Monthly Archives: January 2015

Everyone Should Read Josephus


Why everyone who likes ancient Middle Eastern history should read the works of Josephus.

The contributions of the first century writer, historian, and apologist, Josephus are innumerable. His words wield such rich treasures in historical and theological artifacts, and are so well known for almost two millennia, that he likely is the most taken-for-granted author ever. Old English print copies, online versions, and even a movie has covered a portion or all of his works, which makes him so celebrated, that it feels like qualifying anything from him is stating the obvious. His works are well prepared and documented, and carry little controversy or surprise to almost anything. He simply adds more details to the already known historical records, and does a superb job with this, but his narrative writing form is very gripping – especially the The Jewish War.

There are many parallels to the New Testament record and then some more. Nowhere else can one find such in-depth information about the Herod dynasty than his accounts.

Josephus was captured by the Romans in a rebellion against them, and became a slave and interpreter for the Emporer Vespasian. He was considered a defector by the Jewish community. The majority of his writing was spent to reestablish two things: reacceptance into the Jewish community by defending Jewish values, history, and literature from a Graeco-Roman perspective. Secondly it was to defend Judaism against the Graeco-Roman community who disbelieved the Jewish accounts, and found them inferior to their own religious beliefs and historical records. He covers theology, and Biblical texts in great detail because of this.

One can find special accounts about Moses, Noah’s Ark and many more not found anywhere else.

Jacob Feeley, a PhD Candidate at the University of Pennsylvania in Ancient History, published a state-of-the-union address on academic pursuits of Josephus’ works entitled, The Understudied and Marginal Josephus: Bringing Him into the Conversation, which is well worth taking the time to read.

The writings of Josephus are a must-read for anyone that has an interest or commitment to the New Testament writings, or Jews, wanting to know their own history. His style is not that difficult to comprehend. It is actually a pleasurable read compared to most historical writers.

It should be the first book outside of the Bible given to novices who wish to understand the history and context related to the life of Christ.

There is a reference to Christ, albeit a very small one, and arguably may not even exist in the original text, and one about John the Baptist, which once again is small piece, but preserves the idea that John the Baptist was a prominent figure during that time. What is the most captivating is his coverage on the insurrection, and utter destruction of Jerusalem. He took into account the political, social, and personal complexities of war from both the Roman and Jewish camps that few writers are seldom able to achieve. It is a sad story, but very much fits into why Christ said, “When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the housetop go down or enter the house to take anything out. Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!” (Mark 13:14-17 NIV) If you read, or have already read Josephus with this in mind, you will know what is meant here.

Josephus’ stories still come alive. As I once stood on the top of Masada and looked out across to the high hills that border around it, the stone rows used by the Romans for their camps are still clearly visible. Masada and those stones have very little meaning outside of Josephus, but because of his words, it caused me to imagine this fortress two thousand years ago, and brought this place alive again.

My copy of Josephus is worn, as shown by the picture above. Once you start reading, it won’t take long to wear the book out, or if you have it on an e-reader, it may establish the top position on your reader list for historical non-fiction.

The works of Josephus can easily be found online, or as an ebook, or in print.

Chrysostom on the Doctrine of Tongues


A review of John Chrysostom’s works as it relates to the Christian doctrine of tongues.

His works on the doctrine of tongues is not so cut-and-dry as many portray him. A further look demonstrates far more complexity with grey areas and questions that remain unanswered.

This fourth-century Church Father is one of most quoted authors of the subject. His popularity on the topic is due to the great reverence associated with his name, the easy access of English translations, and his connection to miracles by the highly influential eighteenth-century writer Conyers Middleton. However, Chrysostom’s work is not a primary source that many have elevated it to. There are much better sources elsewhere.

Who was John Chrysostom and what did he contribute to the subject?

John got the title Chrysostom — which means golden mouthed, not because it was his last name, but to his great eloquence. This term was applied to him well after his death. Anyone reading one of his homilies can tell that he had the intellectual acuity combined with public acumen, and articulate speaking skills. He is one of the few that spoke or wrote in the first person within the community of ecclesiastical writers. He was considered the defacto standard for all that followed him in the Eastern Byzantine Christian world.

This is a look at his coverage of the subject with three important questions to be answered.

  • Did he believe that miracles had ceased in the Church altogether and so the idea of Christian tongues in the contemporary Church is moot?

  • What did he think happened at Pentecost? Was it the instant ability to speak in foreign languages, or was it something else?

  • What did he think of the Corinthian problem of tongues?

  • Did he recognize or argue against the Montanist practice of tongues?

Chrysostom on Montanism

The Montanist question will be answered first because it is the simplest. He didn’t recognize any Montanist contribution to either tongues or miracles in any of his texts.

Chrysostom on the tongues of Pentecost

Chrysostom clearly defined the doctrine of tongues as the spontaneous utterance of a foreign language unknown beforehand by the speaker. There was no concept whatsoever of a private, ecstatic or heavenly prayer language in his coverage.

