Tag Archives: Parthian

Gregory of Nyssa on Speaking in Tongues – English texts

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

Oratio de Spiritu Sancto sive in Pentecosten

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

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

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

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

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

Contra Eunomium

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

Cyril of Alexandria on Tongues: I Corinthians

Portions of a commentary on I Corinthians attributed to Cyril of Alexandria translated into English.

The translations selected are those relating to the doctrine of tongues.

Tradition asserts the text by Cyril, further study indicates some pieces are from the works of Didymus of Alexandria. Although the majority belongs to Cyril, it cannot be exactly determined which pieces are Didymus’ accounts. For more information see Cyril of Alexandria on Tongues Intro.

I Corinthians 12:9(1)Translated from: S. Cyrilli Alexandrini. In Epistolam I Ad Corinthios. XII, 9. MPG Vol. 74, Col. 887

Thus we say these things to be the works of powers through the oneness of the Spirit. But if another prophesies something, it is still not apart from the Spirit. And so a different person has the discernments of spirits, it is nevertheless from the same Spirit. Concerning the works of the spirits, it has been spoken about before. He verily confidently asserts that it is given to those so that they were skillful with various languages, and also translations as well. For we say this gift itself was supplied in the time and also need in a well ordered manner. But for those ones who were speaking in languages, and furthermore did not know them beforehand, and these ones translating understood, nevertheless [they were] not in the custom of such sounds existing in the past. The divine Paul confidently asserts that it was certainly given to them then to speak in languages, not as an allotted portion(2) ie: not something to be repeated and expected as a typical part of the Christian experience of the gifts but in the form of a sign for believers. Indeed he was explaining the prophetic word in such a way he supported, that “in strange tongues and foreign lips I will speak to this people and they will not believe such a thing.” The Spirit works the dispensation of gifts in each one in a variety of ways. So that for instance, they say, this body is certainly joined together by the parts pachu(3) It means material, substance or unspiritual. Not sure how to translate it in this context. and from land, so also is Christ, truly His body, that is to say the Church, mindfully apprehended to unity through the many multitude of the faithful, possessing the most perfect composition.

Now for this reason also the divine David says that she [the Church] is to be clothed in colored guilded clothing, [Psalm 45:10] it is the same of the gifts, I think, also valued as well in the manner of signs. ■

I Corinthians 14:2(4)Translated from: S. Cyrilli Alexandrini. In Epistolam I Ad Corinthios. XIV, 2. MPG Vol. 74, Col. 889ff

“For if one speaks in a language, he does not speak to men, but to God.”

It detracts them from what ought to be practiced, as the ability to speak in languages is certainly greater to its own glory than the act of interpreting the things of prophets. Regarding these things having been displayed among us, faith and also hope and definitely of love for both God and the brethren, which also all of the law has the fulfillment [in it], let him add the remaining things.(5) Latin has: then at last the remaining things are also to be added For at that time, and at the very time we will be the ones filled of these gifts by God, and we will be enriched in the gifts by the Spirit. I say in regards to have the ability to prophesy, that is a person who can interpret the things of the prophets. For the once only incarnation of the Only Begotten who suffered and also rose from the dead, and of whose ministry has been brought to perfection among us, of such was yet the precise time of prophecy, surely the [function of] prophecy will be about such things? Therefore the one who prophesies about such things would be nothing different, except that one only has the ability to explain about a prophecy, and as in those who are revealing(6) καταλευκαίνοντες This only exists in Cyril’s writings. It is from the root καταλευκαίνω Stephanus Vol. 4, Col. 1125 indicates the root means to uncover a rock. The Latin is explanantes, “to explain”. for those who are listening, then from whom are the ones who confirm the word to the true thing.(7) Latin has “et deinde sermonem nostrum secundum rei veritatem ex ipsis confirmantes”—and henceforth from these are the ones who confirm our speech according to the truth of the matter. We will be upright and also steadfast advisors of the most noble things.(8) Latin has “recti veracesque erimus optimarum rerum interpretes”—We will be the most upright and truthful interpreters of the most useful matters.

Therefore, it says, “the one who speaks in a language, [is] rather not to men, but he speaks to God”.(9) I Corinthians 14:2 typically reads, ὁ γὰρ λαλῶν γλώσσῃ οὐκ ἀνθρώποις λαλεῖ ἀλλὰ θεῷ, οὐδεὶς γὰρ ἀκούει while Cyril has, γλώσσῃ λαλῶν, οὐκ ἀνθρώποις μᾶλλον, ἀλλὰ τῷ Θεῷ προσλαλεῖ. Cyril’s use of προσλαλεῖ is especially noted. It is more emphatic than λαλεῖ. There is no other instance of this I Corinthians 14:2 written this way. The Latin translator identified this slight nuance and used alloquitur instead of loquitur. His word order is subject-object-verb instead of subject-verb-object. His text seems to conform more to classical Greek than that of Koinê here. How then, what kind of meaning [is the language] that states “for no one hears?”

