A 3000-year general history on the Book of Psalms numbering and divisional systems.
The structural development of the Book of Psalms has an interesting and complex history.
The results are the examination of documents spanning a 3000 year time period. The reader will be journeying through Hebrew, Greek, Syriac, Latin and English texts. Don’t worry. You don’t need to know the languages itself to join in this expedition. This work is designed for both the researcher and the passionate lay reader. Many pictures will be provided that will assist. One can marvel at the beauty of the handwritten text without understanding it.
The findings show that the Psalms began as an unordered list with no assigned numbers. The arrival of the Greek translation called the Septuagint brought about a numbering scheme for the Book of Psalms. The Septuagint also limited to the Book of Psalms to 151 poems, though this was not adhered to by other traditions which went up to 155. Verses were not introduced until much later. Verses were covered in a previous article titled, A History of Chapters and Verses in the Hebrew Bible.
As demonstrated by the Dead Sea Scrolls, the order of the poems in the Book of Psalms was not established in the early centuries. This happened after the widespread acceptance of the Septuagint later on.
The Septuagint assignments of numbers and order were assumed by the Latin translators, which in turn had an influence on the English Bible tradition.
The headers introducing most of the Psalms are the most controversial and misunderstood. In regards to the headers only, we are not so sure today on the meaning behind the original Hebrew or even the Greek translation. This has led to a multitude of interpretations even within the English Bible translation tradition.
These are mere generalities and the readers of this blog prefer details and substantiation. The following is how the above conclusions were arrived at.
A summary of the Gift of Tongues Project in three parts.
The following are the results of a detailed study of the doctrine of tongues from inception until 1922. The results are drawn from the Gift of Tongues Project which had a fourfold purpose to:
uncover new or forgotten ancient literature on the subject
provide the original source texts in digital format
translate the texts into English and add some commentary
to trace the perception of tongues in the church from inception until modern times.
The actual results can be found at the Gift of Tongues Project. Most readers have found the actual Project source texts, principally in Greek and Latin, along with the analysis too complex and desire to read a shortened version. This series of summaries is concerned with the big picture on how the doctrine of tongues was transmitted through the centuries, not the details.
The reader must understand that this doctrine has never been static and has been evolving. This aspect will be amply demonstrated.
People will always be inspired by the pentecostal narrative described in the Book of Acts and the mysterious tongues found later on in the New Testament epistle called I Corinthians. Those accounts have propelled many ardent students of the Bible and the christian faith to reproduce this phenomenon in their lives. The passion for a new Pentecost has cycled for twenty-one-centuries. How communities and persons perceived, practised and passed-on the right throughout these centuries is the goal of this study.
The christian rite of speaking in tongues has been controversial, especially over the last one-hundred years. Speaking in tongues is a practice expressed by Renewalists. Renewalism is the fastest growing christian faith in the world. Many have tried to explain this rite through experiential and psychological terms, but few have attempted an extensive study through historical literature.
This summary fills in the blanks of the historical record that have, up until now, been neglected.
This work is broken up into a three part series. Part 1 traces the evolution of Pentecost from the first to seventeenth-centuries which is inclusive of catholic perceptions. Part 2 focuses on the protestant perceptions which has three distinct doctrinal frameworks. Part 3 is an in-depth look into the Corinthian tongues saga.
Table of Contents
What is speaking in tongues today?
The absence of historical literature in the modern tongues debate
The start and later acceleration of the Gift of Tongues Project
Glôssa better translated as language rather than tongue
A pictorial overview on the catholic history of speaking in tongues.
The doctrine of tongues from the first to third-century
The golden age of the christian doctrine of tongues: the fourth-century
The connection between Babel and Pentecost
Hebrew as the first language of mankind and of Pentecost
Pentecost as a temporary phenomenon
Augustine on tongues transforming into a corporate identity
Gregory of Nyssa and the one voice many sounds theory
Gregory Nazianzus on the miracle of speech vs. the miracle of hearing
The expansion of the christian doctrine of tongues from the tenth to sixteenth-centuries
Later Medieval accounts of speaking in tongues
The legend of Francis Xavier speaking in tongues
Part 2: A protestant history of speaking in tongues (in development)
Part 3: The corinthians tongue saga (in development)
This summary is the result of the Gift of Tongues Project which is designed for the advanced researcher. The Gift of Tongues Project has attempted to identify, collate and digitize the source texts in the original Greek, Latin, with some Syriac, French and a sprinkling of a few other languages. English translations have been provided with almost every text, along with my own analysis. The Gift of Tongues Project differentiates itself from others because the source texts available on the website allow for you to research and draw your own conclusions. All the legwork is already done. All one has to do now is read instead of the time consuming and never ending task of finding the source files. Better yet, the majority is digitally searchable.
Speaking in tongues owes its heritage to a book of the Bible called the Book of Acts. This book was written by a first-century christian follower and a physician named Luke. He only wrote 206 words(1)According to the NIV English Bible to describe the formative event called Pentecost. Pentecost established the foundations for Messianic Judaism and its universal message. This event was described as the Holy Spirit arriving and causing the apostles and 120 others to instantly preach in diverse foreign languages that they did not previously study or know. This explanation is the standard one to help the reader to get started on the subject. The summary will proceed to demonstrate there are many alternative viewpoints.
Perhaps one could argue 800 words when you throw in the defense of the experience by Peter in Acts chapter 2 and the three other instances throughout the Book of Acts. Perhaps Paul could be credited with writing about Pentecost if his coverage in his first letter to the Corinthians contains a parallel, though Part III will show these are not connected. Why all the fuss over 206 words? If it was so important, why didn’t Luke go into much greater detail? This would have spared the modern day reader such a confusion. The clarification is going to take over 10,000 words and the parsing through a magnitude of documents found throughout the centuries to explain those few written words two thousand years ago.
Luke is vague on the actual mechanics and certainly short on details. This leaves his Pentecost and subsequent tongues narratives with many unanswered questions; did every inspired person speak in a single different language and together they were speaking the languages of all the nations? Was it one sound emanating and changed during transmission so that the hearers heard their own language? If it was a miracle of hearing, what was that sound? Were the people conscious of what they were saying or were they completely overtaken by a divine power and had no comprehension about what they were speaking? Was it a heavenly, non-human or prayer language? Did this miracle continue after the first-century? How did this tongues-event get passed down to the next generation? Did it become part of the church liturgy?
