Tag Archives: I Corinthians

John of Damascus on Tongues: Notes

Notes on John of Damascus’ work, Commentary of I Corinthians, chapters 13 and 14, as it relates to the christian doctrine of tongues.

John of Damascus

John of Damascus was an eighth-century church leader who lived in Syria under Muslim rule. The Greek texts originally written by him have been passed on through the ages and may have been heavily edited. Whatever historical information exists about him tends to be of mythical proportions. It is hard to separate the man from the myth.

A commentary on I Corinthians is credited to him. Whether the text accurately represents his original thought isn’t the most important point. For the purpose of the Gift of Tongues Project it represents the perception of tongues during the eighth- to tenth-centuries.

Discovering an old commentary on I Corinthians is always exciting because it offers potential to solve the Corinthian’s tongues riddle. However, his work doesn’t solve the problem but does offer a small clue. His text suggests Paul was addressing a problem of foreign languages. This will be explained in more detail below.

The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia claims that he was the “the last of the Greek Fathers.” How the article arrived at this conclusion is not known. The same article proceeds to add, “His genius was not for original theological development, but for compilation of an encyclopedic character.” This became clearer as the translation of his Commentary on I Corinthians proceeded. His style reminded me of the structure and style used by the Latin writer, Thomas Aquinas, four centuries later. Aquinas liked to stitch together thoughts from a variety of sources and offer those considerations with the fewest words possible, assuming the reader understood the background and meaning. Damascus did the same thing. It gave some sense that John of Damascus was thinking in Latin and writing in Greek. Perhaps this wasn’t the correct approach and so the following was contemplated: he was thinking in Arabic and writing in Greek. The Greek style had a heavy dependency on participles rather verbs which showed something different not seen before and there was nothing that could explain this. However, there was not enough information to substantiate either claim.

His coverage of tongues and angels in I Corinthians 13 follows the thought originally penned by Origen that it was hyperbolic language and then borrows from Chyrsostom that angels don’t have bodies,(1)Catenae Graecorum Patrum in Novum Testamentum. Vol. 5.J.A. Cramer. Oxonii. 1844. Catenae in Sancti Pauli Epistola Ad Corinthios. Pg. 251 using the same verbs and nouns, but constructed slightly different than what Chrysostom used.

Damascus made one important omission in his commentary — he doesn’t refer to Gregory Nazianzus on the doctrine of tongues. One would expect a Greek author and Church writer such as John of Damascus to quote liberally from the fourth-century Nazianzus who covered the topic in great detail and caused a great deal of controversy for centuries. This is surprising. The only logical conclusion found so far is that the controversy that Nazianzus began was discussed in the Western Latin Church — a large portion of the argument in the Western circles had to do with the improper Latin translation and hinged on this. It wasn’t an issue on the Eastern Greek front, nor in Damascus’ mind.

For more information on Gregory Nazianzus theory on the miracle of speaking or hearing, and transmission problems into Latin see: Rufinus’ Grand Omission.

The actual Greek text is found in Migne Patrologia Graeca, Vol. 95. Epistola in Corinth. The text itself is divided into two: Biblical citation followed by a short commentary. The Biblical citations have only minor differences than the standard Greek Bible text. I did not spend much time on translating the Greek when Biblical citations were made, relying instead on what is found in the New American Standard Bible. However, I had to make some changes to reflect what Damascus understood the text to mean. For example, I changed the English noun tongues which now has a much wider semantic range than what was intended 500 years ago, to languages, which is more specific to the initial intention.(2)See the The Difference Between Language and Tongues

Now that the details have been examined it is time to move on to the important global question. What did John of Damascus believe speaking in tongues to be? His commentary lacks any serious historical narrative and is a homily divided on love, and the subject of corporate good instead of individualism. He briefly touches on the gift of tongues as the human power to speak in a foreign language. He does not ascribe any emotional or supernatural attachment to this office.

His commentary on 14:10-12, does mildly clarify his understanding of the text:

[v10-12a] “There are, perhaps, a great many kinds of languages in the world, and no kind is without meaning. If then I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be to the one who speaks a barbarian, and the one who speaks will be a barbarian to me.(3)]NASB So it is also with you.”

That is, so many languages, so many sounds, Scythian, Thracian, Roman, Persian, Mauretanian, Egyptian, other myriads of nations.

