Tag Archives: Syriac

The Structure of the Psalms

A 3000-year general history on the Book of Psalms numbering and divisional systems.

The structural development of the Book of Psalms has an interesting and complex history.

The results are the examination of documents spanning a 3000 year time period. The reader will be journeying through Hebrew, Greek, Syriac, Latin and English texts. Don’t worry. You don’t need to know the languages itself to join in this expedition. This work is designed for both the researcher and the passionate lay reader. Many pictures will be provided that will assist. One can marvel at the beauty of the handwritten text without understanding it.

The findings show that the Psalms began as an unordered list with no assigned numbers. The arrival of the Greek translation called the Septuagint brought about a numbering scheme for the Book of Psalms. The Septuagint also limited to the Book of Psalms to 151 poems, though this was not adhered to by other traditions which went up to 155. Verses were not introduced until much later. Verses were covered in a previous article titled, A History of Chapters and Verses in the Hebrew Bible.

As demonstrated by the Dead Sea Scrolls, the order of the poems in the Book of Psalms was not established in the early centuries. This happened after the widespread acceptance of the Septuagint later on.

The Septuagint assignments of numbers and order were assumed by the Latin translators, which in turn had an influence on the English Bible tradition.

The headers introducing most of the Psalms are the most controversial and misunderstood. In regards to the headers only, we are not so sure today on the meaning behind the original Hebrew or even the Greek translation. This has led to a multitude of interpretations even within the English Bible translation tradition.

These are mere generalities and the readers of this blog prefer details and substantiation. The following is how the above conclusions were arrived at.

Continue reading The Structure of the Psalms

An English translation of Blessed Andrew Speaking in tongues

An English translation of Andrew the Fool speaking in tongues. As found in the Vita S. Andreae Sali by Nicephori Presbyteri.

Saint Basil the Fool
Saint Basil, a Fool for Christ by By Sergei Kirillov. Andrew the Fool followed this nonconformance tradition practiced in Eastern Orthodox circles.

Andrew the Fool, often cited as Andrew of Constantinople, or Andrew Salus, was a christian follower known for his odd lifestyle that would be classified under some form of a mental illness by today’s standards. However, many biographers believe it was a ruse purposely done by Andrew. There is a rich tradition of holy fools in Eastern Orthodox literature.

The Eastern Orthodox Church holds that holy fools voluntarily take up the guise of insanity in order to conceal their perfection from the world, and thus avoid praise.

Some characteristics that were commonly seen in holy fools were going around half-naked, being homeless, speaking in riddles, being believed to be clairvoyant and a prophet, and occasionally being disruptive and challenging to the point of seeming immoral (though always to make a point).1

The greater part of Nicephore’s narrative illustrates the tenth-century perceptions of mental illness. However, the aim of the Gift of Tongues Project is not to cover this aspect but a fourfold-purpose in pursuing the subject of speaking in tongues.

There are two small but important snippets on speaking in tongues found here. The first narrative describes both Andrew and a servant miraculously switch into the Syriac language for the purpose of conversing privately. This circumstance allowed both parties to speak freely while others in the same room did not have the ability to understand what they were talking about. The second one was where Andrew had the spiritual ability to see inside people’s lives and name their secret sins. Added to this miracle was the supernatural ability to speak to each person about their innermost secrets in their native tongue. Once again, the supernatural ability to speak in a foreign language was for the purpose of confidentiality. Whatever was spoken was strictly between Andrew and the person. Andrew’s miracle eliminated any possibility of public shame.

Andrew was a Slav by birth and an educated slave. He was released by his master due to his alleged insanity. He lived during the tenth-century in Constantinople.2 He is a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church. His name hardly registers in the annals of Western Christianity.

There are two brief references to him speaking in tongues. Here is a translation of the actual texts relating to his speaking or arguably the people miraculously hearing him speak in their language.

