Monthly Archives: August 2012

Gregory Nazianzus' Oration 41:15-16 in the Greek

An attempt to make a source-Greek text of Gregory Nazianzus Oration 41:15-16 On Pentecost.

This text is being updated as new information arrives.

See Gregory Nazianzus’ on the Doctrine of Tongues for more information on the background, nature, and translation of this text.

Oration XLI — In Pentecosten

Greek

ΙΕ᾽. Ἐλάλουν μὲν οὖν ξέναις γλώσσαις, καὶ οὐ πατρίοις, καὶ τὸ θαῦμα μέγα, λόγος ὑπὸ τῶν οὐ μαθόντων λαλούμενος• καὶ τὸ σημεῖον τοῖς ἀπίστοις, οὐ τοῖς πιστεύουσιν, ἵν᾽ ᾖ τῶν ἀπιστων κατήγορον,(1) Nicetas Heracleensis. Gregorius Nazianzenus – BSB Cod.graec. 140 has καὶ τὸ σημειον τοὶς ἀπίστοις, οὐ τοις πιστευουσιν, ἵν᾽ ἦ τῶν ἀποστόλων κατήγορον. καθὼς γέγραπται• Ὅτι ἐν ἑτερογλώσσοις, καὶ ἐν χείλεσιν ἑτέροις, λαλήσω τῷ λαῷ τούτῳ, καὶ οὐδ᾽ οὕτος εἰσακούσονταί μου, λέγει Κύριος. Ἤκουον δέ. Μικρὸν ἐνταῦθα ἐπισχες, καὶ διαπόρησον, πῶς διαιρήσεις τὸν λόγον. Ἔχει γάρ τί ἀμφίβολον ἡ λέξις, τῇ στιγμῇ διαιρούμενον. Ἆρὰ γὰρ ἤκουον ταῖς ἑαυτῶν διαλέκτοις ἕκαστος,(2) The 13th century Add MS 14772 at the British Library has ἕκαστοi ὡς φέρε εἰπεῖν, μίαν μὲν ἐξηχεῖσθαι φωνὴν, πολλὰς δὲ ἀκούεσθαι, οὕτω κτυπουμένου τοῦ ἀέρος, καὶ, ἵν᾽ εἴπω σαφέστερον, τῆς φωνῆς φωνὼν γινομένων(3) An alternate reading of γινομένη as found in Savil. and Comb. according to Jahn᾽s notes at the bottom of Col. 450 of MPG• ἤ τὸ μὲν, ἤκουον(4)MPG has Ἤκουον italicized and capitalized., ἀναπαυστέον, τὸ δὲ, λαλούντων(5)MPG has Λαλούντων the first letter is capitalized. This is not consistent with earlier texts. However, Billius or a later editor is trying to explain how to understand the text by doing this. ταῖς ἰδίαις φωναῖς, τῷ ἐξῆς προσθετέον, ἵν᾽ ᾖ, λαλούντων φωναῖς(6)MPG has Λαλούντων φωναῖς italicized and capitalized. ταῖς ἰδίαις τῶν ἀκουόντων, ὅπερ γίνεται, ἀλλοτρίαις(7) MPG has ἀλλοτρίαις italicized.• Καθὰ καὶ(8) An alternate reading of ᾦ καὶ instead Καθὰ καὶ in manuscript Jes. according to Jahn᾽s notes at the bottom of Col. 450 of MPG μᾶλλον τίθεμαι.(9) The whole sentence Καθὰ καὶ μᾶλλον τίθεμαι is absent in Rufinus’ Latin translation, nor is it noted by the Venerable Bede in his coverage of the text. Ἐκείνως μὲν γὰρ τῶν ἀκουόντων ἄν εἴη μᾶλλον, ἢ τῶν λεγόντων, τὸ θαῦμα(10)τὸ θαῦμα is absent in the 10th century manuscript Add MS 14771• οὕτω δὲ τῶν λεγόντων• οἵ καὶ μέθην καταγινώσκονται, δῆλον ὡς αὐτοι θαυματουργοῦντες περὶ τὰς φωνὰς τῷ Πνεύματι.

