at least many of the principal theological traditions passed down through the generations.

It has been learned from this study that the writings credited to Cyril of Alexandria are not exactly correct. Portions are from Didymus of Alexandria. Which parts are Cyril’s and others Didymus’, we do not know, though for the most part it is Cyril. There also may be medieval editorial emendations too. Even though there remain unanswered questions of authorship, it accurately portrays a fifth-century account on the doctrine of tongues as understood and practiced in Alexandria, Egypt.

The results gleaned from these Alexandrian texts do not align with the contemporary Christian practice or liberal interpretations on the Christian doctrine of tongues. They offer different outcomes. Here are the findings.

The Commentary on Zephaniah clearly indicates that the Alexandrian author(s) believed it be speaking a foreign language. There was an emphasis in this commentary about the “changing of tongues,” that defined the speech as a miraculous endowment. Furthermore, those that received this blessing continued to have this power throughout their lives, but it did not persist after their generation. For more information and the actual copy of the Commentary on Zephaniah see Cyril of Alexandria on Tongues: Zephaniah.

The Fragment on Acts has some more clues. The work emphasizes that those who spoke at Pentecost did not know the languages beforehand. It was a spontaneous event. Experienced interpreters, according to the text, were not accustomed to such a display. The purpose of Pentectost was to speak in every language to every nation. The Gospel was not to be a local religion for Jews only, but a universal one. The work goes on to describe a negative aspect of this event. People used it to promote their own extravagance and self-promotion. The actual text can be found at Cyril of Alexandria on Tongues: Acts.

The Catena on I Corinthians had the most information, and the following was discovered.

  • The Corinthian problem of languages was viewed as a consequence of Pentecost. The Corinthian situation is not considered a separate entity. In making the Corinthian situation connected to Pentecost, it creates ethnic rivalries. If a disciple comes speaking in tongues for the purpose of rejuvenating the Jewish faith, then it leaves out the Gentile participants. This would be an untenable position.

  • When the disciples spoke at Pentecost, each one spoke a different language.

  • The Cyrillian text associated I Corinthians 14 with their itinerant preachers whose duty was to visit routinely Churches throughout the Alexandrian Church empire. This was a vast region that had a number of ethnic and language groups. The ability to speak in the various languages was a requirement for these preachers to teach and pray.1

  • Prayers and language held a central part of the Church life. Prayers required mastery and comprehension of more than one written language. Literacy was very low in this period. Some think as low as 5%. The congregation then was entirely dependent on trained leadership to teach through readings, memorization and instruction. The prayers in the Church were led by leaders called prefects — a ruler over monks, clergy, and bishops (ὁ ἡγουμένος).2

    If someone would speak or pray in the Church, whether priest, prefect, or the itinerant preacher, it would be in a high-priestly voice, similar to preachers who speak in King James English, old style Catholics who perform the liturgy in Latin, or the use of High-German in Mennonite Churches. What exactly was high-priestly language to them — was it liturgical Greek, or regular Coptic? It is not known.

    The important requirement of any Church leader speaking to an audience or any layperson was that the Skopos (σκοπὸς) had to understand what they were saying, or someone available that “sits near and interprets for the beginners.”3

    The Skopos played an important position within the Church. The Skopos was an overseer who was to test, examine, and approve everything that was spoken, or done. He was also to translate, but that was likely a later attribute.4

    There was a function in the Church that assisted the lay-people in understanding what the priests were saying, singing, or doing. A type of translator, but more of an intermediary. In the Corinthian text it is the anaplérôn ( ἀναπληρῶν), but in Alexandria it is the keimenos (κείμενος).

    The keimenos is a critical keyword and potentially unlocks the mystery tongues of Corinth. A complete article on this can be found by reading The Mysterious Anapleron of I Corinthians 14:16

    All messages that the keimonos explained to the people were to be concluded with an Amen.

    If the keimonos did not understand the language, or message being spoken, he would not be able to translate or explain on behalf of the laypeople, and therefore would not be able to say Amen.

    All of the references to Alexandrian Church structure; the itinerant preacher, the high priestly language and need for a mediary for the laypeople to understand, the Skopos, the Keimenos, the use of multiple languages, and the amen construct, have a connection with Paul’s coverage of I Corinthians 14. Granted this is 500 years later, and there was likely much evolution in this structure, but the shadows do exist.

