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ST. THOMAS AQUINAS, SUMMA THEOLOGICA -
QUESTIONS 176-177 QUESTION OF THE GRACE OF TONGUES (TWO ARTICLES)
We must now consider those gratuitous graces that pertain to speech, and (1) the grace of tongues; (2) the grace of the word of wisdom and knowledge.
Under the first head there are two points of inquiry: (1) Whether by the grace of tongues a man acquires the knowledge of all languages? (2) Of the comparison between this gift and the grace of prophecy.
P(2b)- Q(176)- A(1) Whether those who received the gift of tongues spoke in every language?
P(2b)- Q(176)- A(1)- O(1) —
It seems that those who received the gift of tongues did not speak in every language. For that which is granted to certain persons by the divine power is the best of its kind: thus our Lord turned the water into good wine, as stated in John 2:10. Now those who had the gift of tongues spoke better in their own language; since a gloss on Hebrews 1, says that “it is not surprising that the epistle to the Hebrews is more graceful in style than the other epistles, since it is natural for a man to have more command over his own than over a strange language. For the Apostle wrote the other epistles in a foreign, namely the Greek, idiom; whereas he wrote this in the Hebrew tongue.” Therefore the apostles did not receive the knowledge of all languages by a gratuitous grace.
P(2b)- Q(176)- A(1)- O(2) —
Further, nature does not employ many means where one is sufficient; and much less does God Whose work is more orderly than nature’s. Now God could make His disciples to be understood by all, while speaking one tongue: hence a gloss on Acts 2:6, “Every man heard them speak in his own tongue,” says that “they spoke in every tongue, or speaking in their own, namely the Hebrew language, were understood by all, as though they spoke the language proper to each.” Therefore it would seem that they had not the knowledge to speak in all languages.
P(2b)- Q(176)- A(1)- O(3) —
Further, all graces flow from Christ to His body, which is the Church, according to John 1:16, “Of His fullness we all have received.” Now we do not read that Christ spoke more than one language, nor does each one of the faithful now speak save in one tongue.
Therefore it would seem that Christ’s disciples did not receive the grace to the extent of speaking in all languages.
P(2b)- Q(176)- A(1) —
On the contrary, It is written ( Acts 2:4) that “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak”; on which passage a gloss of Gregory [*Hom. xxx in Ev.] says that “the Holy Ghost appeared over the disciples under the form of fiery tongues, and gave them the knowledge of all tongues.”
P(2b)- Q(176)- A(1) —
I answer that, Christ’s first disciples were chosen by Him in order that they might disperse throughout the whole world, and preach His faith everywhere, according to Matthew 28:19, “Going... teach ye all nations.” Now it was not fitting that they who were being sent to teach others should need to be taught by others, either as to how they should speak to other people, or as to how they were to understand those who spoke to them; and all the more seeing that those who were being sent were of one nation, that of Judea, according to Isaiah 27:6, “When they shall rush out from Jacob [*Vulg.: ‘When they shall rush in unto Jacob,’ etc.]... they shall fill the face of the world with seed.”
Moreover those who were being sent were poor and powerless; nor at the outset could they have easily found someone to interpret their words faithfully to others, or to explain what others said to them, especially as they were sent to unbelievers. Consequently it was necessary, in this respect, that God should provide them with the gift of tongues; in order that, as the diversity of tongues was brought upon the nations when they fell away to idolatry, according to Genesis 11, so when the nations were to be recalled to the worship of one God a remedy to this diversity might be applied by the gift of tongues.
P(2b)- Q(176)- A(1)- RO(1) —
As it is written ( 1 Corinthians 12:7), “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man unto profit”; and consequently both Paul and the other apostles were divinely instructed in the languages of all nations sufficiently for the requirements of the teaching of the faith. But as regards the grace and elegance of style which human art adds to a language, the Apostle was instructed in his own, but not in a foreign tongue. Even so they were sufficiently instructed in wisdom and scientific knowledge, as required for teaching the faith, but not as to all things known by acquired science, for instance the conclusions of arithmetic and geometry.
P(2b)- Q(176)- A(1)- RO(2) —
Although either was possible, namely that, while speaking in one tongue they should be understood by all, or that they should speak in all tongues, it was more fitting that they should speak in all tongues, because this pertained to the perfection of their knowledge, whereby they were able not only to speak, but also to understand what was said by others. Whereas if their one language were intelligible to all, this would either have been due to the knowledge of those who understood their speech, or it would have amounted to an illusion, since a man’s words would have had a different sound in another’s ears, from that with which they were uttered. Hence a gloss says on Acts 2:6 that “it was a greater miracle that they should speak all kinds of tongues”; and Paul says ( 1 Corinthians 14:18): “I thank my God I speak with all your tongues.”