First reference to speaking in tongues

Translated by Charles A. Sullivan from the Greek as found in Nicephori Presbyteri. Vita S. Andreae Sali. MPG. Vol. 111. Col. 699-702

While these were chatting about things, one of the slaves of Epiphanius, who was appointed for his father’s catering, recognized with spiritual insight the Venerable One’s calling (how he knew such things, God only knows). This one sat at his feet, entreating God with tears that he would be imparted such works himself. The righteous man knew what it is, the very thing the servant was earnestly pleading provision for. Wishing to converse with him alone, he was transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit along with the speech of the servant to a language between them, and the Venerable One remained seated, and was speaking to him in Syriac in everything that he wanted. The servant furthermore said “except that I am not worthy nor should I entreat to you such things that would beget equality.” Then the Venerable One replied to him that “you cannot bear the sweatings and the digging of ditches in regards to this fame, seeing that the way is of oppression and of infinite toil and distress. Remain rather as one with godliness and dignity being trained under your lord Epiphanius the great things for you and the matters respectful of salvation,3 fleeing fornications, grudges, and the list of the other remaining passions. What is the need for you to subject yourself with such punishments?” Then the servant said to him, “If you therefore wish to give ear to me about my misery, say to me you cannot do this.” Then these matters were heard, the Venerable One fell silent.

61. Epiphanius, seeing the sudden4 change of language by his servant which he never learned to speak, he reckoned in his heart these things and spoke, “Blessed of a miracle! The Holy Saints can do so great a work! The Blessed One beseeched of the Lord for the servant, a grace on behalf of this person’s request, what then he was going to become, and a voice came to him saying: “This is not helpful, back off from this undertaking! Show him how great a matter it is, he should not aspire such things like your low stature.” Therefore, the Blessed One spoke to the Angel standing nearby. “Fill the cup of pleasure, from which the grace upon grace has flourished for me.” Thus, the angel of the Lord completed the task. And the Blessed One said to him, “Υοu will drink this resting on my feet.” Then immediately, he was given to drink the thing unable by normal people to see5 and the servant began to do a similar appearance to the divinely inspired father Andrew, which upon seeing this, brings a smile to the joyful one. On the other hand, Epiphanius, seeing the matter unfolding, was disturbed, fearing lest he should bring any kind of indignation by his father, so he said to the Blessed One, “I require of you, servant of God, not to do this thing inside the house of my father, lest at some point he would regard you with contempt6ἐξουδενωθείσῃ cannot be found in most popular Greek dictionaries, is it a regional variation of ἐξουθενωθείσῃ? This is how it is translated here. and God shall be blamed instead of goodness, and you can witness him hating and cursing me to the ancestry, and after that moment never bring you again. I therefore beseech and request that you do not dismiss my trivial request. Remember one day my love of your household servant.”

His second reference to speaking in tongues

Translated by Charles A. Sullivan from the Greek as found in Nicephori Presbyteri. Vita S. Andreae Sali. MPG. Vol. 111. Col. 703-704.

As they seated around him, the Blessed Andrew saw with a keen eye of understanding the work of each one, and with what kind of error each one had committed. And wishing that he could help them, having turned around, he began to give a speech, uttering a certain parable. So these people were listening and feeling shame regarding the words of the Venerable One, as if they carried a flame with reverence, these were numb from shuddering, some were confused and fearful, others who felt ashamed were withdrawing. For indeed, in the simplicity of the Righteous one, the speech sharply named the sins of everyone — both in what manner and how they committed them. And then this occurred: he identified the sins in each person’s language. The people who are captivated by this event said, “This man is acquainted with the things about me.”

A few technical notes

This text is based on the Greek found in Migne Patrologia Graeca. I am sure there are other better versions available, but finding those versions so far has eluded me. So, the MPG copy will have to suffice. An English translation is already available, The life of St. Andrew the Fool : edited by Lennart Rydén but only a few select libraries carry this item throughout the world. Rather than attempting the cumbersome and time-consuming task of interlibrary loan, I translated the pertinent sections about tongues myself.

Nicephori Presbyteri’s writing style has very many similarities to another local writer during that period, Michael Psellos. Both incorporate a wide vocabulary of Greek languages, Attic, Doric and Ionic and like to write in a Greek faux-renaissance fashion. Nicephori’s writing style is B grade because the author is not always clear with his subjects and predicates. There are points in the writing where the reader/translator is forced to fill in some missing thoughts.

The idea of speaking in tongues being for the purpose of private, confidential instruction is unique among the shifting tides of the christian doctrine of tongues throughout the centuries.

The Language of Instruction in the Corinthian Church

A look at the ancient Jewish rite of instruction in Hebrew with an immediate translation into Aramaic or local vernacular. How it potentially impacted the earliest Corinthian assembly and how this rite evolved in the church.

