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 

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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

Below is my translation of the first part of opusculum 74, from Paul Gautier’s edition of Michael Psellos’s Theologica.  I’m not sure how much of this I’ll translate, but I wanted to at least deal with the portion directly pertaining to our passage in Gregory.  Interestingly, Psellos claims that many people disagree with Gregory’s analysis of Pentecost.  Psellos lays out both sides of the argument in pretty good detail here.  The Greek text of Gautier’s edition is in the TLG, which I have posted beneath for convenience.  

English Translation

On the passage, “The apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”  

There are many who think this miracle happened in a manner different than the one Gregory the Theologian set out when he examined the tongues of fire.  “How is it,” they say, “not a miracle if from one and the same voice many languages resounded forth?  It might work just as wheat-flowers, barbs, husks and sheaths all come from one wheat stalk. One man, who had visited many cities and learned many languages, could translate the languages spoken into the native language of the audience.  Even here in our city we now see many who speak Arabic, or Egyptian or Phoenician, and these same ones translate for Persians, Iberians, Galatians, and Assyrians.  When someone speaks all of the languages with fluency, we marvel, but even this great feat we do not consider a sign of the Holy Spirit’s appearance.  But if someone speaks one speech for all languages, such that an Assyrian can understand, along with a Scythian or Ethiopian, we certainly understand this man as participating in divine language.”  

But the great father has marveled at the opposite of this.  He says that all of the languages were spoken at once by the apostles, and he gives this reason.  If the apostles spoke in one language, but those present heard in their various languages, then one would reasonably think that the miracle belonged to the audience, that they have translated the one language into their own.  But if a Jew, who just prior knew only the tongue of the Jews, immediately began speaking to Assyrians in the Assyrian language, and then again to Medes, and after this to Babylonians, whose words before he didn’t even know very well, this man alone would testify to the divine breath, since the Spirit always appears in various forms, and from one source he divides himself to many springs.  This is why the great man thinks this option more worthy of the Spirit’s appearance than the first.

Greek Text

Εἰς τὸ ‘ἐπλήσθησαν οἱ ἀπόστολοι πνεύματος ἁγίου καὶ ἤρξαντο λαλεῖν ἑτέραις γλώσσαις, καθὼς τὸ πνεῦμα ἐδίδου αὐτοῖς ἀποφθέγγεσθαι’ 

Πολλοὶ τὸ ἐναντίον, οὗ περὶ τῶν πυρίνων γλωσσῶν ἡ θεολόγος φωνὴ διηρμήνευκε, θαυμάσιον ἥγηνται· καὶ πῶς γάρ, φασίν, οὐ παράδοξον, εἰ ἀπὸ μιᾶς καὶ τῆς αὐτῆς φωνῆς πολλαὶ διάλεκτοι ἀνεβλάστανον; ὥσπερ γὰρ ἀπὸ μιᾶς καλάμης τοῦ στάχυος ἀνθέρικές τε καὶ ἀκίδες καὶ θῆκαι καὶ λέμματα. τὸ δὲ μεταλλάττειν τὰς διαλέκτους πρὸς τὴν τῶν ἀκουόντων οἰκείαν φωνήν, τοῦτο καὶ ἀνὴρ πολλαῖς ἐπιπλανηθεὶς πόλεσι καὶ πλείσταις γλώσσαις ἐνωμιληκὼς ποιήσειε. καὶ ἡμεῖς δὲ τεθεάμεθα πολλοὺς τῶν καθ’ ἡμᾶς νῦν μὲν Ἀράβιον ἀφιέντας φωνήν, νῦν δὲ κατὰ Φοίνικας ἢ Αἰγυπτίους διαλεγομένους, οἱ δ’ αὐτοὶ καὶ Πέρσαις καὶ Ἴβηρσι καὶ Γαλάταις καὶ Ἀσσυρίοις τὴν γλῶτταν διαμερίζουσιν, οὓς δὴ τῆς μὲν εὐγλωττίας, ὡς ἄν τις εἴπῃ, θαυμάζομεν, οὐ μὴν δὲ τὴν πολλὴν ταύτην φωνὴν σημεῖον θεοφανείας ποιούμεθα. εἰ δέ τις τὴν μίαν διάλεκτον πολλαῖς γλώσσαις διαμερίζοι, ὡς καὶ τὸν Φοίνικα ταύτης συνιέναι καὶ τὸν Ἀσσύριον καὶ τὸν Σκύθην καὶ τὸν Αἰθίοπα, τοῦτον ἂν εἰκότως ἐν μετουσίᾳ λογισώμεθα.

