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A History of the Rise and Influence of Rationalism in Europe

The book A History of the Rise and Influence of Rationalism in Europe (2 vols., 1865) is a seminal piece of literature. This well written work helps to provide valuable insights for the modern reader with the backstory on the conversion of Europe from a mystical to a rational society.

This book was written by William Lecky, an Irish-Anglican historian and politician (1838–1903). He greatly succeeded in studying and narrating the complex and evolving web of rationalism, morals, miracles, the supernatural, Catholicism, and Protestantism into a systematic and comprehensive portrait.

His work assists this blog in three different ways. Firstly, it demonstrates why the patristic writings were blotted out of the modern history on the doctrine of tongues. Lecky provided the logic behind this notable absence. (The following article on this blog The Historical Rejection of Patristics and its Legacy covers this in detail.)

Secondly, the book provides some history behind the doctrine of cessation in the protestant movement. He gives some hints as to why this doctrine arose.

Thirdly, he contributes to another interest of this blog and that is with the intersection of faith and mental health. He outlined a period that was consistently engaged in moral and spiritual purity – one which was percieved to bring them safety, health, stability, and protection from the elements. It was the antidote for humanity’s ills. Science was considered tertiary in this struggle for security. The greatest enemy to these four aims was the devil and his army of angels. Society felt that the active pursuit and limitation of the powers of evil would ensure their personal physical, emotional, and spiritual security. This fight against the devil allowed the excess imagination of many to run wild and caused countless executions. This supernatural crusade was especially against women. Many of whom were accused of being witches. Most of these women today would likely be listed with some form of mental illness, but back in this period, there was little concept of such a thing. It is a sad chapter in Western history.

However, this was not always the exclusive approach by the Church. Jean Claude Larchet demonstrates in his book Mental Disorders and Spiritual Healing that at least from the Eastern Christian Church perspective, the treatment of mental health by the institutional church has had some progressive and merciful aspects too.

The reader must keep in mind that the irrational social response to the fear of the unknown cannot be restricted or blamed on the christian faith. It is a problem of the human psyche. Today we wrestle with the same problems of fear. Our world has significantly changed after the events of 9/11. The ever apparent fear of terrorists at the door have weakened citizen rights and has created serious suspicion upon any Muslim or anybody who looks Arab. The United States decision to ban citizens from seven Muslim dominated countries from entering their land underscores this irrationalism. This is but one of many examples. North American society is now driven by an irrational culture of fear in almost all of its decision making.

Many readers will not have the time to soak in Lecky’s voluminous treaty. The following are snippets from his work. The book itself is available at the Online Library of Liberty.

Quotes from A History of the Rise and Influence of Rationalism in Europe

Pg. 27 “There is certainly no change in the history of the last 300 years more striking, or suggestive of more curious enquiries, than that which has taken place in the estimate of the miraculous. At present, nearly all educated men receive an account of a miracle taking place in their own day, with an absolute and even derisive incredulity which dispenses with all examination of the evidence. Although they may be entirely unable to give a satisfactory explanation of some phenomena that have taken place, they never on that account dream of ascribing them to supernatural agency, such an hypothesis being, as they believe, altogether beyond the range of reasonable discussion. Yet, a few centuries ago, there was no solution to which the mind of man turned more readily in every perplexity. A miraculous account was then universally accepted as perfectly credible, probable, and ordinary. There was scarcely a village or a church that had not, at some time, been the scene of supernatural interposition. [Pg. 28] The powers of light and the powers of darkness were regarded as visibly struggling for the mastery. Saintly miracles, supernatural cures, startling judgments, visions, prophecies, and prodigies of every order, attested the activity of the one, while witchcraft and magic, with all their attendant horrors, were the visible manifestations of the other.”

Pg. 32 is in reference to cleansing the nation of perceived evil, and of demons, witchcraft and sorcery, the author goes into great detail showing the innumerable deaths that were caused by this superstitious conflagration.

Pg. 32 “Such was the attitude of the Church of Rome with reference to this subject, but on this ground the Reformers had no conflict with their opponents. The credulity which Luther manifested on all matters connected with diabolical intervention, was amazing, even for his age; and, when speaking of witchcraft, his language was emphatic and unhesitating. ‘I would have no compassion on these witches,’ he exclaimed, ‘I would burn them all!’ In England the establishment of the Reformation was the signal for an immediate outburst of the superstition; and there, as elsewhere its decline was represented by the clergy as the direct consequence and the exact measure of the progress of religious scepticism. In Scotland, where the Reformed ministers exercised greater influence than in any other country, and where the witch trials fell almost entirely into their hands, the persecution was proportionately atrocious.”

Pg. 36 “Indeed, the philosophy of madness is mainly due to Pinel, who wrote long after the superstition had vanished; and even if witchcraft had been treated as a disease, this would not have destroyed the belief that it was Satanic, in an age when all the more startling diseases were deemed supernatural, and when theologians maintained that Satan frequently acted by the employment of natural laws.”

Pg. 37 “It may be stated, I believe, as an invariable truth, that, whenever a religion which rests in a great measure on a system of terrorism, and which paints in dark and forcible colours the misery of men and the power of evil spirits, is intensely realised, it will engender the belief in witchcraft of [pg. 38] magic. The panic which its teachings will create, will overbalance the faculties of multitudes. The awful images of evil spirits of superhuman power, and of untiring malignity, will continually haunt the imagination. They will blend with the illusions of age or sorrow or sickness, and will appear with an especial vividness in the more alarming and unexplained phenomena of nature.”

Pg. 63 “Amid all this strange teaching, there ran, however, one rein of a darker character. The more terrible phenomena of nature were entirely unmoved by exorcisms and sprinklings, and they were invariably attributed to supernatural interposition. In every nation it has been believed, at an early period, that pestilences, famines, comets, rainbows, eclipses, and other rare and startling phenomena, were effected, not by the ordinary sequence of natural laws, but by the direct intervention of spirits. In this manner, the predisposition towards the [Pg. 64] miraculous, which is the characteristic of all semi-civilised nations, has been perpetuated, and the clergy have also frequently identified these phenomena with acts of rebellion against themselves. The old Catholic priests were consuin mate masters of these arts, and every rare natural event was, in the middle ages, an occasion for the most intense terrorism. Thus, in the eighth century, a fearful famine afflicted France, and was generally represented as a consequence of the repugnance which the French people manifested to the payment of tithes. In the ninth century, a total eclipse of the sun struck terror through Europe, and is said to have been one of the causes of the death of a French king.”

Pg. 69 “We find then that, all through the middle ages, most of the crimes that were afterwards collected by the inquisitors in the treatises on witchcraft were known; and that many of them were not unfrequently punished. At the same time the executions, during six centuries, were probably not as numerous as those which often took place during a single decade of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In the twelfth century, however, the subject passed into an entirely new phase. The conception of a witch, as we now conceive it—that is to say, of a woman who had entered into a deliberate compact with Satan, who was endowed with the power of working miracles whenever she pleased, and who was continually transported through the air to the Sabbath, where she paid her homage to the Evil One—first appeared. The [Pg. 70] panic created by the belief advanced at first slowly, but after a time with a fearfully accelerated rapidity. Thousands of victims were sometimes burnt alive in a few years. Every country in Europe was stricken with the wildest panic. Hundreds of the ablest judges were selected for the extirpation of the crime. A vast literature was created on the subject, and it was not until a considerable portion of the eighteenth century had passed away, that the executions finally ceased.”

