Gregory’s Oration on Pentecost: A translation from 41.15-16

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.  


[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.


A Contribution to Charles Sullivan’s “Gift of Tongues” Project

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,


An overview of Origen’s Homiletic Output

In my free time, which is unfortunately sparse, I’ve been slowly reading through Henri Crouzel’s monograph, Origène (1984).The book is a rich source of discussion on the Alexandrian master: the second chapter contains an overview of his work, and that which survives.

One thing which struck me was just how important the recently discovered codex of homilies on the psalms may be.  Crouzel’s paragraph sums up the then status quaestionis nicely (pg. 71, my translation):

Nearly 300 homelies, as we have said, remain, 279 to be precise.  Of these, only 21 are conserved in Greek: 20 on Jeremiah, of which 12 also exist in a Latin translation of Jerome, and the celebrated homily on 1 Samuel 28, where Saul visits the Necromancer of Endor.  From Rufinus, we have 16 homilies on Genesis, 13 on Exodus, 16 on Leviticus, 28 on Numbers, 9 on Judges, 5 on Psalm 36, 2 on Psalm 37, 2 on Psalm 38, and 1 on the birth of Samuel, which may come from Rufinus, but that is uncertain.  From Jerome, we have 2 homilies on the Song of Songs, 9 on Isaiah, 14 on Jeremiah, of which 12 exist in Greek, 14 on Ezekiel, and 39 on the Gospel of Luke.  V. Peri has recently restored 74 homilies on the Psalms attributed by Dom Morin to Jerome who is here only the translator/adapter.”  

Using Alin Suciu’s list as a guide, the recently discovered codex gives us 29 homilies:

    • Psalm 15: 2
    • Psalm 36: 4 [1]
    • Psalm 66: 2
    • Psalm 73: 3
    • Psalm 74: 1
    • Psalm 75: 1
    • Psalm 76: 4
    • Psalm 77: 9
    • Psalm 80: 2
    • Psalm 81: 1


Even the four homilies that we know are authentic (due to having Rufinus’ translations) are a significant increase in the number of homilies we have in Greek.  If the rest of the codex, or even a large portion of it, turns out to the authentic, then we’ll have more than doubled the number of homilies we have in Greek.  The codex actually contains more homilies than we had in Greek from Origen before it’s discovery (29, compared to the 21 that Crouzel lists).

I did know that this work was important, but I didn’t realize it would augment our knowledge of “Greek” Origen by this much.  Granted, a lot of work needs to be done before all of the homilies can safely be attributed to Origen, but Perrone and others are in favor of authenticity at this point.

From what I’ve read, Peri’s attribution of those 74 homelies of Jerome to Origen has been received with skepticism by many. This codex may give us a chance to test his thesis more thoroughly.

It’s an exciting time to be interested in Patristics!

ἐν αὐτῷ,

[1] Note that Alin’s list follows the catalog description, but that the catalog description mistakenly lists 4 homiles on Ps 31 instead of 4 on Ps 36, which Perrone, as I recall, noted in the lecture I linked to in a prior post.

Using de Aldama’s Repertorium Pseudochrysotomicum

A number of weeks ago, I posted about some material on the Psalms attributed to John Chrysostom, which I had found in some codices at Oxford. Alin Suciu posted some helpful comments on the post, which included references to a volume which he has recently posted online: de Aldama’s invaluable Repertorium pseudochrysostomicum. See his post here for a description and download.

Time slipped away, and I didn’t follow up the links to Aldama. But now that he’s posted it, I decided to take a look and see what he had to say about one of the homilies I found: a homily on Ps. 41. The homily starts off:

Ὑμεῖς μὲν ἡμᾶς ἐθαυμάσατε
πρώην· ὅτε τὸν περὶ τοῦ μελχισεδὲκ ἐκινήσαμεν λόγον.
ἐπὶ τῶ μήκει τῶν εἰρημένων.
ἐγὼ δὲ ὑμᾶς ἐθαύμαζον,

Thus, I flipped down toward the bottom, and found the discussion under entry 520. He says this:

Etsi ad commentarium Chrysostomi in Psalterium non pertineat (cf. Baur, in Chrysostomica 235), habetur tamen ut genuina, non obstante attributione quam Antiocho Ptolemaidensi fecit Thomas Bruno : cf. PG 64, 1417-1418.