Speaking in tongues was an issue that he was keenly aware of. He was constantly being asked that question, and felt it necessary to make a reply in his Homily, On the Holy Pentecost:

For if one wishes to demonstrate our faith, we believe this has been done without an assurance of a pledge or signs with it. Except those ones who have received first the sign and pledge, do not believe it concerning the unseen things. I, on the other hand, indeed show a complete faith without this. This is therefore the reason why signs are not happening now.1

His answer was that signs were for the unbeliever. The faithful require no external signs for assurance because the Christian life is an internal matter of the heart and mind. If one depends on signs as the most important factor in personally knowing God, or as the stimuli that motivates in the Christian life and witness, then signs and miracles are the guiding force in life. It becomes the central part of one’s identity which must constantly be pursued. Chrysostom favored the ascetic inward life of devotion, acceptance, and good deeds as the guiding principle in the Christian life over being directed by external signs. Miracles and signs were too abstract and impersonal as a framework for daily Christian living.

Chrysostom on the tongues of Corinth and his effects on later interpretations

In almost every piece of tongues literature referencing the Church fathers, the following quote from Chrysostom is sure to be cited:

This whole place is very obscure: but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place. And why do they not happen now? Why look now, the cause too of the obscurity has produced us again another question: namely, why did they then happen, and now do so no more?2

This is a leading statement by those of the cessationist movement who believe the supernatural era was completed at the founding of the Church. This belief concludes that the miracle of tongues did not perpetuate itself after this. Therefore, it is not necessary to trace the definition, or evolution of the doctrine of tongues because anything defined after the first century is based on a false supposition.

The fourth century leaders Chrysostom, and Augustine, along with the fifth century Cyril of Alexandria carried similar thoughts on the subject, though each one represented this concept slightly different. Augustine restricted his opinion that only the individual expression of tongues had ceased, not the corporate one. Other miracles such as healing, prophecy, etc., were still viewed as operative.3 Cyril of Alexandria held that the miraculous endowment of languages at Pentecost was a temporary sign for the Jews. Those that received this blessing continued to have this power throughout their lives, but it did not persist after their generation.4 The association between these three demonstrates that there must have been an interpretive movement of this kind in the fourth and fifth centuries that bordered on a universal thought. However, there are problems. It doesn’t take into account the tongues-speaking experience of the fourth century Egyptian Monastic leader, Pachomius. The writers of this account display him speaking miraculously in an unlearned foreign language, and no one in antiquity has disputed or countered the theological legitimacy.5 Basil of Seleucia who tried 50 years later to emulate Chrysostom’s style and wrote a commentary on Pentecost, did not overtly carry on this tradition,6 but then he didn’t disprove it either. It was simply omitted in his coverage. Neither was the doctrine found in eighth century John of Damascus texts, who liberally borrowed from Chrysostom’s works.7 However, this is from a small sampling, more materials may come up on these two I haven’t read that may contradict my opinion. Michael Psellos in the tenth century failed to recognize any of these three in his comprehensive coverage on tongues, choosing to exclusively follow Gregory Nazianzus.8 On the other hand, Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century sided with Augustine that the miracle of tongues had switched from an individual, to a corporate expression.9 These examples demonstrate that the cessationalist doctrine of tongues was dominant and powerful during the fourth and fifth centuries, but it was not universal. It did perpetuate, but it was not the defacto standard.

The one who captivated this doctrine for centuries was Gregory Nazianzus. His technical approach can be traced in Christian literature for well over a thousand-years. He did not address whether tongues ceased or perpetuated, he solely concentrated on the mechanics on how this miracle operated at Pentecost.

For more information on Gregory Nazianzus on the doctrine of tongues, see, Gregory Nazianzus on the doctrine of Tongues Intro.

The earliest that Chrysostom’s name prominently recirculated after the fourth century in connection with miracles and the doctrine of tongues was by the English Church historian, Conyers Middleton, who wrote the controversial and game-changing 1749 work, Divine Inquiry. Middleton outlined that signs and miracles have not occurred since the time of the apostles. It was written both as an antidote against the excesses of Christian mysticism during his time and the establishment of the Protestant identity separate from the Roman Catholic authority. His scant reference to Chrysostom in the above work, along with more details found in, An Essay on the Gift of Tongues,10 gained attraction to Chrysostom’s thoughts on the subject after a long slumber. The concept became a stolid symbol for the conservative protestant identity in 1918, when the last theological leader of a united Princeton Seminary, B.B. Warfield, published, Counterfeit Miracles.11 Warfield utilized Chrysostom as a champion of that cause. The golden mouth preacher found a prominent proponent which renewed an interest in his works within the western world. The theological idea of cessation grew prominent in many theological circles and today is known as cessationism.