Pg. 81 “When the belief is confined to the lower class, its existence will be languishing and unprogressive. But when legislators denounce it in [Pg. 82] their laws, and popes in their bulls; when priests inveigh against it in their pulpits, and inquisitors burn thousands at the stake, the imaginations of men will be inflamed, the terror will prove contagious, and the consequent delusions be multiplied.”

Pg. 84 -85 “I know, indeed, few stranger, and at the same time more terrible pictures, than are furnished by the history of witchcraft during the century that preceded and the century that followed the Reformation. Wherever the conflict of opinions was raging among the educated, witchcraft, like an attendant shadow, pursued its course among the ignorant; and Protestants and Catholics vied with each other in the zeal with which they prosecuted it. Never was the power of imagination—that strange faculty which casts the shadow of its images over the whole creation, and combines all the phenomena of life according to its own archetypes—more strikingly evinced. Superstitious and terror-stricken, the minds of men were impelled irresistibly towards the miraculous and the Satanic, and they found them upon every side. The elements of imposture blended so curiously with the elements of delusion, that it is now impossible to separate them. Sometimes an ambitious woman, braving the dangers of her [Pg. 85] act, boldly claimed supernatural power, and the haughtiest and the most courageous cowered humbly at her presence. Sometimes a husband attempted, in the witch courts, to cut the tie which his church had pronounced indissoluble; and numbers of wives have, in consequence, perished at the stake. Sometimes a dexterous criminal availed himself of the panic; and, directing a charge of witchcraft against his accuser, escaped himself with impunity. Sometimes, too, a personal grudge was avenged by the accusation, or a real crime was attributed to sorcery; or a hail-storm, or a strange disease, suggested the presence of a witch. But, for the most part, the trials represent pure and unmingled delusions. The defenders of the belief were able to maintain that multitudes had voluntarily confessed themselves guilty of commerce with the Evil One, and had persisted in their confessions till death. Madness is always peculiarly frequent during great religious or political revolutions; and, in the sixteenth century, all its forms were absorbed in the system of witchcraft, and caught the colour of the prevailing predisposition.”

Pg. 86-87 “It is very difficult for us in the present day to do justice to these works, or to realise the points of view from which they were written. A profound scepticism on all subjects [Pg. 87] connected with the Devil underlies the opinions of almost every educated man, and renders it difficult even to conceive a condition of thought in which that spirit was the object of an intense and realised belief. An anecdote which involves the personal intervention of Satan is now regarded as quite as intrinsically absurd, and unworthy of serious attention, as an anecdote of a fairy or of a sylph. When, therefore, a modern reader turns over the pages of an old treatise on witchcraft, and finds hundreds of such aneedotes related with the gravest assurance, he is often inclined to depreciate very unduly the intellect of an author who represents a condition of thought so unlike his own. The cold indifference to human suffering which these writers display gives an additional bias to his reason; while their extraordinary pedantry, their execrable Latin, and their gross scientific blunders, furnish ample materials for his ridicule. Besides this, Sprenger, who is at once the most celebrated, and, perhaps, the most credulous member of his class, unfortunately for his reputation, made some ambitious excursions into another field, and immortalised himself by a series of etymological blunders, which have been the delight of all succeeding scholars.”

Pg. 102-103 “The foregoing pages will, I trust, be sufficient to elucidate the leading causes upon which witchcraft depended. They will show that it resulted, not from accidental circum stances, individual eccentricities, or even scientific ignorance but from a general predisposition to see Satanic agency in life. It grew from, and it reflected, the prevailing modes of religious thought; and it declined only when those modes were weakened or destroyed. In almost every period of the [Pg. 103] middle ages, there had been a few men who in some degree dissented from the common superstitions; but their opinions were deemed entirely incomprehensible, and they exercised no appreciable influence upon their contemporaries.”

Pg. 114-115 “From the publication of the essays of Montaigne, we may date the influence of that girted and ever enlarging rationalistic school, who gradually effected the destruction of the belief in witchcraft, not by refuting [Pg. 115] or explaining its evidence, but simply by making men more and more sensible of its intrinsic absurdity.”

Pg. 119 “The history of witchcraft in Protestant countries differs so little from its history in Catholic ones, that it is not necessary to dwell upon it at much length. In both cases, a tendency towards the miraculous was the cause of the belief; and the degree of religious terrorism regulated the intensity of the persecution.”

Pg. 157 “Nothing could be more common than for a holy man to be lifted up from the floor in the midst of his devotions, or to be visited by the Virgin or by an angel. There was scarcely a town that could not show some relic that had cured the sick, or some image that had opened and shut its eyes, or bowed it head to an earnest worshipper.”

Pg. 159 “All this has now passed away. It has passed away, not only in lands where Protestantism is triumphant, but also in those where the Roman Catholic faith is still acknowledged, and where the mediæval saints are still venerated.”

Pg. 161 “If these propositions be true—and I scarcely think that any candid person who seriously examines the subject can [Pg. 162] question them—they lead irresistibly to a very important general conclusion. They show that the repugnance of men to believe miraculous narratives is in direct proportion to the progress of civilisation and the diffusion of knowledge.”

Pg. 163 “We find, accordingly, that from the very beginning, Protestantism looked upon [Pg. 164] modern miracles (except those which were comprised under the head of witchcraft) with an aversion and distrust that contrasts remarkably with the unhesitating credulity of its opponents. The history of its sects exhibits, indeed, some alleged miracles, which were, apparently, the result of ignorance or enthusiasm, and a very few which were obvious impositions.”

Pg. 169 “Middleton met it by an attack upon the veracity of the Fathers, which was so eloquent, so uncompromising, and so admirably directed, that all England soon rang with the controversy. He contended that the religious leaders of the fourth century had admitted, eulogised, and habitually acted upon principles that were diametrically opposed, not simply to the aspirations of a transcendent sanctity, but to the dictates of the most common honesty.”

Pg. 171 “If the Fathers were in truth men of the most unbounded credulity and of the laxest veracity; if the sense of the importance of dogmas had, in their minds, completely superseded the sense of rectitude, it was absurd to invest them with this extraordinary veneration. They might still be reverenced as men of undoubted sincerity, and of the noblest heroism; they might still be cited as witnesses to the belief of their time, and as representing the tendencies of its intellect; but their pre-eminent authority had passed away. The landmarks of English theology were removed. The traditions on which it rested were disturbed. It had entered into new conditions, and must be defended by new arguments.”

