Forasmuch as there has been much inquiry concerning the discovery at the Episcopal Divinity School, I feel obligated to shed what light that I can on the matter. After, all, molehills do have a way of being made into mountains, given enough discussion.If John Calvin found himself on several devotional occasions speaking in a language he did not know or understand — well, that certainly sounds to me very much like speaking in tongues.
Quite frankly, I personally find any notion preposterous, to the effect that Calvin experienced glossolalia. Therefore, the only logical thing to do is to take the advice of my dear Church History professor, and go to the primary source.
The volume which allegedly contains the account of Calvin’s ecstatic utterances is in the library at the Episcopal Divinity School. It is his biography by his friend and confidant, Theodore Beza, entitled De Vitam Iohannes Cauvin. It is contained in The Vault, the Rare Book Room at E.D.S. Entering The Vault involves a great deal of red tape, and the invocation of the higher powers of the B.T.I. Prof. Hiles’ dining-hall pass also came in handy.
De Vitam Ihohannes Cauvin was published posthumously by Beza. All it contains concerning glossolalia is a small entry, confided to Beza by Calvin, shortly before the latter’s death. On several occasions, Calvin, in his devotions, found himself uttering a lingua non nota et cognota mini. That is, the language was not known or understood by him.
Himself a skilled linguist, Calvin set about to discover the orthography of the utterance. Unable to trace it, he confided to Beza that although the language was Hebraic in character, he yet feared that he had spoken a lingua barbarorum. That is, he feared having spoken in an accursed tongue, such as what was spoken by the Canaanites.
The matter was only a minor one to Beza, who allots it only a few sentences in De Vitam Iohannes Cauvin. Calvin’s concern was only a matter of linguistics. Therefore, there is not enough primary source material to build a case one way or the other.
My roommate, Ken Macari, was most helpful to me in interpreting this passage from Beza, since Latin is more native to him than to me. Yet I must say, however, that I found Calvin’s Latin to be very smooth, elegant, and Vergilian.
Friday, April 2, 2010
Here is an interesting article from the archives of The Paper, a student publication of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. On page 6 of the March 24, 1975 issue is a short piece by Quent Warford, “Calvin Speaks Unknown Tongue.”