Tag Archives: Doric

Greek, Hellenic Judaism and the problem tongues of Corinth

A look at the problem tongues of Corinth being an internal linguistic struggle between Doric, Aeolic, and Attic Greeks.

This is part 2 of an 8 part series on the mystery tongues of Corinth. Part 1, The Role of Hebrew in the Jewish Aramaic World, covered how Hebrew became the language of religion and worship in Aramaic Judaism. The precedence about Hebrew established here transferred over to Jews living in a Greek world.

When you add that Hebrew was the language of instruction in the Corinthian assembly (Part 6) then we are getting close to finding a good answer to the question of Corinthian tongues.

However, Epiphanius didn’t stop at explaining the tongues of Corinth as being a problem of Hebrew instruction. He further added it was a linguistic conflict between Doric, Aeolic, and Attic Greeks.

This article is an investigation into the ancient Greek world to see if these language conflicts were a problem.

This necessitates a critical journey into the ancient Greek world, Jewish Hellenism, Paul, and references from the New Testament to find answers.

Continue reading Greek, Hellenic Judaism and the problem tongues of Corinth

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

The Language of Instruction in the Corinthian Church

A look at the ancient Jewish rite of instruction in Hebrew with an immediate translation into Aramaic or local vernacular and how it potentially impacted the earliest Corinthian assembly.

This is part 5 of a series on Corinth which attempts to correlate the mystery rite of tongues outlined in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians with standard Jewish liturgy of the time.

For more information on this series go to Introduction to the tongues of Corinth

The tradition of Jewish instructors speaking in Hebrew lasted for centuries. It is no longer practiced in synagogues today but was an important function in Judaism around the first-century. This little-known practice had an important part to play in the Jewish identity, and as will be shown, was a factor in the tongues conflict in Corinth.

In order to better explain this practice and make an association with the Corinthian gathering, we must go into ancient Jewish literature and citations from some of the more prominent Jewish authorities. Some of which is obscure on the first read and takes a little explanation before the truth becomes clear.

Talmud Babli Yoma 20b

Any discussion on the role of Hebrew as a sacred language of instruction will inevitably land on this passage which refers to two Rabbis who lived in the third-century: Rav Shela and Abba Arika. The narrative is about Rabbi Shela wanting to give a lecture in Hebrew which was demonstrated here as the language of Jewish religion and polity — a sacerdotal tongue. In order to perform such a task, a third-party was required to translate it into Aramaic. Abba Arika, often referred to as Rav, offered to provide the translation. While Shela was lecturing, he mentioned call of the rooster and Rav translated it as call of the man. These words call of the rooster and call of the man are almost identical in Hebrew. The words go back into an academic dispute between Jewish scholars on when the priests in the Temple were to wake up and begin their duties. Shela admonished Rav for taking too much liberty in translating. Rav parlayed back that he couldn’t translate it that way because Shela was entirely wrong on this point and demonstrated the thoughts of an uneducated man.

The text makes Hebrew instruction with an immediate translation into Aramaic a standard procedure during this time.

Here is the actual Talmudic text in English with a link to the original source in the footnote:

Rab came to the place of R. Shila, when there happened to be no interpreter to stand next to R. Shila, so Rab took the stand next to him and interpreted, ‘keriath hageber’ as ‘the call for the man’. R. Shila said to him Would you, Sir, interpret it as: Cockrow! Rab replied: ‘A flute is musical to nobles, but give it to weavers, they will not accept it’.(1)Talmud Babli Yoma 20b. As found as a pdf at halakhah.com There are no page numbers. The pdf is attributed to Tarmo Jeskanen as the author. See also Yoma 20b in the original

This passage used two different words to define the concept of interpreter. The first one was אמורא Amora. The Jewish Encyclopedia explains that this term had two functions. The first one represented all the Rabbinic teachers that flourished during a period of about three hundred years, from the time of the death of the patriarch R. Judah I. (219) to the completion of the Babylonian Talmud (about 500)(2)Amora as found in the Jewish Encylopedia. The second definition applies here. “While the lecturer generally pronounced his sentences in the academic language, which was chiefly Hebrew, the Amora gave his explanations in Aramaic. . .”(3)Amora as found in the Jewish Encylopedia. The article states that the term Amora as an interpreter or translator was a later usage to that of the word meturgeman and often was interchanged with it.

The second word used for interpreter is פרש peresh — to interpret, expound, clarify.

Understanding the word interpret in I Corinthians 14 is one of the keys to unlocking what Paul meant. The Syriac version of this passage is especially helpful which is ܦܫܩ pashek. J. Payne Smith’s Dictionary describes at as to explain, expound, to write commentaries, to translate. The dictionary demonstrated how the word ܦܫܩ was used in the Syrian Church: “he expounds the Six Days of Creation to the congregation,” which exemplifies the fact that Paul wasn’t meaning interpreter to be a literal word for word translation from one language to another but it could be dynamic, or amplified.(4)J. Payne Smith’s (Mrs. Margoliouth) A Compendious Syriac Dictionary. Pg 468 as found at Dukhrana’s website.

The Syriac presents the idea that whatever translation was given, just like the incident mentioned with Rav Shela above, wasn’t necessarily a literal word-for-word translation, but an amplified version given by the interpreter that the people could understand. If the concept is taken a step further, peresh could allow an interpreter become too stylistic, or promoting his own oratorial skills at the expense of the original speaker. This may have been a contributor to the Corinthian saga as well.

Rashi on Hebrew instruction and interpretation

Almost any analysis on the Talmud will take the researcher to the eleventh-century French medieval Rabbi Rashi. His concise commentary and analysis gives him the classification of one the great writers of the Jewish world. His critiques and analysis are on the same high level as Maimonides and Thomas Aquinas. He chose to explain further the mechanics between the teacher and the interpreter:

The one who interprets stands beside a sage who gives the homily and the sage whispers the Hebrew language to him and he translates to the common language they hear in.(5)My translation Yoma 20b לא היה אמורא – מתורגמן העומד לפני חכם הדרשן והחכם לוחש לו לשון עברית והוא מתרגם לרבים לשון שהן שומעין:

Where Rashi got the idea of the Sage whispering to the translator is not known. This may be a much later tradition than Paul’s time.

Why did Paul not mention Hebrew specifically in his text?

If Paul is referring to Hebrew in his I Corinthians text then he would have named it specifically. That is a weakness in following the logic of Hebrew being the language of instruction as a solution to the tongues of Corinth. Regardless of whether this is right or not, we shall follow the logic nonetheless to its natural end.

Paul was purposely being vague because of the ethnic tensions between the traditional Aramaic Jews, the Hellenized Jews who were eager not to lose their ancient Jewish language and customs, and Greek adherents who came from different Doric, Aeolic, and Attic linguistic backgrounds. If he took a side with any of them by naming a certain language, or showing a preference for one over the other, he would have potentially started a split; alienating one group from another. He was in a very difficult position. His reply showed that he was interested in establishing an effective teaching methodology within the parameters of traditional Judaism that assisted both the Greek and Aramaic Jewish layperson, along with Greek converts in learning. He was emphatic that education was the priority, language was secondary to this goal.

Could it be Aramaic instead?

Saul Lieberman outlines in his book, Greek In Jewish Palestine certain practices within the third-century that proposes a different view that may even discount the Hebrew theory and replace it with Aramaic. This is what he found in his studies:

On the other hand, Eusebius informs us that Procopius was (around 286) a Reader and Interpreter from Greek into Aramaic in the church of Scythopolis. In the Hellenized town of Scythopolis it was necessary to render a Greek passage in Aramaic before the people could understand it! But Zahn is quite right in his remark that whereas the Biblical lessons, the liturgy and the sermons in the church of Scythopolis were in Greek, there was need of an Aramaic translator for the benefit of the peasants who attended the church. Probably even the peasants knew the limited practical everyday vocabulary of Greek, but explanations by an interpreter (תרגומן) in the mother-tongue of the masses were quite welcome. For a similar reason the Jewish preachers adopted the same method (in the opposite direction) when they preached in the Hellenized towns; they delivered their sermons in Aramaic, but illustrated and explained certain passages in Greek for the benefit of the townspeople.(6)Saul Lieberman. Greek in Jewish Palestine. Philadelphia: Press of the Jewish Publication Society. 1942. Pg. 2

This comment by Lieberman along with the Ambrosiastor text promoting the Corinthian tongues was the unstructured use of Aramaic during the service, provides a compelling alternative to the Hebrew instruction theory. However, there is more data that slightly gives Hebrew instruction the lead, but not decisively.

It is a confusing triangle of languages. The reader must be aware of this.

How it evolved in the Church

The Epiphanius text believed this practice was still being performed in the earliest Corinthian Church. Yet there is one difference between Paul’s exhortation and two hundred years or so later to the time of Rav Shila–during Paul’s time a teacher instructing in Hebrew could provide his own translation. Rabbinic tradition during Rav Shila’s time did not allow this. Someone else was obligated to do the translation.

There is evidence that a similar practice did continue in the eastern realm of the church. As Lieberman points out above, the church used Greek as the primary language for evangelization, but translated it into Aramaic for the peasants to understand.