P(2b)- Q(176)- A(1)- RO(3) —
Christ in His own person purposed preaching to only one nation, namely the Jews. Consequently, although without any doubt He possessed most perfectly the knowledge of all languages, there was no need for Him to speak in every tongue. And therefore, as Augustine says (Tract. xxxii in Joan.), “whereas even now the Holy Ghost is received, yet no one speaks in the tongues of all nations, because the Church herself already speaks the languages of all nations: since whoever is not in the Church, receives not the Holy Ghost.”
P(2b)- Q(176)- A(2) Whether the gift of tongues is more excellent than the grace of prophecy?
P(2b)- Q(176)- A(2)- O(1) —
It would seem that the gift of tongues is more excellent than the grace of prophecy. For, seemingly, better things are proper to better persons, according to the Philosopher (Topic. iii, 1). Now the gift of tongues is proper to the New Testament, hence we sing in the sequence of Pentecost [*The sequence: ‘Sancti Spiritus adsit nobis gratia’ ascribed to King Robert of France, the reputed author of the ‘Veni Sancte Spiritus.’ Cf. Migne, Patr. Lat. tom. CXLI]: “On this day Thou gavest Christ’s apostles an unwonted gift, a marvel to all time”: whereas prophecy is more pertinent to the Old Testament, according to Hebrews 1:1, “God Who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets.”
P(2b)- Q(176)- A(2)- O(2) —
Now, by the gift of tongues, man is directed to God, whereas by prophecy he is directed to man; for it is written ( 1 Corinthians 14:2,3): “He that speaketh in a tongue, speaketh not unto men, but unto God... but he that prophesieth, speaketh unto men unto edification.”
P(2b)- Q(176)- A(2)- O(3) —
Further, the gift of tongues abides like a habit in the person who has it, and “he can use it when he will”; wherefore it is written ( 1 Corinthians 14:18): “I thank my God I speak with all your tongues.” But it is not so with the gift of prophecy, as stated above ( Q(171), A(2) ). Therefore the gift of tongues would seem to be more excellent than the gift of prophecy.
P(2b)- Q(176)- A(2)- O(4) —
Further, the “interpretation of speeches” would seem to be contained under prophecy, because the Scriptures are expounded by the same Spirit from Whom they originated. Now the interpretation of speeches is placed after “divers kinds of tongues” ( Corinthians 12:10). Therefore it seems that the gift of tongues is more excellent than the gift of prophecy, particularly as regards a part of the latter.
P(2b)- Q(176)- A(2) —
On the contrary, The Apostle says ( Corinthians 14:5): “Greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues.”
P(2b)- Q(176)- A(2) —
I answer that, The gift of prophecy surpasses the gift of tongues, in three ways. First, because the gift of tongues regards the utterance of certain words, which signify an intelligible truth, and this again is signified by the phantasms which appear in an imaginary vision; wherefore Augustine compares (Genesis ad lit. xii, 8) the gift of tongues to an imaginary vision. On the other hand, it has been stated above ( Q(173), A(2) ) that the gift of prophecy consists in the mind itself being enlightened so as to know an intelligible truth. Wherefore, as the prophetic enlightenment is more excellent than the imaginary vision, as stated above ( Q(174), A(2) ), so also is prophecy more excellent than the gift of tongues considered in itself. Secondly, because the gift of prophecy regards the knowledge of things, which is more excellent than the knowledge of words, to which the gift of tongues pertains.
Thirdly, because the gift of prophecy is more profitable. The Apostle proves this in three ways ( 1 Corinthians 14); first, because prophecy is more profitable to the edification of the Church, for which purpose he that speaketh in tongues profiteth nothing, unless interpretation follow ( Corinthians 14:4,5). Secondly, as regards the speaker himself, for if he be enabled to speak in divers tongues without understanding them, which pertains to the gift of prophecy, his own mind would not be edified ( Corinthians 14:7-14). Thirdly, as to unbelievers for whose especial benefit the gift of tongues seems to have been given; since perchance they might think those who speak in tongues to be mad ( 1 Corinthians 14:23), for instance the Jews deemed the apostles drunk when the latter spoke in various tongues ( Acts 2:13): whereas by prophecies the unbeliever is convinced, because the secrets of his heart are made manifest ( Acts 2:25).
P(2b)- Q(176)- A(2)- RO(1) —
As stated above ( Q(174), A(3), ad 1), it belongs to the excellence of prophecy that a man is not only enlightened by an intelligible light, but also that he should perceive an imaginary vision: and so again it belongs to the perfection of the Holy Ghost’s operation, not only to fill the mind with the prophetic light, and the imagination with the imaginary vision, as happened in the Old Testament, but also to endow the tongue with external erudition, in the utterance of various signs of speech. All this is done in the New Testament, according to Corinthians 14:26, “Every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation,” i.e. a prophetic revelation.
