Tag Archives: glossolalia

A Critical Look at Tongues and Montanism

Did the Montanist’s speak in tongues and is this the historical antecedent for tongues in the church today?

The christian doctrine of tongues can be traced backward in two ways. The first one through ecclesiastical literature which chronicles the passing of this rite through the centuries and marks how it has evolved. The second and more popular way is to trace the lineage back to pagan Greek antecedents. Montanism is one of the key steps in this second order. Pentecostals and Charismatics take this second option further and claim Montanism and their alleged speaking in tongues as their historical parallel.

This article is an in-depth investigation to find an answer to the above question. In accordance with the goals of the Gift of Tongues Project, source texts are provided, analyzed and commented on. Such details may seem boorish for the regular reader, but the lack of source literature and analysis is one of the greatest problems that have plagued the modern christian doctrine of tongues debate.

What is Montanism and the source texts for this controversy?

In a simplified form, it was begun by a man named Montanus around 162 AD and aided by two women, Maximilla and Priscilla. Montanism lasted up until the 6th century. For a deeper historical overview of the Montanist movement, an old publication, Cyclopaedia of Biblical, theological, and ecclesiastical literature, Volume 6 covers the movement in the best detail to help the reader get up to speed with the debate at hand.

The movement is revealed through three major sources, Eusebius of Caesarea, Epiphanius Bishop of Salamis, and Tertullian. The first two write about the Montanists in very negative and vitriolic terms while Tertullian defended them. There are a number of works that allude to Epiphanius correlating Montanism with ecstatic utterances but substantiation or a source text similar to these claims has yet to be found.(1) If information comes forward on this subject this article will be modified There are other citations about Montanists found in the writings of Jerome and Didymus of Alexandria, but these do not refer to the Montanist glossolalia controversy.

The most important source for the Montanists and glossolalia is Eusebius’ account. One must keep in mind that Eusebius’ account is a critical report of the Montanist movement. It contains over-the-top rhetoric which makes the reader wonder why so many resources and time were utilized against them. The strong attack causes one to either pity the Montanists or think there is an ulterior motive by the established church against them. Judging by the voracity of words, the Montanists must have been a populist movement that the institutional church felt threatened by.

Eusebius himself has his own internal doubts about the account provided to him by an unknown author and stated, “They say that these things happened in this manner. But as we did not see them, O friend, we do not pretend to know.”(2)A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church. Second Series. Translated into English with Prologema and Explanatory Notes. Philip Schaff ed. Volumes I-VII. Eusebius Pamphilus. Church History. Volume 1. Michigan: Eerdmans. Pg. 234. For that reason, Eusebius’ history should be taken with a degree of skepticism.

Eusebius’ source was trying to demonize the Montanists in almost every way. The wording and semantics are purposely kept distant from anything familiar to the christian faith.

The actual text used to link Montanist with Pentecostal speaking in tongues

The alleged Montanist experience is a brief account by Eusebius in his Historiae Ecclesiasticae who narrated about two Montanist followers who went into a state of ecstasy and uttered strange sounds. What exactly were the sounds? Were they foreign languages, ecstatic speech, or something else? Is this one of the earliest christian expressions of tongues after the first Pentecost? This is the crux of the discussion.

Here is the actual text :

There is said to be a certain village called Ardabau in that part of Mysia, which borders upon Phrygia. There first, they say, when Gratus was proconsul of Asia, a recent convert, Montanus by name, through his unquenchable desire for leadership, gave the adversary opportunity against him. And he became beside himself, and being suddenly in a sort of frenzy and ecstasy, he raved, and began to babble and utter strange things, prophesying in a manner contrary to the constant custom of the Church handed down by tradition from the beginning.

8. Some of those who heard his spurious utterances at that time were indignant, and they rebuked him as one that was possessed, and that was under the control of a demon, and was led by a deceitful spirit, and was distracting the multitude; and they forbade him to talk, remembering the distinction drawn by the Lord and his warning to guard watchfully against the coming of false prophets. But others imagining themselves possessed of the Holy Spirit and of a prophetic gift, were elated and not a little puffed up; and forgetting the distinction of the Lord, they challenged the mad and insidious and seducing spirit, and were cheated and deceived by him. In consequence of this, he could no longer be held in check, so as to keep silence.

9. Thus by artifice, or rather by such a system of wicked craft, the devil, devising destruction for the disobedient, and being unworthily honored by them, secretly excited and inflamed their understandings which had already become estranged from the true faith. And he stirred up besides two women, and filled them with the false spirit, so that they talked wildly and unreasonably and strangely, like the person already mentioned. And the spirit pronounced them blessed as they rejoiced and gloried in him, and puffed them up by the magnitude of his promises. But sometimes he rebuked them openly in a wise and faithful manner, that he might seem to be a reprover. But those of the Phrygians that were deceived were few in number.(3)A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church Pg. 231

The important sequences are:

  • . . . and being suddenly in a sort of frenzy and ecstasy. . . — πνευματοφορηθῆναί τε καὶ αἰφνιδίως ἐν κατοχῇ τινι καὶ παρεκστάσει γενόμενον, ἐνθουσιᾶν.
    I don’t know how the English translator worked it out that way. An alterntive would be: “that he was inspired by a spirit and suddenly became elated in some type of catatonic stupor and spurious ecstasy.”
  • . . .began to babble and utter strange things. . . — ἄρξασθαί τε λαλεῖν καὶ ξενοφωνεῖν
  • . . .spurious utterances. . . —

The glossolalia connection

The interpretation of this text centres around the word glossolalia. If the Montanists were glossalists, then there is a potential connection to the ancient christian rite of speaking in tongues. If not, then there is no connection with the christian community and the discussion is irrelevant.

