Michael Psellos On Prophecy and Spiritual Gifts (Part 1)

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

Origen: Ex Tempore Homilies Revisited

Several months ago, when the newly rediscovered Origen codex first came to light, I suggested that some of the homilies were impromptu lectures, possibly delivered in a school context rather than a church context.  That was mostly a guess based on the content of the homilies;  at that point I had not examined Eusebius very closely, or the work of Gregory Thaumatourgos (I still need to look at Epiphanius).  I still have plenty of primary source material to examine, but I’d like to revisit that suggestion now that I know a bit more.  I may just have made a lucky guess!

Steven Huller noted in a comment on that original post the Eusebius records that Origen only allowed tachygraphers to record his homilies near the end of his life (when he was past 60).  Here’s the passage in question:

Τότε δῆτα, οἷα καὶ εἰκὸς ἦν, πληθυούσης τῆς πίστεως πεπαρρησιασμένου τε τοῦ καθ’ ἡμᾶς παρὰ πᾶσιν λόγου, ὑπὲρ τὰ ἑξήκοντά φασιν ἔτη τὸν Ὠριγένην γενόμενον, ἅτε δὴ μεγίστην ἤδη συλλεξάμενον ἐκ τῆς μακρᾶς παρασκευῆς ἕξιν, τὰς ἐπὶ τοῦ κοινοῦ λεγομένας αὐτῶι διαλέξεις ταχυγράφοις μεταλαβεῖν ἐπιτρέψαι, οὐ πρότερόν ποτε τοῦτο γενέσθαι συγκεχωρηκότα.  ἐν τούτωι καὶ τὰ πρὸς τὸν ἐπιγεγραμμένον καθ’ ἡμῶν Κέλσου τοῦ Ἐπικουρείου Ἀληθῆ λόγον ὀκτὼ τὸν ἀριθμὸν συγγράμματα συντάττει καὶ τοὺς εἰς τὸ κατὰ Ματθαῖον εὐαγγέλιον εἴκοσι πέντε τόμους τούς τε εἰς τοὺς δώδεκα προφήτας, ἀφ’ ὧν μόνους εὕρομεν πέντε καὶ εἴκοσι. (Hist. Eccl. 6.36)

My translation, with a little help from Williamson:

“Then at that time, while the faith was growing and our message had been boldly proclaimed in the presence of all, it was fitting for Origen, who was past 60 years of age and had gained great learning due to broad study, to allow tachygraphers to record his lectures spoken in public, which he had not consented to prior.  During this same time he wrote 8 books against the work True Doctrine of Celsus the Epicurean, along with 25 books on the Gospel of Matthew and 25 on the minor prophets, from which we have only 25.”

This is a puzzling passage for scholars.  What exactly are these public lectures?  Some argue that Eusebius is referring to debates like the Dialogue with Heraclides.  The majority opinion (at least Crouzel and Nautin, two very important of the recent Origen scholars) believe that Eusebius is referring to homilies spoken in the Church.  Since Nautin dates almost all of the homilies before 245, and he simply dismisses the account as a fiction.

But instead of dismissing the account, I’d suggest that we understand a different type of public lecture.  διαλέξις was a commonly used to describe philosophical lectures, and that is what I think we have here.  Origen was in charge of a philosophical school in Caesarea, and regularly gave lectures to his students.  Eusebius mentions this only obliquely in 6.30, but we get a vivid picture from Gregory Thaumaturgus’s Panegyric of Origen.

Within this passage, Eusebius mentions that the “our λόγος had been emboldened among all” and notes that these were spoken ἐπὶ τοῦ κοινοῦ, which might mean “before the church,” but could also mean “before the public.”  Finally, he mentions Origen’s Contra Celsum, which would explicitly confirm Origen’s abiding interest in Greek philosophy.  

We know that Origen gave many philosophical lectures in his school.  Likewise, Eusebius tells us that people came from all over to hear Origen lecture while he was in Caesarea (Hist. Eccl. 6.30).  Gregory also tells us that in addition to standard Greek philosophy, Origen lectured on biblical exegesis. (Orat. Paneg. 15).  

So why would Origen allow tachygraphers to record his homilies in the Church before his school lectures?  I think it’s mostly a matter of audience and subject matter.  School lectures would deal with topics on a much more sophisticated level, and involve much more philosophical speculation.  Origen would also have to be ready to answer questions from the audience, as there was plenty of interaction between students and teacher in a philosophical school.  Church homilies, on the other hand, would be targeted at a less sophisticated audience: thus he allowed tachygraphers to record these homilies earlier.  The subject matter was also lest controversial. 

