Tag Archives: tongues speaking

A New Kind of Tongues

How the Pentecostal definition of tongues changed in the early 1900s.

The late Assemblies of God teacher, writer, and professor Gary B. McGee wrote a very factual account on the development and evolution of the doctrine of tongues in the Pentecostal movement.

It is called, Shortcut to Language Preparation? Radical Evangelicals, Missions, and the Gift of Tongues.

It is a well researched article with substantiated sources. This is one of the most definitive works found covering the subject from the late nineteenth century onwards.

He cites the most important leaders in the modern tongues movement, and how the original emphasis was on the supernatural acquisition of foreign languages. This mystical acquirement was hoped to be a solution for the common perception that language learning was a long process and a barrier to a rapid missionary expansion throughout the world.

This forced a serious theological dilemma — miraculous language acquisition wasn’t working. Either the Pentecostal movement as a whole would have to admit they were wrong, or redefine the experience. The latter was chosen.

McGee admits that somewhere between 1906 and 1907 the doctrine of tongues had changed from what was perceived as spontaneous language acquisition into worship and intercession in the Spirit:

Not surprisingly, though claims of bestowed languages had the potential of being empirically verified, such claims severely tested the credulity of outside observers. Corroborating testimony that Pentecostals preached at will in their newfound languages and were actually understood by their hearers proved difficult to find. By late 1906 and 1907 radical evangelicals began reviewing the Scriptures to obtain a better understanding. Most came to recognize that speaking in tongues constituted worship and intercession in the Spirit (Rom. 8:26; I Cor. 14:2), which in turn furnished the believer with spiritual power. Since on either reading–glossolalia for functioning effectively in a foreign language or for spiritual worship–the notion of receiving languages reflected zeal and empowerment for evangelism, most Pentecostals seemed to have accepted the transition in meaning.

It is surprising to find here that an Assemblies of God teacher admitted to this, though it comes across very softly.

Unfortunately, he failed to go into any details on what figures were responsible for this change, and how it became an entrenched doctrine in such a short period.

The full document can be found here: Shortcut to Language Preparation? Radical Evangelicals, Missions, and the Gift of Tongues.

Commentary of Psellos' Tongues of Pentecost

A commentary on Michael Psellos’ text concerning the miracle of Pentecost as outlined in the Book of Acts.

The eleventh-century Michael Psellos resolves a number of critical issues in the contemporary debate over the meaning and definition of the tongues of Pentecost.

The results are gleaned from the translation and analysis of his Greek text found in Michaelis Pselli Theologica. Vol. 1. Paul Gautier ed. BSB B.G. Teubner Verlagsgesellschaft. 1989. Pg. 293-295. In this portion of Pselli Theologica, he covers the Pentecost event and the controversies that have surrounded it.

He first of makes it abundantly clear that the miracle was the ability to speak in foreign languages that the speaker did not know beforehand. He also added new Greek keywords that point to this fact.

Secondly, he clarified the old tongues debate that had raged over seven centuries which started with Gregory Nazianzus. Nazianzus posited two theories, that it was either a miracle of hearing or speaking. He sided with Gregory’s preference that it was a miracle of speaking. Psellos reinforced this with a further explanation.

He was not aware, or at minimum does not cite, any other alternative movements or theories than this.

Psellos had a detailed knowledge of the pagan Greek prophets and explains that the ancient female prophets of Phoebe would go in a form of frenzy and speak in foreign languages. This is a very early and important contribution to the modern tongues debate where there has been much contemporary scholarly attention given to the ancient Greek prophets going into ecstasy and producing ecstatic speech. A connection is made by many modern scholars to the christian miracle as simply being a synergism of the ancient Greek practice of ecstatic speech — an attempt to make the christian faith a universal one.

This has been a large source of controversy within scholarly circles, and has been noted in this blog before in A Critical Look at Tongues and Montanism where Christopher Forbes argued that there is no substantive evidence that the ancient Greek prophets ever spoke in ecstatic utterances — and his argument is quite strong because there is indeed little direct evidence. Rex D. Butler countered that ancient texts do infer ecstatic utterances. Michael Psellos declared that it was simply foreign languages that the Greek prophets practised. He does not make any reference to ecstatic utterances.

This may be the oldest direct text on the subject and must be given significant weight. His knowledge of ancient Greek philosophy and religion is unparalleled even by modern standards. It is also seven hundred years older than most works that address the relationship between the Christian event and the pagan Greek rite.

Psellos went on to describe that those who spoke at Pentecost did so with total comprehension. He went into detail how it exactly worked. The thought process remained untouched but when attempting to speak, their lips were divinely inspired. The speaker could change the language at any given moment, depending on what language group the surrounding audience belonged to.

The total control of ones mind while under divine influence was what differentiated the Christian event from the pagan one. The Greek prophetesses, as he went on to describe, did not have any control over what they were saying. There was a complete cognitive disassociation between their mind and their speech while the Apostles had complete mastery over theirs.

Last of all Psellos introduces a concept of tongues-speaking practised in the Hellenic world that has to do with the use of plants to arrive in a state of divine ecstasy. He also quickly described pharmacology too in this context, but it seems the text infers it was used in the art of healing. His writing is somewhat unclear at this point, but there was a relationship between the two. Perhaps tongues speaking practised by the ancient Greeks was part of the ancient rite of healing. It is hard to be definitive with this because his writing style here is so obscure. He warns to stay away from the use of exotic things that assist in going into a state of divine ecstasy. ■

For more information:

Notes on the Doctrine of Tongues in De Trinitate

An analysis of the Church doctrine of tongues found in the fourth century Alexandrian work De Trinitate — traditionally attributed to Didymus of Alexandria.

The authorship of this work is not settled. Tradition ascribes the author to be Didymus of Alexandria. This writer, grammarian and teacher, stands at the forefront as one of Alexandria’s most prominent leaders. Although his name has lost prominence within the annals of history, his influence and contribution to the Christian world during his time was immeasurable.

However, there is a dispute on the authorship. Alisdair Heron argues in the book, The Making of Orthodoxy that it is not certain that Didymus is the author of this work.

For some two hundred years following its mid-eighteenth-century discovery by Mingarelli in a manuscript lacking title page and the opening chapters, the De Trinitate was regarded as the chief surviving work of Didymus the Blind (313–98), the last really distinguished leader of the catechetical school in Alexandria. Mingarelli based his ascription in part on the numerous and striking verbal parallels between this work and Didymus’ De Spiritu Sancto, which survives only in Jerome’s Latin translation. The last generation, however, has seen a remarkable shift in scholarly opinion on the matter: the discovery of the Toura papyri in 1941 and the ascription to Didymus of a series of extensive biblical commentaries contained in them has led in turn to comparisons of these works with the De Trinitate which seemed to support the conclusion that Didymus could not also have been the author of the latter. If correct, this conclusion not only requires a radical revision of the entire picture of Didymus and his theological teaching developed before the discovery of the Toura papyri; it also leaves the De Trinitate – a major work by any standards – floating in the void of anonymity. In recent years, study of Didymus has concentrated on the Toura commentaries; the De Trinitate has received relatively scant attention, though it is arguably more theologically substantial and significant than the commentaries, whether or not Didymus is the author.

Bryce Walker also addresses manuscript problems with another work attributed to Didymus’ De Spiritu Sancto, which may have an impact on understanding De Trinitate. He described on his blog that the oldest text of De Spiritu Sancto is in Latin.(1) http://www.bryce-walker.com/2012/11/24/fun-with-manuscript-traditions-didymus-the-blinds-de-spiritu-sancto/ There was no mention of De Trinitate having the same problem. I wasn’t aware of this background information while translating De Trinitate until completion, but found on a few occasions that the Greek was following Latin structure and wondered if this was a later Greek reproduction based on the Latin. However, some of the Greek word usage is old and reminiscent of this Alexandrian era. There is not enough convincing evidence to prove that this is a later Greek translation from the Latin. However it is tenable that there were emendations or editorial inserts done by Latin based copyists.

Or it could be a collective effort of the fourth century Christian community based in Alexandria? It was one of the most influential theological centers within Christendom. Its influence can be found in almost any subject during this period.

Perhaps it was a person or movement trying to copy the diction and prose of an earlier generation in their writing style.

In the case of the Gift of Tongues Project, dating a text is more important than authorship for discovering and analyzing the transmission of this doctrine over the centuries. It appears most of the work is fourth century, and has an Alexandrian style. It may or may not be Didymus as the original author, though tradition has ascribed it as such.

Regardless, De Trinitate is a well written theological work.

Consequently, when one comes across an Alexandrian based work such as De Trinitate, it requires careful attention.

This work is an important one to study for the Gift of Tongues Project to proceed in it’s goal of tracing the development and evolution of the doctrine of tongues in the Church from inception until now.

It is also hoped that this document will clarify the theology outlined by Gregory Nazianzus. If one reads the coverage of Gregory Nazianzus and later writers on this subject, the doctrine of tongues has three potential interpretations. One is that the speakers emitted sounds and the hearers miraculously understood it in their own language, or that the speakers miraculously spoke in every language, or it was a miracle of both hearing and speaking. The presently available Gregory texts leaves too much ambiguity as to which one was the most historically accepted.

The base copy worked from was the Greek text found in Migne Patrologia Graeca. The Latin parallel was closely watched for any differences.

If Didymus did write this, then this document is the only place where he made reference to the doctrine of tongues. His works in Migne Patrologia Graeca have been visually scanned for relevant coverage on this topic, and only three references have been located, and they are all found in De Trinitate. It is a large work that not only has the Trinity as the central theme but seeks to integrate all forms of Christian thought into this ideology. Thus the doctrine of tongues has slight references to this.

The relevant passages have been digitized, and translated. The English translation can be found at An English Translation of the Tongues Passages found in De Trinitate, and the original Greek text along with the Latin parallel translation, The Greek and Latin texts on the Doctrine of Tongues found in De Trinitate.

The first reference in De Trinitate concerning the doctrine of tongues can be found in the coverage about the division of languages in the Book of Genesis.(2) Didymi Alexandrini. De Trinitate Liber Primus. XVIII:31. MPG. Vol. 39 Col. 348 This one hardly provides any substantial detail. It follows the customary path of early Christian interpretation of linking the doctrine of tongues with the confusion of languages rather than connecting it to the voice or voices God spoke to Moses with at Mount Sinai.

The second reference in De Trinitate has more information.(3) Didymi Alexandrini. De Trinitate Liber Primus. XVIII:31. MPG. Vol. 39 Col. 348:

And they were speaking as well in different languages, “even as”, it says, “the Spirit was giving them to utter.” And the Galileans were understanding the instruction of Parthians, Medes, Persians; and the different sorts of foreign speech of mankind, including also Greek, and the Ausonian language. Many voices 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.” And clearly he meant the same identical essence as according to the Trinity, “Christ is all and in all.” Where seeing that we seek. . .

There are a number of clues that can be picked-up from here. The text offered support for the miracle being those speaking in foreign languages, but the wording suggests that these people miraculously spokes sounds too, which parallels the second theory of the miracle being in the hearing.

The text defined those who were miraculously endowed Galileans. By leaving this so general, the author(s) recognize that more people just than the Apostles were gifted on that day, but who and how many, is left for the reader to decide.

It is clear here from the text that those who were endowed not only miraculously spoke but also understood foreign languages. It does not clarify if this was a temporary event, or a gift which these people possessed for the rest of their lives.

The text also added the Greek and the Ausonian to the list of languages being spoken at Pentecost. Ausonian was the language of Southern Italy. It is argued to be close to, if not Latin, while others state it is independent and older than that of Roman Latin. The written intent was to transform the Pentecost phenomenon from a semitic event, to a universal one.

There are new keywords to the tongues doctrine never used before:

  • συνίεσαν to understand as found in:

    And the Galileans were understanding the instruction of Parthians, Medes, Persians. . .

    This verb is found in Homeric and other classical Greek works. This would not be unusual to find with Alexandrian authors whose vocabulary is often similar. It also could mean that the Apostles were competently hearing or perceiving other languages.

  • ὁμιλίαν instruction. This is found in the same sentence shown above, but will show it once more to avoid confusion:

    And the Galileans were understanding the instruction of Parthians, Medes, Persians. . .

    This word can be found also in Acts 20:11 but is seldom used in the New Testament, nor in reference to the doctrine of tongues. It is the source by which we use the word Homily in many Church services today. It meant here that those who were endowed understood the instruction, that is, the philosophy and religion of the foreign nations, and could speak the Gospel within that context.

  • ἀλλοθρόων which root is speaking a strange tongue, strange, alien:(4) The lexicon definition found at Perseus.

    . . .and the different sorts of foreign speech of mankind

    This sentence portion is from the Greek καὶ ἀλλοθρόων ἄλλων ἀνθρώπων. The writer(s) is once again strengthening the argument through these word selections that the miraculous endowment is a universal one, not just a localized event that only the semitic nations could comprehend.

