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Technical Notes on Francis Xavier speaking in tongues

The following are quotes from the principal sources on the real Francis Xavier and the legend of his speaking in tongues. This is a quotes only document — a comparative analysis of all this information is in the final stages and will be posted as a separate article.

The debate and controversy that surrounded St. Francis Xavier’s alleged speaking in tongues was a source of internal friction within Catholicism, especially the among the Jesuits themselves, and a rallying point for Protestants. The real Francis Xavier did not speak in tongues, but the legend of Francis did.

How this legend began and grew is an interesting and complex story.

This leads into a journey about how Medieval Catholics viewed speaking in tongues; what it meant to them, how it was applied, and the politics that surrounded this practice.

The legend of Francis Xavier speaking in tongues ranks within the top five themes throughout the two-thousand-year history of the christian doctrine of tongues. There is no doubt that this legend is the most complex one out of any documents in the Gift of Tongues Project. There are numerous reasons why the mystery of Francis Xavier is difficult. The original documentation is multilingual; spanning Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Latin, and French. The subject is wrapped in Medieval Catholicism, which has its own unique history, customs, personalities and procedures that outsiders such as myself have a difficult time to grasp. Xavier’s gift of tongues is deeply embedded with international and national politics. The topic is shrouded in religious symbols and shifts into the Protestant realm where Rationalists especially took critical aim. It spans across continents and new worlds that most Europeans hardly knew at the time. The maps, names and locations mentioned in the texts are far from the modern English mind.

This article is produced to meet a requirement of the Gift of Tongues Project which is the digital capturing of source texts. The following are actual quotes from testimonies, writers, and publications that highly influenced and perpetuated this myth. These are actual quotes with little or no commentary from myself relating to Xavier speaking in tongues. They are organized according to date; from the earliest publications shortly after Xavier’s death, all the way into the twentieth-century. The Italian, Spanish and Portuguese originals are not digitally captured because I have no knowledge of these languages or the ability to do data-entry in them. However, links to the original text along with an English translation is supplied where appropriate.

This file is designed for the researcher, not for the casual reader. This is the longest article found in the Gift of Tongues Project because of the amount of source material. It may take a few moments to load the full contents into the browser, please be patient.


  • Pedro de Ribadeneira
  • Giovanni Pietro Maffei
  • Horatius Tursellinus
  • João de Lucena
  • The Book Monumenta Xaveriana:
    • Emanuel Fernandez
    • Thomas Vaz
    • Antonio Peirera
    • Pope Urban VIII
  • Daniello Bartoli
  • Dominique Bouhours
  • Pope Benedict XIV
  • John Douglas
  • Hugh Farmer
  • Charles Butler
  • Henry James Coleridge
  • Andrew Dickson White
  • A Jesuit response to Andrew Dickson White
  • Edith Anne Steward
  • James Brodrick
  • Georg Schurhammer
    • Volume II
    • Volume IV

Continue reading Technical Notes on Francis Xavier speaking in tongues

Fifth-Century Basil of Seleucia on Pentecost

An English translation on Pentecost written by Basil of Seleucia in the fifth-century.

As translated from Migne Patrologia Graeca Vol. 64. Col. 420 to 421. Supplementum Ad S.J. Chrysostom Opera. Homilia in S. Pentecosten.

As it transpired in the past; and the flame was flickering upon mount Sinai and Moses was being taught about establishing the framework of the Law in the midst of the fire. Now then from the highest place a fire was kindling a flame, running above the apostles heads. Moses at that time is the one who set the Laws for the Hebrews in motion for the salvation of the nations. For this reason the memory of the ancient wonder is being mixed together for new things, and once more the fire is being aroused in the same semblance of the exhibitions, that those things in the present times are believed to be about the one and the same God. For that reason it is the fashioning of divided languages so that it would make those who are receiving this, teachers. So that those moved in the midst of the fire, were authorized as masters of the inhabited world.

For in the past, one voice and also one language rules over all, the audacity of the tower brought on division, and a struggle of languages that ensued, brought to an end the war against heaven. And innumerable languages, with myriads of sounds thoroughly frightened, and nevertheless they did not find the one sound heard, because they were not in agreement on the singular voice. But a single language was diced apart, and divided the minds, and a dissolved language restrained the hands. Now, on the other hand, the gift has synthesized the divided tongues upon the mouth into each one the specific language. The outward grace extends the boundaries of the master, and births the many roads of faith.

O incredible wonders! The Apostle was speaking and an Indian was being instructed. A Hebrew was uttering a sound, and a foreigner being educated. The sound of grace being made known, and the hearer understanding the word. Goths were recognizing the sound. The Ethiopians recognized the language. Persians were marveling upon this one speaking, and who was teaching foreign nations by the agency of one language. How much the nature was enlarged for the various races, so great the outward grace was being richly adorned with languages. On this account then the nature of the fire, which is dividing, is multiplying exponentially the work, for a stream of light is the richness of the gift. By all means the nature of the fire which was kindled was not seen to diminish, but the impartation is growing. Thus, the gift being poured forth is multiplying the river. In fact the one torch-fire is in the process of kindling infinite yellow-flames, and demonstrates that all these things are arranged with luminous wonders. And the light of the torches is not passing away. In this way the gift of the Spirit crosses over from one to the other, and fills those, and from these proceeds to the others.

On this account the gift comes at that moment upon the apostles first, and among these as if the gift had seized the Acropolis and flows to the believers. All are being filled and it does not stop the streams of the gift. Therefore, the language of fire was lighting upon. Additionally, each disciple was a vessel of innumerable languages, and they were loquaciously speaking to those present, and these people debate about the teachers prize. And those present were spectators of the wonder. And the multitude of hearers, who have been divided by the nation, was not lacking, because with the words in the local vernaculars belongs the apostle’s persuading language. For even as having been immersed in things, these are receiving the sound by the touch of the fire. The knowledge they grasped was instantaneous. And a faith that was being explained, and a gift that was astonishing, and a God that was made known. ■

For background notes and analysis relating to this translation see Basil of Seleucia on Pentecost: Notes.

For more information on the authorship, see A Chrysostom Conundrum.

For the actual Greek and Latin source, see Basil of Seleucia: Greek and Latin text.

Tertullian on the Doctrine of Tongues

Tertullian woodcut

When it comes to glossolalia and Tertullian, it is the making of a mountain out of a molehill.