Do we have any evidence for this in his writings? I think the new codex offers evidence for both types of discourse.  Homilies like the ones on Psalm 36 were probably spoken in the Church.  They deal with largely moral matters: Rufinus in his translator’s preface says that the explication in them is entirely moral (expositio tota moralis est.)  But others were probably spoken in the school.  The four on Psalm 76 are explicitly labelled in the heading as “Ex tempore Homilies on the 76th Psalm.” [εἰς τὸν οστ´ (sc. ψαλμὸν) ἐσχεδιασμέναι ὁμιλίαι].  (folio 170v.)  Here’s the snippet from the codex:

CMB314

I haven’t done an exhaustive check, but I haven’t seen any other homilies in the codex that are explicitly labeled as “impromptu.”  Likewise, I have only read through one of the four homilies, but it strikes me as a very good candidate for a school lecture.  Homily 3 on Psalm 76 begins with a question, “Of what sort are these waters that see God?”  Origen dives into a discussion on many speculative question: does the sky and earth have a soul?  Do rivers and seas have souls? How do angelic administrators work? (See here for my text and translation).

Thus, I’d suggest that Eusebius is referring to school lectures rather than church homilies in this passage.  I haven’t come across this solution in the secondary literature, but if you’ve seen this suggestion do let me know.  Furthermore, I think the new material gives us a chance to compare both types: school lecture and church homily.  I certainly look forward to hearing Perrone’s thoughts once the critical edition is published.

ἐν αὐτῷ,

ΜΑΘΠ

ἄλλος, John 14:16, and Gregory of Nazianzus

If you’ve ever heard a sermon on the nature of the Holy Spirit, the speaker may have used John 14:16 as a reference:

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give another comforter to you, one that will be with you always.”

The Greek behind the English word, “another” is the adjective ἄλλος.  It’s common to hear that there are two words for “another” in Greek: ἄλλος and ἕτερος.  I can’t think of any English derivatives of ἄλλος, but ἕτερος is where we get our “hetero” words, like heterogenous.  At any rate, ἄλλος (which is used here), means “another of the same type” in classical Greek, while ἕτερος means “another of a different type.”  This distinction is still felt in the New Testament period, though the two words start to overlap more and more.

As always, with points of Greek usuage like this, I like to refer to the Greek fathers when possible.  Their Greek is better than mine will ever be!  Gregory, in his Oration on Pentecost (Or. 41), supports the distinction between the two words, and puts it to good use when discussing the Holy Spirit:

Διὰ τοῦτο μετὰ Χριστὸν μέν, ἵνα Παράκλητος ὑμῖν μὴ λείπῃ·  «Ἄλλος» δὲ, ἵνα σὺ τὴν ἰσοτιμίαν ἐνθυμηθῇς. τὸ γὰρ «ἄλλος» οὐκ ἐπὶ τῶν ἀλλοτρίων, ἀλλ᾽ ἐπὶ τῶν ὁμοουσίων οἶδα λεγόμενον.

Because of this, after Christ (the Spirit came), so that you would not lack a helper.  This helper is “another” (ἄλλος) so that you may know that he is one of equal honor.  For the word “ἄλλος” does not refer to things of a different type, but we know that it said about things that are of the same nature (gk. ὁμοούσιος, the word used in the Nicene Creed to refer to the “consubstantiality” of the Godhead).  

Scholars of Greek often lament the poor use of Greek in sermons, but this particular point is well-founded in our knowledge of Greek, and has precedent in the Church Fathers. One could, I suppose, argue against it, but it’s always nice to have Gregory of Nazianzus on your side.

ἐν αὐτῷ,

ΜΑΘΠ

En route to Boston!

As I write this, I’m en route to Boston, to attend the annual conference of the Byzantine Studies Association of North America.  Tomorrow, I’ll be presenting my first ever conference paper on digital tools for studying manuscript traditions.  I don’t have anything new to contribute to the digital stemmatology per se; I hope instead to present several of the tools currently available for the benefit of those curious about digital editing.  Hopefully it will go well.

Omnes qui oratis, orate pro me! 

ἐν αὐτῷ,

ΜΑΘΠ

John Chrysostom, Philemon 1:4-6, and κοινωνία

My father-in-law has a neat practice.  Throughout the year, he sends one verse from each chapter of the New Testament to each of his children.  He typically goes through books, and since the year has more chapters than the New Testament, he repeats from the gospels or adds in from the Psalms.  

Recently, the verse he sent along was one from the tiny letter to Philemon.  I don’t always ponder these little snippets like I should, but this one piqued my interest, due mostly to a mistranslation of the NIV84.  