ΙΣ᾽. Πλὴν ἐπαινετή μὲν καὶ ἡ παλαιὰ διαίρεσις τῶν φωνῶν ἡνίκα τὸν πύργον ᾠκοδόμουν οἱ κακῶς καὶ ἀθέως ὁμοφωνοῦντες, ὥσπερ καὶ τῶν νῦν τολμῶσί τινες(11) MPG uses parenthesis here(ἡνίκα τὸν πύργον ᾠκοδόμουν οἱ κακῶς καὶ ἀθέως ὁμοφωνοῦντες, ὥσπερ καὶ τῶν νῦν τολμῶσί τινες) The parenthesis does not exist in the older manuscripts Add MS 14771 or 14772. Nicetas of Serron also does not have it.• τῇ γὰρ τῆς φωνῆς διαστάσει συνδιαλυθὲν τὸ ὁμόγνωμον, τὴν ἐγχείρησιν ἔλυσεν• ἀξιεπαινετωτέρα δὲ ἡ νῦν θαυματουργουμένη. Ἁπὸ γὰρ ἑνὸς Πνεύματος εἰς πολλοὺς(12)πολλοὶς BSB Cod.graec. 140 χυθεῖσα,(13) An alternate reading of χεθεῖσα instead of χυθεῖσα As found in the British Library’s Add MS 14771, and according to Jahn᾽s notes at the bottom of Col. 450 of MPG, in manuscript Regg. and Colb. εἰς μίαν ἁρμονίαν(14)BSB Cod.graec. 140 has a period here and starts a new sentence with no period after συνάγεται which follows. πάλιν συνάγεται. Καὶ ἔστι διαφορὰ χαρισμάτων, ἄλλου(15) An alternate reading of ἀλλ᾽οὐ according to Jahn᾽s notes at the bottom of Col. 450 of MPG δεομένη χαρίσματος, πρὸς διάκρισιν τοῦ(16)τῆς in the 10th century manuscript Add MS 14771 βελτίονος• ἐπειδὴ πᾶσαι τὸ ἐπαινετὸν ἔχουσι. Καλὴ δ᾽ ἄν κάκείνη λέγοιτο, περὶ ἧς Δαβὶδ λέγει• Καταπόντισον, Κύριε, καὶ καταδίελε τὰς γλώσσας αὐτῶν. Διατί(17) Διότι BSB Cod.graec. 140 ; Ὅτι(18) Ὅτι is omitted in BSB Cod.graec. 140 ἠγάπησαν πάντα τὰ ῤήματα καταποντισμοῦ γλῶσσαν δολίαν• μόνον ούχι(19) An alternate reading of μονονού according to Jahn᾽s notes at the bottom of Col. 450 of MPG instead of μόνον ούχι This is also found in Billius’ copy as well. φανερῶς τὰς ἐνταῦθα γλώσσας καταιτιώμενος,(20) μόνον ούχι τὰς ἐνταῦθα γλώσσας φανερῶςBSB Cod.graec. 140 αἵ θεότητα τέμνουσιν. Ταῦτα μὲν οὖν έπι τοσοῦτον.(21) Ταῦτα μὲν οὖν έπι τοσοῦτονis omitted from BSB Cod.graec. 140

The Base Text

It is taken from Migne Patrologia Graeca, Vol. 36. Col. 449-452.

Alternate Readings

The MPG text is compared to other manuscripts and translations. Any variation from the base text will be found in the footnotes. Here is a list of texts looked at so far.

  • The British Library — Add MS 14771, written in the tenth century
  • The British Library — Add MS 14772, written in the thirteenth century
  • Jacob Billius’ sixteenth century work Sancti Patris Nostri: Gregorii Nazianzeni, Opera Græc et Lat., (Pg. 715 ff) which is the basis for MPG
  • Nicetas of Serrone’s work as found in, Nicetas Heracleensis. Gregorius Nazianzenus – BSB Cod.graec. 140, (Pg. 94ff)
  • The editorial notes on different versions of the text contained at the bottom of MPG were also footnoted. The editors do not always clearly state which manuscripts they are referring to, but this does have some source value
  • The Syriac translation of the Nazianzus text dated around the middle of the seventh century. 151. A. Schmidt ed., Sancti Gregorii Nazianzeni opera. Versio Syriaca, II. Orationes XIII et XLI (Corpus Christianorum. Series Graeca, 47. Corpus Nazianzenum, 15), Turnhout – Leuven, 2002. Pg. 87-95.

Editorial Notes

The MPG version contains extensive use of italics for identifying Biblical citations and emphasizing key words. It also capitalizes the first letter of a few keywords to highlight their significance. The use of italics and this form of capitalization is a later editor emendation to the text. It is not part of the earlier texts. They have been removed. They are marked in the footnotes.

The Latin text has its own special history. Therefore it has been moved to its own space. It can be found at Gregory Nazianzus’ Oration on 41:15-16 in the Latin.

References   [ + ]

Gregory Nazianzus on the Doctrine of Tongues Intro

This is the beginning of a multi-article series on the works of Gregory Nazianzus on the doctrine of tongues.

No discussion on the nature and purpose of ecclesiastical tongues should omit this church father. However, the majority of pentecostals and charismatics who take a very deep interest in this subject, do not even know who this church father was, let alone what he stood for. It should be mandatory reading for anyone studying this topic. His coverage forces the contemporary mindset, whether a Christian mystic, or liberal theologian to reconsider the historical evidence.

In Gregory Nazianzus’ work entitled, Orations, an entire chapter is devoted to the subject of Pentecost, which is typically labeled as Oration 41. There are especially two sections in this text outlining what the tongues miracle may have consisted of (Oration 41:15-16).