The various source manuscripts on the Book of Acts available today do not have any variance that brings about new clues. This necessitates digging deeper into other records.
The Gift of Tongues Project and this summary believe that Pentecostals and Charismatics have brought positive contributions to the greater society, and have made the world a better place. The purpose of this examination is not to attack or denigrate their character. The goal is simply to find the truth of the matter. Nothing more.
As a person who attends a charismatic church and involved in these type of communities for decades, I wanted the results to parallel their experiences. Unfortunately, the findings did not allow for this. Everyone who approaches the 2000 year narrative on speaking in tongues has to allow history to speak for itself – not to rewrite history to justify contemporary experience.
In comparison to the detailed articles posted within the Gift of Tongues Project, few footnotes will be given here, and some ancient authors and minor movements will be ignored. One can find substantiation at the Gift of Tongues Project webpage. Links to the Gift of Tongues Project pages will be highlighted throughout. The results are subject to change as new information comes forward.
This work traces the perception of tongues speaking through the centuries. Perception is not necessarily reality. On many occasions, the work will reference the perception with no remarks about the integrity of the event or person. This is up to the reader to decide.
What is speaking in tongues today?
Speaking in tongues is an inherent part of the present pentecostal and charismatic identities. This practice is one of the key features that distinguish them apart from other christian movements.
How popular is speaking in tongues? A Pew Forum study has concluded one-quarter of all Christians are Renewalist Christians – a term given for those who emphasize miracles, supernatural occurrences, and oftentimes speaking in tongues within the Christian’s everyday life. Really, it is an umbrella term for Pentecostals, Charismatics, Third-Wavers and those who remain in mainstream denominations influenced by Pentecostals and Charismatics. There are an estimated 584 million Renewalists in the world. Perhaps even more. (2)http://www.pewforum.org/2011/12/19/global-christianity-movements-and-denominations/ This does not mean all those defined as Renewalists emphasize this doctrine and practice it. The same Pew study further demonstrates that no more than 53% of Renewalists speak in tongues in any country they examined. In most instances, it is less.(3)Spirit and Power: A 10-Country Survey of Pentecostals. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. October 2006. Pg. 16 My conservative estimate tallies about 150 million people consistently practising the christian rite of speaking in tongues throughout the world.
The Renewalist faith, with its emphasis on holiness, mysticism, independence, and easy adaptability to different cultures, is the fastest growing segment of Christianity in the world. Their christian mystic framework along with its distinctive theology of speaking in tongues makes a historical study imperative.
What do Renewalists presently believe speaking in tongues to be? There is a general agreement that speaking in tongues is a supernatural phenomenon — one that cannot be measured or defined by science. Some Renewalists call it a heavenly language that only the individual, God, and a special interpreter understands. Others say it is a private prayer language or a form of exalted worship. There are those who just shrug their shoulders and say it is simply a God thing that defies explanation. A handful may say speaking in tongues is the spontaneous ability to speak a foreign language. Most Renewalists believe that speaking in tongues is a deliberate outcome of a controlled mind – in other words, they are not crazies or kooks whose erratic behavior is in an uncontrolled hallucinatory state. They are regular people like the helpful neighbor across the street, the taxi driver, teacher, dentist, nurse, plumber, politician, lawyer or construction worker. Renewalists are found in all walks of life.
A good example of a Renewalist speaking in tongues is found in this video clip of the late Kenneth Hagin. He was a highly respected and influential pentecostal preacher in the mid-1900s.
Hagin appears as an elder statesman. He has a father like persona that the people in the audience are attracted to and appreciate. The young lady who is a distance behind Hagin in the video approves his message with an accepting smile. About four minutes into the video, he utters, “Memen hatsu toro menge kanga deging bango ondu konste fre peffe hemo outse,” and then begins to laugh. The laughter implies an overabundance of a spiritual force that overwhelms the senses, forcing the speaker into an uncontrolled fit. The audience cheered Hagin for more.
This is a typical example, though speaking in tongues is not always done in a Sunday service. It is practised more frequently in weekday services, prayer sessions, pastoral settings, and special events.
A more contemporary example is Reinhard Bonnke. Bonnke is a German-born evangelist whose work in Africa, especially Nigeria has earned him the rank of one the top preachers of all time in respect to audience reach. The example here is his public speaking in tongues at a large indoor gathering somewhere in Asia. His Christ for the Nations website claims over 55 million documented decisions for Christ under his ministry.
Bonnke’s demonstration is not as obvious as Hagin’s. He mixes regular language and charismatic, excitable speech between short outbursts of tongues-speech. The audience is energized but not surprised by this presentation. This is quite common in renewalist circles.
The absence of historical literature in the modern tongues debate.
After an exhaustive approach of locating, digitizing, translating and analyzing two-thousand years worth of texts, the results of the Gift of Tongues Project has found one of the main challenges to solving this debate is overcoming the embedded ignorance of history.
This finding was not anticipated at the start. The Project assumed at the beginning there was little christian literature throughout the centuries to build a case. Rather, there is a substantial corpus of ancient christian literature on the subject. The discovery about the abundance on the subject has created two rival stories. The first allows the building of a compelling narrative on the doctrine of tongues throughout the centuries. The second is the narrative about the ignorance of christian literature over the last two centuries and how it has contributed to the modern definition. Both play an important story in the modern definition and I am not sure which one is more important. They share a complex interplay that is difficult to untangle.
The start and later acceleration of the Gift of Tongues Project.
The Project was started in the 1980s, but little was done until the early 2000s. The initial goal was to parse through the collection of church writings found in the massive Migne Patrologia Graeca series and its Latin counterpart, Migne Patrologia Latina. There is no digital version of MPG available, so a page-by-page visual scan was required. This was a very time-consuming process – especially with over 135 volumes averaging 1200 pages each. This was a long process.
Thankfully the internet age came along. Museums and other institutions have posted many manuscripts online. Better manuscripts are now available than the ones found in MPG. The ability to do digital searches with Google’s search engine reveals even more texts. The Gift of Tongues Project is one of the direct benefactors of the digitization of libraries, museums, and institutions.
Glôssa better translated as language rather than tongue
Glôssa (γλῶσσα) is the pivotal key word for the doctrine of tongues in the original Greek text. This word is the central theme found in Paul’s address to the Corinthians and Luke’s description of the first Pentecost. This noun is further used by later Greek ecclesiasts and authors on the subject.
