Monthly Archives: February 2015

Epiphanius on the Tongues of Corinth: Another Translation

Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis, on the problem tongues of Corinth, as translated by Frank Williams.

Epiphanius has one of the most clearest and definitive accounts on the Corinthian tongues conflict than any other author. It is critical that his translation be critically analyzed and looked from a number of sources. An original Greek source text has been built, The Latin, which has its own nuances and may be based on an unknown manuscript, and my own translation is provided on this site, along with this one, done by Frank Williams.

Not much is known about Frank Williams outside of his massive and widely accepted modern translation of Epiphanius’ Panarion. He received his Phd from Oxford, and is now retired from the University of Texas.

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Scholion 13 and 21. Marcion has erroneously added the words, “on the Law’s account,’’ < after > “Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding.”

(a) Elenchus 13 and 21. Thus the languages too are by the gift of the Spirit. But what sort of languages does the apostle mean? < He says, “languages in the church,” > to show < those who > preened themselves on the sounds of Hebrew, which are well and wisely diversified in every expression, in various complex ways—on the pretentious kind of Greek, moreover, the speaking of Attic, Aeolic and Doric—< that God does not permit just one language in church, as some of the people < supposed > who had stirred up the alarms and factions among the Corinthians, to whom the Epistle was being sent.

(b) And yet Paul agreed that both using the Hebrew expressions and teaching the Law is < a gift > of the Spirit. Moreover, to condemn the other, pretentious forms of Greek, he said he spoke with “tongues” rather (than those) because he was an Hebrew of Hebrews and had been brought up at the feet of Gamaliel; and he sets great store by the scriptures of these Hebrews , and < makes it clear > that they are gifts of the Spirit. Thus, in writing to Timothy about the same scriptures, he said, “For from thy youth thou hast learned the sacred scriptures.”

(c) And further, he said the same sort of thing < to > the people who had been trained by the Greek poets and orators, and added in the same way, “I speak with tongues more than ye all,” to show that he was more fully versed in the Greek education as well.

(d) Even his style shows that he was educated, since Epicureans and Stoics could not withstand him < when he preached the Gospel with wisdom at Athens >, but were defeated by the inscription on the altar, “To the unknown God,” which he read learnedly—which was read literally by him, and immediately paraphrased as “Whom ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.”

(e) And (they were defeated) again when he said, “A prophet of their own hath said, Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies,” meaning Epimenides, who was an ancient philosopher and erected the idol in Crete. Callimachus the Libyan also extended his testimony to himself by quoting Callimachus and saying falsely of Zeus:

The men of Crete are liars alway, Lord;
’Twas men of Crete that built thy tomb, though thou
Hast never died; thy being is eternal

(f ) And yet you see how the holy apostle explains of languages, “Yet in church I had rather utter five words with my understanding,” that is, “in translation.” As a prophet benefits his hearers with prophecy in the Holy Spirit by bringing things to light which have already been furnished to his understanding, I too, says Paul, < want > to speak so that the church may hear and be edified—not edify myself with the boast of Greek and Hebrew which I know, instead of edifying the church with the language which it understands.

(g) But you have added, “on the Law’s account,” Marcion, as though the apostle meant, “I want < to speak > (no more than) five words in church on the Law’s account.” Shame on you, you second Babylon and new rabble of Sodom! How long are you going to confuse the tongues? How long will you venture against beings you cannot harm? For you are attempting to violate angelic powers by expelling the words of the truth from the church and telling the holy Lot, “Bring the men out!”

(h) And yet your attempt is an attempt on yourself. You will not expel the words of the truth, but you will strike yourself blind and pass your life in utter darkness—fumbling for the door and not finding it, till the sun rises and you see the day of judgment, on which the fire will confront your falsehood also. For this is waiting for you, when you see. (i) “On the Law’s account” is not in the apostle, and you have made it up yourself. But even if the apostle were to say, “on the Law’s account,” he would be saying it, in harmony with his own Lord, not in order to destroy the Law but to fulfil it.

Scholion 14 and 22. “In the Law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people.”