Chrysostom on Miracles

Did Chrysostom really believe miracles had ceased? A further look is yes if one does not look at all the information and no if the information is examined more closely. There has been some mulling over this since the publication of Free Inquiry where Middleton himself showed some difficulties with Chrysostom on the subject.12 He cited many examples from Chrysostom about the nature of demons and their remedies; such as letters about a young friend of Chrysostom, Stagirius, who chose the monastic life, and had both physical and emotional issues which Chrysostom sought healing through exorcism.13 Another one was cures using consecrated oil,14 and also believed that the sign of the cross was a “defence against all evil, and a medicine against all sickness, and affirms it to have been miraculously impressed, in his own time, on people’s garments,”15 and lastly that forcing one possessed by a demon to be near or touching the tomb of a Christian martyr, can bring about healing.16 There is more to miracles to Chrysostom than what was supplied by Middleton. In Homily 38 of the Acts of the Apostles, Chrysostom described a boy who was miraculously healed.17 Many of these stories revolve around demons which were considered a normative experience in Greek everyday life. It was not an unusual or extraordinary event. This was so prevalent that it would not be labelled as a special gift that only happened at the birthing of the Church. Added to this fact that Chrysostom believed the central Christian identity was “to enlist in Christ’s army for warfare against the devil and his hosts”.18

Secondly the healing of the young boy was either a direct intervention by God, or by the laws of nature. It was not attributed to the powers of a faith healer, which Chrysostom believed whose office had died. The healing via consecrated oil, and the sign of the cross suggests that Chrysostom believed that miracles had transferred from the individual and into the corporate Church expressed in the form of rituals. This is a similar concept espoused by Augustine who believed that the gift of tongues did not die, but rather its expression switched from the individual to the Church.19

The downgrading of miracles is consistent with Greek philosophic principles, in which even St. Paul recognized as different from Jewish perceptions, “For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom.”20 Signs were not a priority, understanding and applying meaning was utmost. This was very evident even at the time of Origen whose coverage of I Corinthians dwelled greatly on the concept of knowledge rather than the literalness of the text.21

Chrysostom demonstrates a cautionary approach to miracles. His response reflects a man who lived a very ascetic and restrictive lifestyle. The goal of every Christian’s life was not the outward activity such as healings or miracles, but the purity and selflessness of the inner soul. He very much minimized individualism and espoused corporate good. This can be gleaned from his writing found in his Homilies in Matthew 9:32;

For, as to miracles, they oftentimes, while they profited another, have injured him who had the power, by lifting him up to pride and vainglory, or haply in some other way: but in our works there is no place for any such suspicion, but they profit both such as follow them, and many others.22

He also outlined here the real danger of pride within those who perform miracles and cautioned against this type of leadership. Conversely, he demonstrated an openness to miracles happening through an anointed person. He believed many succumb to the temptation of pride. Perhaps he is following in the same line of thinking as Origen that the decline in miracles was due to the lack of altruistic, pious, and holy individuals in his generation.23 He never named anyone in his lifetime ever achieving this status. This was likely why Chrysostom venerated deceased saints who had achieved a high spiritual status in their lives that very few could ever achieve. He believed that they had miraculous powers even after they died and those attending by their graves could muster restorative power. This veneration in some Churches still exist today. The alleged skull remains of Chrysostom’s body, was brought out for a brief public viewing in 2007 at the Monastery of Mt. Athos. It was claimed to be healing people who appeared by it.24

Rowan A. Green took a deep look at Chrysostom and miracles in his book, The Fear of Freedom: A Study of Miracles in the Roman Imperial Church, and felt pressed to ask the question, what is Chrysostom worrying about? He answered by writing, Chrysostom identifies the quest for miracles with the magical practices he naturally supposes Christians must avoid. Still more, the Jews tend to become scapegoats in Chrysostom’s polemic.25

Another dynamic may be the idea of political stability. The central authority of the Church was based on literature, liturgy, ritual and offices, which were uniformly observed and established. If signs and wonders became the central focal point, it would have severely challenged the structure of the Church and could bypass established leadership, and all other established principles.

Clues into finding Chrysostom’s definition on the doctrine of tongues

Chrysostom had further important points in his Homilies on I Corinthians which is imperative to look into:

I Corinthians 14:3. . . .And it was thought great because the Apostles received it first, and with so great display; it was not however therefore to be esteemed above all the others. Wherefore then did the Apostles receive it before the rest? Because they were to go abroad every where. And as in the time of building the tower the one tongue was divided into many; so then the many tongues frequently met in one man, and the same person used to discourse both in the Persian, and the Roman, and the Indian, and many other tongues, the Spirit sounding within him: and the gift was called the gift of tongues because he could all at once speak various languages. . .