The challenge is how a contemporary researcher is to translate this word without a modern bias.
When the Greek keyword appears, or if it is found in a Latin text, which is lingua, my mind always wants to automatically translate it as tongue.
The word tongues, which is seldom used in our modern language to specifically mean a modern, regular or contemporary language, is usually understood to be something out-of-this-world, unusual or even weird. Sometimes it is used a synonym to language, but rarely in contemporary literature is it a predominant descriptor.
As I have worked over both Greek and Latin Patristic texts, from the likes of Greek writers such as Irenaeus, Origen, Gregory Nazianzus, Cyril of Alexandria, Epiphanius, John of Damascus etc., to the Latin writers of Augustine, the Venerable Bede, Thomas Aquinas, the Ambrosiaster authors, and many more, they do not contain references to the gift being a strange, mystical or heavenly language that needs a new definition. It simply means a human language to them. To advance such a thought that it was different from a human language, they would have had to take extra steps to make it distinct. They never did.
Secondly, one must keep in mind that the noun language was the dominant English word used to translate glôssa/γλῶσσα before the introduction of the Geneva Bible in 1534.
It would not be fair to translate the church fathers on the subject using tongues instead of languages. It significantly changes the nuance of the text when it is done.
One could argue that I am forcing my own interpretation on the text. However, it is believed that language is more accurate to what the writers meant.
This changes things considerably, instead of Acts 2:4 reading as other tongues the proper reading is other languages. The other tongues creates ambiguities that never existed in the Greek. Other languages immediately starts to clarify a difficult subject.
Now that the introductory remarks have been covered, it is time to get into the narrative itself.
Did the ancient Greek prophetesses, especially the Pythian priestesses in Delphi, speak in tongues and the Christians later adapted it?
The alleged connection between the two is an important one in the speaking in tongues debate. A dispute which this article seeks to look deeper into.
The approach used to find an answer is to locate the primary Hellenistic texts that make this connection and evaluate them. English translations will be listed along with the majority having Greek or Latin sources paralleled with them. A short analysis will be provided. The reader is not required to know either one of these languages in order to examine the works and can easily skip over these foreign texts.
For those readers who want a quick answer and do not want to look into the details, the conclusion is no, the ancient Greek prophetesses did not speak in glossolalia. Many readers that habitually come to this website won’t take such a conclusion literally until substantiation is shown that the following will provide.
Here is an introductory video on the Delphi temple and how the Greek priestesses operated. It is an investigation into whether gases from the cracks in the temple caused the prophetesses to go mad and prophesy. It does not address glossolalia but covers almost every other aspect of the Delphic priestess role and provides a good background to the subject matter.
Table of Contents
The connection between ancient Greek prophetesses and glossolalia
The classical sources on alleged glossolalia
Herodotus The Histories
Virgil in The Aeneid
Lukan’s The Civil War
Rohde’s Psyche: Cult of Souls
The connection between ancient Greek prophetesses and glossolalia
The christian doctrine of speaking in tongues has had three major movements over the 2000 years. The first one was the traditional one that lasted for 1800 years that it was either a miracle of speaking, hearing or both. The second one was far smaller in influence and began shortly after the Reformation called cessationism. This is a conservative Protestant faction that believes all miracles had ceased in the earlier church and thus any practice of speaking in tongues is false. This doctrine continues today. A third movement sprung up in the 1800s through the agency of German protestant scholars who used a groundbreaking methodology called higher criticism to interpret speaking in tongues. This resulted in a new doctrine called glossolalia. Instead of tracing the christian history of speaking in tongues through church literature and ultimately ending up at Pentecost, higher criticists took an entirely different path. They felt that most ancient christian literature was based on myth and could not be used as objective data. The better alternative was to trace speaking in tongues through classical sources such as Plutarch, Strabo, and others. Therefore, their history goes to ancient Greece before the advent of Christianity and focuses on the caves of Delphi and Dadona where the ancient Greek prophetesses would utter their prophecies.
Glossolalia is the dominant interpretational schema today. As outlined in the series, A History of Glossolalia, it has dominated the modern discussion so greatly that it has all but erased the memory of the traditional definition that existed for 1800 years. Glossolalia is found ubiquitously throughout the primary, secondary and tertiary literature. However, the Hellenistic sources used by higher criticists that trace back to the beginnings of Christianity or earlier have hardly been critically evaluated. The following is a collation and analysis of the major sources in Hellenistic writings on the Greek prophetesses allegedly speaking in tongues.
The connection between ancient Greek prophetesses and glossolalia
Herodotus The Histories
“The Histories. . . of Herodotus is now considered the founding work of history in Western literature. Written in 440 BC in the Ionic dialect ofclassical Greek, The Histories serves as a record of the ancient traditions, politics, geography, and clashes of various cultures that were known in Western Asia, Northern Africa and Greece at that time.Although not a fully impartial record, it remains one of the West’s most important sources regarding these affairs.”(1)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Histories_(Herodotus).
Herodotus refers to the ancient Delphian prophetess speaking in hexameter verse(2) Hdt. 1.47 http://data.perseus.org/citations/urn:cts:greekLit:tlg0016.tlg001.perseus-eng1:1.47 see also Hdt. 1.65, 1.66, 1.67, 5:60, 5:61, 7:220 that was clearly spoken. The actual citations can be found in the footnote and there is nothing in any one of them that relates to tongues-speech. Therefore, the Greek will not be provided.
Plato is one of the most revered Greek writers and philosophers of all time. If one wants to substantiate any Greek theme and it is supported in Plato’s work, then the argument has a winning probability. In the case of an ancient Greek priestess speaking ecstatically in his work, there are only two references that are close. These are not substantial. He lived in the fourth-century BC.
“Plato’s Phaedrus is a rich and enigmatic text that treats a range of important philosophical issues, including metaphysics, the philosophy of love, and the relation of language to reality, especially in regard to the practices of rhetoric and writing.”(3)http://www.english.hawaii.edu/criticalink/plato/ It is hard to see what the connection with glossolalia is here.
