This Christmas, I read through Gregory of Nazianzus’ 38th Oration, On the Theophany.  It is wondrously beautiful.  Gregory’s theology and language meld into one lovely, harmonious whole.  I hope reading through this oration becomes a Christmas tradition!  I’ve worked up a little poem to share here.  It is a verse rendition of the beginning of the oration.  I’m not a particularly good poet, but hopefully enough of Gregory comes through to make it enjoyable.  Fr. Aidan posted an English translation of the entire oration here, which you may also view at New Advent.

Theophany I

The Christ is born, rejoice! The Christ of Hea’en,
All ye, come meet the Christ and sing to God,
Thou Plenitude of Earth. Yet I must name
the both: let hea’ens and earth be glad
and make much cheer, Uranic Splendor came,
assumed our terran shame, and in flesh lay.
O man, rejoice in fear, in joy rejoice!
In fear for sin, in joy for hope of him:
The Christ-child borne of Virgin womb and shame!
O Eve’n Daughters, those of Adam’s race,
do now take up your virgin pur’ty, O
that ye be little Mary’s, full of Christ within.
Who shan’t praise him, the Chosen One who comes
of the beginning? Who shall not raise his voice
to him in whom our being finds finality? 
 
 

Here is the Greek.  For my fellow hellenists, much of the language in this oration is pretty simple.  It gets difficult and theologically complicated at points, but a good bit is not all that difficult.  My way of saying, this is recommended reading! The Greek text of the oration may be found here.

Χριστὸς γεννᾶται, δοξάσατε· Χριστὸς ἐξ οὐρανῶν, ἀπαντήσατε· Χριστὸς ἐπὶ γῆς, ὑψώθητε. ᾌσατε τῷ Κυρίῳ, πᾶσα ἡ γῆ· καὶ, ἵν ̓ ἀμφότερα συνελὼν εἴπω, Εὐφραινέσθωσαν οἱ οὐρανοὶ, καὶ ἀγαλλιάσθω ἡ γῆ, διὰ τὸν ἐπουράνιον, εἶτα ἐπίγειον. Χριστὸς ἐν σαρκὶ, τρόμῳ καὶ χαρᾷ ἀγαλλιᾶσθε· τρόμῳ, διὰ τὴν ἁμαρτίαν· χαρᾷ, διὰ τὴν ἐλπίδα. Χριστὸς ἐκ Παρθένου· γυναῖκες παρθενεύετε, ἵνα Χριστοῦ γένησθε μητέρες. Τίς οὐ προσκυνεῖ τὸν ἀπ᾽ ἀρχῆς; τίς οὐ δοξάζει τὸν τελευταῖον;

ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ 

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The semester is over!  To celebrate, I share here a portion of a poem of Gregory’s that I recently translated.  Friends from church held a “Port and Poetry” party: we gathered together and shared poems around a warm fire.  It was a delightful evening!  For our contribution, I read the Greek aloud (iambic trimeter), and my wife read the English.  

The excerpt comes from PG 37.1186, from the Carmina de se ipso.  

English

We waste not our words on outward things,
however they should be; the inward life,
our undivided care, demands our explication.
In mind resides a salvific grace,
a grace, which spurs us on to hea’en,
yet not before the mind hath spake
to tell us, of its one sure desire.
What gain shall ever come from damned-up stream,
or from the sun’s beam, blocked by clouds?
Of such a sort, the sophic mind in silence,
like rose’s grace, concealed by scurr’lous seed.
But when the shattered wind-blown seed shows forth
its bloom, then ye shall see the rose revealed,
adorned on stage for all to love and see.
Had e’er that beauty been borne away,
then Vernal Spring, bereft of grace, would be.
No more we seek to speak, to think, as those
who deem Thrift King in matters of the Word.

