Monthly Archives: May 2016

Three Welsh men speaking in tongues

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.”

Acta Sanctorum.

AASS Mar., I. 44-45. Pg. 45

Chapter IV

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.

The Struggle for Jewish Identity after the Destruction of the Temple

How the Jewish community adapted their religious system after the destruction of the temple in 70 AD.

The loss put Judaism at a crossroads. The destruction meant an end to the sacrificial system – a concept central to Jewish life and faith. This forced the Jewish community to adapt. Ephraim E. Urbach covered this in his great work, The Sages: Their Concepts and Beliefs. Mr. Urbach “was a distinguished scholar of Judaism. He is best known for his landmark works on rabbinic thought, The Sages, and for research on the Tosafot. He was an unsuccessful candidate to be President of Israel in 1973.”1

Enclosed is his coverage on how the new Jewish identity had shifted from sacrifice to study and charity. The quote names a few important Rabbis. The most prominent name in this discussion is Yochanan ben Zakai . The New World Encyclopedia gives an outline of this important leader in Jewish history:

“Yochanan ben Zakai (Hebrew:יוחנן בן זכא , died 80-90 C.E.), also spelled Johanan b. Zakki, was an important rabbinical sage in the final days of the Second Temple era of Judaism and a key figure in the transition from Temple-centered to Rabbinical Judaism.

Already a well known teacher in Jerusalem before the Jewish Revolt of 66-70 C.E., Yochanan was smuggled out of the city during the rebellion and convinced the future emperor Vespasian to allow him to reestablish his academy at Jamnia. This institution became the leading center of Judaism after the Temple was destroyed. Under Yochanan’s influence, animal sacrifices were abandoned in favor of prayer as the primary means of atonement between man and God.”2

Here is a portion of Urbach’s explanation:

Ephraim E. Urbach. The Sages: Their Concepts and Beliefs. Translated from the Hebrew by Israel Abrahams. Jerusalem: Magnes Press. 1979. Vol 1. Pg. 611

. . . R. Isaac taught ‘Whoever occupies himself with the law of the sin-offering, and whoever occupies himself with the study of the Torah is regarded as if he offered up a sin-offering, and whoever occupies himself with the law of the guilt-offering is regarded as though he offered up a guilt-offering.’ Rava came and said ‘Whoever occupies himself with the study of the Torah needs no burnt -offering nor sin-offering, no meal-offering nor guilt offering.’(4) The wording of Rava’s dictum ‘needs no’ etc. is more extreme than the dicta of his predecessors and their like, such as, ‘A Sage who sits and expounds (Torah) in public is accounted by Scripture as though he offered up fat and blood upon the altar,(5) for all these sayings contain the expression ‘as though (if)’. Even in the anonymous homily that states ‘When the Temple is not in existence, how shall you find atonement? Occupy yourselves with the words of the Torah, which are comparable to the sacrifices and they shall make atonement for you. . . ,(6) the study of the Torah serves only as a surrogate and replacement for atonement by the sacrifices. Even this concept is already the result of late development, for when the Temple was destroyed, Rabban Johanan b. Zakkai declared that acts of charity and benevolence were Israel’s atonement,(7) while others again looked upon fasts as substituting for and replacing sacrifices.(8) The supercession of fasting and the practice of benevolence as a means of expiation by the study of the Torah accords with the views of various Sages who chose the way of R. Simeon b. Yohai, rather than that of R. Judah b. Ill’ai.3


Footnotes found in the above text.4

These footnotes are for those already familiar with Jewish thought and method or want to know more details about the above passage.

  • (4) T. B. Menahot 110a. See Sifre Deut. § 41: ‘ “And to serve Him” — this refers to study of the Torah. You say this refers to study of the Torah, but perhaps it means actual (sacrificial) service! When Scripture declares “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to serve it [לעבדה usually rendered ‘to till it’] and to keep it” (Gen ii 15) – but what service was there in the past, and what keeping was there to do in the past? — thus you learn: “to serve it” means study of the Torah, “and to keep it” means the observance of precepts; and just as the service of the altar is called “service”, even so is the study of the Torah called “service”.’ This exposition is difficult, for it is impossible to tell why ‘to serve it’ should connote study of the Torah and not the service of sacrifice (and thus it is actually interpreted in Gen. Rabba xvi, 5. p. 149: “To serve it and to keep it” refers to the sacrifices’: see ibid n. 2. With regard to the precepts observed by Adam see above, p. 320). The understandable homily that follows emphasizes this difficulty: ‘ “And to serve Him” — this means prayer. . . but perhaps it means non other than service? (Hence Scripture says) “With all your heart”. Is there then service in the heart? . . . just as the altar-service is called “service”, even so prayer is called “service”.’

  • (5) ’Avot de-R. Nathan iv, p. 18; see the notes ibid.

  • (6)Tanḥuma, Aḥare, 10; ed. Buber, ibid., xvi, 35a

  • (7) See my article ‘Megammot Datiyyot we-Ḥevratiyyot be-Torat ha-Sadaqa shel Ḥazal’, Zion, XVI, 1951, pp. 6 ff.

  • (8) See my article ’Asqezis we-Yissurim’, Sefer ha-Yovel le Yitzḥak Baer, pp. 54 – 56

Vincent Ferrer and the Gift of Tongues


Vincent Ferrer was a Dominican missionary in the 14th century (1350 to 1419 AD). Legend has it that his native tongue was Valencian, a dialect of Catalan spoken in Spain. He didn’t know any other language.

