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Technical Notes on Francis Xavier speaking in tongues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TOC

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

Continue reading Technical Notes on Francis Xavier speaking in tongues

Three Welsh men speaking in tongues

The story of three sixth-century Welsh Christian Saints and their encounter with the gift of tongues.

St. David, Padarn, and Teilo are important figures in the history of Wales. Who exactly were they and how do they fit in the history of tongues speaking? It is necessary to narrate the lives of these revered Welsh icons before the coverage of speaking in tongues can begin.

The legends behind these people are interesting, especially that there is a connection between two of them and the legendary King Arthur.

The life of St. David has the most coverage and the most controversial. The Encyclopedia of World Biography describes his biography in this way:

Most information about Saint David comes from the writings of an eleventh-century monk named Rhygyfarch (also Rhygyvarch, Rhigyfarch, and Ricemarch), son of Bishop Sulien, of Saint David’s Cathedral, Saint David’s favorite of the churches he established. Rhygyfarch claimed to have gathered his information from old written sources, but those have not survived. Rhygyfarch’s life of Saint David is regarded by many scholars as suspect because it contains many implausible events and because he had a stake in enhancing Saint David’s history so as to support the prestige of the Welsh church and its independence from Canterbury, the center of the English church (still Catholic at the time). According to David Hugh Farmer in The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Rhygyfarch’s history of Saint David “should be treated as propaganda, which may, however, contain some elements of true tradition.” (1)http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Saint_David.aspx

Teilo, often written by his Cornish name Eliud, was a bishop and founder of monasteries and Churches in south Wales. “Reputed to be a cousin, friend, and disciple of Saint David.”(2)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Teilo He is the patron Saint of fruit trees and horses and there are more than 25 Churches in Wales, Cornwall and Brittany dedicated to him. A great feat, but St. David still has more Churches honoured to him.(3)http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofWales/St-Teilo/

Padarn, was an early 6th century British Christian who is considered one of the seven founding saints of Brittany. Padarn is one of a small group that mention King Arthur independently of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae.(4)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Padarn

These three made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Shortly after leaving Britain, they discovered linguistic barriers between themselves and the countries they were journeying through. The solution was a divine one. St. David was “endowed with the gift of tongues, just as the apostolic company was, so that when they were staying among foreign peoples they should not lack an interpreter, . . .”

There are different versions of the account that are not in complete agreement. Rhygyfarch’s text, which contains the above quote, is the most popular. His original work was written in the eleventh-century but there are so many variations of his text today, it is unclear which one is the original. The version used here is from Rhygyfarch’s Life of St. David. Ed. and transl. Richard Sharpe and John Reuben Davies. They have done the comparative manuscript work. The English translation and the Latin text provided at the end of this article is from their contribution.

Rhygyfarch supports the idea that St. David had the same gift as the Apostles had, but fails to describe the miracle. This requires a further look into another version. The Nova legenda Anglie, a biographical collection of English Saints started by John of Tynemouth in the fourteenth-century, provides some insight. “He [Teilo] began to expound the sacred Scriptures. And each one of those standing heard him speaking in his own language.” The Nova legenda Anglie is promoting the miracle of hearing rather than speaking.

However, the Nova legenda Anglie takes a twist in the narrative. It was Teilo who first spoke in tongues. St. David and Padarn followed later. This is different from Rhygyfarch who emphasised St. David over Teilo and Padarn. This explanation may be connected to a rivalry between the Church organisations led by St. David and Teilo where each one later wanted to position themselves as a superior order. The demonstration of miracles, including the gifting of tongues, was to demonstrate their exclusive superiority. This is not the first time this has happened. This same competition was found between two religious orders in France; l’abbaye Saint-Clément and l’abbaye Saint-Arnould during the tenth and fourteenth centuries. L’abbaye Saint-Arnoud argued that their founder, St. Patiens of Metz, supernaturally spoke in tongues to support their claim as the more credible Church order.(5)see my article St. Patiens Speaking in Tongues.

The legends of St. David, Teilo, and Padarn speaking in tongues may be a later medieval interpretation and this is fine. Their story further reinforces how the medievalist biographers understood the Christian doctrine of tongues. They understood it as a divine infusion of either speaking or hearing a foreign human language. These texts demonstrate no connection to uttering incoherent words, speaking an angelic or prayer language.

Another text that closely parallels that of Rhygyfarch’s Life of St. David is the one found in Acta Sanctorum. The text truncates a few lines when compared to Rhygyfarch. I wonder if the editors of Acta Sanctorum were concerned about the Rhygyfarch text being added and revised at a later date. Unfortunately, medieval textual criticism is not my forte and will have to leave that problem for a medievalist enthusiast to solve.

As per the goals of the Gift of Tongues Project three original texts in the Latin are provided. Two contain an English translation. The third does not have an English translation which is the Acta Sanctorum. This text is left only in the Latin because it closely parallels Rhygyfarch’s Life of St. David. It is pointless to spend the time translating this text but may be of value to those Latin readers who like to see subtle shifts in textual transmission.