Anyone who tries to make this association assumes that glossolalia was a special rite of speech practised by the ancient christian community. This assumption ignores that glossolalia is a new definition added to the christian doctrine of tongues that started in the early 1800s.(4)See my articles on the history of glossolalia for more information. This term should not be used to describe antecedents to the christian doctrine of tongues any earlier than this, but since the term glossolalia is so popular in the minds of contemporary scholars and readers alike, it will be permitted so that this discussion can run its course.

The importance of Montanism in the christian doctrine of tongues

Pentecostal scholars such as Rev. Heidi Baker parallel their tongues-speaking experience with the Montanists.(5)Rev. Heidi Baker. Ph.D. thesis: Pentecostal Experience: Towards a Reconstructive Theology of Glossolalia. Kings College. University of London. 1995 Pg. 79 She also holds a widely held belief in pentecostal circles that the primitivist virtues of the earliest church were lost when the church was institutionalized, regained by the Montanists, then forgotten again, until finally revived by the pentecostal movement 1800 years later.(6)Ibid Baker. Pentecostal Experience: Towards a Reconstructive Theology of Glossolalia. Pg. 79-80 The acclaimed Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements edited primarily by Stanley Burgess, a “distinguished professor of christian history at Regent University and Professor Emeritus, Missouri State University”(7)http://nyupress.org/books/9780814799987/ claims that that gift of speaking in tongues flourished with the Montanists and later influenced the glossolalic speaking eighteenth-century Camisards in south-central France. The Camisards then left a legacy for modern Pentecostals to follow.(8)Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. Stanley M. Burgess, Gary B. McGee, ed. Grand Rapids: Regency Reference Library. 1988. Pg. 339

The Presbyterian minded Biblical scholar who has closely studied the pentecostal movement, F. Dale Bruner, believes there is a connection between the two; “Montanism interests us as the prototype of almost everything Pentecostalism seeks to represent.”(9)Frederick Dale Bruner. A Theology of the Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Co. 1970. Pg. 37

Indeed looking at the Montanist movement, especially the coverage given by the renowned nineteenth-century scholar, August Neander, as found in his book, The History of the Christian Religion and Church during the First Three Centuries (Page 327), demonstrates many parallels between the two parties. However, this commonality does not mean an automatic connection with speaking in tongues which some suggest or want to happen. The pentecostal affinity to the Montanist experience makes it necessary to see if the Montanist story is a serious contributor to the history of christians speaking in tongues.

An essential keyword missing.

If one looks closely into the details, the actual historic evidence that equates Montanism with the gift of tongues is very weak. The critical Greek keyword which is used throughout the New Testament writings in reference to tongues speaking, γλῶσσα — glôssa does not appear in the text. This is required to definitively connect Montanist glossolalia with the church rite. This word connection does not exist.

This omission is a very crucial point. In order to reinforce this fact, the Greek, Latin and an English translation can be found at the following link: Eusebius on Montanism. The source work reinforces the skeptical reader that the critical Greek keyword is not there.

Two scholars, two different outcomes

Christopher Forbes and Rex D. Butler try to answer the question about the Montanists and glossolalia but come up with different results.

Christopher Forbes, who “is a Senior Lecturer in Ancient History, and Deputy Chairman of the Society for the Study of Early Christianity”(10)http://www.mq.edu.au/about_us/faculties_and_departments/faculty_of_arts/department_of_ancient_history/staff/dr_chris_forbes/ at Macquarie University, argued that there is no conclusive evidence the Montanists used glossolalia.

If Montanist prophecy was in any sense analogous to glossolalia it is quite remarkable that no ancient writer ever noticed or commented on this fact. Though it is certainly true that Montanist prophecy was characterised by ecstasy (in the modern sense), and occasionally by oracular obscurity, there is no unambiguous evidence whatsoever that it took glossolalic form.(11) Christopher Forbes. Prophecy and Inspired Speech: In Early Christianity and Its Hellenistic Environment. Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.1997. Pg. 160

Rex D. Butler, Associate Professor of Church History and Patristics, at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary goes in the opposite direction.(12)http://www.nobts.edu/faculty/atoh/ButlerR/Default.html He reported that the elements of the Montanist text all correlate with glossolalia and directly counters Forbe’s claims.

  • His first argument rests on the role of the interpreter. If the prophecy was given in intelligible speech why would the service of the prophetess Maximillia, an interpreter ἑρμηνεύτην, be required?(13) Rex D. Butler. The New Prophecy and “New Visions”: Evidence of Montanism in the Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas Pg. 32

  • Secondly, he charged that Forbes failed to recognize that the prophets utilized both intelligible and unintelligible speech. Third, he argued against Forbes definition of ξενοφωνεῖν. Forbes believed it to mean to speak as a foreigner while Butler believed it to mean to speak strangely. Butler further adds if it is combined with λαλεῖν, which is found in the Eusebius text as λαλεῖν καὶ ξενοφωνεῖν, then the phrase should be translated as chatter or babble. Finally, Butler concluded, “Forbes arguments are not sufficient to overturn the historic understanding that Montanists engaged in glossolalia.”(14) Rex D. Butler. The New Prophecy and “New Visions”: Evidence of Montanism in the Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas Pg. 33

The arguments on both sides rest on ancient sources and linguistics. Therefore, it is necessary to take a further look into the subject matter. Continue reading A Critical Look at Tongues and Montanism

References   [ + ]

The History of Tongues as an Ecstatic Utterance: The Montanists Part 1

Montanist ‘glossolalia’ and Christian tongues.

Many scholars believe the late 2nd century Montanist movement to be the first cited corporate tongues phenomena outside of the New Testament writers. Some propose that it was the last vestige of the gift before the institutional Church dismissed such an activity.

Are these assumptions correct?

