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

Maximus the Confessor’s Comments on “The Diversity of Gifts” located

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

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

ἐν αὐτῷ,

ΜΑΘΠ

Down the Rabbit Hole: Gregory Nazianzus and Michael Psellos

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

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

ἐν αὐτῷ,

ΜΑΘΠ

Basil the Lesser on Spiritual Gifts

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

Text and Translation

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

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

Notes

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

ἐν αὐτῷ,

ΜΑΘΠ

Commentary on Gregory of Nazianzus Or. 41:16

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

Nicetas’ Commentary

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

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

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

Notes

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

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

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

ἐν αὐτῷ,

ΜΑΘΠ

One abstract accepted, another submitted

Yesterday, I received news that my abstract had been accepted for the “Preaching After Easter” conference which will take place in March, 2013 in Leuven.  The title of the abstract is “For those who love learning,” Gregory of Nazianzus on the Miracle of Pentecost.  It will essentially be a more detailed write-up of the passage I’ve examined here and here from Gregory’s Or. 41 on Pentecost.  I’d like to publicly thank Charles Sullivan, through whom I became interested in the passage, and whose dialogue has been extremely helpful in sorting out the intricacies of Gregory’s argument and its later reception.  I’m particularly curious about the philosophical background he may be pulling in, and also the way he weaves different scriptural passages together.  I think it’ll be fun to do a paper that’s not, strictly speaking, “digital humanities.”  

But back in the “digital” domain, I’ve submitted an abstract for the meeting of the North American Patristics Society next May.  The paper will essentially be an digital authorship analysis of as much as I can transcribe from the recently discovered Origen codex. I hope to show that stylometric analyses support an attribution of the homilies codex to Origen, and I’d also like to examine the stylometric differences within the codex.  Hopefully it’ll be accepted!  I’ve yet to attend a NAPS conference, but I’ve heard good things.

ἐν αὐτῷ,

ΜΑΘΠ

Flux, Trinity, and Union- More From Gregory

I’ve decided to try my hand at a bit more from Gregory’s “On the Spirit.” (cf. here). This portion describes the Divine nature:

It is Triune Union,

It is Threefold Unity.

Neither stream, nor sea, nor rushing river,

One threefold flow rushing down against the earth.

Nor as a gleam of light, returning to its flame,

Nor as a word proceeding from the mind

        yet therein abides—

Nor as a ray of the sun dances

Upon the waters and the walls:

It whirls off before the approach,

Yet arrives before leaping away.

Divine nature knows no flux:

It neither flows apart nor returns to itself,

Eternal center, age to age it is.

And the Greek:

ἐκ μονάδος Τρίας ἐστι, καὶ ἐκ Τριάδος μονὰς αὖθις,     (60)

οὔτε πόρος, πηγή, ποταμὸς μέγας, ἕν τε ῥέεθρον

ἐν τρισσοῖσι τύποισιν ἐλαυνόμενον κατὰ γαίης·

οὔτε δὲ πυρκαϊῆς λαμπὰς πάλιν εἰς ἓν ἰοῦσα,

οὔτε λόγος προϊών τε νόου καὶ ἔνδοθι μίμνων,

οὔτε τις ἐξ ὑδάτων κινήμασιν ἡλιακοῖσι     (65)

μαρμαρυγή, τοίχοισι περίτρομος, ἀστατέουσα,

πρὶν πελάσαι φεύγουσα, πάρος φυγέειν πελάουσα,

οὐδὲ γὰρ ἄστατός ἐστι θεοῦ φύσις ἠὲ ῥέουσα

ἠὲ πάλιν συνιοῦσα· τὸ δ᾽ἔμπεδόν ἐστι θεοῖο.

The Homeric references are fewer. We do have some common homeric words show up (like the verb ἐλαύνω), and Homer does use similar language when discussing rivers. In its place, though, we get a series of negative descriptions; that is, they describe what God is not. Gregory tells us that the godhead is not like a rushing river, flowing in three parts. Nor is it a ray of light, that shoots forth and returns, or a beam of light dancing on the water. His point is stated at the end of the excerpt: the divine nature is not subject to change or flux. But even when describing what God is not, he uses lovely images. One vividly pictures light bouncing against the water off the walls of a city. Gregory is fond of employing light imagery for the trinity, and a few lines laters he says, “one nature, firmly established in three lights.” But here he paints a delightful picture, even as a negative description.

ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ

“The Song of the Sacred Dance”- Gregory of Nazianzus, Greek Epic, and Christian Theology

For my term paper in my Homer class, I’ll be examining the Homeric influences in Gregory of Nazianzus’s Poemata Arcana. These are the first eight of his dogmatic poems.  Written in the epic hexameter of Homer, the poems are exquisite statements of Christian dogma and aesthetics.  The third poem, entitled “On the Spirit” commences in dramatic fashion.  Indulge me as I translate a few lines (with suitable poetic license):


“O Soul, why are you troubled?
Sing the boast of the Spirit,
Lest you divide the one not made so by nature.
Let us tremble at this great Spirit,
My God, by whom I know God;
The Spirit of God in the Heavens,
Who yet makes me a god here on the Earth.
Almighty, All-giving, the Song of the Sacred Dance,
Bearer of Life, both seen and unseen;
Divine counselor, He proceeds from the Father;
Divine Spirit he goes un-bidden.
He is not the Child;
But one is worthy of such honor,
Yet apart from God he is not;
Divine, he is equal in nature.”

Θυμέ, τί δηθύνεις; καὶ Πνεύματος εὖχος ἄειδε,
μηδὲ τέμῃς μύθοισιν ὃ μὴ φύσις ἐκτὸς ἔθηκε.
Πνεῦμα μέγα τρομέωμεν, ὅ μοι θεός, ᾧ θεὸν ἔγνων,
ὃς θεός ἐστιν ἔναντα, καὶ ὅς Θεὸν ἐνθάδε τεύχει·
πανσθενές, αἰολόδωρον, ἁγνῆς ὕμνημα χορείης,>
οὐρανίων χθονίων τε φερέσβιον, ὑψιθόωκον,
Πατρόθεν ἐρχόμενον, θεῖον μένος, ἀυτοκέλευστον,
οὔτε Πάϊς (μοῦνος γὰρ ἑνὸς Πάϊς ἐσθλὸς ἀρίστου)
οὔτ᾽ ἐκτὸς θεότητος ἀειδέος, ἀλλ᾽ ὁμόδοξον.

If you look at the Greek, you’ll see quite a few differences: I make no apologies here. Translating poetry demands poetic license. Of course, I’m hardly a competent English poet. Hopefully, my translation brings out some of what is truly beautiful in the original. Gregory’s poetry is difficult, but stunning in its erudition and loveliness.

I’ve bolded a few things I found particularly interesting or appealing in the Greek. First, one has acknowledge Gregory’s debt to Homer. The very first word of the poem, θυμός, is extremely common word for soul or spirit in Homer. Likewise, his command to his soul to “sing the boast of the Spirit” uses Homer’s singing and boasting language. One is reminded of the very first line of the Iliad, “Wrath, Goddess, sing!” One thinks too of Homer’s heroes always boasting in their lineage. Before a battle there was usually an exchange of words, each opponent boasting in his family line. So too, Gregory exhorts his soul to boast in the Spirit, so that it may be prepared for battle with those who “divide what by nature is indivisible.”

Of course, Gregory writes as a Christian poet as well. Though Homer has an immeasurable influence on his form and vocabulary, Gregory melds with it a web of Christian influences and theology. One particularly glaring incident comes in the 7th line, where the Spirit is called, θεῖον μένος. Μένος is another extremely common Homeric word. It means something like our english word “spirit,” but a bit more like in our use of “high-spirited.” Sometimes “battle strength” or “battle rage” is more fitting (the flexibility is rather like the Latin animus). But here, the Spirit the divine μένος! Gregory has taken an extremely common Homeric word, and filled it entirely with new content.

The Scriptural resonances are evident as well. The first line, while clearly echoing Greek epic, also echoes the Psalmist, “why are you downcast O Soul!” The Spirit is the “bearer of Life” for both “the heavenly ones and the earthly ones,” which I translated “seen and unseen” to evoke the allusions to the great creed. But my favorite phrase of these lines definitely comes from the fifth line, where the Spirit is the “ἁγνῆς ὕμνημα χορείης,” “the Song of the Sacred Dance.” It is turns of phrase like that that have established Gregory as one of the greatest Christian poets. His use of language so carefully and beautifully exhibits the truth of Christian theology. The two meanings of orthodoxy, which is both true worship and true theology, come together exquisitely in Gregory. Rightly has the Church remembered with the simple epithet, “the Theologian.”

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

Commentary on Gregory of Nazianzus Or. 41:15

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