English translation of Rhygyfarch’s Life of St. David.

§ 44. As his merits increased, so also did his rank and respect. For one night, an angel came to him, and said, “Tomorrow, put your shoes on and set out to travel to Jerusalem and make the journey you have longed for. I shall also call two others to be your companions on the way, namely Eliud” (who is now commonly called Teilo and was formerly a monk of this monastery), “and also Padarn” (whose life and miracles are contained in his own history). The holy father, wondering at the authority of the command, said, “How shall this be done? For those whom you promise to be my companions live three days’ distance or more away from us and from each other; therefore we cannot by any means meet tomorrow.” The angel said to him, “Tonight, I shall go to each of them, and they will come to the appointed place, which I shall now reveal.” Saint David made no delay, but having organized the useful things of his cell, he received the blessing of the brethren and began his journey early in the morning. He reached the appointed place, met the promised brethren there, and they went on their way together. They were equals as fellow travellers, no one considered himself to be above the other, each one of them was a servant, each one master. Constant in prayers, they watered the road with tears. The further their feet took them, the greater was their gain. They had one mind, one joy, and one sorrow.

§ 45. When they had sailed across the British sea and arrived in Gaul, they heard the strange languages of different nations, and father David was endowed with the gift of tongues, just as the apostolic company was, so that when they were staying among foreign peoples they should not lack an interpreter, and also that they should confirm the faith of others by the word of truth.(6)Rhygyfarch’s Life of St. David. Ed. and transl. Richard Sharpe and John Reuben Davies. Boydell & Brewer. 2007. Pg. 139-140.

Latin source of Rhygyfarch’s Life of St. David.

44 Crescentibus autem meritis, crescunt eta honorumb dignitates. Nam quadam nocte ad eum angelus affuit, cui inquit, ‘Crastina die precingens calciad te, Ierusalem usque pergeree proficiscens, optatam carpe uiam. Sed et alios duos comites itineris uocabo, Eliud, scilicet,’ qui nunc Teliau uulgo uocatur, qui quondam eius monasterio interfuit monachus, ‘necnon et Paternum,’ cuius conuersatio atque uirtutes in sua continentur hystoria. Sanctus autem pater, admirans imperii preceptum, dixit, ‘Quomodo hoc fiet, nam quos promittis comites trium uel eo amplius dierum spatio a nobis uel a semetipsis distant? Nequaquam ergo pariter crastina conueniemus die.’ Angelus ad eum nuntiat, ‘Ego hac nocte ad quemquam illorum uadam, et ad condictum, quod nuncf ostendo, conuenient.’ Sanctus autem [Dauid], nichil moratus, dispositis cellul” utilitatibus, accepta fratrum benedictione, primo mane iter incepit. Peruenit ad condictum, repperit ibi promissos fratres, pariter guiam intrant. Equalis commeatus, nullus enim mente alio prior, quique eorum minister, quique dominus, sedula oratio, lacrimis uiam rigant. Quo amplius pes incederet, merces excresceret, una illish anima, una leticia, unus dolor.

45 Cum autem trans mare Brittannicum uecti Gallias adirent ac alienigenas diuersarum gentium linguas audirent, linguarum gratia ceu apostolicus ille cętus ditatus est [pater Dauid], ut ne in extraneis degentes gentibus interprete egerent, et ut aliorum fidem ueritatis uerbo firmarent.(7)Rhygyfarch’s Life of St. David. Ed. and transl. Richard Sharpe and John Reuben Davies. Boydell & Brewer. 2007. Pg. 139-140.

An English translation from Nova Legenda Anglie 2:365-66.

However, in order to satisfy their desire and the people’s supplications, he [Teilo] began to expound the sacred Scriptures. And each one of those standing heard him speaking in his own language. Therefore, when all who had been moved by so great a pleasing speech and they heard him for such a long time, the more they desired to hear him. Lest one should appear to presume about the business regarding which he was going to speak, as if he was preaching on his own account, he said to the people: “Hear now the words of life from my brethren who are more perfect in life than me, and or more diligent in learning.” Therefore Saint David and Padarn arose and they preached to the people and everyone in their own language perfectly understood them.(8)translation is mine

The Latin source from Nova Legenda Anglie 2:365-66.

Vt tamen populo supplicanti et illorum voto satisfaceret, sacras scripturas exponere cepit: et unusquisque astantium illum sua lingua loquentem audiuit. Cumque omnes tanta dulcedine sermonis illius essent affecti, ut quanto eum diutius audirent, magis illum audire desidarent; ne predicandi officium videretur presumere si solus predicassset, populo dixit: ‘Audit iam a fratribus meis verba vite, qui me perfectiores in vita sunt, et diligentiores in doctrina.’ Surrexerunt ergo sanctus Dauid et Paternus, et predicauerunt populo, omnibusque in sua lingua perfect intelligentibus eos.”

Acta Sanctorum.