Philemon 6 reads in the NIV84, “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” The Greek reads of 4-6 reads (I add more since it’s one all one sentence), “Εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ μου πάντοτε μνείαν σου ποιούμενος ἐπὶ τῶν προσευχῶν μου,  5 ἀκούων σου τὴν ἀγάπην καὶ τὴν πίστιν, ἣν ἔχεις πρὸς τὸν κύριον Ἰησοῦν καὶ εἰς πάντας τοὺς ἁγίους,  6 ὅπως ἡ κοινωνία τῆς πίστεώς σου ἐνεργὴς γένηται ἐν ἐπιγνώσει παντὸς ἀγαθοῦ τοῦ ἐν ἡμῖν εἰς Χριστόν.”

The bolded section is what concerns us here.  Namely, κοινωνία (koinonia) does not imply the type of sharing that the NIV84 seems to imply.  As it stands in the NIV84, Paul’s prayer for Philemon concerns evanglism: sharing the faith with those outside the fold.  However, our word implies a sharing among intimates or friends. Hence, it is used in other contexts, like 1 Cor 10:16 to describe our communion with Christ through the bread and wine, or to denote the Philippians financial and spiritual partnership with Paul and his ministry.  

Of course, you should always be wary of people who say, “well the Greek really says…”  Fortunately for you, and for me, I have support for my claims!   The standard New Testament lexicon (BDAG) gives four definitions:

  1. close association involving mutual interests and sharing
  2. attitude of good will that manifests an interest in a close relationship
  3. abstr. for concr. sign of fellowship, proof of brotherly unity, even gift, contribution
  4. participation, sharing τινός in someth. 

The editors of the lexicon list this passage under section 4, and offers the following translation, “that your participation in the faith may be made known through your deeds.” This strikes me as unlikely (particularly the last part: I don’t know how γένηται ἐνεργὴς translates to “might be made known through your deeds”). I think participation is certainly a possible translation, but I’d want to add “with us” that that the corporate dimensions of Paul’s prayer are more clear.

When dealing with a Greek question like this, I always try to get a native speaker’s opinion.  Fortunately, the late fourth century bishop John Chrysostom has left us a series of homilies on all of Paul’s epistles, including little Philemon.  He notes (from PG 62.709),

Εὔχομαι, φησὶν, ἵνα ἡ κοινωνία τῆς πίστεώς σου ἐνεργὴς γένηται. Ὁρᾷς πρότερον αὐτὸν διδόντα ἢ λαβεῖν, καὶ πρὶν ἢ τὴν χάριν αἰτῆσαι [62.709], τὴν αὑτοῦ παρέχοντα πολλῷ μείζονα; Ὅπως, φησὶν, ἡ κοινωνία τῆς πίστεώς σου ἐνεργὴς γένηται ἐν ἐπιγνώσει παντὸς ἀγαθοῦ τοῦ ἐν ὑμῖν εἰς Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν. Τουτέστιν, ἵνα πᾶσαν ἀρετὴν ἐπέλθῃς, Ἵνα μηδὲν ἐλλειφθῇΟὕτω γὰρ ἡ πίστις γίνεται ἐνεργὴς, ὅταν ἔργα ἔχῃ. Χωρὶς γὰρ ἔργων ἡ πίστις νεκρά ἐστι. Καὶ οὐκ εἶπεν, Ἡ πίστις σου, ἀλλ‘, Ἡ κοινωνία τῆς πίστεώς σου, συνάπτων αὐτὸν ἑαυτῷ, καὶ ἓν σῶμα δεικνὺς, καὶ τούτῳ μάλιστα αὐτὸν δυσωπῶν. Εἰ κοινωνὸς εἶ, φησὶ, κατὰ τὴν πίστιν, καὶ κατὰ τὰ ἄλλα ὀφείλεις κοινωνεῖν

 “I pray,” he says, “that your partnership in the faith may be active.” Do you see how he himself gives before receiving, and that before he asks him the favor, he provides a much better one of his own? “So that,” he says, “the partnership of your faith my be active in the knowledge of everything good thing we have in Christ.”  That’s to say, “so that you may attain all virtue,” or “so that you may lack nothing.” Now faith is “active” when it has works, for without works faith is dead.  He did not say, “your faith,” but the “partnership of your faith,” joining him (Philemon) to himself, and with one body revealed, he entreats him all the more.  “If you share the faith,” he says, “then you are required to share other things too.”

John appears to understand κοινωνία not as participation, nor as evangelism, but as a partnership: notice the line “joining him to himself.”  The use of κοινωνία serves to link Philemon to Paul, and hopefully make him more receptive to Paul’s plea to free Onesimus (the favor John mentions here).

John’s gloss of ἐνεργὴς (active, or effective) is also helpful, as this adjective isn’t terribly common in the New Testament.  His explanation (that faith is ἐνεργὴς when it “has works”) fits particularly nicely in the context of the letter, as Paul is essentially urging Philemon to do a good work: free Onesimus! 