[244b] and the priestesses at Dodona when they have been mad have conferred many splendid benefits upon Greece both in private and in public affairs, but few or none when they have been in their right minds; and if we should speak of the Sibyl and all the others who by prophetic inspiration have foretold many things to many persons and thereby made them fortunate afterwards, anyone can see that we should speak a long time. And it is worth while to adduce also the fact that those men of old who invented names thought that madness was neither shameful nor disgraceful.(4)Plato in Twelve Volumes. Translated by Harold Fowler. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1925
“Timaeus . . . is one of Plato’s dialogues, mostly in the form of a long monologue given by the title character Timaeus of Locri, written c. 360 BC. The work puts forward speculation on the nature of the physical world and human beings. . .”(6)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timaeus_(dialogue) Plato is describing how the human mind can touch the divine. He believed a normal rational mind cannot connect and must be in an altered state to do such. Whatever vision, apparition or speech that occurs in an altered state must be interpreted by a person of a stable or rational mind. The speech itself that Plato refers to is not glossolalia or ecstatic speech, rather he relates the process required finding out the meaning behind the difficult imagery or words.
[71e] as good as they possibly could, rectified the vile part of us by thus establishing therein the organ of divination, that it might in some degree lay hold on truth. And that God gave unto man’s foolishness the gift of divination a sufficient token is this: no man achieves true and inspired divination when in his rational mind, but only when the power of his intelligence is fettered in sleep or when it is distraught by disease or by reason of some divine inspiration. But it belongs to a man when in his right mind to recollect and ponder both the things spoken in dream or waking vision by the divining and inspired nature, and all the visionary forms that were seen, and by means of reasoning to discern about them all
[72a] wherein they are significant and for whom they portend evil or good in the future, the past, or the present. But it is not the task of him who has been in a state of frenzy, and still continues therein, to judge the apparitions and voices seen or uttered by himself; for it was well said of old that to do and to know one’s own and oneself belongs only to him who is sound of mind. Wherefore also it is customary to set the tribe of prophets to pass judgement
[72b] upon these inspired divinations; and they, indeed, themselves are named “diviners” by certain who are wholly ignorant of the truth that they are not diviners but interpreters of the mysterious voice and apparition, for whom the most fitting name would be “prophets of things divined.”
For these reasons, then, the nature of the liver is such as we have stated and situated in the region we have described, for the sake of divination. Moreover, when the individual creature is alive this organ affords signs that are fairly manifest, but when deprived of life it becomes blind and the divinations it presents are too much obscured to have any(7)Plato. Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 9 translated by W.R.M. Lamb. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1925.
Virgil or more accurately, Publius Vergilius Maro, is a first-century BC ancient Roman poet. His alleged contribution to the tongues connection is small.
Then to Phoebus and Trivia will I set up a temple of solid marble, and festal days in Phoebus’ name. You also a stately shrine awaits in our realm; for here I will place your oracles and mystic utterances, told to my people, and ordain chosen men, O gracious one. Only trust not your verses to leaves, lest they fly in disorder, the sport of rushing winds; chant them yourself, I pray.” His lips ceased speaking.(9)Virgil. Eclogues, Georgics, Aeneid. Translated by Fairclough, H R. Loeb Classical Library Volumes 63 & 64. Cambridge, MA. Harvard University Press. 1916
And the Latin
Tum Phoebo et Triviae solido de marmore templum instituam, festosque dies de nomine Phoebi. Te quoque magna manent regnis penetralia nostris: hic ego namque tuas sortes arcanaque fata, dicta meae genti, ponam, lectosque sacrabo, alma, viros. Foliis tantum ne carmina manda, ne turbata volent rapidis ludibria ventis; ipsa canas oro.” Finem dedit ore loquendi.(10)Vergil. Bucolics, Aeneid, and Georgics Of Vergil. J. B. Greenough. Boston. Ginn & Co. 1900.
The question that surrounds Virgil is his reference to mystic utterances. What does he mean by that? The Latin translation is incorrect and should read, Here therefore I will place your lots and secret fates(11)https://2010bhslatinap.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/book-6-lines-64-82/ Regardless of the translation, it is a stretch to make this sequence out to be glossolalia.
Lukan’s The Civil War
Lukan was a well known poet who was a friend of the unstable and often cruel Emporer Nero. This relationship that brought him to fame also led him to the grave. He was ordered to death by Nero for treason. His work, De Bello Civili (On the Civil War), covered the war between Julius Caesar and Pompey. The important part of his work relating to speaking in tongues relates to his narrative on a Delphian priestess. He reported a story of Appius Claudius Pulcher coming to a Delphic priestess to find out the future, possibly if he should go to war. The priestess, named Phemenoe, fakes such a prophecy which Appius rightly identified. Appius seriously threatened her and forced Phemenoe to flee to the ancient prophetic cave. The inspiration the cave once offered had ceased for some time already but in this instance, Apollo returned and filled Phemenoe. She went into madness, raving, and uttered a prophecy. She foretold Appius was to die.
There is no reference to her being in a trance and uttering strange or foreign words at all. For the sake of substantiation, here is the English and Latin with what is the closest parallel.
At last Apollo mastered the breast of the Delphian priestess ; as fully as ever in the past, he forced his way into her body, driving out her former thoughts, and bidding her human nature to come forth and leave her heart at his disposal. Frantic she careers about the cave, with her neck under possession ; the fillets and garlands of Apollo, dislodged by her bristling hair, she whirls with tossing head through the void spaces of the temple ; she scatters the tripods that impede her random course ; she boils over with fierce fire, while enduring the wrath of Phoebus. . . first the wild frenzy overflowed through her foaming lips ; she groaned and uttered loud inarticulate cries with panting breath ; next, a dismal wailing filled the vast cave ; and at last, when she was mastered, came the sound of articulate speech : ” Roman, thou shalt have no part in the mighty ordeal and shalt escape the awful threats of war ; and thou alone shalt stay at peace in a broad hollow of the Euboean coast.” Then Apollo closed up her throat and cut short her tale.”(12)Lukan: with an English Translation by J. D. Duff. The Civil War. Books I—X (Pharsalia) (Book V) London: William Heineman Ltd. 1962. Pg. 249Ff
165 Pectore Cirrhaeo, non umquam plenior artus
Phoebados irrupit Paean: mentemque priorem
Expulit, atque hominem toto sibi cedere iussit
Pectore. Bacchatur demens aliena per antrum
170 Colla ferens, vittasque dei Phoebeaque serta
Erectis discussa comis, per inania templi
Ancipiti cervice rotat, spargitque vaganti
Obstantes tripodas, magnoque exaestuat igne,
Iratum te, Phoebe, ferens. . .