I Corinthians 14:10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and no kind is without signification:” i.e., so many tongues, so many voices of Scythians, Thracians, Romans, Persians, Moors, Indians, Egyptians, innumerable other nations. . .26

It is consistenly found in Chrysostom’s hermeneutic that the tongues of Babel, Pentecost and Corinth were the same thing. He mixes verses from many books to make a linear narrative on the doctrine.

His conclusion that tongues-speech in I Corinthians was obscure, his virulent anti-semitism, and narrow literalist interpretations all contributed to difficulty understanding this subject. He could not comprehend a Jewish antecedent as a background to Paul’s narrative of I Corinthians.

The Spirit sounding within him?

The above passages demonstrate that the miracle of Pentecost was the supernatural endowment of speaking in different languages. One portion of the text requires some additional thought. What did he mean by “the Spirit sounding within him.”? The actual Greek reads: τοῦ Πνεύματος ἐνηχοῦντος αὐτῷ which should properly be translated as:

While the Spirit teaches to him

This is slightly different from the standard English translation quoted above. It changes the nuance and should then read: “and the same person used to discourse both in the Persian, and the Roman, and the Indian, and many other tongues, while the Spirit teaches to him: and the gift was called the gift of tongues because he could all at once speak various languages.”

The old English version leaned on the Latin translation of the text which emphasized the idea of the Spirit sounding within (insonantes Spiritu) rather than the Greek which, according to Donnegan’s Greek Dictionary, believed Chrysostom used the word in other works to mean to teach or instruct.27 Secondly the Latin put the text into the ablative rather than keep the sense of the Greek genitive absolute.

The reader may think that this is an innocuous point being made. There are a number of ways to understand the tongues miracle. The first one was that the person thought in their own language and as they began to speak, their thoughts were divinely intercepted and their lips produced sounds in different foreign languages, which the Latin translation could be understood leaning towards. It was an external miracle. Therefore there was little intellectual involvement on behalf of the speaker. Or it can be that the speaker spoke a single language, and the hearers heard in their own language. Another argument was that the miracle happened internally. The person miraculously understood and comprehended a language not previously known, had immediate fluency, along with full voluntary control of what he was saying, which the Greek tends to promote. The text illustrates that Chrysostom believed it was an internal miracle. He did not explain whether this was a temporary phenomenon with those at Pentecost, or that it persisted with them throughout their lives.

The Corinthian tongues being a liturgical language?

Chrysostom further wrote an analysis of I Corinthians 14:15 that dwelled on the subject of tongues as a special foreign language used in the Church service:

I Corinthians 14:15 See how this one gradually building the argument demonstrating that such a thing is not only unprofitable for everyone else, but for himself, if it is so, his mind is unfruitful?

If someone should utter on in the Persian language, or in some foreign one, and additionally he does not know what he is saying, therefore it will also henceforth be alien to him, not just to another person, because the mastery of the voice would not be understood. In fact, there were formerly many having the gift of prayer by aid of a language. The language was being uttered — a prayer language being emitted whether in the Persian or Roman voice, and meanwhile, the mind did not know the thing being spoken.28

The text infers here that Chrysostom was aware the earlier Church had a religious liturgical language issued in the form of prayer, and it was supposed to be used universally throughout Christendom — however, he wasn’t sure what that liturgical language was. His guess was either of the two more prominent languages within his realm; Latin or Persian. He did acknowledge that there were once people skilled in this practice within the Church liturgy, but not within his time. This is an odd statement because Cyril of Alexandria, whose influence in Alexandria, Egypt, was only forty years later, stated that a Christian liturgical language, along with an interpreter-like-person called the keimenos was still in use within the Churches of Egypt.29

Chrysostom also pointed out that those previously who read or spoke in the religious liturgical language did not necessarily know what they were reading or saying. They were trained to simply read out the sounds, or speak them out from memory. It shows that this practice had been abandoned in the Antioch area by his time but not necessarily throughout the universal Christian community.

Some Additional thoughts about Chrysostom on tongues

His fourth homily on the Acts of the Apostles clearly spells out that Pentecost was the supernatural endowment of one or many foreign languages.30

He also provides more material from his homilies On the Holy Pentecost about the passages in the Book of Acts where people being baptized, miraculously spoke in foreign languages:

The person in the process of being baptized immediately was uttering in the sound of the Indians, Egyptians, Persians, Scythians, and Thracians — one man was taking on many languages. 31

He takes a position here that the person was spontaneously speaking in all the languages of the world. It is a broad statement which doesn’t explain the mechanics behind this. Was the person speaking a few words in one language, then switching to a second, and so on, until complete? Wouldn’t that take far too long? And would it be considered a miracle only to say a few words in each language and then switch to another?

These questions are unfortunately not answered. Chrysostom himself realized this in his address on the doctrine of tongues in his homilies On the Holy Pentecost. He bluntly dived right in, stating that believers do not need signs. External things are insignificant. He knew his audience would not completely buy into this and added, “But I see that to be a teaching extending out for a long time. On which account I am going to bring an end to the word while adding a few thoughts.”32 He never completely finished the topic. It would have been helpful for posterity that he did. So he left us with a lot of question marks as to what he meant.