  • πολύφωνοί having many tones, having many voices, loquacious, talkative, manifold in expression:(5) The lexicon definition found at Perseus.

    Many voices were indeed produced

    The text noted that the speech was in manifold voices. This causes some confusion. Up until now, it is clear that the people miraculously spoke in foreign languages. It is assumed that one person spoke in Persian, while another Mede, and the list goes on. Here it is not clear. Was it each person speaking in manifold voices at one moment? Or was the person sequentially going through the languages of the nations while speaking? This is a mystery many of the Church fathers have so far left ambiguous and the text also does not clarify.

The third reference in De Trinitate to tongues speaking is weak.(6) Didymi Alexandri. De Trinitate Liber Secundus. MPG. Vol. 39. Col. 501 It strings together a number of references relating to the Holy Spirit and fire, including the tongues sequence in the Book of Acts. It simply is quoting Acts 2:4 among other Bible quotes without expressing any explanation to the meaning of the passage itself. It was translated, analyzed and posted in keeping with one of the goals of the Gift of Tongues Project — to be as comprehensive as possible. In the past, many researchers have selectively chosen passages to support their cause while omitting other pertinent information.

The writing style of De Trinitate contains rapid sequential thoughts. It is depending on the audience to know their Bible and topics at hand, and to fill in the obvious blanks. It skips very quickly from one thought to another. It also created difficulty translating because it was hard to understand one specific sharp transition — the text containing the negative example of Ananias to the positive example of those possessing the Holy Spirit. The transition was too fast and unclear.

De Trinitate on the doctrine of tongues does not reveal any new concepts additional to that of Gregory Nazianzus. It is clear that the text supported a miraculous form of comprehending and speaking many human languages. There are no references to the Montanists or Donatists. They were not a central or controversial part of the tongues doctrine during his time.

References   [ + ]

An analysis of Augustine on Tongues and the Donatists

Augustine’s argument against the Donatist’s gives one of the richest earlier accounts on the Christian doctrine of tongues.

If it were not for the Donatists, Augustine would not have left such a legacy about the tongues of Pentecost and how it was perceived during his time. Their conflict with Augustine offers a wealth of information on the subject — much more than the Montanist movement.

The Donatists were a northern African Christian group; broken off from the official Catholic Church over reasons initially relating to the persecutions of Christians by edict of the emperor Diocletian early in the fourth century. After the persecutions abated, a controversy erupted in the region over how to handle Church leaders who assisted with the secular authorities in the persecutions. This became a source of contention and it conflagrated into questions of Church leadership, faith, piety, discipline and politics. The Donatists transformed into a separate Christian movement and statistically outnumbered the traditional Catholic representatives in the region. At the height it had over 400 bishops.(1)David Benedict, Henry Clinton Graves. History of the Donatists. NL:NP. 1875. Col. 9

For more information on the Donatists, go to Hoover’s thesis, The Contours of Donatism: Theological and Ideological Diversity in Fourth Century North Africa

Augustine was the Catholic Bishop of the ancient city of Hippo which was near the epicentre of the whole movement. He wrote against the Donatists trying to persuade them through logic and by state law to come back into the fold.

Since all the information on the Donatists on the gift of tongues can only be found in Augustine’s writings and there is yet to be found any materials written firsthand by the Donatists on this topic, it is difficult to assess the situation from a neutral perspective. It forces the researcher to postulate on a few outcomes regarding the Donatists and tongues. First of all, they may have asserted themselves as the true Church because they personally spoke in tongues and the Catholic Church did not. Secondly, Augustine’s polemic against their use of Christian tongues was a perceived weakness that he could exploit. In reality it may have not been central to the Donatist movement at all.

He may have been using the gift of tongues as a diversion from thornier issues between the two parties. This topic was a simple way to demonstrate the Catholic Church’s superiority over what was perceived as a populist heresy than to delve into the dark history of the Church under persecution and the betrayal of many key leaders.

Secondly, and more likely, the political argument that tongues was supposed to be a sign of unity, not dissension like the Donatists were accused of doing, was simply a good argument for Augustine to utilize.

Whatever the case, Augustine’s refutation against the Donatists leads to some very important writings on the subject.

Augustine was likely responding to a Donatist theological position in Sermo 267, Chapter 3: Chapter III. Why the Gift of Tongues is all but Withdrawn

Brothers, has the holy Spirit not been given now? Whoever thinks this is not deserving to receive. He is given and now. Why then is no one speaking in the tongues of all the nations just as he spoke who at the time was being filled with the holy Spirit? Why? Because this was a sign that has been satisfied.”(2)MPL Vol. 38. Augustine. Sermo CCLXVII (267) Col. 1230ff Translation is mine

Here Augustine illustrated that a theology was being advocated during his time that if one receives the holy Spirit, then one must speak in tongues.

Augustine approached this theological question repeatedly in a number of works. One argument pointed out the theological problems related to this concept:

“Can it now be to those receiving the laying of hands when they receive the holy Spirit, is there an expectation with this, that they must speak in languages? Or rather when we laid hands on those infants, does anyone of you pay attention to whether they were speaking in languages or when it was seen of them that they did not speak in languages, was it according to the perverseness of the heart with some of you that you would say, “These did not receive the holy Spirit, for if they had received, would they be speaking in languages even as was done in times past? Then, if it should not now be appointed as the evidence of the presence of the holy Spirit through these miracles, from what point does it take place, from which point does each one know that he himself has received the holy Spirit?”(3)MPL Vol. 35. Augustine. In Epistolas Joannis et Parthos VI:10 (6:10) Col. 2025ff. Translation is mine.

What does it mean “this was a sign that has been satisfied”? It shouldn’t be taken as absolutist. It refers to the individual act of speaking in tongues ceasing, not the corporate miracle.

Augustine meant that the individual endowment of miraculously speaking in foreign languages had ceased from functioning. The corporate expression still remained. It cannot be applied to mean the cessation of the corporate miracle of tongues, miracles, healings, or other divine interventions. This was not his intention.

Augustine had categorized the gift of tongues in his day as a miraculous corporate act of the Church. It had transferred from the individual. The following demonstrates this development of thought.

This corporate definition can clearly be found in a number of Augustine’s works. The first example is found in Enarratio in Psalmum CXLVII:19 (147:19). He believed that the question of why individuals during his time who have received the holy Spirit were not speaking in tongues was not the right question to ask. If one was to look for individual instances after the Church had extended into the world it would not be found, because that phase is over:

For at that time the Church was not yet spread out through the circle of lands, that the organs of Christ were speaking in all the nations. Then it was filled-up into one, with respect to which it was being proclaimed in every one of them. Now the entire body of Christ is speaking in all the languages. To those which it is not yet speaking, it will be speaking in the future. For the Church will multiply until it shall seize all the languages [in the entire world]. Hold fast with us until that time had come near, and you shall arrive with us to that which had not yet drawn near. I intend to teach you to speak in all the languages. I am in the body of Christ, I am in the Church of Christ. If the body of Christ is now speaking in all the languages, [then] also I am indeed speaking in all languages; to me it is that of Greek, Syrian, Hebrew, it is of every nation, because in unity, I am of every nation.”(4)MPL Vol. 37 Augustine. Enarratio in Psalmum. CXLVII:19 (147:19) Col. 1929. Translation is mine.

He further added that the true Church had taken on the duty to fulfil the promise of tongues to speak to all the nations and bring all peoples into unity, which it continued to miraculously do; “for since this small Church was speaking in the tongues of the nations, how is it, except that this great Church is presently speaking to the east even as the west with the tongues of all nations? It is merely a fulfillment as to which was promised at that time.” The “fulfillment as to which was promised at that time,” should not be interpreted to mean cessationalism but rather that this was an office that was established at the foundation and confirmed functioning since then.

Sermo 268 also confirms Augustine’s belief that the Church took on this role: “Whoever has the holy Spirit is in the Church, which is speaking in all the languages. Whoever is outside this Church, does not have the holy Spirit. For that reason indeed the holy Spirit deemed to reveal itself in the languages of all the nations, so the one that perceives to have the holy Spirit itself, that person is sustained in the unity of the Church, which is speaking in all the languages.”(5)MPL Vol. 38. Augustine. Sermo CCLXVIII (268) Col. 1231. Translation is mine.

Augustine illustrated in Sermo 266:2 that the Church became an international entity because of the gift of tongues and this office confirms its validity: “the unity of the Catholic Church has been signified by gift of tongues.”

This is where one has to be very cautious with Augustine on this topic. He was pitting the Catholic Church as the true one because of its universality and inferring that the Donatists were not so ordained because of their regionalism. One can see a direct blow on the Donatists in Sermo 268 where the emphasis is on unity, which is a word play found in the Latin and lost in the English, inferring anyone creating disunity, such as the Donatists who were promoting their brand of speaking in tongues, was heretical.

“The holy Spirit commits to unity of the Church universal by the gift of tongues. On account of the holy Spirit having arrived, this present day is solemn to us, 50th from the resurrection of the Lord, but reckoning 7 x 7 results in 49. One is being inserted, that oneness is given in trust with us.”(6)MPL Vol. 38. Augustine. Sermo CCLXVIII (268) Col. 1231. Translation is mine

It was not only Augustine that had forwarded this position, Optatus of Milevus wrote the same around 370 AD, listing the countries the Catholic Church has spread to and then concluded to the Donatist leader Parmenian, “In none of the above named countries, said Optatus to the Donatis, Parmenian, are your people found, except in a corner of Africa. O, ungrateful and foolish presumption, said he, that you should attempt to persuade men that you alone have the true Catholic faith.”(7)David Benedict, Henry Clinton Graves. History of the Donatists. NL:NP. 1875. Col. 26

Augustine attempted in a number of ways to eradicate or control the Donatists, but without complete success. It is not entirely known when the Donatist movement died, but it is generally held to have happened in the seventh century under the Arab conquests.(8)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donatism

The Latin text, found in Migne Patrologia Latina, emphatically states that Augustine was arguing against the Donatists — even the chapter headings have their names labelled. But this is a later interpolation. The header text referring to the Donatists was a later editorial insertion included in the Migne edition. It does not exist in the official edition found at the Sant’ Agostino website. However, this is not a big problem. It was simply declaring the obvious. The movement was Augustine’s main local rival and he drew from this tension.

References   [ + ]

Augustine on the Tongues of Pentecost: Intro


An analysis of Augustine’s writings on speaking in tongues.

Augustine wrote a considerable amount on the subject which first appears to be an open and shut case, but a closer look reveals a diversity of thought propelled by political influences.

The conflict with the rival Donatist movement gives one of the earliest and extensive articles of tongues speech in the church. His coverage dispels the notion that the institutional church after Pentecost had quashed or ignored the christian rite of tongues.

The theories on speaking in tongues during Augustine’s time.

Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, 354-430 AD, was likely aware of the different theories on the subject. His contemporaries Gregory Nazianzus (329 to 390 AD) had posited that there are two options for the Pentecost outburst of tongues: it was either a miracle of hearing or of speaking, and more likely the latter. John Chrysostom (349 to 407 AD) held similar views to Augustine on the diminished role of divine tongues in the individual expression. An earlier North African leader named Pachomius (292 to 346 AD) was mythologized as having been divinely enabled to temporarily speak Latin. The first century BC Jewish Hellenistic philosopher, Philo of Alexandria, didn’t write about the gift of tongues, but he did cover the mechanics behind God speaking. He held that when God spoke it was in a sound that would implant in the hearers mind, bypassing the ears, being beyond human language.

Was it a miracle of speaking or hearing?

Sometimes he favored the miracle of speaking while others times of hearing. He does tend to allude to the idea of the miracle of one voice emanating and the hearers miraculously hearing in their own language.

  • “they began to speak in the languages of all the nations,”(1)Sermo. CLXXV:3
  • “they began to speak in all the languages, that in respect to those who were present, everybody was recognizing their own language,”(2)Sermo CCLII:2
  • “Each man speaking in every language”,(3)Sermo CCLXV:10
  • “Each man was speaking in every language, it was being announced beforehand because the Church was about to be in every language. One man was a sign of unity. Every language by one man, every nation in unity.”(4)CCLXVI:2

His coverage is found in a number of other Sermons(5) Sermo CCLXVII and CCLXVIII and in his work on the Psalms. In Enarratio in Psalmum he wrote this particular puzzling entry, “See that sounds went out in every language.”(6)Enarratio in Psalmum CXLVII:19 (147:19)

He picks and chooses given the situation. It appears that the mechanics behind how those divinely spoke in tongues was of no interest to him or was a priority. He had an apologetic motive against the large Dontatist movement, who asserted that they were the true Church. One of their confirming signs was that they spoke in tongues.(7)Augustine on Tongues and the Donatists

There is no question that the semantic range of this experience fell inside the use of foreign languages, nothing more. He used the term linguis omnium gentium “in the languages of all the nations” on at least 23 occasions, and linguis omnium, speaking “in all languages”. Neither does Augustine quote or refer to the Montanist movement in his works.

