The extraordinary gift of understanding* foreign languages, especially ancient Biblical languages has been given to numerous Saints, especially the Mystics. Most notably in recent times this gift was given to a remarkable 20th century mystic and stigmatic named Therese Neumann of Germany (1898-1962).
(*Note: I will highlight the gift of speaking in foreign languages in another article on this website)
I will highlight Therese in this article, because her gift of understanding foreign and ancient biblical languages was studied by several language scholars and linguists.
During the ecstasies of the Passion in which Therese not only saw, but physically participated in in a mystical way, she heard the four languages which were in common use during the time of Christ: Latin, Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic; the Aramaic was spoken in a dialect mixed with Greek words. Therese recognized and repeated them after she returned to normal life. The fact that this humble country girl could master such languages is a miracle in itself. Therese had a seventh grade education and did not speak or understand any other language but German; to her personal friends she spoke in the dialect of the Oberpfalz, the particular region of Bavaria in which Konnersreuth is located.
Many eminent scholars of Oriental languages and of the Old Testament visited Therese in order to check the authenticity of Therese's knowledge of languages. Nevertheless, it was indeed difficult to find scholars who were qualified to interview Therese. It is not an exaggeration to say that in many instances she knew more about these ancient languages and many other details than the scholars did!
Some of the noted men who helped extensively in the verifi¬cation and clarification of the 2,OOO-year-old practices were:
Rev. Prof. Dr. Wutz (a priest), professor of Oriental languages and the Old Testament at Catholic College, Eichstatt, Bavaria; Prof. Bauer, of Halle, a non-Catholic expert in Oriental lan¬guages; and Prof. Wessely, of Vienna, a non-Christian, who was also a scholar of these languages. All of the results of their investigations were made public.
Dr. C. Wessely, the Vienna orientalist and papyrus expert, spoke of it at a meeting of the Leogesellschaft in the Austrian capital. He told how Dr. Gerlich, Dr. Wutz, and Dr. Johannes Bauer, professor of Semitic philology at the University of Halle, had observed and studied, each independently of the others, all the Aramaic material furnished by the stigmatist. The New Testament, composed in Greek, transmits only about sixteen Aramaic words, and even those in their adapted Grecian forms. Except for this, then, almost nothing was known of the language which was the customary one of Jesus and His neighbors; it was not Hebrew, as many have supposed. Dr. Wessely says: "It is a matter, doubtless, of correct Aramaic, as it was probably spoken in Christ's time. That fact of it being Aramaic is proved. From the grammatical viewpoint, Therese Newmann’s utterances are correct, without exception, and they are most noteworthy even in the strictest tests as to details.”
These well known scholars came to the conclusion-and they stated it categorically-that Therese's knowledge of these languages was absolutely correct, and that it was impossible for her knowledge to be explained by any falsehood or power of suggestion. Many other university professors who had similarly tested her came to the same conclusion. Dr. Prof. Wessely stated: "Therese Neumann's knowledge of Christ's own lan¬guage is a miracle in itself. I am amazed at her knowledge of Aramaic in particular. It is "Als etwas unerhortes-e-nocb nie dagewesenes. " (Something unheard of and inconceivable.)
Therese perfectly pronounced certain words in connection with the Passion. Judas greeted the Master with these words: "Schlama Rabbuni." (Greetings, Master.) The other Apostles became aware of the fact that Judas would betray the Master, and cried out in excitement: "Magera beisebua cannaba-magera beisebua." (A sword, down with the man of the devil, that thief.)
The executioners inquired after "Jeschua Nasarija" (Jesus of Nazareth), and Jesus answered ''Ana'' (I). Then He turned to His Apostles and said "Komu" (Up). The people cried out, "Ma hada?' , (What is the meaning of this?) Then later, Our Lord said, "Amen, Amen amarna lachbam atte emmib pardessa." (Amen, amen, I say to you, today thou shalt be with Me in Paradise.)
When Our Lord said, "It is consummated," Therese heard in Aramaic, "Schlem kalohi.' When He said the words, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit," Therese heard "Abba be ada afkid ruchi." During the vision when Jesus was near the city of Nairn, raising a dead man back to life, He spoke first the word "Etphetach,' upon which the dead man opened his eyes and mouth. At the word "Kum," he raised himself from the stretcher.
The theory that Therese was able to read the minds of the various Oriental language scholars is disproven by the fact that she spoke the Aramaic sentences correctly to a degree which, at the time of her presentation to the experts, was not known to them. Furthermore, Therese used a contellation of Aramaic words, which no scholar expected, and yet she was entirely correct. In other words, Therese could not have read something from the minds of the learned men which did not exist in their minds.
In her visions of the saints, too, Therese was able to understand many different languages. The saints spoke in their native language, and yet Therese was able to understand them perfectly. There was never any language barrier with her. She always understood and repeated what was said, regardless of whether the saints were European, Asian, African or whatever.
In fact, Therese had hundreds of visions of saints during the year. On August 10, the Feast of St. Lawrence, St. Lawrence spoke to her in Latin. On the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, she heard St. John speak in Greek. When St. Therese of Lisieux appeared to her, she spoke in a French dialect that is used in the Pyrennees. St. Francis de Sales also spoke to her in French, while St. Anthony of Padua (who was born in Lisbon) spoke to her in Portuguese. St. Francis of Assisi spoke in Italian, and St. Teresa of Avila spoke Spanish. In the case of German saints, Therese would ordinarily understand it anyway, but the fact is that she then spoke a German accent that she normally did not speak-but she nevertheless repeated it perfectly.
As the years went by, the Saviour added a very special aspect to this gift by allowing Therese to hear the saints speak to her in her German dialect. This had also happened once on Pentecost Sunday, 1928, when she was bilocated to Rome and heard St. Peter giving a sermon in perfect German. After one of these visions Therese was reminded that Holy Scripture tells us that all those present on the first Pentecost, listening to St. Peter's sermon, heard it in their own native tongues!
And, speaking of the Blessed Virgin's apparition to Bernadette at Lourdes, which Therese saw in one of her visions, the words of the Blessed Virgin to St. Bernadette are heard not in Latin, nor in literary French or Spanish, but in the dialect of the Pyrenees, where the apparitions of Lourdes took place. Our Lady said: "Je suis la Conceptiune Immaculada:" ("I am the Immaculate Conception"). Therese's spiritual director, Father Naber, was unable to explain this, but while reading a book about Lourdes he learned that the words were in a form of speech prevalent in Southern France. The book gave the sentence exactly as Therese had heard it.
Therese was given many other remarkable mystical gifts, such as completely fasting without any food for over 30 years and living solely off the Eucharist, also the recognition of relics, blessed objects, priests and the Holy Eucharist, even when these items or persons where disguised or hidden to name just a few.
Those interested can read more here about the extraordinary life of Therese Neumann, mystic and victim soul.