The story of three sixth-century Welsh Christian Saints and their encounter with the gift of tongues.
St. David, Padarn, and Teilo are important figures in the history of Wales. Who exactly were they and how do they fit in the history of tongues speaking? It is necessary to narrate the lives of these revered Welsh icons before the coverage of speaking in tongues can begin.
The legends behind these people are interesting, especially that there is a connection between two of them and the legendary King Arthur.
The life of St. David has the most coverage and the most controversial. The Encyclopedia of World Biography describes his biography in this way:
Most information about Saint David comes from the writings of an eleventh-century monk named Rhygyfarch (also Rhygyvarch, Rhigyfarch, and Ricemarch), son of Bishop Sulien, of Saint David’s Cathedral, Saint David’s favorite of the churches he established. Rhygyfarch claimed to have gathered his information from old written sources, but those have not survived. Rhygyfarch’s life of Saint David is regarded by many scholars as suspect because it contains many implausible events and because he had a stake in enhancing Saint David’s history so as to support the prestige of the Welsh church and its independence from Canterbury, the center of the English church (still Catholic at the time). According to David Hugh Farmer in The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Rhygyfarch’s history of Saint David “should be treated as propaganda, which may, however, contain some elements of true tradition.” 1
Teilo, often written by his Cornish name Eliud, was a bishop and founder of monasteries and Churches in south Wales. “Reputed to be a cousin, friend, and disciple of Saint David.”2 He is the patron Saint of fruit trees and horses and there are more than 25 Churches in Wales, Cornwall and Brittany dedicated to him. A great feat, but St. David still has more Churches honoured to him.3
Padarn, was an early 6th century British Christian who is considered one of the seven founding saints of Brittany. Padarn is one of a small group that mention King Arthur independently of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae.4
These three made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Shortly after leaving Britain, they discovered linguistic barriers between themselves and the countries they were journeying through. The solution was a divine one. St. David was “endowed with the gift of tongues, just as the apostolic company was, so that when they were staying among foreign peoples they should not lack an interpreter, . . .”
There are different versions of the account that are not in complete agreement. Rhygyfarch’s text, which contains the above quote, is the most popular. His original work was written in the eleventh-century but there are so many variations of his text today, it is unclear which one is the original. The version used here is from Rhygyfarch’s Life of St. David. Ed. and transl. Richard Sharpe and John Reuben Davies. They have done the comparative manuscript work. The English translation and the Latin text provided at the end of this article is from their contribution.
Rhygyfarch supports the idea that St. David had the same gift as the Apostles had, but fails to describe the miracle. This requires a further look into another version. The Nova legenda Anglie, a biographical collection of English Saints started by John of Tynemouth in the fourteenth-century, provides some insight. “He [Teilo] began to expound the sacred Scriptures. And each one of those standing heard him speaking in his own language.” The Nova legenda Anglie is promoting the miracle of hearing rather than speaking.
However, the Nova legenda Anglie takes a twist in the narrative. It was Teilo who first spoke in tongues. St. David and Padarn followed later. This is different from Rhygyfarch who emphasised St. David over Teilo and Padarn. This explanation may be connected to a rivalry between the Church organisations led by St. David and Teilo where each one later wanted to position themselves as a superior order. The demonstration of miracles, including the gifting of tongues, was to demonstrate their exclusive superiority. This is not the first time this has happened. This same competition was found between two religious orders in France; l’abbaye Saint-Clément and l’abbaye Saint-Arnould during the tenth and fourteenth centuries. L’abbaye Saint-Arnoud argued that their founder, St. Patiens of Metz, supernaturally spoke in tongues to support their claim as the more credible Church order.5
The legends of St. David, Teilo, and Padarn speaking in tongues may be a later medieval interpretation and this is fine. Their story further reinforces how the medievalist biographers understood the Christian doctrine of tongues. They understood it as a divine infusion of either speaking or hearing a foreign human language. These texts demonstrate no connection to uttering incoherent words, speaking an angelic or prayer language.
Another text that closely parallels that of Rhygyfarch’s Life of St. David is the one found in Acta Sanctorum. The text truncates a few lines when compared to Rhygyfarch. I wonder if the editors of Acta Sanctorum were concerned about the Rhygyfarch text being added and revised at a later date. Unfortunately, medieval textual criticism is not my forte and will have to leave that problem for a medievalist enthusiast to solve.
As per the goals of the Gift of Tongues Project three original texts in the Latin are provided. Two contain an English translation. The third does not have an English translation which is the Acta Sanctorum. This text is left only in the Latin because it closely parallels Rhygyfarch’s Life of St. David. It is pointless to spend the time translating this text but may be of value to those Latin readers who like to see subtle shifts in textual transmission.
English translation of Rhygyfarch’s Life of St. David.