I’d turn that into English as:

Even if it does not pertain to the commentary of Chrysostom on the Psalter (cf. Baur, in Chrysostomica 235), it is thought to be genuine, not withstanding the attribution to Antiochus Ptolemaidensi which Thomas Bruno made (cf. PG 64, 1417-1418).

As you can see, it’s quite a useful tool! It tells us this homily is generally held to be genuine, that it doesn’t belong to Chrysostom’s larger work on the psalms, and gives some bibliography. Alin, thanks again for making this tool more widely available!

ἐν αὐτῷ,

Interesting evidence for Greek Pronunciation

Like most Greek students, I started off pronouncing Greek in the standard, Erasmian pronunciation. This scheme has been used by westerners studying Greek since the Renaissance, and, with some variations, emulates the proposals put forth by the great humanist Erasmus.

Somewhere along the way, I got interested in a more authentic pronunciation scheme. Since my main interest at that time was the New Testament, I read Randall Buth’s article on “Imperial Koiné” pronunciation with great interest, which can be found here.

Among the changes that had taken place by the NT period was the merging of the οι sound and υ sound. Erasmian pronounces οι like the oi in oil, and υ was originally like the German ü, or the french u in “tu.” But in the koiné, οι and υ and both were pronounced like ü. This has already been well established by inscriptions, but I found evidence in a rather unexpected place: the Syriac alphabet!

Syriac, like many Semitic languages (Hebrew, Arabic, etc.), natively only includes a few vowels in its script proper. However, Syriac scribes did develop of system of vowels whereby vowels were placed over the consonants. Here are two images to illustrate a non vocalized, and then a vocalized word:

Screen Shot 2012 09 11 at 4 59 38 PM.

In the second image, the vowels are written above the letters. This word, in fact, is Syriac word for God, “alaha.”

In the West Syriac tradition, which you see above, the vowels were based on Greek. There are two different vowels in the second picture above, one is a short ‘a’ (the furthest right), and the other two are long ‘a.’ If you tilt them on their side, you can make out how they resemble an alpha. The long ‘a’ appears to resemble a minuscule alpha, while the short ‘a’ resemble a majuscule one.

Syriac has a long and short ‘e’ as well, and you can see them in the following words for ‘this’ (f.) and ‘Christ’:

Screen Shot 2012 09 11 at 5 08 50 PM(hode)

Screen Shot 2012 09 11 at 5 08 58 PM(msheeho)

The short ‘e’, visible in the shorter word above, resembles a majuscule ε if my memory serves, while the long ‘e’ a majuscule η. As always, you just have to rotate them a little bit.

The ‘o’ is a bit different, in that it is actually represented in the script proper, and a small dot is simply placed above the letter to indicate it should be read as a vowel. The ‘u’ though, I found puzzling at first. For example, here’s the word that means ‘Syriac’:
Screen Shot 2012 09 11 at 5 16 09 PM (Suryaya).

The ‘u’ is the right most in the word. Once my teacher wrote a few of the alternate forms on the board, it dawned on me that this was essentially the Greek pair οι. Rather than using something based on the original Greek vowel to make this sound υ (upsilon), they used οι (omicron iota), which by that time had long merged with υ. I suppose that’s not terribly surprising, considering οι is more common than υ in Greek. At any rate, it’s another small bit of evidence to demonstrate Greek pronunciation in the postclassical period.

ἐν αὐτῷ,

Carmina Homeri I

In a different vein from my normal posts, I thought I’d share a passage which I found particularly moving in Homer: Briseis’ lamentation for Patroklos in book 19. I’ve found female speeches in classical literature particularly moving. My favorite passages in Livy from last semester were probably Lucretia’s speech, and the speech of the Sabine women on the eve of the final battle between the Sabines and the Romans. In the same vein, I offer a bit of Homer here.

For those like me, who aren’t exactly up on their Homer, Briseis’ husband was killed in battle, and she was claimed as spoil by the Greeks for Achilles. Agamemnon then claimed her after he had to give up his own “seized woman,” which provoked the conflict between Agamemnon and Achilles that drives most of the Iliad. Patroklos, Achilles best-friend, was evidently gracious to Briseis, and here she morns his death after being brought to Achilles’ tent.