The Montanist accounts, along with Origen, Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria are key Patristic texts used by scholars who parallel Christian tongues with Hellenistic origins. Therefore it is important to examine these texts very closely. Origen has been covered already in Origen on the Gift of Tongues. Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria have been addressed slightly in this section A History of Tongues as an Ecstatic Utterance. Only a small amount of time spent on these last two because the texts really don’t say much. The Montanists, on the other hand, are more controversial.

For details on the Montanism, the Wikipedia website is a good place to start. In a simplified form, it was begun by a man named Montanus around 162 AD and aided by two women, Maximilla and Priscilla. Montanism lasted up until the 6th century.

The movement is revealed through three major sources, Eusebius of Caesarea, Epiphanius Bishop of Salamis, and Tertullian. The first two write about the Montanists in very negative and vitriolic terms while Tertullian defended them. There are other accounts too, such as Jerome and Didymus of Alexandria, but these give less substantial offerings than the ones above.

The most important source for the Montanists and glossolalia is Eusebius’ account. One must keep in mind his critical report of the Montanist movement is over-the-top rhetoric and makes the reader wonder why so much resources and time were utilized against them. The strong attack causes one to either pity the Montanists or think there is an ulterior motive by the established Church against them. Judging by the voracity of words, the Montanists must have been a populist movement that the institutional Church felt threatened by.

Eusebius himself has his own internal doubts about the account provided to him by an unknown author and stated, “They say that these things happened in this manner. But as we did not see them, O friend, we do not pretend to know.” Ancient Christian writers typically do not directly confront matters of opinion that differ from official Church positions. Disagreement of Church polity is usually subtly suggested in a brief, generalized statement. This is what happened here. Therefore, Eusebuis’ history should be taken with a degree of skepticism.

If one looks closely into the details, the actual historic evidence that equates Montanism with the gift of tongues is very weak. It is not directly found in the Eusebius document. The greek keyword glôssa/γλῶσσα does not appear in the text.

Eusebius’ source was trying to demonize the Montanists in almost every way. The wording and semantics are purposely kept distant from anything familiar to the Christian faith. Yet the history of glossolalia counts them as the last corporate movement until at least the 1700s to practice it.

This weakness regarding the Montanists and glossolalia was also echoed by Christopher Forbes in his book, Prophecy and Inspired Speech, “If Montanist prophecy was in any sense analogous to glossolalia it is quite remarkable that no ancient writer ever noticed or commented on this fact. Though it is certainly true that Montanist prophecy was characterised by ecstasy (in the modern sense), and occasionally by oracular obscurity, there is no unambiguous evidence whatsoever that it took glossolalic form.”(1) Christopher Forbes. Prophecy and Inspired Speech: In Early Christianity and Its Hellenistic Environment. Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.1997. Pg. 160

However, this view goes against the majority of modern historians. For example Rex D. Butler retorted that the elements of the Montanist text all correlate with glossolalia. He gave numerous arguments against Forbes’ position. First of all he contends there is a contradiction. If the prophecy was given in intelligible speech why was the prophetess Maximillia an interpreter ἑρμηνεύτην?(2) Rex D. Butler. The New Prophecy and “New Visions”: Evidence of Montanism in the Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas Pg. 32 Secondly, he charged that Forbes failed to recognize that the prophets utilized both intelligible and unintelligible speech. Third, he argued against Forbes definition of ξενοφωνεῖν. Forbes believed it to mean to speak as a foreigner while Baxter believed it to mean to speak strangely. Baxter further adds if it is combined with λαλεῖν, which is found in the Eusebius text as λαλεῖν καὶ ξενοφωνεῖν, then it should be translated as chatter or babble. Finally Baxter concluded, “Forbes arguments are not suffficient to overturn the historic understanding that Montanists engaged in glossolalia.”(3) Rex D. Butler. The New Prophecy and “New Visions”: Evidence of Montanism in the Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas Pg. 33

Butler failed to fully address Forbes argument. First, he neglected to cite Forbes complete comment which included, “If Montanist prophecy was in any sense analogous to glossolalia it is quite remarkable that no ancient writer ever noticed or commented on this fact.” Forbes is right. There are no Ecclesiastical writings that affirms the Montanist correlation with Christian ‘glossolalia’. Neither are there any pro-glossolalia interpretations of this text or any other until after at least 1825.

This whole argument goes into a number specific areas that goes beyond the differences between Baxter and Forbes. To fully resolve the issue of how to properly understand this text there are three aspects that need to be understood.

  • How to correctly translate the following Greek words as they appear in the text: παρεκστὰσει(2χ)/παρεκστῆναι, ξενοφωνεῖν, ἐκφονημάτων, ἐκφρόνως, προφητοφόντας. ἀμετροφώνους, and εκστάσει.
  • Has Montanism always been correlated with the Christian rite of tongues or is this a recent phenomenon? If so, when did it begin and how did it develop?
  • Is the Montanist example supplied because there are so few examples of any kind? Or, are there much better ones that have been glossed over?

These three questions will be answered in the third part of this series on Montanism. The next article The Montanists Part 2 supplies the basis for the whole coverage. It is the actual Eusebius text from Migne Patrologia Graeca in both the Greek and the Latin. It is also contains an English translation.

References   [ + ]

Eusebius on Montanism: the Latin, Greek and English source texts

The actual Greek and Latin text of Eusebius’ account of the Montanist movement along with an English translation.

The Greek and Latin supplied here was input and corrected by the author of this blog. As usual this comes with a disclaimer titled Notes on ancient Greek copy and this website. This text was also compared against a digital Greek copy located at Skeptic.net in pdf format. The related portion inside the pdf starts at 5.16.7. Where there was a discrepancy on where to place the difficult-to-read Greek accents between the author’s input text and the pdf, the pdf usually set the precedent. In the matter of punctuation, the pdf supplies corrections of what appears to be many flaws in the MPG typesetting. This blog text, except in one or two instances, retains the original punctuation found in MPG.

