Tag Archives: gifts

A snippet from Chrysostom's "The Holy Pentecost"

A translation from a portion of John Chrysostom’s On the Holy Pentecost as it relates to the miraculous event of Pentecost found in the Book of Acts.

As translated from the Greek: Εἰς τὴν Ἁγίαν Πεντηκοστήν by S. Joannis Chrysostomi. MPG Vol. 50, Col. 458 – 461. Homily 1:4(b) — 5. Translation by Charles A. Sullivan.

Draft 3


4(b). Therefore why does it say that such a sign does not happen now? Keep your attention with me along with important details here. For I hear from many, continually and always seeking this question. Why then were all those speaking in languages at that time, and now no longer? We must first learn in this instance what is the act of speaking in languages and then we will discuss the case as well. Therefore, what does it mean to speak in languages? The person in the process of being baptized immediately was uttering in the sound of the Indians, Egyptians, Persians, Scythians, and Thracians — one man was taking on many languages. And indeed if these ones back then had been baptized now, then you are to immediately hear at that moment these uttering in different sounds. Additionally, with Paul, it says [in Scripture], since he found some who were baptized in the baptism of John, he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.””1 And he immediately urged them to be baptized. “And when Paul lays his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they were speaking in all languages.”2

Why then had the gift been limited, and now this has been removed from mankind? Do you see that the manifestation of signs which has been withdrawn is not a feature of God dishonoring but of Him exceedingly honoring us? How? I am going to relate. Men were disposed to a most stupid ideal back then. Since these ones were recently delivered, their reason was still really thick-witted, and lacking common sense. For they had been fervent and occupied with anything pertaining to the corporal, and not once, never did the thought of the incorporal gifts exist with them, neither did they know at some point what a grace is seen only with the mind,3 and being observed by faith alone. For that reason the grace begat signs.

For regarding the gifts of the spirit, some are invisible, and are understood by faith alone and some display a visible sign for the sake of assuring unbelievers. But on the other hand concerning these invisible things, it is exhibited as an observable sign for the sake of assuring unbelievers. I am going to relate such a thing. The remission of sins is a matter of heart and mind,4 a grace that is invisible. For how our sins are being removed, we do not see with eyes of the flesh. What kind of thing is this? Because the soul is the thing which is being cleansed, the soul does not observe with the eyes of the flesh. Therefore, the cleansing of sins is a kind of gift that is apprehended by the mind, which cannot be visible to the eyes of the body. Now even though speaking in tongues itself comes from the spiritual work of the Spirit, it nevertheless provides a sign that is physically perceptible and easily seen by unbelievers. For regarding the work which happens inside the soul, I say of the invisible, because the external language being heard is a certain manifestation and proof. According to this thought Paul says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”5

I emphatically do not have the need for signs now. On what account? I have obviously learned to believe in the Master also apart from a giving of a sign. For the unbeliever requires an assurance. I believe that I am in no need of an assurance nor a sign. But even if I should not speak in a language, I know that I have been cleansed from sins. However, these ones were not to believe at that time, unless they received a sign. For this reason a sign was given to them, which they believed as an assurance of the faith. Therefore, the giving of the signs was not as for the believers, but as for the unbelievers in order that they should have become believers. So that Paul likewise says, “The signs are not for those who believe, but for those who are unbelievers.”6 Do you see that the manifestation of signs which has been withdrawn is not a feature of God dishonoring but of Him honoring us?7 For if one wishes to demonstrate our faith, we believe this has been done without an assurance of a pledge or signs with it. Except those ones who have received first the sign and pledge, do not believe it concerning the unseen things. I, on the other hand, indeed show a complete faith without this. This is therefore the reason why signs are not happening now.

5. I wished to also speak about the occasion of the festival and demonstrate in the end what Pentecost is, and a reason why in this festival the grace is being given, and the reason why with languages of fire, and why after ten days. But I see that to be a teaching extending out for a long time. On which account I am going to bring an end to the word while adding a few thoughts:

“When the day of Pentecost had come… there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves.”8