190 Spumea tunc primum rabies vesana per ora
Effluit, et gemitus, et anhelo clara meatu
Murmura: tunc moestus vastis ululatus in antris,
Extremaeque sonant, domita iam virgine, voces:
Effugis ingentes, tanti discriminis expers,
195 Bellorum, o Romane, minas: solusque quietem
Euboici vasta lateris convalle tenebis.
Caetera suppressit, faucesque obstruxit Apollo.(13)Pharsaliae Libri X. M. Annaeus Lucanus. Carolus Hermannus Weise. Leipzig. G. Bassus. 1835
Out of all the literature referring to the rites of the Delphic priestesses, Plutarch contains the most information. Plutarch was a biographer and writer who lived in the middle to late first century (46 – 120 AD). His work, Moralia explored the customs and lores of his time. His thirty-odd years as a priest at Delphi may be the reason why he covers the topic of Delphic priestesses so often.
A drawback to Plutarch’s Moralia is that it is a large composition that would be time consuming to do a comparative analysis. Fortunately, an old series of publications entitled, Moralia, in fifteen volumes, with an English translation are digitally searchable at archive.org. This has immensely helped. A search in Volume 4 demonstrates that the office of the Delphic priestess was an important one in Greek society that required the prophetess to speak in direct terms. All the prophecies given were coherent and readily understood. There is no shadow of strange or incoherent language being spoken.
The Oracles at Delphi
Volume 5 continues with the same tone but gets far deeper. In Plutarch’s letter titled, The Oracles at Delphi, he writes that the prophecies given by the priestesses were done in prose and metre. He also believed it was done in a formal, eloquent style. Here are some quotes that demonstrate this.
“It is very pleasant to listen to such conversation as this, but I am constrained to claim the fulfilment of your first promise regarding the cause which has made the prophetic priestess cease to give her oracles in epic verse or in other metres.”(14) Vol. 5. The Oracles at Delphi Pg. 301
“those who do not believe that in his time the prophetic priestess used verse in her oracular responses. Afterwards, wishing to prove this, he has found to support his contention an altogether meagre number of such oracles, indication that the others were given out in prose, even as early as that time. Some of the oracles even to-day come out in metre…”(15) Vol. 5. The Oracles at Delphi Pg. 311
“Now we cherish the belief that the god, in giving indications to us, makes use of the calls of herons, wrens, and ravens ; but we do not insist that these, inasmuch as they are messengers and heralds of the gods, shall express everything rationally and clearly, and yet we insist that the voice and language of the prophetic priestess, like a choral song in the theatre, shall be presented, not without sweetness and embellishment, but also in verse of a grandiloquent and formal style with verbal metaphors and with a flute to accompany its delivery! What a statement, then, shall we make about the priestesses of former days?”(16) Vol. 5. The Oracles at Delphi Pg. 321
“And as for the language of the prophetic priestess, just as the mathematicians call the shortest of lines between two points a straight line, so her language makes no bend nor curve nor doubling nor equivocation, but is straight in relation to the truth…”(17) Vol. 5. The Oracles at Delphi Pg. 341
I don’t think it is even necessary to produce the Greek original text because Plutarch is very clear on how the prophecy was spoken. There is no ambiguity that it was clear, refined, and direct speech. But if some really want to read the Greek, a good start would be with a book called: Pythici dialogi tres.
On the Fame of the Athenians
Plutarch lifts a line from Aristophane’s comedy called, Frogs which does not relate to the christian doctrine of tongues, but since it has been included by at least one notable author, it will be examined.
Aristophanes is never easy to translate, but this piece, in reference to the tongues debate contains the important noun γλῶττα (a regional variant of γλῶσσα). This noun has remained hidden in the popular English translations of this text. The importance has not been left unchecked by at least one famous scholar by the name of Johannes Behm which will be shown shortly.
Ian Johnson has provided a more recent translation:
the ones who’ve never seen or danced
the noble Muses’ ritual songs,
or played their part in Bacchic rites
of bull-devouring Cratinus(18)https://records.viu.ca/~johnstoi/aristophanes/frogs.htm
Who ne’er has the noble revelry learned, or danced the dance of the Muses high; or shared in the Bacchic rites which old bull-eating Cratinus’s words supply;(19)Classics MIT: The Frogs
A more literal translation is:
Whether the noble Muses’ ritual songs,
nor performed in the bacchic frenzy of Cratinus’ overpowering tongue,
neither has one seen nor danced
(20)My own translation
Overpowering may be a stretch here as it is interpreting the Greek ταυροφάγου γλώττης (bull-eating tongue) as an idiom rather than literally.
and for those interested in the Greek:
ἢ γενναίων ὄργια Μουσῶν μήτ᾽ εἶδεν μήτ᾽ ἐχόρευσεν,
μηδὲ Κρατίνου τοῦ ταυροφάγου γλώττης Βακχεῖ᾽ ἐτελέσθη, (21)Aristophanes, Frogs as found at Perseus’ website.
These lines appear to have no relationship to the christian doctrine of tongues at all – and it really does not. However, the contributor to the tongues section of the popular and widely acclaimed Theological Dictionary of the New Testament cited it. The author of this work in TDNT, the highly controversial Johannes Behm,(22)accused and deposed from Academia for his Nazi collaboration during the Second World War partially used this to strengthen his definition that speaking in tongues was a syncretism with Hellenism.(23)Johannes Behm γλῶσσα, ἑτερόγλοσσος as found in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Vol. 1. Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich eds. Trans. By Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. 1964
Behm cited the original Aristophanes text with only γλώττης βακχει which was too brief. This made it very difficult to locate the actual source to verify a correlation. This passage required some guesswork to find. The above was the closest representation found.
Strabo “(64 or 63 BC – c. 24 AD) was a Greek geographer, philosopher, and historian who lived in Asia Minor during the transitional period of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire.”(24)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strabo Strabo seems to retell the same story by that of Plutarch. The Delphic prophetesses would go into a trance and prophesy in verse. These words then would be recorded by the priests.