He wrote about two specific options — the miracle of the Apostles speaking in every language that they were not taught, or it was the apostles speaking in one sound, and the hearers miraculously hearing it in their own language. It could be a combination of both, but the text doesn’t guide the reader to this third alternative. It is difficult to know which one is the historic right one, or how popular the miracle of hearing doctrine existed, and who promoted it. This is the central part of the historic debate.

What this series is about

This study will delve into a number of texts to solve this problem and more. It will look at the history of this controversy. First by building a source Greek text by not only consulting the version and editors notes found in Migne Patrologia Graeca, but looking at older versions.

Secondly it will analyze and compare the ancient Greek text and commentary provided by as many ecclesiastical writers on the subject that can be found. Alex Poulos, in his own research on the subject, has found at least three later writers covering this text. This will provide much needed clues to the original text and how to understand it.

Thirdly, it will examine the Syriac texts of Gregory Nazianzus to find any further hints.

Last of all, it is to look at how the Latin Church Fathers and translators understood this text. The oldest text we have today is not in Greek, but in Latin by Rufinus, who wrote it in the fifth century — though what we possess today is likely revised and updated from the original. He also took some liberties to amplify the text where he saw fit. So it is not exactly a literal translation. This can be of benefit, as it may demonstrate how the doctrine had evolved. The study will also look at evidence from Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, who indirectly asserted how Nazianzus ought to be read. The eighth century Venerable Bede weighed in on this riddle of how to understand this text, and offers some powerful clues. Jacobus Billius made a critical effort in the sixteenth century to understand by providing a Greek-Latin parallel text. His work was the basis for the Greek and Latin copy found in Migne Patrologia Graeca.

Who was Gregory Nazianzus?

Wikipedia has a good synopsis:

Gregory of Nazianzus (329 – January 25, 389) (also known as Gregory the Theologian or Gregory Nazianzen) was a fourth century Archbishop of Constantinople. He is widely considered the most accomplished rhetorical stylist of the patristic age. As a classically trained speaker and philosopher he infused Hellenism into the early church, establishing the paradigm of Byzantine theologians and church officials.(1)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregory_of_Nazianzus

The old English translation of Nazianzus

An English translation of Nazianzus’ work, On Pentecost was completed in 1894 by Charles Gordon Browne and James Edward Swallow. It is easily available on the web.(2)Translated by Charles Gordon Browne and James Edward Swallow. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 7. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1894.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. .

A.J. Mason, editor of the 1899 publication, The Five Theological Orations of Gregory of Nazianzus, concluded that it wasn’t a very good translation, and would not recommend it:

The scholarship of the only English translation with which I am acquainted, in Wace and Schaff Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, is unfortunately far below the level of that of Cyril in the same volume, and the student will do well to avoid a work which is only misleading.(3)The Five Theological Orations of Gregory of Nazianzus. A.J. Mason ed. London: C.J. Clay and Sons. 1899 Pg. xxiii.

In respect to Nazianzus’ Oration 41, the Browne-Swallow translation is reliable, but it is old.

This series will provide a fresh English translation of Gregory’s works as it relates to the tongues doctrine. This series follows the typical structure of Gift of Tongues Project. Both the Greek and Latin texts that the English was translated from are provided. Since there has been so much ignorance created by faulty or lack of translations in the tongues debate, these have been provided to ensure the historic record is clear.

Translating the Greek attributed to Gregory Nazianzus is difficult. He loved classical Greek and draws from a diverse Greek community.

A fresh translation of Gregory Nazianzus’ Homily 41: 15 -16

Alex Poulos has gladly provided his time and expertise to provide the English translation.

The Oration On Pentecost is traditionally held to have been spoken on May 16, 381 AD.(4)http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310241.htm What are the Orations? The Catholic Encyclopedia, found at New Advent’s website, gave a brief outline:

Both in his own time, and by the general verdict of posterity, Gregory was recognized as one of the very foremost orators who have ever adorned the Christian Church . . .Only comparatively few of the numerous orations delivered by Gregory have been preserved to us, consisting of discourses spoken by him on widely different occasions, but all marked by the same lofty qualities. Faults they have, of course: lengthy digressions, excessive ornament, strained antithesis, laboured metaphors, and occasional over-violence of invective. But their merits are far greater than their defects, and no one can read them without being struck by the noble phraseology, perfect command of the purest Greek, high imaginative powers, lucidity and incisiveness of thought, fiery zeal and transparent sincerity of intention, by which they are distinguished.(5)http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07010b.htm

Which Oration specifically is this homily?