Note: These are not the full chapters. Only the portions relevant to Montanism and glossolalia have been provided.

The Parallel Greek from Eusebius. Historiæ Ecclesiasticæ. MPG. Vol. 20. Lib. V:XVI. Col. 465ff

«… Κώμη τις εἶναι λέγεται ἐν τῇ κατὰ τὴν Φρυγίαν Μυσίᾳ, καλουμένη Ἀρβαδαν τοὔνομα • ἔνθα φασί τινα τῶν νεοπίστων πρώτως, Μοντανὸν τοὔνομα, κατὰ Γράτον Ἀσίας ἀνθύπατον, ἐν ἐπιθυμίᾳ ψυχῆς ἀμέτρῳ φιλοπρωτείας δόντα πάρoδον εἰς ἑαυτὸν τῷ ἀντικειμένῳ, πνευματοφορηθῆναί τε καὶ αἰφνιδίως ἐν κατοχῇ τινι καὶ παρεκστάσει γενόμενον, ἐνθουσιᾶν, ἄρξασθαί τε λαλεῖν καὶ ξενοφωνεῖν, παρὰ τὸ κατὰ παράδοσιν καὶ κατὰ διαδοχὴν ἄνωθεν τῆς Ἐκκλησίας ἔθος δῆθεν προφητεύοντα. Τῶν δὲ κατ’ ἐκεῖνο καιροῦ ἐν τῇ τῶν νόθων ἐκφωνημάτων ἀκροάσει γενομένων, οἳ μὲν ὡς ἐπὶ ἐνεργουμένῳ καὶ δαιμονῶντι καὶ ἐν πλάνης πνεύματι ὑπάρχοντι καὶ τοὺς ὄχλους ταράττοντι ἀχθόμενοι ἐπετίμων, καὶ λαλεῖν ἐκώλυον, μεμνημένοι τῆς τοῦ Κυρίου διαστολῆς τε καὶ ἀπειλῆς, πρὸς τὸ φυλάττεσθαι τὴν τῶν ψευδοπροφητῶν ἐγρηγορότως παρουσίαν • οἳ δὲ ὡς ἁγίῳ Πνεύματι καὶ προφητικῷ χαρίσματι ἐπαιρόμενοι καὶ οὐχ ἥκιστα χαυνούμενοι, καὶ τῆς διαστολῆς τοῦ Κυρίου ἐπιλανθανόμενοι, τὸ βλαψίφρον καὶ ὑποκοριστικὸν καὶ λαοπλάνον πνεῦμα προὐκαλοῦντο, θελγόμενοι καὶ πλανώμενοι ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ, εἰς τὸ μηκέτι κωλύεσθαι σιωπᾷν. Τέχνῃ δέ τινι, μᾶλλον δὲ τοιαύτῃ μεθόδῳ κακοτεχνίας ὁ διάβολος τὴν κατὰ τῶν παρηκόων ἀπώλειαν μηχανησάμενος, καὶ παρ’ ἀξίαν ὑπ’ αὐτῶν τιμώμενος, ὑπεξήγειρέ τε καὶ προσεξέκαυσεν αὐτῶν τὴν ἀποκεκοιμημένην ἀπὸ τῆς κατὰ ἀλήθειαν πίστεως διάνοιαν, ὡς καὶ ἑτέρας τινὰς δύο γυναῖκας ἐπεγεῖραι, καὶ τοῦ νόθου πνεύματος πληρῶσαι, ὡς καὶ λαλεῖν ἐκφρόνως καὶ ἀκαίρως καὶ ἀλλοτριοτρόπως ὁμοίως τῷ προειρημένῳ, καὶ τοὺς μὲν χαίροντας καὶ καυχωμένους(1)χαυνουμένος ἐπ’ αὐτῷ, μακαρίζοντος τοῦ πνεύματος, καὶ διὰ τοῦ μεγέθους τῶν ἐπαγγελμάτων ἐκφυσιοῦντος, ἔσθ’ ὅπη(2)ὅπῃ δὲ καὶ κατακρίνοντος(3)κατα κρίνοντος στοχαστικῶς καὶ ἀξιοπίστως αὐτοὺς ἄντικρυς, ἵνα καὶ ἐλεγκτικὸν εἶναι δοκῇ (4) δοκῇ • ὀλίγοι ὀλίγοι δ’ ἦσαν οὗτοι τῶν Φρυγῶν ἐξηπατημένοι(5)ἐξηπατημένοι • τὴν τὴν δὲ καθόλου καὶ πᾶσαν τὴν ὑπὸ τὸν οὐρανὸν Ἐκκλησίαν βλασφημεῖν διδάσκοντος τοῦ ἀπηυθαδισμένου πνεύματος, ὅτι μήτε τιμὴν μήτε πάροδον εἰς αὐτὴν τὸ ψευδοπροφητικὸν ἐλὰμβανε πνεῦμα. Τῶν γὰρ κατὰ τὴν Ἀσίαν πιστῶν πολλάκις καὶ πολλαχή τῆς Ἀσίας εἰς τοῦτο συνελθόντων, καὶ τοὐς προσφάτους λόγους ἐξετασάντων καὶ βεβήλους ἀποφηνάντων καὶ ἀποδοκιμασάντων τὴν αἵρεσιν, οὕτω δὴ τῆς τε Ἐκκλησίας ἐξεώσθησαν, καὶ τῆς κοινωνίας εἴρχθησαν. » Ταῦτα ἐν πρώτοις ἱστορήσας, καὶ δι’ ὅλου τοῦ συγγράμματος τὸν ἔλεγχον τῆς κατ’ αὐτοὺς πλάνης ἐπαγαγὼν, ἐν τῷ δευτέρῳ περὶ τῆς τελευτῆς τῶν προδεδηλωμένων ταῦτά φησιν • [Col. 469] « Ἐπειδὴ(6)Ἐπειδὰν τοίνυν καὶ πρφητοφόντας ἡμᾶς ἀπεκάλουν, ὅτι μὴ τοὺς ἀμετροφώνους αὐτῶν προφήτας ἐδεξάμεθα • τούτους γὰρ εἶναί φασιν, οὕσπερ ἐπηγγείλατο τῷ λαῷ πέμψειν ὁ Κύριος, ἀποκρινάσθωσαν ἡμῖν πρὸς Θεοῦ, ἔστι τις(7)ἔστιν τις, ὦ βέλτιστοι, τούτων τῶν ἀπὸ Μοντανοῦ καὶ(8)καὶ τῶν γαναικῶν γαναικῶν λαλεῖν ἀρξαμένον, ὅστις ὑπὸ Ἰουδαίων ἐδιώχθη, ἤ ὑπὸ παρανόμων ἀπεκτάνθη ; οὐδείς οὐδἐ(9)οὐδείς. οὐδἐ γέ τις αὐτῶν κρατηθεὶς ὑπὲρ τοῦ ὀνόματος ἀνεσταυρώθη ; οὐ γὰρ οὖν • οὐδὲ μὴν οὐδὲ ἐν συναγωγαῖς Ἰουδαίων τῶν γυναικῶν τις ἐμαστιγώθη ποτὲ, ἤ ἐλιθοβολήθη ; οὐδαμόσε οὐδαμως. Ἄλλῳ δὲ θανάτῳ τελευτῆσαι λέγονται Μοντανός τε καὶ Μαξίμιλλα. Τοὐτους γὰρ ὑπὸ πνεύματος βλαψίφρονος ἑκατέρους ὑποκινήσαντος, λόγος ἀναρτῆσαι ἑαυτοὺς, οὐχ ὁμοῦ, κατὰ δὲ τὸν τῆς ἐκάστου τελευτῆς καιρὸν φήμη πολλή καὶ(10)πολλή • καὶ οὕτω δὲ τελευτῆσαι καὶ τὸν βίον καταστρέψαι, Ἰούδα προδότου δίκην. Καθάπερ καὶ τὸν θαυμαστὸν ἐκεῖνον τὸν πρῶτον τῆς κατ’ αὐτοὺς λεγομένης προφητείας οἷον ἐπίτρόπον τινα Θεόδοτον, πολὺς αἱρεῖ λόγος, ὡς αἰρόμενόν ποτε καὶ ἀναλαμβανόμενον εἰς οὐρανοὺς παρεκστῆναι τε καὶ καταπιστεῦσαι ἑαυτὸν τῷ τῆς ἀπατς πνεύματι καὶ δισκευθέντα, κακῶς τελευτῆσαι. Φαςὶ γοῦν τοῦτο οὕτως γεγονέναι. Ἀλλὰ μὴ ἄνευ τοῦ ιδεῖν ἡμᾶς, ἐπίστασθαί τι τῶν τοιοῦτων νομίζομεν, ὦ μακὰριε.