For if perhaps the ability is given to a certain one of the disciples to be able to speak in the language of the Medes, and a different one [of the disciples to speak in] Elamite,(10) Latin: Nam si alicui discipulorum tribuatur fortasse copia loquendi lingua Medorum, alii autem Elamitarum. “Now if some of the disciples were perhaps imparted to be speaking the language of the Medes in abundance, but yet others Elamite” then who will be the ones hearing, [is it] the things about their message perhaps being spoken about to the synagogues of the Jews(11) εἶτα ταῖς Ἰουδαίων προσδιαλέγοιντο συναγωγᾶις or rather to the [Church] assemblies of the Greeks? Rather, what kind of profit will be of these words? For it will amount to nothing, except only of God who has known everything(12)Latin: præter solum Deum quem nihil latet, quidquam intelliget—except only God whom nothing escapes notice, He understands any person. For “in the Spirit,” it says, “he speaks mysteries.” Therefore it is observed, the one who speaks in whatever way to God, speaks in the Spirit.(13)Latin expresses this whole part differently i nam Spiritui, inquit, mysteria loquitur ; ergo Spiritus Deus est—for in the Spirit, it says, he speaks mysteries; now the Spirit is God. Therefore God naturally is the Spirit. Therefore the one who speaks in a language, “rather to God,” it says, “and he is not speaking to men.” On the other hand, “the one who prophesies speaks edification, consoling, and encouragement to men.” In fact one observes that to prophesy is to interpret the matters of the prophets in such things through which the word of encouragement is being established, and the mind of those who have been initiated is to be led into the truth about Christ. He also elsewhere shows beyond comparison that the activity of interpreting the prophets is in superiority than the act of speaking in a language.(14)ὅν ἐν ἀμείνοσι τοῦ γλώσσῃ λαλεῖν τὸ διερμηνεύειν τὰ προφητῶν use of the comparative genitive here. “For he builds himself up,” it says, “the one who is speaking in a tongue.” Of course he understands himself, but someone else, absolutely nothing. This one, who makes use with the voices of those holy prophets and with predictions in regards to [the] testimony, builds up the Church. Greater then also in the highest ranks, and in the most splendid hopes is the application of prophecy. Indeed it is better to mutually build up the Church than himself alone speaking out in a language.” ■

I Corinthians 14:5(15)Translated from: S. Cyrilli Alexandrini. In Epistolam I Ad Corinthios. XIV, 2. MPG Vol. 74, Col. 891

“Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy;” (NASB)

Seeing that it was unexpected, and truly a gift of the gods,(16)Latin has divinum munus—a divinely inspired gift; the translator is trying to move away from the plural form of gods in Cyril’s Greek. that men being of Hebrew background were being empowered to speak in languages of others,(17)Latin has alienis…linguis—in foreign languages not that some suppose the Apostle rashly determined the nature of the practice to be purposeless, saying it had been given through the work of the Spirit.(18)Latin: it had been given by the work of the Spirit in some respects For it was given as a sign for believers, he favorably approves [the practice] and says, “Now I wish all of you to speak in tongues,” for he clearly cuts-off at once the eagerness in this certain thing, and moves to a better one, “even more that you prophesy.” Greater and more palpable the orator is who prophesies than the one who speaks in a language. The one who brings forth [in a language] shows that this is not entirely unprofitable in this action for those who hold such things [dear] and those who are listening.(19)Latin: Quanquam ne hunc quidem plane inutilem audientibus esse ostendit dicens—Yet he shows that this is certainly not completely unprofitable for those who are listening. “Except if there is no interpreter,” that is to say, if he does not have someone who always sits near and interprets for the beginners.(20)τοῖς μυσταγωγουμένοις Latin: initiatis—novices, or those who have done introductory rites in the Christian faith.(21) Latin: qui initiatis interpretetur—that he is supposed to interpret for the initiates

I Corinthians 14:10(22)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(23)Εἰσεφοὶτων This word is not fully known. This is the only usage in any manuscript found so far. It comes from the root, φοιτάω 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,(24)ψαλμῳδίας The recitation and singing from the Book of Psalms was a common part of the ancient Church liturgy. these ones who have the ability to proclaim(25)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” 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.(26)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.

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(27)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. accustomed for those for those who are listening.

If in fact then the unintelligible sound was also an unaccustomed voice, the striking(28)ἐρεύγεσθαι literally to belch out, utter, roar. vainly produced in purposelessness with some type of noise,(29)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. 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(30)λαλεῖν 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.■

I Corinthians 14:12(31)Translated from two manuscripts: Cyrilli Alexandrini. Cyrilli: Archiepiscopi Alexandrini In D. Joannis Evangelium. Edited by Philippus Edvardus Pusey. London: Oxford. 1872, Pages 294-295, and S. Cyrilli Alexandrini. In Epistolam I Ad Corinthios. XIV, 10. MPG Vol. 74, Col. 891

“Seeing that you are zealous about the things of the spirit.”

