Below is my translation of Maximus the Confessor’s ambiguum on part of Gregory of Nazianzus’s Or. 41.  

A few things stand out.  For one, Maximus cites several different opinions.  He gives his own in the first paragraph, wherein he argues that Gregory’s cryptic sentence refers to speaking in tongues and to prophecy.  These are the gifts “which require other ones to judge them.”  He describes why the gift of discerning spirits is a necessary complement to prophecy, providing some rather good reasons in my opinion.  But in the second paragraph he seems indicates that others believe Gregory’s sentence to refer to the “interpreting gifts,” which are discernment of spirits and interpretation of tongues.  

Much of this hinges on how you interpret the Greek phrase, «πρὸς διάκρισιν τοῦ βελτίονος. »   Βελτίονος could simply refer to a generic “better,” in which case we would understand the phrase as, “in order to understand what is best,” or something along those lines.  This appears to be the approach that Maximus himself takes.  But we could also supply an implied χαρίσματος from the previous phrase, in which we could read πρὸς διάκρισιν τοῦ βελτίονος χαρίσματος.  This would then read, “in order to interpret the better gift.” Indeed, the Sources Chretiennes text of Gregory chose the  «πρὸς διάκρισιν τῆς βελτίονος, » for the main text, which would ensure a reading along these lines.  Instead of supplying χαρίσματος, we would in this case supply διαφορᾶς with the meaning “type,” and read, “in order to distinguish the better type of gift.”  Maximus offers this line of interpretation as a distinguished alternative to his own reading. 

The Greek text of the PG for Maximus is quite problematic.  Unfortunately there isn’t yet a better one (a new translation and text is due out soon from the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library), and there aren’t any manuscripts online that I’ve been able to find with this passage.  I have consulted an early Latin manuscript (9th century, our earliest witness actually if I’m not mistaken).  The Latin translation is quite literal (painstakingly actually), but since Latin doesn’t have an article it doesn’t help our problem above of τοῦ vs. τῆς.  Time permitting, I’ll transcribe the Latin and post it too.  It’ll be a good exercise for me since I’m taking Latin paleography this semester.

English Translation

From the same oration, on the “And there is a type of spiritual gift, which requires another gift for interpretation.”  

The “type of gift which requires another for interpretation,” according to this great teacher is prophecy, I think, and speaking in tongues.  For prophecy requires the gift of distinguishing spirits, so that one may know the nature of the prophecy, where it comes from, what it carries, what spirit it belongs to, and for what reason it comes.  Otherwise, it may simply be idle talk, proceeding only from an offense that the speaker has suffered (thus from his own mind)[1], or it may be a self-caused impulse from the one prophesying, which comes from wide experience and a natural shrewdness about the nature of things, or even from an evil and demonic spirit, like the “marvelous” sayings in Montanus and those like him, which, it is said, are in the form of prophecy; or, someone may take the words of others and speak with great airs because of vanity, declaiming with great pomp learning that is not his own, lying so that others would marvel at him.  For some shamelessly make themselves into the deadbeat fathers of orphaned words and ideas by espousing and then abandoning them so that others might think them wise.  Thus the divine apostle says, “let two or three prophets speak, and the others judge.”   

Others happen to believe that he means the gift of discernment of spirits.  For prophecy requires, as I have said, the gift of discernment of spirits so that the prophecy may be understood, believed, and accepted.  Likewise, the gift of tongues requires the gift of interpretation, lest the one speaking in tongues seem mad to those present, and the audience not follow what is said.  For the great apostle says, “if you speak in tongues, and an unbeliever or some other outsider comes in, will they not say that you are mad?”  And so he orders those who speak in tongues to stay quiet unless an interpreter is present.  Those who have enlightened the mind with divine words say that the teacher here indicates by “in order to distinguish the better [gift]” that the gift of prophecy and the gift of tongues are superior to those which need a complementary gift to illumine and enlighten (that is, the gift of discernment of spirits and the gift of interpretation).  This is why the teacher says, “in order to distinguish the better [gift].” 

[1] There is a lacuna here in the Greek text that makes this phrase rather awkward.

Greek Text 

Taken from BL Add. ms. 18231 folio 179v. 