As to Hebrew being the language of instruction, it probably died within the first forty years after the founding of the assembly of Corinth—maybe even earlier. The Jewish revolt and Rome’s sacking of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD led to a widespread distrust of anything relating to anyone belonging to the Jewish race. Any symbols or practices would have been less apparent or even removed for fear of anti-Jewish sentiments especially in a major Roman-ruled city such as Corinth. This was even more apparent under the emperorship of Domitian (81–96 AD), “where there was scarcely a Jew to be seen (in the Roman Empire) during his reign.”(7)Gedaliah Alon. The Jews in their Land in the Talmudic Age. Vol. I Jerusalem: The Magnes Press. 1980. Pg. 128 He also sought to destroy all the family members of the Davidic line in order to maintain perpetual control.(8)Gedaliah Alon. The Jews in their Land in the Talmudic Age. Vol. I Jerusalem: The Magnes Press. 1980.Pg. 156

The fateful decision to excommunicate the entire Jewish-Christian movement by the decree called the Birkat ha-Minim(9)Gedaliah Alon. The Jews in their Land in the Talmudic Age. Vol. I Jerusalem: The Magnes Press. 1980. Pg. 307 from the Jewish world somewhere around 90 AD also may have accelerated the loss of the Hebrew language and Jewish identity in the fledgling movement.

The rite of instructing in Hebrew today

Do they still practice this rite in synagogues today? Research in the Gift of Tongues Project has not been greatly considered on this question. There is a general feeling is that it was phased out around the seventh-century but more research is required. The art of reading publicly in Hebrew is still being widely practiced throughout the Jewish world.

Conclusion

If one takes face-value the information provided, Paul was referencing the the one who speaks in a tongue as one teaching or lecturing in Hebrew. The interpreter was the speaker or another person familiar with both Hebrew and the target language, translating it on the fly. Paul mentioned in I Corinthians 14:13 that a person who speaks in a foreign unnamed tongue should himself interpret it. I Corinthians 14:28 outlines two conditions that govern whether a teacher should refrain from teaching. We will assume once again he is thinking about Hebrew here, though it is not listed in his actual text. Firstly, if the teacher speaking in Hebrew is not familiar with the local language and cannot translate it himself. The second is when a third party familiar with both Hebrew and the local language is not available to translate. The teacher should remain silent.

This was the environment Paul was up against in writing his letter to the Corinthians. It was a church composed of Jewish-Hebrew, Jewish-Aramaic, Jewish-Greek, and non-Jewish Greek members. It was a time where all things of religious faith were allowed to be reexamined, especially in the context of Jewish tradition; what rituals were to be included from previous liturgical traditions, what were to be removed, and what new traditions should be started. The Jewish tradition was the underlying base. The Church was both restorative to the ancient Jewish identity but forward looking at the same time. It was more inclusive of many different ethnic groups and practices. Paul seemed unconcerned about the language issue itself but wanted to maintain some type of order so that all these different language speaking groups could operate cohesively together.

If one reads the Pauline passage with the idea of Hebrew or Aramaic as the language of instruction and understands the Jewish structure of speaking and interpretation in Jewish tradition as outlined in this series, the text is clearly understood. It is not a mystical out-of-this-world experience but the re-imaging of Jewish structure in a newly established branch of Judaism.■

References   [ + ]

Liturgy, Race and Language in the Corinthian Church

Understanding the tongues of Corinth from linguistic, ethnic and liturgical perspectives along with an inquiry into whether Hebrew was part of their liturgy.

The Gift of Tongues Project has uncovered two ancient Christian writers who correlated the problem tongues of Corinth as ethnic or linguistic conflicts. The Ambrosiaster text emphasized the want of the Jewish adherents to speak in Aramaic during the liturgy, which few understood in Corinth, and the Epiphanius text believed the problem of Corinth was a dispute between three distinct Greek speaking groups; Attic, Aeolic, and Doric along with the use of Hebrew in the Church liturgy.

The Epiphanius text is the most direct on the subject. Although the reference to the use of Hebrew is found here, the text itself failed to directly connect the primary use of Hebrew with the Greek conflict. Nevertheless, it is inferred by its close grammatical relationship. This connection can be understood in two ways:

  • It was the traditional reading of the Hebrew text and the delivery of it into the local vernacular. In the context of the Epiphanius text, the Corinthians couldn’t agree what was to be the standardized Greek language for translation/explanation/preaching in the Church liturgy.

  • Or, it could be that Epiphanius did not want to correlate the Hebrew liturgical reading of Scripture at all, but that this language was the language of instruction and religious devotion. Those masters who were instructing/lecturing on the principles of the Christian faith did so in Hebrew, while an interpreter was required to translate it into the local vernacular. The conflict was in which Greek vernacular was most suited for the Corinthian congregation.

The Corinthian tongues conflict explained by Epiphanius is unique and no thorough investigation has been done to qualify or discard this claim.

There is a definite need for finding a positive solution to the mystery tongues of Corinth since a thorough investigation completed in the Gift of Tongues Project has ruled out the Corinthian tongues as a mystical experience resulting in those speaking ecstatic utterances. As previously written and documented, tongues as an ecstatic utterance was a theory first introduced in the 1800s.(1)See The History of Glossolalia

This series of articles are devoted to finding whether this historical context was correct through investigating Jewish literature, archaeology, and ecclesiastical writings.

The problem of insufficient first-hand data on the Corinthian assembly liturgy.

The ecclesiastical literature cited above, along with a number of pieces demonstrated in Rabbinical writings later on in this series, are mostly all fourth century or later works. Unfortunately, this is the only material a researcher can work from. No matter which way one approaches this problem, the person is forced to look at later texts to rebuild an earlier scenario.

Michael Graves, author of The Public Reading of Scripture in Early Judaism looked into this problem and agrees:

Yet, the use of Jewish liturgical practices to reconstruct early Christian worship is not without difficulties. One of the major problems is the fact that many Christian historians, to some extent following older Jewish scholarship, have operated with the assumption that Jewish liturgy was essentially fixed and uniform in the first century ad. This assumption, however, cannot be reconciled with the available evidence. Recent scholarship on the history of Jewish worship has painted a more complex picture of Jewish liturgical development, thus forcing scholars of Christian liturgy to rethink the potential relationships between early Jewish and Christian forms of worship. Out of this new research has arisen greater awareness of the diversity and flexibility in the earlier stages of development, and also a more skeptical stance toward the use of later documents to reconstruct the customs of earlier times. Of course, total skepticism toward rabbinic reports is unwarranted, and one cannot dismiss older historical and philological studies as having nothing to offer. But when the sources present a picture of diversity, or when no evidence exists for a given practice at a certain time and place, one must avoid simply harmonizing one tradition with another or an earlier time period with a later one.(2)Graves, Michael. The Public REading of Scripture in Early Judaism. JETS 50/3 (September 2007) 467–87

Mr. Graves statement has to be seriously considered. Harmonizing is a good start, but not a good end point. The following analysis agrees with Graves statement that there was diversity and flexibility in the earlier stages of diasporan Jewish liturgy. The Corinth Paul lived in was complex. A whole host of Jewish, Roman, Greek, and Latin influences are found mixed together in a curious blend that cannot easily be untangled. This shouldn’t stop the researcher from trying. This lack of early source material makes it difficult, but not impossible.

There are a number of assumptions that can be made about the Church of Corinth and Paul’s reference to tongues in I Corinthians 14:

  • Paul was an orthodox Jew whose pedigree was confirmed by his learning under one of the leading Jewish teachers of the first century, Gamaliel.(3)Acts 22:3 Paul had no ambition to overthrow or abandon Jewish culture. He wanted to complete it. His initial strategy was to preach in the synagogues of any town, village or city that he visited. It later expanded to the non-Jewish community.(4)Romans 1:16, Acts 18:ff Therefore his writing style, life and practice was steeped in Jewish influences. The founding of any Church associated with him would reflect this.

  • The initial Corinthian Church had two names attached to it — Titius Justus and Crispus. Crispus was a leader of a synagogue; Titius Justus was described as a worshiper of God, suggesting that he was not Jewish and his name infers a Roman lineage.(5)Acts 18:6ff These two accounts demonstrated that the Corinthian Church was of mixed ethnic origin.

  • The mentioning of a converted synagogue leader, who must have exercised some internal authority in the development of the Corinthian Church, would have had a serious influence on the liturgy.

  • Paul’s address on the tongues of Corinth are reminiscent of Jewish tradition. Speaking, interpretation, the office of an interpreter, and the Amen are all found in Jewish liturgical traditions.(6)This will be documented in part 2 of this series

  • The Hebrew language is a central part of the Jewish religious identity. The Jewish sages had numerous discussions on the role of Hebrew in religious life and affixed when, where, and why Hebrew or an alternative language was to be used. Although the final discussions are the only available corpus today, this must have been an issue in the first century.

Was Hebrew used in the Synagogue liturgy outside of Israel, especially in lands dominated by the Greek language and culture?