Greek

Ἡμῖν δὲ, τοῦ μὲν ἐκτὸς οὐ πολὺς λόγος,
Ὅπως ποθ’ ἕξει· τοῦ δ’ ἔσω λίαν πολύς.
Ἐν νῷ γάρ ἐστιν ἥμιν ἡ σωτηρία,
Πλὴν ἐκλαλουμένῳ τε, καὶ δηλουμένῳ.
Πηγῆς τί κέρδος ἐστὶν ἐμπεφραγμένης;
Τί δ’ ἡλιακῆς ἀκτῖνος, ἣν κρύπτει νέφος;
Τοιοῦτόν ἐστι νοῦς σοφὸς σιγώμενος,
Οἷον ῥόδου τὸ κάλλος, ὃ κάλυξ σκέπει
Οὐκ εὐπρεπές· τὸ τερπνὸν ἐκφαίνει δ’, ὅταν
Αὔραις ῥαγεῖσα τὸν τόκον θεατρίσῃ.
Εἰ δ’ ἦν ἀεὶ τὸ κάλλος ἐσκεπασμένον,
Οὐδ’ ἄν τις ἦρος ἦν χάρις τοῦ τιμίου.
Οὐδὲν πλέον ζητοῦμεν, ὡς οὕτω λαλεῖν,
Ὡς οἳ δοκοῦσιν εὐτελεῖς τὰ τοῦ λόγου.


ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ 

 


I continue to plug away on a variety of fronts.  Juggling school, work, and church is not always easy, but such is life.  This post is mainly a collection of scattered thoughts and impressions about different things I’ve been working on.

Gregory of Nazianzus. On the Theophany.  I recently finished reading Gregory’s 38th oration, On the Theophany, and enjoyed it immensely.  Gregory’s Greek is not always easy (in fact it seldom is), but it’s immensely rewarding to work through.  His vision of God’s grandeur and beauty is breathtaking, and I look forward to reading more!  If I had time, I’d probably translate some more of the oration, just because I enjoyed it so much, but time pushes me onto other things.

Basil of Caesarea. On the Six Days of Creation.  Instead of reading more Gregory, I decided to read some from St. Basil, as I’ve not yet read anything by the great bishop of Caesarea.  Since I’ve also been thinking about Genesis recently, it seemed like a natural place to turn.  From what I’ve seen so far (admittedly not much), Basil’s Greek seems a bit easier on the whole than Gregory’s, but quite well done nonetheless.  

Plato. Protagoras.  I’m taking a class on Socrates this semester, and for my term paper I’ll be writing on the Protagoras.  It’s a fun dialog, and fun to read.  Watching Plato’s Socrates interact with one of the great intellectuals of the previous generation is quite fun.

Origen. On the 76th Psalm Homily 1.  I’ve picked up the Origen stuff again, after a long hiatus.  I’ve resumed transcribing his long first homily on psalm 76, and a few interesting bits have come up.  Origen attacks heretics at several points for neglecting the practical life (πραξεῖς or ἤθη), and instead proceeding directly to speculation on the nature of God.  He’s also brought in his knowledge of Hebrew, mentioning that Zechariah’s name means “remembrance of God.”  I don’t know Hebrew, but from what I can tell that’s pretty close even if it’s not precisely accurate.

I’ve also notice an interesting stylistic tic: he likes to mention several different possible interpretation for a given line of the psalm, and so he’ll say, “and I know another interpretation” or “I have a second interpretation.”  When I put these Greek phrases into the TLG (οἶδα καὶ ἄλλην διήγησιν and ἔχω δὲ καὶ δευτέραν διήγησιν), in first case, the only results are from Origen’s Commentary on Matthew.  The second doesn’t match exactly, but searching for “δευτέραν διήγησιν” brings up matches primarily in 3 authors: Galen, Celsus, and Origen, all working in the late second century or early third (there are a few matches from much later authors).  Stylistic evidence like this aren’t the only grounds on which one judges authorship, but features like this do argue strongly in favor of Origenic authenticity.  