It is unfortunate that the second century church leader, Tertullian, has been given a prominent seat on the subject, while authors such as, Cyril of Alexandria, Augustine, Gregory Nazianzus, The Ambrosiaster text, Epiphanius, Michael Psellos, and many more ecclesiastical writers who wrote specifically on the christian doctrine of tongues, have been largely ignored.

A critical analysis of Tertullian’s supposed reference to the christian doctrine of tongues supports such a claim.

There is one facet of this study that is indisputable — Tertullian believed the gift of tongues and interpretation, along with many other gifts, such as healing, were still operative during his time. However, he failed to specify if this was simply speaking a foreign language by those trained in such languages, a supernaturally inspired speaking in another language, or something else. He simply stated that it existed and added nothing more.

The oft-cited Tertullian text on the doctrine of tongues is found in Against Marcion Book V. 8:7-12, and it is not a strong connection. But for the sake of readers wanting to find out for themselves, a translation, and explanation have been provided. The actual translation and Latin text can be found by reading Tertullian on Tongues: A New English Translation. All the comments below are based on this text and translation.

Tertullian was a poster boy for the nineteenth century and later higher criticists who made the case that tongues was nothing more than religious frenzy, a glossolalic outburst that had antecedents in pagan Greek religions. The development of this modern doctrine is treated in greater detail in Introduction to the History of Glossolia. These are a series of articles which traces the inception of the doctrine of glossolalia in the 1800s, its overtaking the traditional Christian position, and its evolution. If one is to use a more comprehensive methodology and trace the christian doctrine of tongues using historical Christian literature from inception to the twelfth century, Tertullian’s contribution appears minimal.

The initial approach to including Tertullian in the Gift of Tongues Project was to post both the Latin text alongside an already published English translation by Peter Holmes. His translation was published in 1885 as part of the well-known series, Ante-Nicene Fathers, which today is easily available on the internet.(1)http://www.tertullian.org/anf/anf03/anf03-35.htm#P7138_2070665 However, it was found wanting from technical and readability perspectives. Ernest Evans updated the translation in 1972, and great improvements were made, but the portion relating to the supposed tongues speech still remained obscure.(2) Tertullilan. Adversus Marcionem. Edited and Translated by Ernest Evans. Glasgow: The Oxford University Press, 1972. Pg. 561 The goal of my translation was to make this portion of Tertullian clearer for the modern reader.

Tertullian on Tongues: A New English Translation is partially based on Holmes text, along with some help from Ernest Evan’s translation.

There are a number of differences.

First of all, Tertullian comes across in the Latin text as more combative against Marcion, even mocking. An attempt was made to make that more apparent.

Secondly, the translation of the Latin keyword lingua was changed from tongue to language. This makes it closer to the intent of Tertullian. This is an editorial decision made early on in the Gift of Tongues Project and is consistent with almost all of the translations found on this site. For more information please read, The Difference Between Language and Tongues.

Thirdly, the feature of Tertullian’s work is not about tongues but the role of women in the church and and how Tertullian felt that there was too much female authority in the Marcionite sect. He stated that women have the right to prophesy, but not to instruct; a practice which was happening in the Marcionite movement, and thus considered heretical. The address to languages in the church is happenstance.

Tertullian was positing that women could not be moral, political, or theological leaders in the church at large. He had a compromise and that was the office of prophecy. This was considered a high status in the Church and women could have a significant impact through this agency. Tertullian appears to be a misogynist in modern terms, but his concept of women being able to prophesy may have been revolutionary for his day. More research on this aspect needs to be done.

There are two key phrases that set-up the scenario and are difficult to translate:

Aeque prescribens silentium mulieribus in ecclesia, ne quid discendi, duntaxat gratia loquantur


ut semel dixerim nosse non debuit nisi in destructionem

Holmes has the first translated as: “when enjoining on women silence in the church, that they speak not for the mere sake of learning.”

His English translation really makes no sense. Why would women not be allowed to speak because they may learn something? This seems contradictory. Ernest Evans comes closer with his translation “when he enjoins upon women silence in the church, that they are not to speak, at all events with the idea of learning.”

It still lacks clarity, so my translation went to a more literal state, “this apostle recommends silence of the women in the Church, nor that women should speak anything specifically for the reason that a male is going to learn.” In other words women are not to instruct in the church. Perhaps this means women are allowed to instruct other women, but never to preach, educate, or lead a male or mixed gender audience.

The second phrase, “ut semel dixerim nosse non debuit nisi in destructionem,” is not as hard once the first difficulty above is understood. Holmes has, “let me say once for all, he ought to have made no other acquaintance with, than to destroy it.” This is a nebulous translation. Who or what is the person having an acquaintance with and what is to be destroyed? It is not clear. Evans somewhat clarifies it, “he had no right to take note of except for its destruction.” It is closer, but the antecedent is still wanting. My translation contains the following that hopefully clarifies Tertullian’s intent, “let me say once for all, that he ought not to know [what the woman is teaching] except for its repudiation.” The words in the square brackets do not exist in the Latin but put here so that the English reader understands Tertullian’s argument.

Tertullian was mocking Marcion and previous English translations have downplayed this aspect. One of the important keywords that suggest the mocking is a proper understanding of amentia. Holmes has it as rapture, indicating the mind is in some joyful, exuberant state. Evans translated it as, “which means abeyance of mind,” suggesting that the mind in that moment is unoccupied and controlled by other influences. It seems unclear what he exactly means here. However, amentia has negative connotations. The text, id est amentia clearly comes across as condescending. The Lewis and Short Latin dictionary describes amentia as a negative mental state: “the being out of one’s senses, beside one’s self, madness, insanity.”(3) http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0059%3Aentry%3Damentia. and William Whitacker has it as, “madness; extreme folly, infatuation, stupidity; frenzy, violent excitement.”(4) From my digital application Latin Words for OS X based on William Whitacker’s Latin Dictionary. When I first read these dictionary entries, my mind immediately jumped to the Greek equivalents; the adjective used by Origen, μανικός, manikos, or the verbal form found in Michael Psellos’ work, μαίνομαι both which refer to people disposed to madness, frenzied, symptoms of madness, enthusiastic, or inspired. Both Origen and Psellos use the word distinct from the Christian experience and reserved it to exclusively describe the historical practices of the ancient Greek prophets and their peculiar acts of prophesying. Tertullian’s work is heavily structured on a Greek philosophical framework, and this was likely his intention too at the use of amentia. The second century writer, by use of this word, is making the case that Marcion’s practice does not have a Christian lineage, but the synthesis of ancient Greek religion, especially that of their prophets. It was folly, and one of the evidences among many that Marcion indeed was a heretic. It has little or no relation to the christian doctrine of tongues.