This is part 5 of a series on Corinth which attempts to correlate the mystery rite of tongues outlined in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians with standard Jewish liturgy of the time.

For more information on this series go to Introduction to the tongues of Corinth

The tradition of Jewish instructors speaking in Hebrew lasted for centuries. It is no longer practiced in synagogues today but was an important function in Judaism around the first-century. This little-known practice had an important part to play in the Jewish identity, and as will be shown, was a factor in the tongues conflict in Corinth.

In order to better explain this practice and make an association with the Corinthian gathering, we must go into ancient Jewish literature and citations from some of the more prominent Jewish authorities. Some of which is obscure on the first read and takes a little explanation before the truth becomes clear.

Talmud Babli Yoma 20b

Any discussion on the role of Hebrew as a sacred language of instruction will inevitably land on this passage which refers to two Rabbis who lived in the third-century: Rav Shela and Abba Arika. The narrative is about Rabbi Shela wanting to give a lecture in Hebrew which was demonstrated here as the language of Jewish religion and polity — a sacerdotal tongue. In order to perform such a task, a third-party was required to translate it into Aramaic. Abba Arika, often referred to as Rav, offered to provide the translation. While Shela was lecturing, he mentioned call of the rooster and Rav translated it as call of the man. These words call of the rooster and call of the man are almost identical in Hebrew. The words go back into an academic dispute between Jewish scholars on when the priests in the Temple were to wake up and begin their duties. Shela admonished Rav for taking too much liberty in translating. Rav parlayed back that he couldn’t translate it that way because Shela was entirely wrong on this point and demonstrated the thoughts of an uneducated man.

The text makes Hebrew instruction with an immediate translation into Aramaic a standard procedure during this time.

Here is the actual Talmudic text in English with a link to the original source in the footnote:

Rab 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 for 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’.1

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)2 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. . .”3 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.4

The Syriac presents the idea that whatever translation was given, just like the incident mentioned with Rav Shela above, wasn’t necessarily a literal word-for-word translation, but an amplified version given by the interpreter that the people could understand. If the concept is taken a step further, peresh could allow an interpreter become too stylistic, or promoting his own oratorial skills at the expense of the original speaker. This may have been a contributor to the Corinthian saga as well.

Rashi on Hebrew instruction and interpretation

Almost any analysis on the Talmud will take the researcher to the eleventh-century French medieval Rabbi Rashi. His concise commentary and analysis gives him the classification of one the great writers of the Jewish world. His critiques and analysis are on the same high level as Maimonides and Thomas Aquinas. He 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.5

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.

Why did Paul not mention Hebrew specifically in his text?

Paul was purposely being vague because of the ethnic tensions between the traditional Aramaic Jews, the Hellenized Jews who were eager not to lose their ancient Jewish language and customs, and Greek adherents who came from different Doric, Aeolic, and Attic linguistic backgrounds. If he took a side with any of them by naming a certain language, or showing a preference for one over the other, he would have potentially started a split; alienating one group from another. He was in a very difficult position. His reply showed that he was interested in establishing an effective teaching methodology within the parameters of traditional Judaism that assisted both the Greek and Aramaic Jewish layperson, along with Greek converts in learning. He was emphatic that education was the priority, language was secondary to this goal.

Could it be Aramaic instead?

Saul Lieberman outlines in his book, Greek In Jewish Palestine certain practices within the third-century that proposes a different view that may even discount the Hebrew theory and replace it with Aramaic. He stated that when Jewish preachers went into Greek towns, they preached in Aramaic.6

This comment by Lieberman is along the same line of reasoning with a Latin work called the Ambrosiastor text. If we link these two pieces, then Aramaic was the central problem. This conclusion provides a compelling alternative to the Hebrew instruction theory. However, Hebrew instruction has a little bit more substantiation, but not decisively. I put it at 55-45 for Hebrew.

It is a confusing triangle of languages. The reader must be aware of this.

How it evolved in the Church

The Epiphanius text believed the practice of instruction and reading in Hebrew 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 Rav Shila–during Paul’s time a teacher instructing in Hebrew could provide his own translation.

Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret.7

Rabbinic tradition during Rav Shila’s time did not allow for a person to translate their own speech. Someone else was obligated to do the translation.

