Tag Archives: holy Spirit

Gregory of Nyssa on Speaking in Tongues – English texts

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

Oratio de Spiritu Sancto sive in Pentecosten

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

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

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

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

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

Contra Eunomium

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

Chrysostom on the Doctrine of Tongues


A review of John Chrysostom’s works as it relates to the Christian doctrine of tongues.

His works on the doctrine of tongues is not so cut-and-dry as many portray him. A further look demonstrates far more complexity with grey areas and questions that remain unanswered.

This fourth-century Church Father is one of most quoted authors of the subject. His popularity on the topic is due to the great reverence associated with his name, the easy access of English translations, and his connection to miracles by the highly influential eighteenth-century writer Conyers Middleton. However, Chrysostom’s work is not a primary source that many have elevated it to. There are much better sources elsewhere.

Who was John Chrysostom and what did he contribute to the subject?

John got the title Chrysostom — which means golden mouthed, not because it was his last name, but to his great eloquence. This term was applied to him well after his death. Anyone reading one of his homilies can tell that he had the intellectual acuity combined with public acumen, and articulate speaking skills. He is one of the few that spoke or wrote in the first person within the community of ecclesiastical writers. He was considered the defacto standard for all that followed him in the Eastern Byzantine Christian world.

This is a look at his coverage of the subject with three important questions to be answered.

  • Did he believe that miracles had ceased in the Church altogether and so the idea of Christian tongues in the contemporary Church is moot?

  • What did he think happened at Pentecost? Was it the instant ability to speak in foreign languages, or was it something else?

  • What did he think of the Corinthian problem of tongues?

  • Did he recognize or argue against the Montanist practice of tongues?

Chrysostom on Montanism

The Montanist question will be answered first because it is the simplest. He didn’t recognize any Montanist contribution to either tongues or miracles in any of his texts.

Chrysostom on the tongues of Pentecost

Chrysostom clearly defined the doctrine of tongues as the spontaneous utterance of a foreign language unknown beforehand by the speaker. There was no concept whatsoever of a private, ecstatic or heavenly prayer language in his coverage.

Speaking in tongues was an issue that he was keenly aware of. He was constantly being asked that question, and felt it necessary to make a reply in his Homily, On the Holy Pentecost:

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.1

His answer was that signs were for the unbeliever. The faithful require no external signs for assurance because the Christian life is an internal matter of the heart and mind. If one depends on signs as the most important factor in personally knowing God, or as the stimuli that motivates in the Christian life and witness, then signs and miracles are the guiding force in life. It becomes the central part of one’s identity which must constantly be pursued. Chrysostom favored the ascetic inward life of devotion, acceptance, and good deeds as the guiding principle in the Christian life over being directed by external signs. Miracles and signs were too abstract and impersonal as a framework for daily Christian living.

Chrysostom on the tongues of Corinth and his effects on later interpretations

In almost every piece of tongues literature referencing the Church fathers, the following quote from Chrysostom is sure to be cited:

This whole place is very obscure: but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place. And why do they not happen now? Why look now, the cause too of the obscurity has produced us again another question: namely, why did they then happen, and now do so no more?2

This is a leading statement by those of the cessationist movement who believe the supernatural era was completed at the founding of the Church. This belief concludes that the miracle of tongues did not perpetuate itself after this. Therefore, it is not necessary to trace the definition, or evolution of the doctrine of tongues because anything defined after the first century is based on a false supposition.

The fourth century leaders Chrysostom, and Augustine, along with the fifth century Cyril of Alexandria carried similar thoughts on the subject, though each one represented this concept slightly different. Augustine restricted his opinion that only the individual expression of tongues had ceased, not the corporate one. Other miracles such as healing, prophecy, etc., were still viewed as operative.3 Cyril of Alexandria held that the miraculous endowment of languages at Pentecost was a temporary sign for the Jews. Those that received this blessing continued to have this power throughout their lives, but it did not persist after their generation.4 The association between these three demonstrates that there must have been an interpretive movement of this kind in the fourth and fifth centuries that bordered on a universal thought. However, there are problems. It doesn’t take into account the tongues-speaking experience of the fourth century Egyptian Monastic leader, Pachomius. The writers of this account display him speaking miraculously in an unlearned foreign language, and no one in antiquity has disputed or countered the theological legitimacy.5 Basil of Seleucia who tried 50 years later to emulate Chrysostom’s style and wrote a commentary on Pentecost, did not overtly carry on this tradition,6 but then he didn’t disprove it either. It was simply omitted in his coverage. Neither was the doctrine found in eighth century John of Damascus texts, who liberally borrowed from Chrysostom’s works.7 However, this is from a small sampling, more materials may come up on these two I haven’t read that may contradict my opinion. Michael Psellos in the tenth century failed to recognize any of these three in his comprehensive coverage on tongues, choosing to exclusively follow Gregory Nazianzus.8 On the other hand, Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century sided with Augustine that the miracle of tongues had switched from an individual, to a corporate expression.9 These examples demonstrate that the cessationalist doctrine of tongues was dominant and powerful during the fourth and fifth centuries, but it was not universal. It did perpetuate, but it was not the defacto standard.

The one who captivated this doctrine for centuries was Gregory Nazianzus. His technical approach can be traced in Christian literature for well over a thousand-years. He did not address whether tongues ceased or perpetuated, he solely concentrated on the mechanics on how this miracle operated at Pentecost.

For more information on Gregory Nazianzus on the doctrine of tongues, see, Gregory Nazianzus on the doctrine of Tongues Intro.

The earliest that Chrysostom’s name prominently recirculated after the fourth century in connection with miracles and the doctrine of tongues was by the English Church historian, Conyers Middleton, who wrote the controversial and game-changing 1749 work, Divine Inquiry. Middleton outlined that signs and miracles have not occurred since the time of the apostles. It was written both as an antidote against the excesses of Christian mysticism during his time and the establishment of the Protestant identity separate from the Roman Catholic authority. His scant reference to Chrysostom in the above work, along with more details found in, An Essay on the Gift of Tongues,10 gained attraction to Chrysostom’s thoughts on the subject after a long slumber. The concept became a stolid symbol for the conservative protestant identity in 1918, when the last theological leader of a united Princeton Seminary, B.B. Warfield, published, Counterfeit Miracles.11 Warfield utilized Chrysostom as a champion of that cause. The golden mouth preacher found a prominent proponent which renewed an interest in his works within the western world. The theological idea of cessation grew prominent in many theological circles and today is known as cessationism.