  • The Catena on I Corinthians gives a different idea of prophecy and its relationship with languages. 14:2 and 5 covers the office of prophecy. It is more comprehensive than what most practicing Charismatics or Pentecostals offer today. The Alexandrian idea of prophecy was the ability to collate disparate data such as thoughts, words, ideas, dreams, language etc., and make sense out of them. It goes beyond the mechanics of translating or interpreting. Prophecy looks for the meaning behind the words, not just the words themselves. Therefore, prophecy was considered one of the highest forms of Christian practice.

The Cyrillian texts are totally oblivious to any Montanist influence on the tongues doctrine. Nor were there any attempt to write about the need for a subsequent spirit baptism or counter any movements teaching such a proposition. Nor were the Alexandrians aware of a private prayer language.

The Catena on I Corinthians borrows many Greek keywords from the ancient Greek prophetic realm. Some of them new to the tongues debate. However, they are not used in a classical way. They have become Christianized by this period. For more information, see Notes on the Cyrillian catena on I Corinthians 14:10.

This conclusion may seem subtle and boring, but it took a laborious amount of work to achieve. The discovery of the actual texts themselves was a challenge. They were found only in the original Greek, and the publications they were found in posed difficulties. Comparative work between different texts was required. The Alexandrian Greek requires a slow translation process as this vernacular has some peculiarities and unique vocabulary. Then there is the challenge to make cohesive sense out of all of them. Anyone who has visited this site over the years will see the narration of the doctrine of tongues is the one that has taken the longest to achieve. It is not an easy task for such a big project.

The reader does not have to take these conclusions at face value either. The original Greek Cyrillian texts can be found at Cyril of Alexandria on Tongues: The Original Texts. Or one can read the English translations and come up with a personal conclusion by going to the Gift of Tongues Project and scrolling down to the Cyril of Alexandria Category and clicking on the translation links.

Cyril of Alexandria on Tongues: I Corinthians 14:16 to 17

An English translation of the catena on I Corinthians 14:16-17 attributed to Cyril of Alexandria.

This translation is based on two texts. The Monte Athos edition, found in Philippus Pusey’s publication, is the one selected as the basis. This is due to it having more copy than the text found in Migne Patrologia Graeca. MPG was extensively analyzed and compared where both accounts are similar.

Translated from: Cyrilli Alexandrini. Cyrilli: Archiepiscopi Alexandrini In D. Joannis Evangelium. Edited by Philippus Edvardus Pusey. London: Oxford. 1872, Page 296

Else if you shall bless in the spirit{{36}}[[36]]τῷ πνεύματι instead of πνεύματι without the article. This is consistent with the Byzantine but not present in the Tischendorf edition. Results analyzed from[[36]] how will the one who makes the room of the laypeople understand say the “Amen”?{{37}}[[37]]This text is no different in the Cyrillian text from the Biblical one. However, I am translating it as the author(s) of this catena understood it. See the article, The ἀναπληρῶν of I Corinthians 14:16.[[37]]

When, it says, you are to speak{{38}}[[38]]λαλῇς[[38]], [and] the one who was appointed in the position of the laity, if he would have no knowledge of your voice, how will he appropriately supply{{39}}[[39]]πρσυπακούσεται[[39]] the Amen in their own thanksgivings or prayers? For that the custom of the Churches is to compose{{40}}[[40]]συγκαταλήγειν from the verb καταλήγειν which, according to Timothy J. Moore implies “delivery of poetic or other formalized texts in a mode approaching everyday speech.” He believes that oracles were communicated via καταλήγειν and were, ” usually in highly formal language and would have been pronounced with some melodic elaboration.” See by Timothy J. Moore. συγκαταλήγειν is not used outside of this text but I take this to mean to compose, recite, or speak together. [[40]] their voices{{41}}[[41]]τὰς The feminine accusative plural article does not have the noun that it is supposed to articulate. Nor is its antecedent entirely clear. The only logical antecedent would be from φωνὴν found in the first sentence of this paragraph. Therefore expanded, it should be τὰς φωνάς [[41]] under authority with the prayers of the prefects{{42}}[[42]]τῶν ἡγουμένων[[42]] together in all clarity. For these ones bring closure in their priestly voice, appropriately supplying the Amen with their own supplications to God, because it appears to be lacking in completion by the priests, it is to be finished in the meters of the common people, as if “[He has blessed them that fear the Lord] both small and great.{{43}}[[43]]παραδέχοιτο Latin: excipiat. Literally to receive, receive from, take out; remove; follow; receive; ward off, relieve; [[44]] in the unity of Spirit.