P(2b)- Q(176)- A(2)- RO(2) —
By the gift of prophecy man is directed to God in his mind, which is more excellent than being directed to Him in his tongue. “He that speaketh in a tongue “is said to speak “not unto men,” i.e. to men’s understanding or profit, but unto God’s understanding and praise. On the other hand, by prophecy a man is directed both to God and to man; wherefore it is the more perfect gift.
P(2b)- Q(176)- A(2)- RO(3) —
Prophetic revelation extends to the knowledge of all things supernatural; wherefore from its very perfection it results that in this imperfect state of life it cannot be had perfectly by way of habit, but only imperfectly by way of passion. on the other hand, the gift of tongues is confined to a certain particular knowledge, namely of human words; wherefore it is not inconsistent with the imperfection of this life, that it should be had perfectly and by way of habit.
P(2b)- Q(176)- A(2)- RO(4) —
The interpretation of speeches is reducible to the gift of prophecy, inasmuch as the mind is enlightened so as to understand and explain any obscurities of speech arising either from a difficulty in the things signified, or from the words uttered being unknown, or from the figures of speech employed, according to Daniel 5:16, “I have heard of thee, that thou canst interpret obscure things, and resolve difficult things.”
Hence the interpretation of speeches is more excellent than the gift of tongues, as appears from the saying of the Apostle ( 1 Corinthians 14:5), “Greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues; unless perhaps he interpret.”
OF THE GRATUITOUS GRACE CONSISTING IN WORDS QUESTION (TWO ARTICLES) We must now consider the gratuitous grace that attaches to words; of which the Apostle says ( 1 Corinthians 12:8): “To one... by the Spirit is given the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge.”
P(2b)- Q(177)- A(1) Whether any gratuitous grace attaches to words?
P(2b)- Q(177)- A(1)- O(1) —
It would seem that a gratuitous grace does not attach to words. For grace is given for that which surpasses the faculty of nature. But natural reason has devised the art of rhetoric whereby a man is able to speak so as to teach, please, and persuade, as Augustine says (De Doctr. Christ. iv, 12). Now this belongs to the grace of words. Therefore it would seem that the grace of words is not a gratuitous grace.
P(2b)- Q(177)- A(1)- O(2) —
Further, all grace pertains to the kingdom of God. But the Apostle says ( 1 Corinthians 4:20): “The kingdom of God is not in speech, but in power.” Therefore there is no gratuitous grace connected with words.
P(2b)- Q(177)- A(1)- O(3) —
Further, no grace is given through merit, since “if by grace, it is not now of works” ( Romans 11:6). But the word is sometimes given to a man on his merits. For Gregory says (Moral. xi, 15) in explanation of <19B804> Psalm 118:43, “Take not Thou the word of truth utterly out of my mouth” that “the word of truth is that which Almighty God gives to them that do it, and takes away from them that do it not.”
Therefore it would seem that the gift of the word is not a gratuitous grace.
P(2b)- Q(177)- A(1)- O(4) —
Further, it behooves man to declare in words things pertaining to the virtue of faith, no less than those pertaining to the gift of wisdom or of knowledge. Therefore if the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge are reckoned gratuitous graces, the word of faith should likewise be placed among the gratuitous graces.
P(2b)- Q(177)- A(1) —
P(2b)- Q(177)- A(1) —
I answer that, The gratuitous graces are given for the profit of others, as stated above ( P(2a), Q(111), AA(1),4 ). Now the knowledge a man receives from God cannot be turned to another’s profit, except by means of speech. And since the Holy Ghost does not fail in anything that pertains to the profit of the Church, He provides also the members of the Church with speech; to the effect that a man not only speaks so as to be understood by different people, which pertains to the gift of tongues, but also speaks with effect, and this pertains to the grace “of the word.”
This happens in three ways. First, in order to instruct the intellect, and this is the case when a man speaks so as “to teach.” Secondly, in order to move the affections, so that a man willingly hearkens to the word of God.
This is the case when a man speaks so as “to please” his hearers, not indeed with a view to his own favor, but in order to draw them to listen to God’s word. Thirdly, in order that men may love that which is signified by the word, and desire to fulfill it, and this is the case when a man so speaks as “to sway” his hearers. In order to effect this the Holy Ghost makes use of the human tongue as of an instrument; but He it is Who perfects the work within. Hence Gregory says in a homily for Pentecost (Hom. xxx in Ev.): “Unless the Holy Ghost fill the hearts of the hearers, in vain does the voice of the teacher resound in the ears of the body.”
P(2b)- Q(177)- A(1)- RO(1) —
Even as by a miracle God sometimes works in a more excellent way those things which nature also can work, so too the Holy Ghost effects more excellently by the grace of words that which art can effect in a less efficient manner.
