Tag Archives: Schrevelius

Notes on the Cyrillian catena on I Corinthians 14:10

Some quick thoughts on concepts, and critical words in the translation of the I Corinthians 14:10 catena attributed to Cyril of Alexandria.

This text outlines a number of very interesting particulars: how ancient Greek words previously used in classical Greek rituals had become Christianized, and the office of the circuit preacher which required the knowledge of many languages. These elements are examined in more detail below.

A number of words have Greek antecedents to them that must be carefully examined. Did the Christian community in Alexandria import these into their vocabulary as is, or did they change the meaning to match what their experience was?

The text being discussed is contained in a sequence not found in Migne Patrologia Graeca, but in Phiippus Edvardus Pusey’s, Cyrilli: Archiepiscopi Alexandrini In D. Joannis Evangelium. Pusey based his text on a copy found at the Library of Pantokratoros on Mount Athos.

Both Migne and Pusey claim the origins of their works to be from Cardinal Angelus Maius, but contain different texts. Migne’s version has fewer words. It is also clear and concise. Pusey’s version has more text with some sentences being repeated with a few slight variations. It also appears some words are missing. Reading it feels choppy.

The Greek used in Pusey’s version is old. It has Doric, Attic, and Ionic representations in them. This would not be unusual for an international centre that the City of Alexandria was. It was a melting pot of many Greek languages and dialects.

It also does not contain a Latin parallel text. The Latin typically provides quick clues on how to translate problem words.

The first important word to note is εἰσεφοὶτων. This word is used exclusively in this text. It is found nowhere else (at least so far). A scouring of the internet, and all the major dictionaries, provided no clues. However, the root of εἰσεφοὶτων is φοιτάω, which means:

  • Perseus online: go to and fro, backwards and forwards, keep going from one part to another, roam wildly about, roam about in frenzy or ecstasy of a Bacchant; of sexual intercourse go into a man or woman; resort to a man, woman or place for any reason; As object of commerce—to come in constantly or regularly, be imported

  • Lampe’s Patristic Lexicon: spring-up, pollulate, of doctrines (Pg. 1847)

  • Donnegan’s A New Greek and English Lexicon; Principally on the plan of the Greek and German Lexicon of Schneider: to wander, roam about, come frequently, to go to school as a disciple or learner, wander about in a state of frenzy (Pg. 1348)

  • Schrevelius’ Greek Lexicon Translated into English: to frequent as a scholar, not as a master, come, go, approach, rave, be mad (Pg. 616)

  • Stephanus’ Thesaurus Graecae Linguae: This text is in Latin but all the definitions above, with perhaps the exception of Perseus, are taken from this source text. (Didot Bros. Volume 8. Pg. 989)

Perseus has defined φοιτάω from classical Greek sources. This is not surprising because Perseus uses Liddel and Scott’s Greek Dictionary as their basis. Lidell and Scott hardly reference Patristic writings in any of their dictionary definitions. However it does show where the word originated. It was used to describe the Bacchants who roamed about in a frenzy or ecstasy, but it also had other meanings as well.

Stephanus, Lampe, Donnegan, and Schrevelius recognize that φοιτάω has the quality of raving, or frenzy, but another principal attribute was that of frequently visiting or traveling to a place. It also became associated with going to school, discipleship, and learning. Lampe put a more developmental aspect to it. It was to initially seed doctrine within a community. Schrevelius specifically stated that φοιτάω was a verb referring to a scholar, not a master.

There are also other words that come from the same root that give hints on how to translate εἰσεφοὶτων. Donnegan is especially descriptive of these:

  • φοὶτητήρ one who goes and comes, any place, especially a school. A disciple, learner. One who is frantic (Pg. 1349).

  • φοῖτος roaming about, the wandering of the mind, insanity, also frenzy, that of the frantic votaries of the Bacchus and Cybele (Pg. 1349).

Schrevelius, spells φοὶτητήρ as φοιτητής as one who comes frequently to a master or scholar (Pg. 616).

These definitions give greater confidence in correctly translating the I Corinthians 14:10 catena portion.

The above definitions, plus the context of the Cyril text, demonstrate that εἰσεφοὶτων is considered as a localization of φοιτάω or perhaps intensified. The person is repeatedly going into Churches for the purpose of teaching the doctrines. The above dictionary definitions give the appearance that it was an entry or mid-level position, educating on the doctrines of the Church, but not by a Bishop or a Cardinal.

The English equivalent would be a circuit rider. This was a system devised by the Methodists for clergy to serve more than one congregation at a time. In Cyril’s explanation, the emphasis was on teaching in a circuit where the the Churches were linguistically different, and the base requirement for this person was to be multilingual.

The second term that is used to describe tongues-speaking was κεχρῆσθαι. This is not an exclusive term used by Cyril but one shared by Origen. This one has a wide semantic range. Perseus defines it as to furnish what is needful, to declare, pronounce, proclaim. In the passive it is to be translated as: to be declared, proclaimed by an oracle, to consult a god or oracle, to inquire of a god. It hasn’t really changed. In the instance of this catena, to proclaim was used, but this may be too weak. “To prophecy,” in the traditional religious sense, would be more suited, but this word now carries a number of contemporary meanings that would mislead many readers.

The verb ἐρεύγεσθαι is another unique word. Its root is ἐρεύγομαι: to belch out, bellow, or roar. Hence, to loudly utter, as in a public display, or simplified, to utter, is a good English word choice.

Μανθάνοντος. This present active participle masc. gen. sg form of μανθάνω was used in the Septuagint and also by Origen. One of the dictionaries defines it as: learn, especially by study but also by practice, learn by heart, acquire a habit of, and in past tenses, to be accustomed to, perceive, remark, notice, understand. Hence it is not a supernatural phenomenon, in this context of I Corinthians 14:10 people hearing a language that they have learned or is their principle language.