The role of Hebrew in the ancient Greek communities of the Jewish diaspora is a disputed subject. Gedaliah Alon, a Jewish historian, noted the interweaving of Hebrew and Greek in the Synagogue before and after the destruction of Jerusalem.(7)Gedaliah Alon. The Jews in their Land in the Talmudic Age. Ed. and Trans. by Gershon Levi. Vol. 2. Jerusalem: Magnes Press. 1984. Pg. 338 Some, like Harry Gamble, have argued a complete abandonment of Hebrew “In the Greek-speaking synagogues of the Diaspora, however, the scriptures were apparently always read in Greek, and no translation was required.”(8)Harry Gamble. Books and Readers in the Early Church. New Haven:Yale University. 1995. Pg. 210 Gamble goes on to conclude within the earliest Christian Church, “no explicit evidence attests the liturgical reading of either the Torah or the prophets in Christian assemblies in the first century, …In addition, when it arrives on the field of historical vision Christianity is already fully wedded to the Septuagint.”(9)Harry Gamble. Books and Readers in the Early Church. New Haven:Yale University. 1995. Pg. 211 Obviously he was unaware of Epiphanius’ account of Hebrew being read as part of the liturgy in the earliest Corinthian Church or felt that Epiphanius’ text was too removed from the primitive Church to be of value. Gamble’s assumption about exclusive Greek reading in the churches is questionable. Alon believed that at least in one synagogue in Alexandria, Egypt, whose principal language was Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic were used for “literary purposes, for worship and even other needs.”(10)Gedaliah Alon. The Jews in their Land in the Talmudic Age. Ed. and Trans. by Gershon Levi. Vol. 2. Jerusalem: Magnes Press. 1984. Pg. 338 This small reference demonstrates that Hebrew still existed as a religious vernacular in some or all of the diaspora which would have had an effect on the structure of the earliest Christian Churches.

The tension between Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic as the lingua franca in Jewish life.

Aramaic was granted a high standing and was the native tongue of most Rabbinic sages. The Aramaic version of the Bible, known as Targum Onkelos has been a prime source of Jewish exegesis for almost two millennia. Yet the public reading was still retained in Hebrew according to Stephen Wylen, who further added:

It became a custom among Jews to read the weekly lectionary portion of the Torah three time through, once in Hebrew and twice in Aramaic. This custom was retained even into the Middle Ages when Jews no longer spoke Aramaic.(11) Stephen Wylan. The Seveny Faces of Torah: The Jewish Way of Reading the Sacred Scriptures. New Jersey: Paulist Press. 2005. Pg. 37

However, not everything was to be done in Hebrew. This was especially noted with the language of prayer. Whatever language the prayer was originally produced in, was allowed to remain in that language. For example, Talmud Babli Megillah established that whatever prayers were originally written in Aramaic, were to remain in Aramaic throughout the diaspora.(12) Talmud Babli Megillahh 9a

This was a disputed point and considerably argued. Aramaic was internally contested in reference to Jewish identity. God’s speaking to Moses at Mount Sinai was used as a polemic against Aramaic. “And the Lord spoke from Sinai. This is the Hebrew language.”(13)Sefer Haggada (in Hebrew) Tel-Abib: Dvir co. ltd. Book III, 3b. My translation There was a concerted effort to resist the inclusion of foreign languages in their liturgy and prayers. “For R. Johanan declared: if anyone prays for his needs in Aramaic [ie. a foreign tongue] the ministering Angels do not pay attention to him because they do not understand that language.”(14) The Soncino Talmud. Trans. by Epstein I. London: Soncino Press. 1935. Pg. 162

There was a movement against Aramaic and Greek in the land of Israel and an assertion that only Hebrew should be used. As reflected in this passage found in the Talmud Babli, Sotah 49b:

and that nobody should teach his son Greek. …At that time they declared,-`Cursed be a man who rears pigs and cursed be a man who teaches his son Greek wisdom!` Concerning that year we learnt that it happened that the `omer had to be supplied from the gardens of Zarifim and the two loaves from the valley of En-Soker. But it is not so! For Rabbi said: Why use the Syrian language in the land of Israel? Either use the holy tongue or Greek! And R. Joseph said: Why use the Syrian language in Babylon? Either use the holy tongue or Persian! The Greek language and Greek wisdom are distinct. But is Greek philosophy forbidden? Behold Rab Judah declared that Samuel said in the name of Rabban Simeon b. Gamaliel , What means that which is written: Mine eye affecteth my soul, because of all the daughters of my city? There were a thousand pupils in my father`s house; five hundred studied Torah and five hundred studied Greek wisdom, and of these there remained only I here and the son of my father`s brother in Assia! It was different with the household of Rabban Gamaliel because they had close associations with the Government; for it has been taught: To trim the hair in front is of the ways of the Amorites; but they permitted Abtilus b. Reuben to trim his hair in front because he had close associations with the Government. Similarly they permitted the household of Rabban Gamaliel to study Greek wisdom because they had close associations with the Government.(15) Talmud Babli Sotah 49b as found at the Instone Brewer website.

The duration, strength, or popularity of this opinion which existed in the land of Israel is not known. These examples are two to four centuries removed from the time of St. Paul, and may have even been stronger during the Corinthian conflict.

The Greek influence and encroachment on traditional Jewish life and practice.

On the other hand there was a problem of Greek perception towards the Jews. The Greeks believed their language and culture to be superior to anything else. For example the last non-Christian Roman Emperor, Julian, rejected what was then known to be the sect of the Galileans (Christianity) because it was not of Greek origin, nor wrought from the Greek language, and worse yet, it came from something obscure and unimportant as Hebrew. This can be gleaned from Cyril’s refutation against Julian;

For you esteem very lightly the distinguished men with the one subsequent Hebrew language that went a different way from the Greek , and I reckon that your Italian which was made for everyone, that you arranged it a certain number? Furthermore has it not been truly said to us that if we wish to understand the straight and narrow, the Greek language is not about to be held as the author of religious devotion… And so we are taught that the greatest place of moral virtue is through the sacred writings of the divinely inspired Scriptures. Nevertheless, we use such things for the preparation of sound teachings with Greek thoughts since we are not familiar with the Hebrew language.(16)S. Cyrilli Alexandrini, Contra Julianum, Lib. VII [234]. MPG: Vol. 76. Pg. 858. Translation is mine.

The Greeks extended the idea of their language being the heavenly one and this had a universal influence, even in the Latin world. One of the greatest Roman leaders and Orators, Cicero, so highly valued the writings of the Greek Philosopher Plato that the god Jupiter “were it his nature to use human speech, would thus discourse.”(17)Plutarch. The Parallel Lives. The Loeb Classical Library. Trans. by Bernadotte Perrin. 1919. Pg. 141

The Greek Septuagint was introduced to the Graeco-Roman world over three hundred years before the advent of Paul and his address to the Corinthian Church. The Septuagint was the standard in many Jewish circles, especially the diaspora. Paul himself made substantial usage of the Septuagint; when 93 Biblical quotes from Paul are examined 51 are in absolute or virtual agreement with the LXX, while only 4 agree with the Hebrew text.(18)http://www.religiousforums.com/forum/abrahamic-religions-dir/118238-paul-septuagint.html The text of Talmud Babli Megillah supports the Greek version to have near or equivalent status to that of the Hebrew one.(19)Talmud Babli 9a. Philo believed that the Greek text was necessary for the Jewish faith to become a universal standard:

But this is not the case with our laws which Moses has given to us; for they lead after them and influence all nations, barbarians, and Greeks, the inhabitants of continents and islands, the eastern nations and the western, Europe and Asia; in short, the whole habitable world from one extremity to the other.(20)Philo. On the Life of Moses: II IV:20 . . .Some persons, thinking it a scandalous thing that these laws should only be known among one half portion of the human race, namely, among the barbarians, and that the Greek nation should be wholly and entirely ignorant of them, turned their attention to their translation.(21)Philo. On the Life of Moses: II V:27

The role of the Septuagint became so prominent according to Jennifer Dines in her book, The Septuagint, that this Greek translation may have forced the Jewish community to explicitly state that the Hebrew text was inspired.(22)Jennifer Mary Dines. The Septuagint. New York: T&T Clark, 2004 Pg. 64

God dictated to Moses the importance of literacy for the perpetuation of the faith, “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates…”(23)Deuteronomy 6:9 though this was not ever completely established, because 700 years later at the time of Ezra, as mentioned by the great thirteenth century AD Jewish thinker, Maimonides, Hebrew was switched to a liturgical language and required an interpreter for any local reading.(24)Maimonides הלכות תפילה This will be demonstrated in more detail with the next upcoming article. The first century Jewish writer, Josephus, related that Hebrew literacy was up again in the first century, “and it is ordered to bring the children up (in) the letters concerning the Laws and to place upon (them) the works of the ancestors.”(25)Translation is mine. “to bring the children up (in) the letters” clearly refers to literacy. The popular William Whiston english translation has “It also commands us to bring those children up in learning, and to exercise them in the laws, and make them acquainted with the acts of their predecessors,” it misses the emphasis on literacy here. This may have been restricted to reading by rote. It does not infer written or spoken fluency.

An objection can be raised that Hebrew had this level of prominence through the study of tomb epitaphs. Jewish tombs have been uncovered in Rome with dates beginning from 63 BC and ending at 300 AD. Out of the 534 names, 76% had a Greek name, 23% a Latin, and only five contained Hebrew, Aramaic, or hybrid names.(26)http://www.livius.org/di-dn/diaspora/rome.html There are a number of problems with this conclusion. First of all, it reflects a long period of time, over 400 years. The Jews who had lived there during the time of Paul may have still kept their original mother tongue and the results are a later calculation. Secondly, Corinth was an international city that was a major intersection for the Jewish diaspora. There would always be an influx of Jews from Israel that would maintain the language. Thirdly, Hebrew may have been retained strictly as a liturgical language which would hardly have been reflected on burial inscriptions.