All that to say, I think the NIV11’s change to this verse is most welcome!  The new NIV reads: “I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.”  I’m still not sure about the second half of the verse, (how does ἐν ἐπιγνώσει…, which means “in the knowledge…”, fit in with the rest of the sentence?), but I think they nailed the first part.  Kudos!

ἐν αὐτῷ,

ΜΑΘΠ

Update: I amended my translation with two suggestions from Stephen (see the comments).  Thanks to him for catching several mistakes, and for the helpful suggestions! 

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.  

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.

 

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,

ΜΑΘΠ

Unpublished Material from John Chrysostom on the Psalms

First, I must say that I am enjoying my week in Oxford immensely.  I’ve learned a good deal from the Palaeography summer school: we’ve been able to read a goodly number of texts, in all sorts of different hands.  There have been quite interesting lectures in the evenings, and great library exhibits during the day.

While I’m here, I’ve decided to make use of the special collections access that came with my card.  Use the excellent Pinakes website, I came across Ms. Barocci 55, a codex containing a large number of homilies from John Chrysostom.  Of particular interest to me were 6 homilies on the Psalms which are not included in the Patrologia Graeca volume.  According to the catalog, the materials on the psalms dates from the 10th century, which means it’s quite early.

The psalms covered in the ms are: 41, 50 (2 homilies), 71, 92, and 100 (all LXX numbers).  I transcribed some material today from the homily on ps 100 (about a folio, front and back’s worth).  Though I’m no expert in such matters, it is consistent with what I’ve read from John’s material on the Psalms (especially his contrast between worldly songs and spiritual ones).

If proven authentic, these are important homilies!  Robert Hill recently published an English translation of Chrysostom’s material on the Psalter, and these homilies were not included (given they are not in the PG).  Likewise, Hill has an article on Antiochene interpretation of Psalm 41, which does not mention the homily contained here.

Hopefully I’ll be able to do some more work with this while I’m here, and perhaps in the future too.  The recent discovery of the Origen codex will only increase interest in our early exegetical material on the Psalms. In the meanwhile (as they say in the UK), let this serve as a humble reminder:  The PG, while vast, does not contain the entirety of the Patristic tradition!

Oh, and if someone is aware of a publication of these homilies, do let me know in the comments!

τῷ χείρι τοῦ ταπεινοῦ Ἀλεξάδρου ἁμαρτωλοῦ

Origen Update

I’ve been busily plugging away at the PDF of the text and translation of the homily.  I’m going back through and re-translating most of what I’ve done, since the first run was pretty rough.  I’ve found several places were i messed up and have naturally corrected them in this version.  Once I’m done, I’ll post it here under either a Creative Commons license or just place it in the public domain.

Here’s a screenshot (click to enlarge).  Pardon the errors, I haven’t proofed much yet.

image

ἐν αὐτῷ,

ΜΑΘΠ

Perrone’s Lecture on the new Origen material

Many thanks to Alin Suciu for posting a link to a talk given recently by Lorenzo Perrone on the newly discovered Origen manuscript:

“Rediscovering Origen Today: First Impressions on the Newly Discovered Collection of Homilies on the Psalm” ~ Lorenzo Perrone

I listened to the entire lecture, and it’s a pretty interesting talk.  “First Impressions” is certainly a good title.  Perrone gives several reasons why he believes the homilies are authentic, and also makes comments on various items from the manuscript. 

Perrone notes many interesting items.  The manuscript catalog, for instance, mislabeled the contents.  The catalog entry, incorrectly, lists 4 psalms on Psalm 31, instead of Psalm 36. 

Rufinus translates 5 homilies on psalm 36, but the 5th is not present in the manuscript. Perrone notes that no catenae preserve Greek fragments from the 5th homily.  It would appear that this homily dropped out of the tradition early on.

Psalm 77 (LXX)  received much attention from Origen, which Perrone believes was due to heresiological implications.

Rufinus and Jerome both provide external evidence to support Origenic authorship.

The catenae also provide support.  The tacit assumption has been that catenae editors usually pull on commentaries, but here we have the catenae drawing on homilies.  Perrone gives an example from a homily on Ps. 77.

There is also a good parallel between the Hom. In Ps. 77 V and Origen’s treatise “On Prayer.” 

Various notes on content:

  • Discussion of Origen’s youth and heresy around 45m. 
  • Hom. In Ps. 77 mentions a debate with Marcionites. 
  • Origen corrects a variant reading at beginning of Hom. In. Ps. 77.
  • First Homily on 67- he comments on the use of the imperative mood rather than the optative mood.

Those, of course, are just scattered notes.  If you’re interested in the manuscript, or Origen, do yourself a favor and watch the whole lecture! 

ἐν αὐτῷ,

ΜΑΘΠ