AASS Mar., I. 44-45. Pg. 45

Chapter IV

Quadam nocte Angelus S. Dewi apparens, ait : Crastina die cingens et calceans te, Jerusalem peregre proficiscens, optatam carpe viam. Sed et alios duos comites vocabo : Eliud scilicet, qui nunc Telion vulgo nonimatur, qui quondam ejus monasterio interfuit monachus, et Paternum, cujus virtutes in sua continentur historia. Sanctus autem Pater admirans imperii præceptum, dixit : Quomodo hoc fieret? Nam quos promittis socios, trium vel amplius dierum spatio a nobis vel a semetipsis distant : nequaquam ergo crastina conveniremus die. Cui Angelus : Ego hac nocte ad quemlibet illorum vadam : et ad condictum, quod tibi modo ostendo, convenient. Sanctus autem nihil moratus, dispositis cellulæ utilatibus, accepta Fratrum benedictione, primo mane incepit iter, pervenit ad condictum, reperit ibi præmissos Fratres, pariterque intrant viam : una illis anima, una lætitia, unus dolor. Cum autem trans mare Britannicum vecti, Gallias adirent, ac alienas diversarum gentium linguas audirent, linguarum gratia, sicut Apostolicus ille cœtus, ditatus est David Pater : ut ne in extraneis degentes gentibus, interprete egerent.

References   [ + ]

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   [ + ]

The Language of Instruction in the Corinthian Church

The role of Hebrew, Aramaic, or both as the language of religious instruction in the earliest Corinthian Church.

This is a discussion based on a text supplied by Epiphanius, who believed the Corinthian conflict was because of the arrogance of the Greek rhetorics, who specialized in the various nuances of the Greek languages, did not recognize the Hebrew tongue as a sacerdotal language.

Paul presents a serious literary difficulty when addressing the use of tongues in the first century Corinthian Church. He assumed the reader understood the context which is lost to us today. The problem generally was about a person or persons speaking in a language which was not in the common vernacular of the audience. He mandated that any person speaking in a foreign language must have it immediately communicated in the local tongue. If there was no one available to interpret or the speaker(s) were incapable of interpreting their speech themselves, then the speaker was not allowed to speak. For example if a Rabbinic lecturer from Yavneh, Israel, stood up and gave a powerful speech on redemption in Hebrew, but did not have the ability to later translate it into the local Greek dialect, then he must not speak. It was of no benefit to the audience except for the speaker himself.

Paul also legislated that only one person can speak at a time and that each one must have a turn. This type of legislation parallels very much with ancient Jewish customs on reading, speaking and interpreting as outlined earlier in this series.

Why didn’t Paul name the Hebrew language, or the Greek languages that Epiphanius outlined as sources of the conflict? Paul was confronted with ethnic, linguistic and political forces in his writing that persuaded him not to name the specific language or languages that were in dispute. The Church could have disintegrated into factions by him naming them.

If Paul was emphasizing this to be a problem of liturgical reading, his word choice selection would have been different. The noun reader or the verb read can’t be found anywhere in the key-text. Paul wouldn’t have used the verb to speak such as λαλῶν found in I Corinthians 14:1 ὁ γὰρ λαλῶν γλώσσῃ, the one who speaks in a language in reference to a reader. He would have used something similar to ἀναγιγνώσκων anaginôskôn instead. Therefore the Corinthian problem being that of liturgical reading of the text in Hebrew was not the problem — at least according to the Epiphanius’ text anyways.

This is a difficult obstacle to overcome, and because of this, the Hebrew reader/interpreter theory cannot be held as a viable solution. However the Epiphanius text should be understood differently. The Epiphanius text was asserting Hebrew as an instructional language; a Messianic Jewish sage would speak in the religious tongue of Hebrew concerning the Christian life and an interpretation would be supplied in the local vernacular. This practice was adopted from a Jewish custom contemporary at that time.

Talmud Babli Yoma 20b demonstrates this Jewish rite of teaching in Hebrew and a simultaneous translation in the local tongue. This passage reflects a teaching session given by R. Shila. His instruction was performed in Hebrew, which was demonstrated here as the language of Jewish religion and polity — a sacerdotal tongue. An interpreter was required for the common people to understand the speech. The text makes this out to be standard procedure during this time.

Rab(1)Abba Areka came to the place of R. Shila, when there happened to be no interpreter to stand next to R. Shila, so Rab took the stand next to him and interpreted, ‘keriath hageber’ as ‘the call fo the man’. R. Shila said to him” Would you, Sir, interpret it as: Cockrow! Rab replied: ‘A flute is musical to nobles, but give it to weavers, they will not accept it’.(2)Talmud Babli Yoma 20b. As found as a pdf at halakhah.com There are no page numbers. The pdf is attributed to Tarmo Jeskanen as the author. See also Yoma 20b in the original

The eleventh century Rashi chose to explain further the mechanics between the teacher and the interpreter:

The one who interprets stands beside a sage who gives the homily and the sage whispers the Hebrew language to him and he translates to the common language they hear in.(3)My translation Yoma 20b

Where Rashi got the idea of the Sage whispering to the translator is not known. This may be a much later tradition than Paul’s time.

