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Archive for May 11th, 2018

“…we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” Acts 2: 10b

Cyril (826-69) and Methodius (c. 815-85) were brothers who came from a Greek family in Thessalonica. The younger brother took the name “Cyril” when he became a monk in 868. After ordination, Cyril became librarian at the church of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) in Constantinople. In 862 the brothers were sent by the emperor as missionaries to what is now the Czech republic, where they taught in the native Slavic tongue. Cyril invented the alphabet today know today as “Cyrillic,” which provided a written language for the liturgy and Scriptures for the Slavic peoples. This use of the vernacular established an important principle for evangelical missions.

In an article in the May/June 2013 edition of Touchstone, “The Thessalonian Brothers:  The Legacy of the Mission of Cyril and Methodius 1,150 Years Later”, on the way to Rome in 867, the brothers stopped in Venice,

“…to debate Western clerics who insisted on the tradition of using only Hebrew, Greek, and Latin for worship, which the Slavonic sources deride as the “trilingual heresy” or “Pilatian heresy” (after Pilate’s use of those three languages for the sign on Christ’s cross (John 19:20) ).  (Cyril) is said to have responded with St. Paul’s words:  “that every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord” (Phil. 2: 11)  

Further, it is written in Revelation 14: 6,

Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. 

There are 5 other references in Revelation to “languages” or “tongues”. Cyril and Methodius translated the Bible for the Slavic people to read it.  Constantine (“Cyril”) was quite talented.  He became a librarian, then a professor of philosophy, then a monk and  eventually a missionary.  Methodius was a ruler of a Slavic province, then a contemplative monk and then with his brother Cyril a missionary.  The two missionary brothers were sent to Moravia where they began to translate and invent the alphabet that bears Cyril’s name to this day: Cyrillic and in the map below you can see how extensive their alphabet was used.

The countries that use the Cyrillic alphabet officially and those who use it as a secondary language.

Many worry that when the Bible is translated something is “lost in translation”, but that is not necessarily true as we see in history the “eternal Gospel” proclaimed to “those who dwell on earth”(Revelation). Nothing is lost in translation because, just as the copyists of the Torah and the Old Testament carefully wrote out the sacred Text, so did the Church, because of their care and concern for God’s Word. Cyril and Methodius wanted the nations to know God’s Gospel. All Biblical translators and copyists love the truth of God’s Word verbatim and will do  nothing to betray the Lord.  They did not have to put a “spin” on God’s Word!  

The “eternal Gospel” has been translated into most of the languages on all the continents of earth.  This is the gift of “tongues”, that is speaking in foreign languages, see The Lutheran Study Bible, “Speaking in Tongues”, page 1969/Concordia Commentary:  1 Corinthians, Pr. Gregory Lockwood, pages 482-487.  The Pentecostalist/charismatic  movement, begun in the early 20th century has negatively and falsely  colored “tongues” in the New Testament as ecstatic speech.  If you have known anyone with a “gift for languages”, it is amazing. We even use the word, “gift” in non-natural sense. The translation  of languages and speaking in other tongues is the Lord’s gift to bring His Word to the nations.  I speculate that it is the Lord alone through His Church alone which brought about translation on a global scale for the first time in the history of the world.   For instance, Mohammed said his book, the Koran, must be read in Arabic alone. Not so the Church because not so the Lord, and again, this  verse as another attestation of speaking in tongues is actually foreign languages:

Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to EVERY nation and tribe and LANGUAGE and people.  (Rev. 14: 

The Word of God is translated so  we are “translated” into His kingdom (see Colossians 1: 13), and changed by the Gospel of grace for sinners through Jesus Christ our Lord.  We thank the Lord for ministry of Cyril and Methodius and for all missionaries and Bible translators.

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