January 2013


Looking around in the index of Gautier’s edition of Psellos’s Theologica, I found another short treatise on a passage in our passage on Oration 41.  Opusculum 74 deals with the nature of the miracle in Acts 2 and examines the question in Gregory’s terms: was it a miracle of speaking (i.e. the apostles were each speaking different languages), or was it a miracle of hearing (i.e. the apostles were speaking one language and each listener miraculously understood).  Psellos sides with Gregory from what I can tell, in that it was a miracle of speaking.  But he then goes on to discuss whether the apostles understood what they were speaking, and then examines a broad range of classical sources in an attempt to understand the miracle (Christian sources, Chaldean Oracles, Platonists (esp. Proclus), and also Socrates and Plotinus.  Just from a cursory look, the passage looks quite interesting.  Hopefully I’ll be able to post at least some excerpts with translation and commentary.  Time permitting of course!

ἐν αὐτῷ,

ΜΑΘΠ

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Below is my translation of Psellos’s passage explaining part of our enigmatic passage from Gregory.  The Greek text is found in Paul Gautier’s edition of Psellos’s Theologica, volume 1, opusculum 60.  It can be found in the TLG, and I’ve also consulted the printed text.  To my knowledge this passage has not been translated into English, though I’m not a Psellos scholar so I could easily be missing it.  I’ve been free when necessary with my translation, and suggestions are certainly welcome.

The text is rather interesting, even if I don’t quite follow all of it (particularly the bit about Pythagoras).  Psellos argues that prophecy etymologically refers to telling the future, perhaps on the basis of the prefix προ and the verb φημί, which does indeed make sense.  But he argues that in Scripture, prophecy refers only to those who foretell Christ’s coming.  He takes a rather broad understanding of “foretelling Christ’s coming” though, so that even Pythagoras, the great Greek philosopher, becomes a herald of Christ’s coming.  

The third paragraph here deals primarily with New Testament prophets, that is prophets after Christ.  Since they can no longer foretell Christ’s coming (it already happened!) Psellos has a difficulty with his prior definition.  But he argues that a person who receives the gift of prophecy after Christ and foretells the future may be called a prophet too, just like the men of old (Pythagoras included…).  Indeed, his analogy for the coming of the Spirit after Christ is not from the Old Testament, but rather from Athens.  The Spirit comes and sets up residence in our minds, just like he did in the Acropolis.  

I’ve a rough translation made of the rest, and will post it across one or two more posts.  

From Gregory of Nazianzus’s Oration on Pentecost, on the “And there is a type of gift…”

You all have asked me, what is this ‘type of gift,’ and how it is that some gifts require others to “distinguish the better,” as the great apostle says, while others are sufficient in themselves and do not require others to complete them.  Following this we may examine the saying, “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets,” (1 Cor 14:26-29) what exactly a message of prophecy is, and the exact meaning Divine Scripture gives to prophets, and finally how others have improperly received this title.  

Let us first attend to the last difficulty.  Prophecy consists entirely of foreseeing the future, which the etymology of the word reveals.  Thence anyone so inspired, whether by a night-prophecy while asleep, or reading from hands (which the wise ones of old have called palmistry), or through auspices, or some other manner may tell the future, and thus be called a prophet.  But Divine Scripture, though often in quite varied ways, reserves this word for those who announced the coming of the Lord in the flesh.  Pythagoras has done the same, for he adapted the name of wisdom, predicated on the various branches of knowledge, for the first philosophy.

Thus this wise man, who understand the principles of the branches of knowledge which proceeded from the mind, in this way became a prophet and herald of Christ’s coming in the flesh.  Just as this one may be properly called a prophet, so too may one who comes after Christ be called a prophet if he is given the gift of prophecy and foretells the future. It was not only until the coming of Christ, after all, that the Divine Spirit worked upon pure souls.  Rather, when Christ had ascended to heaven, another Paraclete came, and established himself in our mind just like he had in the Acropolis, and made his activity known to us.  This was especially the case in the time of Paul: as they were striving continually for knowledge about the better path, they would foretell the future, as ones moved in their souls by God, and they were thus called prophets.  But come now, as we’ve solved this difficulty, let us “briefly philosophize” [1] about the spiritual gifts.  

[1] A quotation from the beginning of Gregory’s oration 41, where he exhorts us “philosophize briefly, that we may celebrate the feast spiritually.” 