§ 44. As his merits increased, so also did his rank and respect. For one night, an angel came to him, and said, “Tomorrow, put your shoes on and set out to travel to Jerusalem and make the journey you have longed for. I shall also call two others to be your companions on the way, namely Eliud” (who is now commonly called Teilo and was formerly a monk of this monastery), “and also Padarn” (whose life and miracles are contained in his own history). The holy father, wondering at the authority of the command, said, “How shall this be done? For those whom you promise to be my companions live three days’ distance or more away from us and from each other; therefore we cannot by any means meet tomorrow.” The angel said to him, “Tonight, I shall go to each of them, and they will come to the appointed place, which I shall now reveal.” Saint David made no delay, but having organized the useful things of his cell, he received the blessing of the brethren and began his journey early in the morning. He reached the appointed place, met the promised brethren there, and they went on their way together. They were equals as fellow travellers, no one considered himself to be above the other, each one of them was a servant, each one master. Constant in prayers, they watered the road with tears. The further their feet took them, the greater was their gain. They had one mind, one joy, and one sorrow.
§ 45. When they had sailed across the British sea and arrived in Gaul, they heard the strange languages of different nations, and father David was endowed with the gift of tongues, just as the apostolic company was, so that when they were staying among foreign peoples they should not lack an interpreter, and also that they should confirm the faith of others by the word of truth.6
Latin source of Rhygyfarch’s Life of St. David.
44 Crescentibus autem meritis, crescunt eta honorumb dignitates. Nam quadam nocte ad eum angelus affuit, cui inquit, ‘Crastina die precingens calciad te, Ierusalem usque pergeree proficiscens, optatam carpe uiam. Sed et alios duos comites itineris uocabo, Eliud, scilicet,’ qui nunc Teliau uulgo uocatur, qui quondam eius monasterio interfuit monachus, ‘necnon et Paternum,’ cuius conuersatio atque uirtutes in sua continentur hystoria. Sanctus autem pater, admirans imperii preceptum, dixit, ‘Quomodo hoc fiet, nam quos promittis comites trium uel eo amplius dierum spatio a nobis uel a semetipsis distant? Nequaquam ergo pariter crastina conueniemus die.’ Angelus ad eum nuntiat, ‘Ego hac nocte ad quemquam illorum uadam, et ad condictum, quod nuncf ostendo, conuenient.’ Sanctus autem [Dauid], nichil moratus, dispositis cellul” utilitatibus, accepta fratrum benedictione, primo mane iter incepit. Peruenit ad condictum, repperit ibi promissos fratres, pariter guiam intrant. Equalis commeatus, nullus enim mente alio prior, quique eorum minister, quique dominus, sedula oratio, lacrimis uiam rigant. Quo amplius pes incederet, merces excresceret, una illish anima, una leticia, unus dolor.
45 Cum autem trans mare Brittannicum uecti Gallias adirent ac alienigenas diuersarum gentium linguas audirent, linguarum gratia ceu apostolicus ille cętus ditatus est [pater Dauid], ut ne in extraneis degentes gentibus interprete egerent, et ut aliorum fidem ueritatis uerbo firmarent.7
An English translation from Nova Legenda Anglie 2:365-66.
However, in order to satisfy their desire and the people’s supplications, he [Teilo] began to expound the sacred Scriptures. And each one of those standing heard him speaking in his own language. Therefore, when all who had been moved by so great a pleasing speech and they heard him for such a long time, the more they desired to hear him. Lest one should appear to presume about the business regarding which he was going to speak, as if he was preaching on his own account, he said to the people: “Hear now the words of life from my brethren who are more perfect in life than me, and or more diligent in learning.” Therefore Saint David and Padarn arose and they preached to the people and everyone in their own language perfectly understood them.8
The Latin source from Nova Legenda Anglie 2:365-66.
Vt tamen populo supplicanti et illorum voto satisfaceret, sacras scripturas exponere cepit: et unusquisque astantium illum sua lingua loquentem audiuit. Cumque omnes tanta dulcedine sermonis illius essent affecti, ut quanto eum diutius audirent, magis illum audire desidarent; ne predicandi officium videretur presumere si solus predicassset, populo dixit: ‘Audit iam a fratribus meis verba vite, qui me perfectiores in vita sunt, et diligentiores in doctrina.’ Surrexerunt ergo sanctus Dauid et Paternus, et predicauerunt populo, omnibusque in sua lingua perfect intelligentibus eos.”
AASS Mar., I. 44-45. Pg. 45
Quadam nocte Angelus S. Dewi apparens, ait : Crastina die cingens et calceans te, Jerusalem peregre proficiscens, optatam carpe viam. Sed et alios duos comites vocabo : Eliud scilicet, qui nunc Telion vulgo nonimatur, qui quondam ejus monasterio interfuit monachus, et Paternum, cujus virtutes in sua continentur historia. Sanctus autem Pater admirans imperii præceptum, dixit : Quomodo hoc fieret? Nam quos promittis socios, trium vel amplius dierum spatio a nobis vel a semetipsis distant : nequaquam ergo crastina conveniremus die. Cui Angelus : Ego hac nocte ad quemlibet illorum vadam : et ad condictum, quod tibi modo ostendo, convenient. Sanctus autem nihil moratus, dispositis cellulæ utilatibus, accepta Fratrum benedictione, primo mane incepit iter, pervenit ad condictum, reperit ibi præmissos Fratres, pariterque intrant viam : una illis anima, una lætitia, unus dolor. Cum autem trans mare Britannicum vecti, Gallias adirent, ac alienas diversarum gentium linguas audirent, linguarum gratia, sicut Apostolicus ille cœtus, ditatus est David Pater : ut ne in extraneis degentes gentibus, interprete egerent.