The Parallel Latin from Eusebius. Historiæ Ecclesiasticæ. MPG. Vol. 20. Lib. V:XVI. Col. 466ff

« …Vicus quidam esse dicitur in Mysia contermina Phrygiæ nomine Ardaba. In quo aiunt Monatanum quemdam ex iis qui fidelium numero recens ascripti fuerant, immodica primi loci cupididate captum, primum sub Grato Asiæ proconsule aditum in se adversario spiritui præbuisse : et dæmone repletum subito quodam furore ac mentis excessu concuti cœpisse, et nova quædam atque inaudita proloqui ; hariolantem ac prædicentem futura, præter morem atque institutum Ecclesiæ a majoribus traditum et continua deinceps successione propagatum. Porro ex his qui tunc temporis adulterinos hominis sermones audierant, alii quidem ut abreptitium et dæmoniacum ac spiritu erroris actum, turbasque in populo excitantem indignabundi objurgabant, et loqui ulterius prohibebant. Quippe qui in mente haberent discrimen a Domino prænotatum, minasque quibus jubemur adventum falsorum prophetarum vigilanter ac sollicite observare. Alii vero velut sancto Spiritu et prophetiæ gratia elati inflatique, mirum in modum, et distinctionis a Domino præmonstratæ penitus obliti, illum infatuantem et adulatorem vulgique seductorem spiritum ultro ad loquendum provocabant, capti ejus illecebris, et in fraudem inducti. Hac igitur arte seu potius fraude ac versutia diabolus adversus eos qui dicto Domini audientes non erant, exitium machinatus, cum ab illis immerito coleretur, mentes eorum a vera fide secubantes semnoque oppressas excitavit paulatim ac vehementius inflammavit. Quippe duas alias mulierculas suscitavit, et adulterino spiritu replevit, adeo ut ipsæ quoque perinde ac supra memoratus ille, insana quædam et importuna atque aliena loquerentur. Et eos quidem qui ea re delectabantur atque intumescebant, spiritus ille beatos prædicabat, et promissorum magnitudine supra modum inflabat. Interdum tamen conjecturis et fide dignis argumentis utens, palam eos condemnabat, quo scilicet etiam objurgatorius videretur. Hi perpaucie erant Phryges, hujusmodi fraude decepti. Universam vero, quæ per orbem terrarum sparsa est, Ecclesiam, idem ille arrogantissimus spiritus maledictis appetere eos docebat, eo quod nec honorem, nec auditum ullum ad ipsam pseudopropheticus spiritus reperiret. Nam cum fideles qui in Asia erant, sæpius et in plurimis Asiæ locis ejus rei causa convenissent, novamque illam doctrinam examinassent, et profanam atque impiam judicassent, damnata hæresi isti ab Ecclesia et fidelium communione expulsi sunt. » His in principio operis commemoratis, ac per totum deinceps librum confutatione illorum erroris adjecta, supradictus scriptor in secundo libro de illorum quos dixi obitu ita scribit : « Quando igitur, inquit, prophetarum nos interfectores vocarunt, propterea quod loquaces ipsorum prophetas non admisimus (hos enim esse affirmant, quos Dominus populo se missurum esse promiserit), respondeant nobis, quæso, per Deum : esine aliquis eorum qui jam inde a Montano et mulierculis garrire primum cœperunt, qui a Judæis persecutionem passus sit, aut ab impiis trucidatus ? Nemo certe. Nec vero ullus eorum pro Christi nomine prehensus, in crucem actus et : sed neque ulla mulier in Judæorum synagogis aut flagris cæsa aut lapidibus impetita ets. Nusquam profecto, nec unquam. Imo longe alio mortis genere interiisse dicuntur Montanus et Maximilla. Ambo enim, ut fama est, ab insano spiritu incitati, laqueo sibi gullam fregerunt : non quidem simul, sed suæ quisque mortis tempore : atque ita instar proditoris Judæ vitam finierunt. Sic etiam admirabilis ille Theodotus, qui primus prophetiæ illorum quasi procuratur quidam fuit, plurimorum sermone perhibetur false mentis excessu abreptus fuisse, perinde ac si levaretur aliquando et assumeretur in cœlum : cumque se totum fraudulentissimo spriritui permisisset, ab eo in altum jactatus miserabili exitu perisse. Et id quidem ita factum esse narrant. Sed quoniam ipsi non bidimus, nequaquam existimamus nos quid quam eorum certo cognoscere. »