Chrysostom on Miracles

Did Chrysostom really believe miracles had ceased? A further look is yes if one does not look at all the information and no if the information is examined more closely. There has been some mulling over this since the publication of Free Inquiry where Middleton himself showed some difficulties with Chrysostom on the subject.12 He cited many examples from Chrysostom about the nature of demons and their remedies; such as letters about a young friend of Chrysostom, Stagirius, who chose the monastic life, and had both physical and emotional issues which Chrysostom sought healing through exorcism.13 Another one was cures using consecrated oil,14 and also believed that the sign of the cross was a “defence against all evil, and a medicine against all sickness, and affirms it to have been miraculously impressed, in his own time, on people’s garments,”15 and lastly that forcing one possessed by a demon to be near or touching the tomb of a Christian martyr, can bring about healing.16 There is more to miracles to Chrysostom than what was supplied by Middleton. In Homily 38 of the Acts of the Apostles, Chrysostom described a boy who was miraculously healed.17 Many of these stories revolve around demons which were considered a normative experience in Greek everyday life. It was not an unusual or extraordinary event. This was so prevalent that it would not be labelled as a special gift that only happened at the birthing of the Church. Added to this fact that Chrysostom believed the central Christian identity was “to enlist in Christ’s army for warfare against the devil and his hosts”.18

Secondly the healing of the young boy was either a direct intervention by God, or by the laws of nature. It was not attributed to the powers of a faith healer, which Chrysostom believed whose office had died. The healing via consecrated oil, and the sign of the cross suggests that Chrysostom believed that miracles had transferred from the individual and into the corporate Church expressed in the form of rituals. This is a similar concept espoused by Augustine who believed that the gift of tongues did not die, but rather its expression switched from the individual to the Church.19

The downgrading of miracles is consistent with Greek philosophic principles, in which even St. Paul recognized as different from Jewish perceptions, “For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom.”20 Signs were not a priority, understanding and applying meaning was utmost. This was very evident even at the time of Origen whose coverage of I Corinthians dwelled greatly on the concept of knowledge rather than the literalness of the text.21

Chrysostom demonstrates a cautionary approach to miracles. His response reflects a man who lived a very ascetic and restrictive lifestyle. The goal of every Christian’s life was not the outward activity such as healings or miracles, but the purity and selflessness of the inner soul. He very much minimized individualism and espoused corporate good. This can be gleaned from his writing found in his Homilies in Matthew 9:32;

For, as to miracles, they oftentimes, while they profited another, have injured him who had the power, by lifting him up to pride and vainglory, or haply in some other way: but in our works there is no place for any such suspicion, but they profit both such as follow them, and many others.22

He also outlined here the real danger of pride within those who perform miracles and cautioned against this type of leadership. Conversely, he demonstrated an openness to miracles happening through an anointed person. He believed many succumb to the temptation of pride. Perhaps he is following in the same line of thinking as Origen that the decline in miracles was due to the lack of altruistic, pious, and holy individuals in his generation.23 He never named anyone in his lifetime ever achieving this status. This was likely why Chrysostom venerated deceased saints who had achieved a high spiritual status in their lives that very few could ever achieve. He believed that they had miraculous powers even after they died and those attending by their graves could muster restorative power. This veneration in some Churches still exist today. The alleged skull remains of Chrysostom’s body, was brought out for a brief public viewing in 2007 at the Monastery of Mt. Athos. It was claimed to be healing people who appeared by it.24

Rowan A. Green took a deep look at Chrysostom and miracles in his book, The Fear of Freedom: A Study of Miracles in the Roman Imperial Church, and felt pressed to ask the question, what is Chrysostom worrying about? He answered by writing, Chrysostom identifies the quest for miracles with the magical practices he naturally supposes Christians must avoid. Still more, the Jews tend to become scapegoats in Chrysostom’s polemic.25

Another dynamic may be the idea of political stability. The central authority of the Church was based on literature, liturgy, ritual and offices, which were uniformly observed and established. If signs and wonders became the central focal point, it would have severely challenged the structure of the Church and could bypass established leadership, and all other established principles.

Clues into finding Chrysostom’s definition on the doctrine of tongues

Chrysostom had further important points in his Homilies on I Corinthians which is imperative to look into:

I Corinthians 14:3. . . .And it was thought great because the Apostles received it first, and with so great display; it was not however therefore to be esteemed above all the others. Wherefore then did the Apostles receive it before the rest? Because they were to go abroad every where. And as in the time of building the tower the one tongue was divided into many; so then the many tongues frequently met in one man, and the same person used to discourse both in the Persian, and the Roman, and the Indian, and many other tongues, the Spirit sounding within him: and the gift was called the gift of tongues because he could all at once speak various languages. . .

I Corinthians 14:10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and no kind is without signification:” i.e., so many tongues, so many voices of Scythians, Thracians, Romans, Persians, Moors, Indians, Egyptians, innumerable other nations. . .26

It is consistenly found in Chrysostom’s hermeneutic that the tongues of Babel, Pentecost and Corinth were the same thing. He mixes verses from many books to make a linear narrative on the doctrine.

His conclusion that tongues-speech in I Corinthians was obscure, his virulent anti-semitism, and narrow literalist interpretations all contributed to difficulty understanding this subject. He could not comprehend a Jewish antecedent as a background to Paul’s narrative of I Corinthians.

The Spirit sounding within him?

The above passages demonstrate that the miracle of Pentecost was the supernatural endowment of speaking in different languages. One portion of the text requires some additional thought. What did he mean by “the Spirit sounding within him.”? The actual Greek reads: τοῦ Πνεύματος ἐνηχοῦντος αὐτῷ which should properly be translated as:

While the Spirit teaches to him

This is slightly different from the standard English translation quoted above. It changes the nuance and should then read: “and the same person used to discourse both in the Persian, and the Roman, and the Indian, and many other tongues, while the Spirit teaches to him: and the gift was called the gift of tongues because he could all at once speak various languages.”

The old English version leaned on the Latin translation of the text which emphasized the idea of the Spirit sounding within (insonantes Spiritu) rather than the Greek which, according to Donnegan’s Greek Dictionary, believed Chrysostom used the word in other works to mean to teach or instruct.27 Secondly the Latin put the text into the ablative rather than keep the sense of the Greek genitive absolute.

The reader may think that this is an innocuous point being made. There are a number of ways to understand the tongues miracle. The first one was that the person thought in their own language and as they began to speak, their thoughts were divinely intercepted and their lips produced sounds in different foreign languages, which the Latin translation could be understood leaning towards. It was an external miracle. Therefore there was little intellectual involvement on behalf of the speaker. Or it can be that the speaker spoke a single language, and the hearers heard in their own language. Another argument was that the miracle happened internally. The person miraculously understood and comprehended a language not previously known, had immediate fluency, along with full voluntary control of what he was saying, which the Greek tends to promote. The text illustrates that Chrysostom believed it was an internal miracle. He did not explain whether this was a temporary phenomenon with those at Pentecost, or that it persisted with them throughout their lives.

The Corinthian tongues being a liturgical language?

Chrysostom further wrote an analysis of I Corinthians 14:15 that dwelled on the subject of tongues as a special foreign language used in the Church service:

I Corinthians 14:15 See how this one gradually building the argument demonstrating that such a thing is not only unprofitable for everyone else, but for himself, if it is so, his mind is unfruitful?

If someone should utter on in the Persian language, or in some foreign one, and additionally he does not know what he is saying, therefore it will also henceforth be alien to him, not just to another person, because the mastery of the voice would not be understood. In fact, there were formerly many having the gift of prayer by aid of a language. The language was being uttered — a prayer language being emitted whether in the Persian or Roman voice, and meanwhile, the mind did not know the thing being spoken.28

The text infers here that Chrysostom was aware the earlier Church had a religious liturgical language issued in the form of prayer, and it was supposed to be used universally throughout Christendom — however, he wasn’t sure what that liturgical language was. His guess was either of the two more prominent languages within his realm; Latin or Persian. He did acknowledge that there were once people skilled in this practice within the Church liturgy, but not within his time. This is an odd statement because Cyril of Alexandria, whose influence in Alexandria, Egypt, was only forty years later, stated that a Christian liturgical language, along with an interpreter-like-person called the keimenos was still in use within the Churches of Egypt.29

Chrysostom also pointed out that those previously who read or spoke in the religious liturgical language did not necessarily know what they were reading or saying. They were trained to simply read out the sounds, or speak them out from memory. It shows that this practice had been abandoned in the Antioch area by his time but not necessarily throughout the universal Christian community.