A relatively unknown group of Hellenized Jews later evolved a system called minhag-romania, whereby they performed “traditional Jewish prayers that were recited and chanted in Greek, but were written with Hebrew letters.”(27)http://gulnbla.tripod.com/romaniotes.htm This unusual rite was based upon the fact that they understood that the Rabbis dictated all readings must be from Assyrian Script. It is not known how large this movement was, or when it began. The website article contains little substantiation.

The composition of the earliest Corinthian assembly.

Paul’s strong background in Judaism, the appointment of a synagogue leader to lead the original Corinthian assembly, and the liturgical problems outlined by Paul in I Corinthians demonstrate that this was a highly influenced Jewish organisation. A second century writing dubiously claimed to be by Clement claimed that the Greek adherents quickly outgrew the Jewish ones in a short manner of time, “Seeing that our people who were given to be abandoned from God, have become more numerous than of the righteous who have God.”(28)MPG Vol. 1. Clement. Epistola II Ad Corinthios. Chapter 2. Col. 333 This suggests the abandonment of directly connected Jewish traditions and liturgies probably before the end of the first century.

What does this all mean?

Although the majority of these authors were of a later age, the majority of takes give a good outline demonstrating what kind of ethnic and linguistic tensions confronted Paul in the initial Corinthian Church. Epiphanius’ statement about Greek ethnic infighting and Hebrew being part of the original Corinthian liturgy is a very plausible explanation. The best one that has come forward.■

Next: Jewish Liturgy and the Tongues of Corinth.

References   [ + ]

Notes about the Epiphanius Text on the Problem Tongues of Corinth

Translation notes regarding the Epiphanius text on the problem tongues of Corinth.

Unlike many of his counterparts, the Epiphanius’ Corinthian account is a historical retelling and not allegorical. The position is unique among the majority of the Church fathers, so a significant amount of time was spent translating, and analyzing the text.

The actual translation can be found at The Epiphanius Text on the Tongues of Corinth in English.

However, the complete work itself from a literary perspective is not considered a masterpiece. The style of writing is often vitriolic and paternalistic. It lacks focus and quickly jumps from one thought to another, assuming much on the readers ability to follow.

The text includes a homophobic attack against Marcion’s character. This was completely unnecessary. Unfortunately history cannot be rewritten and this portion be excised from the text. The purpose of this translation was entirely focused on unlocking the secrets to the Corinthian tongues controversy, and it is hoped that readers will ignore this spiteful nature.

There are also manuscript and authorship questions. The transmission of Patristic manuscripts down through the centuries is hardly ever a straight path. The Epiphanius text, popularly known today as Against Heresies but historically titled, The Panarion, is no exception. The original was done by Epiphanius but the Greek texts available today contain emendations, language modernizations, and editorial insertions. Karl Holl did extensive research on this subject in the early 1900s. He found that the base manuscript can be traced back to the ninth century work known as Vaticanus gr. 503. Roger Pearse outlined Holl’s thoughts on the history of this manuscript: “Holl believes that the text of its ancestor first became corrupt, then suffered atticizing corrections, and then was corrected using two other old, atticizing, manuscripts.”(1)Pearse footnotes this from: Karl Holl, Die handschriftliche Überlieferung des Epiphanius (Ancoratus und Panarion). Texte und Untersuchungen 36.2. Leipzig : J. C. Hinrichs, 1910 Pg. 26

This does not come as a surprise. Transmission corruption in the Epiphanius text was an issue in a different article posted on this blog: The Geneology of Christ and Other Problems which concluded that the Epiphanius Panarion text in Migne Patrologia Graeca was not very old, may have had portions translated from a Latin text, and had some additions not found in the original.

The Epiphanius text almost appears to be catenae stitched together into a composite form. Reading it is choppy, as if some parts are missing text.

If one looks carefully at all the Greek, Latin, and English texts on the subject, it will be apparent that there are a variety of differences. This is due to the fact that the original was lost and all that exists now are disparate manuscripts. Each person attempting to read the text is forced to piece together clues from all the sources.

The Panarion is a large work and only Schol. 13 and 21 to Refut. 14 and 22 have been translated for this blog. The Greek of this section has been critically analyzed but the rest of the book has not been examined in the same detail. Schol. 13 and 21ff was selected because of his coverage on I Corinthians 14.

There are some clues to this text being part of the original Epiphanius manuscript.

  • The first clue is the writing style. The text conveys a historical rather than an allegorical truth — Church writers, and especially later ones, shied away from historical narratives.

  • The second relates to a linguistic one. The problem tongues of Corinth was a problem of languages. The idea of Hebrew being a sacerdotal language, and the reference to Attic, Aeolic, and Doric are very old themes. Attic was already the dominant language during and after Epiphanius time; literary conflicts between its Doric and Aeolic counterparts had long been settled. Hebrew had no place in any Christian liturgy at the time of Epiphanius or later. These would not be issues that later copyists or editors would see important to insert as an emendation. It had no theological significance.

The text attributed by Epiphanius on Corinth could be a later emendation. However, authorship is not so important in the Gift of Tongues Project, but the transmission of the doctrine is. This concept of Hebrew as a sacerdotal tongue in the earliest Church along with a conflict between Greek rhetorics on the proper content and delivery of a speech, could be traced to the fourth century and geniunely Epiphanius, or it could have been edited somewhere between the original or anytime until the 9th century. Cyril of Alexandria in the 5th century lightly alludes to the fact that the Corinth conflict was between Jewish believers and Greek converts. The Ambrosiaster text also follows a similar trajectory to that of Epiphanius, claiming that it was a problem of Syriac speech in the congregation. However, the Ambrosiater manuscript is hard to date, as it was emendated and changed throughout the medieval ages. So it cannot be used as reference for when any thought was first introduced into the Christian discussion. The evidence so far suggests that the transmission was early, but could have been edited in later, 9th century at the latest.

Whether Epiphanius or not, 4th century or later, this concept was transmitted and understood by some Church communities or individuals. It was not common or popular, but was a held belief by some.

A few notes on the actual translation work is in order. The English translation provided on this blog was completed by me, Charles Sullivan. The following structure was in place to complete this translation.

The locating or building of the best Greek source text possible was of utmost importance. Dr. Karl Holl already completed this task. His work was compared against the versions found in Migne Patrologia Graeca and the one published by Franciscus Oehler. The results are a digitized Greek text found at The Greek Epiphanius Text on the Problem Tongues of Corinth

Another important but not so critical as the Greek was to look at a later Latin translation. Comparisons were made from the Latin parallel text found in both Migne Patrologia Graeca and Franciscus Oehler’s Haereseologici. It was carefully observed for three reasons: assistance in understanding a Greek word or phrase not readily found in Greek dictionaries or grammars, accuracy of my English translation, and if the Latin translator had a different interpretation himself than what the Greek actually meant. Holl’s version only has a Greek edition. The Latin translation available in both Migne Patrologia Graeca and Franciscus Oehler’s editions were done by the same person, Janus Cornarius — a person who was extremely gifted in this field whom I trust very well for a consistent and accurate translation. The Latin translation can be found at The Latin Epiphanius Text on the Problem Tongues of Corinth

However, Cornarius stitched together his own idea of a source text and amplified in parts. I liked his narrative, but it doesn’t always follow the literal Greek, it was lightly regarded.

After this translation was completed, it was compared against Frank Williams’ translation as found in The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Book 1.(2)The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Book 1. (Nag Hammadi Studies, 35) New York: E.J. Brill. 1987. Pg. 324ff My translation is not always consistent with his because Williams tended to throw all the manuscripts in, including the Latin, to produce his English translation, which appears choppy and confusing.

References   [ + ]

Epiphanius on the Problem Tongues of Corinth

Epiphanius Bishop of Salamis

The Epiphanius text on the tongues problem in the first century Corinthian Church.

This fourth century or later writing is one of the most important texts in trying to rebuild a historical model for explaining the tongues problem at Corinth.

The text is customarily credited to Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis in the fourth century. This text may have been heavily edited, redacted and even added over the centuries since its original release. We are not sure whether it is a fourth-, fifth- or sixth-century opinion. Even with this problem of textual criticism and dating, the work still reflects an ancient one.

However, the nature of Epiphanius assertion that there was a direct Jewish correlation to the problem tongues of Corinth suggests that this was part of the original text. Later editors or writers would not have added such a connection.

The Epiphanius text on the Corinthian conflict.

Here is the central part of the text found in Epiphanius’ Panarion Book I, Section III, Heresy 42 starting at Scholion XIII and XXI:

. . . Therefore languages are from a grace of the Spirit. Of what kind does the Apostle speak? He knew how not only the different Hebrew sounds, and manifold expressions in every single word with skills adorned with eloquence, but also the proud language of the Greeks; some who boast the ability to speak Attic, Aeolic, and being able to utter the language of the Dorics, of whom had caused the disturbances, and factions within the Corinthians, to which the Epistle was dispatched. . . . And he confessed the gift which is having the ability to proclaim [the oracles] with the Hebrew words and also teaching the Law to be a spiritual endowment. And he agreed that it is a spiritual grace to proclaim and to teach the Law in the Hebrew words.