P(2b)- Q(177)- A(1)- RO(2) —
Wherefore he says just before ( 1 Corinthians 4:19): “I... will know, not the speech of them that are puffed up, but the power”: and of himself he had already said ( 1 Corinthians 2:4): “My speech and my preaching was not in the persuasive words of human wisdom, but in the showing of the spirit and power.”
P(2b)- Q(177)- A(1)- RO(3) —
As stated above, the grace of the word is given to a man for the profit of others. Hence it is withdrawn sometimes through the fault of the hearer, and sometimes through the fault of the speaker. The good works of either of them do not merit this grace directly, but only remove the obstacles thereto. For sanctifying grace also is withdrawn on account of a person’s fault, and yet he does not merit it by his good works, which, however, remove the obstacles to grace.
P(2b)- Q(177)- A(1)- RO(4) —
As stated above, the grace of the word is directed to the profit of others. Now if a man communicates his faith to others this is by the word of knowledge or of wisdom. Hence Augustine says (De Trin. xiv, 1) that “to know how faith may profit the godly and be defended against the ungodly, is apparently what the Apostle means by knowledge.” Hence it was not necessary for him to mention the word of faith, but it was sufficient for him to mention the word of knowledge and of wisdom.
P(2b)- Q(177)- A(2) Whether the grace of the word of wisdom and knowledge is becoming to women?
P(2b)- Q(177)- A(2)- O(1) —
It would seem that the grace of the word of wisdom and knowledge is becoming even to women. For teaching is pertinent to this grace, as stated in the foregoing Article. Now it is becoming to a woman to teach; for it is written ( Proverbs 4:3,4): “I was an only son in the sight of my mother, and she taught me [*Vulg.: ‘I was my father’s son, tender, and as an only son in the sight of my mother. And he taught me.’].”
Therefore this grace is becoming to women.
P(2b)- Q(177)- A(2)- O(2) —
Further, the grace of prophecy is greater than the grace of the word, even as the contemplation of truth is greater than its utterance. But prophecy is granted to women, as we read of Deborah ( Judges 4:4), and of Holda the prophetess, the wife of Sellum ( Kings 22:14), and of the four daughters of Philip ( Acts 21:9). Moreover the Apostle says ( 1 Corinthians 11:5): “Every woman praying or prophesying,” etc. Much more therefore would it seem that the grace of the word is becoming to a woman.
P(2b)- Q(177)- A(2)- O(3) —
Further, it is written ( 1 Peter 4:10): “As every man hath received grace ministering the same one to another.” Now some women receive the grace of wisdom and knowledge, which they cannot minister to others except by the grace of the word. Therefore the grace of the word is becoming to women.
P(2b)- Q(177)- A(2) —
On the contrary, The Apostle says ( Corinthians 14:34): “Let women keep silence in the churches,” and ( Timothy 2:12): “I suffer not a woman to teach.” Now this pertains especially to the grace of the word. Therefore the grace of the word is not becoming to women.
P(2b)- Q(177)- A(2) —
I answer that, Speech may be employed in two ways: in one way privately, to one or a few, in familiar conversation, and in this respect the grace of the word may be becoming to women; in another way, publicly, addressing oneself to the whole church, and this is not permitted to women. First and chiefly, on account of the condition attaching to the female sex, whereby woman should be subject to man, as appears from Genesis 3:16. Now teaching and persuading publicly in the church belong not to subjects but to the prelates (although men who are subjects may do these things if they be so commissioned, because their subjection is not a result of their natural sex, as it is with women, but of some thing supervening by accident). Secondly, lest men’s minds be enticed to lust, for it is written (Ecclus. 9:11): “Her conversation burneth as fire.” Thirdly, because as a rule women are not perfected in wisdom, so as to be fit to be intrusted with public teaching.
P(2b)- Q(177)- A(2)- RO(1) —
The passage quoted speaks of private teaching whereby a father instructs his son.
P(2b)- Q(177)- A(2)- RO(2) —
The grace of prophecy consists in God enlightening the mind, on the part of which there is no difference of sex among men, according to Colossians 3:10,11, “Putting on the new” man, “him who is renewed unto knowledge, according to the image of Him that created him, where there is neither male nor female [*Vulg.: ‘Neither Gentile nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free.’ Cf. P(1), Q(93) , A(6), ad 2 footnote].” Now the grace of the word pertains to the instruction of men among whom the difference of sex is found. Hence the comparison fails.
P(2b)- Q(177)- A(2)- RO(3) —
The recipients of a divinely conferred grace administer it in different ways according to their various conditions. Hence women, if they have the grace of wisdom or of knowledge, can administer it by teaching privately but not publicly.