He defines the spirit in these things [as] the bestowment(32)The Latin is translated as: “He says the Spirit in this place is the grace having been given through the Spirit” by the agency of the Spirit, that is, the ability to speak in languages. “If then”, he says, “I was to have offered prayers in the Churches by the Spirit,”(33)Ἐὰν οὖν, φησὶ, τὰς ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις εὐχὰς προσεύξωμαι Πνεύματι This is not the same text as found in any common Greek I Corinthians 14:12 text and not used by any other writer either. I may be mistakingly applying this as a Bible verse, but it appears this is what Cyril meant. that is, one who entirely has furnished(34)ἀποκεχρημένος This verb is only found in two other occasions outside this text. There are no dictionary definitions to be found. The parallel Latin was consulted here, abutens, from abutor “to use up any thing, to use to the end, to consume entirely; “and from κεχρημένος which is the perf part masc nom sg m/p of χράω — to furnish what is needful, to furnish the needful answer, to declare, pronounce, proclaim. I have put together these two evidences with the translation, “one who has entirely furnished.” in the language by the agency of the Spirit, I will have an unfruitful mind. For it is necessary for the person who should strain to the uttermost in prayers and those who are performing to seek for salvation by God, that it is not to be given a level of merit by a language [used], and a natural result of speaking in a [specific] language.(35)Latin: non autem lingua semet jactare, atque in loquendi gloria acquiescere. On the other hand one is not to boast, or to find pleasure in the act of speaking glory in a language itself. In such a case an unfruitful mind develops, and the person who obtains favor for himself [has] not one advantage from such a [selfish] ambition either. ■

I Corinthians 14:15(36)Cyrilli Alexandrini. Cyrilli: Archiepiscopi Alexandrini In D. Joannis Evangelium. Edited by Philippus Edvardus Pusey. London: Oxford. 1872, Pg. 295

“I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the mind.”

It is necessary on my behalf, it says, if I indeed should choose to be praying in a language,(37)Latin: et lingua per Spiritum data uti velim — in a language having been given by the Spirit that I would wish. that is to say, to be fond about speaking in a language; to eagerly try would not occupy an unfruitful mind, and not only would it produce speaking in a language, but to awaken the mind within me.(38)ἀλλὰ διεγείρειν ἐν ἐμαυτῷ τὸν νοῦν. The MPG version has, συναγείρειν δὲ ὥσπερ ἐν ἐμαυτῷ τὸν νοῦν. The MPG text is awkward and unclear and forced the Latin translator to go dynamic, imo potius meam veluti mecum mentem colligere — as if it is my own language that is assembled together with my own mind and if I should perhaps sing a Psalm(39)ψάλοιμι. Most standard dictionaries omit the ecclesiastical usage of this word and emphasize the playing of a stringed instrument. However, the Latin, the context, and the root of the word all suggest Psalm singing. in a language, for the act of singing a Psalm [is] nothing inferior and for the mind is the power in the understanding of the psalmody,(40)understand the nuances and art of psalm singing and of the prophets, and one is not bound to stop incomprehensible(41)ἀζητήτους. It is rarely used. Lidell and Scott suggests unexamined or untried which the Latin tends to agree. Lampe’s, Patristic Lexicon suggests insearchable or incomprehensible. The context here agrees with Lampe. words such as these. For if I wish to be speaking useless sounds,(42)εἰκαίας. This word is associated with the official function of the Church reader, who read from the pulpit to the assembly. Stephanus Dictionary (Vol. 2. Col. 219) refers to as εἰκαίας ἀναγνώστης. Cyril may have not meant this correlation here. The use of this word in this way may be a tradition after the time of this writing. “I have become a noisy gong.” (NASB).

On which account the one who prophesies is better, that is(43) ἤτοι especially when used in close proximity to automatically suggests whether… or, but the context, and the Latin suggest that is. A further look into this disjunctive particle suggests that it can be used in this way. I have tried the standard usage of whether… or and it just doesn’t make sense here. One of the historical definitions of prophecy is to read-out loud the divine Scriptures with an interpretation interpreting the divine writings in the Church, than simply enjoying the use(44)κατακεχρῆσθαι Perfect Infinitive middle passive. If the root is from χράω then the Latin and the above translation is correct. If it is from καταχράω which means to suffice, satisfy, or less often, abuse, the meaning could shift towards a more negative viewpoint. If it is from καταχράομαι to make use of a thing for a purpose, to waste, make ill use of a thing, to abuse, misuse, to treat ill, to kill. The translation could possibly read, “On which account the one who prophecies is better, that is, interpreting the divine writings in the Church, than simply enjoying wasting time with languages. with languages.

Which one then will be the better alternative? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the mind. In this case once more it is with the spirit, he speaks with the gift by means of the Spirit.

Seeing that an overseer(45)σκοπὸς could show the unprofitability for him by means of the most greatest and moral senses [about] the act of speaking in a language, because a follower may not have the ability to clearly understand the meaning [concerning] the things of the prophets in alternative ways, and he(46)the one who is publicly speaking in a language brings up other [languages] through which some would have wished to understand a person who speaks clearly. ■

I Corinthians 14:16-17(47)Cyrilli Alexandrini. Cyrilli: Archiepiscopi Alexandrini In D. Joannis Evangelium. Edited by Philippus Edvardus Pusey. London: Oxford. 1872, Page 296

Else if you shall bless in the spirit(48)τῷ πνεύματι instead of πνεύματι without the article. This is consistent with the Byzantine but not present in the Tischendorf edition. Results analyzed from http://unbound.biola.edu how will the one who makes the room of the laypeople understand say the “Amen”?(49)This text is no different in the Cyrillian text from the Biblical one. However, I am translating it as the author(s) of this catena understood it. See the article, The ἀναπληρῶν of I Corinthians 14:16.