Augustine on the question, Should everybody speak in tongues?

The Bishop repeatedly answers the question “If I have received the holy Spirit, why am I not speaking in tongues?” Each time he has a slightly different read. What did he say? “this was a sign that has been satisfied.”(8)Sermo CCLXVII (267), MPL Vol. 38. Augustine. Sermo CCLXVII (267) Col. 1230ff. My translation In the writing called In Epistolas Joannis et Parthos, he jests with those who take this position, “when we laid hands on those infants, does anyone of you pay attention to whether they were speaking in languages. . .?”(9)MPL Vol. 35. Augustine. In Epistolas Joannis et Parthos VI:10 (6:10) Col. 2025ff and then offers a more theological slant in his Enarratio In Psalmum, “Why then does the holy Spirit not appear now in all languages? On the contrary He does appear in all the languages. For at that time the Church was not yet spread out through the circle of lands, that the organs of Christ were speaking in all the nations. Then it was filled-up into one, with respect to which it was being proclaimed in every one of them. Now the entire body of Christ is speaking in all the languages.”(10)Augustine. Enarratio in Psalmum. CXLVII:19 (147:19)

The gift of tongues changed from an individual to a corporate expression.

The last one brings on an important theological perspective by Augustine on the doctrine of tongues. The gift being expressed through individuals has died, and now has been transferred to and operated by the corporate Church. More of this doctrine can be found in the next article, Augustine on Tongues and the Donatists.

Augustine about the cessation of tongues and miracles

This patristic leader’s position on miracles has been highly debated for 1600 years. This is apparent in the tongues citations provided above. However, the most disputed piece is not on tongues but on miracles itself as found in his work, De vera religione where he wrote:

Another thing which must be considered is the dissension that has arisen among men concerning the worship of the one God. We have heard that our predecessors, at a stage in faith on the way from temporal things up to eternal things, followed visible miracles. They could do nothing else. And they did so in such a way that it should not be necessary for those who came after them. When the Catholic Church had been founded and diffused throughout the whole world, on the one hand miracles were not allowed to continue till our time, lest the mind should always seek visible things, and the human race should grow cold by becoming accustomed to things which when they were novelties kindled its faith. On the other hand we must not doubt that those are to be believed who proclaimed miracles, which only a few had actually seen, and yet were able to persuade whole peoples to follow them. At that time the problem was to get people to believe before anyone was fit to reason about divine and invisible things. No human authority is set over the reason of a purified soul, for it is able to arrive at clear truth But pride does not lead to the perception of truth. If there were no pride there would be no heretics, no schismatics, no circumcised, no worshippers of creatures or of images. If there had not been such classes of opponents before the people was made perfect as promised, truth would be sought much less eagerly.(11)De Vera Religione 25 (47) as found in Augustine: Earlier Writings. The Library of Christian Classics. Translated by John S. Burleigh. Philadelphia: the Westminster Press. 1953. Pg. 248

This was written around 390 AD. 37 years later Augustine revisited this statement and softened his stance by adding in his Retractiones:

For when hands are laid on the baptized, they do not receive the Holy Ghost now, in such a manner as to speak with the tongues of all the nations; nor are the sick now cured by the shadow of Christ’s preachers as they pass by them, and others such as these, which, it is manifest, did afterwards cease; But what I said, is not so to be understood as if no miracles are believed to be performed now in the name of Christ : for I myself, when I wrote that very book, (De Vera Religione,) knew that a blind man had received his sight in the city of Milan, at the bodies of the Milanese martyrs, and several others besides; nay, such numbers are performed in these our days, that I neither can know them all, nor though I knew them, could I enumerate them.(12)Retractiones. English translation found in The Edinburgh Magazine and Literary Miscellany. Vol. 15. Edinburgh: Printed for Archibald Constable and Company. 1824. Pg. 688

What did Augustine intend? I have never seen in any Patristic literature where a church leader made a complete and concise reversal or retraction of a theological concept. This may be the closest that Augustine could achieve without having amassed some percieved shame or criticism of his legacy. A complete avowal would also have legitimized the majority Donatist movement whose emphasis on the gift of tongues symbolized their fidelity. Augustine spent decades in theological dispute with them on that very subject.

It is no surprise when he stated that miracles still occur, but some do not, he listed the individual speaking in tongues as the first example that is no longer utilized. This is in keeping with his various polemical assaults against the Donatists.

A specialist in Augustine, Prof. Jan den Boeft, considers the Retractiones text wanting. He thinks that Augustine is referring to the cessation of only a few miracles including speaking in tongues while most continued.(13)Jan Den Boeft. The Apostolic Age in Patristic Thought. A. Hilhorst ed. Leiden: Brill. 2004. Pg. 61 Prof. Boeft makes a proper connection between Chrysostom and Augustine on the de-emphasis on miracles whereby miracles were considered unimportant in the development of christian character and often antithetical. The penchant for miracles was considered a gateway to pride. Chrysostom had shifted the element of miracles away from the individual and moved the practice to the rituals and symbols of the corporate church and the cult of deceased saints.

See Chrysostom on the Doctrine of tongues for more information.

Augustine on the tongues of Corinth.

There was not found in any of his writings a theological analysis about the problem in Corinth. He does refer to I Corinthians 13:1 “If I speak in the tongues of men and angels…” over eight times. This appears to be a popular verse used by him in his argumentation against his Donatist rivals. He used this passage to emphasize brotherly love over ambition.

The neglect of Augustine on this subject.

It is surprising that his works have not entered into the primary source books as a central author explaining and defining the christian tongues doctrine. This problem is not unique just to Augustine. This is covered in more detail at the following article: Examining the Source Books on Glossolalia and Christian tongues.

It is also vexing how many of his works, which includes the tongues-passages, do not have popular English translations. He is one of the foremost writers who has withstood the test of time. One of only a handful of authors of any genre has managed to do that. If his works were more widely available in English, it would have changed the dynamics of the discussion over the last century.

His works are well written and thought-out with an easy-to-read style which most readers will come to appreciate.

For more info;

  • see the next article, Augustine on Tongues and the Donatists

  • Or the actual English translations of the important texts by Augustine relating to the Christian doctrine of tongues, Augustine on the Tongues of Pentecost in English. ■

  • References   [ + ]

Summary of the Gift of Tongues Project

Yesterday, October 22nd, this article encouraged readers to wait for the book to come out. Unfortunately, the book idea is stalled again. But that is good news. Too many people have come to this article wanting a summary now. Your request has resulted in a two-part summary being developed. It is nearly complete and will be posted. Part I should be ready by October 30th.

Origen on the Doctrine of Tongues

Origen, 184 — 254 AD

A critical look at the references and controversies regarding Origen on the christian doctrine of tongues.

This work was produced because there is so much contradictory often even misleading statements concerning Origen’s position. It necessitated a closer look into all the available materials made by Origen on the subject in order to arrive at a definitive conclusion.

Table of Contents

  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Methodology
  • 3. The works of Origen as it relates to the doctrine of tongues:
    • The Jeremiah Homily
    • Selecta in Ezechielem
    • Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles
    • Commentary on the Book of Romans
    • Commentary on Corinthians, Header 49
    • Against Celsus
  • 4. Conclusion

1. Introduction

The divergent opinions about Origen can be found in the most dominant pieces of religious literature and these contradictory opinions create more problems than solutions. For instance Cleon Rogers Jr. stated in the well-known Bibliothecra Sacra that Origen wrote nothing on it,(1)John F. Walvoord, ed. Bibiliothecra Sacra. “The Gift of Tongues in the Post Apostolic Church” by Cleon L. Rogers Jr. Vol. 122. April, 1965. You can read it online at Google Docs here. while C.M. Robeck Jr. believed Origen stated the gift to be for cross-cultural preaching.(2)’Tongues, Gift of’ by C.M. Robeck Jr. as found in the New International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Geoffrey W. Bromiley ed. Vol. 4 . ND. Pg. 874 T.C. Edwards believed Origen along with other Church Fathers indicated that it was no longer in existence in the third century,(3)Thomas Charles Edwards. A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians. 2nd ed. New York: Armstrong and Son. 1886. Pg. 319 here. to which R. Leonard Carrol wrote that Origen believed it did still occur.(4) Wade H. Horton ed. The Glossalalia Phenomenon. “Glossolalia: Apostles to the Reformation” by R. Leonard Carrol. Cleveland: Pathway Press. 1966. Pg 83

Many modern writers have read Origen simply to find out if the gift had ceased or persisted like Richard Quibedeaux who concluded that Origen simply didn’t approve of the phenomenon,“Origen, in the third century, and Chrysostom, in the fourth, both disparaged the accounts of speaking in tongues, and rejected its continued validity.”(5)Richard Quibedeaux. The New Charismatics: The Origins, Development , and Significance of Neo-Pentecostalism. New York: DoubleDay & Company Inc. 1976. Pg. 21

On the other hand a school of thought known as higher-criticism promoted tongues as an ecstatic utterance within the works of Origen. For example, Johannes Behm, author of the gift of tongues in the highly praised Theological Dictionary of the New Testament associated one of Origen’s sentences to mean that tongues was an ecstatic utterance.(6)Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich ed. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Vol. 1. γλῶσσα by Johannes Behm. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. ND. Pg. 723 PKE Feine in the The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge also corroborates with a similar theme to Behm.(7)Jackson, Samuel Macauley ed. The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. Vol. 11. “Speaking with Tongues” by PKE Feine. New York: Funk and Wagnalls. ND. Pg. 38

These differing conclusions demonstrate the need to examine Origen in a comprehensive and detailed way.

Origen lived around 185-254 AD and it is traditionally held that he lived in Alexandria, Egypt. His works are one of the few pre-300 AD Patristic publications available today. Because of this, his works hold special interest. Origen had a broad range of competencies: from the the use of the Hebrew language to Greek philosophy, and this was reflected in his writings. He used Neo-Platonist and Neo-Pythagorean frameworks to interpret Scripture. This has to be understood in approaching, translating and explaining the results of his writings concerning the doctrine of tongues.

2. Methodology

The methodology used to discover Origen’s position was fourfold. First it was to collate a comprehensive corpus of materials by Origen on the subject from the available Greek and Latin texts, which was completed by visually scanning each page of the Origen writings found in Migne Patrologia Graeca and two different medieval copies of the Corinthian Catena originally attributed to Origen. Secondly it was to translate them into English with critical notes. Third, it was to compare any existing popular traditional English translations with my translations. This will answer two important questions: have the past translations and the lack of comprehensiveness misled readers in his intent? Does the translation clearly portray what Origen intended? Last of all this is a literary approach using historical-criticism. It is not to look for texts that validate modern-day conservative or pentecostal theologies. It is to pursue Origen speaking on his own terms which may or may not line-up with our present day theologies.

Translating Origen is not a simple task. The Greek that the manuscripts are supplied in has its own regional style, use and vocabulary which is consistent with other texts influenced by those who had a close connection to the Christian centre of Alexandria, Egypt.

Below is a list of the passages that are historically attributed to Origen related to the Christian doctrine of tongues, with a translation and brief commentary.

3. The Works of Origen as it relates to the doctrine of tongues:

The Jeremiah Homily

MPG. Vol. 13. Col. 384ff.

This text relates to the division of languages as described in the Book of Genesis. The Genesis account of language division was an important passage to many Church fathers who built a framework for defining the tongues phenomenon.

For that reason at a certain point in time, men were not moving from the east, nor had God scattered them. When the occasion came when they moved from the east and a man said to his neighbour, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven”.(8)(NASB) Genesis 11:4 God speaks(9) φησιν : Why it is in present tense, I don’t know. The Latin has “Deus Locutus est, dicens” which makes more sense, even though I agree with the Latin here, I will go with the Greek. The following statements are also in the present, which the Latin goes into past-tense. concerning these things. “Come and go down, let us confuse there their language.”(10)I καταβάντες is an important keyword. It is a subject of importance to some Church writers. The Latin here has descendamus instead of the participle. And each one is confounded, scattered abroad upon a certain place of the earth.(11)One would think “scattered upon certain place of the earth” in a plural sense but Origen here is emphasizing each person being systematically assigned a new place on earth. The people, the one before Israel who is in Judaea, on the other hand are not sinners. The one who had sinned is being confounded [and] then is scattered everywhere from the inhabited world.(12)Latin: “Something of such kind with me and about moral men.” Understand such a thing about me and about all of us. Some in the Church of the first born ones having been registered their name in heaven, in which [is] mount Zion and the living city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem.■

This interpretation reflects an old Christian tradition. A number of other Church Fathers interpreted this passage to mean that all the people spoke one language at Babel, and due to their sin, many languages came into being so that mankind could not universally participate in evil.

It was hoped that such coverage would lead to some evidence on the christian doctrine of tongues, but once again this doesn’t happen. Origen doesn’t make any unusual claims here at the division of languages that leads to any alternate solution what Luke or Paul wrote about.