The most suitable translation for id est amentia is, “that is in madness.”

The understanding of amentia is dependent on the use of the subjunctive in this passage. Holmes has elected to understand it as a jussive, which forces the translator to subsequently understand amentia as an inspired state. Whereas, since Tertullian is mocking Marcion, it should be understood as a potential subjunctive.

Another set of critical words for those looking at the connection between Tertullian and the christian doctrine of tongues is si qua linguae interpretatio accessit. My translation reads, as if an interpretation of languages had occurred. Holmes translated it as, whenever an interpretation of tongues has occurred to him. Tertullian was not attacking Marcion directly in this passage, but specific mystical practices performed by the female gender within his movement which was outside church tradition. Holmes ascribes it to Marcion directly, which cannot be established from the Latin text.

Holmes understood si qua to mean whenever which doesn’t fit here for a number of reasons. Si is about a condition that may or may not happen. The use of Whenever leads the reader to believe a durative process that happens throughout time, which doesn’t rightly fit into a conditional paradigm.

The use of qua here reinforces the idea of a conditional concept. Brad Inwood, author of Seneca: Selected Philosophical Letters has offered a clue as to how to understand this word in his analysis of Seneca in the first century. He suggests that Seneca used qua adverbally, referring back to Greek philosophy, and should be understood as tamquam(5) Brad Inwood. Seneca: Selected Philosophical Letters: Translated with Introduction and Commentary Oxford University Press. 2007. 85.33-5 which, according to Whitacker’s Words means, “as, just as, just as if; as it were, so to speak; as much as; so as.” It has already been noted before that Tertullian heavily utilizes a Greek framework to structure his writing, and this would be consistent for his usage.

The use of accessit in the text is another clue to this conditional clause. It is in the perfect indicative, which was a surprise, not in the subjunctive, which was to be expected. It is a simple conditional, which indicates a factual condition. Tertullian was drawing a caricature of the prophet(s) going into a state of madness, akin to those of the Greek prophets, and feigning the ability to understand different languages.

Another clue on his definition, and it is not a complete one, is his mention of Isaiah 28:11, that the Creator would speak in languages foreign to the Jews of Israel, and that the gift of tongues was a prophetic fulfillment of this. This statement restricts Tertullian’s view on the gift of tongues to that of foreign languages. However, he doesn’t elaborate whether it is a natural, supernatural or mystical ability to speak in foreign languages, and so it doesn’t give a complete picture.

Tertullian, wrote elsewhere about mystical events, especially in Treatise of the Soul, Book 9, where he described a woman endowed with mystical powers. He was not negative in any way towards this woman but simply was reporting these talents. He does not include in any description an ability to speak in tongues. Therefore, this passage has been left out of the Gift of Tongues Project.

A challenge in translating this text is the lack of manuscripts. The digital copies found on the internet do not list what manuscripts they are composed of, and some of the Latin words used, such as duntaxat, seem to be later additions. However, the Tertullian manuscripts, as compared to Gregory Nazianzus and other leading church fathers, are hard to find, and those that do exist, are found in expensive books. These books are not readily available in my regional university libraries. There have been moments in critical spots where seeing actual manuscripts would have been helpful, but did not do because of these limitations.

This study clearly demonstrates that the information supplied by Tertullian on the christian doctrine of tongues is not very valuable, nor is it a smoking gun. It is a slight reference, but nothing substantial enough to advance anyone’s cause. ■

References   [ + ]

Cyril of Alexandria on Tongues: I Corinthians

Portions of a commentary on I Corinthians attributed to Cyril of Alexandria translated into English.

The translations selected are those relating to the doctrine of tongues.

Tradition asserts the text by Cyril, further study indicates some pieces are from the works of Didymus of Alexandria. Although the majority belongs to Cyril, it cannot be exactly determined which pieces are Didymus’ accounts. For more information see Cyril of Alexandria on Tongues Intro.

I Corinthians 12:9(1)Translated from: S. Cyrilli Alexandrini. In Epistolam I Ad Corinthios. XII, 9. MPG Vol. 74, Col. 887

Thus we say these things to be the works of powers through the oneness of the Spirit. But if another prophesies something, it is still not apart from the Spirit. And so a different person has the discernments of spirits, it is nevertheless from the same Spirit. Concerning the works of the spirits, it has been spoken about before. He verily confidently asserts that it is given to those so that they were skillful with various languages, and also translations as well. For we say this gift itself was supplied in the time and also need in a well ordered manner. But for those ones who were speaking in languages, and furthermore did not know them beforehand, and these ones translating understood, nevertheless [they were] not in the custom of such sounds existing in the past. The divine Paul confidently asserts that it was certainly given to them then to speak in languages, not as an allotted portion(2) ie: not something to be repeated and expected as a typical part of the Christian experience of the gifts but in the form of a sign for believers. Indeed he was explaining the prophetic word in such a way he supported, that “in strange tongues and foreign lips I will speak to this people and they will not believe such a thing.” The Spirit works the dispensation of gifts in each one in a variety of ways. So that for instance, they say, this body is certainly joined together by the parts pachu(3) It means material, substance or unspiritual. Not sure how to translate it in this context. and from land, so 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.

Now for this reason also the divine David says that she [the Church] is to be clothed in colored guilded clothing, [Psalm 45:10] it is the same of the gifts, I think, also valued as well in the manner of signs. ■

I Corinthians 14:2(4)Translated from: S. Cyrilli Alexandrini. In Epistolam I Ad Corinthios. XIV, 2. MPG Vol. 74, Col. 889ff

“For if one speaks in a language, he does not speak to men, but to God.”