It is clear from the text that the standard Greek words that were used for the Bacchus Greek prophets in the past, had evolved and changed into Christian definitions. The past history of the word was known and understood, but fell out of popular usage.

Ancient Digitized Greek Dictionaries

Links for downloading a variety of ancient Greek dictionaries.

Thanks to the internet there is a vast array of ancient Greek dictionaries available for the translator. This was unheard of even ten years ago. This speeds up the process of translating by a factor of at least ten times.

The following dictionaries listed are all old, and there are no copyright restrictions. Some are not English-Greek dictionaries, none are text searchable, and all are large pdf files.

Sure, Perseus’ or Logeion’s online Lidell-Scott-Jones Dictionary is the best for speed and easy access, no question. None of the other solutions come close to their speed and ability to enter a verb in whatever form, identify it, and find the root meaning.

However, there are some weaknesses of the Lidell-Scott-Jones Dictionary. The first one is that it hardly delves into the realm of ecclesiastical usage. Secondly, it is not exhaustive. Not every word can be found here.

One should always start at Perseus or Logeion and if the word does not exist in either database, the definition seems too narrow, or some other problem, then it is time to go to the other dictionaries.

There are numerous websites that house these ancient Greek dictionaries, but many of them are not easy to navigate through, nor does any one site have all the dictionaries together. It requires some effort to locate and download the files. For your convenience, they are all found here below.

Most are direct links from Google Books. Follow the instructions from Google to download. It isn’t always necessary to download the books to use them. One can do search queries within the book using Greek text online. This cannot be done if the file is downloaded. This online search query isn’t always consistent but does sometimes provide quick results.

A list of Greek dictionaries for download.

There are many more ancient Greek dictionaries available on the internet, but the ones provided here are used more frequently.

  • A New Greek and English Lexicon; Principally on the plan of the Greek and German Lexicon of Schneider by James Donnegan. Boston: Hilliard, Gray and Co. 1836. This is one of the best concise English dictionaries on ecclesiastical usage, but the Google original scan has many scan errors — the page numbers are mixed-up, and sometimes duplicated. I corrected many of the problems initially found and built a revised version. Since then, I have found more errors in the page sequencing which require correction, but have yet to do.

    It can be accessed through this link: A New Greek and English Lexicon.

    Note: the corporation that scanned these images mixed-up and duplicated some pages. If someone would like to volunteer to correct this, then ancient Greek nerds from around the world will salute you.

  • E.A. Sophocles’ Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine Periods. Memorial Edition. New York: Charles Scribner and Sons. 1900. Thanks to George Valsamis at Ellopos.net for recommending this one. It is an occasional help.

  • Dictionnaire Grec-Française, Paris: Garnier Frères, 1865. It appears to be helpful. Unfortunately, the pdf file size is very large and takes a long time to render a page. I have tried to reduce the document size using a Photoshop automated system, but it has failed in two attempts.

  • Lexicon graeco-latinum manuale ex optimis libris concinnatum. E.F. Leopold, ed. Lipsiae: Caroli Tauchnitii. 1852.

  • Cornelius Schrevel’s, Lexicon manuale Græco-Latinum et Latino-Græcum. Petrus Steele, ed. New York: Collins and Hannay. 1825.

  • Θησαυρος της Ελληνικης Γλωσσης is a Greek-Latin dictionary that is over four hundred years old but has yet to be surpassed in comprehensiveness. The typesetting and the structure of the earliest editions are difficult to follow, but the editions printed in the 1800s and later make it much easier to use. The Firmon-Didot edition is linked here. One can go on Google and find earlier versions.

    Almost every dictionary above owes its ancestry to Stephanus. Many simply are abbreviated, condensed, abridged, or anglicized versions based on this work.

    Stephanus’ Θησαυρος της Ελληνικης Γλωσσης is a multi-volume series. Some pages are missing scans or are scanned poorly. The links are the best ones given the circumstances.

    The Firmon-Didot editions range from publishing dates of approximately 1817-1842. Due to the varying dates, there may be some inconsistencies between the books. Volumes 1a to 8 are the actual dictionary volumes, while volume 9 is an index. There are volumes containing glossaries after this, but due to space limitations, these are not included.


There is a rich history behind the Stephanus name and their contribution to Bible history. Θησαυρος της Ελληνικης Γλωσσης was spearheaded by Henri Estienne (also known as Henri Stephanus). This family’s history of publishing, collating manuscripts, and translating has had a major impact on the modern Bible. For example the current division of chapters and verses was first introduced by Henri’s father, Robert I.

Some may ask, “what about Lampe’s Patristic Lexicon?” This one is a recent publication and does not qualify to be in any open source digital book library. Oxford University Press has not ported the printed version into any digital format either. Amazon.com has new ones listed from $304-578.00 US. The publisher has alienated a sizeable audience by its pricing and lack of digital availability. It is an OK dictionary, not as good as Stephanus’, and not worth the price. This pricing and availability may also put the book into a deep public slumber — a forgotten work that will sit quietly on a few dusty library bookshelves.

The Ecclesiastical writers borrowed terms, phrases, idioms, and grammatical structure of Greek philosophy. The following dictionary is helpful in these difficult spots: Plotinus Philosophical Lexicon Thank-you to Ryan Clevenger for pointing this one out. The item is listed at the ScribD website, which is usually a paid service.

For more complete information on how to utilize the Perseus digital library, and a more comprehensive listing of other resources, the following article may be of assistance: Translation Tips on the Greek Church Fathers.