There is also a conflict in which Oration number is which. The Migne Patrologia Graeca copy has the On Pentecost chapter at header 41. The Douay-Rheims Bible wrote in its commentary that this was header 44.(6)Holy Bible: translated from the Latin Vulgate. Douay, Rheims Translators. London: George Henry and Co. ND (originally published in 1582) Pg. 157(7) Thank you also to Áureo Ferreira who noted this in reviewing my previous online work on the subject So too does Billius’ Latin translation of Nicetas of Serrone’s coverage of the works of Nazianzus. (8)MPG. Vol. 127. Addenda: Expositio in Orationes S. Gregorii Nazainzeni XLIV. Col. 1477 and Billius’ Greek-Latin edition of Gregory Nazianzus(9) Sancti Patris Nostri Gregorii Nazianzeni Opera Græc•Lat. Jac. Billius Prunæus, S. Michælis in Eremo. Paris: 1630. Pg. 715 place it at chapter 44. A fourteenth century Greek text of Nicetas of Serrone’s placed On Pentecost at chapter 4.(10)Nicetas Heracleensis. Gregorius Nazianzenus – BSB Cod.graec. 140 Pg. 159 The Orations manuscripts contained in the British Library do not follow the same header format. There are some decorative enlarged letters that do imply a chaptering system, though it has not been identified into a logical sequence. It is clear that these texts do not follow what is found in MPG. It is not known whey there is a discrepancy between the numbering systems. However, since the MPG copy is the most ubiquitous, this chaptering and verse system will be followed.

Nazianzus’ doctrine of tongues can largely be found in his coverage on the event of Pentecost covered in Acts chapter two, and a few snippets found in other works. He does not quote or describe the problem of tongues in Corinth. Neither does he address or acknowledge the contributions of the Montanists, or any other group on the issue.

For further information:

References   [ + ]

How to read a Greek Minuscule Text

Gregory Nazianzus On Pentecost

This article is for those who wish to read and translate Greek manuscripts as close to the original as possible.

Sometimes a thousand years is closest to the original, which means the copy was written somewhere between the tenth and thirteenth centuries. If this is the case, the copy was written in the Greek minuscule format.

Greek minuscule is a handwriting format that was much more efficient than its earlier counterpart. It used a smaller, and much more rounder style, and ligatures — that is the combining of letter combinations into one symbol, symbols for inflectional word endings, and abbreviations. Think of it as traditional handwriting combined with a shorthand texting format.

The Biblical or classical Greek student will not immediately recognize a Greek minuscule as being Greek. It takes some time to work with this writing style.

Wikipedia has a good introductory article on Greek cursive writing. It also has a miniscule alphabet at the bottom. It is a good general visual, but it does not help in specifics.

The handwritten alphabet is considerably different but workable. The greatest difficulties in reading minuscule are the ligatures. Here is a list found so far on online materials to assist one in reading minuscule Greek:

  • The Textual Critics Corner especially their list. The formatting and color choices of the website itself need some work but the text itself is a great resource.

  • The Paulos weblog contains an introduction to the typography of such texts, including letter forms, abbreviations, and ligatures. He doesn’t have a full list, but it is a good start.

  • Vernon Eugene Koy has developed a beta minuscule font with an almost complete listing of all the various forms along with the standard Greek equivalent. It is not known whether the font behaves correctly due the age of last posting and its self-description, but the list itself is indispensable.

  • Fordham University has a small cheat sheet on Greek miniscule letter combinations.

  • The Amsterdam NT Weblog has a short description of Abbreviations in Greek Minuscule Manuscripts

Some print editions do exist, though rare to acquire. On a number of occasions recommendations for Abbreviations in Greek Inscriptions: Papyri, Manuscripts, and Early Printed Books, compiled by Al. N. Oikonomides (Chicago: Ares Publishers 1974) comes up, though I haven’t found a copy yet. Another, Introduzione alla paleografia greca (1973) by E. Mioni, is very helfpul.

There are some older publications available online, such as Handbook of Greek and Latin Paleography by Edward Maunde Thomson, or Notes on Abbreviations in Greek Manuscripts by T.W. Allen, though extensive on paleographical pursuits, I find that they are not very helpful in providing a useful list.

Where to start?

The International Greek New Testament Project has created an excellent starter tutorial on transcribing Greek miniscule. Here is Chapter 1 and a link to the rest of the chapters

An alternative option is to find a Bible passage written in Greek minuscule and compare it with a text transcribed into the traditional Greek fonts used in most Bibles and textbooks today. For example the beatitudes in Matthew 5:3–12.

  • Click here for The Arundel MS 524 manuscript— an 11th century work found online at the British Library. Make sure the page is f.13r that you are looking at. Otherwise it is the wrong page. Matthew 5:3 begins at the end of the 15th line from the top of page.

  • Compare it with a Greek text in a font traditionally used such as the Greek New Testament found at Elpenor’s website, or, multiple Greek texts found at Unbound Bible.

If you wish to read some ancient ecclesiastical writing, like Gregory Nazianzus, here is a sample way of doing it.

  • Connect to the internet and to the British Museum’s online Manuscript viewer, specifically, MS 14772 This is a wonderful website. The capabilities of switching pages, zooming in and out, are effortless.