For these are common folk who join their own [voices]{{45}}[[45]]τὰς ἑαυτῶν — no noun here. See comment 40 for more information.[[45]] with the prayers of the priests, they believed that these are intended to be agreeable things. God calls to bring forth to the alter of the burnt sacrifices and needy offerings to the overseer, so that the little bit in the end mixed together, becomes acceptable to God.

For in all these things we are in the Lord. Therefore on this account when he says, you should speak in a language — for this is to bless in the spirit. The person [the overseer] did not have knowledge about what you would say, “How will he say the Amen in respect to his own blessing?{{46}}[[46]]The Greek text here is italics suggesting it is a Bible quotation πὼς ἐρεῖ τό Ἀμὴν ἐπι τῇ ἰδίᾳ εὐχαριστίᾳ ; but I do not see any manuscript with such wording. [[46]] For how can you rightly do it alone, namely existing inside your mind, nevertheless “the other is not built-up.” For it is in fact necessary that all should achieve which pertains to us towards the building up and profit of the brethren. ■

Unfortunately this catena abruptly cuts-off here, skipping verses 18-40, and the next portion references I Corinthians 15 — which addresses a different theme. There are no more remarks about the tongues doctrine after I Corinthians 14:17.

This is the last series of translations covering the works attributed to Cyril of Alexandria on the doctrine of tongues. A full synopsis of Cyril of Alexandria on tongues including commentaries, translations, and notes can be found at the Gift of Tongues Project menu. Scroll down to the Cyril of Alexandrian sub-category.

The mysterious anaplêrôn of I Corinthians 14:16

The mysterious anaplêrôn in the Corinthian Church.

The Apostle Paul referred to the word anaplêrôn as part of the highly controversial gift of tongues passage (I Corinthians 14:16). Discovering the historical meaning to this word may offer a significant clue that may work towards unlocking the meaning of the this problem text.

The tongues passage is an age-old mystery that has never been completely resolved. Some think Paul referred to heavenly speech, or a form of glossolalia, while others thing he assumes it to be religious ecstasy. Another alternative was that he referred to something that was a liturgical rite.

A closer look at the meaning of anaplêrôn suggests that it was liturgical. The dominant dictionaries, Latin text, Jewish, and a text attributed to Cyril of Alexandria point to it being an occupation — someone who would take the speech, whether foreign, high-priestly, specialized or articulate, and transfer it into a language that the common person would understand.

However, there is significant tension here to establish such a concept; contemporary English Bibles do not support such a reading of I Corinthians 14.

This requires further inquiry to resolve the problem. It is necessary to backtrack and look at the historical evidence in two ways; first of all to trace the development of how the Greek word anaplêrôn has been traditionally transmitted through the English Bible translation history, and why it is translated the way it is, and secondly, develop a more clearer picture what the word anaplêrôn really means through the extensive use of dictionaries and ecclesiastical literature.

English translations clearly demonstrate that there was no office of the anaplêrôn at all. It was used in an adjectival sense that describes the state or character of the layperson. Here are some examples of how anaplêrôn was translated.

  • King James Version (Cambridge ed): “how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen.”

  • New International Version (1984): “how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say “Amen”.”

  • New American Standard Bible (1995): how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the “Amen ”1

More recent translations have taken a less-literal approach to resolve this ambiguity:

  • New Living Translation (2007): “how can those who don’t understand you praise God along with you?

  • New International Version (2008): “how can an otherwise uneducated person say “Amen”.2

A closer look at the Greek unravels the mystery.

Ἀναπληρῶν is a participle based on the verb ἀναπληρόω. It is found in I Corinthians 14:16 as a present active masculine nominative singular. Some of the dictionaries support the English Bible translations, while others don’t.

  • Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek Lexicon supports the contemporary English translations.3 This is not a surprise as this dictionary specializes in classical Greek sources. It does not focus on Biblical or Patristic sources.

  • Sophocles’ Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine Periods, captures the spirit of the English translation and offers this as his definition. “Locum impleo to fill the place, occupy the room of anyone.”4

  • Lampe’s A Patristic Greek Lexicon is very general and it agrees with the English Bibles above, or to a lesser degree, it could be someone assisting the lay-person in understanding.5

The following dictionaries emphasize ἀναπληρῶν as someone assisting or attending to a layperson.