It detracts them from what ought to be practiced, as the ability to speak in languages is certainly greater to its own glory than the act of interpreting the things of prophets. Regarding these things having been displayed among us, faith and also hope and definitely of love for both God and the brethren, which also all of the law has the fulfillment [in it], let him add the remaining things.(5) Latin has: then at last the remaining things are also to be added For at that time, and at the very time we will be the ones filled of these gifts by God, and we will be enriched in the gifts by the Spirit. I say in regards to have the ability to prophesy, that is a person who can interpret the things of the prophets. For the once only incarnation of the Only Begotten who suffered and also rose from the dead, and of whose ministry has been brought to perfection among us, of such was yet the precise time of prophecy, surely the [function of] prophecy will be about such things? Therefore the one who prophesies about such things would be nothing different, except that one only has the ability to explain about a prophecy, and as in those who are revealing(6) καταλευκαίνοντες This only exists in Cyril’s writings. It is from the root καταλευκαίνω Stephanus Vol. 4, Col. 1125 indicates the root means to uncover a rock. The Latin is explanantes, “to explain”. for those who are listening, then from whom are the ones who confirm the word to the true thing.(7) Latin has “et deinde sermonem nostrum secundum rei veritatem ex ipsis confirmantes”—and henceforth from these are the ones who confirm our speech according to the truth of the matter. We will be upright and also steadfast advisors of the most noble things.(8) Latin has “recti veracesque erimus optimarum rerum interpretes”—We will be the most upright and truthful interpreters of the most useful matters.

Therefore, it says, “the one who speaks in a language, [is] rather not to men, but he speaks to God”.(9) I Corinthians 14:2 typically reads, ὁ γὰρ λαλῶν γλώσσῃ οὐκ ἀνθρώποις λαλεῖ ἀλλὰ θεῷ, οὐδεὶς γὰρ ἀκούει while Cyril has, γλώσσῃ λαλῶν, οὐκ ἀνθρώποις μᾶλλον, ἀλλὰ τῷ Θεῷ προσλαλεῖ. Cyril’s use of προσλαλεῖ is especially noted. It is more emphatic than λαλεῖ. There is no other instance of this I Corinthians 14:2 written this way. The Latin translator identified this slight nuance and used alloquitur instead of loquitur. His word order is subject-object-verb instead of subject-verb-object. His text seems to conform more to classical Greek than that of Koinê here. How then, what kind of meaning [is the language] that states “for no one hears?”

For if perhaps the ability is given to a certain one of the disciples to be able to speak in the language of the Medes, and a different one [of the disciples to speak in] Elamite,(10) Latin: Nam si alicui discipulorum tribuatur fortasse copia loquendi lingua Medorum, alii autem Elamitarum. “Now if some of the disciples were perhaps imparted to be speaking the language of the Medes in abundance, but yet others Elamite” then who will be the ones hearing, [is it] the things about their message perhaps being spoken about to the synagogues of the Jews(11) εἶτα ταῖς Ἰουδαίων προσδιαλέγοιντο συναγωγᾶις or rather to the [Church] assemblies of the Greeks? Rather, what kind of profit will be of these words? For it will amount to nothing, except only of God who has known everything(12)Latin: præter solum Deum quem nihil latet, quidquam intelliget—except only God whom nothing escapes notice, He understands any person. For “in the Spirit,” it says, “he speaks mysteries.” Therefore it is observed, the one who speaks in whatever way to God, speaks in the Spirit.(13)Latin expresses this whole part differently i nam Spiritui, inquit, mysteria loquitur ; ergo Spiritus Deus est—for in the Spirit, it says, he speaks mysteries; now the Spirit is God. Therefore God naturally is the Spirit. Therefore the one who speaks in a language, “rather to God,” it says, “and he is not speaking to men.” On the other hand, “the one who prophesies speaks edification, consoling, and encouragement to men.” In fact one observes that to prophesy is to interpret the matters of the prophets in such things through which the word of encouragement is being established, and the mind of those who have been initiated is to be led into the truth about Christ. He also elsewhere shows beyond comparison that the activity of interpreting the prophets is in superiority than the act of speaking in a language.(14)ὅν ἐν ἀμείνοσι τοῦ γλώσσῃ λαλεῖν τὸ διερμηνεύειν τὰ προφητῶν use of the comparative genitive here. “For he builds himself up,” it says, “the one who is speaking in a tongue.” Of course he understands himself, but someone else, absolutely nothing. This one, who makes use with the voices of those holy prophets and with predictions in regards to [the] testimony, builds up the Church. Greater then also in the highest ranks, and in the most splendid hopes is the application of prophecy. Indeed it is better to mutually build up the Church than himself alone speaking out in a language.” ■

I Corinthians 14:5(15)Translated from: S. Cyrilli Alexandrini. In Epistolam I Ad Corinthios. XIV, 2. MPG Vol. 74, Col. 891

“Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy;” (NASB)

Seeing that it was unexpected, and truly a gift of the gods,(16)Latin has divinum munus—a divinely inspired gift; the translator is trying to move away from the plural form of gods in Cyril’s Greek. that men being of Hebrew background were being empowered to speak in languages of others,(17)Latin has alienis…linguis—in foreign languages not that some suppose the Apostle rashly determined the nature of the practice to be purposeless, saying it had been given through the work of the Spirit.(18)Latin: it had been given by the work of the Spirit in some respects For it was given as a sign for believers, he favorably approves [the practice] and says, “Now I wish all of you to speak in tongues,” for he clearly cuts-off at once the eagerness in this certain thing, and moves to a better one, “even more that you prophesy.” Greater and more palpable the orator is who prophesies than the one who speaks in a language. The one who brings forth [in a language] shows that this is not entirely unprofitable in this action for those who hold such things [dear] and those who are listening.(19)Latin: Quanquam ne hunc quidem plane inutilem audientibus esse ostendit dicens—Yet he shows that this is certainly not completely unprofitable for those who are listening. “Except if there is no interpreter,” that is to say, if he does not have someone who always sits near and interprets for the beginners.(20)τοῖς μυσταγωγουμένοις Latin: initiatis—novices, or those who have done introductory rites in the Christian faith.(21) Latin: qui initiatis interpretetur—that he is supposed to interpret for the initiates

I Corinthians 14:10(22)Translated from a mixture of two manuscripts: The primary: Cyrilli Alexandrini. Cyrilli: Archiepiscopi Alexandrini In D. Joannis Evangelium. Edited by Philippus Edvardus Pusey. London: Oxford. 1872, Pages 293-294. And some additions from, S. Cyrilli Alexandrini. In Epistolam I Ad Corinthios. XIV, 10. MPG Vol. 74, Col. 891

“And none of them is without a voice.”