When, it says, you are to speak(50)λαλῇς, [and] the one who was appointed in the position of the laity,(51)ὁ γεμὴν ἐν τάξει τῇ τοῦ λαϊκοῦ κείμενος if he would have no knowledge of your voice, how will he appropriately supply(52)πρσυπακούσεται the Amen in their own thanksgivings or prayers? For that the custom of the Churches is to compose(53)συγκαταλήγειν from the verb καταλήγειν which, according to Timothy J. Moore implies “delivery of poetic or other formalized texts in a mode approaching everyday speech.” He believes that oracles were communicated via καταλήγειν and were, ” usually in highly formal language and would have been pronounced with some melodic elaboration.” See Music in Roman Comedy by Timothy J. Moore. συγκαταλήγειν is not used outside of this text but I take this to mean to compose, recite, or speak together. their voices(54)τὰς The feminine accusative plural article does not have the noun that it is supposed to articulate. Nor is its antecedent entirely clear. The only logical antecedent would be from φωνὴν found in the first sentence of this paragraph. Therefore expanded, it should be τὰς φωνάς under authority with the prayers of the prefects(55)τῶν ἡγουμένων together in all clarity. For these ones bring closure in their priestly voice, appropriately supplying the Amen with their own supplications to God, because it appears to be lacking in completion by the priests, it is to be finished in the meters of the common people, as if “[He has blessed them that fear the Lord] both small and great.”(56) Psalm 113:21 the English translation by L.C.L. Brenton, as found at Elpenor. as God can hear(57)παραδέχοιτο Latin: excipiat. Literally to receive, receive from, take out; remove; follow; receive; ward off, relieve; in the unity of Spirit.

For these are common folk who join their own [voices](58)τὰς ἑαυτῶν — no noun here. See comment 40 for more information. with the prayers of the priests, they believed that these are intended to be agreeable things. God calls to bring forth to the altar of the burnt sacrifices and needy offerings to the overseer, so that the little bit in the end mixed together, becomes acceptable to God.

For in all these things we are in the Lord. Therefore on this account when he says, you should speak in a language — for this is to bless in the spirit. The person [the overseer] did not have knowledge about what you would say, “How will he say the Amen in respect to his own blessing.”(59)The Greek text here is italics suggesting it is a Bible quotation πὼς ἐρεῖ τό Ἀμὴν ἐπι τῇ ἰδίᾳ εὐχαριστίᾳ ; but I do not see any manuscript with such wording. For how can you rightly do it alone, namely existing inside your mind, nevertheless “the other is not built-up.” For it is in fact necessary that all should achieve which pertains to us towards the building up and profit of the brethren. ■

Unfortunately this catena abruptly cuts-off here, skipping verses 18-40, and the next portion references I Corinthians 15 — which addresses a different theme. There are no more remarks about the tongues doctrine after I Corinthians 14:17.


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.

References   [ + ]

An English Translation of the Tongues Passages found in De Trinitate

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

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

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

In the Book of Genesis, regarding the building of the tower(1)Genesis 11:1-9 the God and Father has revealed the blessed substance, His own Son and His holy Spirit said: “Come, having gone down let us confuse their language so that each one, they were not to be able to hear the voice of [his] neighbour.”(2)Genesis 11:7 according to the Septuagint.

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

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

“For through the agency of the laying of hands they were freeing(4) ἀπαλλάττον: I am assuming that it is Eastern equivalent of ἀπαλλάσσω and is the imperfect ind. 3rd. pl. The Latin translator agrees with this in his use of liberabant. men from various maladies, even when the shadow of Peter’s body falls(5)πίπτουσαν: part sg pres part act fem acc [upon someone], while Paul’s personal(6)τοῦ χρωτὸς literally means skin, or something of close acquaintance handkerchiefs too brought about healings.(7)The Latin “ægrotorum sanationes perficerent” emphasizes not just physical healings, but emotional ones as well And Paul certainly wrote to the Romans, “In respect to the one who believes, that there is to be more than enough for you in the hope [and] in the power of the holy Spirit.”(8)Romans 15:13

In this perspective Peter was confidently calling out the devil, declaring(9)ἀνεφθεγγετο: no source gives a definition though I am assuming that it is imperfect m/p 3rd sg. The Latin used praedicabat. It is also close to ἀποφθέγγομαι found in Acts 2:4, “1) to speak out, speak forth, pronounce  1a) not a word of everyday speech but one “belonging to dignified  and elevated discourse” http://www.greekbible.com/index.php the divine essence of the holy Spirit, saying to Ananias, “How is it(10)Διά τί έπειρασεν ό Σατανας… I don’t understand how Διά fits in here and am literally following the NIV translation in this spot. that Satan has tempted your heart that you are deceiving the holy Spirit?” For who is the one being lied to? [Peter] who was [under] the influence said,“You did not lie to man but to God.”(11)Acts 17:11