The complete English text can be found here: The Epiphanius Text on the Tongues of Corinth in English, or, the translation completed by Frank Williams .

What did Epiphanius mean by this?

The Epiphanius text states two things about the Corinthian conflict: it was a clash between different Greek ethnic groups and the Hebrew language had some type of role in the Corinthian assembly. There was no reference to an out-of-this-world mystical experience, or something supernatural.

Hebrew, Greek, teaching the Law — these indicators combined suggest it to be a liturgical or didactic problem within the Corinthian gathering. This necessitates to find more information on early Church liturgy for answers.

The answer to the Corinthian tongues conflict may be found in understanding the contemporary Jewish structure during that time and how much the early Christian Church in Corinth adopted this custom. There are two ways to understand the background to this Epiphanius passage from the historical records:

  • It was the reading of the Law in Hebrew and an interpreter(s) translating it into the local vernacular that caused the problem. Jewish tradition had a specific liturgy concerning Jews worshiping together outside of Israel; the Law was to be read in Hebrew and an interpreter was to stand beside the reader and translate it into the local tongue. It could be inferred, though not conclusively from this, that the Corinthian Church had adopted this form of Jewish liturgy but ran into problems concerning which Greek language the interpreter was to use.

    This may be stretching the text more than what the writer intended and such a relationship cannot be concretely established.

  • Or, it could be that Hebrew was the language of instruction and religious devotion within the earliest Corinthian assembly. This tradition was continued from the Jewish synagogue. Those masters who were instructing/lecturing on the principles of the Christian faith did so in Hebrew, while an interpreter was required to translate it into the local vernacular. The conflict was in which Greek vernacular was most suited for the Corinthian congregation.

    This may be a more acceptable interpretation.

The Epiphanius’ text is a base element for a series of articles intending to prove either one of these hypotheses. The goal of this series is trace the role of the reader, speaker, and interpreter starting from the rites found in the Jewish diaspora, specifically Corinth, to its transition into Church office, if there is such a relationship, and mapping this evolving rite until the thirteenth century.

The text itself is one of the clearest and logical found so far written by a Church Father. However, this work, along with Jewish writings on public reading, are four centuries removed from the actual Corinthian tongues saga. It could be a later interpretation. This problem needs to be addressed.

Why has this text never been popular in describing the Corinthian tongues debate?

It is a mystery why this passage has never come up in any critical discussions on the problems tongues of Corinth. Frank Williams’ work, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Book 1 (Nag Hammadi Studies, 35)(1)Martin Krause ed. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Book 1 (Nag Hammadi Studies, 35). Translated by Frank Williams. New York: EJ Brill. 1987. Pg. 234ff or see it online, The Panarion of Epiphanius Scholion 13 and 21 contains an already available English translation, though he, nor anyone else makes no correlation to I Corinthians in the translation of the text found at the header scholion 13 and 21.

The only critical look into the position of Epiphanius on the gift of tongues is the The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. The writing would lead the person to believe that Epiphanius wrote it to be an ecstatic utterance relative to the Montanist movement.(2)The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. Samuel Macauley Jackson ed. Volume 11. New York: Funk and Wagnalls. The Tongues entry written by PKE Feine. Pg. 37. The Montanist correlation that was made from the Panarion XLVIII:4 is a weak one(3)The author, PKE Feine, quoted Epiphanius in Against Heresies (Adversus Haereses XLVIII:4) to support his view on Montanism. This text is in the process of being translated and will be posted later. and the writer, PKE Feine, ignored this Corinthian tongues passage altogether.

Epiphanius was attacking a person named Marcion for allegedly altering the text in I Corinthians 14:19 to suit his own needs. It is known that Marcion was the son of a Bishop, and perhaps was a Bishop himself, but at some point there was a clear break between himself and the institutional Church.

A translation problem with the key text.

The Epiphanius author(s) defined Marcion a heretic because Marcion had revised the I Corinthians 14:19 text. There is some confusion as to how Marcion revised it. There are two alternative Greek texts that give slightly different nuances:

The source-text Greek edition translated into English reads:

“Marcion mistakenly added: “according to the Law,” with, “But I wish to speak five words in the Church with my mind”.(4) Πεπλανημένως ὁ Μαρκίων [μετὰ τὸ] «ἀλλὰ ἐν Ὲκκλησιᾳ θέλω πέντε λόγους τῷ νοΐ μου λαλῆσαι», προσέθετο «διὰ τὸν νὸμον». The English Bible translation is taken from I Corinthians 14:19 KJV

This would render I Corinthians 14:19 to read, “But I wish to speak five words in the Church with my mind according to the Law.”

This version fits nicely in with Epiphanius’ argument that Marcion is adding to the Bible and creating a heretical version. The Epiphanius text shortly afterwards uses this as a springboard to call Marcion many harsh names.

Whereas an alternative Greek text has:

“Marcion mistakes:“But I wish to speak five words in the Church with my mind”, on the other hand differently “according to the Law.”(5) Πεπλανημένως ὁ Μαρκίων· Ἀλλὰ ἐν Ὲκκλησιᾳ θέλω πέντε λόγους τῷ νοΐ μου λαλῆσαι· ἑτέρως δὲ διὰ τὸν νὸμον.. Migne Patrologia Graeca, Volume 41, Column 791

This would render I Corinthians 14:19 to alternatively be read as, “But I wish to speak five words in the Church according to the Law.”

The fourth century and later Ambrosiaster text would agree more with the second argument:

“But in the Church,” it is said, “I wish to speak five words according to the Law that I may also build up others than ten thousand words in a tongue.”

The Ambrosiaster text demonstrates that there was some type of tradition connecting I Corinthians 14:19 with the Jewish Law. How widespread this tradition was throughout Christendom in the early centuries is not known.

There is a third potential problem and that has to do with the similarity in the Greek between the word mind — νόος and Law — νόμος. They are very close in spelling with only a one letter difference. It could potentially be easy for a manuscript writer to confuse these and cause a transmission error. This may be a remote problem because the Greek grammar in this situation has them distinguished by case. Mind is in the dative case – νοΐ and Law is in the accusative — νὸμον. It would be hard to get them mixed up. However, it is not outside the realm of possibility that a play on words was happening here.

The writer(s) went on a tirade against Marcion and slandered him with homophobic references against having made such a change. However, the author(s) failed to realize that this change is not unique to Marcion and was present in some legitimate Christian communities as noted in the Ambrosiaster text above.

The text indicates that there was no certain correlation between the tongues of Pentecost and that of Corinth. They were two separate entities.■

For further reading see:

References   [ + ]

The Epiphanius Text on the Tongues of Corinth in English

A translation of the text attributed to the fourth century Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis, regarding the problem tongues of Corinth. As translated from the Greek with assistance from a later Latin text:

—————–

Schol. 13 and 21. Marcion mistakenly added: “according to the Law,” with, “But I wish to speak five words in the Church with my mind”.

Refut. 13 and 21. Therefore languages are from a grace of the Spirit. Of what kind does the Apostle speak? He knew how not only the different Hebrew sounds, and manifold expressions in every single word with skills adorned with eloquence, but also the proud language of the Greeks; some who boast the ability to speak Attic, Aeolic, and being able to utter the language of the Dorics, of whom had caused the disturbances, and factions within the Corinthians, to which the Epistle was dispatched.

And he agreed that it is a spiritual grace to proclaim and to teach the Law in the Hebrew words.

Not only this but he had in this instance put those others of the boastful language of the Greeks into their place. He said that he speaks more languages than them, because he distinctly was a Hebrew of Hebrews, having been educated himself at the feet of Gamaliel, of which he was placing the writings of the Hebrews in praises, and shows being favors of the gifts of the Spirit. On which account he writes these things to Timothy, he was saying, that “you have learned from youth the sacred Scriptures”.(1)II Timothy 3:15 And indeed expands (from here), he was likewise affirming the equivalent things to those undertaken by the Greek poets and rhetorics, saying, “I speak in tongues more than you all”(2)I Corinthians 14:18 in order that it would show him to have been endowed with superior experience than the education of the Greek establishment. And indeed his style points him out to be imbued in education(3)προπαιδείᾳ, that while preaching the Gospel to the Athenians with wisdom, not even the Epicureans and the Stoics were able to match. These ones being refuted on account of the eloquence by him, in regards to the altar’s writing which contained a reading entitled, “to the unknown God,” when having been clearly read by him and immediately a clarification had been specified, “ What you worship without knowing, I announce this to you.”(4)Acts 17:23 and (refuted them) again, the following declaration, “A certain prophet of their own said:”

“Cretans always lie, wicked beasts, slothful bellies.”(5)Titus 1:12

In order that he should point out Epimenides who being the ancient philosopher, and founder of the idol in Crete from whom also Callimachus the Libyan who conveyed witness to this himself, concerning the falsehood about Jove saying:

“Cretans always lie. And the grave, O great King, the Cretans have built for you. But you do not die. You are everlasting.”

Now you see how the holy Apostle relates through the agency of languages. “But I wish five words in the Church with my mind,” That is to say with interpretation “to declare.” Just as the prophet brings to the light those things that have been supplied to the mind in the Holy Spirit, it benefits those listening through the office of prophecy. Thus it says, I wish to speak for the hearing and encouragement of the Church, not having acted as a guru that is building oneself up through an arrogance of Greek and indeed Hebrew, and consequently not the Church with respect to a language in which it understands.