Some Additional thoughts about Chrysostom on tongues

His fourth homily on the Acts of the Apostles clearly spells out that Pentecost was the supernatural endowment of one or many foreign languages.30

He also provides more material from his homilies On the Holy Pentecost about the passages in the Book of Acts where people being baptized, miraculously spoke in foreign 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. 31

He takes a position here that the person was spontaneously speaking in all the languages of the world. It is a broad statement which doesn’t explain the mechanics behind this. Was the person speaking a few words in one language, then switching to a second, and so on, until complete? Wouldn’t that take far too long? And would it be considered a miracle only to say a few words in each language and then switch to another?

These questions are unfortunately not answered. Chrysostom himself realized this in his address on the doctrine of tongues in his homilies On the Holy Pentecost. He bluntly dived right in, stating that believers do not need signs. External things are insignificant. He knew his audience would not completely buy into this and added, “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.”32 He never completely finished the topic. It would have been helpful for posterity that he did. So he left us with a lot of question marks as to what he meant.

This may be the reason why Nazianzus’ writing of the subject perpetuated for centuries and his opinions did not. ■

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

An English Translation of the Tongues Passages found in De Trinitate

An English translation of the texts relating to the doctrine of tongues as found in De Trinitate — a work traditionally attributed to Didymus of Alexandria.

For the actual Greek text, go to The Greek and Latin texts on the Dogma of Tongues found in De Trinitate.

Didymi Alexandrini. De Trinitate Liber Primus. XVIII:31. MPG. Vol. 39 Col. 348

In the Book of Genesis, regarding the building of the tower1 the God and Father has revealed the blessed substance, His own Son and His holy Spirit said: “Come, having gone down let us confuse their language so that each one, they were not to be able to hear the voice of [his] neighbour.”2

And I think as well Moses also shows the equality of the Trinity. He set forth one vine in three roots,3 nowhere then has another root spoken in greater quantity, lest anyone reckon the one person over the other, but all of these in fact we believe three to converge into one deity. On this account the divinely inspired Scripture prevents to make [any form of] hierarchy [within the Trinity] in the altar in which the Three receives praise.

Didymi Alexandrini. De Trinitate Liber Secundus. MPG. Vol. 39. Col. 728ff

“For through the agency of the laying of hands they were freeing4 men from various maladies, even when the shadow of Peter’s body falls5 [upon someone], while Paul’s personal6 handkerchiefs too brought about healings.7 And Paul certainly wrote to the Romans, “In respect to the one who believes, that there is to be more than enough for you in the hope [and] in the power of the holy Spirit.”8

In this perspective Peter was confidently calling out the devil, declaring9 the divine essence of the holy Spirit, saying to Ananias, “How is it10 that Satan has tempted your heart that you are deceiving the holy Spirit?” For who is the one being lied to? [Peter] who was [under] the influence said,“You did not lie to man but to God.”11

For there was not any kind of reverence in them, who is reduced to that of riches,12 or13 who breathes injustice, or does not see what is the right thing,14 or is not in a state of mind15 concerning the pure nature of the Trinity, as perhaps it was he who ascended the foremost world thrones, and this one possesses in the hands the highest powers.16

But on the contrary they were taking no notice of the purple authority17 itself, they were masters of riches, possessing the undiminishable treasure of the holy Spirit.

And they were speaking as well in different languages, “even as”, it says, “the Spirit was giving them to utter.”18 And the Galileans were understanding19 the instruction20 of Parthians, Medes, Persians; and the different sorts of foreign speech of mankind,21 including also Greek, and the Ausonian language.22 Many voices23 were indeed produced, and were showing of such things, we are destined to discover about the age to come, when having been liberated from the bonds of this present world, which corresponds to the voice of Paul, “Where there is not among them Greek, Barbarian, Scythian, but Christ is the all and in all.”24 And clearly he meant the same identical essence as according to the Trinity, “Christ is all and in all.” Where seeing that we seek. . .

Unfortunately the Greek source text abruptly terminates here, and restarts at a new section that does not pick-up where this text left-off.

Didymi Alexandri. De Trinitate Liber Secundus. MPG. Vol. 39. Col. 501

“The water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life,”25 He said this concerning the holy Spirit, where those who believe were destined to receive from Him. And this too, “For we have become partakers of Christ.”26 Then “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,”27 And it was exceedingly fitting such a thing being said in the Book of Acts28 “And there appeared to the apostles tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested upon each one of them, and they were all filled with the holy Spirit.”29 And to which was said by John, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire,”30 by which is similar to the oracle31 by Moses, “God is a consuming fire,” and by Isaiah, “For behold, the LORD will come in fire.”32

Augustine on the Tongues of Pentecost in English

An English translation of the texts relating to the christian doctrine of tongues by Augustine, Bishop of Hippo.

For introductory notes, purpose, and background to these translations, go to Augustine on the Tongues of Pentecost: Intro

1. In Epistolas Joannis et Parthos (407–409 AD)

As translated by Charles Sullivan. MPL Vol. 35. Augustine. In Epistolas Joannis et Parthos VI:10 (6:10) Col. 2025ff

In the earliest times the holy Spirit was falling upon those who believe and was given the ability to speak1 in languages, which they had not previously learned,2 even as the Spirit was giving them utterance. These were signs adapted for the time. For it was in this manner necessary that the holy Spirit to be shown in all the languages which the Gospel of God was3 about to run around all the earth through all the languages. That it is to be a sign and has passed. Can it now be to those receiving the laying of hands when they receive the holy Spirit, is there an expectation with this, that they must speak in languages? Or rather when we laid hands on those4 infants, does anyone of you pay attention to whether they were speaking in languages or when it was seen of them that they did not speak in languages, was it according to the perverseness of the heart with some of you that you would say, “These did not receive the holy Spirit, for if they had received, would they be speaking in languages even as was done in times past? Then, if it should not now be appointed as the evidence of the presence of the holy Spirit through these miracles, from what point does it take place, from which point does each one know that he himself has received the holy Spirit? He should examine his own heart, if he loves a5 brother, the Spirit of God dwells with him. Let him see, let him demonstrate himself6 personally in the eyes of God. He should examine in him if the love is of peace and unity, the love of the Church which has been spread throughout the whole earth. He should not only apply his attention to love a brother, which he has applied before him, for we do not see many of our brothers and we are joined in the unity of the Spirit with them.