Ἀλλ’ ὁ μέγας πατὴρ τὸ ἐναντίον τούτου τεθαύμακε, καὶ πάσας ὁμοῦ τὰς διαλέκτους αὐτομάτως τοῖς ἀποστόλοις ἐπιμαρτυρήσας ἄριστα καὶ τὴν αἰτίαν προσθείς. εἰ μὲν γὰρ ἐκεῖνοι μιᾷ διελέγοντο γλώττῃ, πολυμερῶς δὲ ταύτης οἱ παρόντες ἀντελαμβάνοντο, ἐκείνων ἂν εἰκότως τὸ θαῦμα τῆς ἀντιλήψεως δόξειε, περισπώντων εἰς ἑαυτοὺς τὴν μίαν διάλεκτον κατὰ τὴν οἰκείαν γλῶτταν· εἰ δ’ ὁ πρὸ μικροῦ Ἰουδαῖος μόνον καὶ τὴν Ἰουδαίων μεμαθηκὼς μόνην φωνὴν αὖθις Ἀσσυρίοις τε ὁμιλεῖ κατὰ τὴν ἐκείνων γλῶτταν καὶ πάλιν Μήδοις καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα Βαβυλωνίοις, ὧν οὐδὲ τὰ ὀνόματα πάνυ σαφῶς ἠπίστατο, τούτῳ ἂν εἰκότως μόνῳ ἡ θεία προσμαρτυρηθείη ἐπίπνοια, ὡς πολυειδεῖ ἀθρόον ἀναφανέντι καὶ ἀπὸ μιᾶς πηγῆς πολλοὺς διαμεριζομένῳ τοὺς ὀχετούς. διὰ ταῦτα ὁ μέγας οὗτος ἀνὴρ τοῦτο μᾶλλον ἢ ἐκεῖνο θεοφανείας ἠξίωσε.

ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ 

Update: I have corrected formatting problems in the Greek text.  Thanks to Charles Sullivan for catching them.

As mentioned in a prior post, Gregory of Nazianzus spawned a significant scholarly tradition.  His works accumulated scholia from an early date, and several different commentaries have come down to us for several of his works.

In this post, I translate Nicetas of Serrone’s on Or. 41:15.  To my knowledge, the Greek text of commentary has not been published in its entirety.  I have transcribed the Greek text from CMB Codex Graecus 140 folio 94 and following.  This codex preserves a selection of Gregory’s homilies in their entirety, along with Nicetas’ commentary.  The images of the manuscript are freely available online.

For convenience, I copy in my translation of Gregory from the prior post.  In that post, I translate 41.15-16, but here I only deal with 15.  For my transcription of the Greek text (of both Gregory and Nicetas), see here.  Here’s the English.

Gregory of Nazianzus. Or. 41.15

[15] They were thus speaking in foreign languages, and not their own, and this was a great miracle: the message was being proclaimed by those who had not been instructed.  This was sign to the unbelievers, not to the believers, so that it might be a sign of judgment against the unbelievers, for 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, “they were hearing.”  But wait here for a bit, and let us raise the question about how to divide this sentence.  The reading has an ambiguity, which arises because of punctuation.  Were they each hearing their own language, which implies that once voice was resounding through the air, but that many were heard?  Thus, as it was traveling through the air, so that I may speak more clearly, one language [1] became many.