This may be the reason why Nazianzus’ writing of the subject perpetuated for centuries and his opinions did not. ■

Conyers Middleton's Essay on Tongues

Conyers Middleton, a controversial church historian from the 18th century, became famous for his work Divine Inquiry but also wrote a small work dedicated to the topic on the Gift of Tongues.

It is an essay found in The Miscellaneous Works of the Late Reverend and Learned Conyers Middleton Vol. II, published in 1752, Pg. 79, properly entitled, An Essay on the Gift of Tongues.

It is one of the better works on the topic, and surpasses the level of arguments written by George H. Williams and Edith Waldvogel, A History of Speaking in Tongues and Related Gifts, published in Michael Hamilton’s 1975 work, The Charismatic Movement, which is ubiquitous in charismatic and pentecostal circles, or John Macarthur’s 1993 cessationist publication, Charismatic Chaos. (I haven’t read Macarthur’s new work, Strange Fire to comment on it.)

Middleton quotes a larger than usual number of Church Fathers when he covers the tongues of Pentecost, painting a portrait that it was the spontaneous speaking in a foreign language that the speaker previously did not know. He was not aware of any doctrine of a private prayer or heavenly language.

He makes the mistake of lumping both the tongues of Pentecost and the problem tongues of Corinth as the same entity, which is very problematic. He certainly leans upon Greek and Latin authors and excludes almost completely Hebrew and Jewish sources. By doing so he is working with a restricted set of tools.

His citing of Church literature is more extensive than most, but still falls considerably short. He does not grapple with the difficult texts offered by Gregory Nazianzus, which set the pace and discussion on the subject for centuries, nor of Augustine, who may have been the most prolific writer on tongues, which is a great oversight.

His work is plain quotation and there is no attempt to perform any textual criticism. He does delve into the Delphic oracles in a brief fashion, explaining that Christians were being accused by others of being of similar nature, but does not syncretize these two camps.

Conyers Middleton and the doctrine of tongues

Conyers Middleton

The Free Inquiry, by Conyers Middleton, how it inspired the later doctrine of cessationism and impacted the Christian doctrine of tongues.

Conyers Middleton was an 18th century church historian who promoted the idea that miracles and signs were not necessary for defining christian truth, practice, or polity. Mysticism was an important cornerstone in leadership decision making and population control during Middleton’s time and sometimes gave catastrophic results. The dispute against miracles and signs was the centerpiece in his, Free Inquiry, which was unique and highly controversial when it was first introduced. By applying common sense to principles of faith over mysticism, he sought to distance the protestant identity and authority from that of the Catholic Church.

His work stands the test of time, and is still a challenging and important work that all christian mystics should ponder and reflect upon.

Middleton does address the doctrine of tongues but it is limited. He fails to take in a larger corpus of ecclesiastical literature to draw his conclusions. By using such a small sampling, he could easily state that the gift of tongues died within the first century church and not have to wrestle with the likes of Pachomius, Augustine, or the historical context of the Corinthian tongues problem, which was not mystical at all, but a functional one. He slightly addressed Chrysostom’s texts to support his argument but further elaborates when he published, An Essay on the Gift of Tongues.

Neither does he take into account that the second century church fathers were Greek rhetoricians whose principle aim was not to demonstrate miracles, but to explain and practice the Christian faith in a Greek philosophical framework. The fourth century church writers did not believe magic and miracles were necessary signs to validate the church, their leadership or their devoutness, so, little space was devoted to it. There is no consistent thought from any early writers about miracles ceasing, rather their importance was secondary.

He set the foundation for what would later be called cessationism which believes the supernatural era has ended and miracles can no longer can be manufactured within the christian church.

Cessationists believe that supernatural miracles no longer are applicable in christian practice or polity, and therefore the doctrine of tongues is a moot point. Since it died out two-thousand years ago, anything practiced today would be fraudulent.

Although there were citings by earlier authors on the Montanists, this is the period that the montanist and christian mystics are popularized in English literature. However, Middleton does not make a direct connection between the two on speaking in tongues. 1

Here is a link to Free Inquiry in pdf format. This is the 1844 version which is easier to read than the original 1749 one.

William Dodwell, a contraversialist, theologian, and minister, took it upon himself to refute Middleton with his book, A Free Answer to Dr. Middleton’s Free Inquiry. In doing so Dodwell was conferred a Doctorate of Divinity by Oxford.2 However, his refutation failed to produce the desired results. Middleton’s work has perpetuated while his has fallen into obscurity.