Selecta in Ezechielem

MPG. Vol. 13. Chapter 3. Col. 773

This piece is remotely related to his concept of tongues but does provide a little background.

“For [you are not being sent] to a people of unintelligible speech,”(13)Ezekiel 3:5 For if they were not holding their words superficially, yet their heart was [equal to] their mouth(14)Origen is referring to Ezekiel 3:2 where Ezekiel opened his mouth and ate the scroll — a sign of righteousness according to the depth of the thoughts(15)διὰ τὸ βάθος τῶν νοημάτων and so by no means were you to have gone to the house of Israel. But neither were they a people who utter difficult speech.(16)βαρύγλωσσοί someone who “utters important and sensible things”. Difficult or obscure speech. John W. Olley – Ezekiel Pg. 250 For their language, or rather the word, has neither something difficult and witty or stibos.(17)στίβος ἡ γλῶσσα αὐτῶν a strange grammatical construct. στίβος evades me in every way in grammatical position, its definition as understood by Origen, what the dictionaries explained this word means, and the Latin. Nothing is making sense. Therefore I followed the Latin grammatical construct but not its definition. I have left it undefined until more info comes. These ones at any rate are of a vain language.(18)κουφὀγλωσσοι: another word not found in a dictionary or anywhere. The Latin translated it as “sed vani eloquii sunt”-“but they are of vain speech”. κουφος suggests in Perseus that it could potentially go in this direction, but it would be “empty language”, if we use the Latin as a guide.

From whence the necessity that you go to those who are departing from your custom. It was said with praise, “unintelligible speech and difficult language,” [and] indeed these things have been spoken .(19)εἴρηται δὲ ταῦτα literally “it has indeed been spoken these things.” And see that about those from the gentiles, these peoples who are foreigners from the house of Israel, it is being prophesied about these things, which the Hebrew prophet would have not been able to hear on account of their foreign language(20)διὰ τὸ ἑτερόγλωσσον αὐτῶν Moreover in profound lips these ones can speak because they are not in the habit of comprehending the divine books superficially(21)ἐξ ἐπιπολῆς but believe in respect to the knowledge of the law.■

The following was translated and collated because of its parallels with Isaiah 28:11 Indeed, He will speak to this people Through stammering lips and a foreign tongue (NASB) which Paul used in attempting to solve the tongues controversy found in I Corinthians 14. It is interesting the depth that Origen goes on to explain this passage but evermore remains oblivious to any reference to the christian doctrine of tongues. This would have been an ideal place to make a connection.

There are a number of words Origen used in reference to language:

  • έτερόγλωσσον, heteroglôsson, when he described the Hebrew prophet not being able to hear because of “their different tongue,” which is simply referring to a foreign language.

  • Βαθύχειλος καὶ ὁ βαρύγλωσσος bathucheilos and baruglôssos, stammering lips and foreign tongue — he lifted these words from the Greek Septuagint of Ezekiel 3:5. These are once again references to foreign languages.

  • κουφόγλωσσοι kouphoglôssoi, vain languages. This is a unique term that I have not been able to find in any dictionary so far. The Latin parallel translation provides it as vain language, and if the greek noun is broken into two parts, κουφός, which means vain(22) see the Perseus entry for κουφός and γλωσσοι languages then one arrives at the same type of definition.

Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles

MPG. Vol. 14. Col. 829

Unfortunately there is only a small section of this ancient work available today–a fragment less than one page. It sheds a bit of light, though nothing conclusive. The history of this text is unknown, I am depending on Migne Patrologia’s ascribing it to Origen being legitimate which isn’t always the best procedure to follow, but for now it will temporarily be assumed as such. As more information comes to light on this text, this article will be updated.

It was necessary to fulfill the Scripture which the Holy Spirit foretold out of the mouth of David concerning Judah.”(23)Acts 1:16 In which it was written in the Psalm concerning Judah. Someone might have perhaps asserted that the Holy Spirit did not speak. For the words clearly are of the Saviour speaking. “O God, pass not over my praise in silence; for the mouth of the sinner and the mouth of the crafty [man] have been opened against me: they have spoken against me with a crafty tongue.”(24)http://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/greek-texts/septuagint/chapter.asp?book=24&page=108. Psalm 108:2 in the Septuagint and Vulgate, Psalm 109:2 in most of the English Bibles. And [proceeds] until the following; “and let another take his office of overseer.”(25)http://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/greek-texts/septuagint/chapter.asp?book=24&page=108. Psalm 108:8 in the Septuagint and Vulgate, Psalm 109:8 in most of the English Bibles. How then, since the Saviour is the one saying these things, does Peter say, “It was necessary to fulfill the Scripture which the Holy Spirit foretold out of the mouth of David?”(26)Acts 1:16 Perhaps then that we learn in this place such a thing. The Holy Spirit makes visitation in visible form(27)Προσωποποιεῖ τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον ἐν τοῖς προφήταις: an alternative would be “The Holy Spirit is being personified in the prophets” . in the prophets. And if he should personify God, God is not the one who is speaking but the Holy Spirit speaks from the character of God. If he should personify Christ, it is not Christ who is speaking but the Holy Spirit from the character of Christ speaking. Thus if even he should personify the prophet, or those people, or some one at some time he is personifying, the Holy Spirit is every character.■(28)Much of this part on the character is based on two words: προσὠπον and προσωποπιοἠσῃ which are played throughout this passage. It is a tricky word play. The Latin translator used three different verbs to capture the nuances of the verb; fingit-adapt, transform into; modify (appearence/character/behavior); groom; induco-lead in, bring in (performers); induce, influence; introduce; exhibeo-present; furnish; exhibit; produce;

This is the only existing fragment attributed* to Origen on the Book of Acts. The most important concept that can be taken from this passage is the yet undefined elements of the Trinity. The Trinity here is in an early form, almost as if Origen visualizes three gods. His concern was about choosing which one of the Trinity was being personified in speech through the prophets. There are no references to the christian doctrine of tongues here, yet, it would be a good place for it to exist.

Commentary in the Epistle to the Romans

Origen’s Commentary on the Book of Romans has its own interesting history. It was originally written in Greek but the most extant copy available today is a Latin translation provided by Rufinus of Aquileia around 405 AD(29)The Journal of Theological Studies.Rufinus and the Tura Papyrus of Origen’s Commentary of Romans — though the copy we are dealing with here seems to be much later and may include numerous interpolations and edits.

(a) Romans 1:13

Origen on the mission of Paul and his obligation to bring the Gospel to all the nations and how he accomplished it through the charism of languages.

MPG. Vol. 14. Book I:13. Col. 859ff

The following is a translation from the Latin:

It must be understood that as he who trades many pearls, comes upon a precious one, sold everything, and acquired that one, so that anyone who begins with many fruits, is destined to strive for the one perfect fruit. Now one must ask how the Apostle is under obligation to the Greeks and the non-Greeks, to the wise and the foolish ones — namely what did he learn from them that he was obligated to them? I certainly think that he had become indebted with the diverse nations because he was speaking in the languages of the nations which he received through the gift of the Holy Spirit, even as he himself said, “I speak in tongues more than you all.”(30)I Cor. 14:18 Because then he did not acquire the knowledge of languages on his own account alone but for those he was about to preach, the debt is being accomplished to all these of whom he received the knowledge of many languages from God.■

Origen clearly believed that Paul was endowed of the Holy Spirit to speak in many languages so as to make the Good News an international one. However, he did not state how Paul arrived at such a blessed condition. It is not clarified whether the Holy Spirit empowered Paul learning a language by natural means through study, that he was being prepped since birth in such a vocation, or immediate revelation.

Since this is such an important point, the actual text is provided here in the original Latin:

Sciendum est quod sicut is qui margaritas negotiabatur plures, inveniens unam pretiosam, vendidit omnes, et emit illam unam ; ita quis a pluribus fructibus incipiens, ad unum perfectionis tendere debet fructum. Requirendum nunc est quomodo Apostolus Græcis et barbaris, sapientibus et insipientibus debitor est. Quid enim ab ipsis acceperat, unde eis debitor fieret ? Arbitror diversis quidem gentibus inde eum effectum esse debitorem, quod omnium gentium linquis eloqui accepit per gratiam Spiritus Sancti, sicut et ipse dicit : “Omnium vestrum magis linguis loquor. Quia ergo linguarum notitiam non pro se quis, sed pro his quibus prædicandum est accipit, debitor omnibus illis efficitur quorum accepit a Deo linguæ notitiam.(31)Origen. Comment. In Epist. Ad. Rom. Lib. I MPG: Vol. 14 Col. 860

(b) Romans 6:13

This translation is based on two different editions. MPG. Vol. 14. Book VI. Col. 1100 And Origenous ta heuriskomena panta, edited by CHE Lommatzschen.(32)Origen. Origenous ta heuriskomena panta. Edited by CHE Lommatzshen. Sumtibus Hande et Spener. Berlin. 1837. here.

For if the Spirit of Christ lives in you, it appears necessary with the Spirit to restore his own dwelling place, and the temple being restored. Yet I wish this itself that what it is being said whether the Spirit of Christ, or the Spirit of God or Christ Himself dwelling in us, what kind should be considered: whether such Spirit is being given to everyone from the beginning, and afterwards is being put aside by the most wicked and hostile things to God,(33)i.e., does the Holy Spirit first indwell in a person at the start and leaves completely later because of the greatness of a person’s sin. according to that which was written, “My Spirit will not remain as such in man because they are flesh” (Gen. 6:3).(34) The Vulgate reads “non permanebit spiritus meus in homine in aeternum quia caro est” and the Origen text is “Non permanebit Spiritus meus in hominibus istis, quia caro sunt.” Augustine plays with this passage noting problems translating and comes up with, “Non permanebit Spiritus meus in istis hominibus in saeculo”. He thought saeculo was a better translation for εἰς αίῶνα (Epistola 5 (275)). Cannot it be that it has been given afterwards: in life as a due reward and in faith as a grace, according to these things which are being pointed out in the Acts of the Apostles that the Holy Spirit came upon each one of them as it were as a fiery language. We certainly even teach in the Gospel when the Saviour Himself, after He resurrected from the dead before the disciples, said, “Receive the Holy Spirit, and He breathed on each one of them” (John 20:22).(35)The Vulgate reads, “hoc cum dixisset insuflavit et dicit eis accipite Spiritum Sanctum” as opposed to the Origen text, “Accipite Spiritum sanctum, et insufflavit in unuquoque eorum.” This doesn’t come as a surprise as Latin quotations seem to vary much more than their Greek or even Hebrew counterparts. This may also be a problem of a later Latin manuscript too. Whence it appears to me that this gift is collected by merit and by the upright life and being increased with each one according to the progress of faith and grace. And how much the pure soul is being rendered, the more abundantly the Spirit is going to be poured into it. He also said that, “My Spirit will not continue as such in man because they are flesh” (Gen. 6:3). One considers that point further as seeing that their soul has reneged to the singular servitude of the Spirit, [and] turned themselves backwards to the servitudes entirely of the flesh, furthermore the soul itself to which intimately joined itself to the flesh and after had become one, received the name [‘flesh’].

Now the Spirit is able to possess in diverse ways. Whether he is being possessed of the Spirit of Christ, according to that which we said above, by divine inspiration, whereby he says, “Receive the holy Spirit, and He breathed on each one of them” (John 20:22). And again in the same way which is being said carried out in the Acts of the Apostles(36)Actibus apostolorum: I am keeping the upper and lower case as is provided in the Latin that the apostles were speaking in diverse tongues. That way is also which is being referred in the book of Kings where the Scripture says, “And the Spirit came upon Saul and he began to prophecy” (37) I Samuel 10:10. Also known as I Kings 10:10 in the Septuagint and some older Bibles and noted this way in MPG. The Origen text has, “Et insiluit Spiritus super Saul, et coepit prophetare.” The Vulgate has “et insilivit super eum spiritus Dei et prophetavit in medio eorum.”