“Any persons of the status of itinerant teachers(23)Εἰσεφοὶτων This word is not fully known. This is the only usage in any manuscript found so far. It comes from the root, φοιτάω in the Churches who are endowed in the work of the Spirit should have the ability to speak in languages. Therefore it is necessary that prayers are to be made in these same languages, and certainly for the entreaties of those things, that is to say, of a Psalm,(24)ψαλμῳδίας The recitation and singing from the Book of Psalms was a common part of the ancient Church liturgy. these ones who have the ability to proclaim(25)κεχρῆσθαι It is in the passive and this suggests “to be declared, proclaimed by an oracle, to consult a god or oracle, to inquire of a god” in the language of those who are present. Certainly they were not doing this, indeed the persons who congratulate themselves in a self-satisfied way with the gift of languages, they were neither doing psalms or prayers. Paul teaches this, that if there does not exist persons who are hearing [with the] knowledge of the language, which those who have the gift are speaking forth, [then there is] no advantage out of the matter. For numberless are the nations and all the languages of mankind.(26)ἄφωνον δὲ οὐδὲν τῶν ἄπαξ τελούντων ἐν λογικοῖς ἤ ἐν ἀνθρώποιςFor “Without a voice,” [is] never once about the business in respect to the things of reason or mankind.” This piece was ignored as it seems to be a printer error as similar; a better copy is printed in the next sentence.

He says, “Without a voice,” [is] absolutely never about the business in respect to the things of the reason, that is, in [concern to the things of] mankind. But if perhaps some may not have known the power of every voice, and certainly neither can these ones know his language, they will be barbarians to each other. Yet these ones are in fact correctly supposed to speak according to his own voice. It is necessary therefore those who are wishing to teach in other [languages], that the word should be uttered(27)προσαράξας aor part masc nom sg. The Greek Dictionaries have only a faint account of this word and I am unsure whether the translation is satisfactory here. accustomed for those for those who are listening.

If in fact then the unintelligible sound was also an unaccustomed voice, the striking(28)ἐρεύγεσθαι literally to belch out, utter, roar. vainly produced in purposelessness with some type of noise,(29)πεποίκε μάτην εἰκαίῳ τινὶ κτύπῳ προσαράξας μόνον τὴν μανθάνοντος ἀκοήν I am uncomfortable with this translation of this text. My first thoughts are that this Greek is a later emendation from a number of sources and not correctly edited. There are missing parts and possibly mis-spellings in the Greek. only the sound [is] heard of one who knows [the language].

It is necessary, he says, that those wishing to teach, that the word is to be spoken(30)λαλεῖν accustomed for those who are listening, after that he works for folly. For he that speaks in languages alone does not build up the Church.■

I Corinthians 14:12(31)Translated from two manuscripts: Cyrilli Alexandrini. Cyrilli: Archiepiscopi Alexandrini In D. Joannis Evangelium. Edited by Philippus Edvardus Pusey. London: Oxford. 1872, Pages 294-295, and S. Cyrilli Alexandrini. In Epistolam I Ad Corinthios. XIV, 10. MPG Vol. 74, Col. 891

“Seeing that you are zealous about the things of the spirit.”

He defines the spirit in these things [as] the bestowment(32)The Latin is translated as: “He says the Spirit in this place is the grace having been given through the Spirit” by the agency of the Spirit, that is, the ability to speak in languages. “If then”, he says, “I was to have offered prayers in the Churches by the Spirit,”(33)Ἐὰν οὖν, φησὶ, τὰς ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις εὐχὰς προσεύξωμαι Πνεύματι This is not the same text as found in any common Greek I Corinthians 14:12 text and not used by any other writer either. I may be mistakingly applying this as a Bible verse, but it appears this is what Cyril meant. that is, one who entirely has furnished(34)ἀποκεχρημένος This verb is only found in two other occasions outside this text. There are no dictionary definitions to be found. The parallel Latin was consulted here, abutens, from abutor “to use up any thing, to use to the end, to consume entirely; “and from κεχρημένος which is the perf part masc nom sg m/p of χράω — to furnish what is needful, to furnish the needful answer, to declare, pronounce, proclaim. I have put together these two evidences with the translation, “one who has entirely furnished.” in the language by the agency of the Spirit, I will have an unfruitful mind. For it is necessary for the person who should strain to the uttermost in prayers and those who are performing to seek for salvation by God, that it is not to be given a level of merit by a language [used], and a natural result of speaking in a [specific] language.(35)Latin: non autem lingua semet jactare, atque in loquendi gloria acquiescere. On the other hand one is not to boast, or to find pleasure in the act of speaking glory in a language itself. In such a case an unfruitful mind develops, and the person who obtains favor for himself [has] not one advantage from such a [selfish] ambition either. ■

I Corinthians 14:15(36)Cyrilli Alexandrini. Cyrilli: Archiepiscopi Alexandrini In D. Joannis Evangelium. Edited by Philippus Edvardus Pusey. London: Oxford. 1872, Pg. 295

“I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the mind.”

It is necessary on my behalf, it says, if I indeed should choose to be praying in a language,(37)Latin: et lingua per Spiritum data uti velim — in a language having been given by the Spirit that I would wish. that is to say, to be fond about speaking in a language; to eagerly try would not occupy an unfruitful mind, and not only would it produce speaking in a language, but to awaken the mind within me.(38)ἀλλὰ διεγείρειν ἐν ἐμαυτῷ τὸν νοῦν. The MPG version has, συναγείρειν δὲ ὥσπερ ἐν ἐμαυτῷ τὸν νοῦν. The MPG text is awkward and unclear and forced the Latin translator to go dynamic, imo potius meam veluti mecum mentem colligere — as if it is my own language that is assembled together with my own mind and if I should perhaps sing a Psalm(39)ψάλοιμι. Most standard dictionaries omit the ecclesiastical usage of this word and emphasize the playing of a stringed instrument. However, the Latin, the context, and the root of the word all suggest Psalm singing. in a language, for the act of singing a Psalm [is] nothing inferior and for the mind is the power in the understanding of the psalmody,(40)understand the nuances and art of psalm singing and of the prophets, and one is not bound to stop incomprehensible(41)ἀζητήτους. It is rarely used. Lidell and Scott suggests unexamined or untried which the Latin tends to agree. Lampe’s, Patristic Lexicon suggests insearchable or incomprehensible. The context here agrees with Lampe. words such as these. For if I wish to be speaking useless sounds,(42)εἰκαίας. This word is associated with the official function of the Church reader, who read from the pulpit to the assembly. Stephanus Dictionary (Vol. 2. Col. 219) refers to as εἰκαίας ἀναγνώστης. Cyril may have not meant this correlation here. The use of this word in this way may be a tradition after the time of this writing. “I have become a noisy gong.” (NASB).