Eusebius of Caesarea. Fragments on Luke.  I contacted Roger Pearse a few months ago and asked if there were any untranslated Greek texts that he was wanting to get into English.  He has graciously commissioned a translation of the fragments on Luke that appear in the PG under Eusebius’ name.  I’ve been working on these slowly, but with some consistency.  They seem to mostly be authentically Eusebian to me.  The author is fond of long, winding, pleonastic sentences, which makes the translator’s job difficult!  He knows Greek philosophy, and this is seen in the exegesis, though it doesn’t dominate.  His exegetical eye is sometimes quite keen: he rightly picks up (what I think is) the jew/gentile distinction in Mt 21:28-31.  Other times, the exegesis is more straightforward: he remarks that the miracles that the apostles performed were important witnesses to the authenticity of their message.  Other times he seems more foreign, like when he creates an elaborate hierarchy of Christians on the basis of the beatitudes.  All in all, useful material I think.  

ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ 

Intro

Having spent a good deal of time focused myopically on Or. 41:15-16, I decided that I should broaden my knowledge of Gregory of Nazianzus and read from some other orations.  His Greek is difficult in most places, so I proceed slowly, but I stumble often upon passages which are utterly captivating.  Since I already had the Sources Chrétiennes text on hand from my work on Or. 41, I decided to start reading Or. 38 (On the Theophany, or Nativity of Jesus), and have quickly come upon a passage I’d like to share: the first part of 38.7 (PG 36.317).  Gregory himself must have liked the passage, because he used it again in Or. 45, word for word.  In it, Gregory contemplates the nature of divinity itself, and then our own process of theosis, by which we are transformed into gods ourselves, “partaking in the divine nature” as 2 Peter 1:4 puts it.

Naturally, I managed to pick a passage that is full of text critical problems, mostly of ο/ω confusion.  They don’t affect major points of interpretation, but I do note in the Greek text where I’ve opted for a different reading from the SC text.  My translation is quite free, but do look at the Greek if possible: it’s quite lovely I promise!

English

God has always been, is now, and will be forever.  “Is” is the best term, however, for “has been” and “will be” are our own divisions of time, which are due to our mortal nature.  But the One who eternally Is, used this name when he revealed himself to Moses on the mountain. He comprises within himself existence itself, an existence that neither begins nor ends, a great, boundless ocean of being, which effortlessly surpasses any notion of time or natural law.  He is perceived dimly through the mind alone, and even this, though sufficient, is extremely dim.  This perception originates not from the divine being itself, but from those who surround it.  The image in the mind is formed with another’s aid into one coherent perception of reality, which then flees before complete apprehension, skirting off before the idea is fully grasped.  Thus, like a lightning-bolt, which illumines the night sky for but a fleeting moment, so this image surrounds our reasoning faculties with purifying light, but then disappears once more into darkness, leaving our minds completely cleansed. 

It seems to me that, insofar as we can perceive this image, it draws us to itself, for we can neither hope nor strive for something that is entirely beyond perception; but to the extent that the image is utterly beyond us, it invokes our wonder, and as we wonder, our desire increases, and the more we yearn for it, the more we are purified, and this purification makes us glimmer with divinity [1].   With a bit of boldness, I’d even suggest that it is at this stage, once we have been suitably transformed, that God unites himself fully with us, his gods [2], and is known fully to us, and perhaps known to the degree that he now knows us, who “know him even as we are known” (1 Cor 13:12).

[1] Grk. καθαῖρον δὲ θεοειδεῖς ἐργάζηται.  We have here a play on words, which evokes both Homer and the Gospels.  θεοειδής is a fairly common term in Homer, and means in the passive sense “godlike in appearance” or “shining like a god.”  Purification, though, reminds us of the beatitude “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt. 5:8), and Gregory no doubt has this in mind too.  Adjectives of this formation in Greek are ambiguous, and can be used in the active or passive sense.  Gregory thus combines the classical and the Christian to describe another New Testament idea, that as we become like God as we behold him (cf. 1 Jn 3:2).  

[2] Cf. Ps. 82:1-6. (81:1-6 LXX).

