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Cyril of Alexandria on Tongues: I Corinthians 14:15

The following is a translation from the Greek, with some help from a parallel Latin translation of a catena on I Corinthians 14:15 attributed to Cyril of Alexandria.

This is part of an ongoing series on identifying the Christian tongues doctrine from the texts attributed to Cyril of Alexandria.

This translation is based on two manuscripts. The Monte Athos edition found in Philippus Pusey’s publication is the one selected as the basis due to it having more copy, though the Greek and Latin of Migne Patrologia Graeca has value and is consulted.

Translated from: 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,{{28}}[[28]]Latin: et lingua per Spiritum data uti velim — in a language having been given by the Spirit that I would wish.[[28]] 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.{{29}}[[29]]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 [[29]] and if I should perhaps sing a Psalm{{30}}[[30]]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. [[30]] 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,{{31}}[[31]]understand the nuances and art of psalm singing[[31]] and of the prophets, and one is not bound to stop incomprehensible{{32}}[[32]]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.[[32]] words such as these. For if I wish to be speaking useless sounds,{{33}}[[33]]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.[[33]] “I have become a noisy gong.” (NASB).

On which account the one who prophesies is better, that is{{34}}[[34]] 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[[34]] interpreting the divine writings in the Church, than simply enjoying the use{{35}}[[35]]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.[[35]] 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 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{{36}}[[36]]the one who is publicly speaking in a language[[36]] brings up other [languages] through which some would have wished to understand a person who speaks clearly. ■

For the background, analysis, and partial commentary of this translation, see the article, Notes on the Cyrillian Catena on I Corinthians 14:15.

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.