Middleton’s work had such a great impact that the legendary evangelist John Wesley saw the need to refute in a letter to Dr. Conyers Middleton immediately after its publication. Wesley’s response is forgotten, being powerfully overshadowed by the legend of Free Inquiry whose primitive arguments still stand, and have been greatly expanded upon by cessationists, and scholars living today.

See also Conyers Middleton’s Essay on Tongues

Technical Notes on Chrysostom's Pentecost Text

Notes on the translation of John Chyrsostom’s, On the Holy Pentecost, Homily 1:4(b) to 5.

An overview of the techniques, challenges and solutions found in translating the text. On the Holy Pentecost is an important text that outlines Chrysostom’s theological viewpoint on the tongues of Pentecost. It adds more information to his already known thoughts found in his Homilies on Acts, and his Homilies on I Corinthians.

This is intended to be the last of the translations for the Gift of Tongues Project, not because the list of ecclesiastical writers has been exhausted on the subject, but is more than enough to build an accurate portrait of tongues from ecclesiastical literature. The remaining writers on the matter will be scanned and the source texts will be posted in pdf format on the website at a later date.

The approach to translating the Chrysostom text relating to the doctrine of tongues

The methodology behind translating this text was very different than the previous ones. It was desired to significantly reduce the amount of time to complete the task. First of all it intended to use the online Perseus Greek Dictionary almost exclusively without having to open the bulky pdf-based dictionaries. These pdfs of Greek dictionaries, especially Stephanus’ voluminous Greek Lexicon, is a tediously slow process to find and retrieve entries. Secondly, the blocks of translation done were significantly larger at any given sitting. In the past, only a few lines of text were translated per day, and the next line was not proceeded to until everything was understood. If a new grammatical item was introduced, much time would be spent on learning this aspect before proceeding. This was dramatically curtailed in the initial translation effort. Another factor to reduce time was to post the work immediately after the first pass was done, without letting it sit for a week, and then reviewing it.

The end result of this initial translation was a flop. After eight hours of revisions, the work is now at the same standard as the previous ones done on this site. The lesson learned is that short-cuts never work.

The original text used and the biggest translation challenge

The translation is based on the text found in Migne Patrologia Graeca alone which isn’t typically done on the majority of my translations which usually start with MPG and migrate to a better version. This one is an exception to this method.

There are no authorship issues here. The internal text seems to be consistent, and it does not appear to have different grammatical structures or vocabulary unsuited for the time.

It starts out as an easy translation with 4b, and then his Greek vocabulary and structure gets significantly more difficult in 5.

The hardest portion found is this:

Here is the Greek:

Ὅτι ἐκεῖνος μὲν ἀπῄει κατηγορήσων ἁμαρτημάτων, καὶ θρηνήσων συμφορὰς Ἰουδαϊκάς·
οὗτοι δὲ ἐξῄεσαν τὰ τῆς οἰκουμένης ἁμαρτήματα δαπανήσοντες·

And the Latin:

Quod ille quidem abiret insectaturus peccata, calamitatesque memoriae suggereret deploraturus; hi vero peccata orbis terrarum absumpturi exirent.

The use of the future participles κατηγορήσων, and θρηνήσων were an initial challenge to understand here. Whether I never knew how future participles operated in Greek, or that I have simply forgot this element, I don’t know. However, I tried to force the meaning of the Latin future participle on the Greek one in this instance. It made up for a unusual mechanical translation that was originally posted. It did not make sense.

With some help from Alex Poulos, who maintains a blog on church literature, The Poulos Blog, this translation was pointed on the right track.

The future participle found here in the Greek brought about reviewing the participle structure. The participle is a rich contributor to the ancient Greek language. Daniel B. Wallace, a Greek Professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, has posted an excellent article covering participles, aptly called The participle. It is a comprehensive work that portrays the wide ranging use of the Greek participle. In the above instance, it is considered a telic participle, to which he instructs:

First, to clarify that a particular participle is telic (purpose), one can either translate it as though it were an infinitive, or simply add the phrase with the purpose of before the participle in translation.

Second, since purpose is accomplished as a result of the action of the main verb, perfect participles are excluded from this category (since they are typically antecedent in time). The future adverbial participle always belongs here; the present participle frequently does. The aorist participle also has a representative or two, but this is unusual.

Third, many present participles that fit this usage are lexically influenced. Verbs such as seek (ζητέω) or signify (σημαίνω), for example, involve the idea of purpose lexically.

Fourth, the telic participle almost always follows the controlling verb. Thus, the word order emulates what it depicts. Some participles, when following their controlling verbs, virtually demand to be taken as telic…

So how does this passage translate?:

“Because the former goes forth to speak out against sins, and to mourn the Jewish calamities. The latter were going forth to destroy the sins of the world.”

The difference between δωρεά and χάρισμα

The original translation did not distinguish between δωρεά and χάρισμα. Many commentaries and New Testament grammars believe these are synonyms for the word “gift”. However, I think Chrysostom, and most ecclesiastical writers distinguished these words with slightly different meanings. An editorial decision has been made for this translation, Δωρεά is translated as “gift,” and χάρισμα as “grace.”