  • Then open a second browser window and link to a more contemporary Greek rendering of the same text at Wikisource. You can compare the texts in parallel and use it as a basis to understand the minuscule of MS 14772.

  • There is also an English translation for this Oration available at New Advent’s website. It is a helpful aid, but it is old, and the translation is based at times on a Latin copy. Use it, but be careful.

  • If you have them open and looking at both copies, the MS 14772 will appear to be chicken scratch. There are no chapter breaks, and spaces between words. Accents, glyphs, and markings abound, but don’t worry. In a few hours, using the more contemporary Greek as your guide, you will become comfortable with this format.

The Greek text being used as an example is the one found at the British Library called MS 14772. It is a thirteenth century copy of a work originally written around 381 AD by Gregory Nazianzus. Specifically, it is Oration 41 on the subject of Pentecost.

I hope this has been of assistance to anyone beginning their journey into reading ancient Greek texts. If you find any helpful information on this subject, please drop a line via comments here, Twitter, Facebook or email.

Book Review: God's Plagiarist

God’s Plagiarist: Being the Account of the Fabulous Industry and Irregular Commerce of the Abbé Migne, by R. Howard Bloch is a wonderfully written, and documented biography of Jacques-Paul Migne.

Who is J.P. Migne, and why would Bloch spend so much considerable time researching, analyzing, and documenting nineteenth century French archives on such a name? Migne was the principal person responsible for publishing Patrologia Graeca, and Patrologia Latina — both series contains the most comprehensive texts of the Church Fathers from Clement to the fourteenth century ever available. It is likely this feat will never be repeated again.

However, the manner by which Migne so zealously went about to produce such works are full of intrigue. The approach of the book is part detective, part ethics, and respective of the political and religious background of nineteenth century France. Bloch believes it to be futile to figure out if Migne was altruistic or self-serving in motivation. He leaves that part for the reader to figure out.

The book initially appeared to be a dry biography. A deeper look brought appreciation on how deeply Bloch researched the subject. Further reading made me inquisitive and wanting to know more about the history and outcome of this important character. The richness of this book is found in the small details.

Bloch characterized Migne as a salesman, entrepreneur, industrialist, publisher, businessman, and Catholic Priest. He lived in France from 1800-1875. At the height of his company’s success, which was called Ateliers catholiques, it had over 300 employees. This was a large operation for that time.

The company not only specialized in book publishing but religious art objects as well.

In order for Migne’s vision to make the works of the Church fathers available to the general public, especially to the priesthood, he implemented five principles:

  • He kept the labour costs low. His workers were poorly paid — many of them were relatives, people networked from his hometown, and defrocked Priests.

  • He utilized the latest technologies to produce the works at the optimum speed. He used the new steam-driven printing presses whose output was substantially higher than the previous technologies, and so the per-unit cost was much less.

  • He wanted to print as many pre-existing texts available that were no longer under copyright — even leaving printing errors in the original unchanged. He did use those still under copyright but altered them in a small way to avoid royalty payments. Bloch believes the majority of the texts included in his works are pirated.

  • He increased sales through, pre-payment, subscription, referral incentive, and lending plans. He also bypassed the middle cost of Paris booksellers by direct selling. This brought controversy and resulted in the attempt by the Archbishop of Paris to unsuccessfully close his company.

  • Migne subcontracted priests for Church rites. France and Belgium had a severe shortage of Priests. Migne arranged Priests to visit undersupplied Churches at a fixed cost. He often paid the Priests a portion by the gifting of his books. The payment made by Migne to the priest was far less than what the Parishes were paying him. The difference went to Atelier catholique. This was outrightly banned in 1875 by the Catholic Church in Rome.

Bloch outlined Migne’s life as full of copyright litigation and other irregular business practices. There is no doubt that the five principles above would garner some controversy. This book does a good job at outlining these difficulties, even to the level of police reports.

The modern equivalent of Migne would be Sean Parker who started the Napster file-sharing service — a company which was shut-down due to multiple copyright infringements. Parker was also the first president of Facebook.

Migne’s search for documents uncovered a more serious problem — the housing and care of ancient manuscripts. An associate of J.P. Migne, Dom Pitra, found a cache of parchments stockpiled for the “artillery arsenal of Metz. Ordinary paper not being sufficiently tough for the packing of cartridges.” [Page 58] The authorities were notified and this policy was changed. It demonstrates that illiteracy among the general populace and the military was still very high in the 1800s. The consequence was that many historical documents have been lost due to war preparations.

There is a problem of ethics here. Migne clearly pirated texts to complete his task. As Christians, are we to use such a device that was illegally produced? On the other hand, why were other people hoarding ancient documents for selfish or pecuniary gain? These documents should be open-source, free for public use. No one should have to pay a hefty price. The copyright of so many hundreds of books would make it impossible to affordably collate them into one comprehensive series. It would kill any large-scale ecclesiastical study with the exception of a person or institution being afforded the privilege. This problem exists even today, though with initiatives such as Google Books, this is rapidly changing. Migne temporarily broke this cycle, and has enriched later generations immensely because of this.