The Greek:

Βρισηῒς δ’ ἄρ’ ἔπειτ’ ἰκέλη χρυσέῃ Ἀφροδίτῃ
ὡς ἴδε Πάτροκλον δεδαϊγμένον ὀξέϊ χαλκῷ,
ἀμφ’ αὐτῷ χυμένη λίγ’ ἐκώκυε, χερσὶ δ’ ἄμυσσε
στήθεά τ’ ἠδ’ ἁπαλὴν δειρὴν ἰδὲ καλὰ πρόσωπα. (285)
εἶπε δ’ ἄρα κλαίουσα γυνὴ ἐϊκυῖα θεῇσι·
Πάτροκλέ μοι δειλῇ πλεῖστον κεχαρισμένε θυμῷ
ζωὸν μέν σε ἔλειπον ἐγὼ κλισίηθεν ἰοῦσα,
νῦν δέ σε τεθνηῶτα κιχάνομαι ὄρχαμε λαῶν
ἂψ ἀνιοῦσ’· ὥς μοι δέχεται κακὸν ἐκ κακοῦ αἰεί. (290)
ἄνδρα μὲν ᾧ ἔδοσάν με πατὴρ καὶ πότνια μήτηρ
εἶδον πρὸ πτόλιος δεδαϊγμένον ὀξέϊ χαλκῷ,
τρεῖς τε κασιγνήτους, τούς μοι μία γείνατο μήτηρ,
κηδείους, οἳ πάντες ὀλέθριον ἦμαρ ἐπέσπον.
οὐδὲ μὲν οὐδέ μ’ ἔασκες, ὅτ’ ἄνδρ’ ἐμὸν ὠκὺς Ἀχιλλεὺς
ἔκτεινεν, πέρσεν δὲ πόλιν θείοιο Μύνητος,
κλαίειν, ἀλλά μ’ ἔφασκες Ἀχιλλῆος θείοιο
κουριδίην ἄλοχον θήσειν, ἄξειν τ’ ἐνὶ νηυσὶν
ἐς Φθίην, δαίσειν δὲ γάμον μετὰ Μυρμιδόνεσσι.
τώ σ’ ἄμοτον κλαίω τεθνηότα μείλιχον αἰεί. (300)
Ὣς ἔφατο κλαίουσ’, ἐπὶ δὲ στενάχοντο γυναῖκες
Πάτροκλον πρόφασιν, σφῶν δ’ αὐτῶν κήδε’ ἑκάστη.

My own translation (which has no ambitions of merit nor poetry):

Briseis, then, like golden Aphrodite, when she saw Patroklos lying slain by sharp bronze, wailed loudly, throwing herself around him. She tore with her hand at her breast, her tender neck, and lovely face. Then the wailing woman, like one of the goddesses, spoke:

“Patroklos! you were so kind in spirit to my wretched self! I left from you while you were yet living, yet now I come upon you dead, O leader of the peoples! Evil from evil pours down upon me always. I saw the man, to whom my father and queenly mother gave me, slain by sharp bronze before the city, and my three brothers, whom all were born by a single mother, so very dear to me, all fall on that cursed day. But you would not permit me, when swift Achilles slew my own husband, and sacked the city of divine Munes, to weep. Rather you declared me to be the bride of godlike Achilles, and to take me in a ship to Phthia, and to give me a wedding feast among the Murmidons. Thus I weep your death insatiably, you who were always most kind to me.”

Thus she spoke, weeping, and the other women mourned around her. Patroklos was their excuse, but each had her own grounds for tears.

Though Homer’s greek has been not a little challenging, I find passages like this make the difficult work more than worthwhile!

ἐν αὐτῷ,


More from Origen

As part of a project I hope to publish (regarding stylometrics and Origen), I’ve been transcribing more of his homilies on the Psalms. I don’t have the time to translate them, or really even to edit the Greek text properly at the moment, but I figure that even my transcriptions may be useful to someone. I’ve created an Origen page here, where you may find my transcriptions of (currently) two homilies on Psalm 36, in addition to the Greek text and translation of his third homily on Psalm 76.

Transcribing a text is a laborious task, and one bound to introduce errors into one’s copy. I’ve read over most of the transcribed material, but even still I’m sure more errors are present. If you find any, leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

ἐν αὐτῷ,