Greek

θεὸς ἦν μὲν ἀεὶ καὶ ἔστι καὶ ἔσται · μᾶλλον δὲ « ἔστιν » ἀεί. τὸ γὰρ « ἦν » καὶ « ἔσται », τοῦ καθ᾽ἡμᾶς χρόνου τμήματα καὶ τῆς ῥευστῆς φύσεως · ὁ δὲ ὢν ἀεὶ καὶ τοῦτο αὐτὸς ἑαυτὸν ὀνομάζει, τῷ Μωϋσεῖ χρηματίζων ἐπὶ τοῦ ὄρους. ὅλον γὰρ ἐν ἑαυτῷ συλλαβὼν ἔχει τὸ εἶναι, μήτε ἀρξάμενον μήτε παυσόμενον, οἷόν τι πέλαγος οὐσίας ἄπειρον καὶ ἀόριστον, πᾶσαν ὑπερεκπίπτον[1] ἔννοιαν καὶ χρόνου καὶ φύσεως.[2] νῷ μόνῳ σκιαγραφούμενος, καὶ τοῦτο λίαν ἀμυδρῶς καὶ μετρίως, οὐκ ἐκ τῶν κατ᾽ αὐτόν, ἀλλ᾽ ἐκ τῶν περὶ αὐτόν, ἄλλης ἐξ ἄλλου φαντασίας συλλεγομένης εἰς ἕν τι τῆς ἀληθείας ἴνδαλμα, πρὶν κρατηθῆναι φεῦγον καὶ πρὶν νοηθῆναι διαδιδράσκον, τοσαῦτα περιλάμπον[3] ἡμῶν τὸ ἡγεμονικόν, καὶ ταῦτα κεκαθαρμένoν, ὅσα καὶ ὄψιν ἀστραπῆς τάχος οὐχ ἱσταμένης.

ἐμοὶ δοκεῖν, ἵνα τῷ ληπτῷ μὲν ἕλκῃ πρὸς ἑαυτό — τὸ γὰρ τελέως ἄληπτον, ἀνέλπιστον καὶ ἀνεπιχείρητον — τῷ δὲ ἀλήπτῳ θαυμάζηται, θαυμαζόμενον δὲ ποθῆται πλέον, ποθούμενον δὲ καθαίρῃ, καθαῖρον δὲ θεοειδεῖς ἐργάζηται, τοιούτοις δὲ γενομένοις, ὡς οἰκείοις, ἤδη προσομιλῇ — τολμᾷ τι νεανικὸν ὁ λόγος — θεὸς θεοῖς ἑνούμενός τε καὶ γνωριζόμενος, καὶ τοσοῦτον ἴσως ὅσον ἤδη γινώσκει τοῦς γινωσκομένους.  


[1] SC reads ὑπερεκπίπτων.

[2] SC reads ‘,’ instead of ‘.’  This does result in an asyndeton, which is undesirable, but given the almost “hymnic” character of the prose here, I think it may be permitted.  

[3] SC reads περιλάμπων. Update: I’m not sure why, but I marked a difference from the SC text here even though there wasn’t one. Thanks to Gregoris in the comments for catching this. He left some very useful feedback on my textual decisions (arguing in favor of Moreschini’s text), so take a look if you’re interested in technical details.

[4] SC reads κεκαθαρμένων.  

I’ve transcribed this text directly from the SC text, which no doubt means I’ve made some typos.  If you notice something that looks off, let me know in the comments.

ἐν αὐῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ

Intro

Belgium has finally come and gone!  Last week, I presented a paper at the conference, “Preaching After Easter” which was hosted by KU Leuven.  My paper was concerned with the passage on which I’ve written here quite a bit: Gregory of Nazianzus’s Oration 41.15-16.  By my own reckoning, my presentation went okay.  My paper was quite technical, and I spoke too quickly (especially for non-native English speakers), but I was able to get some useful feedback from the audience.  One objection was raised to my repunctuation of Or. 41.16.  In this post, I try to explain my reasoning for my repunctuation, and address the questions that were raised (which help me improve the paper).  The first part of the post will be rather accessible: that part of the argument doesn’t need to refer the Greek directly.  I save the nitty, gritty details for the second part.  

Gregory’s Argument 

First, why repunctuate in the first place?  As I’ve pondered this passage for many months, I’ve tried to puzzle out the progression of Gregory’s argument.  As I’ve puzzled, I’ve determined that the passage needs to be repunctuated in three places to clarify Gregory’s reasoning and the structure of his argument.  This post deals only with the final repunctuation, the other two I set aside for now.  To show why the older punctuation is unsatisfactory, I offer an English translation, with the phrase in question bolded.