On the other hand as one reads on in the I Corinthians letter, Paul prefers that when someone speaks in a foreign language before the assembly of believers that a third-party interpreter/expositor be utilized.

If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God.8

As to Hebrew being the language of instruction, it probably died within the first forty years after the founding of the assembly of Corinth—maybe even earlier. The Jewish revolt and Rome’s sacking of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD led to a widespread distrust of anything relating to anyone belonging to the Jewish race. Any symbols or practices would have been less apparent or even removed for fear of anti-Jewish sentiments especially in a major Roman-ruled city such as Corinth. This was even more apparent under the emperorship of Domitian (81–96 AD), “where there was scarcely a Jew to be seen (in the Roman Empire) during his reign.”9 He also sought to destroy all the family members of the Davidic line in order to maintain perpetual control.10

The fateful decision to excommunicate the entire Jewish-Christian movement by the decree called the Birkat ha-Minim11 from the Jewish world somewhere around 90 AD also may have accelerated the loss of the Hebrew language and Jewish identity in the fledgling movement.

The changing demographic influenced the removal of Hebrew as well. The common Greek adherents began to quickly outnumber the Jewish ones in all the assemblies. An anonymous early text covering II Corinthians claims believed this happened around 100 AD.12

Afterwards, Greek took over Hebrew as the primary language in the church. Saul Lieberman asserted this in his findings. He referred to a church in Scythopolis—especially focusing on a man name Procopius. Procopius lived during the late 200s (AD). Scythopolis was a Greek populated city slightly below the Sea of Galilee and a little west of the Jordan river. Today it is known as Bet She’an. He explains that the the roles of speakers and interpreters continued in the church, albeit in a slightly different form.

On the other hand, Eusebius informs us that Procopius was (around 286) a Reader and Interpreter from Greek into Aramaic in the church of Scythopolis. In the Hellenized town of Scythopolis it was necessary to render a Greek passage in Aramaic before the people could understand it! But Zahn is quite right in his remark that whereas the Biblical lessons, the liturgy and the sermons in the church of Scythopolis were in Greek, there was need of an Aramaic translator for the benefit of the peasants who attended the church. Probably even the peasants knew the limited practical everyday vocabulary of Greek, but explanations by an interpreter (תרגומן) in the mother-tongue of the masses were quite welcome. [/note]

Lieberman refers to an author named Zahn on this topic. The original quote and text from Zahn has not been located. Fortunately, and more important, the actual Eusebius text is available and narrates about Procopius:

His family was from Baishan; and he ministered in the orders of the Church in three things :–First, he had been a Reader; and in the second order he translated from Greek into Aramaic; and in the last, which is even more excellent than the preceding, he opposed the powers of the evil one, and the devils trembled before him.13

It is not clear whether Procopius translated homilies given in Greek into Aramaic during the service, or performed this function for other needs. However, the overall structure appears to support that he was a translator for the homily done in Greek.

A female traveller named Egeria provides an important piece to the puzzle. She lived in the late 300s AD and made a pilgrimage to Israel and surrounding areas. She came from Europe, but it is unknown exactly where. Neither does anyone know who she came with, or how she was funded. All that exists today is a portion of her letters which contains important information about early christian worship in Israel. Her work is called Peregrinatio or Itinerarium Egeriae. In it she wrote:

3. Now, forasmuch as in that province some of the people know both Greek and Syriac, while some know Greek alone and others only Syriac; and because the bishop, although he knows Syriac, yet always speaks Greek, and never Syriac, there is always a priest standing by who, when the bishop speaks Greek, interprets into Syriac, that all may understand what is being taught.

4. And because all the lessons that are read in the church must be read in Greek, he always stands by and interprets them into Syriac, for the people’s sake, that they may always be edified. Moreover, the Latins here, who understand neither Syriac nor Greek, in order that they be not disappointed, have (all things) explained to them, for there are other brothers and sisters knowing both Greek and Latin, who translate into Latin for them.14

She clearly demonstrated that the church indeed had inherited the ancient practice of speakers/interpreters. She also reinforced that Greek was the primary language. Aramaic (called Syriac in her text) was secondary while Hebrew had no place in this paradigm. Egeria’s description also substantiates Procopius as an official interpreter in this rite.

Do the Jews still practice these rites in synagogues today?