This is yet another way that when the Savior, after the resurrection, [on] the journey spending time and explaining the Scriptures with Cleopha and another disciple, he blew(38)Both the MPG and the Lommatsch version have ignivit as the regular part of the text, with afflavit as the alternate. Ignivit, according to William Whitaker is a later word. If my memory serves correct, afflavit was used extensively by Augustine. I think afflavit is the proper one to use here. into them by means of the breath of his mouth in order that they were to speak to those, “Was not our hearts burning within us when He opened to us the Scriptures?” (39)Luke 24:32. The Origen text has “Nonne cor nostrum erat ardens intra nos, cum aperiret nobis Scripturas” and the Vulgate, “nonne cor nostrum ardens erat in nobis dum loqueretur in via et aperiret nobis scripturas.” Are you willing to know that not only while Jesus was in the process of speaking He delivered His Spirit to those ones listening, but also those who speak the word of God in His name, has he handed over the Spirit of God to those ones listening? See in the Acts of the Apostles as to how Peter is speaking to Cornelius. Cornelius himself is filled with the holy Spirit and those who were with him. From which point also if you should speak the word of God and speak faithfully from a pure conscience, nor(40)ipse: this appears in the text and it seems odd. I am just going to ignore it. should you be proven unworthy in your words, as if you were to teach one thing, and do another, it can happen that, by your speaking, the fire of the holy Spirit should inflame the hearts of those who have heard, that they consequently may warm up with enthusiasm and be on fire for for the purpose of entirely completing what you teach, that they may fulfill the deeds what things they have learned with words, and have sense to “seek the things above”,(41)Colossians 3:1 and “not the things upon the earth”.(42)Colossians 3:1

He thought the miraculous use of tongues of Pentecost to be speaking in foreign languages. He didn’t address the subject of cessation indicating that there was no movement or religious doctrine at that time that required a public resolution. The passage shows that tongues would have been a tertiary issue to him far off his radar. Origen clearly demonstrates in the above text, and as well found in the Corinthians 49 one exhibited further down, that his main mission was the development of people with deep convictions who acted out on these beliefs. Origen wrote that as the faith of the Christian deepens, so does the manifest life, And how much the pure soul is being rendered, the more abundantly the Spirit is going to be poured into it — in other words he felt the problem of signs and wonders had more to do with the lack of pious individuals to complete the task than anything else during his time.

Origen made a parallel between tongues and prophecy. His quoting of I Samuel 10:10 “And the Spirit came upon Saul and he began to prophecy,” referred to prophecy and tongues having a similar function. This is not unique. Thomas Aquinas maintained a similar position in the 13th century. Aquinas believed tongues and interpretation to be inferior to prophecy because they were simplistic in nature — a mechanical process that had more to do with language and syntax and little to do with meaning. The office of prophecy meanwhile could do both. See Thomas Aquinas on the Doctrine of Tongues Intro for more information.

(c) Romans 7:6

The Latin can be found at: MPG. Vol. 14. Book VII:6. Col. 1119ff and Origenous ta heuriskomena panta, edited by CHE Lommatzschen Pg. 117ff.(43)IBID. Origen. Origenous ta heuriskomena panta. Edited by CHE Lommatzshen. Pg. 117ff. here.

The following translation is from: Fathers of the Church, Volume 104 : Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Books 6-10, by Thomas P. Scheck (44)Fathers of the Church, Volume 104 : Origen: Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Books 6-10 by Thomas P. Scheck. Baltimore: Catholic University of America Press. 2002. Pg. 81-82

And he is like a teacher who accepts a student who is both a raw recruit and completely ignorant of the alphabet. In order to be able to teach and instruct him, he is forced to stoop down to the elementary attempts of the student and he himself first pronounces the name of each letter so the student learns by repeating. And in a way, the teacher himself becomes like the beginning student, saying and practicing the things that the beginner needs to say and practice. In this way as well then, when the Holy Spirit sees that our spirit is being harassed by the struggles of the flesh and does not know what or how it ought to pray, he, like the teacher, first says the prayer that our spirit, if it longs to be a pupil of the Holy Spirit, should imitate. He offers groanings by which our spirit may be taught to groan in order to re-propitiate God with itself. But if the Spirit indeed teaches, and our spirit, i.e., our mind, should by its own fault not follow, then the teacher’s lesson become unfruitful to it.

Because he knows that this mystery is being accomplished within man, Paul was also saying, “For if I speak with tongues, my spirit prays, but my mind is without fruit.” There he calls his own spirit the Holy Spirit’s grace that is given by God to men. For this reason as well, when he encourages us not to possess this benefit of the Holy Spirit unfruitfully, he goes on and says, “What then? I shall pray with the Spirit and I shall sing a psalm with my mind.”Although Paul then has indicated that these things are unutterable and are accomplished by unutterable groanings, nevertheless we have set forth to the best of our ability a graphic representation, as it were, of the things that are accomplished spiritually, which [Paul] himself offers in a hidden manner. “He who is spiritual should test everything,” and if he is able to trace out something more lofty in these matters, he should keep it to himself; for a “trustworthy man conceals matters in his spirit.” Yet those who demand from God prosperity for themselves in the present life and health or riches or honors need to be admonished that they do not know what or how to pray. For it often happens that present gains and secular honor yield the loss of the soul and its eternal reproach. And for this reason we ought instead to keep to what the Lord has taught us to say in prayer, “Thy will be done.”■

This passage, along with Romans 1:13, was cited by C.M. Robeck Jr. in The New International Bible Encyclopedia as an affirmation that Origen “viewed it as a bridge to cross-cultural preaching.”(45)Geoffrey W. Bromiley. The New International Bible Encyclopedia. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans. 1984? Vol. 4. “Tongues, Gift of” by C.M. Robeck Jr. Pg. 874 Romans 1:13, is a good argument, but here in 7:6, it is difficult to find the connection.

Origen wrote here on reading and singing the Psalms. Origen’s citation of I Corinthians 14:15 here is unusual, “What is is this then? I will pray with the spirit, I will also pray with understanding. I will speak the psalm with the spirit, I will speak the psalm with understanding.” It is slightly different than the majority of manuscripts, especially those transmitted and used in English translation which generally read,“I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also” (NASB).

This textual variation does not exist in any other Greek or Latin manuscript. One may initially think this is simply a problem of a faulty Origen manuscript. However, this same verse does occur again in another of his writings, De Principiis.(46)Origenes. De Principiis. Ern. Rud. Redeppening. Lipsiae, 1936. Pg. 209 here. This makes a strong case that it was part of Origen’s Bible which then requires a closer look.

The Latin Vulgate reads, “psallam spiritu, psallam et mente.(47)Nova Vulgata, taken from unbound.biola.edu The keyword is Psallam, which is translated in the Latin to English Bible by Douay-Rheims, “I will sing”(48)http://www.latinvulgate.com/verse.aspx?t=1&b=7&c=14 , this is the Douay-Rheims translation. Lewis and Short’s Latin Dictionary defines psallam as, “to play upon a stringed instrument; esp., to play upon the cithara, to sing to the cithara. …In partic., in eccl. Lat., to sing the Psalms of David.”(49)Found at Perseus here. The English translation misses out on the liturgical aspect relating to the Book of Psalms.

This forces one to make a comparison to the Greek. The Greek text of I Corinthians 14:15 reads, “ ψαλῶ τῷ πνεύματι, ψαλῶ δὲ καὶ τῷ νοΐ.(50)This is taken from the Greek Bible Website. See also Biola’s website here and compare. The Tischendorf, Textus Receptus and the Westcott/Hort versions do not have any difference from the Byzantine/Majority text on this passage. The English Bibles are unanimous in it meaning some form of singing, such as the NIV Bible, “I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.”(51)As found at the netbible site The key-word here is ψαλῶ , psalô, which Liddell and Scott’s, A Greek-English Lexicon defines as, “mostly of the strings of musical instruments, play a stringed instrument with the fingers, and not with the plectron. …later, sing to a harp.”(52)As found at Perseus here. It refers to people playing an instrument, not the vocal chords but singing appears to be the only way to translate it. The dictionary also insists that the proper Greek spelling is ψαλλῶ not ψαλῶ psalô as found in the Bible.

Ψαλῶ also sounds very similar to the name of the Book of Psalms. Is this coincidence? Or could Origen be getting mixed up with this word himself?

Psalm 138:1 shows the difficulty of this word in translation. Most English Bibles have this translated similarly to the NIV “with all my heart; before the “gods” I will sing your praise,”(53)As found at netbible here. which doesn’t capture the nuance of the word psalô at all, but it does force an English translator of the Septuagint, L.C.L. Brenton, into some problem-solving. He translated it as, “with my whole heart; and I will sing psalms to thee before the angels.”(54)This is found at Elpenor’s translation here. Note that Psalm 138:1 in our English Bibles is Psalm 137:1 in the Septuagint. The Hebrew text offers no further clarification but later Hebrew tradition asserts that Psalm singing was an integral part of synagogue worship.(55) I wish this following link had more publishing information. It is good but lacking in this respect. So I have to admit my link here is rather weak. The subject of the history of Psalm singing is outside the scope of this article and worthy of its own work but it makes sense. I’ll leave my comments as a general guide on Psalm singing but not completely conclusive. It is my opinion that Origen simply refers here to I Corinthians 14:15 as the public reading or singing of the Book of Psalms.

Commentary on Corinthians, Header 49

Translated from the Greek as found in: Claude Jenkins, “Documents; Origen on I Corinthians,” Journal of Theological Studies 10 (1909). Pg. 29ff and another version found in Catenae: Graecorum Patrum in Novum Testamentum. Tomus V. J.A. Cramer. ed. Oxonii.1844. Pg. 249

Any Bible reader would get excited to find a copy of Origen on Corinthians. However, Origen has a different idea on how to approach this book. In fact, he takes it into a different direction that is not experiential at all and more into what the western mind would designate as Greek philosophy.

The concept of tongues is not appreciably found here. It is about the role of the intellect and knowledge in the Christian life. But for the readers sake, who may think there is something here that I am overlooking, a passage is included. The selection is the one that most closely aligns with anything related to the mystery of the corinthian tongues.

This Corinthian Catena, found in the Jenkin’s version and the slightly different Cramer edition, is strange in the way that it was typographically set. It took some time to figure out the reasons for what appeared at first in the Cramer edition to be misprints, but a closer look showed it was just a clumsy way of doing Bible citations. Jenkins’ attributed the manuscript he worked from around the 16th century,(56)Many thanks to Roger Pearse for helping me source and give a thorough background with this Catena.Roger always has something Patristic on his plate. Go here to follow his exploits. though the word usage is primarily preserved from a much earlier era.

An initial translation was done by me about a decade ago before the explosion of digital texts and dictionaries. The first edition that was previously posted here was a labor intensive process to find problem or little used words. On many occasions I had to find the same word used in Chrysostom’s or other early church father texts. This meant to spend additional time to read, analyze, study the context, and see if the meaning applied to Origen’s instance. This occurred on so many occasions I started to feel unsure if this text was only Origen’s account or a compilation of a few different authors. Today, after reviewing all the texts again and with the assistance of a better set of resources, this is not the case. There is a unified consistency of style and word usage throughout the majority of these works that point to a single author which is Origen.

Here is the translation:

XLIX (49) xiii 1-2 “And I will show you a way beyond excess”.(57)I Corinthians 12:31. This is not how we typically translate this passage in English, but this is the way Origen wants it to be understood so as to build his case. “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” (58) (NASB) I Corinthians 13:1-2

We seek then if whoever can have prophecy and know all the mysteries outside of love, and if it be completely given to someone that every mystery is to be known. For Paul declares, “If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know.”(59) (NASB) I Corinthians 8:2 And again, “in part” he says, “we know and we prophecy in part.”(60)I Corinthians 13:9 When the perfect shall come, the perfect will cease to be in parts. For it is clear to him about saying these things about himself and likewise the apostles that the ability to know all the mysteries or knowledge does not exist. Therefore how does he say these things which shows acquaintance about possessing the ability to know all knowledge and all mysteries? If we should see in this instance the introduction concerning the words in which he says, “And I show you still a way beyond excess,”(61)I Corinthians 12:31 and apprehend what is beyond excess it is to be for all things having been clearly explained.(62)σεσαφηισμὲνα: I cannot find an exact dictionary root definition. My thinking that it is a first aorist middle participle nom/acc neut pl, of σαφηνιζω. The reduplicate se at the beginning may just be a regional anomaly and not related to it being a perfect passive participle. Therefore beyond excess is, as also the Greeks have concurred, a word of emphasis exaggerating for the sake of the truth, and these [following] are to furnish(63)χρῶνται by example: that they speak about certain things being whiter than snow — not that anything possibly can be whiter than snow but was spoken beyond excess(64)καθ’ ὑπερβολὴν it was spoken as hyperbole. And more, certain horses run like the wind(65)I think this is a fragment where something is missing before the text. Also Τρέχυσι oddly starts with a capital in the Jenkin’s version and not in Cramer’s. It doesn’t make sense here to be capitalized. Τρέχυσι can be declined as a masc dat. pl in modern Greek, but I don’t find this in ancient. It is a verb based on Τρέχω. — not that there is the ability to do such as this, but because of emphasis, in order that it would demonstrate(66)παραστῇ the swiftness of horses, this phrase has been mentioned such about them. For another [example] in the Scripture it is being read of the Psalms concerning the sea, “They rose up to the heavens, they went down to the depths”,(67) The translation as found at Elpenor’s website here.This Septuagint has it as Psalm 106:26 while the Hebrew and English have it as 107:26 This very thing is impossible but that it was being spoken for the sake of emphasis. For you will also find manner written in the Law about excess where it was written, we saw(68)For whatever reason Εἲδομεν has the first letter capitalized in Jenkins and not in Cramer. Cramer starts at this point with some very impractical and odd punctuation. It is clear the copyist didn’t know what he was doing with the punctuation in the Cramer version which Jenkin’s does note and explains. The capitalization may suggest that the verb is not part of the verse following being quoted from the Bible. “great cities fortified to heaven”.(69)(NASB) Deuteronomy 9:1 So how can this be? But it is being spoken with exaggeration(70)(NASB)ὑπερβολικῶς it is an adverb in the Greek but it doesnt’ convey well this way in English, so I changed it into a dative, not wholly resembling [what] the very word itself signifies but that it would show the greatness of the waves or the lowness, and the greatness of the walls or whatever resemblance of such things.