For you, O Marcion, have added this: “according to the Law,” as though it is the Apostle writing: “I wish five words in the Church according to the Law.” Be ashamed, a second Babylon and a new confusion of Sodom. How long are you going to confound the languages? How long will you continue to contend against those who are harmed nothing by you? For you seek to subjugate angelic powers, throwing the words of truth from the Church out, saying to holy Lot, “Bring out the men.”(6)Genesis 19:5 As a result the thing which you endeavour, you endeavour against yourself. You will not toss away the words of truth, but will impose yourself into blindness, and you tarry in the darkest(7) ἐζοφωμένῃ Latin has: densissima. night, groping for the door, and not finding until the sun is to be brought up and you are to see the day of judgement, in which the fire is to meet with your falsehood. As you see, this is expected for you. For it is not ordained by the Apostle “According to the Law,” but this is added by you. Because if the Apostle said, “According to the Law,” he was to speak agreeably with his Lord, He did not come in order to abolish the Law, but that he should fulfill.(8)Matthew 5:17

Schol. 14 and 22. It was written in the Law, “In foreign tongues and lips I will speak to this people.”(9)Isaiah 28:11

Refut. 14 and 22. If the Lord did not fulfill what had been foretold in the Law, what use was the Apostle recalling those things are being fulfilled from the Law in the New Covenant? In which way the Saviour also showed, that he was (the embodiment of) this himself, and spoken in the Law at that time, and outlined by a threat, saying to them, “On which account I am offended with this generation,” and he said, “they always err in the heart.” And, “I have sworn, if they will enter into my rest.”(10)Psalms 95:10, this is reduced from the typical Septuagint: ὡς ὤμοσα ἐν τῇ ὀργῇ μου as I swore in my wrath Therefore he declared the intention to speak in foreign languages to them, as he also has spoken. They (the people) never came. For this matter is found speaking to his disciples: “To you it has been given the mysteries of the kingdom.”(11)Matthew 13:11 “For [I speak] to these ones in parables that while seeing, they do not see,” etc.(12)Matthew 13:13 And so everywhere in the New Covenant has been fulfilled from the Old, it is in all clearness, not another God and a different one [for each covenant] but the two Covenants are combined together of the same one.

—————–

References   [ + ]

The Latin Epiphanius Text on the Tongues of Corinth

The Epiphanius text on the problem tongues of Corinth in the Latin.

The following copy was produced around 1543 by Janus Cornarius — a person who was extremely gifted in this field and very well trusted for a consistent and accurate translation.

Why digitize a Latin translation that is over a thousand years removed from the Greek original? The Latin has value in three ways: assistance in understanding a Greek word or phrase not readily found in Greek dictionaries or grammars, an accuracy checker for anyone doing an English translation of this text, and to see if the Latin translator had a different interpretation himself than what the Greek actually meant. It gives an idea if a doctrine had changed over time.

The Greek original can be found at The Greek Epiphanius Text on the Problem Tongues of Corinth

Below is the Latin copy found in Migne Patrologia Graeca, Volume 41, Columns 791-795.
Adversus Hæreses Lib. I. Tom. III – Hæres. XLII
. Franciscus Oehler’s edition , Corporis Haereseologici. Tomus Secundus. Continens S. Epiphanii Episcopi Constantiensis. Panariorum, was frequently consulted for accuracy.(1)Corporis Haereseologici. Tomus Secundus. Continens S. Epiphanii Episcopi Constantiensis. Panariorum. Franciscus Oehler, ed. Berolini: A. Asher et Socios. 1859. Pg. 659ff :

—————–

Schol. 13 et 21. Perperam ista concepit: Sed in ecclesia volo quinque verba sensu meo loqui: aliter enim scripsit, et ob legem, adjecit.

Refut. 13 et 21. Linguæ igitur a spiritus sancti gratia derivantur. Ejusmodi porro, de quibus apostolus loquitur, linguæ sunt, ut non Hebraicas modo voces comprehendant, quae in singularis vocabulis præclarem quandam ac sapientem varietatem exhibent, sed et alia quoque idiomatum discrimina, quae nonnulli Graecæ linguæ periti, cui insitus quidam fastus ac vanitas est, gloriose jactabant, qualis est Attica, Æolica, ac Dorica proprietas, quarum freti scientia nonnulli turbas illas Corinthi ac seditiones excitarant, ad quos ideo hanc apostolus epistolam dedit. In qua primum singularis cujusdam esse beneficii docet Hebraicis uti vocabulis posse ac legem docere. Deinde ut Graeci sermonis tumorem arrogantiamque comprimeret, sese linguarum illorum usu instructiorem illis ipsis esse monuit, quod Hebræus ab Hebræis esset oriundus, et ad pedes Gamalielis institutus. Ita Hebraicæ linguæ scientiam in laude posuit, et inter spiritus sancti beneficia numeravit. Unde et ad Timotheum de iisdem scribens, Tu, inquit, ab adolescentia sacras Litteras didicisti. Quod vero ad illam eruditionem politiores quoque Graecorum litteras, hoc est poëticas ac rhetoricas, adjecerit, iisce verbis expressit : Abundantius vobis omnibus linguis loquor, uti se Græcarum disciplinarum excellentiori quodam usu præditum esse monstraret. Nam et scribendi genus ipsum quo utitur, humanitatis illum studiis haud mediocriter imbutum fuisse declarat, ut ne Epicurei quidem ipsi Stoicive possent resistere ; quos omnes cum aræ illius inscriptionem ejusmodi, Ignoto Deo, erudite legisset, summa cum eloquentia artificioseque refutavit, id ipsumque ita declaravit : Quem ignorantes colitis, hunc annuntio vobis. Item illud alio loco dixit, Dixit quidam proprius illorum propheta.

Cretenses semper mendaces, malæ bestiæ, ventres pigri.

Epimenidem veterem philosophum intelligens, Mithræ cujusdam apud Cretenses idoli sacerdotem. De quo et Callimachus Libycus poeta idem testimonium falso ad institutum suum transtulit, cum ita de Jove cecinit :

Creta quidem assidue mendax. Rex magne, sepulcrum

Creta tuum exstruxit, sed te mores nulla subegit.

Vides quorsum ille de linguis Apostoli sermo pertineat : Volo quinque verba in Ecclesia sensu meo, hoc est cum interpretatione, loqui. Quemadmodum propheta quæ sibi sancti Spiritus afflatu in animum immissa fuerint in medium proferens, auditoribus suis per prophetiam illam affert utilitatem, ita ego, inquit, loqui sic cupio, ut me Ecclesia omnis audiat, et ædificari possit, non ut Græce aut Hebraicæ linguæ scientia elatus me unum, qui eam scilicet intelligam, non Ecclesiam ipsam, ædificem. Tu vero illud addidisti, Marcio, ob legem, quasi ita scripserit Apostolus : Volo quinque verba in Ecclesia propter legem. Pudeat te, secunda Babylon, ac Sodomorum nova confusio. Quousque linguas istas confundes ? Quousque contra eos quibus nocere nihil potes tuam armabis audaciam ? Nam angelis vim moliris afferre, et ab Ecclesia veritatis sermones abjudicas, quasi ita sanctum Lot alloquare : Educ viros illos. Verum tuus in te conatus recidet ; nec ideo veritatis illos sermones ejicis, sed tibimetipsi cæcitatem infligis, atque in densissima noctis caligine versaris, fores palpans, nec inveniens, donec sol ortus fuerit, tuque judicii diem aspicias, in quo mendaciis tuis vindex ignis occurrat. Nam hic te, uti vides, exspectat. Cæterum apud Apostolum non legitur, propter legem ; sed illud a te perperam est adjectum. Quod si istud addidisset, consentaneum ei foret, quod ab ejus Domino fuerat dictum : Non venisse se ut legem solveret, sed ut adimpleret.

Schol. 14 et 22. In lege scriptum est : Quoniam in aliis linguis et labiis aliis loquar populo huic.

Refut. 14 et 22. Nisi illa quæ in lege prædicta fuerant Dominus implesset, quid attinebat Apostolum ea commemorare, quæ ex lege veteri fuerant in Novo Testamento perfecta ? Quemadmodum et Salvator ipse demonstrat, eumdem se esse, qui tum in lege locutus est, in hunc modum interminatus : Ideo offensus fui generationi huic, et dixi, Semper hi errant corde ; et : Juravi si introibunt in requiem meam. Propterea in aliis linguis locuturum se esse denuntiavit, ut et locutus est ; nec ingressi illi sunt. Hujusmodi enim quiddam discipulis suis dixisse legitur : Vobis datum est nosse mysteria regni dei ; illus autem in parabolis, ut videntes non videant, etc. Cum itaque in Novo Testamento ea ubique sint impleta, quæ in Vetere continebantur, dubitare nemo potest, quin ejusdem ambo Testamenta Dei sint, non alterius ac diversi.