(a) Elenchus 14 and 22. “If the Lord did not fulfill the things that had previously been said in the Law, why would the apostle need to mention things from the Law which are fulfilled in the New Testament? Thus the Savior showed that it was he himself who had spoken in the Law even then, and threateningly declared to them, “Therefore was I grieved with this generation and said, They do always err in their hearts, and I sware that they shall not enter into my rest.” For the same reason he promised to speak to them through men of other tongues—as indeed he did, and they did not enter.

(b) For we find him saying this to his disciples: “Unto you are given the mysteries of the kingdom, but unto them in parables, that seeing they may not see,”and so on. Hence (if ) the Old Testament sayings (are) fulfilled everywhere in the New, it is plain to everyone that the two Testaments are not Testaments of two different Gods, but of the same God.

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As taken from: Nag Hammadi & Manichaean Studies. Vol. 63. Einar Thomassen and Johannes van Oort. Ed. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis. Book I (Sects 1-46). Translated by Frank Williams. Brill: Leiden. 2009. Pg. 349-351

Fanatics, Extremists, and Religion

The difference between fanaticism and true religion.

Fanaticism is an unhealthy set of principles that takes the letter of the law too literally and avoids compassion or feeling towards self or others. It is found in all faiths and ideologies. It is part of the human narrative.

On the other hand, true religion is one who lives by the higher law of love and commitment to truth. A condition that takes much more effort, patience and sacrifice to achieve than simply following a legal code.

There are good Christians and bad Christians, same with socialists, capitalists, Jews, and also Muslims. History shows that even non-religious systems such as Communism, and the attempted establishment of Western Democratic countries in the Middle East have run into the same problems of fanaticism. The ancient texts and modern history weaves the account that wherever humanity exists, greatness is found, but also the element of corruption and inhumanity always runs in parallel.

Is it the fault of religion or ideology? No. Any system designed for the benefit of humanity can also be a source of bondage. From my observations as a member of the Charismatic Church community, there are many stories where people are rescued from their own destructive behavior and discover a newfound sense of community. However, there are also those who have personally suffered either at the hands of those asserting legal principles over human need or are using religion to avoid dealing with their inner demons.

How can that be? If one lives simply by the rules and adheres to the Bible as a legal text of dos and do nots, it absolves one of any personal responsibility. The letter of the Law does not require one to love another, or even care while the spirit of it does.

The present Church is a combination of some who just go by the letter, and those who strive hard to go by the higher law. Most vacillate between the two sides – not because these are bad people, it is because the Church is a human entity. Being human is a problem of imperfection, and the ensuing challenge is to go beyond self and to be altruistic. The achievement of such a condition is not an easy path to follow.

The legal vs. spirit of the law is not just an ancient religious problem. It is a common theme today but masked in different motifs. It is seen in my place of employment where the Collective Agreement between the Union and Management is like a Bible. There is no higher standard than the words in the agreement between the two parties. Management does not have to care at all about the individual employee in any decision-making, and can harass, shame, or push for productivity as long as it does not contravene the Collective Agreement. The Union too can call out names and shame management, and treat with contempt because this behavior is not explicitly found in the Collective Agreement and therefore not punishable. The Agreement is not designed to force anyone to like, respect, or treat each other humanely. This is not in the spirit how people should treat each other, but this is the reality.

People can easily hide behind the façade of the secular Western democratic systems of governance and justice.The halls of democracy can equally abuse as that of a religious system. If people follow the legal text without being encouraged to reach for a higher standard above the Law – that is of loving one another, then it fails.

When the Law becomes a daily part of our lives, and the spirit of the Law is removed, it takes away the responsibility to think about others, communicate, or even care. Inhumanity then easily can sink in.

Are there fanatical Christians? Yes. Fanatical Muslims? Yes. Fanatical Jews? Yes. Fanatical secularists? Yes. Are most people fanatics in any system or ideology? No, but the majority voice of compassion and patience can be drowned out by a small minority of passionate zealots. Fanaticism is not the fault of any religion or ideology, it is simply the dark part of the human character that hides behind legal texts for its self-seeking purposes, and thus avoiding any personal responsibility. It’s an easy-way-out.

To not recognize or address fanatical elements in any religious system or ideology is an immature view of our human capabilities for both good and evil. It is also dangerous because ignoring the fanatical dark side in any movement can have damaging future consequences.