This passage used two different words to define the concept of interpreter. The first one was אמורא Amora. The Jewish Encyclopedia explains that this term had two functions. The first one represented all the Rabbinic teachers that flourished during a period of about three hundred years, from the time of the death of the patriarch R. Judah I. (219) to the completion of the Babylonian Talmud (about 500)(4)Amora as found in the Jewish Encylopedia. The second definition applies here. While the lecturer generally pronounced his sentences in the academic language, which was chiefly Hebrew, the Amora gave his explanations in Aramaic…”(5)Amora as found in the Jewish Encylopedia.. The article states that the term Amora as an interpreter or translator was a later usage to that of the word meturgeman and often was interchanged with it.

The second word used for interpreter is פרש peresh — to interpret, expound, clarify.

Understanding the word interpret in I Corinthians 14 is one of the keys to unlocking what Paul meant. The Syriac version of this passage is especially helpful which is ܦܫܩ pashek. J. Payne Smith’s Dictionary describes at as to explain, expound, to write commentaries, to translate. The dictionary demonstrated how the word ܦܫܩ was used in the Syrian Church: “he expounds the Six Days of Creation to the congregation,” which exemplifies the fact that Paul wasn’t meaning interpreter to be a literal word for word translation from one language to another but it could be dynamic, or amplified.(6)J. Payne Smith’s (Mrs. Margoliouth) A Compendious Syriac Dictionary. Pg 468 as found at Dukhrana’s website.

This passage from the Talmud also exhibits that it was Jewish tradition for the teacher to speak in Hebrew while an interpreter translated it into the common tongue of the audience. The Epiphanius text believed this practice was still being performed in the earliest Corinthian Church. Yet there is one difference between Paul’s exhortation and two hundred years or so later to the time of R. Shila — during Paul’s time a teacher instructing in Hebrew could provide his own translation. Rabbinic tradition during R. Shila’s time did not allow this. Someone else was obligated to do the translation.

If one takes face-value the information provided so far, Paul was referencing the the one who speaks in tongues as one teaching or lecturing in Hebrew. The interpreter was the speaker or another person familiar with both Hebrew and the target language, translating it on the fly. Paul mentioned in I Corinthians 14:13 that a person who speaks in a foreign unnamed tongue should himself interpret it. Later on in 14:28 he exhorts those who speak in a tongue should not speak at all if a third party interpreter is not available. In the context of what has been discussed so far, Paul was stating a rule about instruction and translation. If the teacher who taught in Hebrew had no knowledge of the local vernacular and there was no one available to translate who knew both Hebrew and the local language, the teacher was to remain silent.

The Epiphanius text stated that there was a conflict between three different Greek ethnic groups. This tension was likely over the translation or elucidation of the original speech done in Hebrew or Aramaic. Doric, Attic and Aeolic interpreters were simultaneously translating in their own mother tongue. This would be very confusing for those not familiar with Jewish customs, especially non-Jews. It would seem like mayhem and would be an obstacle to natural growth. It could also have been a dispute over what the standardized Greek language ought to be in the Corinthian Church. None of the Greek ethnic groups would cede their language to the authority of another Greek dialect.

This renders a difficult section of Paul’s writing to simplicity. This may not entirely be the case. The fourth century or later Latin based Ambrosiaster text on I Corinthians wrote that the Corinthian problem wasn’t about the Hebrew language but Aramaic — a language which surpassed Hebrew as the common language of the Jewish community by Paul’s time. The Ambrosiaster text outlined the conflict being Jewish members (specifically women) of the Corinthian congregation speaking Aramaic as a form of religious superiority above the non-Jewish Greeks in the Corinthian Church. This does not come as a surprise. As outlined in an earlier article, Liturgy, Race and Language in the Corinthian Church, there were tensions between Hebrew and Aramaic in the Jewish religious life. This could also had been reflected in the earliest Corinthian Church over the proper language of instruction. There could have been Hebrew and Aramaic factions competing for preeminence.

This idea of Hebrew and Aramaic competing as the language of instruction fits in better with Paul’s admonition on tongues because on a number of occasions he refers to tongues in the plural, not in the singular.

The Greek community has so far been left of the equation within the formative Corinthian Church. It may have not been Hebrew, as the Epiphanius text states, but which Greek language ought to be the language of instruction and translated into the local vernacular. Doric Greek for example, was the language connected to the historical Corinthian city — whether the people during the first century still spoke Doric locally as the daily tongue or Attic had overcome it is not known. Doric was also the language used for composing choral lyric poetry in the international Greek world.(7) See Choral Doric for more information. Doric could have possibly been wanted as the language of instruction and certain sects within the initial Corinthian community were pressing for this. Since other Greek members of the Church did not know Doric, a translator was required to interpret it into the local vernacular. The Greeks thought their language to be superior to anyone else and would have had a hard time submitting to a foreign language such as Hebrew or Aramaic as the definitive one for religious devotion.(8) See Liturgy, Race and Language in the Corinthian Church for more information.