For there was not any kind of reverence in them, who is reduced to that of riches,(12)ἥττων χρημάτων: similarly found in Josephus and Aristophanes. The Latin translator also thinks of it as the “love of money” or(13): relative pronoun or “whether, rather, or”. who breathes injustice, or does not see what is the right thing,(14)ἤ σῶφρον μὴ Βλέπων and the corresponding Latin: aut quid prudentiæ consentaneum sit. or is not in a state of mind(15) διακείμενος concerning the pure nature of the Trinity, as perhaps it was he who ascended the foremost world thrones, and this one possesses in the hands the highest powers.(16)τὰς ἄκρας ἐν χεροῖν ἔχων ἀρχας — τὰς ἀρχας: beginning, origin, first place or power, sovereignty, empire, realm, magistracy, office, command, heavenly powers

But on the contrary they were taking no notice of the purple authority(17)In the ancient times purple was a color restricted to the highest class. Some historians suggest it was for only the emperor himself. itself, they were masters of riches, possessing the undiminishable treasure of the holy Spirit.

And they were speaking as well in different languages, “even as”, it says, “the Spirit was giving them to utter.”(18)Acts 2:4 And the Galileans were understanding(19)συνίεσαν. the instruction(20)ὁμιλίαν. of Parthians, Medes, Persians; and the different sorts of foreign speech of mankind,(21)καὶ ἀλλοθρόων ἄλλων ἀνθρώπων including also Greek, and the Ausonian language.(22)I am not sure why Didymus used Αὐσονίαν γλῶτταν here. James Pritchard outlined how Αὐσονίαν was historically understood, and it is not consistent among writers. Some think it was a Latin dialect, or an old type of Latin, and others felt it was a distinct language. The Latin translator didn’t translate this word and left it transliterated. However, Αὐσονίαν γλῶτταν suggests that it was an old language. Greek and Latin, which were the most dominant international languages at the time of Christ’s time on earth, were never mentioned in the Book of Acts. Many voices(23)πολύφωνοί. were indeed produced, and were showing of such things, we are destined to discover about the age to come, when having been liberated from the bonds of this present world, which corresponds to the voice of Paul, “Where there is not among them Greek, Barbarian, Scythian, but Christ is the all and in all.”(24)Colossians 3:11 And clearly he meant the same identical essence as according to the Trinity, “Christ is all and in all.” Where seeing that we seek. . .

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

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

“The water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life,”(25)John 4:14. NASB He said this concerning the holy Spirit, where those who believe were destined to receive from Him. And this too, “For we have become partakers of Christ.”(26)Hebrews 3:14. NASB Then “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,”(27)Hebrews 6:4. KJV And it was exceedingly fitting such a thing being said in the Book of Acts(28)Καὶ ἔοικεν σφόδρα τὸ ἐν ταῖς Πράξεσι τοιῶσδε εἰρημένον “And there appeared to the apostles tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested upon each one of them, and they were all filled with the holy Spirit.”(29)Acts 2:4 And to which was said by John, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire,”(30)Matthew 3:11 by which is similar to the oracle(31) τῷ χρησμῳδηθέντι This Greek word is unique to Didymus and its definition is not found in the source books. The root does refer to oracle and I have used the Latin translation in this passage for English translation by Moses, “God is a consuming fire,” and by Isaiah, “For behold, the LORD will come in fire.”(32) Isaiah 66:15. NASB

References   [ + ]

Notes on Translating Ambrosiaster’s Corinthians 12-14

The Ambrosiaster Manuscript: Notes on the English Translation of I Corinthians Chapters 12-14

The purpose of this translation was to bring background and definition to the gift of tongues sequences in the Ambrosiaster writer(s) commentary on Corinthians.

Because most people are unfamiliar with the Ambrosiaster writings and this is the only known online translation of the I Corinthians work in English, it was imperative to first introduce some notes and then move into commentary of his text.

1. The Goal of this Translation

The Ambrosiaster text has a number of key passages that ties in with Epiphanius’ description of the problems at Corinth. The references to the historic use of the gift of tongues by Ambrosiaster manuscript are brief but very important. It is critical that the translation and interpretation of the text must be understood within the context of Ambrosiaster manuscript as a whole. A familiarity with the author(s) style and intentions, acknowledgement of the historical background to the text and acceptable translation standards are also requirements in order for the conclusion to stand under critical inquiry.

2. The Ambrosiaster Manuscript from a Literary Perspective

The key to understanding the Ambrosiaster manuscript from 12:28 up to 14:30 was the polemic against personal ambition. One cannot achieve honour or merit before God by one’s status, achievements or human success.

The work also stressed equality between the classes. It taught that all are in possession of the gifts of God and it had nothing to do with ones social status. For example I Corinthians 14:30:

“That if it [any thing] would be a revelation to someone else who is sitting, the first is to be silent.” That is, [it is] preferable he is to allow for the one below [his status] in order that if he is able, he should speak. Not that it is to be done reluctantly, because the gift can be given also to that person. While he appears to be inferior because he has not been allowed for more useful things. For just as the whole cannot be parceled out in one, although better, it cannot be for some, however much inferior that nothing is being imparted [to them], for no one is devoid [of some type of gift] in the grace of God.