Yet this present, miraculous division of tongues is even more worthy of praise, because though it flows from one Spirit out to many people, it brings them once more into harmony, and because it is the type of gift that requires another gift to interpret this better [division of tongues], since all [gifts] have something praiseworthy. One may even call good that division about which David says, “Drown, O Lord, and scatter their tongues.”

The problem here comes from the reasoning of the passage.  In the present punctuation scheme, how does “since all have something of worth” support the preceding argument?  Gregory states that “the present division of tongues” (i.e. at Pentecost) is more worthy of praise than the division at Babel, and applauds the division of tongues at Pentecost because it brings harmony.  Furthermore, he states, this division is the type of gift that requires another, which follows nicely from the prior statement about harmony.  But would, “since all have something of praise” fit into this?  The fact that all spiritual gifts have something praiseworthy is not relevant to Gregory’s argument, as he’s trying to demonstrate that Pentecost is superior to Babel.

Because of this difficulty of reasoning, I decided that we need to make “since all have something of worth” a proleptic causal clause, rather than a retrospective one.  In plainer terms, the clause is part of the following sentence, and provides logical support for what follows it, rather than what comes before it.  This results in a much clearer argument, as you can see below:

Yet this present, miraculous division of tongues is even more worthy of praise, because though it flows from one Spirit out to many people, it brings them once more into harmony, and because it is the type of gift that requires another gift to interpret this better [division of tongues]. Since all [divisions of tongues] have something praiseworthy, one may even call good that division about which David says, “Drown, O Lord, and scatter their tongues.”

The words in brackets have changed because we have to supply a different word in Greek after repunctuating the sentence (διαιρέσεις instead of διαφοραί).  The logic here is much clearer.  Gregory is making what some might consider an audacious claim: even David’s prayer to “scatter their tongues” is a worthy of praise.  Since this claim needs support, he offers it by saying, “Since all divisions of tongues have something praiseworthy…”  The bolded clause thus fits nicely into Gregory’s argument concerning “divisions of tongues.”  

Nitty Gritty Details

Here’s the passage in Greek (with a bit extra added to catch the initial μέν), with my repunctuation:

Πλὴν ἐπαινετὴ μὲν καὶ ἡ παλαιὰ διαίρεσις τῶν φωνῶν, ἡνίκα τὸν πύργον ᾠκοδόμουν οἱ κακῶς καὶ ἀθέως ὁμοφωνοῦντες, (ὥσπερ καὶ τῶν νῦν τολμῶσί τινες)· τῇ γὰρ τῆς φωνῆς διαστάσει συνδιαλυθὲν τὸ ὀμόγνωμον, τὴν ἐγχείρησιν ἔλυσεν· ἀξιεπαινετωτέρα δὲ ἡ νῦν θαυματουργουμένη· ἀπὸ γὰρ ἑνὸς Πνεύματος εἰς πολλοὺς χεθεῖσα, εἰς μίαν ἁρμονίαν πάλιν συνάγεται· καὶ ἔστι διαφορὰ χαρισμάτων, ἄλλου δεομένη χαρίσματος πρὸς διάκρισιν τῆς βελτίονος. ἐπειδὴ πᾶσαι τὸ ἐπαινετὸν ἔχουσι, καλὴ δ᾽ἂν κἀκείνη λέγοιτο περὶ ἧς Δαβὶδ λέγει· « καταπόντισον, Κύριε, καὶ καταδίελε τὰς γλώσσας αὐτῶν ».

Without repunctuating, we would read, “… τῆς βελτίονος· ἐπειδὴ πᾶσαι τὸ ἐπαινετὸν ἔχουσι. καλὴ δ᾽ἂν κἀκείνη λέγοιτο περὶ ἧς Δαβὶδ λέγει …”

So, is this repunctuation valid?  I think so, though it is possible to raise some objections.  First, I should mention that I’m not the first to read the passage this way.  At least two 10th century Greek manuscripts do: British Library Add Mss 14771 and 18231 both do too. Fortunately these manuscripts are online, and I can show pictures!