“Catalan is not, as some believe, a dialect of Spanish, but a language that developed independently out of the vulgar Latin spoken by the Romans who colonised the Tarragona area. It is spoken by 9 million people in Catalonia, Valencia, the Balearic Isles, Andorra and the town of Alghero in Sardinia.”1

As an itinerant missionary whose travels brought him throughout western Europe, the lack of language preparation would have been a severe hindrance. To make matters worse, he knew only Valencian, which was a localized language. Very few within Europe had the ability to understand his native tongue. According to the account found in Acta Sanctorum this was overcome by the miracle of those hearing. He spoke in Valencian and the people understood his words perfectly in their own language.

The writer of this piece in Acta Sanctorum refers to the language of the British people as distinct from all others and only known by them. Little did the writer know that their language would become the lingua franca the world over 400 years later.

A biographer, Ranzano, Bishop of Lucera, recounts part of Ferrer’s life in this way:

He converted a prodigious number of Jews and Mahometans, heretics and schismatics. He visited every province of Spain In this manner, except Galicia. He returned thence into France, and made some stay in Languedoc, Provence, and Dauphine. He went thence into Italy, preaching on the coasts of Genoa, in Lombardy, Piedmont, and Savoy; as he did in part of Germany, about the Upper Rhine, and through Flanders. Such was the fame of his missions that Henry IV, King of England, wrote to him in the most respectful terms, and sent his letter by a gentleman of his court, entreating him to preach also in his dominions. He accordingly sent one of his own ships to fetch him from the coast of France, and received him with the greatest honours. The saint having employed some time in giving the king wholesome advice, both for himself and his subjects, preached in the chief towns of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Returning into France, he did the same from Gascony to Picardy. Numerous wars, and the unhappy great schism in the church, had been productive of a multitude of disorders in Christendom; gross ignorance, and a shocking corruption of manners, prevailed in many places; whereby the teaching of this zealous apostle, who, like another Boanerges, preached in a voice of thunder, became not only useful but even absolutely necessary, to assist the weak and alarm the sinner. The ordinary subjects of his sermons were sin, death, God’s judgments, hell, and eternity. He delivered his discourses with so much energy that he filled the most insensible with terror.2

As per the goals of the Gift of Tongues Project, the Latin source text along with an English translation is provided below.

English Translation from the Latin Text

Many in addition were used to being astonished about the miracle by him, because a number of them who heard the very man preach, that they were frequently so many, more were forced to stand a long distance from him. Yet they distinctly heard his speech — not smaller to those who were a great distance than those who were nearby. Moreover, that speech was outstanding in all ways upon him because that which he taught was confirmed by many distinct and miraculous signs, of which things we relate below. Indeed, that it is worthy with great admiration, because the gift of languages, even as also by the former Apostles, had been granted to him. For while through those regions together, which we mentioned above that he spread his preachings, having always spoken his Valencian and had been the maternal tongue. Yet each person, both young and old ones and either sex, were comprehending his speech every single word perfectly. Just as if he was born in the country of every single one of them and had been speaking their language. Many from Greece, Germany, Sardinia, Hungary and others born in other places who did not know except their mother tongue, nor understand another, prepared to the places in which Vincent was preaching. They gathered together with others for the purpose of listening and, they confessed at the end of his words being made with them that they understood the individual words of the man of God, no less than if they had heard him speaking their own language. In that region of Gaul, which we call in our time Britain, whom the French call the British British-speakers of whom the language is understood to these only. Although very many of them know how to speak the French language, many yet do not speak except their own language, and they understand no other, who yet distinctly understood the man of God speaking his own native language, that the children and women together would have gained too the greatest fruit from his beneficial instruction.3

The original Latin Source

As found in Vita S. Vincentii Ferrerii. Lib. II. AAS April 5. Ch. 3. Verse 14. Pg. 493

Multi insuper quasi miraculum de eo admirari solebant, quod eum numerus eorum qui eum prædicantem audiebant, frequentissime tantus esset, ut plures ab eo longissimo intervallo distare cogerentur ; non tamen minus ab eis qui plurimum distantes erant, quam ab eis qui erant proximi, distincte audiebatur sermo ejus. Illud autem omnium præstantissimum erat in eo, quod ea quæ docebat, multis signis clarissimisque miraculis confirmabat, de quibus infra narrabimus. Magna etiam admiratione dignum illud est, quod donum linguarum, sicut et veteribus Apostolis, ei concessum est. Cum enim per illas singulas regiones, quas supra memoravimus suas prædicationes diffunderet, et sua Valentina ac materna lingua fuerit semper locutus ; tamen singuli, tam pueri quam ætate provecti utriusque sexus, ejus sermonem per singula verba percipiebant, perinde ac si in singulorum patria fuisset natus, et eorum idiomate fuisset locutus. Multi quoque e Græci, Teutonici, Sardi, Hungari, et alii in aliis locis nati, qui non nisi materna lingua loqui sciebant, nec aliam intelligebant, devenientes ad loca in quibus prædicabat Vincentius, cum aliis ad audiendum concurrerunt et tandem facto verborum ejus fine fassi sunt se singula viri Dei verba percepisse, non minus quam si eorum lingua eum loquentem audissent. In illa Galliæ regione, quæ nostro tempore Britannia dicitur, sunt quidam populi, quos Galli vocant Britones Britonizantes, quorum lingua solis ipsis cognita est, et quamvis plurimi eorum lingua Gallorum loqui sciant, multi tamen non nisi sua lingua loquuntur, et nullam aliam intelligunt : qui tamen virum Dei, suo materno idiomate loquentem, distincte intelligebant, ita ut singuli quoque pueri et feminæ maximum fructum ex salutifera ejus doctrina perceperint.