Pg. 186 “Whatever is lost by Catholicism is gained by Rationalism; wherever the spirit of Rationalism recedes, the spirit of Catholicism advances. Towards the close of the last century France threw off her allegiance to Christianity, endeavoured to efface all the traditions of her past, and proclaimed a new era in the religious history of mankind. She soon repented of her temerity, and retired from a position which she had found untenable. Half the nation became ultramontane Roman Catholics; the other half became indifferent or Rationalist.”

Pg. 194-195 “. . .and the spirit of Rationalism has become the great centre to which the intellect of [Pg. 195] Europe is manifestly tending. If we trace the progress of the movement from its origin to the present day, we find that it has completely altered the whole aspect and complexion of religion. When it began, Christianity was regarded as a system entirely beyond the range and scope of human reason: it was impious to question; it was impious to examine; it was impious to discriminate. On the other hand, it was visibly instinct with the supernatural. Miracles of every order and degree of magnitude were flashing forth incessantly from all its parts. They excited no scepticism and no surprise. The miraculous element pervaded all literature, explained all difficulties, consecrated all doctrines. Every unusual phenomenon was immediately referred to a supernatural agency, not because there was a passion for the improbable, but because such an explanation seemed far more simple and easy of belief than the obscure theories of science. In the present day Christianity is regarded as a system which courts the strictest investigation, and which, among many other functions, was designed to vivify and stimulate all the energies of man. The idea of the miraculous, which a superficial observer might have once deemed its most prominent characteristic, has been driven from almost all its entrenchments, and now quivers faintly and feebly through the mists of eighteen hundred years.”


Gregory of Nyssa on Speaking in Tongues – English texts

English translations of Gregory of Nyssa’s references to speaking in tongues.

Oratio de Spiritu Sancto sive in Pentecosten

I could not find an English translation of this text, so I took the time to provide one. The following is a passage from Gregory of Nyssa’s Oratio de Spiritu Sancto sive in Pentecosten. This portion directly reflects Gregory of Nyssa’s perspective on speaking in tongues.

For the complete copy in the Greek see, Gregory of Nyssa Speaking in Tongues: Source Texts

Translation by Charles A. Sullivan based on the text found in Migne Patrologia Graeca. Vol. 46. Col. 695ff.


For today is a sign in reference to the annual time of the year of 50 days being complete. Seeing that, in respect to the actual hour, we are upon the third hour of the day, the event of grace happened that is beyond words. For the Holy Spirit mingled again with men, the very thing which previously because of man begotten as flesh, ceased to be among our nature. And because of the violence of this wind, then the spiritual powers of evil and of all the dirty demons have been driven out from the air by the descent of the Holy Spirit — those who remained in the upper room were begotten with fillings of divine power in the form of fire. For no person otherwise has the ability to have begotten a share of the Holy Spirit nor those dwelling of this life in the upper room. How great are these people upwardly comprehending things, the citizens being inhabitants of the high room are transforming their citizenship from earth to heaven — they are coming into an alliance with the Holy Spirit. Consequently, the narrative of the Book of Acts says that while these people are gathered in the upper room, is the dividing up in each one the pure and supernatural fire in the form of languages according to the number of disciples.

So then these people are thus discoursing in Parthian, Mede, and Elamite in the other remaining nations, adapting their voices with respect to authority to every state language. Even as the Apostle says, “I wish five words to speak with my mind in the Church in order that I may benefit others than a thousand words in a tongue.” Truly at that time the benefit was the same language begotten into foreign languages so that the preaching to those ignorant of the truth would not be in vain when those preaching thwart them by a single voice. Now indeed while existing according to the same sounding language, it is necessary to seek after the fiery tongue of the Spirit for the illumination of those who dwell in darkness through error.


Contra Eunomium

Gregory of Nyssa’s treatise on divine and human languages along with some snippets to Pentecost can be found in his work Contra Eunomium. This translation is available at Gregory of Nyssa: Against Eunomium from a Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church. second series. Volume 5. Philip Schaff, Henry Wace, ed. Edinburgh: T & T Clark. 1892. Pg. 275ff.

St. Patiens Speaking in Tongues

The story of second-century St. Patiens going to the city of Metz in northeast France and speaking in tongues.

St. Patiens of Metz is a mysterious figure in the annals of ecclesiastical biographies. His existence is sure, but the details are sketchy. We do know he died around 157 AD,(1)https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patient_de_Metz and was the fourth bishop appointed to the city of Metz – a northeastern city in France that is a geographic intersection between many other European cultures and languages.

Where St. Patiens came from, it is not known. However, he was not originally from the Metz region, nor did he speak whatever language was spoken there. I hesitate to write that these people spoke French because the land of the Gauls (ancient France) did not have a unified language and some regions had no relationship to the French language at all. According to the Acta Sanctorum, the people of Metz spoke a barbaric language. The term barbaric is reserved for languages and peoples that are remote, isolated or hostile. French may have been included in the list of barbaric languages during this period, but this is not certain.

The following English translation is drawn from only one source, Acta Sanctorum . This book may be drawing from a fabricated myth relating to his name because of a fight between two religious orders. The religious orders, l’abbaye Saint-Clément and l’abbaye Saint-Arnould, had a strong competition between each other during the tenth and fourteenth centuries. L’abbaye Saint-Clément asserted their ministry was based on St. Clement of Metz, arguably the first-ever bishop of Metz.(2) This person had no association with Clement of Rome or by his other name Pope Saint Clement I Later mythology had Clement of Metz as a “vanquisher of a local dragon.”(3)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clement_of_Metz

The rival L’abbaye Saint-Arnoud countered with their version of St. Patiens. They argued that he was a follower of the Apostle John and met him on a trip to Asia minor.(4)https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patient_de_Metz They may have also supplied the myth that he supernaturally spoke in tongues to support their claim as the more credible church order. However, it is hard to validate any of these claims or to understand the actual dating of Clement of Metz or Patiens. There are many contradictions. There simply isn’t enough information to build a proper framework.

His biography demonstrates how the Medieval Catholic writers of Acta Sanctorum understood the Christian rite of speaking of tongues. Acta Sanctorum is an encyclopedic text of Christian saints organized on their feast day. It was first begun in the early 1600s with additions and corrections being made until 1940. It is not an old document in the literary sense, but has value in reflecting the beliefs of tongues at the time.

The definition of speaking in tongues is clearly defined in their story of St. Patiens. They believed this operation was the spontaneous speaking in a foreign language unknown beforehand. This is abundantly clear with no concept of an alternative definition. Nor do the authors delve deeply into the mechanics behind this miracle.

Enclosed is an English translation. Late Medieval Latin is new to me and there are definite variations from Classical Latin. I was unprepared for these challenges before starting the Medieval translation series. It is a work in progress.