Thus also now the apostle takes a hypothesis over the result of having examined attributes of gifts over attributes of love.(71)φύσιν χαρισμάτων φύσιν ἀγάπης Not that it is capable for the gifts to do this, and those of such greatness(72)ταῦτα τηλικοῦτον without love. Or that it is possible in this life to factually know all knowledge(73)τινὰ πᾶσαν τὴν γνῶσιν without love, or to have so great a faith even as to remove mountains, but it is the one who wishes to show that love is supposed to be preferred more exceedingly in the yoke than one who had spoken the word. He then says it is necessary they eagerly seek after love.

If(74)῎Αρα the angels who are speaking to one another in these languages by which mankind [does] also, inasmuch concerning angels that some on the one hand perhaps are Greeks and on the other Hebrews and others Egyptians? Or is this strange about naming the realm concerning the division of angels? Whether perhaps in fact as there are many dialects with mankind, so are they in the same way also with angels? If God should have granted to us from some point in time from the essence of humanity to have been arranged onto the angelic realm, the Gospel of my Lord Jesus Christ says, they will be “like an angel and sons of God, being sons of the resurrection,”(75)Luke 20:36. will we no longer be in need with the language of man but with the language of the angelic? As for example one language of children and the other the voice of the ones with perfect clearness, thus every language within mankind is as if a language of children, but the angelic, is as if belonging to the perfect and clear ones of men? At any rate languages also are equally there corresponding to the conformance of equanimity,(76)κατὰ τὴν ἀναλογίαν τῆς καταστάσεως “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal”.(77)(KJV) For example “sounding brass” gives an unintelligible sound, likewise “the tinkling cymbal” [gives] nothing clear. Furthermore, a language and also of angels beyond excess is to be it’s independent behavior outside of love, is not understood. For nothing is clearly or manifestly produced more than men or indeed angels like love. Indeed without the presence of love, the one who speaks is nothing.

What is the difference between knowledge and the comprehending of mysteries? The apostle speaks concerning the two matters. I indeed therefore consider the pursuit to figure-out about the apparent things to be knowledge, a more encompassing essence than that of mysteries. Since knowledge is in part, the expertise of mysteries exists. Meanwhile, when one is bound to try and figure-out about unspeakable mysteries and more divine things, which this is the ability to know the mystery, as, on the one hand, that is the general word of knowledge, while on the other hand no longer since all knowledge that the mind comprehends about the mysteries is that which has been spoken, “but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory”.(78)(NASB) I Corinthians 2:7 Since I indeed know this, then I have the knowledge of mysteries. “And if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains.” It was written in the Gospel, “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, `Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.”(79)(NASB) Matthew 17:20 The one having faith the size of a little mustard seed, has the whole faith.■

Origen did not think that it should be interpreted literally when Paul wrote about the tongues of men and angels. He believed it to simply be a literary device known as hyperbole to get across the idea of love.

Modern readers of Origen on I Corinthians may find his coverage to be too much in lofty philosophical terms. This was not Origen’s intention at all. He was being very pragmatic relative to his time. His concern in his coverage of I Corinthians was not in the literalness of the text but a personal application; how a person can be transformed and make positive decisions for daily living. The problem tongues of Corinth was not a core issue to the Christian life and therefore was not a priority for Origen to address.

Origen spends a considerable amount of time regarding knowledge. This is very interesting but outside the scope of this article. More on the relationship between Origen and knowledge can be found here: Origen on Knowledge.

The ancient Jews also taught about the language of love and directly connected this with the Hebrew language such as found in the Jewish writing, Genesis Rabba; “What is the difference between the prophets of Israel and the prophets of the Gentiles? …He communicated with the Gentile prophets only in half speech but with the prophets of Israel He communicated in full speech, in language of love, in language of holiness, in the language wherewith the ministering Angels praise Him.”(80)Gen. R. LII, 5 as quoted in A. Cohen. Everyman’s Talmud. London: Dent and Song. 1978. Pg. 122 Origen first began his treatise on Angels comparing their language with the language of mankind with no intention of entering the discussion of what linguistic style defines an angelic language.

Against Celsus

The most controversial of Origen texts relating to the doctrine of tongues is the writings found in Against Celsus.

Origen wrote this piece as a rebuttal against a well-known anti-Christian literary work published 70-80 years previous called, The True Word by an author named Celsus. Not much is known about Celsus; his original writings lost to us today, except that which can be found in Origen’s work.(81)See the Wikipedia article on Celsus. Against Celsus. This is the most popular work of Origen known to the Western reader, and is cited relating to the christian doctrine of tongues.

The English translation here is one found ubiquitous on the internet and in scholarly citations. Frederick Crombie is the translator and his work can be found in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, which is the basis for the internet editions. The publication used here is from 1872, but I found no difference in later ones.

(a) Against Celsus 3:46

And if you come to the books written after the time of Jesus, you will find that those multitudes of believers who hear the parables are, as it were, “without,” and worthy only of exoteric doctrines, while the disciples learn in private the explanation of the parables. For, privately, to His own disciples did Jesus open up all things, esteeming above the multitudes those who desired to know His wisdom. And He promises to those who believe upon Him to send them wise men and scribes, saying, “Behold, I will send unto you wise men and scribes, and some of them they shall kill and crucify.”[1] And Paul also, in the catalogue of “charismata” bestowed by God, placed first “the word of wisdom,” and second, as being inferior to it, “the word of knowledge,” but third, and lower down, “faith.”[2] And because he regarded “the word” as higher than miraculous powers, he for that reason places “workings of miracles” and “gifts of healings” in a lower place than the gifts of the word. And in the Acts of the Apostles Stephen bears witness to the great learning of Moses, which he had obtained wholly from ancient writings not accessible to the multitude. For he says: “And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.”[3] And therefore, with respect to his miracles, it was suspected that he wrought them perhaps, not in virtue of his professing to come from God, but by means of his Egyptian knowledge, in which he was well versed. For the king, entertaining such a suspicion, summoned the Egyptian magicians, and wise men, and enchanters, who were found to be of no avail as against the wisdom of Moses, which proved superior to all the wisdom of the Egyptians.(82) as found in The Ante-Nicene Christian Library: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson ed. Vol. XXIII The Writings of Origen. Vol. II. Contra Celsum: Books II-VIII. Transl. by Frederick Crombie. Edinburgh: T and T Clarke. 1872. Pg. 127ff

This passage makes it very clear where Origen’s priority was in Biblical exegesis. Wisdom and knowledge were key and provides the framework for interpretation. This was why he emphasized so much the knowledge words in Corinthians at the expense of a literal interpretation. His ranking of wisdom first in the order of importance, with faith being the third, and tongues being off the list, demonstrates again that the concept of tongues was not high on his priority list.

(b) Against Celsus 7:3

Celsus goes on to say of us: “They set no value on the oracles of the Pythian priestess, of the priests of Dodona, of Clarus, of Branchidæ, of Jupiter Ammon, and of a multitude of others; although under their guidance we may say that colonies were sent forth, and the whole world peopled. But those sayings which were uttered or not uttered in Judea, after the manner of that country, as indeed they are still delivered among the people of Phœnicia and Palestine—these they look upon as marvellous sayings, and unchangeably true.” In regard to the oracles here enumerated, we reply that it would be possible for us to gather from the writings of Aristotle and the Peripatetic school not a few things to overthrow the authority of the Pythian and the other oracles. From Epicurus also, and his followers, we could quote passages to show that even among the Greeks themselves there were some who utterly discredited the oracles which were recognised and admired throughout the whole of Greece. But let it be granted that the responses delivered by the Pythian and other oracles were not the utterances of false men who pretended to a divine inspiration; and let us see if, after all, we cannot convince any sincere inquirers that there is no necessity to attribute these oracular responses to any divinities, but that, on the other hand, they may be traced to wicked demons—to spirits which are at enmity with the human race, and which in this way wish to hinder the soul from rising upwards, from following the path of virtue, and from returning to God in sincere piety. It is said of the Pythian priestess, whose oracle seems to have been the most celebrated, that when she sat down at the mouth of the Castalian cave, the prophetic Spirit of Apollo entered her private parts; and when she was filled with it, she gave utterance to responses which are regarded with awe as divine truths. Judge by this whether that spirit does not show its profane and impure nature, by choosing to enter the soul of the prophetess not through the more becoming medium of the bodily pores which are both open and invisible, but by means of what no modest man would ever see or speak of. And this occurs not once or twice, which would be more permissible, but as often as she was believed to receive inspiration from Apollo. Moreover, it is not the part of a divine spirit to drive the prophetess into such a state of ecstasy and madness that she loses control of herself. For he who is under the influence of the Divine Spirit ought to be the first to receive the beneficial effects; and these ought not to be first enjoyed by the persons who consult the oracle about the concerns of natural or civil life, or for purposes of temporal gain or interest; and, moreover, that should be the time of clearest perception, when a person is in close intercourse with the Deity.”(83)IBID. as found The Writings of Origen. Vol. II Pg. 426

The comments on this section above are combined with (c) below.

(c) Against Celsus 7:8-9

[8] “I do not know what led Celsus, when saying, “But what things were spoken or not spoken in the land of Judea, according to the custom of the country,” to use the words “or not spoken,” as though implying that he was incredulous, and that he suspected that those things which were written were never spoken. In fact, he is unacquainted with these times; and he does not know that those prophets who foretold the coming of Christ, predicted a multitude of other events many years beforehand. He adds, with the view of casting a slight upon the ancient prophets, that “they prophesied in the same way as we find them still doing among the inhabitants of Phœnicia and Palestine.” But he does not tell us whether he refers to persons who are of different principles from those of the Jews and Christians, or to persons whose prophecies are of the same character as those of the Jewish prophets. However it be, his statement is false, taken in either way. For never have any of those who have not embraced our faith done any thing approaching to what was done by the ancient prophets; and in more recent times, since the coming of Christ, no prophets have arisen among the Jews, who have confessedly been abandoned by the Holy Spirit on account of their impiety towards God, and towards Him of whom their prophets spoke. Moreover, the Holy Spirit gave signs of His presence at the beginning of Christ’s ministry, and after His ascension He gave still more; but since that time these signs have diminished, although there are still traces of His presence in a few who have had their souls purified by the Gospel, and their actions regulated by its influence. “For the holy Spirit of discipline will flee deceit, and remove from thoughts that are without understanding.”[9] But as Celsus promises to give an account of the manner in which prophecies are delivered in Phœnicia and Palestine, speaking as though it were a matter with which he had a full and personal acquaintance, let us see what he has to say on the subject. First he lays it down that there are several kinds of prophecies, but he does not specify what they are; indeed, he could not do so, and the statement is a piece of pure ostentation. However, let us see what he considers the most perfect kind of prophecy among these nations. “There are many,” he says, “who, although of no name, with the greatest facility and on the slightest occasion, whether within or without temples, assume the motions and gestures of inspired persons; while others do it in cities or among armies, for the purpose of attracting attention and exciting surprise. These are accustomed to say, each for himself, ‘I am God; I am the Son of God; or, I am the Divine Spirit; I have come because the world is perishing, and you, O men, are perishing for your iniquities. But I wish to save you, and you shall see me returning again with heavenly power. Blessed is he who now does me homage. On all the rest I will send down eternal fire, both on cities and on countries. And those who know not the punishments which await them shall repent and grieve in vain; while those who are faithful to me I will preserve eternally.’” Then he goes on to say: “To these promises are added strange, fanatical, and quite unintelligible words, of which no rational person can find the meaning: for so dark are they, as to have no meaning at all; but they give occasion to every fool or impostor to apply them to suit his own purposes.”(84)IBID. The Writings of Origen. Vol. II. Pg. 431ff as found here.

The portion about signs becoming less used, “and after His ascension He gave still more; but since that time these signs have diminished, although there are still traces of His presence in a few who have had their souls purified by the Gospel, and their actions regulated by its influence,” indicates that he still believed in miracles, but acknowledged a decline in their occurrences. As previously stated, he posits the problem on the availability of qualified persons to do such a thing as opposed to the Holy Spirit no longer operating in this fashion anymore.

Origen felt that Celsus’ argument on the definition of prophecy, or how it was delivered, was too ambiguous. This was why he wrote: “First he lays it down that there are several kinds of prophecies, but he does not specify what they are; indeed, he could not do so, and the statement is a piece of pure ostentation.”