Throughout the text being translated, it was found he used the subjunctive infrequently, and the articular infinitive was not dominant. There was no optative located. There was a hint of a Doric vocabulary but not overwhelming.

Some Chyrostom grammar nuances

The aorist was his tense of choice when referring to past action. Often it was used in a punctiliar fashion. Otherwise it is simply used as a past tense.

The utilization of the grammatical structure pointers, μὲν and δὲ are an always initial point of reference for understanding the flow of thought with a Greek writer. Chrysostom’s text deviates from the normal pattern. Μὲν seldom occurs, and δὲ can be repeated for a long string of text. It appears that γὰρ takes the place of μὲν.

The high use of γὰρ has never been seen before in any other texts. Typically the English equivalent “for” is used almost exclusively, but here, it is obvious it cannot be done that simply. Some investigation into the New Testament text usage of γὰρ revealed the following synonyms, actually, after, after all, although, because, indeed, since, then, though, well, what, why, yes,”1 The majority of these synonyms are seen sprinkled through this translation.

Lastly the word οἰκουμένη which had me nervous, as originally it was thought to be from the same root as the verb οἰκονομέω or the noun οἰκονομία which has special religious meanings, depending on the era and region. Fortunately, it was not, and according to Lidell and Scott, simply means something like this, ‘inhabited region, then the Greek world, opp. barbarian lands, the inhabited world (including non-Greek lands, as Ethiopia, India, Scythia), as opp. possibly uninhabited regions, loosely, the whole world, the Roman world’.2

Chrysostom also wrote on a few occasions in the first person, which is highly unusual for an ecclesiastical piece of literature. ■

A snippet from Chrysostom's "The Holy Pentecost"

A translation from a portion of John Chrysostom’s On the Holy Pentecost as it relates to the miraculous event of Pentecost found in the Book of Acts.

As translated from the Greek: Εἰς τὴν Ἁγίαν Πεντηκοστήν by S. Joannis Chrysostomi. MPG Vol. 50, Col. 458 – 461. Homily 1:4(b) — 5. Translation by Charles A. Sullivan.

Draft 3


4(b). Therefore why does it say that such a sign does not happen now? Keep your attention with me along with important details here. For I hear from many, continually and always seeking this question. Why then were all those speaking in languages at that time, and now no longer? We must first learn in this instance what is the act of speaking in languages and then we will discuss the case as well. Therefore, what does it mean to speak in languages? The person in the process of being baptized immediately was uttering in the sound of the Indians, Egyptians, Persians, Scythians, and Thracians — one man was taking on many languages. And indeed if these ones back then had been baptized now, then you are to immediately hear at that moment these uttering in different sounds. Additionally, with Paul, it says [in Scripture], since he found some who were baptized in the baptism of John, he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.””1 And he immediately urged them to be baptized. “And when Paul lays his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they were speaking in all languages.”2

Why then had the gift been limited, and now this has been removed from mankind? Do you see that the manifestation of signs which has been withdrawn is not a feature of God dishonoring but of Him exceedingly honoring us? How? I am going to relate. Men were disposed to a most stupid ideal back then. Since these ones were recently delivered, their reason was still really thick-witted, and lacking common sense. For they had been fervent and occupied with anything pertaining to the corporal, and not once, never did the thought of the incorporal gifts exist with them, neither did they know at some point what a grace is seen only with the mind,3 and being observed by faith alone. For that reason the grace begat signs.

For regarding the gifts of the spirit, some are invisible, and are understood by faith alone and some display a visible sign for the sake of assuring unbelievers. But on the other hand concerning these invisible things, it is exhibited as an observable sign for the sake of assuring unbelievers. I am going to relate such a thing. The remission of sins is a matter of heart and mind,4 a grace that is invisible. For how our sins are being removed, we do not see with eyes of the flesh. What kind of thing is this? Because the soul is the thing which is being cleansed, the soul does not observe with the eyes of the flesh. Therefore, the cleansing of sins is a kind of gift that is apprehended by the mind, which cannot be visible to the eyes of the body. Now even though speaking in tongues itself comes from the spiritual work of the Spirit, it nevertheless provides a sign that is physically perceptible and easily seen by unbelievers. For regarding the work which happens inside the soul, I say of the invisible, because the external language being heard is a certain manifestation and proof. According to this thought Paul says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”5

I emphatically do not have the need for signs now. On what account? I have obviously learned to believe in the Master also apart from a giving of a sign. For the unbeliever requires an assurance. I believe that I am in no need of an assurance nor a sign. But even if I should not speak in a language, I know that I have been cleansed from sins. However, these ones were not to believe at that time, unless they received a sign. For this reason a sign was given to them, which they believed as an assurance of the faith. Therefore, the giving of the signs was not as for the believers, but as for the unbelievers in order that they should have become believers. So that Paul likewise says, “The signs are not for those who believe, but for those who are unbelievers.”6 Do you see that the manifestation of signs which has been withdrawn is not a feature of God dishonoring but of Him honoring us?7 For if one wishes to demonstrate our faith, we believe this has been done without an assurance of a pledge or signs with it. Except those ones who have received first the sign and pledge, do not believe it concerning the unseen things. I, on the other hand, indeed show a complete faith without this. This is therefore the reason why signs are not happening now.