My rough English translation from the Latin source text

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7. Blessed Patiens is therefore emboldened by such a great miracle and with the ancestral recollection. He took up the pastoral office, he asks for the blessing of this very gift named by the many and relics of the Saints and by the Book of the Gospel. He takes an unknown road with those through sea bays of Illyria and the Adriatic. He avoids the wide-ranging difficulty of the journey with Christ as the guide and finally ended-up in the territory of the Gauls. O Miracle! The language of the uncivilized peoples, which he previously did not understand, he understood, and responded, and as necessity required. This was the sign of the miraculous relating to the first ones established in the Church, that whom the Apostles anointed and appointed for the purpose of preaching to the nations. Immediately they openly received the knowledge of languages, even as the Acts of the Apostles describes of Cornelius. And so with this certain proof, the blessed St. Patiens arrived at the city of Metz, who the ecclesiastical order along with the people of faith rejoice about the arrival. And then is encouraged from this state which from the revelation previously had been celebrated is registered as the successor of St. Felix who was the third after the blessed Clement ruled the city.

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The Latin from Acta Sanctorum

AASS: Jan. 8 Pg. 469-70 verses 7 – 8(5)Joannes Bollandus. Acta Sanctorum. Godefrido Henscheno, Danielle Papebrochio. Joanne Camandet, ed. Paris: Victorem Palmé. 1867

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7. Confortatur itaque tanto B. Patiens miraculo, et admonitione paterna. Pastorale suscepit officium, multisque Sanctorum pignoribus ac ipsius Evangelii codice donatus benedictionem petit, accipit : ignotum iter cum suis per Illyrici et Adriatici sinus maria arripit : tandemque Christo duce difficultatem itineris multimodam evadit, Gallorum fines intravit. Mirare ! Linguam Barbarorum, quam pridem ignorabat, intelligebat, et respondebat, necessariaque requirebat. Fuit hoc insigne miraculum in Ecclesia primitivorum, ut quos Apostoli chrismate præsignabant, vel ad prædicandum gentibus ordinabant, illico manifeste scientiam linguarum accipiebant, sicut de Cornelio Actus Apostolorum narrant. Itaque certo indicio B. Patiens Metim civitatem devenit : quo deveniente Ecclesiasticus ordo cum fideli populo lætatur,et tam ex habitu quam ex revelatione pridem celebrata, de successore S. Felecis, qui tertius post B. Clementem rexerat Urbem, certificatur, consolatur.

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References   [ + ]

St. Matthew Speaking in Tongues

A Medieval account on the apostle Matthew speaking in tongues.

The following is a modified version of William Caxton’s 1483 English translation of the Latin work, Legendae Aurea, commonly known in English as the Golden Legend. A highly popular book during the Medieval era.

The text as it is found in the Golden Legend

Matthew appeared with two names: Matthew and Levy. Matthew is meant a hasty gift, or a giver of counsel, or Matthew is said of the Latin ‘magnus,’ and Greek ‘theos,’ that is God, as it were a great God. Or of the Latin ‘manus,’ that is a hand, and the Greek ‘theos,’ that is God, as it were the hand of God. He was a gift of hastiness by hasty conversion, a giver of counsel by wholesome preaching, great to God by perfection of life, and the hand of God by writing of the gospel of God. Levy is interpreted obtained, or applied, or added, or appointed. He was obtained and taken away from gathering of taxes, he was applied to the number of the apostles, he was added to the company of the evangelists, and appointed to the catalogue of martyrs.

Matthew the apostle preaching in a city that is called Nadaber in Ethiopia, found there two enchanters named Zaroes and Arphaxat, who enchanted the men by their art, so that they desired everything that should seem deprived in soundness of mind and use of limbs. Which were so elevated in pride that they were adored by men as if God himself. Then Matthew the apostle entered into that city and was lodged with the eunuch of Candace the queen, whom Philip baptized. Then he laid bare the illusions of the enchanters, that whatever they did to men for destruction, that Matthew turned into health. Then this eunuch demanded of S. Matthew how he spoke and understood so many languages. And then St. Matthew told him when the Holy Ghost descended He had given knowledge of all the languages. As to those who had wanted to build a tower up into heaven, because the confusion of languages, they ceased from building, rather the Apostles built a tower not of stones but of upright qualities through the knowledge of all the languages, by the which all that believe shall mount up into heaven.(1)Modification and modernization of Caxton’s text done by me. The original English text can be found at: http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/goldenlegend/GoldenLegend-Volume5.asp#Matthew Volume 5: 71. English by William Caxton, 1483

Here is the original Latin text.

As taken from Jacobi A. Voragine. Legendae Aurea: Vulgo Historia Lombardica Dicta. Dr. Th. Graesse ed. Lipsiae. 1850. Pg. 622ff.

Matthaeus binomius exstitit, scilicet Matthaeus et Levi. Matthaeus autem interpretatur donum festinationis vel donator consilii. Vel dicitur Matthaeus a magnus et theos, quod et Deus, quasi magnus Deo, vel a manus et theos, quasi manus Dei. Fuit enim donum festinationis per festinam conversionem, donator consilii per salubrem praedicationem, magnus Deo per vitae perfectionem, manus Dei per evangelii conscriptionem. Levi interpretatur assumtus vel applicatus sive additus aut appositus. Fuit enim assumtus ab exactione vectigalium, applicatus numero apostolorum, additus consortio evanglistarum et appositus catalogo martirum.

Matthaeus apostolus in Aethiopia praedicans in civitate, quae dicitur Nadaber, duos magos nomine Zaroen et Arphaxat reperit, [623] qui ita homines suis artibus dementabant, ut, quoscunque vellent, membrorum officio et sanitate privare viderentur. Qui in tantam superbiam eruperunt, ut se quasi Deos ab hominibus facerent adorari. Matthaeus autem apostolus praedictam civitatem ingressus et apud eunuchum Canadacis reginae, quem Philippus baptizaverat, hospitatus ita magorum praestigia detegebat, quod quidquid ipsi faciebant hominibus in perniciem, hoc ipse converteret in salutem. Eunocho autem sanctum Matthaeum interrogante, quomodo tot linguas loqueretur et intelligeret, exposuit ei Matthaeus, quod spiritu sancto descendente omnium linguarum scientiam reperisset, ut, sicut illi, qui per superbiam turrim usque in coelum aedificare volebant, prae confusione linguarum ab aedificatione cessaverunt, sic apostoli per omnium linguarum scientiam turrim non de lapidibus, sed de virtutibus construant, per quam omnes, qui crediderint, in coelum adscendant.

The above narrative describing Matthew speaking in tongues is a later addition to the tongues doctrine. The narrative is from the Legendae Aurea which can draw from some very old oral traditions, and others more recent to its time. Although this does not reflect the actual life of Matthew, it gives a valuable insight on how the late Medieval Church understood speaking in tongues. In this case, it was the supernatural ability to speak in foreign languages.

For more information on Medieval Catholic literature on speaking in tongues, see the following introductory article, Late Medieval Speaking in Tongues.

References   [ + ]

St. Anthony of Padua's Miraculous Speech

The account of St. Anthony of Padua speaking in tongues early in the thirteenth-century.

St. Anthony of Padua allegedly spoke before a mixed ethnic and linguistic gathering of Catholic authorities while the audience miraculously heard him in their own languages.