He directly connects foreign languages with Paul’s I Corinthians text.

This commentary does not recognize any controversy or doctrine inherited from the Montanist movement relative to tongues. This is consistent with the overwhelming majority of ecclesiastical texts on the subject. ■

Want to know more about what John of Damascus wrote? The following is a link to his actual text: John of Damascus on Tongues: an English Translation.

References   [ + ]

Rufinus’ Grand Omission

Rufinus’ Latin translation mistake on Nazianzus’ Greek text on Pentecost.

How a very small oversight caused major problems later on.

As discussed previously in Is Tyrannius Rufinus a Reliable Translator?, Tyrannius was a dynamic rather than a static translator. He was freely ready to translate according to the sense of the text and not the literalness of it. The general consensus was that he was a good dynamic translator with some detractors from this. In the case of Gregory’s On Pentecost, he made two errors.

Gregory had outlined two different explanations for the miracle at Pentecost: one was with it being the miracle of hearing, and the other, a miracle of speaking. The nature and structure of the Greek text clearly made it out to be that the miracle of speaking was the correct interpretation for that of Pentecost.

However, Rufinus’ translation obscures Nazianzus’ preference. This caused major problems.

The first one was with Greek particle ara, ἆρα. Tyrannius did not understand Nazianzus purpose of this particle in this context. It is an interrogative particle that often is translated into English as: if. It also expresses some doubt at the validity of the question. Nazianzus was introducing an enthymeme styled delivery here. He was positing two ideas with one being clearly obvious and needing little substantiation. He thought the answer was clear.

Rufinus chose instead to make both statements have equal weight, which was not Nazianzus’ intention. This subtle change caused much controversy in the Latin reading world. The Latin text conveyed it was up to the reader to determine what the answer was. This mistaken discussion raged on in the eighth century when the Venerable Bede delved into the issue, and later forced Thomas Aquinas to take a clear position on this.{{1}}[[1]]See Thomas Aquinas on the Miracle of Tongues for more info.[[1]]

A second problem flows from the first. In the Greek text, a brief sentence follows the two preferences which was given to show which one was his preference. Gregory wanted to make it even clearer, just in case the reader didn’t understand the enthymeme, that he preferred that it was a miracle of speaking, Καθὰ καὶ μᾶλλον τίθεμαι. Rufinus did not include this statement in his translation.

It forces one to ask the question, why was it missing? Either Rufinus was unaware that the passage existed or he ignored it. Both the Greek and Syriac texts have this text included. One must keep in mind that the Greek texts are from the ninth century onwards. There is no early Greek record to work with. The Syriac, which goes back to the eighth century, and maybe earlier has it, but the publisher of the manuscript has the text highlighted, noting that it is not clear in meaning.{{2}}[[2]]Sancti Gregorii Nazianzeni opera. Versio Syriaca, II. Orationes XIII et XLI (Corpus Christianorum. Series Graeca, 47. Corpus Nazianzenum, 15), 151. A. SCHMIDT ed.,  Turnhout – Leuven, 2002 Pg. 90[[2]]

The evidence so far suggest, though not conclusively, was that he ignored it.■

John of Damascus on Tongues: an English Translation

A translation of the eighth century John of Damascus’ Commentary on I Corinthians as it relates to the doctrine of tongues.

In Epist. Ad Corinth I. by Joannis Damasceni. Migne Patrologia Graeca. Vol. 95. Col. 676ff as translated from the Greek by Charles A. Sullivan.

I Corinthians 13:1-3

[v1-3] “If I speak with the languages of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and I know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I distribute all my possessions, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”

By saying this, he insinuates the holding of negligent responsibilities results in receiving much less, and those who remain steadfast,(1) κυρίους if they so wish, results in something much greater. So love is much greater than all the gifts. He thus establishes this and lays-out the combination, as all the gifts are nothing with the absence of love. For see how he builds this premise. Namely, he does not say, If I knew languages,(2) Ἐὰν ἴδω γλώσσας but instead, if I should speak in the languages of angels. Nor does he simply say, If I am going to prophesy, but, I know all the mysteries and all knowledge, with careful detail(3) μετὰ ἐπιτάσεως And he does not say, If I could give possessions,(4) Δῶ τὰ ὑπάρχοντα but, if I could distribute,(5) ψωμίσω so that he combines service with the cost. In fact demonstrating all here with careful detail, he shows it is greatly inferior with that of love. On which account if you passionately are desirous of the greater gifts, he says, pursue love.