Enarratio in Psalmum (396–420 AD)

2. Enarratio in Psalmum LIV:11

As translated by Charles Sullivan. MPL Vol. 36. Augustine. Enerratio in Psalmum LIV:11 (54) Col. 636

“Drown, O Lord, and divide7 their languages. He paid close attention about those who are troubling and feigning8 with themselves, and he selected this, not in anger, brothers. Those who brought evil amongst themselves, it is made ready for them that they should be drowned, those who unite in evil, it is made ready for them that their languages should be divided. They could work together for a good purpose and the their languages could be in harmony. If then, “my enemies together were whispering against me” and states “all the evils against me”9 (Ps. 40:8), they could be destroyed together in evil. For their languages should be divided, that they should not be in harmony together among themselves. Drown, O Lord, and divide their languages. “Drown”, why? Because they raised themselves up. “Divide”, why? Because they plotted evil in unison. It is to be remembered their high building after the flood which was built of arrogance. What kind of arrogance did they mean? We should not be destroyed in a flood, we shall make another high building (Gen. 11:4). Within the arrogance, they considered themselves protected, they built another tall building, and the Lord divided their tongues. Then at that time they began to not be able to understand each other. From here the origin of many languages was found. Certainly before this there used to be one language and one language was beneficial for unity, one language was beneficial for mankind, but on the other hand, whereby those gathered had been instructed10 in the unity of pride, the Lord spared these ones11 so that instead He took to dividing the languages, lest they were to build a pernicious unity with the ability to understand each other. The languages were divided by reason of mankind’s pride, tongues were brought together through the agency of the humble apostles. The spirit of pride scattered the languages. The holy Spirit brought together the languages. Certainly when the holy Spirit fell upon the disciples they spoke in all the languages, from this point they understood everything (Acts 2:4). The languages which had been scattered, they were brought together as one. Consequently if now they are in a rage and are not of the faith, He made them to have been separated by language. They want one language, for this purpose they come to the Church, because the language of the flesh is in diversity, one is the language within the faithful soul.

3. Enerratio in Psalmum XCVI (96)

As translated by Charles Sullivan. MPL Vol. 37. Augustine. Enerratio in Psalmum XCVI (96) Col. 1247ff – on the conversion of Cornelius

And because Cornelius was of the gentile race and also those who were with him had not been circumcised, so that they would not hesitate to deliver the Gospel to the non-circumcised, the holy Spirit came, and filled them before Cornelius was baptized and those who were with him, and they began to speak in languages. The holy Spirit had fallen upon no one, except those who had been baptized. He had fallen on those ones stated above before baptism. For Peter was hesitantly embracing whether he ought to baptize the uncircumcised. The holy Spirit came and they began to speak in languages. …Because a vision had greatly demonstrated to Peter, [this vision] pointed out [that] it spread out all things for them, such as the way Cornelius believed, because before the gentile man was to be baptized, the holy Spirit came upon him.

4. Enarratio in Psalmum CXLVII:19 (147:19).

As translated by Charles Sullivan. MPL Vol. 37 Augustine. Enarratio in Psalmum. CXLVII:19 (147:19) Col. 1929

Read the Acts of the Apostles, if perhaps I am inventing, how the disciples had been gathered together in that place, when the holy Spirit came in order to demonstrate to you what the Lord is saying, “By the origins from Jerusalem”12 just as the holy Spirit came in all those who spoke in every language. Why then is there no [present] ability to speak in all the languages? See that sounds went out in every language. Why presently to whomever the holy Spirit is granted, that he is not speaking in all the languages? This was a proof at that time of the holy Spirit’s coming into men that they were speaking in all languages. Now you are bound to be called something, a teacher of false doctrine? Because has not the holy Spirit been given? Am I not saying when? Is He being given or not given? If He is not being given, what is it that motivates you for the purpose of speaking, being baptized and giving out praises? What is it that motivates you? You are celebrating foolish things. He is given now. If He is given [then the following question is to be asked] why are to those He is imparted on not speaking in all languages? Can it be the gift of God has waned, or the fruit is inferior? The tare and also the wheat have grown “Allow both to grow until the harvest” (Matt. 13:30). It was not said, Let the tare multiply and the grain diminish. Why then does the holy Spirit not appear now in all languages? On the contrary He does appear in all the languages. For at that time the Church was not yet spread out through the circle of lands, that the organs of Christ were speaking in all the nations. Then it was filled-up into one, with respect to which it was being proclaimed in every one of them. Now the entire body of Christ is speaking in all the languages. To those which it is not yet speaking, it will be speaking in the future. For the Church will multiply until it shall seize all the languages [in the entire world]. Hold fast with us until that time had come near, and you shall arrive with us to that which had not yet drawn near. I intend to teach you to speak in all the languages. I am in the body of Christ, I am in the Church of Christ. If the body of Christ is now speaking in all the languages, [then] also I am indeed speaking in all languages; to me it is that of Greek, Syrian, Hebrew, it is of every nation, because in unity, I am of every nation.

Sermons transcribed into writing attributed to Augustine (393–430 AD)

5. Sermo CLXXV:3 (175:3)

As translated by Charles Sullivan. MPL Vol. 38. Augustine. Sermo. CLXXV:3 (175:3) Col. 946

Then the actual promise came and the holy Spirit came, filled the disciples, they began to speak in the languages of all the nations. The sign in these was advancing unity. Namely then one man was speaking in every language because the unity of the Church was bound to speak in every language. They were frightened who were hearing. For they knew the men to be uneducated ones, that they were men of only one language. They were amazed and astounded, because those men of one language or at most two [languages] were speaking in the languages of all the nations.13

6. Sermo CCLXV:10 (265:10)

As translated by Charles Sullivan. MPL Vol. 38. Augustine. Sermo CCLXV:10 (265:10)14 Col. 1224

What conditions are there in the coming of the holy Spirit? The holy Spirit came, first of all filled, causing them to speak in every language. Each man speaking in every language. What other type did it signify, than unity with every language? These things having been preserved in this, approved in this, reinforced in this, fixed in the unshaken love of God, let us praise the Lord, you children and say hallelujah [Ps. 112:1]. But is it to be in one place [of this earth]? From where and all the way to? From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, the name of the Lord is worthy of praise.15

7. Sermo CCLXVI:2 (266:2)

As translated by Charles Sullivan. MPL Vol. 38. Augustine. Sermo CCLXVI:2 (266:2) Col. 1224-1225

The advent of the holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The unity of the Catholic Church has been signified by gift of tongues. Certainly then we celebrate the solemnity of the holy Spirit’s coming. For on the day of Pentecost, whose day now begins, there was in one place 120 souls, to which are the Apostles and the mother of the Lord and those of the other sex praying and expecting what was promised in Christ, this is the coming of the holy Spirit.

It was not a foolish hope of one’s own anticipation, because it was not a false promise of that which is promised. It was being hoped for, it came and a clean vessel, so that he could be received by anyone, He came. “Their appeared to them the distribution of tongues even as of fire, which rested on each one of them, and they began to speak in in tongues as the spirit gave them utterance.” Each man was speaking in every language, it was being announced beforehand because the Church was about to be in every language. One man was a sign of unity. Every language by one man, every nation in unity.

8. Sermo CCLXVII (267)

As translated by Charles Sullivan. MPL Vol. 38. Augustine. Sermo CCLXVII (267) Col. 1230ff

On the Day of Pentecost

Chapter I. The Solemn Observance of the holy Spirit’s Arrival

The solemnity of today’s day brings about the recollection concerning the great and great merciful Lord God, which was poured out on us. In fact for that reason the solemn festival is being celebrated, not that it had been done only a single time, that it was to have been deleted from memory. Indeed the solemn time received the name by that which is habitually performed in the midst of the year. How the perpetuity of the river is spoken, because it is not dried out in summer, but flows through the entire year. For that reason it is perennially during the year. Just like the solemn festival that is custom to celebrate in the midst of the year. We celebrate today the coming of the holy Spirit. For the Lord sent from heaven the holy Spirit which He promised to the earth. And in such a manner because He had promised from heaven that which was about to be sent. “He is not able to come, unless I go, as long as I go, I may send him to you” (John 6:17)

He was crucified, He was dead, He arose, He ascended: He was with-holding in order that He would fill-up which He had promised. His disciples were expecting this of the wind when it was written “120” (Acts 1:15), ten times the number of apostles. For He chose 12 and in 120 He sent the Spirit. They were then expecting this promise in one house and praying. Because they were desiring now themselves for the faith, for speech, and in actual spiritual longing, they were new [wine]skins, awaiting the new wine from heaven and it came. Indeed now that magnificent grape had been reckoned and glorified. For we read in the Gospel, “For the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet been glorified,” (John 8:39).