This event perhaps is a later addition to the legend of St. Anthony, but the narrative gives valuable insights into what the people during this era perceived the miracle of tongues to be.

Anthony of Padua (1195 to 1231 AD) “was a Portuguese Catholic priest and friar of the Franciscan Order. He was born and raised by a wealthy family in Lisbon and died in Padua, Italy. Noted by his contemporaries for his forceful preaching and expert knowledge of scripture, he was the second-most-quickly canonized saint after Peter of Verona. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on 16 January 1946. He is also the patron saint of finding things or lost people.”(1)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_of_Padua

Such an assertion about speaking in tongues forces the critical reader to look further into the original account itself. In this case, two texts were found written in the Latin describing this same event. In accordance to the goals of The Gift of Tongues Project, English translations are provided along with the Latin originals. Normally the English translations, analysis, and Latin source texts are broken into three distinct blog entries. However, this instance is very brief, so all three are blended together into one blog article.

The following statements about St. Anthony speaking in tongues should be added to the historical record concerning the Christian doctrine of tongues. The texts themselves carry the idea of the person speaking in one language and the miracle consisted of those hearing it in their native tongues. A critical researcher on St. Anthony’s life, Raphael M. Huber, called this narrative a “multinational sermon.”(2)Raphael M. Huber. St. Anthony of Padua. Doctor of the Church Universal. A Critical Study of the Historical Sources of the Life, Sanctity, Learning, and Miracles of the Saint of Padua and Lisbon. Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company. 1948. Pg. 130 This explanation is a good way to describe this phenomenon.

The authors of these biographies believed the miracle was one of the audience hearing it in their own language while St. Anthony spoke either in Latin or Portuguese. This is consistent with Pope Benedict the XIV’s view that the miracle of tongues can either be one of speaking or of hearing.(3)See Benedict the XIV on Tongues: An analysis for more info

The experience was not recognized nor cited in Thomas Aquinas’ theological account of tongues which suggests that Aquinas either didn’t agree with this miracle, or didn’t know about it. The separation of time between this alleged incident and Thomas’ writing would only have been around 30 to 50 years. The miracle would have been fresh in the minds of the theologians during Aquinas’ time. The text concludes a miracle of hearing which Aquinas does not support.

One would also assume that anyone invited to speak before a high-level gathering of Church leaders would have the ability or requirement to speak and the audience to understand in Latin. Addressing the assembly in a language other than Latin in this period seems a remote possibility. Writers such as Dante Alighieri and Roger Bacon during this period give a higher credence to Latin as the language of faith, piety and instruction and frown upon the ability of other languages to communicate in such lofty speech. Perhaps Alighieri and Bacon represent the ideal context but the reality existed that foreign Church leaders did not possess such Latin fluency in either speaking or hearing.

The First account is from Acta Sanctorum

AASS June II: 13 Pg. 216 – 217. AASS – the acronym popularly refers to the work called Acta Sanctorum. This book contains short biographies of the lives of the Saints. Acta Sanctorum first began publication in the late sixteenth century and the last revised publication was completed in 1940. This book likes to give special attention to the miraculous. The Saints are listed in the Acta Sanctorum according to their feast day.

Chapter I.

On the miracle of the confusion and the conversion of the heretics.

The most glorious father, Saint Antonius of Padua, one of the chosen of the Society of Saint Francis, whom the same holy Father on this account called him Bishop because of his life and reputation of preaching. When he began to preach in the Roman Consistory, according to the mandate of the sovereign Pontiff with innumerable foreigners who attended at that place for the reason of the Indulgences and Council (there were in that place Greeks, Latin speakers, French people, Germans, Slavs, English and many other diverse languages), that he at once made a wonderful display in this way the language of the holy Spirit, because everyone who heard clearly understood with no lack of astonishment to all, and each one heard his own language in which he was born with. And nevertheless he brought up at that time sweet and lofty sounds, so that it was to render everyone who had been sneering into astonishment and wonder. On account of this the Pope called him the ‘Ark of the Covenant’.[ref]my translation of the Latin from AASS June II: 13 Pg. 216 – 217, Legenda Alia Seu Liber Miraculorum. Chronici Ordinis olim insertus et ex MSS erutus a R.P. Luca Waddingo

The second account is from Actus Beati Francisci et Sociorum ejus

At one time that wonderful vessel of the Holy Spirit, St. Anthony of Padua, one of the chosen followers and companions of St. Francis, whom St. Francis used to call his bishop, was preaching before the Pope and Cardinals in a consistory where there were men from different countries—Greeks and Latins, French and Germans, Slavs and English—and men of many other different languages and idioms. And being inflamed by the Holy Spirit and inspired with apostolic eloquence, he preached and explained the word of God so effectively, devoutly, subtly, clearly, and understandably that all who were assembled at the consistory, although they spoke different languages, clearly and distinctly heard and understood every one of his words as if he had spoken in each of their languages. Therefore, they were all astounded and filled with devotion, for it seemed to them that the former miracle of the Apostles at the time of Pentecost had been renewed, when by the power of the Holy Spirit they spoke in different languages.

And in amazement they said to one another: “Is he not a Spaniard? How then are we all hearing him in the language of the country where we were born—we Greeks and Latins, French and Germans, Slavs and English, Lombards and foreigners?” (4)The English translation as found in Christine F. Cooper-Rompato. The Gift of Tongues: Women’s Xenoglossia in the Later Middle Ages. USA: Pennsylvania State University. 2010. Pg. 28

The Latin original of AASS June II: 13 Pg. 216 – 217:

Gloriosissiumus Pater, S. Antonius de Padua, unus de electis Sociis S. Francisci : quem idem sanctus Pater, propter vitam et praedicationis famam, suum Episcopum a appellabat ; cum Romae in Concilio, de mandato summi Pontificis, peregrinis innumerabilus, qui illuc propter Indulgentias et Concilium convenerant, prædicaret (erant enim ibi Graeci, Latini, Francigenae, Theutonici, Sclavi, et Anglici, et aliarum linguarum diversarum) sic Spiritus sanctus linguam, ut quondam sanctorum Apostolorum, mirificavit ; quod omnes, qui audiebant, non sine omnium admiratione ipsum clare intelligebant : et unusquisque audiebat linguam suam, in qua natus erat. Et tunc tam ardua et melliflua eructavit, quod omnes reddiderit stupore et admiratione suspensos : propter quod Papa ipsum, Arcam testamenti vocavit.