Love is rightly the greatest of the gifts. For these other things naturally had been the cause of division,(6) διέσχισαν while on the other hand love unites those who disagree.

See from where it begins, by the greatness appearing with them of these languages, and not only of men but also of angels. Furthermore, about the tongue of angels, a body is not assumed for angels. The matter being referred to is like this: although I should utter a sound in this way as the means that the angels dialogue between each other, for instance when he says, every knee should bow to him: of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth,(7) Philippians 2;10. Damascus has slightly modified his Greek text replacing “to Jesus” with “to him”. he is not saying these things as one who assumes knees and bones with angels, but wishes to allude to the fervent-pitched act of worship by means of this imagery to us. That is why he cited language here, wishing to show to the rest of the audience a sermon(8) ὁμιλίαν in a familiar way with us.■

I Corinthians 14:1-33

[V.1]“Follow after charity.”

And consequently to us, the work of the race is supremely for this.

“And desire the spiritual things, rather that you may prophesy.”

In order that someone may not suppose that he introduced the word of love so that he could put an end to the gifts, regarding this he introduced a grace, saying: desire the spiritual things. He makes the case of aggregating together those things belonging to the family of gifts and lessens the gift of languages, neither is the gift useless by any means, nor does it show(9) The text has δεικνὺς which would render it in context here as pres ind act 2nd sg OR pres act masc nom/voc part sg. Neither of which fits in verbally with the flow here. I think it a print error and should read δεικνὺσι the benefit in respect to this.

[v2-4] “For one who speaks in a language, speaks not to men, but to God; for no one hears, moreover he speaks mysteries in the spirit. But the one who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and consolation to men. The one who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but the one who prophesies edifies the Church.”

The one who has the ability to speak to God, points out greatness, but on the other hand smallness since this person does not have the ability to edify the Church. For he absolutely desires this; the edification of the many.

[v5a] “Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in languages,”

Not that they should form an opinion here that the person who is critical condemns(10)καθαιρεῖ the languages by these, that this one is in the act of being set right about the suspicion concerning them, he says this:

[5b]“Unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying.”(11) NASB

It is less, he says, the act of speaking in languages than that of prophesying. Unless of course someone also can interpret the languages.(12)The Greek has τὰ γλώσσας which I think is a copyist/print error. It should read τὰς γλώσσας The Latin has “Nisi forte aliquis etiam interpres adsit, qui linguas sciat interpretari.” the emphasis here is anyone having the ability to interpret the foreign language being spoken, not just the speaker. It was by no means to be a reference to equality made with the one who prophesies.

[v6] “But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking,(13)The Greek has ἐὰν ἔλθω πρὸς ὑμᾶς λαλῶν, which I think is a copyist/print error. It should read τὰς γλώσσας while all other editions contain ἐὰν ἔλθω πρὸς ὑμᾶς γλώσσαις λαλῶν it is likely a copyist or print error. The commentary below suggests that this was a mistake too. what will I profit you?”

What if I speak other things? He says, if I myself come speaking in languages, it will not be greatly beneficial for those who are listening. Thus he speaks these things, the one who demonstrates enthusiasm for that which is beneficial for these people, he does not have hostility against those who possess the gift.

[v6b] “Unless I speak to you whether by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching?”(14)NASB

Unless I speak, he says, that can be easily apprehended by you but otherwise will have shown only that I have a gift of a specific language, consequently you all will have gone away having gained nothing in these things. Why should it be from a voice that you all do not understand?

[v7-9] “Yet even lifeless things, either flute or harp, in producing a sound, if they do not produce a distinction in the tones, how will it be known what is played on the flute or on the harp? For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle?(15)NASB Likewise you also in this manner, by the office of language.”

What I speak,(16)Τί λέγω he says, is it that the matter is unprofitable with regards to you all? Also wouldn’t anyone have instinctively known this about lifeless things and the harp and bugle?

[v9b] “Unless all of you are given an intelligible word, how will it be known what the person is speaking?”