Chapter II. The Gift of Tongues

Now that it has appeared, you have heard a great miracle. Everyone who had drawn near had spoken one language. The holy Spirit came, they were filled, they began to speak in the various languages16 of all the nations, which they had not known nor had they been acquainted with, but He was teaching who had come. He entered inside, they were filled, it poured out. And then this was a sign; whoever was receiving the holy Spirit, when having been filled with the Spirit, suddenly began speaking in all the languages (Acts 10:46). The Epistles themselves show us not only these 120. Afterwards men believed, they were baptized, they received the holy Spirit, they were speaking in the tongues of all the nations.

They who had drawn near had become terrified, others were astonished, others mocked so that they would say, “They are drunk, they are full of new wine” (Acts 2:1-3). They were mocking and one or another were speaking the truth. For the wineskins had been filled with the new wine. You have heard when the Gospel is read, “No one puts new wine in old wineskins” (Matt 9:17), The fleshly does not comprehend the spiritual. The flesh is old, grace is new. How much man is been restored into a better state, he comprehends by so much more because he truly tastes the truth. The fresh wine was in bubbling motion and the tongues of the nations were breathed out with the ebullionating new wine.

Chapter III. Why the Gift of Tongues is not yet being withdrawn

Can it be brothers, the holy Spirit not been given now? Whoever thinks this is not deserving to receive. He is being given and now. Why then is no one speaking in the tongues of all the nations just as he spoke who at the time was being filled with the holy Spirit? Why? Because this was a sign that has been satisfied. What is this? When we have celebrated the forty days, let yourselves recall, because we have mentioned to you that the Lord Jesus Christ has brought together and has arisen His Church.

The disciples were asking, “When will be the end of the age?”, and this, “It is not for you to know the times or the minutes which the Father has placed in His control.” Yet He was pouring out what He completed today. “For you shall receive the wealth of the holy Spirit coming upon you, and you will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem and in all of Judea and Samaria and through the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:7-8). The Church was at that time in one house, it received the holy Spirit, He was in a few persons, He was in the languages of all the circle of lands. Behold how far it has extended now.

For respect to which this small Church was speaking in the tongues of the nations, how is it, except that this great Church is presently speaking to the east even as the west with the tongues of all nations? It is being completed now which was promised at that time. We have heard, we have seen, “Hear daughter, and see!” [Ps 34:11]. It was written to the queen herself, “Hear daughter and see!” Hear that which was promised! See that which was completed!

Your God nor your betrothed deceived you, nor did He deceive you who provided a dowry with His blood. He did not deceive you whom He made property of horrible beauty and unclean virginity. By you were promised yourself, but that which was promised in smallness, now was then fulfilled in greatness.

Chapter IV. The holy Spirit, so to speak as the soul of the Church body, does not reside outside of the Church

No one has then said, “I have received the holy Spirit, why am I not speaking in the languages of all the nations?” If you wish to have the holy Spirit, direct your course my brothers. Our spirit who gives life to every man is called a soul and you see what the soul does to the body. It stirs up all the parts. He sees by the eyes, hears by the ears, breathes by the nose, speaks by a language, closes by the hands, walks by the feet. It puts all the parts together in order that they should live. It gives life to everything in each function. The eye does not hear, nor the ear see, nor a language see, and the ear and eye do not speak. But nevertheless lives, the ear exists, a language exists. They are different functions. A life to share. So it is with the Church of God. In one who was sanctified, produces miracles, another who was sanctified speaks the truth, in another who was sanctified preserves virginity, in another was sanctified an honest marriage. In some this and others that. Each one works peculiar but they live equally. How the soul is of the body of man is the holy Spirit of the body of Christ, which is the Church. The holy Spirit is doing this in every Church, which the soul is doing in every part of one body. But look how cautious you are. Look how watchful you are. Look how fearful you are when held together within the body, nay, but rather, away from the body some piece is cut off, a hand, a finger, a foot, is it to follow the soul?

While it is in the body, it lived. When having been cut off, it gives up life. Just as man is a Catholic Christian, when in the body he lives, the heretic, when having become cut off, the piece cut off does not follow the Spirit. If you wish to live in the holy Spirit, preserve charity, love, truth, desire unity from now until eternity. Amen.

9. Sermo CCLXVIII (268)

As translated by Charles Sullivan. MPL Vol. 38. Augustine. Sermo CCLXVIII (268) Col. 1231ff

On the Day of Pentecost, II

1. The holy Spirit commits to the unity of the Church universal by the gift of tongues. On account of the holy Spirit having arrived, this present day is solemn to us, 50th from the resurrection of the Lord, but reckoning 7 x 7 results in 49. One is being inserted, that oneness is being given in trust with us. What then did the holy Spirit’s personal arrival do, what did it deliver? Whence did it point out His own presence.

Everyone spoke in the languages of the nations. There was in one place 120. 10 by the order of 12, the sacred number of Apostles in the divine mystery, is tenfold. Then some, each one in which the holy Spirit came, they began to speak in each one of the languages of the nations, to this one a different language, and to this one another, and was it as if they divided between them these languages of the nations? Not in this manner, but each man, one man was speaking in the languages of all the nations. One man was speaking in the languages of the nations: the unity of the Church is in the languages of all the nations. Behold also this unity of the Universal Church being commissioned upon has been spread out throughout the whole world.

2. The holy Spirit outside the Church does not exist. Whoever has the holy Spirit is in the Church, which is speaking in all the languages. Whoever is outside this Church, does not have the holy Spirit. For that reason indeed the holy Spirit deemed to reveal itself in the languages of all the nations, so the one that perceives to have the holy Spirit itself, that person is sustained17 in the unity of the Church, which is speaking in all the languages. “One body”, Paul the Apostle says, “One body and one spirit (Eph. 4:4)…”

[Augustine goes on for a number of paragraphs explaining Church unity here and we skip a verse.]