There is not enough information to substantiate Doric but it does show a potential state for conflict. It could also have been Aeolic or Attic pushed as the premier language of instruction. More research is required in this area.

The probability of the Greeks pressing for a Greek language to be the one for instruction is not as strong as that of Hebrew, Aramaic, or both being the initial language of instruction in the Church with an accompanying interpretation into the local tongue. The Epiphanius text should be understood that the instruction was done in Hebrew and the conflict was in which Greek language should be the primary base tongue in the Corinthian Church.

This was the environment Paul was up against in writing his letter to the Corinthians. It was a church composed of Jewish-Hebrew, Jewish-Aramaic, Jewish-Greek, and non-Jewish Greek members. It was a time where all things of religious faith were allowed to be reexamined, especially in context of Jewish tradition; what rituals were to be included from previous liturgical traditions, what were to be removed, and what new traditions should be started. The Jewish tradition was the underlying base. The Church was both restorative to the ancient Jewish identity but forward looking at the same time. It was more inclusive of many different ethnic groups and practices. Paul seemed unconcerned about the language issue itself but wanted to maintain some type of order so that all these different language speaking groups could operate cohesively together.

One must be aware that there is a lack of complete information on the use of Hebrew in first century Israel and the diaspora. It has been asserted here that it is a religious language used by by the leaders and teachers on matters of Jewish religious and civil matters while most of the Israeli public spoke Aramaic while the diaspora Jews spoke whatever local language they lived in. This is a controversial point. The publication, The Language Environment of First Century Judaea edited by Randall Buth and Steven R. Notley, strongly argue that Hebrew was the common language of communication in first century Judaea.(9) Jerusalem Studies in the Synoptic Gospels—Volume Two The Language Environment of First Century Judaea Randall Buth, Steven R. Notley ed..

If one reads the Pauline passage with the idea of Hebrew/Aramaic as the language of instruction and understands the Jewish structure of speaking and interpretation in Jewish tradition as outlined in this series, the text is clearly understood. It is not a mystical out-of-this-world experience but the re-imaging of Jewish structure in a newly formed Church.

This also answers the question of why the language problems of Corinth existed. If there was no Jewish antecedent forcing the use of a sacerdotal language, the Greek audience simply would have performed all the liturgical rites in their native tongue, and consequently there would have never been a mysterious tongues controversy.■

References   [ + ]

The Public Reader, the Synagogue, and Corinth

A detailed look into the Jewish rite of reading, speaking, interpreting. Practices that set the liturgical framework for the Corinthian and later churches.

This article specifically dwells on the role of the reader in the Jewish synagogue. Another article The Public Reader in the Church, explains how the early church transformed the rite into a Greek Christian one. Another article in this series The Language of Instruction in the Corinthian Church, aligns with Paul’s explanation of tongues.

The goal initially was to capture the concept of the synagogue process of the reader and see if it fits in with Paul’s address of tongues in his first letter to the Corinthians. However, it was close, but didn’t quite match.

The Jewish rite of reading parallels closely with the office of instruction. The two offices seem to overlap. This study reveals a rich history of the public reader from 500 BC; the transition from Jewish to a Greek custom.

Building a framework

In order to structure a Jewish background to the Corinthian saga, historical context has to built. This has to be done from Jewish sources, with some help from the Bible, the Apostle Paul, and a number of ecclesiastical texts.

The coverage is broken into two parts. The first looks at the texts themselves and attempts to rebuild a historical background. The second is to pick-up clues from the reader/interpreter rite in the synagogue.

The rebuilding is very difficult. Although there is much information on how the Aramaic speaking Jewish community adapted the Hebrew Scriptures to their lives, there is little information about how the Jewish Greeks observed theirs. It is too much to assume that whatever dogma was established in the Babylonian or Palestinian Talmuds would be exactly followed in their contemporary Jewish Greek world. However, with the exception of Philo of Alexandria and Josephus, there are no Jewish Greek literary traditions that relates to the Jewish Greek synagogue practices of the first century.

Neither is it clear how the Greek Septuagint fit within the earliest Corinthian Church. It is irrefutable that the Septuagint was the source Bible for early Christian life, but the Corinthian Church, composed originally with a majority of Messianic Jews, may have initially started with different liturgical and linguistic values. These traditional Jewish liturgical and religious influences may have shifted significantly within a decade.

This lack of first century Jewish Greek literature, especially from a Jewish Pharasaic religious perspective such as Paul wrote from, or anything that relates to their synagogue liturgical practices in the first century, forces the researcher to a limited array of evidence that is only found in the Bible, Babylonian Talmud, a small number of Patristic writers, and later Jewish thinkers who based their thought on the Talmud.

This is a serious problem and one that will likely never be completely overcome. Therefore the researcher is forced to utilize the best pieces available today.

The first public reader, Ezra the Scribe

The oldest Jewish text that attests to such a rite allegedly can be traced to Ezra the Scribe around 450 BC. It is found in the Biblical Book of Nehemiah chapter 8:

1 all the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel.