The Latin original of Actus Beati Francisci et Sociorum ejus, including the header not included in the translation:

Qualiter sanctus Antonius prædicans ab hominibus diversarum linguarum fuit clare intellectus. Cap. 48

1. Vas admirable sancti Spiritus sanctus Antonius de Padua, unus de electis discipulis beati Francisci, quem sanctus Franciscus suum episcopum appellabat, quum prædicaret in consilio coram papa et cardinalibus, ubi erant Græci et Latini, Francigenæ; et Teutonici, Sclavi et Anglici et multi alii diversarum linguarum,

2. Spiritu sancto afflatus, lingua apostolica inflammatus, eructans mellifluum verbum, omnes illos tam diverarum linguarum in dicto consilio congregatos, luculentissime et clare ipsum audientes et distincte intelligentes, reddidit tanta admiratione et devotione suspensos,

3. ut videretur renovatum illud antiquum apostolorum mirabile [76 b 2] admirantium et dicentium : « Nonne iste Hispanus est? Et quomodo nos omnes audimus per eam linguam nostram in qua nati sumus, Græci et Latini, Francigenæ et Teutonici, Sclavi et Anglici, Lombardi et Barbari?

4. Papi etiam stupens ad tam profunda de scripturis divinis a sancto Antonio prolata, dixit: « Vere ist arca testamenti et divinarum Scripturarum armarium est. »

References   [ + ]

Technical Notes on Chrysostom's Pentecost Text

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

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

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

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

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

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

The original text used and the biggest translation challenge

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

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

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

The hardest portion found is this:

Here is the Greek:

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

And the Latin:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how does this passage translate?:

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

The difference between δωρεά and χάρισμα

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

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

Some Chyrostom grammar nuances

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

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

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

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

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

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   [ + ]

Notes about Bede's works on the Book of Acts

Textual problems in translating Bede’s initial Commentary on Acts, and his later Reflection on the Book of Acts.

The goal of translating a small portion of both books into English is to discover Bede’s position on the doctrine of tongues.

The Commentary on Acts was written in 709 or 710, the second one is not known, but a number of years later.

It is found from comparing a section of Acts chapter 2 in both works that they seldom overlap in thought. Both can stand on their own without the necessity of the other. The initial commentary is directed to a lay audience and dealing with broad themes. The second one is very detailed, and gets into points of Latin grammar — because of this, translating into English became very difficult. The English language does not have the same grammatical components, and it forced me to switch into a mode of dynamic translation.

The Reflection on the Book of Acts does not the contain the same literary style that Bede used in the initial commentary on Acts, or other Latin works I am familiar with such as, De Temporibus Liber which is known in English as the The Book of Times and De Temporum Ratione, On the Reckoning of Time — but then these two books are considered heavily redacted and should not be used as a guide to Bede’s original works.

Although the thought in Reflection appears to be of Bede origin, the text may represent some editorial upkeep.

On the other hand, this may be incorrect. The progression between his two books; The Book of Times, and On the Reckoning of Time may indeed reveal that this is an unaltered Bede writing. The Reckoning of Time is a progression from his earlier work, The Book of Times. Bede was more technical, and concise in the structure of The Reckoning. His Reflection work may just be the same thing.

I would prefer that others would have already completed the textual criticism, and that it would be easily available for the public to find, requiring me to only build on such a thesis in order to complete my task. However, it demonstrates how Patristic writings have been understudied, that it forces me to do both.

In the case here on the doctrine of tongues, it can be supposed that Bede is indeed the author, but some of the literary features are later. Moreover, the alterations do not appear to change the intent of the text.

Cyril of Alexandria on Tongues: Acts

A medieval commentary of the Book of Acts from a fragment attributed to the fifth century Church Father, Cyril of Alexandria.

The following is an English translation of a text relating to tongues and Pentecost. It comes from a supplement to Cyril’s works as found in Migne Patrologia Graeca.

It is highly doubtful that Cyril of Alexandria is the author of this work but it does represent to the medieval mindset on the tongues of Pentecost. For more information on the background, textual analysis and authorship of this text, go to The Cyril of Alexandria Text on Pentecost.

S. Cyrilli Alexandrini Archiep. Supplementum. Fragmenta in Acta Apostolorum

Translation based on Migne Patrologia Graeca. Vol. 74. Col. 757ff. (Ex Catena Crameri, Oxonii 1838)

English Translation of the Greek Text

Cyril. Some, on the one hand, were speaking in languages, and furthermore these ones did not know them beforehand. Meanwhile those proficient in the art of interpreting were taking note, indeed the ears were not now in the manner and custom of such things as this happening. On a different note, the divine Paul confidently asserts with those that were then given the gift to speak in languages, was not an emphasis in a gifting part but as in the form of a sign for believers. And indeed so he provided a persuasive word, having as follows: “That in strange tongues and foreign lips I will speak to this people and they will not believe such a thing.”(1) « Ἐν ἑτερογλώσσαις καὶ ἐν χείλεσιν, ἑτέροις λαλήσω τῷ λαῷ τούτῳ, καὶ οὐδ’ οὕτως πιστεύσουσιν. » The Spirit dispensed the distribution of the gifts in a variety of ways. So that for instance, they say, this body is certainly joined together by the parts pachu(2) It means material, substance or unspiritual. Not sure how to translate it in this context. and from land, thus also is Christ, truly His body, that is to say, the Church, mindfully apprehended to unity through the many multitude of the faithful, possessing the most perfect composition.

and a little after(3) This appears to be an editorial note. It suggests that something was skipped just before this. Therefore when the priests under the sun(4) all over the world were thinking to clearly speak to every language and nation the Gospel and salvation message, a sign was the giving of tongues to them. Men being Galileans, and raised up according to Jewish custom, Hebrews and certainly those from Hebrew lineage, Medes and Parthians too, and to be sure, Elamites and those from the the middle dwellers of the rivers,(5)Mesopotamia Cappadocia and as well Egypt that they were speaking in their languages. The use was effected in them by the work and grace of the Spirit. For it was written as such, “There appeared to them tongues being distributed as of fire,” etc. Except [how] the manner of stewardship was being done. Not all were approving of the action. When they were at once speaking in different languages, these ones making the grace by the agency of the Spirit as it were something of a show and those who receive the sign [as] an extravagant opportunity. Those unworthy were bound to be lecturing from the holy prophets and make a case about the Gospel doctrines, as(6) ὡς is considered a misspelling here and should read ὧς from things in heaven and in fact from those many who are preaching.(7) ὡς ἄνωθεν τε καὶ ἐκ πολλοῦ προκεκηρυγμένου These people extol as well upon the ability to speak in tongues only, and in fact of this one and only were they supposing it is needful to lay claim to. And that which has been done was in rash actions to the more important things. ■

The English translation of the Greek here appears sloppy, and abrupt. This is not the fault of the translation, but because of the text. This Greek text appears to be a cut-and-paste work of a copyist, who took quotations out of a number of works and pasted them together into a logical sequence. As one reads the many other translations listed on this site attributed to Cyril of Alexandria, many of the sentences are found elsewhere.

A later Latin translator took this Greek copy about Pentecost and put much effort into making it flow better. Below is my English translation of this Latin work:

English Translation of the Latin Text

Some were speaking in languages unknown beforehand. Others were given the work to interpreting these things in the presence of men who greatness of things such as this were by no means quite attentive. Paul indeed asserts to this not having been imparted as a sign of grace but a symbol to those who were of faith, which he says these words in the end, “In other tongues and lips I am going to speak to this people, and neither will they hear such a thing.” Therefore the holy Spirit makes a dispensation of grace. Even as, it says, the body is based on by pieces of dense air and earth, that is also Christ, more correctly His body, that is the Church, continuing in the many holy saints, being joined together in spiritual unity.