9.3.5 They say that the seat of the oracle is a cave that is hollowed out deep down in the earth, with a rather narrow mouth, from which arises breath that inspires a divine frenzy; and that over the mouth is placed a high tripod, mounting which the Pythian priestess receives the breath and then utters oracles in both verse and prose, though the latter too are put into verse by poets who are in the service of the temple. They say that the first to become Pythian priestess was Phemonoe; and that both the prophetess and the city were so called from the word pythésthai,” though the first syllable was lengthened, as in athanatos, akamatos, and diakonos.
An eleventh-century AD Christian by the name of Michael Psellos, a statesman and lover of literature who lived in Constantinople, unearths a different interpretation.
And seeing that from the work of Apollo: the prophetess, by the mouth, the word follows, she became overcome around the tripod, she was pronouncing on the one hand to the Persians, and on the other to the Assyrians, and the Phoenicians — all according to metre and also rhythm which she had not known with beautiful language which she not had learned.
Psellos wrote that the Pythian prophetess was miraculously speaking in foreign languages. This is not consistent with any other interpretation. Psellos loved to play with ancient classical literature to parade his literary genius, but this doesn’t explain why he would do this. However, he felt that this was not the same phenomena as the christian rite of tongues. He believed the Apostles controlled what they spoke and were personally engaged. The Pythian priestess was out of her senses when she spoke.
This is an odd addition that needs more scrutiny, but it does not lead into the direction of glossolalia.
Although his work is a little over one hundred years old, it has withstood the test of time. It is not a widely known work outside of scholastic circles, but it deserves public praise.
A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature: Fourth Revised cites Rohde to assert: “There is no doubt about the thing referred to, namely the broken speech of persons in religious ecstasy. The phenomenon, as found in Hellenistic religion, is described esp. by ERohde.”(26)Walter Bauer. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian lterature: Fourth Revised. Translated by F.W. Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 1979. Pg. 162 However, a closer analysis of the page numbers (289-293) cited in Rohde’s work does not validate such. There is no such connection or any concrete evidence for glossolalia. The closest reference found was this; “ In hoarse tones and wild words, the Sibyl gave utterance to what the divine impelling power within her and not her own arbitrary fancy suggested ; possessed by the god, she spoke in a divine distraction.”(27)Erwin Rohde Psyche: The Cult of Souls and the Belief in Immortality among the Greeks, Books for Libraries Press 1972 edition, reprinted from the English translation of 1920. W.B. Hillis translator. Pg. 293 One has to be cautious with Rohde because he is writing with a narrative style and may have been too descriptive. He nowhere substantiates such a claim from authorities such as Herodotus, Plutarch or anyone else that the Sibyl did such types of discourse.
The works examined so far demonstrate there is no vital connection between the ancient Greek prophetesses and speaking in tongues. These stories definitely lack any features of glossolalia. The actual accounts from Lukan, Plutarch, Virgil, Plato, Strabo, Herodotus and Michael Psellos show no correlation at all. It would take a large leap to connect these two disparate genres together.
Perhaps I have missed something in this argument because of my lack of proficiency in the German language which most of the original discussions are found. Even so, this conclusion lines up with Christopher Forbes who is a “is a Senior Lecturer in Ancient History, and Deputy Chairman of the Society for the Study of Early Christianity,”(28)https://www.mq.edu.au/about_us/faculties_and_departments/faculty_of_arts/department_of_ancient_history/staff/dr_chris_forbes/ at Maquarie University in Australia. He wrote a dissertation on this subject and converted it into a book called, Prophecy and Inspired Speech: In Early Christianity and Its Hellenistic Environment. In it he stated:
The obscurity of Delphic utterances is not a matter of linguistic unintelligibility at all. It is simply that some such oracles were formulated, at the level of literary allusion and metaphor, in obscure, cryptic and enigmatic terms. They were, in a word, oracular.(29)Christopher Forbes. Prophecy and Inspired Speech: In Early Christianity and Its Hellenistic Environment. Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. 1997. Pg. 109
There is a potential parallel between the ancient Greek prophetesses and the Old Testament seers in their role and function in society. The prophetic dimension is an interesting set of readings. A comparative work between ancient Israel’s and Greece’s prophetic office is a worthy topic on its own but it does not fit into the tongues paradigm.
Johannes Behm γλῶσσα, ἑτερόγλοσσος as found in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Vol. 1. Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich eds. Trans. By Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. 1964
Strabo. ed. A. Meineke, Geographica. Leipzig: Teubner. 1877.
Walter Bauer. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian lterature: Fourth Revised. Translated by F.W. Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 1979. Pg. 162
Erwin Rohde Psyche: The Cult of Souls and the Belief in Immortality among the Greeks, Books for Libraries Press 1972 edition, reprinted from the English translation of 1920. W.B. Hillis translator. Pg. 293
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.
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.
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.
The Latin translation from the Greek text of Gregorii Nysseni, Oratio de Spiritu Sancto Sive in Pentecosten.
As found in Migne Patrologia Graeca, Vol. 46. Col. 697 – 699
Hodie enim transactas, juxta annui orbis stata tempora, quinquaginta a Paschatis festivate diebus, hac ipsa, tertia scilicet diei hora, donum illud hominibus largitus est Deus, quod omnem dicendi vim superat. Rursus enim homini admistus est ille Spiritus, qui antea, propterea, quod homo esset caro, a natura nostra recesserat, et spiritualibus nequitiae potestatibus per vehementem illum spiritum disjectis, cunctisque foedis daemonibus ejusdem adventu ex aere expulsis, divina virtute, speciem ignis prae se ferente, repleti sunt, qui in superiore domus parte degebant ; neque enim fieri potest, ut quis sancti Spiritus particeps fiat, nisi in sublimiori hujus vitae instituto versetur. Nam qui ea, quae sursum sunt, sapiunt, et vitae conversatione, e terra in coelum translata, in coenaculo sublimis illius vitae rationis habitant, hi sancti Spiritus participes fiunt. Congregatis enim in coenaculo discipulis, ut in Actuum apostolorum historia narratur, ignis ille divinus omnisque materiei expers, ad linguarum instar, pro eorumdem discipulorum numero, divisus est. Illi ergo Parthos, Medos, et Elamitas, ac reliquas gentes alloquebantur, ad quarumlibet earum linguas voces suas pro libitu accommodantes. At ego, ut inquit Apostolus, malo, sensu meo quinque verba loqui in Ecclesia, ut aliis etiam prosim, quam decem millia verborum in lingua. Verum tunc quidem multum profuit, apostolorum vocem aliarum gentium linguis aptari, ne praeconum linguam ignorantibus Evangelii promulgatio incassum fieret; nunc autem quoniam una eademque lingna(1)I think this an MPG printer error. This should read lingua utimur, igneam debemus Spiritus linguam exquirere, qua eos qui per errorem in tenebris versantur, illuminemus.