4. Christ entrusts the unity of the Catholic Church through the Apostles. [Col. 1234] …in the 40th day he ascended into heaven, and now on this present day everyone who were drawing near18 are filled with the holy Spirit, and are speaking in the languages of all the nations. Likewise, unity itself is being qualified by means of the languages of the nations, by the rising Lord and by the ascending Christ: it is being proven by the holy Spirit’s coming today.19

9. Sermo CCLXIX (269) – Augustine’s polemic against the Donatists.

As translated by Charles Sullivan. MPL Vol. 38 Augustine. Sermo CCLXIX (269) Col. 1234ff

On the Day of Pentecost, III

1. The coming of the holy Spirit with the gift of languages announces unity of the Church through all the nations. Against the Donatists.20

We celebrate the coming of the holy Spirit with an annual celebration. One is obligated for this solemn coming together, reading, and speech. The first two are done,21 because you have also regularly come together and while it was being read, you listened. Let us pay respect to the third: let not the oneness in belief and action22 of our language be lacking in Him who also bestowed all the languages to the unlearned, and brought under the yoke the languages of the learned in all the nations and brought together the diverse languages of the nations for the unity of the faith. “for there came”, and then was added, “a sound suddenly from heaven, which was generating a violent wind: and different tongues appeared to them even as fire, which also possessed each one them. They began to speak in tongues even as the Spirit gave them the ability to utter.”(Acts 2:2-4)23

For this wind did not blow out, but invigorated. That fire did not consume, but excited; He had been filled-up in them, as had been prophesied so much before, “There are no languages, speeches, of whose voices are not heard, for they were made for the purpose of the Gospel being distributed”, which follows, “Their sound goes through all the earth and their words to the ends of the earth” (Psalms 18:4-5).24

Namely, the holy Spirit was foretelling in the languages of all the nations, which it was giving to them, [these people] whom had only learned one language of their own nation (with respect to which He preferred that it be the sign of His own presence at that time)25if not all the nations who are bound to believe in the Gospel; in the first case [of those who were individually] of the faith, was it not after this certainly the unity of the Church speaking in all the languages? What are they saying about this, that those in the Christian fellowship, which is bearing new fruit and increasing in all the nations, be unwilling to incorporate or even be yoked together? How then are they to deny the holy Spirit has come into the Christian now? Why then that anyone speaking the languages of the nations is now neither with us nor with those others (because previously the coming was his sign), unless it is now being finished26 because in the past it was made a sign?

On the other hand is anyone ever able to deny that the holy Spirit is coming in the Christian still today? Why then [is it] now neither among us, nor speaking anything among those in the languages of the nations (because it was at that time the sign of His coming), unless it is now being fulfilled in what was being signified back then?

Namely also back in the past one of the faithful was speaking in every language: and now the unity of the faithful ones is speaking in all the languages. Now then for that reason all of our languages exist, because we are members of the body in which they thrive.

10. Sermo CCCLII:2 (352:2)

As translated by Charles Sullivan. MPL Vol. 39. Augustine. Sermo. CCCLII:2 (352:2) Col. 1550

When the holy Spirit was sent which was promised beforehand, and the Lord fulfilled the truth of His promise to the disciples who had received the holy Spirit, as you knew, they began to speak in all the languages, that in respect to those who were present, everybody was recognizing their own language.

11. Retractiones

An excerpt from his later works in life that emended/clarified his earlier writings.

What I also said, that those miracles were not allowed to continue in our times, lest the soul should always seek after things visible, and mankind should wax cold by their frequency, who had been inflamed by their novelty, is certainly true. For when hands are laid on the baptized, they do not receive the Holy Ghost now, in such a manner as to speak with the tongues of all the nations; nor are the sick now cured by the shadow of Christ’s preachers as they pass by them, and others such as these, which, it is manifest, did afterwards cease; But what I said, is not so to be understood as if no miracles are believed to be performed now in the name of Christ : for I myself, when I wrote that very book, (De Vera Religione,) knew that a blind man had received his sight in the city of Milan, at the bodies of the Milanese martyrs, and several others besides; nay, such numbers are performed in these our days, that I neither can know them all, nor though I knew them, could I enumerate them.27

There are still even more citations that Augustine wrote about the gift of tongues. Sermo CCLXXI (271) MPL Vol 38 Col. 1246; Enarration in Psalmum. LIV:11 (54:11) MPL Vol 36 Col. 636ff; Enarration in Psalmum. XCVI:8 (96:8) MPL Vol. 37 Col. 1247; Enarratio in Psalmum. CXLVII:19 (147:19) MPL Vol. 37 Col. 1929: And In Joannis Evangelium XXXII:6-7 MPL Vol. 35 Col. 1645 and XCII:1 MPL Vol. 35 Col. 1863.

Bede's Book of Reflection on the Acts of the Apostles 2:1-18

The Venerable Bede on the doctrine of tongues. An English translation of his Book of Reflection on the Acts of the Apostles chapters 2:1-18.

Translated by Charles A. Sullivan from MPL. Vol. 92. Bedæ Venerabilis: Liber Retractationis In Actus Apostolorum. Col. 998-1000

A Book of Reflection on the Acts of the Apostles

Chapter 2

“And when the days of Pentecost were completed, they were all together in the same place,” Some of the other Codices1 wrongly have Pentecost in the accusative case. For Pentecost in the nominative case is called the fiftieth — in the genitive, is called of the fiftieth, in the accusative [it is simply] the fiftieth day2 Moreover not one account permits this to be spoken this way, so that when we say Pentecost in the accusative case, when really it ought to be said, “when the day of Pentecost was completed.” certainly it is said without doubt to be with the singular number in the Greek.

“And when the days of Pentecost were completed.” Of course in the very same day of prayer it should be mentioned as well, “These ones celebrate the most sacred Pentecost day,”3 that is, the fiftieth. The solemnity of this day is being reckoned by the tradition of such a word, by which some who do not know the Greek language, even now ought to call Pentecost in the nominative case.

“And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming: and it filled the whole house where they were sitting,” etc.4 And the actual distinction is most apparent in the giving of the law and in grace with the Old and New testaments. Where it says the group5 was resting far away, fear, not love was present. They continually dreaded thus far, as they were saying to Moses, “Speak to us, and let not the Lord speak to us, lest we die.” [Exodus 20:19] Then God descended, as it was written, on Sinai as fire, but the frightened group stands still far away, the law by a finger in the stone, nor was it written by the spirit itself in the heart. However, when the holy Spirit came here, the faithful were joined together as one — not even scared on the mountain but entered into the house. Indeed, a sound suddenly came from heaven, so that [the group] was affected also as if a violent wind made a noise, but was not terrified. You have heard the sound. Consider the fire, because each was also on the mountain. And the fire and sound, and yet also smoke, this fire, as if the fire of divided languages. Can it be that it continues to frighten those far away? Let it be far from the hearts of the faithful. For it rested on each one of them and they began to speak in languages, even as the Spirit gave them utterance. Hear the language being spoken, and understand the Spirit writing not in stone, but in the heart.

“And there appeared to them parted tongues, as it were of fire: and it sat upon every one of them.”6 It is of this fire, [which is in the genitive case], not this fire [which is in the nominative case]. For in the Greek it has πυρὸς7 not πῦρ.8 So that this kind of distinction was easy to figure out. As if it was to be said with an added word “And there appeared parted tongues, as it were of a glowing fire,”9 or as it were of a brilliant fire, so that it may be understood regarding the definition of fire to be distributed languages.

“And they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak. Now there were dwelling at Jerusalem, Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.”10 It does not have in the Greek in this place, divers tongues but other tongues. For Isaiah expressed that “In other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people: and neither so will they hear me, saith the Lord.”11 So that the blessed Luke no doubt was inferring this prophecy which was to be fulfilled by gift of the Spirit, likewise the same word was what he saw in the prophecy, he took care to set down in this sacred history.