The English from A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church:(11)A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church. Second Series. Translated into English with Prologema and Explanatory Notes. Philip Schaff ed. Volumes I-VII. Eusebius Pamphilus. Church History. Volume 1. Michigan: Eerdmans. Pg. 234.

7. There is said to be a certain village called Ardabau in that part of Mysia, which borders upon Phrygia. There first, they say, when Gratus was proconsul of Asia, a recent convert, Montanus by name, through his unquenchable desire for leadership, gave the adversary opportunity against him. And he became beside himself, and being suddenly in a sort of frenzy and ecstasy, he raved, and began to babble and utter strange things, prophesying in a manner contrary to the constant custom of the Church handed down by tradition from the beginning.

8. Some of those who heard his spurious utterances at that time were indignant, and they rebuked him as one that was possessed, and that was under the control of a demon, and was led by a deceitful spirit, and was distracting the multitude; and they forbade him to talk, remembering the distinction drawn by the Lord and his warning to guard watchfully against the coming of false prophets. But others imagining themselves possessed of the Holy Spirit and of a prophetic gift, were elated and not a little puffed up; and forgetting the distinction of the Lord, they challenged the mad and insidious and seducing spirit, and were cheated and deceived by him. In consequence of this, he could no longer be held in check, so as to keep silence.

9. Thus by artifice, or rather by such a system of wicked craft, the devil, devising destruction for the disobedient, and being unworthily honored by them, secretly excited and inflamed their understandings which had already become estranged from the true faith. And he stirred up besides two women, and filled them with the false spirit, so that they talked wildly and unreasonably and strangely, like the person already mentioned. And the spirit pronounced them blessed as they rejoiced and gloried in him, and puffed them up by the magnitude of his promises. But sometimes he rebuked them openly in a wise and faithful manner, that he might seem to be a reprover. But those of the Phrygians that were deceived were few in number. “And the arrogant spirit taught them to revile the entire universal Church under heaven, because the spirit of false prophecy received neither honor from it nor entrance into it.

10. For the faithful in Asia met often in many places throughout Asia to consider this matter, and examined the novel utterances and pronounced them profane, and rejected the heresy, and thus these persons were expelled from the Church and debarred from communion.”

11. Having related these things at the outset, and continued the refutation of their delusion through his entire work, in the second book he speaks as follows of their end:

12. “Since, therefore, they called us slayers of the prophets because we did not receive their loquacious prophets, who, they say, are those that the Lord promised to send to the people, let them answer as in God’s presence: Who is there, O friends, of these who began to talk, from Montanus and the women down, that was persecuted by the Jews, or slain by lawless men? None. Or has any of them been seized and crucified for the Name? Truly not. Or has one of these women ever been scourged in the synagogues of the Jews, or stoned? No; never anywhere.

13. But by another kind of death Montanus and Maximilla are said to have died. For the report is that, incited by the spirit of frenzy, they both hung themselves; not at the same time, but at the time which common report gives for the death of each. And thus they died, and ended their lives like the traitor Judas.

14. So also, as general report says, that remarkable person, the first steward, as it were, of their so-called prophecy, one Theodotus—who, as if at sometime taken up and received into heaven, fell into trances, and entrusted himself to the deceitful spirit—was pitched like a quoit, and died miserably.