There is more to the life and times of Jacques-Paul Migne. The ending is just as interesting as the beginning. I don’t want to play the part of spoiler here. Get the book. It should be mandatory reading for anyone wanting to read or translate the Church Fathers.

God’s Plagiarist: Being an Account of the Fabulous Industry and Irregular Commerce of the Abbe Migne, by R. Howard Bloch can be purchased at Amazon.

The Venerable Bede on the Doctrine of Tongues: Conclusion

Thoughts on the works of the Venerable Bede regarding the doctrine of tongues.

The two works written by the Venerable Bede, The Initial Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles and the text written later on his life, A Book of Reflection on the Acts of the Apostles demonstrate a number of conclusions regarding the doctrine of tongues.

Bede’s writings are a primary source material on the christian doctrine of tongues but for whatever reason has been left of the popular narrative. This absence once again identifies the problem of modern day scholars, ministers, and Bible students not knowing their ecclesiastical writings. If modern readers were acquainted with the amount of works covering the doctrine of tongues by the many Church Fathers, including the Venerable Bede, it would dramatically change the contemporary interpretation.

Bede’s initial commentary on the Book of Acts is dependent on his understanding of Gregory Nazianzus’ teaching on the subject. Although Gregory was clear in his Greek text that it was a miracle of speech, the earliest Latin text does not give such clarity. This forced Bede to originally think it was a miracle of hearing.

“…that while the hearers were of the diverse nations, each one according to their language coming from this one speech itself, which had been uttered by the Apostle, that it entered upon the hearer and seized the intellect. Except perhaps according to this, it seemed those who are hearing to be a greater miracle than those who speaking.”(1)My translation. from MPL. Vol. 92 Bedæ Venerabilis: Super Acta Apostolorum Expositio. Col. 945-948. See https://charlesasullivan.com/3409/bedes-initial-commentary-on-acts-21-19/ for more info

The miracle of hearing was established from Rufinus’ Latin translation of the Nazianzus’ text. Nazianzus posited two theories on the miracle of Pentecost. One was the miracle of spontaneously speaking in foreign languages unknown by the speaker beforehand, and the other was one sound emitted and the audience hearing the sound in their own language. Rufinus’ text took some liberties and failed to communicate that Gregory preferred the miracle of speaking as the acceptable interpretation. He misunderstood the Greek and made two critical errors. Rufinus instead gave equal value to both positions and let the reader decide which one was right, which over time leaned towards the miracle of hearing. Bede, upon reading of the Latin text, originally decided it was a miracle of hearing.

Bede did not have strong skills in Greek and he, along with the majority of the Latin Church ecclesiasts, depended on Rufinus’ translation as a key text.

See the article: Nazianzus’ Tongues of Pentecost Paradox: Gregory’s two interpretations of Pentecost and the traditions that followed after this.

He changed his interpretation of Nazianzus in his later work, A Book of Reflection on the Acts of the Apostles and switched it to a miracle of speaking.

“I know to hold myself back from this matter because I have said this thought can be understood in two ways; or rather that I was obligated to find-out how it ought to be understood. I am going to respond briefly to this matter that everything whatsoever of the same sentiment I have written in my previous book. I did not mention this by reason of personal experience, but from the words of the holy and faultless teacher in every respect, that is, I take up Gregory Nazianzus. It is certainly agreed that the apostles filled with the holy Spirit were speaking in all languages, neither is it permitted to be questioned by anyone about this. But in the manner how they were speaking it is to be asked without reservation. It could be the speech of the Apostles had so much power, that they became familiar with the diverse languages by all those, the hearer then is equally able to understand. Or can it be whichever one was being spoken, one was necessary in regards to being appropriate of so great a multitude, with the others left silent, at the moment producing a word of instruction, the person who was speaking at first to the Hebrews, that it produced the speech in Hebrew, while the others do not know what was being said. Then to the Greeks, while those who are ignorant in the Greek language and with the others left waiting. Next to the Parthians, after this the Medes, and so Elamite, and whichever ones are being listed through an order by the nations, its own particular language was to have been spoken, each one at a time awaiting, and being silent, until its order arrives, something was being spoken, they were understood, and so they were to render the approval of the faithful by the words of these teaching, Moreover Luke reports Peter speaking to the crowds and he did not report that he [Peter] spoke repeating the same things the second or third [time], but that these [crowds] in whom have received the plan of salvation are hardly consecrated in the mysteries of the Christian faith.