On which account the one who prophesies is better, that is(43) ἤτοι especially when used in close proximity to automatically suggests whether… or, but the context, and the Latin suggest that is. A further look into this disjunctive particle suggests that it can be used in this way. I have tried the standard usage of whether… or and it just doesn’t make sense here. One of the historical definitions of prophecy is to read-out loud the divine Scriptures with an interpretation interpreting the divine writings in the Church, than simply enjoying the use(44)κατακεχρῆσθαι Perfect Infinitive middle passive. If the root is from χράω then the Latin and the above translation is correct. If it is from καταχράω which means to suffice, satisfy, or less often, abuse, the meaning could shift towards a more negative viewpoint. If it is from καταχράομαι to make use of a thing for a purpose, to waste, make ill use of a thing, to abuse, misuse, to treat ill, to kill. The translation could possibly read, “On which account the one who prophecies is better, that is, interpreting the divine writings in the Church, than simply enjoying wasting time with languages. with languages.

Which one then will be the better alternative? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the mind. In this case once more it is with the spirit, he speaks with the gift by means of the Spirit.

Seeing that an overseer(45)σκοπὸς could show the unprofitability for him by means of the most greatest and moral senses [about] the act of speaking in a language, because a follower may not have the ability to clearly understand the meaning [concerning] the things of the prophets in alternative ways, and he(46)the one who is publicly speaking in a language brings up other [languages] through which some would have wished to understand a person who speaks clearly. ■

I Corinthians 14:16-17(47)Cyrilli Alexandrini. Cyrilli: Archiepiscopi Alexandrini In D. Joannis Evangelium. Edited by Philippus Edvardus Pusey. London: Oxford. 1872, Page 296

Else if you shall bless in the spirit(48)τῷ πνεύματι instead of πνεύματι without the article. This is consistent with the Byzantine but not present in the Tischendorf edition. Results analyzed from http://unbound.biola.edu how will the one who makes the room of the laypeople understand say the “Amen”?(49)This text is no different in the Cyrillian text from the Biblical one. However, I am translating it as the author(s) of this catena understood it. See the article, The ἀναπληρῶν of I Corinthians 14:16.

When, it says, you are to speak(50)λαλῇς, [and] the one who was appointed in the position of the laity,(51)ὁ γεμὴν ἐν τάξει τῇ τοῦ λαϊκοῦ κείμενος if he would have no knowledge of your voice, how will he appropriately supply(52)πρσυπακούσεται the Amen in their own thanksgivings or prayers? For that the custom of the Churches is to compose(53)συγκαταλήγειν from the verb καταλήγειν which, according to Timothy J. Moore implies “delivery of poetic or other formalized texts in a mode approaching everyday speech.” He believes that oracles were communicated via καταλήγειν and were, ” usually in highly formal language and would have been pronounced with some melodic elaboration.” See Music in Roman Comedy by Timothy J. Moore. συγκαταλήγειν is not used outside of this text but I take this to mean to compose, recite, or speak together. their voices(54)τὰς The feminine accusative plural article does not have the noun that it is supposed to articulate. Nor is its antecedent entirely clear. The only logical antecedent would be from φωνὴν found in the first sentence of this paragraph. Therefore expanded, it should be τὰς φωνάς under authority with the prayers of the prefects(55)τῶν ἡγουμένων together in all clarity. For these ones bring closure in their priestly voice, appropriately supplying the Amen with their own supplications to God, because it appears to be lacking in completion by the priests, it is to be finished in the meters of the common people, as if “[He has blessed them that fear the Lord] both small and great.”(56) Psalm 113:21 the English translation by L.C.L. Brenton, as found at Elpenor. as God can hear(57)παραδέχοιτο Latin: excipiat. Literally to receive, receive from, take out; remove; follow; receive; ward off, relieve; in the unity of Spirit.

For these are common folk who join their own [voices](58)τὰς ἑαυτῶν — no noun here. See comment 40 for more information. with the prayers of the priests, they believed that these are intended to be agreeable things. God calls to bring forth to the altar of the burnt sacrifices and needy offerings to the overseer, so that the little bit in the end mixed together, becomes acceptable to God.

For in all these things we are in the Lord. Therefore on this account when he says, you should speak in a language — for this is to bless in the spirit. The person [the overseer] did not have knowledge about what you would say, “How will he say the Amen in respect to his own blessing.”(59)The Greek text here is italics suggesting it is a Bible quotation πὼς ἐρεῖ τό Ἀμὴν ἐπι τῇ ἰδίᾳ εὐχαριστίᾳ ; but I do not see any manuscript with such wording. For how can you rightly do it alone, namely existing inside your mind, nevertheless “the other is not built-up.” For it is in fact necessary that all should achieve which pertains to us towards the building up and profit of the brethren. ■

Unfortunately this catena abruptly cuts-off here, skipping verses 18-40, and the next portion references I Corinthians 15 — which addresses a different theme. There are no more remarks about the tongues doctrine after I Corinthians 14:17.


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.

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Aquinas on Tongues: ICor 14:18-22

A translation of Thomas Aquinas on I Corinthians 14:18 — 22 from the Latin into contemporary English.