The public reading of Hebrew is still practised and, furthermore, is part of the traditional rite of Jewish children moving into adulthood.

The interpreter has a different trajectory. The interpreter, known in Hebrew as the Meturgamen later became an odious name. Those who held such an office took too much liberty for their own gain. A Jewish work called, Ecclesiastes Rabbah compiled somewhere between the sixth-to-eighth centuries of earlier sources, remarked about the abuse of the interpreter’s office.

It is better to hear the rebuke of a wise man than for a man to hear the song of the fools. Because a man who hears the song of fools is better than the meturgamens who raise their voices in song for the people to be entertained.15

The office was phased out, but it is not known exactly when, though it is assumed somewhere around the sixth-century.


If one takes face-value the information provided, Paul was referencing the the one who speaks in a tongue 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. I Corinthians 14:28 outlines two conditions that govern whether a teacher should refrain from teaching. We will assume once again he is thinking about Hebrew here, though it is not listed in his actual text. Firstly, if the teacher speaking in Hebrew is not familiar with the local language and cannot translate it himself. The second is when a third party familiar with both Hebrew and the local language is not available to translate. The teacher should remain silent.

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 the 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.

If one reads the Pauline passage with the idea of Hebrew or 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 established branch of Judaism.■

What it Means to be Saved

A look at the important religious word saved from a historical literary perspective.

Saved in the English contemporary language has many nuances and evokes powerful emotions. In evangelical circles, this word is the basis for religious conversion. It is a required act to get into heaven while others see it as an archaic and outdated term that religious people fervently force on contemporary society. Many more have taken religion right out of the definition and use it for referring to the saving of data.

There are many accounts of the word saved throughout the New Testament. In this case, I have restricted the word saved as it relates to when Jesus often said, “Your faith has made you well.” The word saved doesn’t seem apparent here, but it exists in the original Greek. The Greek here, σέσωκέν sesōken can mean saved or made well. This difference between selecting made well and saved by the translator shows that the meaning has a much wider semantic range than supposed and begs a re-evaluation. What did the Greek verb, σῴζω sōzō, historically mean to the ancient writers and how can we apply it today?

Sōzō is a core religious word for the Evangelical religious system. This makes the study even more interesting.

The phrase “Your faith has made you well” is an idiom and found in a number of places:

  • Mark 5:34, Matthew 9:22 and Luke 8:48 which recounts the story of a woman suffering years of persistent blood loss
  • Luke 18:42 is about Jesus healing a man of blindness
  • Luke 17:19 narrates His healing a man with leprosy
  • Luke 7:50 tells about Jesus who absolved a woman of her sins and thus freed her mind from shame.

The Greek phrase for this idiom is: ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε which is unchanged in every place it is found. The English translations vary and prompts one to understand how saved fits within this context.

Since all these passages above have a similar connection, I randomly chose two to look at for doing a comparative historical literary analysis. Here is a sampling of the important English translations and the Greek, Latin and Syriac source works of Mark 5:34 and Luke 7:50.

Mark 5:34:

  • The 14th century Wycliffe version, “thi feith hath maad thee saaf”1
  • Tyndale Bible: “thy fayth hath made the whoale.”2
  • The 1611 King James: “thy faith hath made thee whole”3
  • The New King James Version and the New American Standard: “Your faith has made you well.”
  • Douay-Rheims (English translation for a Catholic audience): “thy faith hath made thee whole.”
  • New International Version: “your faith has healed you”
  • The Greek: ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε4
  • Latin: “fides tua te salvam fecit”5
  • and the Syriac:* ܗܰܝܡܳܢܽܘܬ݂ܶܟ݂ܝ ܐܰܚܝܰܬ݂ܶܟ݂ܝ

Luke 7:50:

  • The Wycliffe version: “Thi feith hath maad thee saaf.”6
  • Tyndale Bible: “ Thy faith hath saved thee.”7
  • The 1611 King James Version: “Thy faith hath saued thee.”8
  • The New King James Version, the New American Standard, and the New International Version: “Your faith has saved you.”
  • Douay-Rheims “Thy faith hath made thee safe.”
  • The Greek: Ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε9
  • Latin: “fides tua te salvam fecit”10
  • and the Syriac:* ܗܰܝܡܳܢܽܘܬ݂ܶܟ݂ܝ ܐܰܚܝܰܬ݂ܶܟ݂ܝ

The statements are almost identical in both passages. The circumstances prompting this phrase are different.