On the other hand I do not think this to be an error. If either of the two can be trusted to have taken place, and that the apostles in the holy Spirit clearly understood the languages of the nations and had the ability to speak, and the words too were in whatever language expressed by a great miracle, to all who were hearing, that they equally had the ability to learn.”(2)Translated by me. MPL. Vol. 92. Bedæ Venerabilis: Liber Retractationis In Actus Apostolorum. Col. 998-1000

See the article: Bede’s Book of Reflection on the Acts of the Apostles for the actual complete translation.

Bede now corrected his understanding of Nazianzus. The miracle of Pentecost consisted in the miracle of speaking in foreign languages. He then goes on to explaining the mechanics as to how it occurred. Bede draws the conclusion that the miracle can be understood as a miracle of hearing or speaking. The style which Bede approached the subject demonstrated that he had no personal attachment to either side. It was an intellectual journey whose results didn’t matter.

There is no reference by Bede of any historic or contemporary group practicing an alternative experience in his works. He did not see the influences of Montanism, or Donatism as important sources of theological controversy within his time. ■

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Bede's Book of Reflection on the Acts of the Apostles 2:1-18

The Venerable Bede on the doctrine of tongues. An English translation of his Book of Reflection on the Acts of the Apostles chapters 2:1-18.

Translated by Charles A. Sullivan from MPL. Vol. 92. Bedæ Venerabilis: Liber Retractationis In Actus Apostolorum. Col. 998-1000


A Book of Reflection on the Acts of the Apostles

Chapter 2

“And when the days of Pentecost were completed, they were all together in the same place,” Some of the other Codices(1)Bede had an extensive Library of Old Latin and the Septuagint texts to choose from and was well aware of textual errors see Calvin B. Kendall’s coverage on this topic. wrongly have Pentecost in the accusative case. For Pentecost in the nominative case is called the fiftieth — in the genitive, is called of the fiftieth, in the accusative [it is simply] the fiftieth day(2)Bede is making an important distinction in the Latin use of cases, which do not exist in English. He is arguing that Pentecost, a word directly derived from the Greek, and the Latin equivalent, Quinquagesima, which both mean fifty, are synonyms. It can be called by either name. In the old Latin Pentecost was called Quinquagesima. It was the official name of the holy day, not just a number or adjective. If it is used in the accusative, it is just a number or adjective. Moreover not one account permits this to be spoken this way, so that when we say Pentecost in the accusative case, when really it ought to be said, “when the day of Pentecost was completed.” certainly it is said without doubt to be with the singular number in the Greek.

“And when the days of Pentecost were completed.” Of course in the very same day of prayer it should be mentioned as well, “These ones celebrate the most sacred Pentecost day,”(3)diem sacratissimum Pentecosten celebrantes — this quotation by Bede is a sacred part of the Catholic tradition of celebrating Pentecost. An alternative English translation could be “celebrating the most sacred Pentecost day. that is, the fiftieth. The solemnity of this day is being reckoned by the tradition of such a word, by which some who do not know the Greek language, even now ought to call Pentecost in the nominative case.

“And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming: and it filled the whole house where they were sitting,” etc.(4)Douay-Rheims And the actual distinction is most apparent in the giving of the law and in grace with the Old and New testaments. Where it says the group(5)plebs was resting far away, fear, not love was present. They continually dreaded thus far, as they were saying to Moses, “Speak to us, and let not the Lord speak to us, lest we die.” [Exodus 20:19] Then God descended, as it was written, on Sinai as fire, but the frightened group stands still far away, the law by a finger in the stone, nor was it written by the spirit itself in the heart. However, when the holy Spirit came here, the faithful were joined together as one — not even scared on the mountain but entered into the house. Indeed, a sound suddenly came from heaven, so that [the group] was affected also as if a violent wind made a noise, but was not terrified. You have heard the sound. Consider the fire, because each was also on the mountain. And the fire and sound, and yet also smoke, this fire, as if the fire of divided languages. Can it be that it continues to frighten those far away? Let it be far from the hearts of the faithful. For it rested on each one of them and they began to speak in languages, even as the Spirit gave them utterance. Hear the language being spoken, and understand the Spirit writing not in stone, but in the heart.

“And there appeared to them parted tongues, as it were of fire: and it sat upon every one of them.”(6)Douay-Rheims It is of this fire, [which is in the genitive case], not this fire [which is in the nominative case]. For in the Greek it has πυρὸς(7)Greek for the word “fire” in the genitive case not πῦρ.(8)Greek for the word “fire” in the nominative case So that this kind of distinction was easy to figure out. As if it was to be said with an added word “And there appeared parted tongues, as it were of a glowing fire,”(9)Apparuerunt dispartitæ linguæ tanquam ignis ardentis or as it were of a brilliant fire, so that it may be understood regarding the definition of fire to be distributed languages.