The alternative,(17)Ἀντὶ τοῦ, unless you all can interpret.

[v9c] “For you will be speaking into the air.”(18)NASB

That is, a person is uttering for no one else, for this one is speaking to no one.

[v10-12a] “There are, perhaps, a great many kinds of languages in the world, and no kind is without meaning. If then I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be to the one who speaks a barbarian, and the one who speaks will be a barbarian to me.(19)NASB So it is also with you.”

That is, so many languages, so many sounds, Scythian, Thracian, Roman, Persian, Mauretanian, Egyptian, other myriads of nations.

[v12b-13] “Since you are zealous of spiritual things, seek to abound for the edification of the church. Therefore let one who speaks in a language pray that he may interpret.”

If it is necessary to be zealous, be zealous for the gifts which builds up the Church. On which account he adds, saying: Pray, that he may interpret

[v14-15a] For if I pray in a language, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do?

That is, the gift which had been given to me, and summons the language.

[v15b-16] “I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind. Otherwise, when you are praising in the Spirit, how can the one who leads the place of the laymen, say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying?”

It has a meaning something like: who then is the one apt to teach and be beneficial? And what manner was it necessary to speak? And why is it necessary to request from God? And he responds saying that one ought to pray by the Spirit that is by the gift and with the intent,(20)διανοίᾳ so that when the language is uttered, the mind equally is not ignorant about the things being spoken. For if this should not be [the case where] a strange bewilderment is produced. For the layperson did not know to respond(21)ὑποφωνεῖν Amen. He naturally did not know what you are saying.

[v17] “For you are giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not edified.”(22)NASB

So that he did not appear to utterly hold the gift as worthless, he provides this. On the contrary this was elevated when he was saying, This one who is speaking speaks mysteries as well speaks to God and builds himself up.(23)A modified version of I Corinthians 14:2 by John. You, therefore, he says, give thanks well. For you are speaking, being moved by the Spirit. But the person hears nothing, nor knows the things being spoken, and remains standing(24)ἔστηκεν this is in the perfect 3rd sg but it doesn’t fit with the present participles or the flow of the sentence. I agree with the Latin that it should be understood as present tense. — the one who receives does not benefit much.

[v18-19a] “I give thanks to my God that I speak in a language more than you all. But in the Church.”

He says this so that it would not show that he is hostile as one depriving [them] of the gift.

[v19b] “I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also.”(25)NASB

That is, understanding that which I speak and having the ability also to interpret for others.

[v19c] “Rather than ten thousand words in a language.”

He says In fact this is holding a performance(26)ἐπίδειξιν without a companion,(27)Τοῦτο μὲν γὰρ ἐπίδειξιν ἔχει μόνην The Latin is: Hoc enim ostentationem solam praefert.. On the other hand the greater benefit is to be for the other people.

[v20] “Brothers, do not be children in thoughts, but on the other hand be like a child with evil.”

Namely the little ones gape at astonishment(28)κέχηνεν This is a pluperfect 3rd pl verb but it doesn’t fit here. The Latin translates it as present 3rd pl. Neut to the littlest of things, while on the other hand does not contain so much an admiration of the great things. Seeing too then that those who have the gift of tongues, they were supposing to have the ability to master everything, albeit it was the least of them all. For that reason he says, do not be children in thoughts. That is, these things should not be senseless,(29)μὴ ἀνόητοι The verb is omitted here but is intimated. whereby it is necessary that these things to be intelligible.(30)ἔνθα συνετοὺς εἶναι χρή But in that predicament they are children and simple minded, some at one side are vain-glorious, some at the other are puffed-up. On the latter note, what does it mean to be children in evil? Or does it mean not ever having the ability to know what is evil?

[v21] “In the [Law] it is written, that “in strange tongues, and other lips I will speak to this people and even so they will not hear me” says the Lord.”

The Divine Scripture is called [the] Law, and the Prophets.

[v22-30a] “So then tongues are for a sign, not for those who believe but for unbelievers. Prophecy on the other hand is for a sign, not to unbelievers but for those who believe. Therefore, if the whole church assembles together and all speak in tongues, and uneducated or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or uneducated person enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, and thus the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.