15. They say that these things happened in this manner. But as we did not see them, O friend, we do not pretend to know. …”

The Greek from Eusebius. Historiæ Ecclesiasticæ. MPG. Vol. 20. Lib. V:XVII :

(Col. 473) Περί Μιλτιάδου καὶ ὦν σθνέταξε λόγων

Ἐν τούτῳ δὲ τῷ συγγράμματι καὶ Μιλτιάδου συγγραφέως μέμνηται, ὡς λόγον τινὰ καὶ αὐτοῦ κατὰ τῆς προειρημένης αἰρέσεως γεγραφότος. Παραθέμενος γοῦν αὐτῶν λέξεις τινάς, ἐπιφέρει λέγων • « Ταῦτα εὑρὼν ἔν τινι συγγράμματι αὐτῶν ἐνισταμένων τῷ Μιλτιάδου τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ συγγράμματι, ἐν ᾧ ἀποδείκνυσι περὶ τοῦ μὴ δεῖν προφήτην ἐν ἐκστάσει λαλεῖν, ἐπετεμόμην. » ᾽Υποκαταβὰς δὲ ἐν ταὐτῷ τοὺς κατὰ τὴν Καινὴν Διαθήκην προπεφητευκότας καταλέγει, ἐν οἷς καταριθμεῖ Ἀμμίαν τινὰ καὶ Κοδρᾶτον, λέγων οὕτως • « Ἀλλ’ ὅ γε ψευδοπροφήτς ἐν παρεκστάσει, ᾧ ἕπεται ἄδεια καὶ ἀφοβία, ἀρχομενος μὲν ἐξ ἑκουσίου ἀμαθιας, καταστρέφων δὲ εὶς ἀκούσιον μανίαν ψυχῆς, ὡς προείρηται. … »

The Latin from Eusebius. Historiæ Ecclesiasticæ. MPG. Vol. 20. Lib. V:XVII :

(Col. 474) De Miltiade et illius scriptis.

In eodem quoque libro Miltiadis cujusdam scriptoris mentionem facit, qui adversus supradictam hæresim librum conscripserit. Citatis enim quibusdam verbis illorum hæreticorum, ita deinde scribit : « Hæc ego cum reperissem in quodam libro ipsorum adversus Miltiadem fraterm nostrum, qui peculiari oper docuerat no deceere prophetam in exstasi loqui, in compendium redegi. » Deindi aliquanto post in eodem libro universos Novi Testamenti prophetas enumerat, inter quos Ammiam quamdam et Quadratum recenset his verbis : « Pseudo-propheta autem, inquit, in falso mentis excessu, cujus comes est licentia et audacia, a spontanea quidem imperitia initium sumens, in amentiam autem, ut jam dixi, involuntariam desinens. Hujusmodi vero spiritu nullum unquam nec in Vetere nec in Novo Testamento prophetam afflatum poterunt demonstrare. …»

The English from A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church:(12)A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church. Second Series. Translated into English with Prologema and Explanatory Notes. Philip Schaff ed. Volumes I-VII. Eusebius Pamphilus. Church History. Volume 1. Michigan: Eerdmans. Pg. 234.

…Chapter XVII.—Miltiades and His Works.

1. In this work he mentions a writer, Miltiades, stating that he also wrote a certain book against the above-mentioned heresy. After quoting some of their words, he adds:

“Having found these things in a certain work of theirs in opposition to the work of the brother Alcibiades, in which he shows that a prophet ought not to speak in ecstasy, I made an abridgment.”

2. A little further on in the same work he gives a list of those who prophesied under the new covenant, among whom he enumerates a certain Ammia and Quadratus, saying:

“But the false prophet falls into an ecstasy, in which he is without shame or fear. Beginning with purposed ignorance, he passes on, as has been stated, to involuntary madness of soul.

3. They cannot show that one of the old or one of the new prophets was thus carried away in spirit. …”

For further reading:

References   [ + ]

History of Glossolalia: Patristic Citation

How ecclesiastical literature has been woefully neglected by the sourcebooks in drawing conclusions on the christian doctrine of tongues and reasons why this happened.

There is a considerable amount of literature devoted by many christian writers over the first thousand years since the inception of the church on this topic. However, many are not popularly available in English. They remain in their Greek, Latin, Syriac and likely many more original forms, waiting to be rediscovered.

Had the last few generations had access to this literature in their modern language, then the tongues argument would be significantly different. The Gift of Tongues Project demonstrates that the arguments from both the pro and con camps are based on ignorance of ecclesiastical literature.

The selective and inaccurate use of Church writings make the topic appear historically obscure. The lack of comprehensiveness naturally produces an outcome of glossolalia.

Glossolalia may not necessarily be the wrong the conclusion but it has omitted very important ecclesiastical writings in the process.

The deficiency of ecclesiastical usage is clearly found throughout:

Moulton and Milligan’s, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, alluded to the fact that the tongues in Acts were ecstatic. Not a single reference was made from the Church Fathers.(1)J.H. Moulton and G. Milligan. The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament. London: Hodder and Stoughton Ltd. ND. Pg. 128

Walter Bauer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament tried to develop a connection between Hellenistic ecstasy and christian tongues. The author or the revisionist of this dictionary used only one patristic writing to emphasize the concept, and it is a weak one – Origen’s writing, Against Celsus.(2)Walter Bauer, ed. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature: Second Edition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 1979. Pg. 162

Thayer’s A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Nove Testamenti declared the Corinthian problem was people in ecstasy and made no reference to early Church writings.(3)A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Bing Grmm’s Wilke’s Clavis Nove Testamenti. Trans. By Joseph Henry Thayer. New York: American Book Company. 1889. Pg. 118

Johannes Behm’s article, γλῶσσα, in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, also failed to give a comprehensive account of tongues in the early Church. The author does quote Origen from the book, Against Celsus, and Irenaeous, Against Heresies, to support his view that the Christian gift of tongues parallels similar phenomena in different religious systems and various time periods.(4)Johannes Behm. γλῶσσα as found in Gerhard Kittel, ed. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. G.W. Bromiley Trans. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. Vol. 1. 1964. Pg. 722 However, Behm failed to point out that in both his examples, the word γλῶσσα does not even occur. He neglected the use of γλῶσσα employed by Origen and Irenaeous elsewhere.