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References   [ + ]

The Greek Epiphanius Text on the Problem Tongues of Corinth

A Greek source text on the Epiphanius passage about the problem tongues of Corinth:

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ιγ καὶ κα σχόλιον. Πεπλανημένως ὁ Μαρκίων [μετὰ τὸ] «ἀλλὰ ἐν Ὲκκλησιᾳ θέλω πέντε λόγους τῷ νοΐ μου λαλῆσαι», προσέθετο «διὰ τὸν νὸμον».(1) MPG has ἑτέρως, δὲ διὰ τὸν νὸμον and Oehler has ἕτέρως δε, Διὰ τὸν νόμον. Holl states that ἕτέρως δε is found in Vaticanus gr. 503 and Marcianus 125

ιγ καὶ κα ἔλεγχος. Ἄρα καὶ αἱ γλῶσσαι ἐκ τοῦ χαρίσματος τοῦ πνεύματός εἰσι. γλώσσας δὲ ὁποίας λέγει ὁ ἀπόστολος; ὅπως γνῷ οὐ(2) Holl has an alternative ὅπως γνῶσιν οἱ Oehler has ὅπως γνῶς, οὐ while MPG has ὅπως γνῶ οὐ τὰς φωνὰς τὰς Ἑβραΐδας(3)Oehler has a comma after τὰς Ἑβραΐδας, τὰς διαφόρως καὶ ποικίλως ἐν ἑκάστῃ λέξει καλῶς μετὰ σοφίας ποικιλθείσας, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὴν κομπώδη γλῶσσαν τῶν Ἑλλήνων αὐχοῦντες, τὸ ἀττικίζειν καὶ αὶολίζειν, καὶ Δωρικῶς(4)Vaticanus gr. 503 διορικῶς and Marcianus 125 δοριστικῶς φθέγγεσθαί(5)Oehler has this last portion differently ἀλλὰ καὶ τὴν κομπώδη γλῶσσαν τῶν Ἑλλήνων· ηὕχουν τινὲς τὸ Ἀττικίζειν καὶ Αἰολίζειν, καὶ Δωρικῶς φθέγγεσθαι…(6) Hull refers here vgl. haer. 69,68,4 ὅτι οὐ μίαν μόνον γλῶσσαν προσίεται ὁ θεὸς ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ, ὡς ἐνόμιζον τινες τῶν παρὰ τοῖς Κορινθίοις τὰς πτύρσεις καὶ στάσεις ἐργασαμένων, οἷς ἡ Ἐπιστολὴ ἐπεστέλλετο.(7) MPG and Oehler ἐπετέλλετο καὶ ὡμολόγησε(8)MPG and Marcianus 125 ὁμολόγησε μὲν χάρισμα εἶναι πνευματικὸν τὸ ταῖς Ἑβραϊκαῖς λὲξεσι κεχρῆσθαί τε καὶ τὸν νόμον διδάσκειν. οὐ μὴν ἀλλὰ καὶ τὰ ἄλλα κομπώδη καθελὼν τῆς τῶν Ἑλλήνων γλώσσης ἔφησεν μᾶλλον γλώσσαις αὐτὸν αὐτῶν λαλοῦντα, διὰ τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν Ἑβραϊον ἐξ Ἑβραιων, παρὰ τοὺς πόδας Γαμαλιὴλ ἀνατεθραμμένον, ὧν Ἑβραίων(9) MPG has ὦν (Ἑβραίοις) τὰ… τὰ γράμματα ἐν ἐπαίνοις τίθησι, καὶ τῆς τοῦ πνεύματος δωρεᾶς ὄντα χαρίσματα.(10) Holl has δωρεᾶς ὄντα χαρίσματα ὑποδείκνυσιν as a possible ending. The next sentence can alternatively start as: καὶ διὸ Vaticanus gr. 503 διὸ καὶ περὶ τῶν αὐτῶν [καὶ] Τιμοθέῳ γράφων, ἔλεγεν «Ὅτι ἀπὸ νεότητος ἱερὰ Γράμματα ἔμαθες». ὄτι(11) Holl has ἔτι while MPG and Oehler have ὄτι I think Holl’s edition is a printing error δὲ προστιθεὶς (πρὸς) τοὺς ἀπὸ Ἑλλήνων ποιητῶν καὶ ῥητόρων ὁρμωμένους τὰ ἴσα φάσκων ὁμοίως ἔφη «Πάντων πλέον ὑμῶν λαλῶ γλώσσαις», ἳνα δείξῃ καὶ τῆς Ἑλληνικῆς παιδείας αὐτὸν ἐν πείρᾳ ὑπερβαλλόντως γεγενῆσθαι. καὶ γὰρ καὶ ὁ χαρακτὴρ αὐτοῦ σημαίνει αὐτὸν ὑπάρχειν ἐν προπαιδείᾳ, οὗ(12) Holl has a possible addition here: τῇ σοφίᾳ κηρύσσοντος τὸ εὐαγγέλιον Ἀθήναις οὐκ ἠδυνήθησαν Ἐπικούρειοι καὶ Στωϊκοὶ ἀντιστῆναι. ἀνατρεπόμενοι διὰ τῆς λογίως παρ᾽ αὐτοῦ(13) MPG has αὐτῷ ἀναγνωσθείσης τοῦ βωμοῦ ἐπιγραφῆς τῆς(14) Oehler claims τῆς ἀντία γνωστοῦ ἐπιγεγραμμένης is shown in at least one manuscript, but it is an emendation ἐπιγεγραμμένης «τῷ Θεῷ ἀγνώστῳ»,(15) MPG has ἀγνώστως ῥητῶς(16) MPG has ῤητορικῶς ἀναγνωσθείσης παρ᾽ αὐτοῦ καὶ εὐθὺς μεταφραστικῶς ῥηθείσης «ὅν ὰγνοοῦντες εὺσεβεῖτε, τοῦτον ἐγὼ καταγγέλλω ὑμῖν» καὶ πάλιν φήσαντος «εἶπέν τις ἴδιος αὐτῶν προφήτης·

Κρῆτες ἀεὶ ψεῦσται, κακὰ θηρία, γαστέρες ἀργαι»(17)Titus 1:12

ἵνα τὸν Ἐπιμενιδην δείξῃ, ἀρχαῖον ὄντα φιλὸσοφον, και κτιστὴν(18)MPG and Oehler: Μίθρα τοῦ παρὰ Κρησὶν είδώλου·(19)MPG footnotes an alternative spelling: εὶδωλίου Ἀφ᾽οὑπερ καὶ Καλλιμαχος ὁ Λιβυς τἠν μαρτυριαν εὶς ἑαυτὸν συνανέτεινε, ψευδῶς περὶ Διὸς λέγων·

Κρῆτες ἀεὶ ψεῦσται. καὶ γὰρ τάφον, ὦ ἄνα, σεῖο

Κρῆτες ἐτεκτήναντο, σὐ δ᾽οὐ θανες· ἐισὶ γὰρ αὶεί.

kαὶ ὁρᾷς πῶς διηγεῖται περὶ γλωσσῶν ὁ ἅγιος ἀπόστολος, «Ἀλλὰ θέλω πεντε λόγους ἐν Ἐκκλησιᾳ τῷ νοΐ μου», τουτέστιν διὰ τῆς ἑρμηνείας «φράσαι». ὡς ὁ προφήτης, ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ εὶς τὸν νοῦν προκεχορηγημένα φέρων εὶς φῶς διὰ τῆς προφητείας ὠφελεῖ τοὺς ἀκούοντας, οὕτως κὰγὼ [θέλω], φησὶ, λαλῆσαι εὶς ἀκοὴν τῆς ἐκκλησίας καὶ οὶκοδομὴν καὶ μὴ διὰ τοῦ κόμπου Ἑλληνίδος τε καὶ Ἑβραΐδος ἑαυτὸν οὶκοδομεῖν τὸν ειδότα, καὶ οὐχὶ τὴν ἐκκλησίαν, δι᾽ἧς ἐπίσταται γλώσσης. σὺ δὲ προσέθηκας, ὦ Μαρκίων, τὸ «διὰ τὸν νὸμον», ὡς τοῦ ἀποστόλου λέγοντος «Θέλω πέντε λόγους ἐν Ἐκκλησιᾳ διὰ τὸν νόμον», αὶδέσθητι, Βαβυλὼν δευτέρα, καὶ καινὴ Σοδόμων πολυμιξία. ἕως πότε συγχεῖς(20)MPG: συνέχεις and Oehler: συγχέεις –Oehler’s is likely a print error τὰς γλώσσας; ἕως πότε τολμᾷς κατὰ τῶν ὑπὸ σοῦ μηδὲν ἀδικουμένων; ζητεἴς γὰρ βιὰσασθαι ἀγγελικὰς δυνάμεις, ἐκβαλὼν τοὺς λόγους τῆς ἀληθείας ἀπὸ τῆς ἐκκλησίας φάσκων τῷ(21)this dative article does not exist in MPG or Oehler Λὼτ τῷ ἁγίῳ «ἐξάγαγε τοὺς ἂνδρας».(22)Genesis 19:5 The present Septuagint we use has ἐξάγαγε αὐτοὺς πρὸς ἡμᾶς καὶ ὅ ἐπιχειρεῖς κατὰ σεαυτοῦ ἐπιχειρεῖς. τοὺς δὲ λόγους τῆς ἀληθείας οὐκ ἐκβαλεῖς, ἀλλὰ σεαυτὸν πατάσσεις ἐν ἀορασίᾳ, καὶ ἐν νυκτὶ ἐζοφωμένῃ διάγεις, ψηλαφῶν τὴν θύραν, καὶ μὴ εὑρισκων ἔως ἀνατείλῃ ὁ ἥλιος καὶ ἴδῃς τὴν ἡμέραν τῆς κρίσεως· ἐν ᾗ καὶ τό πῦρ ἀπαντήσεται τῇ σῇ ψευδηγορίᾳ. τοῦτο γὰρ σε ἐκδέχεται, ὡς ὁρᾷς. οὔτε γὰρ κεἴται παρα τῷ ἀποστόλῳ [τὸ] «διὰ τὸν νόμον» καὶ παρὰ σοῦ τοῦτο πεποιήτευται. εὶ δὲ καὶ ἔλεγεν ὁ ἀπόστολος «διὰ τὸν νόμον» συνᾳδόντως ἔλεγεν τῷ ἑαυτοῦ κυρίῳ, οὐχ ἳνα καταλύσῃ τὸν νόμον, ἀλλ᾽ ἳνα πληρὼσῃ.