“And they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak. Now there were dwelling at Jerusalem, Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.”(10)Douay-Rheims It does not have in the Greek in this place, divers tongues but other tongues. For Isaiah expressed that “In other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people: and neither so will they hear me, saith the Lord.”(11)Douay-Rheims. Bede is lifting this quote directly from I Corinthians 14:21, not from Isaiah 28:11 So that the blessed Luke no doubt was inferring this prophecy which was to be fulfilled by gift of the Spirit, likewise the same word was what he saw in the prophecy, he took care to set down in this sacred history.

“Because that every man heard them speak in his own tongue. And they were all amazed, and wondered, saying: Behold, are not all these that speak Galilean? etc.”(12)Douay-Rheims. I know to hold myself back from this matter because I have said this thought can be understood in two ways; or rather that I was obligated to find-out how it ought to be understood. I am going to respond briefly to this matter that everything whatsoever of the same sentiment I have written in my previous book. I did not mention this by reason of personal experience, but from the words of the holy and faultless teacher in every respect, that is, I take up Gregory Nazianzus. It is certainly agreed that the apostles filled with the holy Spirit were speaking in all languages,(13)linguis omnibus loquebantur — it is purposely left vague by Bede on purpose. neither is it permitted to be questioned by anyone(14)ulli: from ullus — any, anyone. strange that this is the only occurrence used by Bede in any document I have translated. A later interpolation? about this. But in the manner how they were speaking it is to be asked without reservation. It could be the speech of the Apostles had so much power, that they became familiar with the diverse languages by all those, the hearer then is equally able to understand. Or can it be whichever one was being spoken, one was necessary in regards to being appropriate of so great a multitude, with the others left silent, at the moment producing a word of instruction,(15)interim sermonem proferre doctrinæ the person who was speaking at first to the Hebrews, that it produced the speech in Hebrew, while the others do not know what was being said. Then to the Greeks, while those who are ignorant in the Greek language and with the others left waiting. Next to the Parthians, after this the Medes, and so Elamite, and whichever ones are being listed through an order by the nations, its own particular language was to have been spoken, each one at a time awaiting, and being silent, until its order arrives, something was being spoken, they were understood, and so they were to render the approval of the faithful by the words of these teaching,(16)et sic verbis docentium fidei assensum præberent Moreover Luke reports Peter speaking to the crowds and he did not report that he [Peter] spoke repeating the same things the second or third [time], but that these [crowds] in whom have received the plan of salvation are hardly consecrated in the mysteries of the Christian faith.(17)sed tantum eas accepto salutis consilio Christianæ fidei consecratas esse mysteriis — a nice way of saying the crowd didn’t know very much about what was happening. They were spectators, not theologians, and they only thing they could have explained was that they saw and experienced this event.

On the other hand I do not think this to be an error. If either of the two can be trusted to have taken place, and that the apostles in the holy Spirit clearly understood the languages of the nations and had the ability to speak, and the words too were in whatever language expressed by a great miracle, to all who were hearing, that they equally had the ability to learn.(18)qui audiebant æque potuissent cognosci — this is the first time cognosco is used by Bede in relation to the tongues doctrine. Why such a sudden change? The last few sentences have changed in structure from the rest of the chapter, and is not typical of Bede in a number of other translations I have done. I wonder if this is a later emendation.

“And those who inhabit Mesopotamia, Cappodocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia.”(19)Bede is quoting from a different text than the one used for the initial commentary on Acts. The initial has “Et qui habitabant Mesopotamiam, et Judæam, et Cappadociam” and Reflections has “Et qui habitant Mesopotamiam, et Cappodociam, Pontum et Asiam, Phrygiam et Pamphyliam.” These provinces which are named [in the text] after Judea, are uttered in the Greek language, but if nothing diverse were sounding out in the native usage, so by no means were they to record the fine distinction of languages. From whence the Spirit was to actively be seen in the wonderful grace among the apostles, which not only taught them the diversity of all the languages, and certainly also the distinction of qualities in every language equal the total of provinces which they make use of in this way, he did to be knowledgeable in their utterances.(20)in eorum fecit loquelis agnosci. Lidell and Scott make a distinction between the use of agnosco and cognosco. “As if to know a person or thing well, as having known it before, to recognize: agnoscere always denotes a subjective knowledge or recognition; while cognoscere designates an objective perception; another distinction v. in II.)”

“And strangers of Rome.” The more proper way was contained in the Greek, “Roman foreigners,” that is Jews who were leading the foreign life of Rome, just like others elsewhere, of which had been written above. For this reason the strangers were in this place, who in the Greek were called proselytes, that is, those who from the gentiles to Judaism, leaving the religion of the gentiles(21)relicto gentilitatis ritu — the same construct as found in Judith 14:6 had come together. It is made clear from the following verse when it says, “Jews also, and proselytes.”.(22)Douay-Rheims.(23)Bede makes the same assertion in his initial commentary on Acts that the Jews mentioned in Acts 2:10 were converts from other nations. Why he emphasized this interpretation is not clear to me.


Need information on Bede and the subject matter? The following link may help: The Venerable Bede on the Doctrine of Tongues.

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