And a little later. Therefore when the earthly priests wish to announce the Salvation-Gospel in every language and to all the peoples, they received the gift of languages. Men originating from Galilee, native in Idumea, Hebrews by parents of Hebrews, with Medes and Parthians, Elamites and to those who dwelled in Mesopotamia, Cappadocians and further off to the Egyptians, they were speaking in their own language. In fact the grace of the holy Spirit was working in them. For it has been written; “And there appeared among them a distribution of tongues, even as fire,” etc. Certainly at the beginning not everyone was making sense of these things. In fact afterwards they began to speak in other languages, these ones changing the divine gift of the Spirit into haughtiness and showing off, by now unworthily producing to teach about the sacred prophets and also to instruct about the evangelical doctrines, obviously which had long before and divinely been proclaimed. Thus these ones having too much pride about the gift of tongues are repeating everything to that which already happened, they were immediately pursuing no other matter.

A full synopsis of Cyril of Alexandria on tongues including commentaries, translations, and notes can be found at the Gift of Tongues Project menu. Scroll down to the Cyril of Alexandrian sub-category.

References   [ + ]

Aquinas on Tongues: I Cor. 14:1-4

Aquinas’ Lecture on I Corinthians 14:1 – 4 translated into English.

Translated from the Latin text: Reportationes 088 R1C cp 14 Pg. 387 lc1

I Corinthians 14: 1 – 4


IC1. The excellency of charity of which has been posited against another gift. This apostle consequently compares a different gift to another one, showing the excellency of prophecy to the gift of tongues. In regards to this he does two things. First he relates the excellence of prophecy to the gift of tongues. Secondly, as to how one should go about to use the gift of tongues and of prophecy.

As it says, “What is it then, brothers” etc. With respect to the first he does two things, first he shows that the gift of prophecy is more distinguished than the gift of tongues, with the reasoning supposed in the direction of the unbeliever, the second in direction of the believer. Thereupon “My brothers etc.” The first portion is being divided into two, he first demonstrates that the gift of prophecy is more distinguished from the gift of tongues, in reference to their use in the exhortation and proclamation, with the second in reference to the use of tongues which ought to be utilized in prayer, for there is two uses of the tongue.

As it says, “Therefore he prays etc.” With respect to the first, he does two things, namely he sets out the first, through which he connects it to the following, and this is what he says, it was written that charity excels over all the gifts, if it is so, “follow after” as one may call it with strength, “charity”, that the bond is pleasant and sweet.(1) taken from Augustine Sermo 350; PL 39, 1534 “Before all things charity etc.,” (I Peter 4:8) (“Above all these things have charity,” Colossians 3:14).(2) Aquinas “super omnia autem charitatem” and Vulgate “super omnia autem haec caritatem” no habete in the Vulgage. A printing error in the Vulgate?

Secondly he outlines the above idea through which he himself continues to follow and this is what he says “Be passionate, etc.”,(3) I Corinthians 14:1 although charity is to be the greatest among all the gifts still the others are not supposed to be held in contempt but “Be passionate” that is you should fervently love the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit.“Who is it that would hurt you etc.,” (I Peter 3:13), clearly then passionateness could be taken up sometimes to fervent goodwill, sometimes to hatred, nevertheless it is not equivocation. Indeed it proceeds one from the other. For he describes the fervent love of some thing that is to be zealous and passionate. As well it happens that this love thing is so to be fervently singled out by someone that he does not share [it] but he wants it alone and singularly for himself. And this zeal which according to some is intense love is not an allowing fellowship in love. Yet this happens in the spiritual(4) Larcher has it in the negative, “yet this occurs not in spiritual things.” He is probably right here but the negative “non” does not exist in my Latin copy. He may be working from a better one, but I can’t follow his lead here because I can find no substantiation. , [zeal and passion] most perfectly can be shared by many people, however only in those which cannot be shared by the many, hence this kind of zeal that does not allow participation in love is not with charity, but only in the physical things. It generates in some people that if someone else possesses that which he himself has zeal for, he would be sad. Hurtful desire is aroused from this, which is envy, just as if I love worth or riches, I am sad that another possesses these things, whence again I envy him. And so it is well-known that envy grows from zeal. Therefore, when it is being said, “be passionate for the spiritual [gifts]” is not to be understood as envy, because the spiritual [gifts] are able to be had by the many, but it says,“be passionate,” that it should lead in towards God who ought to be fervently loved.

And because among the spiritual [gifts] is a kind of rank, for this reason prophecy exceeds the gift of tongues. For that reason he says, “but rather you should prophecy.” As if he was to say, “among the spiritual [gifts] be passionate for the gift of prophecy.” “Do not quench the spirit, refuse to scorn prophecy,” (I Thess. 5:19). Three things must be noted of the entire chapter for the purpose of explanation, namely what is the nature of prophecy, in how many ways is prophecy being mentioned in the holy Scripture and what is it to speak in tongues. In regard to the first it ought to be understood what prophecy is said to be, as if seeing from a distance and according to some it is said to be a for faris(5) I can’t find a proper translation for this. Aquinas is definitely referring to an ancient understanding, or artifact of speech about prophecy that was from a much earlier period whose definition no longer existed in his time. Larcher simply translated it as, “according to some it is named after speaking afar” but I don’t think this is correct. , but it is better to be defined from pharos(6) I thought this was from the Greek, but have found no such root so far. The Latin dictionaries do not correlate with Aquinas’ definition either. which is to see. Hence it is being read in I Samuel 9:9 that “what is now being called a prophet was formerly called a seer”. Hence the sight of those things which are far off whether they would be future events or beyond our reason, it is called prophecy.

Prophecy is therefore a vision or manifestation of future events or of exceeding the human intellect. Moreover for this kind of vision, four [things] are to be required. For while our knowledge is through the physical body and perceptions of things outside the physical from what is learned from the senses, first it is to be examined that it is to be forming the physical representations of things that are being shown by a mental picture. For Dionysius(7) Pseudo-Dionysius says that it is impossible in any other way for the divine ray to shine in us, unless having been enveloped by the variety of sacred coverings.(8) It appears a colloquialism here that I don’t understand.

The second thing to be examined is an intellectual light, they are being shown and are about to become aware of with those things that [are] above our natural knowledge. Him to whom these such kinds of likenesses are being shown is not being called a prophet but rather a dreamer, such as Pharaoh, who although he saw ears of grain(9) Larcher translated, “ears of corn” but corn did not exist in Egypt at the time nor does it follow the actual Latin. and cows which were indicative about certain things of the future which nevertheless he did not understand, in fact [it was] Joseph who interpreted. It is also similar with Nebuchadnezzar who saw an image, and he did not understand, subsequently he is not called a prophet, but Daniel, for this reason it is said, “for there is need in understanding a vision,” (Daniel 10:1).