What is the outcome then, brothers? When you assemble, each one of you has a psalm, teaching, tongue, revelation, interpretation. Let all be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a language, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret; but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. On the other hand if a revelation was to be made to someone else sitting by…”(31) Verses 22-29 are a mixture of a direct quotation of the NASB and others adapted from the NASB to match the slight differences of the Damascus text.

That is a shocked feeling,(32) ἔκπληξιν not so much for the purpose of instruction.(33) κατήχησιν usually refers to elementary instruction or teaching of initiates

[v30b] “Let the first one be silent.”

Namely it was not appropriate, while the one who is being moved in the matter of prophecy, this person can speak.

[v31] “For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted.”(34) NASB

He says this for the one has been put to silence(35) τὸν ἐπιστομηθέντα The Latin has “ut eum qui loqui prohibitus sit” — that of the person who has been prohibited to speak so that this is made more bearable.(36) παραμυθούμενος The whole sentence reads: Τοῦτο φησι, τὸν ἐπιστομηθέντα παραμυθούμενος. — the sentence works using only participles, but this is not a typical construct used by most ancient Greek authors.

[v32] “And the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.”(37) NASB

So that there should not be someone who is contentious or slanderous, he shows the gift itself being placed under authority.(38) αὐτὸ τὸ χάρισμα δείκνυσιν ὑποτασσόμενον For then he cites the work as of the spirit. So if the spirit is being placed under authority, you too can be with fullness.(39) πολλῷ δ’ ἄν σύ.

[v33] “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—and so I direct in all the holy Churches.”(40) a modification of the NASB along with Damascus adding an extra verb and adjective ταῖς Ἐκκλησίαις τῶν ἁγίων διατάσσομαι

He shows this as also appeasing to God, so that the person who holds a contrary position may not spread strife.■

The actual Greek text is found here: John of Damascus on Tongues: the Greek Text.

References   [ + ]

Cyril of Alexandria on Tongues: Conclusion

Final thoughts on the texts attributed to Cyril of Alexandria about the doctrine of tongues.

A significant amount of time and labour has been spent on works attributed to Cyril of Alexandria on the Christian doctrine of tongues and for good reason. The Cyrillian coverage offers critical insights into the ancient practice of the gift of tongues within the earlier Church.

These works originate under the influence of the ancient city of Alexandria, Egypt, which gives these works particular significance. The language of the New Testament is Alexandrian Greek with a Semitic influence which means the influence of Alexandria on early Christianity is centrally important. Without Alexandria, there may no Gospel, or at least many of the principal theological traditions passed down through the generations.

It has been learned from this study that the writings credited to Cyril of Alexandria are not exactly correct. Portions are from Didymus of Alexandria. Which parts are Cyril’s and others Didymus’, we do not know, though for the most part it is Cyril. There also may be medieval editorial emendations too. Even though there remain unanswered questions of authorship, it accurately portrays a fifth-century account on the doctrine of tongues as understood and practiced in Alexandria, Egypt.

The results gleaned from these Alexandrian texts do not align with the contemporary Christian practice or liberal interpretations on the Christian doctrine of tongues. They offer different outcomes. Here are the findings.

The Commentary on Zephaniah clearly indicates that the Alexandrian author(s) believed it be speaking a foreign language. There was an emphasis in this commentary about the “changing of tongues,” that defined the speech as a miraculous endowment. Furthermore, those that received this blessing continued to have this power throughout their lives, but it did not persist after their generation. For more information and the actual copy of the Commentary on Zephaniah see Cyril of Alexandria on Tongues: Zephaniah.

The Fragment on Acts has some more clues. The work emphasizes that those who spoke at Pentecost did not know the languages beforehand. It was a spontaneous event. Experienced interpreters, according to the text, were not accustomed to such a display. The purpose of Pentectost was to speak in every language to every nation. The Gospel was not to be a local religion for Jews only, but a universal one. The work goes on to describe a negative aspect of this event. People used it to promote their own extravagance and self-promotion. The actual text can be found at Cyril of Alexandria on Tongues: Acts.

The Catena on I Corinthians had the most information, and the following was discovered.

  • The Corinthian problem of languages was viewed as a consequence of Pentecost. The Corinthian situation is not considered a separate entity. In making the Corinthian situation connected to Pentecost, it creates ethnic rivalries. If a disciple comes speaking in tongues for the purpose of rejuvenating the Jewish faith, then it leaves out the Gentile participants. This would be an untenable position.