Or, should we place a pause after “they were hearing,” and thus join “as they were speaking in their own languages” with what follows. Thus, those “who were speaking,” were speaking the languages of the audience, so that we might understand it as, “foreign languages.” [1] I much prefer this approach [2].  In the former case, the miracle would belong more to the hearers than to the speakers.  But in the latter, the miracle belongs to the speakers, who even as they were being accused of drunkenness were clearly working wonders by the Spirit through their voices.

[0] See 1 Cor 14:20ff

[1] Several times in the passage, Gregory uses φωνή to mean language.  This word generally means “sound” or “voice” but “language” is a possibility according to LSJ.  Gregory is also likely pulling from Neoplatonic discussion of φωνή.

[2] There is some doubt about this phrase.  Rufinus’ early Latin translation appears to be confused about Gregory’s preference on the matter, and it may be that his base text lacked this sentence.  We have some fairly early Syriac translations (c. 700-800) that have the line (thanks to Charles Sullivan for untangling the Syriac).

Nicatas of Serrone. Commentary on Or. 41.15

For it is written in the book of Acts about the apostles, that “they began to speak in different languages.” That is, the languages of the listeners, and not their own.  For the languages of the hearers were not native to the apostles.  This was a most marvelous occurrence, because the apostles were speaking a language that they had not learned.  Just as the divine apostle says when writing to the Corinthians, these languages were a sign, not to the believers, but to the unbelievers, so that there may be a sign of judgment for them, and that when they saw this, that did not believe, as it is written, “in foreign tongues I will speak,” and the rest.  Now where is this written? Chrysostom says that it is in Isaiah, but it is not found there, unless it was removed maliciously or was overlooked by mistake.

This is from the book of Acts, that “each one was hearing in their own language as they were speaking.”  But the Theologian2 raises a difficulty.  Presently, it is necessary to identify and resolve the ambiguity that is found there, that is, to punctuate it and solve the problem.  He has presented two resolutions, so that he may establish the second.  “Were the apostles,” he asks, “speaking one and the same language, while their voices became many as they resounded through the air? In which case, each of the hearers understood their own language.  Or, shall we punctuate after “they were hearing?”  Then, we would join “as they were speaking,” to what follows, so that the sense would be that the nations were hearing as the apostles were speaking their own languages,  that is, in languages foreign to the speakers.  This indeed fits much better, for he says that if the apostles were speaking in only one language, while the audience divided it into their own, then the miracle would belong to the audience.  But if you punctuate after “they were hearing,” then you may infer that the apostles were speaking in the languages of the audience, and that the miracle belongs to the apostles.  After all, it is clear that, even as they were being accused of drunkenness, that they themselves were speaking in the languages of the audience through the Spirit.  Everyone who heard his own language was burning in his heart, since he saw that the apostles were not only speaking to him, but also speaking the message to those of other languages.  The one who accuses them of a debauched frenzy seems not to understand the foreign languages the apostles were speaking.

As always, suggestions and corrections are welcome.

ἐν αὐτῷ,

ΜΑΘΠ

In this passage, Gregory discusses the nature of the miracle of Pentecost.  The main concern is whether the Apostles spoke one language, and then the audience understood miraculously in their own, or they Apostles were themselves speaking many languages.  He also discusses the tower of Babel, presenting Pentecost as a reversal.  Likewise, he seems to touch briefly  on the nature of spiritual gifts.  Finally, he quotes a psalm, which he cites as evidence against an unnamed group of heretics “who divide the divine nature.”  In translating, I’ve tried to be literal, but I have been idiomatic in places to improve the English.  I’ve followed the Greek text of Sources Chretiennes volume 358.  You may see the Greek at Charles Sullivan’s blog here.  Several Latin translations, including Rufinus’ very early one, can be found here. As always, suggestions and corrections are welcome.

Gregory of Nazianzus. In Pentecostem. Oration 41.15-6.

[15] They were thus speaking in foreign languages, and not their own, and this was a great miracle: the message was being proclaimed by those who had not been instructed.  This was sign to the unbelievers, not to the believers, so that it might be a sign of judgment against the unbelievers, for 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.”