Translated from the Latin text: Reportationes 088 R1C cp 14 Pg. 389 lc4

I Corinthians 14: 18 – 22

Ic4. This apostle shows the excellency of the gift of prophecy over the gift of tongues by the reasons which had been established on his own part. And concerning this he does two things: first he brings thanks concerning the gift of tongues which had been given to him by God. Secondly, he proposes himself as an example for them. Where it says, “But in the Church I wish, etc.,” He goes on to say, “I give thanks, etc.,” as if he was to say, “Therefore I do not despise the gift of tongues, because I say that the gift of prophecy is more excellent but [tongues] ought to be retaining a high value as well”. From which it says, “I give thanks, etc.,” Therefore it is about the one who is in the act of giving thanks. “In all things give thanks,”(1) Douay-Rheims (I Thessalonians 5:18). Or “I give thanks,” as if he is trying to say, “Therefore I do not despise the gift of tongues, as if one who is lacking in it, but on the contrary I have it.” And therefore he says, “I give thanks, etc.,” and not that they were to understand that all were speaking in one language.(2) The Aquinas text here is distancing itself from the traditional neo-tongues doctrine espoused by the 4th century writers and was a strong doctrine for almost a millennia. He says, “I speak with all your tongues,”(3) Douay-Rheims “The Apostles were speaking in a variety of languages,”(4) The Aquinas text differs from the Vulgate. The Vulgate reads “et coeperunt loqui aliis linguis” whereas the Aquinas text has, “loquebantur variis linguis apostoli”. (Acts 2:4).

“But in the Church,” He sets himself here as an example, as if he is saying: “if I have the gift of tongues as you also [have], you ought to do that which I do.” “But I wish,” that is rather I wish, “to speak in the Church five,” that is only a few words, “words with my sense,” that is with understanding, namely that I should understand and be understood. And because of this, “that I may instruct others also: than ten thousand,”(5) Douay-Rheims that it is in whatever great a number, “words in a tongue.,”(6) Douay-Rheims , seeing that [this type of] speaking is not for understanding in whatever way it is going to be done, as explained above. They are saying something with respect to the reason he says, “five,” because the apostle seems to prefer that he would rather wish to say one prayer for the purpose of understanding than many without understanding. But prayer, according to the grammarians, in order for this having to make perfect sense, it must have five [things], namely the subject, predicate, copula verb, the determination of subject and predicate.(7) Larcher has, “But according to the grammarians, if a statement is to have perfect sense, it should have five things: a subject, predicate, verbal copula, a modifier of the subject and a modifier of the predicate.” To others it appears better for that reason because it ought to be spoken with understanding, in order that others may be taught. Therefore he asserts, “five,” because the teacher owes five, namely:

  • The nature of belief, “These things speak and exhort,”(8) Douay-Rheims. The quotation in the Aquinas text refers to 2:11 but it is actually 2:15. (Titus 2:15).
  • What one is compelled to do: “Go ye into the world, etc.,”.
  • What one is compelled to avoid, namely sins. “flee as if from the face of a snake, etc.,” (Ecclesiasticus 21:2), “show my people wickedness, etc.,” (Isaiah 58:1).
  • One must be about hope, namely the eternal reward. “of which salvation they have inquired, etc.,” (I Peter 1:10).
  • One must be about fear, namely the eternal punishments, “go, those who must speak evil, into the eternal fire, etc.,”(9) Note how Aquinas has slightly altered the quoted texts of Ecclesiasticus, Isaiah, I Peter, and Matthew 25:41 (not 25:21 as the manuscript wrongly demonstrates) to favour his argument, though he does assume the reader understands what the right reading ought to be.

“My brothers, do not be unwilling, etc.,” He shows here the excellency of the gift of prophecy over the gift of tongues, the reason having been established by the part of the unbelievers. He does two things in reference to this. First, he raises attention and answers those who have been attentive. Secondly he argues his proposition, where it says, “what is written in the Law?”(10) Aquinas has “in lege quid scriptum est?” whereas the Vulgate reads “in lege scriptum est quoniam…” This is the same as found in Luke 10:26. According to the first the apostle seems to exclude the cloak(11) Lewis refers to “Pallium” as “the philosopher’s cloak, a philosophic career or habit”. of excuse belonging to anyone who for that reason teaches rude and superficial things as if they show themselves as one’s preferring to live in simplicity, and for that reason the ones who do not care about the details do not arrive at anything that relates to the matter of truth. These ones possess the word of the Lord for this, “unless you be converted, and become as little children, etc.,”(12) Douay-Rheims (Matthew 18:3).

But the Apostle excludes this when he says, “do not become children in sense,”(13) Douay-Rheims that is do not become that type who speaks and teaches childish, useless, and stupid things. See the previous (remark in I Corinthians 13:11), “when I was a child, etc.,”(14) Douay-Rheims . But what must you do to become children? With affection, not with understanding. So he consequently says, “but in malice,”(15) Douay-Rheims whereby it ought to be known that children lack in actively thinking about evil and thus for that reason we ought to become children. “but in malice be children,”(16) Douay-Rheims and they are lacking in actively thinking about good, and so we ought not to be children, on the contrary, we ought to be perfect men. And so for that reason he says, “and in sense be perfect, etc.,”(17) Douay-Rheims that is you were to be perfect to discern [between] good and evil. From which it says, “But strong meat is for the perfect, etc.,” (Hebrews 5:14). Therefore it is not to be praised in your simplicity which is being opposed to wisdom, but simplicity which is being opposed to cunning. And for that reason the Lord says, “be wise as serpents,” (Matthew 10:16). “But I would have you to be wise in good and simple in evil,” (Romans 16:19).

Consequently when he says, what is written in the Law?” he is arguing for a purpose. Whereby it ought to be noted this argument, as is well known by a gloss, it was being distinguished by many parts, but according to the intention of the apostle it did not seem that it was to be applied in this topic except for one reason. And his reason is for the purpose of showing that the gift of prophecy is more excellent than the gift of tongues. It is such as this – all that is more valuable to this over the other is ordained first and better than that other which has been ordained for this. But nevertheless, the gift of prophecy is ordained for the conversion of the unbeliever than the gift of tongues, yet the prophets are more valuable for this than the gift of tongues, therefore prophecy is better. (18) I found this piece starting from “All that is more valuable…” as one of the more difficult portions to translate. Larcher departs from static to dynamic here and actually does not follow the Latin. “Whatever contributes more to that to which another is principally ordained is better than the latter; but the gift of prophecy and the gift of tongues are both ordained to the conversion of unbelievers, although the gift of prophecy contributes more to this than does the gift of tongues. Therefore, prophecy is better. ” His translation here is not reliable though much more readable than my own. I think there is come copy missing from the Latin text. I am going to leave it in rough form because I am unsure at this point what to do with it.