BL Add MS 14771 f. 94v, col. 1:

NewImage

I note first the punctuation mark at the end of the third line.  A dot at the top of the line, in this scheme, indicates a full stop (the equivalent of our period).  At the beginning of the fourth line, we have an enlarged epsilon, indicating the start of a new paragraph.  Finally, following χουσι in the sixth line, we have a punctuation mark in the middle of the line.  It appears to veer a bit high (in practice, it’s hard to distinguish between medial dots and those at the top of the line), but notice that the iota does go higher.  All of this shows that the phrase ἐπειδή πᾶσαι τὸ ἐπαινετὸν ἔχουσι is proleptic, and should be joined with what follows, as I’ve suggested.

The same can be seen in BL Add MS 18231, though this manuscript is a bit harder to read:

Add Ms 18231

I note here that ἐπειδὴ πᾶσαι begins near the end of the fifth line, and just before it we have a mark at the top of the line, indicating a full stop.  Then, following ἔχουσι in the middle of the sixth line, we have a mark on the baseline, which indicates a shorter pause, roughly equivalent to our comma.  Again, this offers external support for my repunctuation.

On internal grounds, we can note that Gregory uses a passive, optative verb λέγοιτο, which indicates that he is making a potentially controversial claim (or, at least, that he is pretending to make a controversial claim).  In English, the equivalent occurs when we say something like “one might say…” to distance oneself from the claim.  The fact that Gregory is introducing a controversial claim means that it is quite logical for him to provide support with a causal clause.

As mentioned earlier, there are some potential difficulties with this construal (and they were pointed out during the Q&A after I presented this paper!).  The problem is in the particles, specifically δέ (If there is ever a better case of “the devil is in the details,” please let me know!).  Several of those listening to my paper pointed out the δέ is a connective particle, and thus can’t be used to coordinate with a subordinate clause.  That is, in ἐπειδὴ πᾶσαι τὸ ἐπαινετὸν ἔχουσι, καλὴ δ᾽ἂν κἀκείνη λέγοιτο…, the δέ shouldn’t be allowed to refer back to the clause referred to by ἐπειδή.  

There are, however, two potential responses.  On one hand, we may note that certain “non-connective” uses of δέ do exist.  Denniston, in his magisterial work on the Greek Particles, calls the primary non-connective use “apodotic δέ,” where δέ is used in the main clause following a previous subordinate clause.  Admittedly, he does state, “only in Homer and Herodotus is apodotic δέ really at home.” TLG searches, though, have shown that it seems common enough in later writers.  I’ve yet to find a clear instance in Gregory himself, but we do see it in younger contemporaries like Chrysostom[1] and Gregory of Nyssa[2].

It might be the case, then, that Gregory is using an δέ “apodotically” to refer back to the ἐπειδή clause.  It’s also possible that the δέ refers back to the μέν at the beginning of the section.  It’s common in Greek to have a single μέν followed by several δέ’s.  Intuitively this makes sense to me, but I can’t find an appropriate category in Denniston to classify it.  The “resumptive” seems to be appropriate, but I’m not certain enough to say for sure.  

A similar question might be raised about the καί in κἀκείνη.  This one’s a bit easier: I think we have an emphatic καί here, so that we understand it to mean something like “even.”  Thus, I’ve translated, “one might even call good…”  

Given the examples in other authors, I do think this repunctuation is justified.  The use of δέ which results is not terribly common, but other writers demonstrate it’s possibility.  Certainly, the argument makes much more sense when the ἐπειδή clause is read proleptically, as I’ve suggested.  That several early manuscripts also support the reading gives an even further basis for the reading.  

 

[1]  Ἐπειδὴ δὲ Χριστὸς ὁ Θεὸς ἡμῶν θυσία προσηνέχθη, καὶ τὰ τῆς ἀναστάσεως προεχώρησε, περιῆρε δὲ τὰς προσηγορίας αὐτὰς ὁ φιλάνθρωπος Δεσπότης, καὶ καινὴν καὶ ξένην πολιτείαν εἰς τὸν βίον εἰσήγαγε τὸν ἡμέτερον· ἀντὶ γὰρ θανάτου λοιπὸν κοίμησις καὶ ὕπνος λέγεται ἡ ἐντεῦθεν μετάστασις. From Chrysostom’s Homily In Sanctum Pascha. PG 52.767. 