Gregorius Nyssenus Theol., Contra Eunomium
The portion relating to the confusion of tongues at Babel, the nature of human and divine speech, and slight reference pentecostal speaking in tongues.
The original text can be found in two locations:
Thesaurus Linguae Graecae: Gregorius Nyssenus Theol., Contra Eunomian (2017.030) Book 2, Chapter 1 [247ff] – as taken from W. Jaeger, Gregorii Nysseni opera, vols. 1.1 & 2.2. Leiden: Brill, 1960.
Migne Patrologia Graeca Vol. 46. Lib. XII Col. 993ff. A pdf of the relative pages are provided here. [pdf-embedder url=”https://charlesasullivan.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/MPGVol45Col993ff.pdf” title=”mpgvol45col993ff”]
An English translation can be found 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
A book which attempts and succeeds at helping novice to advanced Greek New Testament students improve their reading and textual critical skills.
I John : A General Reader, edited by J. Klay Harrison and Chad M. Foster, aims to target those finished with the basics of New Testament Greek and want to advance their skills — an area that is greatly lacking in resources and may be the source of why so many abandon Greek studies. I have been feeling that the whole realm of ancient Greek studies is in a woefully neglected state, greatly due to lack of demand and also that its methodology, and outdated teaching manuals, are putting it into the realm of obscurity and eccentrics. Then this comes across my desk and gives hope, opening the door for more to successfully study this genre. This is a good sign and a start of new things to come.
This book is part of an ongoing series of books being published by GlossaHouse, a young publishing company founded for the purpose of helping “students and researchers advance in the language.” Their website is full of helpful materials focusing on the Greek language.
It is clear that I John: A General Reader achieves this objective for mid-level students. It gives the necessary tools for the novice to make the jump into reading, understanding, and comprehending. It also sets the student up in working in the important realm of textual criticism. Textual criticism is not a bad word here. It merely is educating the student on an age-old system of notation which is a quick way of demonstrating differences in the Greek texts. The notation system seems a bit overwhelming at first but the book significantly helps develop awareness in this important aspect. It helps save a lot time in that you don’t have to go the manuscripts themselves to find these differences, they are already found for you, and you can make translation decisions in seconds rather than hours. It also help avoid having to read the many different Greek print styles, especially the handwritten ones – deciphering Greek calligraphy is a skill in itself, and is often a difficult process.
Harrison and Foster softly but firmly introduce you into the world of reading, translating and analyzing ancient Greek texts in a meaningful and comprehensive way.
The book itself is typed in a good-sized readable Greek font that is nicely set and spaced for easy reading. There are copious footnotes of almost every word, describing syntax, grammar, morphology and other nuances inside the context of I John. This allows the reader to move through the text at a rapid pace, learning new concepts on the way, and strengthening old ones.
The General Reader can be used in a classroom, or as a self-study tool. This is a must-have for those wishing to critically read 1-3 John in the original Greek. What would take the regular Greek reader hours in learning new vocabulary, analysis of variant textual manuscripts, grammar, and various textual problems, is reduced to a matter of minutes, if not seconds, by using this book. It is evident that lots of hard work and thought were put into this General Reader.
The price is inexpensive too. It can purchased at amazon.com
Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis, on the problem tongues of Corinth, as translated by Frank Williams.
Epiphanius has one of the most clearest and definitive accounts on the Corinthian tongues conflict than any other author. It is critical that his translation be critically analyzed and looked from a number of sources. An original Greek source text has been built, The Latin, which has its own nuances and may be based on an unknown manuscript, and my own translation is provided on this site, along with this one, done by Frank Williams.
Not much is known about Frank Williams outside of his massive and widely accepted modern translation of Epiphanius’ Panarion. He received his Phd from Oxford, and is now retired from the University of Texas.
Scholion 13 and 21. Marcion has erroneously added the words, “on the Law’s account,’’ < after > “Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding.”
(a) Elenchus 13 and 21. Thus the languages too are by the gift of the Spirit. But what sort of languages does the apostle mean? < He says, “languages in the church,” > to show < those who > preened themselves on the sounds of Hebrew, which are well and wisely diversified in every expression, in various complex ways—on the pretentious kind of Greek, moreover, the speaking of Attic, Aeolic and Doric—< that God does not permit just one language in church, as some of the people < supposed > who had stirred up the alarms and factions among the Corinthians, to whom the Epistle was being sent.
(b) And yet Paul agreed that both using the Hebrew expressions and teaching the Law is < a gift > of the Spirit. Moreover, to condemn the other, pretentious forms of Greek, he said he spoke with “tongues” rather (than those) because he was an Hebrew of Hebrews and had been brought up at the feet of Gamaliel; and he sets great store by the scriptures of these Hebrews , and < makes it clear > that they are gifts of the Spirit. Thus, in writing to Timothy about the same scriptures, he said, “For from thy youth thou hast learned the sacred scriptures.”
(c) And further, he said the same sort of thing < to > the people who had been trained by the Greek poets and orators, and added in the same way, “I speak with tongues more than ye all,” to show that he was more fully versed in the Greek education as well.
(d) Even his style shows that he was educated, since Epicureans and Stoics could not withstand him < when he preached the Gospel with wisdom at Athens >, but were defeated by the inscription on the altar, “To the unknown God,” which he read learnedly—which was read literally by him, and immediately paraphrased as “Whom ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.”
(e) And (they were defeated) again when he said, “A prophet of their own hath said, Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies,” meaning Epimenides, who was an ancient philosopher and erected the idol in Crete. Callimachus the Libyan also extended his testimony to himself by quoting Callimachus and saying falsely of Zeus:
The men of Crete are liars alway, Lord;
’Twas men of Crete that built thy tomb, though thou
Hast never died; thy being is eternal
(f ) And yet you see how the holy apostle explains of languages, “Yet in church I had rather utter five words with my understanding,” that is, “in translation.” As a prophet benefits his hearers with prophecy in the Holy Spirit by bringing things to light which have already been furnished to his understanding, I too, says Paul, < want > to speak so that the church may hear and be edified—not edify myself with the boast of Greek and Hebrew which I know, instead of edifying the church with the language which it understands.