5. I wished to also speak about the occasion of the festival and demonstrate in the end what Pentecost is, and a reason why in this festival the grace is being given, and the reason why with languages of fire, and why after ten days. But I see that to be a teaching extending out for a long time. On which account I am going to bring an end to the word while adding a few thoughts:

“When the day of Pentecost had come… there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves.”8

Not “fire,” literally, but “as fire,” so that you should have suspicion of nothing perceptible relating to the Spirit. For with respect with what happened at the Jordan rivers, the dove did not descend literally, but in the form of a dove. Thus, it is also in this place here not literally a fire, but a kind of fire. And it was majestically said, “like a violent rushing wind,”9 Why did Ezekiel not receive the gift of prophecy through the likeness of fire but through a book,10 but the Apostles receive the gift through the agency of fire? For concerning this it says that he gave the head of a scroll11 into his mouth, and there was written lamentation, a mournful song, and woe, and it had been written on the inside and outside. He ate it and it became in the mouth as sweet as honey. When it comes to the apostles it is not so. Rather “and they appeared to them tongues as fire.”12 Why then was there a scroll and letters there, but tongue and fire here? Because the former goes forth to speak out against sins, and to mourn the Jewish calamities. The latter were going forth to destroy the sins of the world. For this reason Ezekiel was receiving a small book, telling of the coming misfortunes, but the apostles were receiving fire, so as to thoroughly burn-up the sins of the world, and to obliterate all of it. For just as the fire falls upon thistles13 and easily destroys all of it, thus also the grace of the Spirit consumes the sins of mankind. But the stupid Jews, while these things were happening, ought to be fearful, tremble and revere the gift being bestowed, contrarily point it out as a silly state, accusing drunkenness against the apostles who have been filled of the Spirit. “These ones, it says, “are full of sweet wine.”14 Pay attention to the senseless pride of mankind, and contemplate at this moment the integrity of angels. For the angels see the start of our rising-up, they were rejoicing and said, “Lift up your heads, O gates, And be lifted up, O ancient doors, That the King of glory may come in!”15 These men on the other hand say, who had just seen the grace of the Spirit descending to us, that the ones who are receiving the gift are drunk, and the season of the calendar did not constrain them. For wine in the springtime would not likely have been found at any occasion, nevertheless it was still spring. Therefore, let these ones be left alone. We nevertheless go about considering the reckoning of a benevolent God. Christ received the first fruit of our nature and rewarded us with the grace of the Spirit. Just like it was produced in a lengthy war, and when the battle was in the process of being finished, and peace was going to be accomplished, and those who have enmity towards others offer pledges and securities to these parties. It has also happened in this way between God and human nature. He sent in it pledges and securities, the first-fruit which Christ took up.16 He himself sent back to us the Holy Spirit in place of pledges and securities.17 That indeed we have pledges and securities, evident from this time forward. For it is necessary the offsprings of royalty to be pledges and securities. It was on this account that the Holy Spirit had been sent down to us, as to whom is the substance of the most high king, and the one who had been raised up was from the offspring of royal lineage on our behalf. After all, he was from the seed of David. On which account I am no longer scared because our first fruit rests on high. Therefore, granted that someone should say to me “endless worm”, even “unquenchable fire,” and about other penalties and retributions, I do not dread any more. Well, I do indeed fear, but albeit I do not despair about my own salvation. Really, unless God was thinking about the great deeds about our offsprings, he would not have taken the first fruit on high. Before this, these ones watch throughout heaven, and reflect upon the non-material deeds, we see more clearly our worthlessness after the comparison regarding the deeds from on high. Now, still while we wished to know our nobility, we look up on high to heaven to the royal throne itself. In fact in that place the first fruit which had been taken up from us, was about to seat down. Thus, the Son of God also will come judging us. On which account we are going to be prepared, so as to not be deprived of this glory, because by all means He will come, the person connected with our Master will last. He will come bringing armies, brigades of angels, companies of archangels, hosts of martyrs, choirs of righteous ones, assemblies of prophets and apostles, and in the midst of these immaterial armies, the King appears in something which is too great for words and unexplainable glory. ■


The Greek text can be found at the Orthodox Fathers website, Εἰς τὴν Ἁγίαν Πεντηκοστήν