“Because that every man heard them speak in his own tongue. And they were all amazed, and wondered, saying: Behold, are not all these that speak Galilean? etc.”12 I know to hold myself back from this matter because I have said this thought can be understood in two ways; or rather that I was obligated to find-out how it ought to be understood. I am going to respond briefly to this matter that everything whatsoever of the same sentiment I have written in my previous book. I did not mention this by reason of personal experience, but from the words of the holy and faultless teacher in every respect, that is, I take up Gregory Nazianzus. It is certainly agreed that the apostles filled with the holy Spirit were speaking in all languages,13 neither is it permitted to be questioned by anyone14 about this. But in the manner how they were speaking it is to be asked without reservation. It could be the speech of the Apostles had so much power, that they became familiar with the diverse languages by all those, the hearer then is equally able to understand. Or can it be whichever one was being spoken, one was necessary in regards to being appropriate of so great a multitude, with the others left silent, at the moment producing a word of instruction,15 the person who was speaking at first to the Hebrews, that it produced the speech in Hebrew, while the others do not know what was being said. Then to the Greeks, while those who are ignorant in the Greek language and with the others left waiting. Next to the Parthians, after this the Medes, and so Elamite, and whichever ones are being listed through an order by the nations, its own particular language was to have been spoken, each one at a time awaiting, and being silent, until its order arrives, something was being spoken, they were understood, and so they were to render the approval of the faithful by the words of these teaching,16 Moreover Luke reports Peter speaking to the crowds and he did not report that he [Peter] spoke repeating the same things the second or third [time], but that these [crowds] in whom have received the plan of salvation are hardly consecrated in the mysteries of the Christian faith.17

On the other hand I do not think this to be an error. If either of the two can be trusted to have taken place, and that the apostles in the holy Spirit clearly understood the languages of the nations and had the ability to speak, and the words too were in whatever language expressed by a great miracle, to all who were hearing, that they equally had the ability to learn.18

“And those who inhabit Mesopotamia, Cappodocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia.”19 These provinces which are named [in the text] after Judea, are uttered in the Greek language, but if nothing diverse were sounding out in the native usage, so by no means were they to record the fine distinction of languages. From whence the Spirit was to actively be seen in the wonderful grace among the apostles, which not only taught them the diversity of all the languages, and certainly also the distinction of qualities in every language equal the total of provinces which they make use of in this way, he did to be knowledgeable in their utterances.20

“And strangers of Rome.” The more proper way was contained in the Greek, “Roman foreigners,” that is Jews who were leading the foreign life of Rome, just like others elsewhere, of which had been written above. For this reason the strangers were in this place, who in the Greek were called proselytes, that is, those who from the gentiles to Judaism, leaving the religion of the gentiles21 had come together. It is made clear from the following verse when it says, “Jews also, and proselytes.”.2223

Need information on Bede and the subject matter? The following link may help: The Venerable Bede on the Doctrine of Tongues.

Bede’s Initial Commentary on Acts 2:1-18

The Venerable Bede on the doctrine of tongues. An English translation of his initial commentary on the Acts of the Apostles chapters 2:1-18.

Translated by Charles A. Sullivan from MPL. Vol. 92 Bedæ Venerabilis: Super Acta Apostolorum Expositio. Col. 945-948

Bede’s Initial Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles

Chapter 2

“And when the days of Pentecost were completed, they were all together in the same place,” that they are being narrated to have been up high. For whoever longs to be filled by the holy Spirit, it is necessary that they should climb above the residence of flesh to the contemplative mind. Just like also the forty days, by which the Lord after His resurrection had dwelled with the disciples, they note the Church rising together of those who live abroad, so on the fiftieth day that the holy Spirit is being received, a completion of blessed peace, that the work of the temporary Church will be repaid in an eternal 10,1 He will suitably pronounce. For the calculated number 40 adds 10 more itself from its equal parts, and it makes 50. Half of 40 is 20, the 4th by that of five,2 5th x 8, 8th x 5, 10th x 4, 20th x 2, 40th x 1. For 20,10, 8, 5, 4, 2, and 1 make 50.3 For it is easy to figure-out the form of this calculation, seeing the present strife is the joy of the 50th4 to us,5 as if secretly generating the imperishable, from which the Apostle teaches: “For that which is at the present moment and the trivialness of our trouble, works greatness in us, the eternal weight of glory above measure” [I Corinthians 4:17]6

But the reality is our supreme happiness of the body and soul, we are the ones who pride ourselves in immortality that is being nourished in the eternal vision by the substance and blessing of the Trinity.7 For we exist in four well known distinguished parts of the body. In the inner man, from every heart, soul and mind together, we desire to love God. And this is the perfect 10 of life, that we are to be joyful in the present vision of divine glory. The truth is about to be observed adjoining history that is in the writings of the early authorities, the day of Pentecost, that is, the 50th, which the Law was given, was reckoned after the slaughter of the lamb. This is also not from the passion of the Lord, but as the blessed Augustine explained, 50 days from His resurrection, which the holy Spirit had been sent, it is being reckoned, that, with the evidence taking place of the long standing proof.8 He [the Spirit] Himself most evidently consecrated the day of the Lord with His arrival. In that critical moment of time, the Passover day of the Lord demonstrated that it must be celebrated. For as it is here, and as well as God appeared in a vision of fire, as it says in Exodus, “And all Mount Sinai was on a smoke: because the Lord was come down upon it in fire.”9

“And suddenly a sound was made from heaven as if of a mighty wind coming” etc. The Lord indeed appeared by means of fire as the blessed Pope Gregory explains, but made through inner10 speech itself. And neither the God of fire, nor the sound made a noise but by that which was externally produced, this was expressed in respect to what was conducted on the inside. That it rendered within the disciples as ones who had come on fire, with zeal and skill in the word, the outside showed the fiery tongues. Therefore, the elements had been brought up in accordance with an outward sign, that the persons11 were experiencing the fire and the sound by the true invisible fire and the hearts were being taught by the voice without sound.

“And there appeared to them parted tongues, as it were of fire:”12 That is to say the holy Spirit appeared in fire and languages, because everyone whom he filled are on fire together and these ones are producing phrases. Certainly these ones are on fire from it, and are speaking from it. At the same time it also demonstrates that the holy Church has opened wide the boundaries throughout the world. [The Church] is going to speak in the voice of all the nations.

“And it13 sat upon each one of them.” What does it mean that it sat? It is the proof of royal power. Or also that his past labour14 is to be publicly displayed in holiness.

“And they began to speak in various languages.” How the arrogance of Babylon scattered the unity of languages, [and] the humbleness of the Church gathers it back. Moreover, the variety of languages spiritually signifies the gifts of different graces. The holy Spirit is certainly not being inconsistently understood, for that reason the gift of tongues had been given to men before anything else, by which in the form of human wisdom on the outside and becoming learned, and being taught, that it was to demonstrate how easy it can be to make wise men by means of the wisdom of God which is inside them.

“Now there were dwelling at Jerusalem, Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.”15 I think it is appropriate to seriously ask, who were at this place, and from where were the captive Jews? Seeing that those who had been in Egypt or Babylonia had already been freed. While the Jews had not yet come to the Romans in captivity, and clearly the revenge itself was to be imminent about the crime that was committed against the Saviour.16 Therefore it remains to be done, so that captivity is to be understood to have been done under Antiochus17 that he certainly destroyed not much time before.18

“Because that every man heard them speak in his own tongue.”19 One should ask in this place why each one was hearing in their own language those speaking the great things of God?

Either [one of the two]: those that they were speaking such in the various words of every language generated what they spoke, that is, each of them here now, yet now again a different language being spoken, so that it was to proceed through every language.