Against Celsus is a key-text for many scholars tracing the Christian tongues as a form of ecstatic utterance. This school of thought has established a parallel between the gift of tongues and historic Greek practices. The popular dictionary in the early 20th century, The Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, wrote;

Origen, Contra Celsum vii., ix “quotes Celsus to the effect that both in and outside the sanctuaries people exhibited ecstatic phenomena and uttered unknown, unintelligible speech.”

And then concluded;

But in the passages in the New Testament under discussion it is best to take glossa in the metaphorical sense as a technical term denoting a strange and unwonted form of words. With the meaning it occurs not only in the literary moments but as employed by the common people especially in referring to phenomena which seemed supernatural or unordinary, like the utterances of the pythia, of poets, or of the muses. This could then easily be taken over by Christianity…”(85)The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. Jackson, Samuel Macauley ed. Vol. 11. “Speaking with Tongues” by PKE Feine. Pg. 38

Johannes Behm pointed this out as well in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament:

“Nor is there lacking a connection between Hellenistic prophecy… or Celsus description of the impulse of Christian ecstatics (Orig. Cels., 7, 8 f.), namely, after prophetic utterances, which are intelligible even though uttered with the claim to be spoken by a divine Ego.”(86)Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, ed. Vol. 1. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. ND, “γλῶσσα” by Johannes Behm. Pg. 723

The ubiquitous Greek dictionary, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature, also used these two chapters to make the correlation, “There is no doubt about the thing referred to, namely the broken speech of persons in religious ecstasy. The phenomenon, as found in Hellenistic religion, is described esp. by ERhode (Psyche’ 03, Eng. trans. ‘25, 289-293) and Reitzenstein; sf. Celsus 7, 8;9.”(87)A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian lterature: Fourth Revised. Walter Bauer, ed. Second Edition. Trans. by F.W. Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 1979. Pg. 162

An important omission exists in their argument — the keyword, γλωσσα-glôssa tongue, does not exist in the texts they refer to. This is an integral word in the christian doctrine of tongues and is extremely hard to make a complete argument without this.

They could argue inference or plausibility. After reviewing the quoted sections, the following snippets are what could be deduced as their evidence.

  • 1) 7:3 “The prophetic Spirit of Apollo entered her private parts; and when she was filled with it, she gave utterance to responses which are regarded with awe as divine truths.” Utterance (ἀποφθἐγγεται) here is the same root as used in Acts 2:3.

    It is not known from the text what is being uttered. Whether a foreign language, muttering, or some exalted spiritual language, is not defined.

  • 2) 7:3 “Moreover, it is not the part of a divine spirit to drive the prophetess into such a state of ecstasy and madness.” Ecstasy (ἔκστασιν) is not found in the important Biblical tongues passages. It is used in Genesis 2:21, Numbers 13:32, Mark 5:32, Luke 5:26 (which have no correlation) and Acts 3:10. The closest reference is in Acts 3:10, the ecstasy is concerned about the response of the people to the miracles, and is typically translated as amazed or astonished. It doesn’t refer to the state of the person filled with the tongues of fire. Neither does madness (μανικην), manikên, appear in any of the Biblical texts or ecclesiastical works discussing the doctrine of tongues.

    It is incorrect to assume that the word utterance or religious ecstasy automatically produces forms of unintelligible speech. For example, the eleventh century writer Michael Psellos characterized the speech of the pagan Greek prophets in ecstasy as speaking in foreign languages. Even with that knowledge Psellos strongly felt that there was no correlation with the christian doctrine of tongues.(88)See A Commentary of Psellos on the Tongues of Pentecost for more information.

  • 3) The last verse of Origen’s Against Celsus 7:9 initially appears to strengthen the concept of the pythian priestess speaking in unintelligible words. This is not in the Greek. It is a problem only present in the English translation. Here is Crombie’s translation:

    “Then he goes on to say: “To these promises are added strange, fanatical, and quite unintelligible words, of which no rational person can find the meaning: for so dark are they, as to have no meaning at all; but they give occasion to every fool or impostor to apply them to suit his own purposes.”

    A further analysis is required. It will take a number of steps to decipher the text. The first priority is to look at the Greek text:

    Ταῦτ᾽ἐπανατεινάμενοι προστιθέασιν ἐφεξῆς ἄγνωστα καὶ πάροιστρα καὶ πάντῃ ἄδηλα, ὧν τὸ μὲν γνώμα(89)MPG text has γνώρισμα οὐδεὶς ἄν νοῦν ἔχων(90)MPG text has ἔχων νοῦν εὑρεῖν δύναιτο· ἀσαφῆ γὰρ καὶ τὸ μηδέν, ἀνοήτῳ δὲ ἤ γόητι παντὶ περὶ παντὸς ἀφορμὴν ἐνδίδωσιν, ὅπῃ Βούλεται, τὸ λεχθὲν σφετερίζεσθαι.(91)As found in Origen. Contra Celsum , Libri VIII.> Supplements to Viviliae Christianae; Vol. 54. M. Marcovich, ed. Pg. 467

    The second step is to look at the Latin translation. It is surmised that some earlier English translators depended on whatever previous Latin translation existed in order to figure out problem passages in any Greek translation. So the Latin here is offered too to see if there are any clues:

    Quibus addit : magnificis promissis adjiciunt ignota, fanatica, prorsus tenebricosa, e quibus ne sapiens quidem eruere sensum possit, adeo obscura sunt et nullius sententiæ. At stupido cuique aut impostori locum dant illa ad quamcunque rem pro libitu accommodandi.(92)Origen. Contra Celsum Lib. VII. MPG. Vol. 11. Col. 1434

    Crombie did reference the Latin for his translation and used the words promises, fanatical and impostor, and the sentence structure directly from it.

    There was another influence too. One of the other features of many English translators from the 1800s was to transpose their initial translations into well-written free flowing versed English. They sometimes sacrificed literal adherence for this effect. Crombie appears to have done this as well.

    With all this information at hand, a fresh translation and analysis is required based on the original Greek. Here is a new translation in contemporary English:

    These, who are speaking long and wordy, continuously add unknown, crazy, and obscure things in every way, of which on the one hand, no one who has a mind possesses the ability to make sense [out of it]. For the content is enigmatic(93)Full of mystery and difficult to understand and good-for-nothing. On another note, it grants to every fool or charlatan the opportunity in the act of speaking to make it up in whatever way he pleases about anything.(94)My own translation

    The are a number of important points here;

    • Unintelligible words used for ἄδηλα is presumptive. Although unintelligible is part of its semantic range, it is not common. Stephanus’ Lexicon does not include unintelligible as part of its definition.(95)Stephanus 1a col. 642: non-manifestus, occultus, obscurus, incertus, dubius I Corinthians 14:8 has ἄδηλον φωνὴν adêlon phônên, uncertain sound in reference to the sound of a trumpet. The person in the Against Celsus text is speaking obscurely to conceal the true facts. Ἄδηλος is commonly used to mean obscure, hide or be uncertain. If Origen meant unintelligible words, he would have perhaps used ἄσημον φωνήν as found in the I Corinthians Header 49 catena or ἀγνωστστατοι γλῶσσαν(96)Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War 3.94 More evidence would be required to use unintelligible and especially unintelligible words here.

    • If the persons described as raving mad are in a prophetic state, it should not be assumed they spoke in undefined ecstatic utterances. It could be high priestly speech, an old dialect reserved for only the religious faithful, exalted regular language, or a foreign language. It is not described in any detail what the prophetess spoke. The immediate correlation between Christian prophecy and tongues is not demonstrated. Such an assumption from this passage cannot be made.

    • If anything, Origen is describing people as lunatics in their behaviour, not specifically in the speech they employ.

    • Origen’s central theme in most of his writings is on knowledge. The emphasis in this section are about those lacking knowledge and the consequence of it. Little else can be derived from this.

The collective information gathered so far demonstrates the references to Origen on the gift of tongues in the sourcebooks has been highly selective. The choosing of Against Celsus 7:8-9 promotes a view that parallels ancient Greek phenomena, but it neglects far weightier passages in reaching this conclusion found in his Commentary on the Book of Romans. The references from Against Celsus are not a description of Christian practice within the Christian Church. This is an elaborate assumption that cannot be substantiated.

The following which has rarely been quoted but needs coverage:

(d) Against Celsus 8:37

“In the next place, Celsus forgets that he is addressing Christians, who pray to God alone through Jesus; and mixing up other notions with theirs, he absurdly attributes them all to Christians. “If,” says he, “they who are addressed are called upon by barbarous names, they will have power, but no longer will they have any if they are addressed in Greek or Latin.” Let him, then, state plainly whom we call upon for help by barbarous names. Any one will be convinced that this is a false charge which Celsus brings against us, when he considers that Christians in prayer do not even use the precise names which divine Scripture applies to God; but the Greeks use Greek names, the Romans Latin names, and every one prays and sings praises to God as he best can, in his mother tongue. For the Lord of all the languages of the earth hears those who pray to Him in each different tongue, hearing, if I may so say, but one voice, expressing itself in different dialects. For the Most High is not as one of those who select one language, Barbarian or Greek, knowing nothing of any other, and caring nothing for those who speak in other tongues.”(97)IBID. The Writings of Origen. Vol. II. Pg. 522

It further strengthens the idea of Origen supporting the christian doctrine of tongues as speaking in foreign languages.


The above translations and commentaries provide a deep insight into Origen’s world. Origen wasn’t concerned with the doctrine of tongues and didn’t specifically teach on the subject. We find evidences of the doctrine as happenstance while he pursued building frameworks on the importance of knowledge and wisdom in the Christian daily life. When he does briefly write on the topic, he expressed it as the miraculous endowment of a foreign language. This definition explains his stance on the miracle at Pentecost, but nowhere in any presently available manuscript does he describe the problem at Corinth. There is not enough information from him to state that this practice had ceased or propagated — though it would appear Origen would attribute the problem to the lack of religious devout persons in his generation to carry on the task. Scholars that have quoted from his works to defend their positions have been too vague, especially the ones promoting the idea of tongues as a syncretism with Greek ecstatic utterances. The passages, when looked into more detail, do not support such presuppositions.■

References   [ + ]

Introductory Notes on the Gift of Tongues Project

The goal of the Gift of Tongues Project is find as many historic texts on the subject as possible, digitize them, translate, and provide a commentary.

The fourfold purpose of the Gift of Tongues Project:

  1. Identify and collate any ancient literature on the subject

    Large portions of ancient literature on this topic has been ignored, forgotten, or unresearched. This absence has negatively affected this whole subject and has led to erroneous conclusions.

  2. To provide the original sources in digital format

    All the pertinent texts found are digitized in the original language. All the material provided is at your digital fingertips and can be accessed in a matter of seconds. This has taken years to build. The database is provided free of charge and validates any conclusions made on this site.

  3. To provide the texts in English

    There never has been a substantial amount of ecclesiastical writings translated into English. My guess is less than 20%. Many translations are abridged, condensed, old English, or dynamically translated. The lack of English translations and problems associated with the existing ones have negatively affected the tongues debate. The supplying of English texts has become one of the greatest ambitions of this project.

  4. Trace the evolution of the tongues doctrine from its inception until now.

    This is a difficult task. There has been many twists and turns throughout the centuries.

Why study this topic?

Defining and understanding the christian doctrine of tongues is a big challenge. This has been one of the most difficult unsolved issues in the realm of Protestant, and lesser of Catholic, Christianity for the last 120 years. This also was a big motivation for the author to uncover this mystery.

Why has it remained unresolved so long? The answer is ignorance of the ancient records.

There is a litany of important ecclesiastical documents on the christian doctrine of tongues that have been left out of the story. This is because of three problems: first, few have studied or read the doctrine of tongues in the original texts — a lengthy examination demonstrates there are many critical historical texts on the subject that have never been utilized. Secondly, the lack of translations in English or any other contemporary language of ancient source texts has led to the assumption that history was silent on the subject, when it really wasn’t. Third, the last two hundred years of scholarly study have relegated church literature to the realm of myth, and considered an invalid source for serious inquiry. In doing so, they denied ecclesiastical literature its proper place in the tongues discussion. Thus, they came to an altogether different conclusion that obscured the traditional one. This ignorance of the historic record has led many to erroneous positions on the christian doctrine of tongues.

The Gift of Tongues Project started as a personal journey, and ends as a scholarly one. It was initially designed to prove the charismatic experience as correct and also as a mystical apologetic to the world that God does indeed exist. It then switched into a I really don’t care at all feeling. It felt petty to consume so much time to figure out when abject poverty, loss, pain, and violence daily surrounds us. However, the intellectual challenge is just too hard to resist.

The challenge of uncovering the christian doctrine of tongues is a complex mixture of theology, ancient religious rites, languages, cultures, Judaism, social movements, psychology and ancient Greek life. This combination makes a great playground for the historical theology process used in processing all this information. The various genres mixed together requiring a solution keeps me continually involved in the subject. I like the world of literature, texts, manuscripts, language and thought that this subject opens up.