2So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand.(1)וְכֹל מֵבִין 3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand.(2)וְהַמְּבִינִים And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.

4 Ezra the teacher of the Law stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam.

5 Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. 6 Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.

7 The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah—instructed(3)מְבִינִים the people in the Law while the people were standing there. 8 They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear(4)מְפֹרָשׁ and giving the meaning(5)וְשׂוֹם שֶׂכֶל so that the people understood(6)וַיָּבִינוּ what was being read.(7)Nehemiah 8 NIV as taken from the biblegateway.com website. The highlights in red are not part of the original but put in here by me.

A detailed look at the Hebrew text of Nehemiah

The text described Ezra the Scribe reading from a podium along with what appears to be a third party explaining what he read in terms the audience could understand. A number of key Hebrew words develop this inquiry even further;

  • בין, bin, understanding, or teaching
  • פרש peresh, give meaning, explain, or translate and
  • שֶׂכֶל shekel, a synonym to בין comprehend, apply common sense.

The use of בין, bin, is troublesome. It is used in the Nehemiah text in two distinct ways — to understand, and to instruct. Modern Hebrew restricts its usage only to mean to understand, which makes it difficult for those knowing modern Hebrew to discern the nuances here. The contemporary language does not give any sense of instructing, translating, or explaining. This is not the case in this much earlier writing.

There is a clue about this word meaning instructing found later on in the Book of Nehemiah which states the lay audience Ezra spoke to did not know Hebrew; the majority knew Aramaic and the rest other foreign languages.(8)Nehemiah 13:24 Therefore the people who heard the reading from the Law were incapable of understanding the Hebrew reading. The great eleventh century Rabbi, Rashi, commented upon the idea of the Levites instructing מְבִינִים, mivinim, as a case of interpreting the Hebrew words into the common vernacular.(9)http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16515/jewish/Chapter-8.htm#showrashi=true Therefore בין, bin, must be understood as teaching or instructing within this context.

Was Hebrew really a dead language in Ezra’s time?

This is a controversial point. What did the people hear when listening to Ezra? The book, Hebrew Study from Ezra to Ben-Yehuda edited by William Horbury, asserts that the cultural elite only knew Aramaic, and the peasantry conversed in Hebrew.(10)Hebrew Study from Ezra to Ben-Yehuda William Horbury ed. T & T Clark, 2000. Pg. 17 This is a completely opposite conclusion to the evidence found above. The Hebrew Study from Ezra to Ben-Yehuda does not seem to fit all the evidence found.

The more plausible theory is the one noted earlier that Ezra read the Hebrew text out loud and immediately translated into Aramaic. The Talmud Babli indicates academic, religious and political communities understood and could speak Hebrew during his time, but the layperson could not. This fits in better with the paradigm offered in the Talmud.(11)Talmud Babli Yoma 20b

The importance of פרש

The Nehemiah text then shortly after uses פרש parash as a synonym to בין, bin. Parash usually means to make clear, explain or translate. It is important to look at the era that Nehemiah was written in to support the idea of translation.(12)Ezra 4:18. Internal evidence from the Book of Ezra 4:18 uses a similar verbal form which correlates with the word translation or interpret. Modern Hebrew understands the word as interpret as well.

פרש parash becomes a key word for later discussions. The word does not denote a word-for-word translation, but can be amplified, a springboard for an extended lecture in the target language, and a platform for personal gain. This caused many later problems in the synagogue rite that needed to be rectified.

The ongoing tradition of the Reader/Translator

Ezra to Paul

According to later Jewish texts, this tradition established by Ezra has carried on ever since then. It is not clear how it evolved or adapted over the centuries. Only small snippets in time can be found that reference this. The following precepts were established from the time of Ezra.

  • A reader to read from the original Hebrew text from a specially built podium for this rite

  • the speaking of Hebrew and a third party, which is here defined as the Levites, translating or explaining the reading in the common vernacular of the audience,

  • the people hearing the reading and translation are to respond with an amen.

There is no historical information regarding the role of Hebrew and the translator in the Jewish liturgy for almost five hundred years after the time of Ezra. The next document that refers to it, albeit controversially, is around 60 AD by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians (I Corinthians 14)

Paul addresses the rites of speaking in a foreign language, the audience hearing a foreign language, interpreting, interpreting in turns, saying the amen, and a need for clarifying or explaining a speech. These fully parallel with that of the Jewish liturgy. There are too many key terms that rule out any relationship with the Jewish liturgy as purely accidental.

However, one must keep in mind that Paul did not suggest the reader/interpreter paradigm in his famous tongues passage of I Corinthians 14. The reader/interpreter part of the liturgy may have existed in the earliest Corinthian Church which Paul attended, but this does not appear to be the central thrust of his concern. He was addressing instructing/interpreting which also had a role in Jewish traditional religious piety.

Hebrew Reader and Interpreter in the Talmud

The next substantial mention of the liturgy of Hebrew being read and a third party standing beside the reader and simultaneously translating it into the common vernacular can be found in the fourth century or later Babylonian Talmud.

