Tongues of Angels at Alexandria

From: Steven Cox (
Date: Sat Apr 18 1998 - 12:28:18 EDT

Dear all
About a month ago I asked for help with identifying the lexical heritage
of GLWSSAI TWN AGGELWN in 1Co13:1. Several b-greekers responded with
helpful insights regarding the Corinthian context, but no Hellenistic
usage of the idiom was located. BAGD has "after the analogy of the
languages of the gods, Plato in Clem.Alex.Str.1 143" which suggests
GLWSSAI TWN QEWN, but no angels. Despite angels being known in classical
greek it would seem TWN AGGELWN specifies either a Jewish heritage or,
as Ben Crick suggested, a new Christian coinage.

After further digging I am now considering whether there is any relation
with the DIALEKTOS TWN AGGELWN of the Testament of Job. This 1st Century
greek-only (no semitic vorlage) text is ascribed to the Therapeutae
(the mixed male and female Jewish charismatic sect in Philo's Alexandria).

Unfortunately I don't have Brock's edition so I'll excerpt Spittler's
translation from Charlesworth below starting after 46-47; the inheritance
by Job's 3 daughters from their father of musical instruments:

48 Thus when Hemera arose she wrapped around her sash just as her
father said, and she took on another heart, no longer minded toward
earthly things, but she spoke in the angelic dialect, sending up a
hymn to God in accord with the hymnic style of the angels. And as
she spoke ecstatically she allowed "the Spirit" to be inscribed on her
garment EN STOLH [conject. EN EPISTOLH]

49 Then Kasia bound on hers and had her heart changed so that she
no longer regarded worldly things, and her mouth took on the dialect
of the Archons and she praised God for the creation of the heights.
So if anyone wishes to know "The Creation of the Heavens" he will be
able to find it in "The Hymns of Kasia".

50 Then the other also named Almtheia's Horn bound on her cord, and
her mouth spoke ecstatically in the dialect of those on high, since
her heart also was changed, keeping aloof from worldly things. For
she spoke in the dialect of the cherubim, glorifying the Master of
virtues by exhibiting their splendor. And finally whoever wishes to
grasp a trace of The "Paternal Splendor" will find it written down
in "The Prayers of Almtheia's Horn".

51 After the three had stopped singing hymns, while the Lord was
present as was I Nereus the brother of Job, and while the holy
angel also was present, I sat near Job on the couch. And I heard
the magnificent things while each one made explanation to the other.

My immediate thought after comparing the above with 1Co.13~14 is
how similar the (inferred) worship of the Therapeutae was to that
of the church in Corinth. (If anyone has Brock I would love to
know what the Greek for "made explanation" is in the final sentence,
it would be interesting if it was DIERMHNEUW)

A more general lexical question would be how does the language in
1Co.12~14 reflect possible Jewish charismatic background? We know
Corinth had Jewish teachers apart from Paul (Acts18:2, 2Co.11:22)
Is it conceivable that in cosmopolitan Corinth the synagogue had
a faction reflecting the Alexandrian Therapeutae that would then
carry on that influence into the church, or is glossolalia so
common in the ancient world that to see a parallel on the basis

DIALEKTOS is also used of tongues in Acts 2 of course.

Over to you

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:39:24 EDT