The work was written from a pastoral perspective to encourage and inspire the members of the Church. It is not intellectually deep nor a masterpiece of literary genius when compared to Augustine, Gregory Nazianzus, Thomas Aquinas or the like. On many occasions, it simply re-phrases Paul’s writing in contemporary terms of that time with little historical, social or theological reflection.

3. Problems with Authorship and Dating

Although the Ambrosiaster manuscript has its origins in the fourth century, the Latin style suggests that this is a later manuscript. There are some good clues that suggest this document is at least 8th century. First of all the work is also not built around a neo-platonic framework which was totally typical and expected in fourth century writings. Another clue relates to later Latin writers and translators of Greek texts. The grammatical style and word selection is very similar to that of Thomas Aquinas and not of the Venerable Bede or Augustine.

Gerald L. Bray in his Commentaries on Romans and 1-2 Corinthians By Ambrosiaster, touches greatly on this subject and concluded;

“Ambrosiaster’s commentary can be broken down into two, or possibly three, principal recensions. Untangling these can be a delicate task, because in later centuries there was a good deal of cross-pollination, as monastic copyists incorporated elements from different recensions into their own text. It is possible that Ambrosiaster left his work in a semipolished state, which was then touched up for publication by literary executors who smoothed out some of its rough edges and filled in material that was either missing from the manuscript(s) they had or that was felt to be needed in order to make sense of what Ambrosiaster wrote. But it is also possible that Ambrosiaster produced the different versions himself, perhaps with a variety of audiences in mind. The style of the shortest recension is lapidary to the point of obscurity, and in some ways is more like a series of lecture notes than a finished commentary. It is often difficult or impossible to know what Ambrosiaster meant, and the second and third recensions were trying to explain the obscurities of the shortest text. Sometimes they are genuinely helpful and illuminate the commentary, but there are places when later hands digressed from Ambrosiaster’s thought pattern and added material that is either irrelevant or contradictory.”(1)Commentaries on Romans as found on Google here.

From my perspective this work is an evolutionary one with its beginnings in 360 or so AD with many redactions, especially the 11th or 12th century, and the addition of Biblical verses put this version around the 14th.

For example, the writing in I Corinthians 14 makes an abrupt change. It starts with simplistic, get-to-the-point writing that is not so difficult to translate. When one reaches verse 30, it makes a strong shift. The translation difficulty increases substantially. It becomes wordy and shifts more into an Aquinas type of thought. I actually changed my approach to translating his commentary on Corinthians after 14:30 as a document akin to a Thomas Aquinas writing. There were too many parallels in style in form.

The text after 14:30 also appears to be fragmented. The train of thought seems to be interrupted and does not flow very well. This is not so much a problem of my English translation but a direct result of what appears to be editorial snippets pieced together by Latin redactors as some sort of mnemonic trigger.

Gerald Bray’s work and translation on Ambrosiaster is considered a definitive work and ought to be consulted in any research work on the subject.

Also Bray’s comment on the Ambrosiaster text being a heavily redacted one is an important note. The Ambrosiaster manuscript is not alone in this tradition. The Chronicon Paschale is a good example of this type of tradition where an original piece has been added to over the centuries. The 7th century or so Chronicon is based on Jerome’s writings, which are heavily influenced by Eusebius, and Eusebius owes much work to Africanus.

In my mind, this does not cause any problems of accuracy or legitimacy of the original manuscript. This is an evolutionary document that traces a line of thought throughout the centuries on the Christian faith as outlined in the Book of Corinthians. What we have today is a bona-fide manuscript at the endpoint in its own evolution.

It does however invite questions of authorship. No one knows who the original author was, nor the names of editors who expanded the text throughout the centuries. It may be best to simply reference this as the Ambrosiaster manuscript and not cite any author.

This work is not cited by the popular ancient Latin writers such as Augustine, Bede, Aquinas, etc., and at least within my readings so far, any Greek Patristic writer. If this manuscript was available to these ancient leaders, or it did circulate, the quality of this writing may have been dismissed by the above as a B-grade publication.

4. Bible Versions

It is obvious Ambrosiaster is working from different Bible than what has evolved into the Vulgate. Some have called it the Old Latin or the Itala version. Traditionally, when I come across a Biblical citation in a Latin commentary, I merely input the Douay-Rheims English translation instead of attempting to translate the Latin into English myself. However, because of the multitude of minor differences between this text and the Vulgate, it forced me to translate the Biblical texts entirely on almost every occasion.

Variant Latin Biblical texts are not uncommon to come across with Latin Patristic writers. There is no equivalent in Christian history that reflects the broad spectrum of differences that are contained in Latin Bible versions.

The goal of this translation is not to compare the citation of Biblical texts to any Greek or non-Latin sources. It is merely to translate what is written here and noting any difference from the Vulgate.

5. Some Translation Notes

The translation provided herein has only gone through two stages of the translation process. The first one is the direct translation from the Latin with some attention to English grammar and meaning. The second pass was to improve on the English meaning and grammar.

More time and energy could be spent on improving the flow in the English, and there are some passages that are problematic and may require a re-translation. Since the central focus of this work is to discover the background and meaning to the christian doctrine of tongues, efforts to complete this translation to a final level will not be considered, except for the passages relating to the gift.