(g) But you have added, “on the Law’s account,” Marcion, as though the apostle meant, “I want < to speak > (no more than) five words in church on the Law’s account.” Shame on you, you second Babylon and new rabble of Sodom! How long are you going to confuse the tongues? How long will you venture against beings you cannot harm? For you are attempting to violate angelic powers by expelling the words of the truth from the church and telling the holy Lot, “Bring the men out!”
(h) And yet your attempt is an attempt on yourself. You will not expel the words of the truth, but you will strike yourself blind and pass your life in utter darkness—fumbling for the door and not finding it, till the sun rises and you see the day of judgment, on which the fire will confront your falsehood also. For this is waiting for you, when you see. (i) “On the Law’s account” is not in the apostle, and you have made it up yourself. But even if the apostle were to say, “on the Law’s account,” he would be saying it, in harmony with his own Lord, not in order to destroy the Law but to fulfil it.
Scholion 14 and 22. “In the Law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people.”
(a) Elenchus 14 and 22. “If the Lord did not fulfill the things that had previously been said in the Law, why would the apostle need to mention things from the Law which are fulfilled in the New Testament? Thus the Savior showed that it was he himself who had spoken in the Law even then, and threateningly declared to them, “Therefore was I grieved with this generation and said, They do always err in their hearts, and I sware that they shall not enter into my rest.” For the same reason he promised to speak to them through men of other tongues—as indeed he did, and they did not enter.
(b) For we find him saying this to his disciples: “Unto you are given the mysteries of the kingdom, but unto them in parables, that seeing they may not see,”and so on. Hence (if ) the Old Testament sayings (are) fulfilled everywhere in the New, it is plain to everyone that the two Testaments are not Testaments of two different Gods, but of the same God.
As taken from: Nag Hammadi & Manichaean Studies. Vol. 63. Einar Thomassen and Johannes van Oort. Ed. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis. Book I (Sects 1-46). Translated by Frank Williams. Brill: Leiden. 2009. Pg. 349-351
It is one of the better works on the topic, and surpasses the level of arguments written by George H. Williams and Edith Waldvogel, A History of Speaking in Tongues and Related Gifts, published in Michael Hamilton’s 1975 work, The Charismatic Movement, which is ubiquitous in charismatic and pentecostal circles, or John Macarthur’s 1993 cessationist publication, Charismatic Chaos. (I haven’t read Macarthur’s new work, Strange Fire to comment on it.)
Middleton quotes a larger than usual number of Church Fathers when he covers the tongues of Pentecost, painting a portrait that it was the spontaneous speaking in a foreign language that the speaker previously did not know. He was not aware of any doctrine of a private prayer or heavenly language.
He makes the mistake of lumping both the tongues of Pentecost and the problem tongues of Corinth as the same entity, which is very problematic. He certainly leans upon Greek and Latin authors and excludes almost completely Hebrew and Jewish sources. By doing so he is working with a restricted set of tools.
His citing of Church literature is more extensive than most, but still falls considerably short. He does not grapple with the difficult texts offered by Gregory Nazianzus, which set the pace and discussion on the subject for centuries, nor of Augustine, who may have been the most prolific writer on tongues, which is a great oversight.
His work is plain quotation and there is no attempt to perform any textual criticism. He does delve into the Delphic oracles in a brief fashion, explaining that Christians were being accused by others of being of similar nature, but does not syncretize these two camps.
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.
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. ■
A brief analysis of the fifth-century tongues of Pentecost text by Basil of Seleucia.
As found in Migne Patrologia Graeca Vol. 64. Col. 420 to 421. Supplementum Ad S.J. Chrysostom Opera. Homilia in S. Pentecosten.
It is a difficult but important text.
The complexity resides in the fact the writer assumes a basic knowledge and background to the first Pentecost that is not shared by the modern reader.
Basil of Seleucia was the bishop of a region titled, Seleucia in Isauria – today a south central Turkish coastal town known as Silifke. His writing style has thought to be greatly influenced by John Chrysostom,(1)The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. As found at CCEL but a connection cannot be made when it comes to the doctrine of tongues. Chrysostom’s view was very limited, while Basil’s was extensive.
There is no doubt that Basil believed the tongues of Pentecost to revolve around the miracle of language and sound. He believed the purpose of this outward grace was for the proclamation of the Gospel throughout all the nations. The question of how Basil thought this miracle occurred is puzzling. He stitched three different opinions on the mechanics behind the miracle into one narrative without completely resolving the tensions between them.
It follows in a similar thought pattern found in Gregory Nazianzus’ work on the subject. Whereas Nazianzus posited two interpretations, one being a miracle of speech, and the other of hearing(2)See Nazianzus’ Tongues of Pentecost Paradox — though Basil’s second has little to do with a miracle of hearing, but on the producing of a divine sound.
The reader could understand it as the restoration of the primordial language that first was spoken before the fall of Babel, which the human mind has never lost the capacity to understand the sound heard. And when this first language was revived, those of every linguistic background understood it.
However, towards the end of the text, the emphasis shifts to the instantaneous ability to speak in a foreign language, but it is not entirely clear.
He nowhere intimates this was a non-human, divine, or prayer language. He was not aware of such theories during his time.
The grammar is impeccable in the Greek language. He consistently utilized synonyms throughout. It also has numerous words that can be traced to Ionic Greek — this is something I have never come across before within Greek Patristic writers.
His use of the noun tongue/language is intriguing. He used the multi-Greek noun (Doric, Aeolic, Ionic, Epic), γλῶσσα, on most occasions, but in others he switched to the Attic noun, γλῶττα. Why?
An analysis of the noun γλῶττα in the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (TLG) shows that it commonly interchanged with γλῶσσα. Particular attention was paid to Chrysostom whose texts have this same characterization. Attic Greek was the common language throughout Byzantium and γλῶττα would have been the preferred pronunciation. However, the Biblical text and christian doctrines are built around γλῶσσα. It is part of the christian religious vocabulary which the Attic speaking and writing Greeks had to honor. In the cases where the noun was not being used in the strictest religious sense, the authors would switch to γλῶττα.
Over time, my thoughts may change on this piece as more information from other authors come to light. There is a tension here that is not completely explained. ■