Talmud Megillah 9a to 24b have scattered references to this and allude to the history of the reading of the Bible in the Jewish liturgy. They demonstrate the tensions between the use of Hebrew and its adaptation to Jewish communities of different linguistic natures. The resolutions are uneven in application but do show some general evolution.

  • Talmud Babli Megillah 9a. It declares that the Books of Scripture may be written in any language, but then later stipulates that it can only translated into Greek, and no other language. The text further states that King Ptolemy, a non-Jewish Greek ruler, legislated a Greek translation in the third century BC, which means the Jewish sages had no choice but to sanctify it and therefore the writing goes on to mythologize this. It also legislated that whatever language the liturgical prayers were originally written in, must stay in their original language.(13)Talmud Babli Megillah 9a. The Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Megillah 2a – 32a. Reformatted by Reuven Brauner, Raanana 5771. Pg. 31

  • Talmud Babli Megillah 17a:

    The quotation from below is from the Mishnah, which is an older text inside the Talmud Babli and can be traced often to the second century. The author(s) here cover the subject of reading in Hebrew — its primary usage in the liturgy and should be practiced even if a person doesn’t understand it. The problem appears a difficult one for the Jewish sages as they contradict themselves here. They conclude that hearing or reading in Hebrew, even if it is not understood, is a religious obligation that morally must be observed.

    MISHNAH. If one reads the Megillah backwards, he has not performed his obligations. If he reads it by heart, if he reads it in a translation [Targum] in any language, he has not performed his obligation. It may, however, be read to those who do not understand Hebrew in a language other than Hebrew. If one who does not understand Hebrew hears it read in Hebrew, he has performed his obligation. If one reads it with breaks or while half-asleep, he has performed his obligation.(14)Talmud Babli Megillah 17a. The Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Megillah 2a – 32a. Reformatted by Reuven Brauner, Raanana 5771. Pg. 64ff

  • The Rabbinic discussion proceeds further on this passage, which is not quoted here, struggling with the idea of Hebrew having such a high standing and how the Jewish faith could extend into the non-Jewish vernacular. They concluded that Hebrew was to be used in reading or recitation but the holy language extended no further. The common vernacular could be used in the common prayers, and thus other liturgical rites.

  • Megillah 21b covers the rules of translating the Scriptures into the common vernacular. It concluded that the Torah must only have one reader and one translator for ensuring that the importance of the text is understood. The prophets are considered less important and are given one reader, and two simultaneous translators. The reading of the Talmud had little or no restrictions on the amount of readers or simultaneous translators. The amount of readers and translators, depending on the importance of the text, increased for entertainment purposes. The art of reading or translating together in harmony was like hearing a choir.

    A Tanna stated: This is not the case with [the public reading of] the Torah. Our Rabbis taught: As regards the Torah, on reads and one translates, and in no case must one read and two translate [together]. As regards the Prophets, one reads and two translate, but in no case may two read and two translate. As regards Hallel and the Megillah, even ten may read [and ten may translate]. What is the reason? Since the people like it, they pay attention and hear.(15)Talmud Babli Megillah 17a. The Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Megillah 2a – 32a. Reformatted by Reuven Brauner, Raanana 5771. Pg. 64ff

    This may have been a later addition to the religious liturgy, as Paul in I Corinthians 14:27, established that each one must speak or translate in turn. He did not want a cacophony of voices at the same time.

  • Megillah 23b explains that the reader is not to read less than three verses on any occasion, but while reading, should stop at each verse so that the translator can keep in rhythm.(16)Talmud Babli Megillah 23b. The Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Megillah 2a – 32a. Reformatted by Reuven Brauner, Raanana 5771. Pg. 89

  • The reader is not to skip verses in the Torah, but can skip in the prophets.

  • There is more to the Megillah about reading and translating, such as age, gender and physical requirements, but it does not relate to the Corinthian context, so it is not listed here.

Maimonides on reading and interpreting

The twelfth century Rabbi, scholar, and physician, Maimonides (also known as Rambam) synthesized the idea of the reader/interpreter into a cohesive form. His coverage of this topic can be found in Mishneh Torah: Book of Love: Order or Prayers (Hilkot Tefilah chapter 12). He copiously wrote in detail on the subject though most if it does not directly connect with the Church of Corinth. There are two themes that do have a connection:

  • The Amen construct found in I Corinthians:

    Each one of the readers opens the Torah scroll and looks at the place from which he is to read. Afterwards, he declares, Barchu et Ado-nai hamevorach, and all the people answer: Baruch Ado-nai hamevorach le’olam va’ed. He then recites the blessing:

    Blessed are You, God, our Lord, King of the universe, who has chosen us from among all the nations and given us His Torah. Blessed are You, God, the Giver of the Torah.