The traditional Protestant English mind immediately connects the word saved with this passage as momentary but necessary ritualized confession. However, it does not take into account that this may be shaped by centuries of English Bible literary tradition. It may not exist with the same understanding in earlier times or different Church traditions.

The first result of this investigation reveals that the idea of saved was not present in the 14th century Wycliffe version, which is the oldest English Bible. This Bible concentrated on the word saaf instead, which means the person is safe and secure from any spiritual or physical harm.

The earliest that the actual word saved can be found in Luke 7:50 is in the Tyndale Bible printed in 1525. The Tyndale version used whoale (whole) for Mark 5:34. The Geneva Bible in 1587 and the King James in 1611 followed the tradition set by Tyndale while the Bishop’s Bible in 1568 used saved for both. Tyndale’s Bible is the standard by which all English Bibles have followed. The use of well for Mark 5:34 and saved for Luke 7:50 became entrenched. English Bibles have maintained this tradition since then.

It is funny how both the Mark and Luke passages are the same in the Greek, but English translation tradition brings them on separate paths.

What did earlier works have?

The Greek keyword for saved in Luke 7:50 and Mark 5:34 is σέσωκέν, which comes from σῴζω, sôzô is described by the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament as:

  • to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction
  • to save a suffering one (from perishing), i.e. one suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health
  • to save in the technical biblical sense
  • to deliver from the penalties of the Messianic judgment
  • to save from the evils which obstruct the reception of the Messianic deliverance.11

The definition above demonstrates that sôzô has a wide semantic range. It is not simply for the world to come, but also has a present meaning.

The Latin gives a slightly different read with the keyword. The Latin word is salvam, which is the accusative of salvus. It is not a verb, as it is in the Greek, but rather a noun, which emphasizes a state rather than an action. The emphasis is on the external and internal condition of the person, not an act seized upon them.

Salvus, doesn’t necessarily mean saved in this context either. The meaning of salvus extends its meaning to be well, unhurt, safe, sound, or uninjured.12 So the verse can three combinations of meanings: the person is saved in the religious metaphysical sense only, made well physically or emotionally, or a combination of the two. It is hard to distinguish.

There is a tension here where the Greek and Latin texts are colliding on a crucial word. The reader may invariably think the oldest text, which is the Greek, would be the most accurate. Such an assumption is correct, but modern perceptions of how the Greeks used or understood this word may be a problem that clouds judgment. A third party must be consulted to find out where the truth is.

This is where the Syriac text comes in and gives a very powerful clue.

It is found in the Syriac version of Luke 7:50. The important piece is found in how they translated the Greek word σέσωκέν. They used ܐܰܚܝܰܬܼܶܟܼܝ܂ with the feminine pronoun singular attached at the end, which is pronounced ‘aḥyaṯeḵ(y). Its root is from the word chai, which in the ancient Hebrew vernacular, is full of religious symbolism.13

Chai means life. Although the Syriac Dictionaries gives the translator the option to use the English word saved when encountering this verb, it also suggests “given to life” or “restored to life”.14

This is the same root that was used in Genesis 2:7 “and the man became a living being,” The living part here is where the chai noun is used — an authoritative statement on the meaning and definition of man. It is the life-giving force that distinguishes between living and non-living things.

Life, according to the ancient Hebrews, is unending and cannot be eradicated. Death is considered the most powerful weakening of the life-force but cannot destroy life entirely. Illness, poverty, and environment also deprecate the ability of life to work at its fullest.

If one can extrapolate further on this subject, Jesus did not come to destroy death, but to bring life, and offer everyone its fullest capacity without hindrance. A disposition evidenced when the Apostle John quoted Christ saying, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10 NKJV)

When the woman was healed, the Syriac says that her life-force was restored to a full state. She didn’t have to worry about her physical malady anymore; it didn’t dominate her life, finances, or relationships. She learned what it meant to be alive and complete on every level.

When Christ spoke to the sinful woman in Mark 5:34, the stress is on the woman’s mental state. She was not mentally, emotionally or socially at peace and needed a cathartic episode to be whole. Unable to do it herself, Christ afforded her the opportunity.