It is still in a good stage for researchers to get a first look into the Ambrosiaster manuscript and decide whether to look into this text any further.

The use of the subjunctive is highly utilized. If anyone needs some experience in translating the Latin subjunctive, this is the writing to practice with. Some thoughts on the subjunctive in more detail can be found at the following article Latin and the Subjunctive.

This is the first time I have encountered the use of nominal sentences in Latin (a sentence lacking the verb esse ‘to be’ but the writer assumes the reader understands that it is inferentially there.)

The use of the pronoun “se” concerns me when translating Latin. This fear can be traced to my knowledge of French where se used in a pronominal sense alters the meaning of the verb. I don’t know if this rule applies to Latin, but if it does, I have missed it.

If there are colloquialisms in the text, I have probably missed them.

Translating the Gerundive. The gerundive appears quite frequently in this text and required some thoughtful attention. The conclusion to this journey can be found on a previous essay The Mysterious Latin Gerundive.

One must note the approach to some Latin keywords:

The translation of the Latin charitas. In our Reformation thinking, this is supposed to be translated into English as love. However, Ambrosiaster wrote well before the Reformation and did not think on these same lines. Love may arguably may be right but charity is a word that better reflects his intentions. Even if one disagrees with the contemporary Catholic teaching of the word, this is what they thought at that time. One cannot change that.

The reader must note that the English translation for lingua throughout the document is translated as language, which is a synonym for tongue. If one was to insert the word tongue every time the word language appears, it changes the nuance and it becomes a more mystical, undefined reality. However, this is not what the author(s) intended, so the translation remains as language. See the blog article: The Difference Between Language and Tongues for more details.

6. The Result of this Research as it relates to the doctrine of Tongues

The text was written in the imperfect tense when relating to the doctrine of tongues. The writer(s) approached it historically with no reference to any modern practice; it solely wanted to convey what Paul and the Corinthian congregation were thinking or doing. Unlike the coverage on prophecy, which does go into some detail, the gift of tongues never goes beyond Paul’s description.

The Ambrosiaster manuscript contains an important text on the role of tongues, the law and the influence of Hebrew in the early Church.

The Ambrosiaster commentary on I Corinthians 14:19:

(Vers. 19) “But in the Church,” it is said, “I wish to speak five words according to the law that I may also build up others than ten thousand words in a tongue.” He [Paul] says it to be more useful speaking in small words in the making of a speech in order that everyone should understand than to have a lengthy speech in obscurity. [Col. 270] These were from the Hebrew who at length in the Syrian language and for the most part by Hebrew women who were indulging in homilies or presentations for approval. For they were boasting calling themselves Jews according to the right of Abraham, that the same apostle held this to no account teaching, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14). Indeed these ones who are mimicking, they prefer to speak in their unknown language to the people in the Church which belongs to them.”

There a number of elements to address but the first one that captures the readers attention is the alternate Biblical text, “I wish to speak five words according to the law…” Normally this should read, “however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind…” (NASB). The NASB version more closely aligns with the Greek manuscripts than does the Ambrosiaster text.

Why the insertion of law instead of mind? One must be cognizant of the fact that the difference in Greek between law and mind is one letter νὸμον “law” and νόος “mind”. It would be easy to mix these two up by a copyist. However, this is not the only place where law is used. Epiphanius in his Against Haeresies text also acknowledged the use of this verse in a translation. More details on this can be found in the article, Epiphanius on the Problem Tongues of Corinth.

One assumption some may make by reading this text was that the Ambrosiaster writer(s) was of Jewish descent or influence, having understood a Judaic background to the Corinthian saga. As one reads through the text, one will discover that this is not the case. The author(s) had a narrow view of Judaism. For example, the commentary on I Corinthians 14:21 reads:

Thus one is able also to understand that because many of the Jews were spiteful and therefore it was not worthy to speak to them the Gospel in a revelation, that they spoke to them in parables, and therefore that it is not being shown to them who are the ones who understand because they were wicked neither also would they reform themselves. While the ones who have merit were benefitting themselves to hear the words of God by means of the the exposition.

As outlined in the commentary on I Corinthians 12:28, it did recognize the influence of Jewish custom on the early Church:

“Third teachers.” That he says the teachers who, since the epistles and the readings out loud [and traditions]*4* must be preserved in the Church, were giving the young men initial instruction in the custom of the synagogue because the tradition of these people, it was prepared to be brought over to us.

This was qualified to reduce the Jewish influence and demonstrate the Church had taken it over. The commentary on Corinthians 14:31 further opines:

(Vers. 31) “For you are all to prophecy by each one at a time, that all are to learn, and all are to be encouraged.” This tradition is of the Synagogue which he wishes us to continually follow because he is certainly writing to Christians but to those who have been reared Gentiles, not from the Jews. That the ones that remain are possibly debating, seniors with rank according to the throne, attending on the tribune’s seats, the most extraordinary on the pavement above the mats. If anyone would be [in] a revelation, the one that must be gifted is to receive in advance a designated place, neither one ought to be looked down upon, because they are the members of the body.”

It is clear from the above texts that the writer(s) were not Jewish and were scape-goating the ethnic Jews with whatever problems existed in the Church.