The third thing that is being examined is the courage for the purpose of making known that which is being revealed. For God reveals to him in order that it be announced to others. “Behold I have put my words in the mouth,” (Jer 1:9).

The fourth is the work of miracles which is for the verification of the prophet. For unless they do something that exceeds the work of nature, then he would not be credible in those very things which transcends natural knowledge. Following these ways of prophecy, some are being named in the different nuances of a prophet. Sometimes in fact some are being called a prophet who has all four referred to, namely when he sees a pictorial [vision] and has understanding concerning these things and boldly proclaims to others and miracles are being displayed, and concerning this it is being said, “if there be among you a prophet, etc.,” (Numbers 12:6). For sometimes a prophet is being defined [as] he who only has pictorial visions, is still sometimes called a prophet, but nevertheless improper and very remote, he who has the discerning light for the purpose of explaining even pictorial visions whether to himself or what has happened to another or for explaining the sayings of prophets or the writings of the apostles.

And thus a prophet is called anyone who discerns the writings of the doctors, because they had been interpreted in the same spirit which they had been edited. And so they can say David and Salomon to be called prophets, inasmuch they possess the understanding light for clarity and exactly have the ability to figure it all out. For David’s vision was only understanding. Someone is even called a prophet only from that which he proclaims the words of the prophets, whether explaining, or singing in the Church, and this [was] the way (I Sam 19:24) that Saul was among the prophets, that is, among the ones singing the words of the prophets. Some likewise are to be called a prophet because of the working of miracles. The following text (Ecclesiasticus 48:14) that “after having died, Elijah’s body prophesied,” that is, did a miracle. What this Apostle then says throughout the whole chapter, it must be understood from the second way. Namely that one is being said to prophecy, who through the light of divine understanding explains his own visions and others who made them. According to this it will be made plain, what is being said here about prophecy. In regard to the second it has been known that because there were few in the primitive Church to whom was intent to preach the faith of Christ throughout the world, for that reason the Lord, in order that they were to be able to most suitably and better than ever announce the word of God, He gave them the gift of tongues, by whom they were to proclaim to everyone, not these persons speaking in one language while they were being understood by everyone, as some are saying, but according to the Epistle that, on the contrary they were speaking all in the diverse languages of the nations. From which place the Apostle says, “I give thanks to God that I speak more than you all,” and it is being said, “they were speaking in various languages, etc.” (Acts 2:4) and many more had obtained this gift from God in the early Church, but in Corinth because they were curious, they were more cheerfully wanting this gift than the gift of prophecy. Because it is now being said here to speak in a tongue, the Apostle means(10) vult apostolus intelligi lingua ignota. I agree with Larcher here that vult…intelligi should not be taken literally but should be translated as “mean”. Similar to the French “Je veux dire.” in an unknown language, and not having these things explained(11) Larcher has this word “explained” translated as “interpreted”. I can see his point here in doing so, though I don’t know if this is fair to do in this context. Aquinas previously broke prophecy into two parts, seeing a vision, and understanding or explaining a vision. Here he sets for the miracle of tongues in two parts, the speaking and the explaining of the language. By using “interpreter” it takes away this nuance. , as if he was to speak in the German tongue to some Gallic [person] and the result that it is not explained, this is speaking in a tongue. From whence all speech having not been understood nor explained, no matter what it is, is specifically speaking in a tongue.

Concerning this which has been viewed, let us draw near then to the exposition of the Epistle, which is clear. He then does two things about this. First he demonstrates that the gift of prophecy is more excellent than the gift of tongues. Secondly he excludes a certain objection, where it says, “and I wish you [all to speak in tongues] etc.” moreover he proves with two reckonings that the gift of prophecy exceeds the gift of tongues, the first of which let us begin by the relationship of God to the Church, and secondly by the relationship by man to the Church. The first reason is of such: that through which man does things, which they are not only to honour God but also for the betterment to the neighbours’ welfare than that which is only done to honour God. But prophecy is not only to honour God but but yet also for the betterment of the neighbours. However, that which is done by the gift of tongues is only to the honour of God. But he sets the middle of this reckoning, in reference to the first he says that whoever speaks in a tongue, subsequently only honours God. This is what he says about this, “whoever speaks in a tongue,” meaning unknown, “is not speaking to man,” that is to human understanding, “but to God,” that is only to the honour of God or “to God,” because God Himself alone understands. “the ear of a jealous God hears all things, etc.”(12) “auris zeli dei audit omnia” as apposed to the Vulgate, “auris zeli audit omnia” (Wisdom 1:10) and that He does not speak to man, he adds, “for no one hears,” that is, he understands. As it is often being heard, that to not hear [is] the same as not understanding. “he that has ears with the ability to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 13:9). Why would he be speaking then to God only? He adds that God Himself is speaking. From which place he says, “for the spirit of God speaks mysteries,”(13) “spiritus autem dei loquitur mysteria” the Vulgate reads “Spiritu autem loquitur mysteria.” that is things which have been hidden. “For it is not you who speaks, etc., (Matthew 10:20) “No one knows that they are of the Spirit of God, etc.,”(14) I Corinthians 2:11 according to Larcher.

Secondly, he proves what he says that prophecy is for the honour of God and the benefit of neighbours. Whereby he says, “he who prophecies, etc.” that is he explains visions or Scriptures. “he is speaking to men,” that is, for the understanding of men, also this [reason] “for the building up of beginners,” and “the encouragement of those who are more mature”. “comfort the timid.”(15) “pusillanimes” according to Aquinas. The Vulgate has “pusillianimes” (I Thessalonians 5:14) “to speak and to exhort,” (Titus 2:15) and also for the consolation of the forsaken. Actually the building up relates to a spiritual inclination, because one originally begins the spiritual building there. “in whom you are also being built, etc.,” (Ephesians 2:22), Moreover the act of encouragement [is] to lead to good acts because if the inclination is good, then the act is good. “speak and exhort these things,” (Titus 2:15).

Certainly consolation leads to tolerance of evil. (Romans 15:4) Whatsoever things have been written, have been written for our learning. For the ones who are preaching introduce the Scripture to these three things. Secondly the reason is such: that what is useful only to the doer is less than that which is indeed beneficial to another. To take this further, the one who is speaking in tongues is useful only to him who is speaking. However, the one who prophesies benefits another, [igitur, etc..](16) The Aquinas copy seems to be missing some text here and it is hard to verifiably determine what verse Aquinas is alluding to here. Therefore, it is omitted from the English translation. He sets the commonality of this reason and firstly in reference to the first part of the middle, and this is what he says, “he who speaks in a tongue, himself [edifies], etc.”“My heart grew hot within me, etc.” (Psalms 38:4). Secondly in reference to the second part, and this is what he says, “for he who prophesies, the Church…” that is the faithful, “…are edified.” that is to be built up. “having been built upon the foundation of the Apostles and the prophets,” (Ephesians 2:20).■


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