Then, “they were hearing.”  But wait here for a bit, and let us raise the question about how to divide this sentence.  The reading has an ambiguity, which arises because of punctuation.  Were they each hearing their own language, which implies that once voice was resounding through the air, but that many were heard?  Thus, as it was traveling through the air, so that I may speak more clearly, one language [1] became many. 

Or, should we place a pause after “they were hearing,” and thus join “as they were speaking in their own languages” with what follows. Thus, those “who were speaking,” were speaking the languages of the audience, so that we might understand it as, “foreign languages.” [1] I much prefer this approach [2].  In the former case, the miracle would belong more to the hearers than to the speakers.  But in the latter, the miracle belongs to the speakers, who even as they were being accused of drunkenness were clearly working wonders by the Spirit through their voices.  

[16] Certainly, though, the former division of languages[1] is to be praised, that division which took place when these evil and atheistic men were building the tower and speaking the same language, just as some now dare to do.  God, having ruined their shared knowledge by dividing their language, thus foiled their attempt.  Because of this, the present miracle is all the more praiseworthy, for it flows from one spirit, is poured out to many, and unites us together once more.  There is indeed a diversity of gifts, and this diversity requires another gift for the discernment of the better gift, since all of them have something worthy of praise.[3]  And this division is said to be good, about which David says, “Scatter, O Lord, and divide their languages!” Why? Because “they loved all the words of confusion, with a deceitful tongue.”  Here, he most clearly accuses those tongues that divide the divine nature.[4]  But that is enough on this subject.  

Notes:

[0] See 1 Cor 14:20ff

[1] Several times in the passage, Gregory uses φωνή to mean language.  This word generally means “sound” or “voice” but “language” is a possibility according to LSJ.  Gregory is also likely pulling from Neoplatonic discussion of φωνή.  

[2] There is some doubt about this phrase.  Rufinus’ early Latin translation appears to be confused about Gregory’s preference on the matter, and it may be that his base text lacked this sentence.  We have some fairly early Syriac translations (c. 700-800) that have the line (thanks to Charles Sullivan for untangling the Syriac). 

[3] This passage is a bit opaque.  As the French translation notes, διαφορά has two meanings: “diversity/difference” or “type.”  Gregory uses both here.  The talk about the “better” gift appears to allude to 1 Cor 12:31, where Paul instructs to “pursue the greater gifts.”  According to Nicetas Heracleensis, Gregory is referring to the “complimentarity” of the gifts, whereby one gift, like “tongues” needs another gift “interpretation of tongues” to explain it.  The gift of prophecy likewise requires the gift of discernment to understand properly.  

[4] According to Nicetas Heracleensis, Gregory is referring to the Pneumatomachians (also known as the Macedonians), a semi-Arian group which denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit, and asserted that Jesus is of like substance (ὁμοιούσιος) rather than of the same substance (ὁμοούσιος) with the Father.

 

I became interested in Charles Sullivan’s “Gift of Tongues” project recently, when he posted an excerpt by Gregory of Nazianzen from his oration on Pentecost.  This is a rather interesting project, in which he is examining the Church’s understand of the gift of tongues throughout Church History.  As I was trying to figure out what the Greek meant, I started corresponding with Charles, and it proven quite fruitful for us both.  We’ve discussed the text, looked at various manuscripts, and even found the corresponding commentary for the excerpt in a manuscript by Nicetas of Serrone which (to my knowledge) has never been published in the original Greek.  

Charles has graciously invited me to post some material here to contribute to the project.  The first will be a translation of the excerpt mentioned earlier, which comes from Gregory’s 41st oration.  Then, I hope to post the Greek text of the commentary we found, which comes from Bayerische Staatsbilbliotek Codex Graecus 140. The library has made the manuscript available online.  Deo volente, I’ll also post an English translation of the commentary too.  Gregory can be quite difficult at times, and having native Greek speaker’s (Nicetas was an 11th century Byzantine clergyman) input is quite valuable.  

The translation is just about finished, so I should have it up later today or this weekend.  

Update: I’ve posted the translation here.

ἐν αὐτῷ,

ΜΑΘΠ