The Bible quotation by the Ambrosiaster writer(s) was not intended by them to be an exegesis of Jewish custom or practice but were simply citing a verse from their Bible, which in this case happened to be the Old Itala Latin version. The Ambrosiaster author(s) simply had not made any emendation or elucidation to the text.

The author(s) also had a much broader definition of what the law comprised. The author(s) believed Isaiah 28:11 (See his commentary on I Corinthians 14:21) to be part of the law. In some ancient Christian circles, the whole Bible canon was considered a legal text, which the Ambrosiaster manuscripts promoted as well.

For example, the commentary of I Corinthians 12:1 supplies an almost fundamentalist view of Bible interpretation:

So also the ones worshiping God, they are to exist with the form of the law of the Lord, these ones march as if it is to be pleasing with the Lord. In fact the form of every piece of the law ought to appear in the occupation and the behaviour of the worshiper.”

The Ambrosiaster text suggested that the problem of the Corinthians tongues was that of women speaking in Aramaic in a predominately Greek based church.

The conclusion of Hebrew women speaking in Aramaic is only referenced historically. It does not use this as an example for how the office of the gift of tongues was to be used in the Church.

The author(s) believed that since an outside party, ie: the Jews, had introduced this problem, it was not reflective with their perception of the true Church, its community and what it really practiced.

This is the only historical reference made to the gift of tongues. The practical interpretation the author(s) promoted for their own interpretation and application was different. For example, the commentary found at I Cor. 14:27 demonstrated a total lack of recognition regarding the historical aspect and delves into understanding the text from a literal-simplistic perspective:

(Vers. 27) If any speaks in a language, by two, or at the most three and specifically that one shall interpret,” This is, two or three and no more are to be speaking in languages but one at a time, not each at the same time. Lest they were to appear to be insane. “at the most three.” Lest the ones speaking in languages and their translations were to occupy the day and prophets do not have the time explaining the Scriptures which they are illuminators of the whole Church.

As one can immediately see, there is not much added by the Ambrosiaster writer(s) to the Pauline text on tongues. There is no practical application or demonstration of how the Pauline text on tongues influenced or was applied in their contemporary Church worship.

The author(s) do not see the need to explain why so many people were permitted to speak at once or any antecedents that led to this type of practice.

The manuscript does delve into Paul’s address about tongues. Here are some highlights, though there are more:

Chapter 12:28 “”Kinds of languages”. That the gift of God is to know many languages. “Interpretation of words.” When this is granted to some by the grace of God that he has the expertise of languages which require translations.”

Chapter 13:9-10 “In fact who can do it that can grasp all the human languages, is that of God?”

Chapter 14:10-11 “Certainly he does not teach it being desirous that in turns they be seen with each other by a foreign language of a barbarian.”

It is clear that the Ambrosiaster writer(s) believed the tongues of Corinth to be actual foreign languages. There was nothing mystical in their minds.

Chapter 14 (Vers. 22) Therefore languages they are as a sign.” This is, the words of God have been concealed by a veil of unknown languages, nor do they appear by deceit, and when the unknown languages are being heard, it is to be a sign, because it was made on account of faithlessness, lest the ones hearing are to understand. “By all means it is not for those who believe, but for the non-believers.” [Col. 271] This is what he said, because they go on in languages to the unbeliever for the purpose of hiding the meanings.

The writer(s) here in 14:22 fail to distinguish who is a believer and unbeliever. Why would someone speak in a foreign tongue to a pagan Roman or a Barbarian? What would this benefit the Christian cause? They failed to answer this critical question.

Chapter 14 (Vers. 26) “What is it then brothers? When you come together each one of you has a song.” That is they are speaking praise to God through song.” He has a teaching.” This is, he has a narration of the meaning by spiritual wisdom. “He has a revelation.” That is, prophecy regarding the hidden things by the agency of the holy Spirit is a basis for discussion which reaches to the mind of every person. “He has a language.” That those who were able to speak in a language, they were not to be discouraged, he permitted them to speak in languages. Still yet interpretation was to follow. He therefore says, “He has an interpretation.” That if an interpreter was to be present, a spot was to be given belonging to those preparing to speak in languages.”

The idea that the gift of tongues in Corinth was the speaking of a foreign language was not new to the Ambrosiaster writer(s). This was typical of ecclesiastical tradition.

7. The Ambrosiaster Manuscript on the role of Prophecy

The Ambrosiaster writer(s), along with Thomas Aquinas, spends far more time with the function and definition of prophecy than defining the literary problems of tongues in I Corinthians 14.

The office of the prophet is kept completely separate and distinct from the gift of tongues.

8. Disclaimers

The nuances of anti-semitism and the role of women in this composition do not reflect my own personal opinions. Nor is this translation meant to be a vehicle to promote such knowledge. It is submitted to the reader that this attitude should not be accepted or promoted. The reader should always be aware that the ancient Christian writers were susceptible to the influences of their time, whether good or bad, just like anyone else and it should be read with a watchful eye.

This has not been reviewed or approved by an experienced or reputable authority. Use the translation at your own risk. Also, this translation can change without notice.

9. The Actual Translations and Latin Original

References   [ + ]