After He spoke to each one, He then added, “go in peace”. The word for peace in the Syriac is shalom. If one uses a Hebrew dictionary to look up this word, and in this instance Marcus Jastrow’s Talmud Dictionary, the root of this term means to be whole, complete, perfection, soundness, health, peace. It is a synonym with the word saved. These women had no more crushing worries. They were content — free from the forces of life and circumstances that controlled their thoughts and bodies.

The Syriac agrees with the Latin, the emphasis is not merely an action, or a prepared emotional or mental state for the world to come, it is about improvement of the overall person’s mental, physical and spiritual condition to what it ought to be, both now and in the hereafter.

The idiom refers to a practice and authority that Jesus and few others can ever achieve, but there is an application for the followers of Jesus. It means that whatever a person is lacking, Christians are to meet that particular need in an individual’s life.

If a person has a physical disability, we are to pray for a miracle. If this does not occur, we are to support people through the potential economic deprivations caused by their limitations so that they can lead a whole life.

If a person has an emotional disability, symbolized by the sinful woman, what path will lead her to a whole state? We are to provide an environment of encouragement and acceptance. In some cases, it may require financial or social assistance. Preaching the Gospel or implying repentance on someone who already feels shame increases the emotional turmoil. It may be counter-productive. They need to feel love for who they are as-is. The sense of unconditional love from others is one of the gateways for many to enter into a state of peace.

On the other hand, if God has blessed a person with perfect health and all abundance and lacked a place in eternity, we are to assist that one in becoming complete.

If someone is terminally ill and is need of spiritual direction for eternal life, bringing foodstuffs, gifts, hugs or encouragement, will not entirely satisfy his or her soul. It would be a travesty to deny any person information on how to get to heaven in such a situation.

However, one must realize that we are not God, nor have the immediate powers of Christ to call people out of wheelchairs, restore blindness, or reverse genetic problems. Being whole often requires the ability to accept the limitations imposed on us or others and necessitates to adapt to the circumstances.

We also have to be whole ourselves, content with our own identity, at peace with any physical limitations, emotional histories or difficult realities before one can encourage others to be complete.

This is a much more complicated definition to fulfill than just evangelism. It involves intensely and intentionally loving people in the little things and the big ones too. It requires commitment to others everyday lives and self-sacrifice for their betterment.

This article is restricted only to two Bible passages and cannot entirely speak for the religious meaning of the word saved in the New Testament. However, it does show that the ancient writers understood this word more comprehensively than the current definition.


References to the Syriac text can be found at http://dukhrana.com/peshitta/index.php

See also Evangelicals on the Problem of Being Saved.

Ancient Fonts and Modern Browser Test

An exploration on best practices, and the @font css solution for displaying ancient Greek, Hebrew, and Syriac on the internet.

With unicode fonts now being almost universally entrenched on personal computers, the problem of viewing ancient texts is becoming less and less a problem. It is becoming a choice of which font to choose.

Just a few years ago, websites with ancient texts in old foreign languages required the viewer to download specialized fonts. This always didn’t work and pushed away a larger audience.

The following are some of the solutions found from personal experience, and what other websites specializing in ancient texts are doing.

Polytonic Greek fonts

  • Palatino Linotype does an acceptable job of representing polytonic Greek. It comes standard on both Macs and Windows. It is not always consistent in size, or shape, nor does it reflect medieval Greek typography, which most Greek texts were popularly printed in. However, this one guarantees the best success in operating correctly on almost any medium.

  • Arial Unicode MS is good, but this has to be purchased.

  • My preference is Gentium. It is a well-developed and respected open-source font published by SIL International. For use on your personal computer or device, users have to download it, and install on their system. Gentium is available as a web-font.

  • The Ellepos website has a downloadable list of the most widely-used fonts for rendering polytonic Greek. This site also specializes in ancient Greek texts and uses Palatino Linotype as its base font. Palatino Linotype comes standard with Windows and almost any font in the Macintosh 10.4 OS or later has polytonic Greek built-in.

Hebrew Fonts

There is no problem typing or representing modern Hebrew with unicode fonts. There are a high number of choices and styles. Ancient Hebrew has niqudd which are diacritical marks including vowel points. Modern Hebrew doesn’t use it, except for training new, or young readers. Three fonts on the Microsoft system have been noted for good niquddoth: Narkisim, David, or FrankRuehl, but overall these typeface styles have modern, Yiddish, or a combination of these with some historic traits. These would be acceptable for Jewish Babylonian Aramaic, but to be closer to the Tiberian style, only third party solutions exist. Here is a list of fonts that are popular for Biblical Hebrew:

  • The first one is Cardo

  • The Ezra font family, is a very good one for rendering Biblical Hebrew.