Greek Text

οϛʹ. Ἐκ τοῦ τῆς Πεντηκοστῆς λόγου, εἰς τὸ ‘ἔστι διαφορὰ χαρισμάτων’

Ἠρωτήκατε τίς ἡ τῶν ‘χαρισμάτων διαφορά’, καὶ πῶς τὰ μὲν ἑτέρων ‘δεῖται πρὸς διάκρισιν τοῦ βελτίονος’ κατὰ τὸν μέγαν ἀπόστολον, τὰ δὲ ἐντελῆ τυγχάνει καὶ ἀπροσδεᾶ καὶ καθ’ ἑαυτὰ ἰσχύοντα· ᾧ δὴ ἀκόλουθόν ἐστι γνῶναι ἡμᾶς ὅπως τὰ τῶν ‘προφητῶν πνεύματα προφήταις ὑποτάσ- σεται’, τίς τε ὁ τῆς προφητείας λόγος, καὶ τίνας μὲν κυρίως προφήτας ὀνομάζει ἡ θεία γραφή, τίνες δὲ καταχρηστικῶς τούτου τοῦ ὀνόματος τετυχήκασι.

Δεῖ οὖν τῷ ὑστέρῳ τῶν ἀπορηθέντων τὴν λύσιν πρῶτον ἐπενεγκεῖν. ὅτι μὲν γὰρ πᾶσα τοῦ μέλλοντος πρόρρησις προφητεία ἐστίν, αὐτό, φασί, τὸ ὄνομα δηλοῖ. ὁπόθεν γοῦν τις ὁρμώμενος, ἢ τῆς καθ’ ὕπνον μαντικῆς ἢ τῆς ἀπὸ τῶν χειρῶν διαγνώσεως, ἣν δὴ χειροσκοπικὴν οἱ πάλαι σοφοὶ ὠνομάκασιν, ἢ δι’ ὧν ὄρνις ἐγείρεται καὶ κλάζει ἢ ἄλλο τι δρᾷ, προλέγοι τὰ μέλλοντα, προφήτης οὗτός ἐστιν. ἀλλ’ ἡ θεία γραφή, τὸ ὄνομα τοῦτο εἰ πολλὰ διεσπαρμένον καὶ διῃρημένον συναγαγοῦσα πρὸς ἑαυτό, τοῖς τὴν ἐπιδημίαν τοῦ κυρίου προκαταγγείλασιν, ἣν διὰ σαρκὸς ἐνεδείξατο, φέρουσα ἐδωρήσατο. ὥσπερ δὴ καὶ Πυθαγόρας πεποίηκε· κἀκεῖνος γὰρ τὴν τῆς σοφίας προσηγορίαν, πολλῶν κατηγορουμένην ἐπιστημῶν, τῇ πρώτῃ φιλοσοφίᾳ προσήρμοσεν.

ὥσπερ οὖν σοφὸς ὁ τὰς τῶν ἐπιστημῶν ἀρχὰς ἐπιστάμενος, αἳ δὴ ἀπὸ νοῦ τὸ προϊέναι εἰλήχασιν, οὕτω δὴ καὶ προφήτης ὁ τῆς τοῦ Χριστοῦ διὰ σαρκὸς παρουσίας κῆρυξ γενόμενος. ἀλλ’ οὗτος ἂν κυρίως μὲν προφήτης καλοῖτο, κληθείη δ’ ἂν καὶ ἄλλος τις, μετὰ Χριστὸν χαρίσματος ἠξιωμένος προφητικοῦ καὶ προλέγων τὰ μέλλοντα· οὐ γὰρ μέχρι τῆς τοῦ κυρίου ἐπιδημίας τὸ θεῖον πνεῦμα ἐπὶ τῶν καθαρῶν ἐνήργει ψυχῶν, ἀλλ’ ἐπειδὴ κἀκεῖνος πρὸς οὐρανοὺς ἀναβέβηκεν, ὁ παράκλητος αὖθις ἐπεφοίτα καί, ἐνιδρυμένος τῷ νῷ ὥσπερ ἐν ἀκροπόλει, φανερὰς αὐτοῦ τὰς ἐνεργείας ἐποίει. πλεῖστοι γοῦν ἐπὶ τῶν τοῦ Παύλου χρόνων, ἀθρόως τὴν γνώμην πρὸς τὸ κρεῖττον μεταποιούμενοι, προὔλεγόν τε τὰ μέλλοντα, θεοληπτούμενοι ἀφανῶς, κἀντεῦθεν προφῆται κατωνομάζοντο. ἀλλ’ ἐπειδὴ τοῦτο διαπορήσαντες διηρθρώκαμεν, φέρε δὴ καὶ περὶ τῶν χαρισμάτων ‘βραχέα φιλοσοφήσωμεν’.