    All the people respond: “Amen.” Afterwards, he reads until he completes the reading, rolls the scroll [closed] and recites the blessing:(17)Mishne Torah. Book of Love. Order of Prayers. Halachah 5. This English translation is done by Eliyahu Touger and available at Chabad website. For the Aramaic text, go to the Hebrew Wikisource website

    Both Paul and Maimonides agree that the amen is part of the Jewish liturgy but disagree on how it is to be used. Paul emphasized that an intermediary between the speaker and the congregation, the anaplêrôn, was to say the amen on behalf of the congregation. The term anaplêrôn is unique to Paul’s writing. The fifth century Alexandrian Church called the person who occupied the position of anaplêrôn(18)ἀναπληρῶν as keimenos(19)the full text has it as ὅ γε μὴν ἐν τάξει τῇ τοῦ λαϊκοῦ κείμενος See also Cyril of Alexandria on Tongues: Conclusion — one who takes homiletic exegesis or highly articulate language and explains it in such a way that the average person could understand. The anaplêrôn would say amen as a way of ending whatever explanation was required. If the anaplêrôn did not understand what was being said, he could not then convert it into common vernacular and therefore would be unable to say the amen. Maimonides, on the other hand, believed the amen was to be done by the congregation itself at the ending of a reading. This may be a later evolution of this rite since Paul’s time.

  • Maimonides believed that the synagogue liturgy of reading from Hebrew with a translator interpreting the reading into the local vernacular was an established fact since the time of Ezra.

    From the time of Ezra, it was customary that a translator would translate to the people the [passages] read by the reader from the Torah, so that they would understand the subject matter.(20)Maimonides. Mishne Torah. Book of Love. Order of Prayers. Halachah 10. This English translation is done by Eliyahu Touger and available at Chabad website. For the Aramaic text, go to the Hebrew Wikisource website

The office of the interpreter in Jewish liturgy

The Aramaic word for interpreter in the Talmud Megillah and commentaries associated with it is is מתרגם meturgem in the singular and מתרגמין meturgemin in the plural. The plural is used more often. Aramaic tradition and the English language has resolved this office to be called the meturgamen. The early history of this word is not known except that it was extensively used from the third century onwards in Aramaic circles. The torah.org website covers the twofold usage of the interpreter in a clear way:

There were two types of Merturgemans (translators/interpreters). The first is the kind who stood by the Torah reader in the synagogue and translated into Aramaic as the reader read, verse by verse. It is mentioned dozens of times in the Talmud; once the Jews were exiled to Babylon, their vernacular was Aramaic – only the scholars and elders spoke or understood Hebrew. Thus to make Torah reading understandable, it was translated. In the same way, the Meturgeman would also sit by the Rabbi in the synagogue or the study hall. When the Rabbi would share words of Torah with the congregation or with his students, he would speak quietly in Hebrew and the trans. would repeat his words in Aramaic.(21)Rambam: Talmud Torah 4:3

The Jewish Encylopedia further adds:

The weekly lesson from the Pentateuch and the Prophets was read by a member of the congregation, and the meturgeman had to translate into the vernacular the Pentateuchal lesson verse by verse; from the Prophets he translated three verses at a time. While the reader of the Hebrew text was forbidden to recite by heart, the meturgeman was not permitted to read his translation from a book, or to look at the Hebrew text when translating, in order that the people should not think that the translation was contained in the text. The meturgeman was also forbidden to raise his voice higher than that of the reader of the text. He did not limit himself to a mere literal translation, but dilated upon the Biblical contents, bringing in haggadic elements, illustrations from history, and references to topics of the day. This naturally required much time, to gain which the weekly lesson had to be short, so that the Pentateuch was finished only in a cycle of three or three and one-half years; while the portion from the Prophets was frequently abbreviated.

The free handling of the text, which frequently changed the translation into a sermon or homily, gave the meturgeman ample opportunity to introduce his subjective views into the lesson; and with the multiplication of sects this became distasteful to the Rabbis. The increase in the opposition to the meturgeman led to the fixation of the Targumim and to the demand that the meturgeman keep strictly to mere translation. But a mere translation satisfied neither the public, who had known the text from early school-days, nor the meturgeman, who was deprived of an opportunity to parade his knowledge and to display his oratorical gifts. As a consequence the “darshan,” or preacher, was introduced; and the literal translation fell gradually into disuse.(22)Meturgemanas found in the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia

It does not demonstrate what sources were used to show the disuse of the meturgeman and switch to the darshan.

The same article in the Jewish Encyclopedia believed the original term for interpreter was מבין, maven. This word declined and gave way to the use of meturgeman. This may be true but it lacks sufficient documentation.

A better alternative is the standard Hebrew word for interpreter, פרש peresh. The eminent Hebraist and author of the Hebrew New Testament, Franz Delitzsch, consistently translated the word interpret and variants in I Corinthians 14 as פרש peresh.(23)The New Testament text as found at Dukhrana and I agree with this choice. Unless more detailed information arrives, the noun פרש peresh, and its variants, was more likely the one Paul had in mind.

This brings the reader to the third part, did the concept of the Jewish reader adapt into the rites of the earliest Church? This question is attempted to be answered and more in the following article: The Public Reader in the Church

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