ἡ διαφορὰ τῶν χαρισμάτων ἡ ἄλλου δεομένη χαρίσματος πρὸς διάκρισιν κατὰ τὸν μέγαν τοῦτον διδάσκαλόν ἐστιν ἡ προφητεία καθὼς οἴμαι καὶ τὸ λαλεῖν γλώσσαις· ἡ μὲν προφητεία δεῖται τοῦ χαρίσματος τῆς διακρίσεως τῶν πνευμάτων πρὸς τὸ γνωσθῆναι τίς καὶ πόθεν καὶ ποῦ φέρουσα καὶ ποίου πνεύματός ἐστι καὶ δι᾽ἥν αἰτίαν· μήπως φλήναφός ἐστι μόνον εἰκῆ προσφερόμενος ἐκ τῆς κατὰ ………………1 τὸ ἡγεμονικὸν βλάβης τοῦ λέγοντος· ἢ αὐτοκίνητος ἡ ὁρμὴ τοῦ δῆθεν προφητεύοντος· ἐξ ἀγχινοίας περί τινων φυσικῶς κατὰ λόγον, διὰ πολυπειρίαν τεκμαιρομένου πραγμάτων· ἢ τοῦ πονηροῦ καὶ δαιμονιώδους πνεύματος· ὥσπερ ἐν Μοντανῷ καὶ τοῖς ἐκείνῳ παραπλησίοις ἐστὶ τερατολογία ἐν προφητείας εἴδει τὸ λεγόμενον· ἢ δόξης ἕνεκα κενῆς, τοῖς ἄλλων ἄλλος τυχὸν ἁβρύνεται λέγων τε καὶ πομπεύων ἅπερ αὐτὸς οὐκ ἐγέννησεν ὑπὲρ τοῦ θαυμασθῆναι ψευδόμενος· καὶ πατέρα νόθον ὀρφανῶν λόγων τε καὶ νοημάτων ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ τοῦ δόξαι σοφός τις εἶναι προβάλλεσθαι οὐκ αἰσχυνόμενος· προφῆται γὰρ δύο φησὶν ὁ θεῖος ἀπόστολος ἢ τρεῖς λαλείτωσαν. καὶ οἱ ἄλλοι διακρινέτωσαν.

τίνες δὲ τυγχάνουσιν οἱ ἄλλοι, δῆλον οἱ τὸ χάρισμα τῆς διακρίσεως ἔχοντες· δεῖται τοίνυν ἡ μὲν προφητεία, καθὼς ἔφην, τῆς διακρίσεως τῶν πνευμάτων ἵνα γνωσθῇ καὶ πιστευθῇ καὶ ἐγκριθῇ· τὸ δὲ χάρισμα τῶν γλωσσῶν δεῖται τοῦ χαρίσματος τῆς ἑρμηνείας, ἵνα μὴ δόξῃ τοῖς παροῦσι μαίνεσθαι ὁ τοιοῦτος μὴ δυναμένου τινος τῶν ἀκουόντων παρακολουθῆσαι τοῖς λαλουμένοις· ἐὰν γάρ φησιν ὁ μέγας ἀπόστολος λαλεῖτε γλώσσαις· εἰσέλθοι δέ τις ἄπιστος ἢ ἰδιότης· οὐκ ἐροῦσιν ὅτι μαίνεσθε;[2] καὶ κελεύει μᾶλλον σιωπᾷν τὸν λαλοῦντα γλώσσαις, ἐὰν μὴ ᾖ ὁ διερμηνεύων. τὸ δὲ πρὸς διάκρισιν φᾶναι τὸν διδάσκαλον τῆς[3] βελτίονος· φασὶν οἱ τὸν νοῦν τοῖς θείοις καταφωτίσαντες λόγοις, ὑπερέχειν τὸ τῆς προφητείας καὶ τὸ τῶν γλωσσῶν χάρισμα τῶν ὧν πρὸς διάκρισίν τε καὶ διασάφησιν χρῄζουσι χαρισμάτων· τουτἐστι τῆς διακρίσεως τῶν πνευμάτων καὶ τῆς ἑρμηνείας· ὅπερ εἰδὼς ὁ διδάσκαλος ἔφη· πρὸς διάκρισιν τῆς βελτίονος.

Notes

1 These dots are present in the manuscript, which seem to indicate a lacuna which the scribe recognized but could not fill.  

2 A paraphrase of 1 Cor. 14:23

3 This manuscript has τῆς βελτίονος in both the main text and in Maximus’s.  The PG prints τοῦ βελτίονος, which appears to be a minority reading in the earlier manuscripts of Gregory, but more popular in later ones.  Based on internal evidence, I suspect that Maximus had τοῦ βελτίονος as his reading, and that the reading in the scholia here has been conformed to the reading in the main text.  I’ll expand more in a future post dealing with text critical issues.    

Update:  Thanks to Charles Sullivan for spotting several typos!  They have been corrected.

Update:  I have updated the Greek text based on my transcription of BL Add. ms.  18231.  See here for more info. 

ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ 

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