[2] Ἐπειδὴ γὰρ Χριστὸς ἡ πέτρα παρὰ τοῦ Παύλου νενόηται, πᾶσα δὲ ἀγαθῶν ἐλπὶς ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ εἶναι πιστεύεται, ἐν ᾧ πάντας… From Gregory of Nyssa’s De Vita Mosis. Ch. 2 Section 248.  

Ἐπειδὴ τοίνυν εἰς πατέρα καὶ υἱὸν καὶ πνεῦμα ἅγιον ἡ πίστις ἐστίν, ἀκολουθεῖ δὲ ἀλλήλοις ἡ πίστις ἡ δόξα τὸ βάπτισμα. From Gregory of Nyssa’s Epistulae.  Ep. 24 Section 9.  

I translated this passage for the first time several months ago (see here).  My thinking on the passage has developed quite a bit since that first translation.  In section 15, I’ve realized that Gregory was working from a different verse (Acts 2:11 instead of Acts 2:6).  This doesn’t affect the translation much, though it does help us understand his own perplexity.  In section 16, re-punctuating the text and reading the ancient commentators helped me immensely.  I think the new translation is much better and much clearer than the previous one, though the reader may compare and see.  I leave the old translation up to make such a comparison easy.  I intend to argue all the technical details in another series of posts.  If you have any suggestions, do leave a comment or send me an e-mail!

English Translation of Oration 41.15-16

15. They were speaking in foreign languages, not their own, and this was a great miracle, that the message was being spoken by those who were not instructed. This was a sign to the unbelievers, not to the believers, as it is written, “‘in different languages and in strange lips I will speak to this people, and thus they will not hear me,’ says the Lord.” But these were hearing. Look here for a bit, and puzzle over how to divide the speech: the reading has an ambiguity, which arises from punctuation. Were they each hearing in their own language, such that we might say that one language flowed forth, but that many were heard? To speak more clearly, as the word traveled through the air, did one language became many? Or, should we place a period after “they were hearing,” and join “as they spoke in their own languages” to what follows, so that it becomes “as they were speaking in languages, the ones of the audience,” or more simply “foreign.” I prefer this arrangement. In the former case, the miracle would belong primarily to the audience, not to the speakers, but in the latter case the miracle would chiefly belong to the speakers. Even as they were being accused of drunkenness, clearly they were working miracles through their voices by the Spirit.

16. Now, the old division of tongues is certainly worthy of honor. When those evil and atheistic schemers were building the tower (as some dare to do even now), their plot was undone by the scattering of their language, and it ruined their attempt. Yet this present, miraculous division of tongues is even more worthy of praise, because it flows from one Spirit out to many people, but brings them once more into one harmony, and because it is the type of gift that requires another gift to interpret this better division. Since all divisions of tongues have something praiseworthy, one may even call good that division about which David says, “Drown, O Lord, and scatter their tongues.” Why? Because “they have loved all the words of destruction, with a deceitful tongue.” He all but names them openly as he declares his charge against those who mangle the godhead. But that is enough on these matters.

ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ 

As part of my work on Gregory’s Oration 41.15-16, I have puzzled over the Greek text quite a bit.  Eventually I decided that though the textual decisions in Moreschini’s edition (in the Sources Chrétiennes series) were sound, the punctuation needed correction.  I’ve given arguments for the changes in the paper that I’ll present in Leuven next month, but hopefully I’ll be able to work it into a few blog posts.  In the meantime, I’d like to post the Greek text that I’ve used for my most recent translation, which will be posted soon.  

The following text is taken from Moreschini’s text in Sources Chrétiennes n. 358.  I have made several punctuation changes in section 41.16.  If you spot in errors, do let me know.  