Not “fire,” literally, but “as fire,” so that you should have suspicion of nothing perceptible relating to the Spirit. For with respect with what happened at the Jordan rivers, the dove did not descend literally, but in the form of a dove. Thus, it is also in this place here not literally a fire, but a kind of fire. And it was majestically said, “like a violent rushing wind,”9 Why did Ezekiel not receive the gift of prophecy through the likeness of fire but through a book,10 but the Apostles receive the gift through the agency of fire? For concerning this it says that he gave the head of a scroll11 into his mouth, and there was written lamentation, a mournful song, and woe, and it had been written on the inside and outside. He ate it and it became in the mouth as sweet as honey. When it comes to the apostles it is not so. Rather “and they appeared to them tongues as fire.”12 Why then was there a scroll and letters there, but tongue and fire here? 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. For this reason Ezekiel was receiving a small book, telling of the coming misfortunes, but the apostles were receiving fire, so as to thoroughly burn-up the sins of the world, and to obliterate all of it. For just as the fire falls upon thistles13 and easily destroys all of it, thus also the grace of the Spirit consumes the sins of mankind. But the stupid Jews, while these things were happening, ought to be fearful, tremble and revere the gift being bestowed, contrarily point it out as a silly state, accusing drunkenness against the apostles who have been filled of the Spirit. “These ones, it says, “are full of sweet wine.”14 Pay attention to the senseless pride of mankind, and contemplate at this moment the integrity of angels. For the angels see the start of our rising-up, they were rejoicing and said, “Lift up your heads, O gates, And be lifted up, O ancient doors, That the King of glory may come in!”15 These men on the other hand say, who had just seen the grace of the Spirit descending to us, that the ones who are receiving the gift are drunk, and the season of the calendar did not constrain them. For wine in the springtime would not likely have been found at any occasion, nevertheless it was still spring. Therefore, let these ones be left alone. We nevertheless go about considering the reckoning of a benevolent God. Christ received the first fruit of our nature and rewarded us with the grace of the Spirit. Just like it was produced in a lengthy war, and when the battle was in the process of being finished, and peace was going to be accomplished, and those who have enmity towards others offer pledges and securities to these parties. It has also happened in this way between God and human nature. He sent in it pledges and securities, the first-fruit which Christ took up.16 He himself sent back to us the Holy Spirit in place of pledges and securities.17 That indeed we have pledges and securities, evident from this time forward. For it is necessary the offsprings of royalty to be pledges and securities. It was on this account that the Holy Spirit had been sent down to us, as to whom is the substance of the most high king, and the one who had been raised up was from the offspring of royal lineage on our behalf. After all, he was from the seed of David. On which account I am no longer scared because our first fruit rests on high. Therefore, granted that someone should say to me “endless worm”, even “unquenchable fire,” and about other penalties and retributions, I do not dread any more. Well, I do indeed fear, but albeit I do not despair about my own salvation. Really, unless God was thinking about the great deeds about our offsprings, he would not have taken the first fruit on high. Before this, these ones watch throughout heaven, and reflect upon the non-material deeds, we see more clearly our worthlessness after the comparison regarding the deeds from on high. Now, still while we wished to know our nobility, we look up on high to heaven to the royal throne itself. In fact in that place the first fruit which had been taken up from us, was about to seat down. Thus, the Son of God also will come judging us. On which account we are going to be prepared, so as to not be deprived of this glory, because by all means He will come, the person connected with our Master will last. He will come bringing armies, brigades of angels, companies of archangels, hosts of martyrs, choirs of righteous ones, assemblies of prophets and apostles, and in the midst of these immaterial armies, the King appears in something which is too great for words and unexplainable glory. ■


The Greek text can be found at the Orthodox Fathers website, Εἰς τὴν Ἁγίαν Πεντηκοστήν

Tertullian on Tongues: a New English Translation

Tertullian: Against Marcion. Book V. 8:7-12


Seeing as the Creator especially promised the gift of the Spirit in the latter days; and moreover Christ appeared in these latter days as the dispenser of spiritual gifts to which the apostle says, ”But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent His Son,”1 and again, ”Because the time is now in short supply”,2 and it is evident that this gift of the Spirit leads with praises towards Christ. Now compare the types between the apostles and Isaiah: “To one is given”, he says, “by the Spirit the word of wisdom;” and Isaiah steadfastly prefers the spirit of wisdom. “To another, the word of knowledge;” this will be the spirit of understanding and counsel. “To another, faith by the same Spirit;” this will be the spirit of holiness3 and fear of the Lord. “To another, the gifts of healing, and to another the working of miracles;” this will be the power of might. “To another prophecy, to another another discerning of spirits, to another various kinds of languages, to another the interpretation of languages;” this will be the spirit of knowledge.4 See how the apostle is bringing together and developing the concept of one spirit and in the prophet’s precise way that applies about interpreting. I can say this very thing that he has harmonized throughout the many and diverse members of our body the unity of the various gifts into a structured form, and on the same theme he shows the Lord in regards to the human body and Holy Spirit, which he did not want the merits of the gifts to be in the context of a spiritual body, nor did he establish such things in the context of a human body in relation to love, which is naturally put ahead too over all the other gifts. This guided the apostle as the lead principle to be established and because Christ esteemed this: “You shall love your neighbour as your own self.”5

When he mentions that it is written in the Law, he is recalling the Creator is going to proceed to speak in other languages and lips, he validates this reference with the gift of languages — a different gift here of the Creator cannot be shown with special mention. Equally so, 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, (yet shows the right for the ability to prophesy is currently also given to the female participant, he additionally assigns a veil with with the woman who prophesies), he reinforces from the Law the responsibility of the woman is someone who ought to be subordinate, which, let me say once for all, that he ought not to know [what the woman is teaching] except for its repudiation.6 Let us now move from the spiritual things, the matters themselves ought to prove which of us blindly claims his god, and whether it is possible to oppose against our side, and even if the Creator promised these things for His Christ who had not yet been revealed, as being only destined to the Jews, getting ready to have His works in His time, in His Christ, and in His people. Marcion is then to exhibit gifts from his god, some prophets, who nevertheless have spoken not from the human sense, but by the spirit of God, which the things to come are going to be proclaimed, and the secrets of the heart are going to be exposed.7 He is probably showing some type of psalm, vision, prayer, merely a spiritual thing, in ecstasy, that is in madness,8 as if an interpretation of languages had occurred.9 Let him show to me also a woman who exaggerates among them that can prophesy according to those most sacred women10 If all these things are being easily made known by me, and by all means these things work together in one accord as a basic principles, the construct of the arguments, and teachings of the Creator, without doubt Christ, the Spirit, and the apostle will be of my God. It contains my statement that anyone would have been certain to examine.


Partially translated and revised by Charles A. Sullivan. Some portions are directly taken from the translation by Peter Holmes’ found in the Ante–Nicene Fathers. Vol. 3 (1885).

For the actual Latin text, click on the following link, Tertullian on Tongues: the Latin.

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 “Before all things charity etc.,” (I Peter 4:8) (“Above all these things have charity,” Colossians 3:14).2

Secondly he outlines the above idea through which he himself continues to follow and this is what he says “Be passionate, etc.”,3 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 spiritual4 , [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 faris5 , but it is better to be defined from pharos6 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 Dionysius7 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

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 grain9 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 means10 in an unknown language, and not having these things explained11 , 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 (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 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

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 (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 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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