In respect to this reasoning he does two things: With the first he shows the gift of tongues and the gift of prophecy to what they are ordained for. Secondly he shows that the gift of prophecy is more valuable when it says, “if then the whole [Church], etc.,” in respect to the first he does two things. With the first he introduces authority.

With the second he argues by reason of authority at the proposition where it says, “wherefore tongues, etc.” In reference to the first it ought to be known that this is what he says, “what is written in the Law?”

It can be by the Law or by inquiry, as if he should say, “you ought not become children in senses but to be one who has become righteous,(19) The Latin is “perfecti”. Larcher translates it as “mature”. The Lewis and Short Dictionary has a number of definitions, including righteous, which they believe is found ecclesiastical literature. I am going with Lewis and Short. and this is to see and know the Law. From which place you are to be ones who have become righteous in senses, based on the fact that you know the Law, and in the Law, what is written about tongues? Some [tongues] are useless anytime for that to which they have been ordained, but clearly if I should speak in diverse tongues, specifically in the [tongue of the] people of the Jews, nevertheless man does not hear, etc.

It can be by the remissive Law,(20) “potest legi vel interrogative… potest etiam legi remissive” I am not sure what Aquinas is referring to here. It is some sort of religious or philosophical terminology I am not familiar with and can’t find any historical reference to it. It should not be taken literally, but I have no choice because I have no alternative. “what is written in the Law?” as if he is saying: “Refuse to be moved like children for something which is to be eagerly desired who do not discern either the good or the not so good. It should be that you eagerly strive and consequently should prefer the better good but be as ones who have become perfect in the senses, that is you should be able to discern between the good and the greater good and eagerly strive in such a way.

And this happens, if you think what is written in the law, “seeing that in other [tongues and other lips], etc.,” [along with the verse] (Wisdom 6:16), “To think, therefore, upon her, is perfect understanding”.(21) Douay-Rheims And he says, “in the Law?” one must not accept the Law strictly as the five Books of Moses only, as it states, “that all things must needs be fulfilled which are written in the law of Moses, etc.,”(22) Douay-Rheims (Luke 24:44) but for the whole Old Testament, as it states, “But that the word may be fulfilled which is written in their law: they hated me without cause.”(23) Douay-Rheims (John 15:25). This is written yet in Psalms 24:19.(24) Larcher changes it to Psalms 25:19.

This authority is received from Isaiah 28:11 where our account has, “In the utterance of speech and in other languages he will speak to this particular people.” This then is written [in I Corinthians 14:21]: “In such other languages,” that is in the diverse kinds languages, and “in speech,” that is in the diverse idioms and ways [a language] is able to be pronounced, “I will speak to this people,” namely to the Jew, this was a sign specifically given for the conversion of the Jewish people. “and neither so will they hear,”(25) Douay-Rheims because in fact they did not believe in the sign which had been seen. “Blind the heart of this people, etc.”(26) Douay-Rheims (Isaiah 6:10).

But why did God give them a sign if they were not destined to be converted? There are two reasons. One reason is because although not all were converted, nevertheless some were. “For the Lord did not cast away His people, etc.”(27) Romans 11:2 in the Aquinas text has “non repellit dominus …” instead of “non reppulit Deus…” as found in the Vulgate. Paul is quoting Psalms 93:14. Another reason is for the purpose that their damnation to appear more just, until their wickedness appears more clearly. “If I had not come and spoken to them, [they would not have sin: but now they have no excuse for their sin.] etc.”(28) Douay-Rheims. The Aquinas text has, “si non venissem, et locutus eis non fuissem,” while the Vulgate reads, “si non venissem et locutus fuissem eis” (John 15:22).

Consequently when he says, “Therefore tongues, etc.” He proves with reason for the proposition by the authority which had been introduced as if he is to say, “by this it is clearly shown that the gift of tongues had been given. “Not for believers for the purpose of believing, because they already believe.”(29) The Aquinas text identifies this as actual Corinthian text, but I can’t find any reference to this in any Bible. A quick search on Google only returns Aquinas’ work on the subject. “Not according to your speech, [that we believe] etc.,” (John 4:42)(30) The NIV 2008, has a clearer reading, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe.” but for the unbelievers, that they be converted.

On the other hand two explanations are set by Ambrose in this place in a gloss, which are not literal ones.(31) They are not to be taken literally. One of which is that which he may be saying, like in the Old Testament I spoke to the Jewish people through tongues, that is through figures of speech, and through the lips, that is temporal good things(32) “temporal good things” “bona temporalia”…The Aquinas text here is doing a word play, linking the Jewish people to being like a child who lacks understanding. He just finished using bona (good) as a keyword a few paragraphs above relating to thinking as a child. to [the Jews] whom the promise is going to be acted on, so, until now in the New Testament, I speak also “in other lips”, that is in spiritual things, nor yet will they heed me in such a way, namely in reference to their multitude.(33) Aquinas believed that some Jews will heed and convert, but nationally and ethnically, they would not.

Therefore tongues have been given “not for believers but unbelievers” for the purpose of making specifically evident their unbelief.

The other [the second reason given by the gloss] is “in other tongues”, that is obscure and allegorical, “I speak” because they are unworthy. “They will not heed [me says the Lord]”, that is they will not understand. As a result he shows for what purpose prophecy is ordained to be, namely for the instruction of the faithful ones who already believe. “Prophecies which have been given are…”(34) The Aquinas text quotes I Corinthians 14:22 as “prophetiae datae sunt” but this does not exist in our Vulgate. “not for the unfaithful ones, who do not believe.” “Lord, who has believed our report?” (Isaiah 53:1) but for the faithful ones, that they believe and may be instructed. “Son of man, I have made you a special envoy, etc.,” (Ezekiel 3:17)(35) Douay Rheims has it as “Son of man, I have made thee a watchman…” It is translated from speculatorem. Roman generals had speculatores as special bodyguards, adjutants and messengers. In this context Aquinas was promoting the idea that the prophet was a special messenger from God for the Church body. “When prophecy would have failed, etc., the people will be scattered.”(36) “cum prophetia defecerit dissipabitur”. No difference in the Latin between Aquinas or the Vulgate. Douay Rheims has it as “When prophecy shall fail, the people shall be scattered” “defecerit” is in the perfect subjunctive, and knowing Aquinas keen sense that prophecy is one the major spiritual disciplines, he would mean it to be that this statement is hyperbole – something to think about but never to happen.

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