Related Posts

Part 2.

ἐν αὐτῷ,

ΜΑΘΠ

Although it required an embarrassingly long search, I finally found the passage to which Basil the Lesser refers in his commentary on Gregory’s 41st oration.  The reason for my aporia was that most of Maximus’s Ambigua is not in the TLG, which is where I was looking for it!  The Ambigua is a massive, sprawling work devoted to ambiguous passages in Gregory of Nazianzus.  It’s divided into two parts, the Ambigua to Thomas is in the TLG, but this only includes 5 “difficulties.”  The rest of the work, the Ambigua to John is much larger (well over 100 if the text I found is accurate), but is not in the TLG.  Of course after discovering this the hard way, and finding the text elsewhere, I discovered that the apparatus of the Sources Chrétiennes pointed me to the Patrologia Graeca vol. 91. I’ve learned a lesson though: don’t over rely on the TLG!  It’s a remarkable tool, but far from complete, especially for Patristic texts.

The text from Maximus can be found here, in section 173.  The discussion is only two hearty paragraphs, so I hope to post a translation and comments soon.  

ἐν αὐτῷ,

ΜΑΘΠ

I tried again this morning to find the passage in Maximus the Confessor mentioned by Basil in his commentary on Gregory Nazianzus. I still have not found the right passage, and I may not.  But I have found something else of interest.  Michael Psellos, the great Byzantine intellectual of the 11th century, has a passage in his Theologica (section 76) devoted to explaining the “διάφορα χαρισμάτων” (distinction of gifts, or type of gift) in Gregory’s Oration 41.  About 1,000 words follow, in which he explains the passage from Gregory with what seems to be characteristic sophistication.  I hope to check Gautier’s edition in print soon.  Apparently there’s a short Latin introduction to each passage.  I have very little knowledge of Michael, so I’ve to tread carefully if I wish to make use of him for interpreting Gregory.

This sort of thing shows just how valuable the TLG can be.  It’s very unlikely I’d have found this passage otherwise.  Soon though I’ll have to stop chasing little threads like this and come back to Gregory himself!

ἐν αὐτῷ,

ΜΑΘΠ

Below I transcribe and translate marginalia from Codex Monacensis Graecus 204, a Greek manuscript of the 13th century.  It contains orations of Gregory of Nazianzus with marginal notes from Basil the Lesser.  The note is similar in nature to the note given by Nicetas (see here for Nicetas’ text).  Both identify the “type of gift which requires another” as either prophecy or speaking in tongues.  However Basil identifies a source: Maximus the Confessor.  I had not thought to look at Maximus, even though he wrote quite a bit about Gregory.  Unfortunately I’ve yet to find Basil’s source in Maximus.  Perhaps a further search will turn something up, or perhaps Basil confused Maximus with someone else.  

Text and Translation

[folio 19r] τὴν διαφορὰν ταύτην τῶν χαρισμάτων, τοῖς (sic?) ἄλλου δεομένη χαρίσματος, τὴν προφητείαν φησι ὁ ἅγιος μάξιμος· καὶ τὸ λαλεῖν γλώσσαις. ἀλλ᾽ ἡ μὲν προφητεία δεῖται τοῦ τῆς  διακρίσεως χαρίσματος· τὸ διακρίνειν πνεύματων διαφορὰς τοῦ ἁγίου. ἡ τοῦ πονηροῦ καὶ δαιμονιώδης ἐστὶ πνεύματος. τοῦ δὲ χαρίσματος τῆς ἑρμηνείας δεῖται τὸ τῶν γλωσσῶν· ἵνα μὴ δόξῃ μαίνεσθαι ὁ γλώσσαις λαλῶν. ἐν δὲ τῇ διακρίσει τοῦ βελτίονος ὑπερτίθησι τὸ τῆς πορφητείας, καὶ τῶν γλωσσῶν ἐκείνων τῶν ὧν χρήζουσι πρὸς τὴν σφῶν αὐτῶν διάκρισιν, τῆς τὰς διακρίσεως τῶν πνευμάτων καὶ τῆς τῶν γλωσσῶν διακρίσεως.

The Holy Maximus says that this type of gift, which requires another, refers to both prophecy and speaking in tongues.  For prophecy requires the gift of discernment, to discern the different types of spirits of the Holy One, as demonic prophecy comes from the Evil Spirit.  But the gift of tongues requires the gift of interpretation, lest the speaker in tongues seem insane.  When distinguishing the better gift, both prophecy and tongues are superior to those which lack a complementary gift of their own for interpreting, like the discernment of spirits and the discernment  of tongues.  