  • When the disciples spoke at Pentecost, each one spoke a different language.

  • The Cyrillian text associated I Corinthians 14 with their itinerant preachers whose duty was to visit routinely Churches throughout the Alexandrian Church empire. This was a vast region that had a number of ethnic and language groups. The ability to speak in the various languages was a requirement for these preachers to teach and pray.(1)This is discussed in more detail at Notes on the Cyrillian Catena on I Corinthians 14:10

  • Prayers and language held a central part of the Church life. Prayers required mastery and comprehension of more than one written language. Literacy was very low in this period. Some think as low as 5%. The congregation then was entirely dependent on trained leadership to teach through readings, memorization and instruction. The prayers in the Church were led by leaders called prefects — a ruler over monks, clergy, and bishops (ὁ ἡγουμένος).(2)ὁ ἡγουμένος as found in Lampe’s Patristic Lexicon, Pg. 601, and Stephanus Lexicon Vol. 4. Col. 94

    If someone would speak or pray in the Church, whether priest, prefect, or the itinerant preacher, it would be in a high-priestly voice, similar to preachers who speak in King James English, old style Catholics who perform the liturgy in Latin, or the use of High-German in Mennonite Churches. What exactly was high-priestly language to them — was it liturgical Greek, or regular Coptic? It is not known.

    The important requirement of any Church leader speaking to an audience or any layperson was that the Skopos (σκοπὸς) had to understand what they were saying, or someone available that “sits near and interprets for the beginners.”(3)I Corinthians 14:2 catena

    The Skopos played an important position within the Church. The Skopos was an overseer who was to test, examine, and approve everything that was spoken, or done. He was also to translate, but that was likely a later attribute.(4)Stephanus Vol. 7, Col. 431

    There was a function in the Church that assisted the lay-people in understanding what the priests were saying, singing, or doing. A type of translator, but more of an intermediary. In the Corinthian text it is the anaplérôn ( ἀναπληρῶν), but in Alexandria it is the keimenos (κείμενος).

    The keimenos is a critical keyword and potentially unlocks the mystery tongues of Corinth. A complete article on this can be found by reading The Mysterious Anapleron of I Corinthians 14:16

    All messages that the keimonos explained to the people were to be concluded with an Amen.

    If the keimonos did not understand the language, or message being spoken, he would not be able to translate or explain on behalf of the laypeople, and therefore would not be able to say Amen.

    All of the references to Alexandrian Church structure; the itinerant preacher, the high priestly language and need for a mediary for the laypeople to understand, the Skopos, the Keimenos, the use of multiple languages, and the amen construct, have a connection with Paul’s coverage of I Corinthians 14. Granted this is 500 years later, and there was likely much evolution in this structure, but the shadows do exist.

  • The Catena on I Corinthians gives a different idea of prophecy and its relationship with languages. 14:2 and 5 covers the office of prophecy. It is more comprehensive than what most practicing Charismatics or Pentecostals offer today. The Alexandrian idea of prophecy was the ability to collate disparate data such as thoughts, words, ideas, dreams, language etc., and make sense out of them. It goes beyond the mechanics of translating or interpreting. Prophecy looks for the meaning behind the words, not just the words themselves. Therefore, prophecy was considered one of the highest forms of Christian practice.

The Cyrillian texts are totally oblivious to any Montanist influence on the tongues doctrine. Nor were there any attempt to write about the need for a subsequent spirit baptism or counter any movements teaching such a proposition. Nor were the Alexandrians aware of a private prayer language.

The Catena on I Corinthians borrows many Greek keywords from the ancient Greek prophetic realm. Some of them new to the tongues debate. However, they are not used in a classical way. They have become Christianized by this period. For more information, see Notes on the Cyrillian catena on I Corinthians 14:10.

This conclusion may seem subtle and boring, but it took a laborious amount of work to achieve. The discovery of the actual texts themselves was a challenge. They were found only in the original Greek, and the publications they were found in posed difficulties. Comparative work between different texts was required. The Alexandrian Greek requires a slow translation process as this vernacular has some peculiarities and unique vocabulary. Then there is the challenge to make cohesive sense out of all of them. Anyone who has visited this site over the years will see the narration of the doctrine of tongues is the one that has taken the longest to achieve. It is not an easy task for such a big project.