The Gift of Tongues Project is a hobby — one that gave me the reason to keep my acquired Greek, Hebrew, and Syriac languages, along with the later learned Latin, intact. It also was a great distraction from the busyness of my day. While most watch television at night, I am frequently scanning volumes of Migne Patrologia Graeca or Latina, or other ancient works looking for signs.

The initial assumption was little or no literature existed on the subject. However, this attitude slowly changed. The research began before digital technologies and the internet took off, and so the traditional method of parsing through printed literature was the only option. The place to find ancient literature was at a university library, which for me was the University of Manitoba. It was assumed that the research would be done in a week’s time. Walking down the library’s corridor on Church Father Writings, I randomly pulled out an English translation which happened to be Cyril of Jerusalem. A page was accidentally found describing what foreign languages Peter and John spoke at Pentecost. No Charismatic, Pentecostal, academic, or any other scholar to my knowledge had ever quoted him before. It was a definitive statement that should have set the basis for almost any part of the tongues discussion, but it was completely absent. This started the journey of asking, looking, and finding significantly more texts. It forced the following question — why were so many Church writings missing from the debate? Cyril of Jerusalem’s text faded into the overall inquiry, but the question set the wheels in motion that took many years to unravel.

The wealth of untranslated literature and the labour required to identify, collate, and read is overwhelming. The task is a full-time job for a number of specialists to do over a long-period of time. However, the majority of Pentecostals and almost all Charismatics formally reject intellectual inquiry into substantive issues of faith. There are few capable in this sector with skills in the original languages to take on the task, and absolutely no financial, political, or emotional support exists to explore this issue. Those who are qualified to review such documentation are typically of Catholic background, and the importance of studying this topic has no importance to their communities so they hardly devote any principal resources to answer this question. Modern academics consider the issue irrelevant and have not added anything substantial to the conversation over the last 50 years. These factors have contributed serious ongoing hindrances to a proper study of the doctrine.

Members in the pentecostal or charismatic communities who have ancient language skills or employ a historic theology system of interpretation is faced with a difficult, almost impossible task because they don’t have internal support. This forces the researcher to embark on a charitable project that requires thousands of hours of volunteer effort with little or no encouragement from the community they participate in. The reward is not in financial or personal accolades, but in solving one of the most complex theological issues the last 100 years has to offer.

The most serious challenge was finding the original literature. Thanks to modern technology, this very big obstacle is being overcome. In the past a study of this nature would be almost impossible. Manuscripts and texts that did not belong to Migne Patrologia Graeca or Latina were shelved in monasteries, universities, and other remote locations. Specialized books too were held in reserve. Many were not available through inter-library loan. The circumstance required travelling to these locations to look at the original sources. A visit may require prior authorization because there are no guarantees that the officer in charge of the source material will grant a viewing either. Now, many institutions like the British Museum and the Vatican are posting their manuscripts online for free. Google and Microsoft are also in a race to digitize libraries around the world for public use. This data availability was unheard of even a decade ago and opens a treasure chest of data for anyone who uses the historical theology process. What used to take days or even months of planning, travel, correspondence and cost, can now be done in a matter of seconds.

With this availability a new problem has arisen – the lack of English translations. This circumstance is now the number one problem of defining the historical rite of speaking in tongues.

The study has an urgency because of the revived popularity of this doctrine. The amount of people who engage in or support the modern rite of speaking in tongues are staggering. 584 million people either identify themselves as Pentecostal or Charismatic all across the world – both organizations that emphasize this rite are a central part of their doctrines.(1)The Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life. Global Christianity A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Christian Population. December 2011. Pg. 17. Pew Forum notes this number could be larger.

However, the definition of speaking in tongues by those who practice and promote such a lifestyle is very mysterious and abstract. There is a complete lack of historical evidence to support such a contemporary phenomenon. This absence of historical literature has led to a variety of conclusions and has shaped the modern practice.

The growing popularity of this practice requires a critical evaluation.

How the goals are being accomplished

This project has been ongoing for over two decades now and finally almost near completion. It has accelerated in the last few years due to the innovations offered by the internet. Sites such as Google Books, and Perseus for Greek and Latin Dictionaries, have offered invaluable assistance.

There are many significant passages relating to tongues that have not been found in any popular English translations. The starting point was to look through the massive Migne Patrologia Graeca series which contains Ecclesiastical writings from the second to fifteenth centuries. It had to be sight read. There are no digital versions of this work available.

It is a tedious and time-consuming task. Some patterns and trends are beginning to develop that are different from the contemporary presuppositions on the topic.

Migne’s edition is not always the best text, but served as a springboard to finding the better ones.

The overwhelming amount of information collated and reviewed forced me to ask, Why do we think so differently about it today than they did?

This was an equally challenging question that is dealt with throughout the pages of this project.

This project is not so much a theological journey as it is a historical-critical one. It attempts to traverse through the epochs of tongues expressions by comparing various manuscripts, authors and trends. It also tries to chronologize the passing of the tradition through the centuries.

It is a project that spans over 2000 years of material which demonstrates that the definition has evolved. It aims to document the main contributors and movements over the various epochs of time, what or who influenced the changes, and how these antecedents have influenced our modern religious mindset.

Who this Project is For

  • This project is aimed at an intellectual religious audience familiar with the christian doctrine of tongues.

  • The level of reading difficulty is quite high. A familiarity with the controversy along with the Biblical literature related to it; especially the Book of Acts, Chapter 2 and I Corinthians Chapter 14 is required.

  • This is not purposed as a polemic against any religious group and their practices. Many denominations that have tongues in their statement of theology are positive organizations in their overall Christian life and witness. This is simply a detailed journey using a historic-critical method to graph and analyze the changing definition throughout history. It is up to the reader to apply it in their particular situation.

Apologies for Delving into the Realms of Philosophy (sort of)

Many important pieces of Patristic material are heavily influenced and framed within Greek philosophy. Readers may feel that some coverage may concentrate too much in this aspect, but this was the world that many of the ancient writers lived in. It cannot be ignored or underestimated.

Reconstructing a Framework

Largely due to the persecutions of Christians prior to the fourth-century, the availability of any Christian literature written from inception until 300 AD can be counted on your fingers. Those few address little about speaking in tongues – whispers and ghosts, but nothing substantive.

The fourth-century was the golden age of Church and Jewish literature. Many of the most well-known Christian authors can be traced back to this time. This is where the greatest corpus of literature can initially be found on the subject. Since these documents are around 300 years removed from the events and background that led to the origin and implementation of tongues in the early Church, they cannot be considered the absolute standard. However, these are the best documents available today.

With this in mind, the first objective will be to reconstruct the early Church interpretation based on remnants found in the gilded writers starting around the fourth century.

But this is not enough. As the research will later decidedly demonstrate, the early Church at least in the first century was a Jewish sect, based on Jewish faith and liturgy that crossed the boundaries into a Greek world.

So one must have a thorough combined understanding of Greek philosophy, Jewish underpinnings and the Church Fathers in order to arrive at a complete and thorough understanding of the subject.

This brings on a very apparent and immediate problem – the Graecanization of the Christian faith. Patristic writers liked to trace and explain the Christian movement prior to the fourth century in wholly Greek terms. Ambrose began his explanation of creation referring to Pythagoras. St. Thomas Aquinas had a certain love for the writings of Aristotle. The early Church writer Irenaeous spent a large portion of his writings polemically against the Greek concept of gods.

This was also noted by Harry Gamble in his book, Books and Readers in the Early Church, where he found that many of the Church leaders were converts from a Greek cultured background, “Most Christian writers of the second through fifth centuries were practiced in the rhetorical arts; not a few, Tertullian, Cyprian, Lactantius and Augustine, for example, were teachers of rhetoric before they entered the Church.”(2) Harry Gamble. Books and Readers in the Early Church. New Haven:Yale University. 1995. Pg. 35

Secondly, as admitted by John Chrysostom, the tongues controversy at least in Corinth, had no Greek antecedent, and because he was unaware of the Jewish initial influence, he could not find the solution, “This whole place is very obscure: but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts.”(3) NPNF1-12. Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians. Trans. Rev. Talbot W. Chambers, D.D., Homily 29. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf112.iv.xxx.html

It is indisputable the sources for both the ancient and modern definitions of the gift of tongues originated in fourth-century.

Another problem about building a framework about the early Church definition and practice from later literature is the amount of source material. It is small — but enough to build a basis for the early Church interpretation of Pentecost and the practice of tongues at Corinth.

Presuppositions and Caveats

The author presupposes the gift of tongues to be a supernatural phenomenon. This is borrowed from the author’s religious outlook. However, just because it was described as a miracle should not cause the researcher to have a closed the mind to the realm of possibilities. The Books of Acts and Corinthians do not provide a level of detail to definitively conclude and so subsequent writings must be analyzed to fill in the gaps.

The GOT Project intends to let the Church Fathers speak on their own terms in relation to the christian doctrine of tongues. The majority of books on this subject attempt to rewrite history to align with their ideology and have a heavy dependance on the small amount of English translations already available. This is a serious handicap on their part – something which the GOT Project attempts to avoid.

A few notes on the translations provided:

  • If a text is ably translated by someone else, this may be used. However, it must be examined first before being published on this site. Experience has shown that the quality of English translations varies. There are translations that are abridged, condensed, amplified or some other problem that one cannot just simply pass them as being true to its antecedent. So a process has been implemented. It is first compared against the original text. If it is not a good translation, it will be re-translated.

  • I have provided many translations myself because of the plethora of ancient texts on the subject that exist only in their original language. Although I have been very tedious in providing professional level translations, there always exists the element of error — though I don’t believe any error would be sufficient to change any conclusion herein. But still the reader must be aware of this reality.

Many modern documents, books, and authors on the gift of tongues lack the necessary citation and/or supply a quote to back-up their claims. In order to separate this research from others that have preceded, there will be a heavy emphasis on both citation and quotation.

How the Church Fathers were Researched

The approach to this project was simply to read as many ancient writings as possible. The subject could come up in an ecclesiastical text on any occasion because most Church writers were allegorists and not literalists. The result was a time-consuming reading and translating regimen that produced very positive finds.

By visually scanning through the image files of the texts, there is a chance that some important citations or subtypes are missed. Even though this is a good possibility, the ones that have been found are substantial enough to draw a definitive conclusion.

How much was looked at? The first 135 of the total 161 volumes of Migne Patrologia Graeca — a large compendium of Church writings from Clement in the 2nd century to the Council of Florence in 1438-39 was visually checked page by page for potential texts. The last 31 of MPG were not checked in such detail. Only the indices were analyzed for chapter headings that were applicable to the subject matter. Migne Patrologia Latina has been consulted but not as thoroughly as MPG. MPL has been digitized and one day will be looked at in further detail. There is no timeline for this.

Language Notes

The majority of the early textual work is concerned with Greek, Latin, and Aramaic with minor samplings of other writings. Syriac literature could have been more prominent but it is restricted due to time limitations.

Why does the study stop in the early 1900s?

The Gift of Tongues Project has revealed so far three important phases in the doctrine of tongues throughout history:

  • the traditional doctrine of miraculously speaking or hearing a foreign language. First to eighteenth-centuries.
  • the change to the doctrine of glossolalia in the nineteenth-century
  • the third mutation to a heavenly language in the twentieth-century

The goal of the project is not to trace every movement from the seventeenth-century onwards, but to follow why the definition had changed. The new definition had stabilized soon after 1906 so it is not necessary to go any further into the genre after that.

Tracing and explaining the modern tongues speaking movements is a topic unto itself and would require its own careful attention. I am not a specialist in pentecostal or charismatic studies and there are many others better equipped to add this part of the story in other materials.

A Short Linguistic Analysis

The initial intention was to do an etymology of the religious word tongues from a literary and linguistic perspective: first it was to discover its usage, various synonyms and potentially finding extra adjectives among the various pieces of Greek literature throughout the centuries. The second stage was to be comparing the Latin, Syriac and later translations.

By doing this, one could theoretically deduce whether tongues was intended to be ecstatic utterances, heavenly or earthly languages or any combination of the three.

As the translation work went on with the Ecclesiastical writers both in the Greek and the Latin, it became wholly clear that this was unnecessary.

The consistent message among the first fourteen centuries clearly demonstrated that it was a human language. This was so strong and clear, there was no reason to defend this. How this human language happened and the mechanics behind this were the sources of debate.

The focus of the project evolved and turned into a Rabbinic form of inquiry. Where did it start, who influenced who, why did it change and when, and how did it evolve to the definition we have today? A map is being developed about the key thinkers and movements who have passed down their doctrines and ideologies on the subject from one generation to another and why it has influenced many to believe what they do today on the subject.

The Gift of Tongues Project is the place to go for all the details on this journey which travels deep into history, language, theology, philosophy, institutional movements, and more.

References   [ + ]