  • The Greek-Latin Dictionary, Stephanus’ Thesaurus Graecae Linguae, takes it as a person who helps complete a task. The ἀναπληρῶν is someone who completes, supplies, sometimes finishes, sits among the uneducated, and to satisfy the uneducated on the word.6

  • The Dictionnaire Grec-Française also agrees with Stephanus. The ἀναπληρῶν is someone who provides information such as missing words, stands in for someone else, and carries out a task.7

  • Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich-Danker’s (BAGD) “The Greek English of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature,” suggests that the above English translations are weak.8 It surmises that ἀναπληρῶν is a person or position that is replacing or representing those of the lay population. It is independent of τοῦ ἰδιώτου the layman. It should not be used as an adjective that further describes a layman because these are different entities.

Perhaps clues can be found from translations based on the Greek.

The Latin:

I Corinthians 14:16 according to the Latin Vulgate shows and important clue:

“qui supplet locum idiotae.”9 — He who supplies the place of the uneducated.

The Latin clearly makes the passage to mean that ἀναπληρῶν and τοῦ ἰδιώτου are two totally different entities. The ἀναπληρῶν is doing something on behalf of the τοῦ ἰδιώτου.

However, the Douay-Rheims English translation of the Latin tends to obscure this, “how shall he that holdeth the place of the unlearned say, Amen.”10 This may be the start of where the ambiguity began in the English translations.

The Syriac text was looked at to see if it offered any clues to the Greek. It offers no insights and follows the Greek text literally.

ܗܰܘ ܕ݁ܰܡܡܰܠܶܐ ܕ݁ܽܘܟ݁ܬ݂ܶܗ ܕ݁ܗܶܕ݂ܝܽܘܛܳܐ ܐܰܝܟ݁ܰܢܳܐ ܢܺܐܡܰܪ ܐܰܡܺܝܢ

“How can one who occupies the place of the unlearned say Amen.” (Translated by George Lamsa)11

Another text consulted was from the great theologian and scholar, Franz Deilitzsch, who translated the New Testament into Hebrew in the late 1800s.

הָעֹמֵד בְּמַצַּב הַהֶדְיוֹט אֵיךְ יַעֲנֶה אָמֵן 12

“How will he who stands in the position of the layman say amen.”

Deilitzsch didn’t seem to take any side to this. He seemed rather ambiguous.

There may have been a Hebrew connection to all of this.

Paul Tomson has proposed that the whole expression of ὁ ἀναπληρῶν τὸν τόπον τοῦ ἰδιώτου is the equivalent of the Jewish position of the שליח צבור Shaliach Tzibbur.13 A Hebrew-Roots based Christian website described this ancient position as this:

The shaliach tzibbur functions as the representative of the community who recites the prayers on behalf of the people. Some prayers are said by everyone, and some are recited aloud by the shaliach tzibbur, to which the congregation responds “Amen” (the chazzan (cantor) is specially trained in Jewish music (cantillation) and liturgy for this role).14

A traditional Jewish website finds the historical origins of the Shaliach Tzibbur unclear. It may be a second to fourth century one and not earlier. It would not apply to what Paul wrote.15

It is apparent from Paul’s words and grammar that ancient Jewish liturgical customs are interwoven in his work. The “Amen” construct that Paul used in I Corinthians 14:16 suggests that the expression ὁ ἀναπληρῶν τὸν τόπον τοῦ ἰδιώτου is representative of an office, but something earlier than the Shaliach Tzibbur.

The idiom actually may be the evolution of the Jewish office of the מתורגםן, Meturgeman.

The Jewish Encyclopedia describes it as this:

The weekly lesson from the Pentateuch and the Prophets was read by a member of the congregation, and the meturgeman had to translate into the vernacular the Pentateuchal lesson verse by verse; . . . He did not limit himself to a mere literal translation, but dilated upon the Biblical contents, bringing in haggadic elements, illustrations from history, and references to topics of the day.16

The Meturgamen died out as an active part of the Jewish liturgy around 1000 AD. Epiphanius described something potentially similar to the Meturgamen being practiced in the early Church; see A Translation of Epiphanius on the Tongues of Corinth for more information.

However, the Meturgamen, like the Shaliach Tzibbur, was an office that may not have existed during Paul’s time. It does suggest a more primitive form existed and this may be what the anaplêrôn identified with.

A strong clue can be found in the fifth century or later text attributed to Cyril of Alexandria. The writer believed the expression of the ἀναπληρῶν was an archaic way of explaining a function of the priest, prefect, or overseer to communicate in the language, thoughts, and speech that would be understood by a general audience.

The text described it as an office in the Church, ὅ γε μὴν ἐν τάξει τῇ τοῦ λαϊκοῦ κείμενος, “the one who was appointed in the position of the laity.”