The reader does not have to take these conclusions at face value either. The original Greek Cyrillian texts can be found at Cyril of Alexandria on Tongues: The Original Texts. Or one can read the English translations and come up with a personal conclusion by going to the Gift of Tongues Project and scrolling down to the Cyril of Alexandria Category and clicking on the translation links.

References   [ + ]

Cyril of Alexandria on Tongues: I Corinthians 14:10

A translation of the Greek of I Corinthians 14:10 attributed to Cyril of Alexandria

This portion is working from two different manuscripts, both attribute the text to have been edited by Cardinal Angelus Maius but with different outcomes. An edition edited by Philippus Edvardus Pusey has more text but seems to be missing copy and has some repetitive sentences—this indicates there was some copyist or print errors. However the word usage indicates that the origins of this copy was quite ancient. The Migne Patrologia version has less text and no repetitive sentences. The MPG version does have the catalogue numbers of the manuscripts used such as Cod. f.311 b. for I Corinthians 14:10 but does not elaborate on what this means.

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

“And none of them is without a voice.”

“Any persons of the status of itinerant teachers{{17}}[[17]]Εἰσεφοὶτων This word is not fully known. This is the only usage in any manuscript found so far. It comes from the root, φοιτάω[[17]] in the Churches who are endowed in the work of the Spirit should have the ability to speak in languages. Therefore it is necessary that prayers are to be made in these same languages, and certainly for the entreaties of those things, that is to say, of a Psalm,{{18}}[[18]]ψαλμῳδίας The recitation and singing from the Book of Psalms was a common part of the ancient Church liturgy.[[18]] these ones who have the ability to proclaim{{18}}[[18]]κεχρῆσθαι It is in the passive and this suggests “to be declared, proclaimed by an oracle, to consult a god or oracle, to inquire of a god”[[18]] in the language of those who are present. Certainly they were not doing this, indeed the persons who congratulate themselves in a self-satisfied way with the gift of languages, they were neither doing psalms or prayers. Paul teaches this, that if there does not exist persons who are hearing [with the] knowledge of the language, which those who have the gift are speaking forth, [then there is] no advantage out of the matter. For numberless are the nations and all the languages of mankind.{{19}}[[19]]ἄφωνον δὲ οὐδὲν τῶν ἄπαξ τελούντων ἐν λογικοῖς ἤ ἐν ἀνθρώποιςFor “Without a voice,” [is] never once about the business in respect to the things of reason or mankind.” This piece was ignored as it seems to be a printer error as similar; a better copy is printed in the next sentence. [[19]]

He says, “Without a voice,”” [is] absolutely never about the business in respect to the things of the reason, that is, in [concern to the things of] mankind. But if perhaps some may not have known the power of every voice, and certainly neither can these ones know his language, they will be barbarians to each other. Yet these ones are in fact correctly supposed to speak according to his own voice. It is necessary therefore those who are wishing to teach in other [languages], that the word should be uttered{{20}}[[20]]προσαράξας aor part masc nom sg. The Greek Dictionaries have only a faint account of this word and I am unsure whether the translation is satisfactory here.[[20]] accustomed for those for those who are listening.

If in fact then the unintelligible sound was also an unaccustomed voice, the striking{{21}}[[21]]ἐρεύγεσθαι literally to belch out, utter, roar.[[21]] vainly produced in purposelessness with some type of noise,{{22}}[[22]]πεποίκε μάτην εἰκαίῳ τινὶ κτύπῳ προσαράξας μόνον τὴν μανθάνοντος ἀκοήν I am uncomfortable with this translation of this text. My first thoughts are that this Greek is a later emendation from a number of sources and not correctly edited. There are missing parts and possibly mis-spellings in the Greek.[[22]] only the sound [is] heard of one who knows [the language].

It is necessary, he says, that those wishing to teach, that the word is to be spoken{{23}}[[23]]λαλεῖν[[23]] accustomed for those who are listening, after that he works for folly. For he that speaks in languages alone does not build up the Church.■

For notes, commentary, and a deeper look at a number of words here, see Notes on the Cyrillian Catena on I Corinthians 14:10.

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.