ιδ καὶ κβ σχόλιον. «Ἐν τῷ νόμῳ γέγραπταί ὅτι ἐν ἑτερογλώσσοις καὶ ἐν(23)This ἐν is absent from MPG and Oehler χείλεσιν ἑτέροις λαλήσω πρὸς τὸν λαὸν τοῦτον.»

ιδ καὶ κβ ἔλεγχος. Εὶ μὴ ἐπλήρωσε κύριος τὰ ἐν τῷ νὀμῳ προειρημένα, τίς ἦν χρεία τὸν ἀπόστολον ὑπομνῆσαι τὰ ἀπὸ νόμου ἐν καινῇ διαθήκῃ πληρούμενα; ὡς καὶ ὁ Σωτὴρ ἔδειξεν ὅτι αὐτὸς ἦν ὁ καὶ τότε ἐν νόμῳ λαλήσας καὶ κατὰ ἀπειλὴν ὁρίσας αὐτοῖς λέγων «διὸ προσώχθισα(24)MPG and Oehler have προσώχθησα τῇ γενεᾷ ταύτῃ καὶ εἶπον, ἀεὶ πλανῶνται τῇ καρδίᾳ, καὶ ὤμοσα εὶ εὶσελεύσονται εὶς τὴν κατὰπαυσιν μου»· διὸ καὶ ἐν ἑτερογλώσσοις ἐπηγγείλατο λαλῆσαι αὐτοῖς, ὡς καἰ ἐλάλησε, καὶ οὐκ είσῆλθον. τοῦτο γὰρ εὑρίσκεται λέγων τοῖς αὐτοῦ μαθηταῖς «ὑμῖν δεδοται(25)MPG and Oehler have ὑμῖν δεδοται λαλῆσαι τὰ μυστήρια τῆς βασιλείας, ἐκείνοις δὲ ἐν παραβολαῖς, ἵνα βλέποντες μὴ βλέπωσι» καὶ τὰ ἑξῆς. πανταχοῦ τοίνυν ἐν τῇ καινῇ τὰ ἀπὸ παλαιᾶς πληρούμενα, παντί τῳ σαφές έστιν, ὅτι οὐχ ἑτέρου θεοῦ καὶ ἑτέρου θεοῦ,(26)οὐχ ἑτέρου θεοῦ καὶ ἑτέρου, ἀλλὰ in MPG or Oehler ἀλλὰ τοῦ αὐτοῦ αί δύο διαθῆκαι συνίστανται.

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Notes on the Greek Source text:

  • A previous digitized Epiphanius’ Greek text posted on this blog used the Migne Patrologia Graeca version of Against Heresies as the basis. Dr. Karl Holl’s textual work, Epiphanius (Anchoratus und Panarion)(27)Epiphanius (Anchoratus und Panarion) von Dr. Karl Holl. Zweiter Band. Panarion Haer. 34-64 Leipzig: J.C. Hinrich’sche Buchhandlung. 1922. Pg. 168-171 has now become the source text. He preferred to call it by the original name, the Panarion.

  • Holl’s text is compared against the versions in Migne Patrologia Graeca(28)Migne Patrologia Graeca, Volume 41, Columns 791-795.
    Adversus Hæreses Lib. I. Tom. III – Hæres. XLII
    and Franciscus Oehler’s edition found in his Corporis haereseologici.(29)Corporis Haereseologici. Tomus Secundus. Continens S. Epiphanii Epicsopi Constantiensis. Panariorum. Franciscus Oehler, ed. Berolini: A. Asher et Socios. 1859. Pg. 658ff

  • Both MPG and Oehler liked to add modern capitalization standards to the Greek nouns. This has not been noted in the footnotes. Holl did not follow this convention.

  • MPG and Oehler also used more grammatical points such as commas than Holl did in his text. Holl’s grammatical points were followed but differences were not noted.

  • Holl put lines above characters when they are to be understood as numbers rather than text. This was omitted in the digital copy in the four occasions that it occurs because there is no keystroke for this. It does not change the accuracy of the reading. The reader should be able to identify when the letters are being used as numbers.

  • I would have liked to examine the manuscripts themselves, which Holl has done extensively already. However none of them are easily available, if at all. Holl’s work is quite extensive and it appears no more textual work is required.

  • Holl’s personal editorial notes at the bottom of every page are in German — a language I am not fluent with. Some notes are overlooked because of this.

References   [ + ]

Psellos on the Christian Doctrine of Tongues Intro

Who would have thought that a relatively unknown eleventh century Greek Christian statesman/philosopher/theologian by the name of Michael Psellos would provide such important clues behind the mysterious christian doctrine of tongues?

Michael Psellos and Byzantine Emperor, Michael VII Doukas.

It was never a mystery to Psellos. It’s just that western history has largely forgotten about this brilliant thinker. If he was popular, the present issues and debates surrounding this mysterious doctrine would not be so fashionable.

Or it just may be that Psellos was forgotten because of the complexity of thoughts that he expressed. His approach to faith, scripture and intellect took western society five hundred or so more years to catch-up. It is surprising that his complex weave of Greek philosophy and Christian faith in a very conservative Christian environment didn’t get him into more serious trouble than he encountered.

But then, he did get himself in trouble. He thought highly of opinions and liked to show-off his intellectual genius. After reading his text, it is not clear whether he was trying to solve the riddle of Nazianzus’ miracle of hearing or speech, or it was an opportunity to show his intellectual mastery. Regardless of his motives, he leaves us with the richest wealth of historic literature on speaking in tongues.

Who exactly was Michael Psellos? Any biography in English on him is very limited. The Catholic New Advent website has a general outline of him. He was a:

“Byzantine statesman, scholar, and author, born apparently at Constantinople, 1018; died probably 1078. . . his many-sided literary work and the elegance of his style give him a chief place among contemporary scholars.”

The New Advent article proceeds to explain that he lived both in and around Constantinople (today known as Istanbul) and was politically involved with various leaders. He worked his way up to being the Secretary of State. He was a Christian who had a love-hate relationship with the Church. One of the lower moments in that relationship was his stance on choosing Plato over Aristotle. The Church tolerated the non-Christian writings of Aristotle, but frowned on Plato. He studied theology but loved philosophy, and this was a continued source of contention.

There is also a Wikipedia biography. This one is the most popular and is copied throughout the web in various forms, though this work has been flagged by Wikipedia for need of revisions.

Michael Psellos is a between-man. He lived in the eleventh-century and still was connected to the ancient traditions of the church, but also at the beginning shift of intellectual and scholarly thought that modern readers come to rely on. He bridged both worlds. This is why his work is so important.

He wrote in Greek and appealed to the Eastern Greek world. It could be that his choice of writing in Greek during the time when Latin literature had far more prominence diminished his universal appeal.

Psellos reinforces one of the main arguments of the Gift of Tongues Project that coverage of ecclesiastical literature has been woefully neglected on the subject. This is partially due to the fact that most libraries do not have ancient Christian texts in the original languages, and so few ancient Church texts have been translated into English. It makes the Church fathers appear silent on the subject to western readers. This has led to a variety of erroneous conclusions. Psellos and many other ancient Church writers demonstrate this neglect is seriously wrong, and a fresh look at the Christian doctrine of tongues without modern prejudices is required.

What did Psellos write that was so important? Two things. He first clears up the Nazianzus paradox of whether the miracle of tongues was in the speaking or hearing. Secondly, he particularly clarifies the similarities and differences between the ancient Greek prophetesses going into a frenzy and spontaneously speaking in foreign languages they did not know beforehand, and with the disciples of Christ who also spontaneously spoke in foreign languages.

What did he exactly say and write on this? The English translation can be found here: Psellos on the Tongues of Pentecost. It was quite a difficult translation challenge, be sure to read the Technical Notes. There is also a brief commentary and here is the original Greek text.

It is an important work that changes the nature of the discussion. Many thanks to Alex Poulos who did some fine research and unearthed such a gem. He translated one paragraph of the text along with some comments. It is found over at his blog, Michael Psellos on Pentecost Part 1.

It is exciting to uncover such a rich treasure on this subject and share it with all interested readers on the subject. Not only will a number of articles be generated directly but a few older articles, especially the ones covering the history of glossolalia from the eighteenth century onwards, will be updated because of these findings. ■