  • SBL’s Hebrew font is another good one.

Syriac fonts

  • The latest Windows operating systems have come preconfigured with the Estrangelo Edessa font. Macintosh Computers must download the Syriac fonts first — even that does not guarantee complete success.

  • Beth Mardutho has a great library called Meltho fonts: The one I especially prefer from their great library of fonts is Serto Jerusalem. It has to be downloaded.

Convert into a @font

There is another way to address the problem of foreign fonts that does not require the user to have the font resident on their system. It forces the same look and font over multiple browsers and systems. It is called the @font-face.

It was a great concept three years ago, but it is now waning because it takes too long for a browser to generate. The potential reader has probably already left for another website by the time the browser is complete.

Some browsers require the complete font to be downloaded while others call just what is needed.

In those specialized situations where the specific look and feel is required, @font may be a solution. It is a way to embed a font into a website where the end-user does not have them on their personal computer. If coded right in the css file, the website looks first to see if the font is found on the local computer, if not, then it sends to the browser a special web-font.

This solution is cross-platform compatible and supports all modern browsers. One does not need to instruct or depend on the end-user to have the proper fonts installed on their system.

Here are some observations of the @font solution after after generating Gentium, Cardo, Ezra, SBL and Serto Jerusalem, into web-fonts.

  • Internet Explorer 7 and 8: the texts are clear and easy to read

  • Internet Explorer 6 has serious problems with Polytonic Greek. Since it is now only being used in 4.5% of browsers at this time, a workaround will not be pursued

  • Firefox on the Mac will not work with the Syriac font. They come out as squares with unicode numbers. This is a known problem with Firefox on the Mac. No solution has been produced so far. Since there are so few users, likely less than 1%, a solution will not be investigated.

  • Google Chrome works very well. The Syriac font especially is crisp and clear

  • Safari on the Mac displays the Syriac font very densely, appearing 2x bold. It is too hard to read.

  • both the Syriac and the Hebrew Fonts appear small when left at the default setting. 1.5em instead of 1.0em is better

  • Gentium is now available as a web-font, so the results should be the same as the standard edition.

  • Cardo generates OK: though there are some problems with the cholem.

  • Ezra will not generate properly into a web-font.

  • SBL will not allow their work be generated into a web-font (at least in 2010).

  • Beth Mardutho’s Serto Jerusalem converts easily into a web-font.

How to convert standard fonts into a web-font

There are a number of steps to doing this:

  • The best way to do this is to upload your font to font squirrel and follow all their standard suggestions. Once the font is generated, it will download the complete font generated file back to you.

  • Many font foundries frown on converting it into a web-font by a third party and it is important to get their permission first. They may reject such usage, as SBL has done, or give conditions. One owner permitted the use of their font but suggested that the css be formatted in such a way to first look for the original font on the user computer first and only use the @font-face as a last resort.

  • Put the new generated font in your first level of your web heirarchy.

  • Ignore the css provided by font squirrel. You can take some ideas from it but it is better to generate your own css file.

  • There are different web-font formats for each browser and also the burgeoning hand-held market. Font squirrel has generated these different formats.

A few other helpful technical notes along the way:

Always make sure the .css page is set to utf-8 encoding, otherwise the software program/website database will wipe out any utf-8 details. UTF encoding is important because it includes a much higher number of font instances than the traditional Latin encoding which most databases default to. Latin encoding does not have enough room to accommodate additional foreign subsets.

For that matter the database should have the collation set to utf-8 or else all the foreign fonts will display weird results or more likely will produce question marks ‘????’ where the foreign fonts were keyed in.

If you are having the ‘????’ font problem in WordPress, here is the actual msyql query to fix that (for those of you experienced enough in mysql to do this):

alter table `wp_posts` CONVERT TO CHARACTER SET utf8 COLLATE utf8_general_ci

This will help in properly saving foreign fonts in the body copy of WordPress. It may not work for other parts of the program such as headers, comments or the like. One may have to execute additional commands for this.

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

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