41.15. Ἐλάλουν μὲν οὖν ξέναις γλώσσαις καὶ οὐ πατρίοις,

καὶ τὸ θαῦμα μέγα, λόγος ὑπὸ τῶν οὐ μαθόντων λαλούμενος,

καὶ τὸ σημεῖον τοῖς ἀπίστοις, οὐ τοῖς πιστεύουσιν,

ἵν᾽ ᾖ τῶν ἀπίστων κατήγορον, καθὼς γέγραπται ὅτι « ἐν 

ἑτερογλώσσοις καὶ ἐν χείλεσιν ἑτέροις λαλήσω τῷ λαῷ

τούτῳ, καὶ οὐδ᾽ οὕτως εἰσακούσονταί μου, λέγει Κύριος ».

ἤκουον δέ. μικρὸν ἐνταῦθα ἐπίσχες καὶ διαπόρησον πῶς

διαιρήσεις τὸν λόγον. ἔχει γάρ τι ἀμφίβολον ἡ λέξις, τῇ

στιγμῇ διαιρούμενον. ἆρα γὰρ ἤκουον ταῖς ἑαυτῶν διαλέκτοις

ἕκαστος, ὡς φέρε εἰπεῖν, μίαν μὲν ἐξηχεῖσθαι

φωνήν, πολλὰς δὲ ἀκούεσθαι, οὕτω κτυπουμένου τοῦ

ἀέρος καί, ἵν᾽ εἴπω σαφέστερον, τῆς φῶνς φωνῶν

γινομένων, ἢ τὸ μὲν « ἤκουον » ἀναπαυστέον, τὸ δὲ

« λαλούντων ταῖς ἰδίαις φωναῖς » τῷ ἑξῆς προσθετέον,

ἵν᾽ ᾖ « λαλούντων φωναῖς », ταῖς ἰδίαις τῶν ἀκουόντων,

ὅπερ γίνεται « ἀλλοτρίαις »· καθὰ καὶ μᾶλλον τίθεμαι.

ἐκείνως μὲν γὰρ τῶν ἀκουόντων ἂν εἴη μᾶλλον ἢ τῶν

λεγόντων τὸ θαῦμα, οὕτω δὲ τῶν λεγόντων, οἳ καὶ μέθην

καταγινώσκονται, δῆλον ὡς αὐτοὶ θαυματουργοῦντες περὶ

τὰς φωνὰς τῷ Πνεύματι.  

 

41.16. Πλὴν ἐπαινετὴ μὲν καὶ ἡ παλαιὰ διάρεσις τῶν

φωνῶν, ἡνίκα τὸν πύργον ᾠκοδόμουν οἱ κακῶς καὶ

ἀθέως ὁμοφωνοῦντες, (ὥσπερ καὶ τῶν νῦν τολμῶσί τινες)

τῇ γὰρ τῆς φωνῆς διαστάσει συνδιαλυθὲν τὸ ὀμόγνωμον,

τὴν ἐγχείρησιν ἔλυσεν· ἀξιεπαινετωτέρα δὲ ἡ νῦν 

θαυματουργουμένη· ἀπὸ γὰρ ἑνὸς Πνεύματος εἰς πολλοὺς

χεθεῖσα, εἰς μίαν ἁρμονίαν πάλιν συνάγεται· καὶ ἔστι 

διαφορὰ χαρισμάτων, ἄλλου δεομένη χαρίσματος πρὸς

διάκρισιν τῆς βελτίονος. ἐπειδὴ πᾶσαι τὸ ἐπαινετὸν ἔχουσι, 

καλὴ δ᾽ἂν κἀκείνη λέγοιτο περὶ ἧς Δαβὶδ λέγει· « καταπόντισον,

Κύριε, καὶ καταδίελε τὰς γλώσσας αὐτῶν ». 

διὰ τί; ὄτι « ἠγάπησαν πάντα ῥήματα καταποντισμοῦ ,

γλῶσσαν δολίαν »· μόνον οὐχὶ φανερῶς τὰς ἐνταῦθα

γλώσσας καταιτιώμενος, αἳ θεότητα τέμνουσιν. ταῦτα μὲν 

οὖν ἐπὶ τοσοῦτον. 


ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