Notes

There is not much to note beyond the introduction.  However, I have noticed that both Nicetas and Basil do not seem to treat the types of spiritual gifts as technical terms.  In modern charismatic/pentecostal parlance (at least that to which I’m accustomed), the different types of spiritual gifts have technical names.  The gifts most often listed this way are those in 1 Cor 12 (word of knowledge, word of wisdom, interpretation of tongues, etc.)  Both of these scholiasts lump “interpretation of tongues” and “discernment of spirits” under one heading which might be called “illumination gifts” or “interpretation gifts.”  In Greek Nicetas uses the terms “διάκρισις” (discernment, echoing Gregory and Paul) and “διασάφησις” (explanation or interpretation).  From what I can tell, they do imagine a catalogue of sorts for the different types of gifts, but the particular terminology is less important.

ἐν αὐτῷ,

ΜΑΘΠ

Here I translate the rest of Nicetas Heracleensis’ commentary on Gregory of Nazianzus Oration 41:15-16.  Gregory’s original is dense and tightly argued, so Nicetas’s commentary is most welcome.  For my translation of Gregory’s text (on which Nicetas comments here), see here.  For the original Greek (both of Gregory and Nicetas), see here.

Nicetas’ Commentary

The Theologian praises even the old division of tongues, when the one language was scattered, the ungodly plot and conspiracy was undone, and God foiled their senseless attempt. The aim of those making the tower was that if there was another flood, to run to this tower and so thwart the divine wrath. Some now dare to do in a similar manner, conspiring evil together against the Spirit and building a tower of ungodliness. But the holy father marvels at this present miraculous division of tongues much more, as it proceeds from one Spirit, pouring out to the many apostles, bringing about one harmony, and restoring the harmony of godliness. For if they were speaking in different tongues about Christ and the proclamation, they were speaking like the different cords of a lyre bringing about harmony as they spoke.

The types of gifts which “require another to interpret them,” are prophecy and speaking in tongues. For prophecy requires the gift of distinguishing of spirits, and the gift of tongues requires the gift of interpretation. But the gift of prophecy and the gift of tongues are superior to those which lack other gifts to interpret and enlighten (that is, since they are complemented by discernment of spirits and interpretation of tongues). Knowing this the teacher says “to distinguish the better [gift].” For the apostles to speak in foreign languages is a type of gift that requires another gift, which is “discernment [of spirits],” in order to distinguish how it is that this gift is better and more excellent than the other gifts, since all gifts are worthy of honor.

The division of tongues which David spoke of is also good, “scatter the tongues of those who have loved words of confusion.” He speaks here against the tongues of the Pneumatomachians, who deny the divinity of the Spirit, and separate him from the Father and the Son. Thus he (Gregory) says that the the endless babble of the heretics, this plot against the Spirit, should be put down. Thus this division of tongues is fitting for those who plot and contemplate evil together.

Notes

Nicetas’s notes on Gregory are of interest.  His brief discussion of the tower of Babel raises an explanation I’ve never heard:  the impetus behind building the tower of Babel was to have a place to run during another flood.  This had never occurred to me, but it does make good sense.

The comments on spiritual gifts are what I find most interesting, and also most difficult to follow. Essentially Nicetas says there are two gifts which require another gift for “interpreting.”  One is prophecy, the other is speaking in tongues.  Prophecy requires the gift of discerning of spirits, and and tongues requires the gift of interpretation.  Prophecy, it seems, and tongues are both superior to other gifts that don’t have a “complement”.  Gregory’s reference to “discerning the better” is a reference to “discerning the better gift.”  That the apostles spoke in foreign languages is a spiritual charism that requires another (distinguishing spirits) to determine how it is that tongues is superior to the other charismata, since all of the gifts have something good in them. This section is a bit muddled though (at least for me), and I’d encourage anyone curious to look at the Greek.  There are a few different ways to interpret most of it.  Ι may very well revisit this in a future post.

The comments on the Psalm are a bit more straight-forward.  Nicetas tells us that Gregory is referring to the Pneumatomachians, who deny the divinity of the Holy Spirit.  This too is most likely right.  Gregory is concerned in this Oration to argue for the full divinity of the Spirit, a position on which even the Nicene party was muddled.  Here, he is oblique as he doesn’t want to openly attack potential allies (that is, those who accept the full divinity of the Son, but are unsure about the Holy Spirit).  

ἐν αὐτῷ,

ΜΑΘΠ

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