Or rather20 was it more astonishing to this than their speech that whatever language was being spoken, these ones proclaimed in the hearing of each and every person, they were understanding according to their own language. That with the word of grace by whichever apostle in the Church teaches (In fact it was necessary to speak one [language] and one speech with leaving the rest silent in order to reach everyone who heard).21 The speech itself was to possess this in its own power, that while the hearers were of the diverse nations, each one according to their language coming from this one speech itself, which had been uttered by the Apostle, that it entered upon the hearer and seized the intellect. Except perhaps according to this, it seemed those who are hearing to be a greater miracle than those who speaking.

“And those who inhabited Mesopotamia, and Judaea and Cappodocia.” In this place it signifies Judaea not entirely gentile but part of those, this is the tribe of Judah and Benjamin, for one may see clearly the distinction Samaria, Galiliee, Decapolis, and of others in the same province concerning the regions. Although that everyone were speaking in the one language of Hebrew, nevertheless, the native style of each speaking had a distinctiveness. From where also Peter in the passion of the Lord with respect to a Galilean is being identified by that which is his speech.

“Jews also, and proselytes.”22 Proselytes, that is, they called them strangers, who, these ones derive origin from the gentiles, they were wishing rather to choose circumcision and Judaism, like Achior in the Book of Judith is described to have done. Then not only, do they say, are they Jews by birth that had visited from different regions, certainly too it is about those having been born with a foreskin, they adhere to the custom.23

“But others mocking, said: These men are full of new wine.” Mocking although they were giving true witness to something belonging to the ancient mysteries. That not in old wine, while in the Church wedding, but they had been filled with the freshness of the spirit’s grace. Indeed, now it had come the new wine in new skins, while the Apostles not in the oldness of letter, but were to resound in the newness of the Spirit of God’s great work (Rom. 7).24

“For these are not drunk, as you suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.”25 The holy Spirit is about to proclaim glory in the indivisible way of the Trinity, He conveniently descended in the third hour. And because what was written above, “They were persevering in prayer,”26 they correctly feel the holy Spirit in the hour of prayer that it was to be pointed out by the readers27 that the grace of the holy Spirit is not easily to be felt. Neither can the mind, which is based on worldly senses, rise up in the thought of heavenly things. For three times to which Daniel in the day did he bow his knees, and it was chosen28 to worship at the third, sixth, and ninth hours, it is understood by the Church. Whereby also the Lord is the one who sends the holy Spirit in the third hour, sixth — rises to the cross, and the ninth — lays his own soul down. It has been deemed most worthy to recount and sanctify these same hours for the rest of us.

“I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh:”29 The word of offering shows the abundance of excess, because the holy Spirit exists through the agency of grace which brings about pardon, not as formerly the power with the prophets and priests only, but in everyone everywhere in either sex within relations and persons. For that is to be in all flesh, it was explained in accordance with the prophet.30

“And they will prophecy,” (it says) “your sons and daughters,” etc. . . . “and I will show wonders in heaven above, and a sign on earth below.”31 Wonders in heaven, a new star appeared with the Lord being born, while going up to the cross, the sun was darkened, and heaven itself was covered in darkness. A sign on the earth, because the earth trembled by Lord sending the Spirit, it uncovered tombs, moved stones, and brought up the many revived bodies of the saints who had gone to sleep.■

Need information on Bede and the subject matter? The following link may help: The Venerable Bede on the Doctrine of Tongues.

The Venerable Bede on the Doctrine of Tongues

The goal of this multi-article study is to find out and articulate Bede’s understanding of the Church rite of tongues.

The secondary purpose is to collate, digitize the Latin texts, and translate into English any works completed by the Venerable Bede relating to this doctrine.

There have been two discoveries so far. Bede’s initial commentary on the Book of Acts chapter 2:1-18, and Bede’s reflections on his commentary on the Book of Acts 2:1:18. The latter book done later on in his life.

Although it is only two books that have been discovered that has any substance to the topic, the results are rich. If more texts are found by Bede relating to the topic, it will be added to this multi-series.

The Venerable Bede was an 8th century monk, priest, astronomer, mathematician, historian, theologian, poet, and song writer. He lived in Northumbria, which is now Northern England/South-Eastern Scotland.

Bede’s works are a standard above most Christian authors, and this is why he is credited with being a ‘Doctor of the Church’ — a title rarely given.

The manuscript used for digitizing text, and the translations are from Migne Patrologia Latina. The text appears fairly straightforward. The presence of a few emendations of a later copyist/editor are noticeable. Word usage tends to be inconsistent, but then Bede is playing with an older language Latin text and is attempting to explain it in terms relevant to his audience. A closer look would be required to explain how much changes later copyists and editors have done to this work. However, it is safe to say the intent still belongs to Bede, and this work reflects a medieval mindset. Therefore textual criticism isn’t of serious consequence in this situation.

An initial translation and analysis of Bede’s initial commentary on the Book of Acts was originally published under The Neo-Tongues Movement: Part 3 which has been removed from circulation. It no longer fits in with the changes in the structure of the Gift of Tongues Project. This supersedes any account found in Google cache, any file repository, print-out, or download relating to the Venerable Bede on the topic of tongues done previously by me.

The commentary does not always follow verse-by-verse. Bede, or the copyist/editors, simply ignore some verses because of its irrelevance. This English translation is an exact reproduction of 2:1-18.

Here are the links to all his works related to the doctrine of tongues so far:

Take advantage of the footnotes. There are important notes and information in them.

Cyril of Alexandria on Tongues: Acts

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

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

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

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

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

English Translation of the Greek Text

Cyril. Some, on the one hand, were speaking in languages, and furthermore these ones did not know them beforehand. Meanwhile those proficient in the art of interpreting were taking note, indeed the ears were not now in the manner and custom of such things as this happening. On a different note, the divine Paul confidently asserts with those that were then given the gift to speak in languages, was not an emphasis in a gifting part but as in the form of a sign for believers. And indeed so he provided a persuasive word, having as follows: “That in strange tongues and foreign lips I will speak to this people and they will not believe such a thing.”1 The Spirit dispensed the distribution of the gifts in a variety of ways. So that for instance, they say, this body is certainly joined together by the parts pachu2 and from land, thus also is Christ, truly His body, that is to say, the Church, mindfully apprehended to unity through the many multitude of the faithful, possessing the most perfect composition.

and a little after3 Therefore when the priests under the sun4 were thinking to clearly speak to every language and nation the Gospel and salvation message, a sign was the giving of tongues to them. Men being Galileans, and raised up according to Jewish custom, Hebrews and certainly those from Hebrew lineage, Medes and Parthians too, and to be sure, Elamites and those from the the middle dwellers of the rivers,5 Cappadocia and as well Egypt that they were speaking in their languages. The use was effected in them by the work and grace of the Spirit. For it was written as such, “There appeared to them tongues being distributed as of fire,” etc. Except [how] the manner of stewardship was being done. Not all were approving of the action. When they were at once speaking in different languages, these ones making the grace by the agency of the Spirit as it were something of a show and those who receive the sign [as] an extravagant opportunity. Those unworthy were bound to be lecturing from the holy prophets and make a case about the Gospel doctrines, as6 from things in heaven and in fact from those many who are preaching.7 These people extol as well upon the ability to speak in tongues only, and in fact of this one and only were they supposing it is needful to lay claim to. And that which has been done was in rash actions to the more important things. ■

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

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

English Translation of the Latin Text

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

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

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