The Cyril text would suggest an English translation this way; “how will the person who helps the audience of the laypeople understand say the “Amen”?” Or as a paraphrase, “how would the person who takes a thought, speech, language, or argument, and clearly explains it to the regular common folk articulate in a way that they understand, say the “Amen”?”

If the office of the anaplêrôn existed, what happened to it? The word itself is not found in any later writings referring to any type of Church functions.

Ancient Greek Dictionaries for Download

Locating and downloading ancient Greek dictionaries.

Thanks to the internet there is a vast array of ancient Greek dictionaries available for the translator. This was unheard of even 10 years ago. This speeds up the process of translating by a factor of at least 10 times.

These dictionaries are all old, and there are no copyright restrictions. Some are not English-Greek dictionaries, and the majority are in non-text searchable and large pdf files, but these are some of the best available today.

Sure, Perseus’ online Lidell and Scott Dictionary is the best for speed and easy access, no question. None of the other solutions come close to its speed and ability to enter a verb in whatever form, identify it, and find the root meaning.

One should always start here and if the word does not exist in this database, or the definition seems too narrow or some other problem, then it is time to go to the other dictionaries.

The weakness of Lidell and Scott’s Dictionary is its almost exclusive focus on classical words. It hardly delves into the realm of Ecclesiastical usage. Problem words, especially the Christian writers of Alexandria, Egypt, and those influenced by them are not represented by Lidell and Scott. One has to look elsewhere.

Perhaps there is a parallel Latin translation and one can find a quick solution, but sometimes even the Latin translators are finding the same difficulty and may skirt around the issue. The translator may even switch from static to dynamic mode, so one has to be careful with the Latin, though the majority of times it is very good.

The majority of these ancient dictionaries have been scanned by Google Books and is available at their Google Books website, but it’s often difficult to find them via their own search engine. So this is a quick alternative to finding and downloading such resources without the hassle. These are provided via a personal DropBox account.

A click on a link will start a download for browser viewing. Once that is complete, find the “Save Page As” in your browser menu and save the document to your hard drive.

There are many more ancient Greek dictionaries available at Google, but the ones listed here are used more frequently.

  • E.A. Sophocles’ Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine Periods. Memorial Edition. New York: Charles Scribner and Sons. 1900. This book is in my top three. Thanks to George Valsamis at for recommending this one.

  • Dictionnaire Grec-Française Paris: Garnier Frères, 1865.

  • A New Greek and English Lexicon; Principally on the plan of the Greek and German Lexicon of Schneider by James Donnegan. Boston: Hilliard, Gray and Co. 1836.

  • Lexicon graeco-latinum manuale ex optimis libris concinnatum. E.F. Leopold, ed. Lipsiae: Caroli Tauchnitii. 1852.

  • Cornelius Schrevel’s, Lexicon manuale Græco-Latinum et Latino-Græcum. Petrus Steele, ed. New York: Collins and Hannay. 1825.

  • Stephanus’ Θησαυρος της Ελληνικης Γλωσσης is part of a multi-volume series. The volumes listed below are not from the same publisher. There may be some inconsistencies between them. Also, some pages are missing scans.

    Θησαυρος της Ελληνικης Γλωσσης, a Greek-Latin dictionary, is over four hundred years old, but has yet to be surpassed in comprehensiveness. The typesetting and the structure of the earliest editions are difficult to follow, but the editions printed in the 1800s and later make it much easier to use. Only the editions 1800 or later are linked here. One can go on Google and find earlier versions.

    Almost every dictionary above owes its ancestry to Stephanus. Many simply are abbreviated forms, condensed, abridged, or anglicized versions based on this work.

    There is a rich history behind the Stephanus name and their contribution to Bible history. Θησαυρος της Ελληνικης Γλωσσης was spearheaded by Henri Estienne (also known as Henri Stephanus). This family’s history of publishing, collating manuscripts, and translating has had a major impact on the modern Bible, but hardly recognized.

    Some may ask, “what about Lampe’s Patristic Lexicon?” This one is a recent publication and does not qualify to be in any open source digital book library. Oxford University Press has not ported the printed version into any digital format yet either. has new ones listed from $304-578.00 US. The publisher has alienated a sizeable audience by its pricing and lack of digital availability. It is an OK dictionary, not as good as Stephanus’, and not worth the price. This pricing and availability may also put the book into a deep public slumber – a forgotten work that will sit quietly on a few dusty library bookshelves.

    For more complete information on how to utilize the Perseus digital library, and a more comprehensive listing of other resources, please go the section on dictionaries at the following article, Translation Tips on the Greek Church Fathers.