Behm is an interesting and controversial figure within theological circles and is debated whether his contributions should be blotted out of the historical records. He was ignominiously deposed from his position at the Friedrich Wilhelms University in Berlin after World War II in 1945 because of his Nazi affiliation. It is unclear what happened to him after he was dismissed.(5)https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Behm

The Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament used only one Patristic reference, Clement of Alexandria’s Stromata to substantiate their connection of tongues with Hellenism.(6)Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament. Horst Blatz, Gerhard Schneider ed. Transl. by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. co. USA: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1990. Pg. 253

Lampe’s, 1978 version of the Patristic Greek Lexicon does touch on some relevant passages but fails to be comprehensive. It does refer to nine distinct writers but does not offer anything new outside of the standard modern interpretations.(7)A Patristic Greek Lexicon. G.H. Lampe ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1978. Pg. 316

Hans Conzelmann’s well received, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians used only Origen to support his claim that “speaking with tongues is unintelligible to a normal man, even a Christian.” However, if one examines the source text quoted more closely, there is little about tongues and more about prophecy. It is a weak correlation.(8)Hans Conzelmann. A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians. George W. MacRae ed. Philadelphia: Fortress Press. 1975. Pg. 234

The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, which claims to be an authority of Patristic interpretation on Scripture, quotes nine church fathers, including a weak reference to Augustine, neglecting his larger and more important works on the subject. The Ancient Christian Commentary has a strong emphasis on Chrysostom’s commentary on Corinthians – a book far from being definitive. Their coverage makes it appear that there is little Patristic literature on the subject.(9)Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament: I and II Corinthians. Gerald Bray ed. Illinois: Intervarsity Press. Pg. 138ff

The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible in Five Volumes, defined the New Testament doctrine of Tongues as “ecstatic spirititual utterances not consciously or rationally controlled by the speaker,” without one reference to ancient Church literature.(10)The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible in Five Volumes. Merril C. Tenney ed. Volume V. “Tongues, Gift of” by R.A. Cole. NP. ND. Pg. 775

The New International Bible Encyclopedia gave scant reference to the ancient Church sages on the subject, quoting Irenaeous, Tertullian, and Chrysostom as found in the source-books. He does use Origen’s commentary on Romans to demonstrate briefly the view of tongues as a foreign language. He also believed tongues as an ecstatic utterance needs to be tempered but fails to give a clear alternative.(11)New International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Geoffrey W. Bromiley ed. “Tongues, Gift of: by C.M. Robeck Jr. Vol. 4. USA: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. co. 1984? Pg. 872ff

Many discussions on the historical definition from a Pentecostal perspective can be traced to George H. Williams and Edith Waldvogel’s analysis which is found in The Charismatic Movement, Michael P. Hamilton ed. The authors surveyed the glossolalic movement from the early Church onwards. It is well-written and one of the better researched publications but it has a number of important flaws as it relates to the ecclesiastical writings:

  • It follows the same pattern and almost identically cites the same Church Fathers found in the source-books. One can see a heavy influence here; especially the focus on Montanism.(12)“As for Montanism, the more important movement for our survey, it was a rigorist challenge, beginning in Phrygia, to an increasingly organized and structured Church.” as found in The Charismatic Movement. Michael P. Hamilton ed. “A History of Speaking in Tongues and Related Gifts” by George H. Williams and Edith Valdvogel. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1975. Pg. 65. It does add Pope Leo I, Pachomius, Bede and Thomas Aquinas to the historical record but fails to clearly show the reader that all these examples specifically demonstrate the miracle being speaking or hearing in a foreign language.

  • Williams and Waldvogel limited their analysis of Church literature to those already translated into English. As noted above, most of the critical literature on the subject is not popularly available in English. They made a critical mistake to assume already existent English translations are fairly representative of the historic Christian doctrine.

  • Neither do they alert the reader to different historic movements, perceptions or doctrines that existed during early centuries of the Church that differed from their own. Consequently, they made no effort to resolve any historical tensions.

  • Williams’ and Waldvogel’s historical record regarded three forms of tongues as equally authentic: ecstatic, foreign languages and as a psychological phenomenon.(13) As found in The Charismatic Movement. Michael P. Hamilton ed. “A History of Speaking in Tongues and Related Gifts” by George H. Williams and Edith Valdvogel. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1975. Pg. 105 They aggregated all three together as one comprehensive unit without first establishing a historical precedent for doing such. These three streams could be independent of each other, each one introduced at different time periods, or simply one or more could be a wrong assumption.

  • They do briefly recognize Augustine and Gregory Nazianzus’ contribution but fail to recognize how powerful their opinions, and the ensuing controversies surrounding especially Nazianzus, influenced the Church for over a thousand years.

An analysis of the Patristic literature cited in the sourcebooks.

There are numerous references from the ecclesiastical writers on the Christian doctrine of tongues. From personally looking at and indexing approximately 135 volumes of Migne Patrologia Graeca, there are at least 34 passages that clearly define the gift of tongues, 51 more references that are strong indicators, 109 indirect references or parallels and Biblical citations about the tongues phenomena. There are 360 occurrences of keywords that can be analyzed for grammar, syntax and comparative work and 35 references to early Church liturgy that helps understand the context of tongues. This is a conservative tally, there are more that are coming to light as this study proceeds.

Out of the 34 or more passages covered by Ecclesiastical writers spanning over a one thousand year period, only seven have been popularly used in the primary sourcebooks. These seven are not the best choices regarding the topic at hand, but better fit in with the ideology that the Christian rite of tongues is a syncretization of Greek pagan practices — an effort to transform the Christian message into an international one.

Many of the other 34 can be found at the Gift of Tongues Project Intro page. Not all are available because they have yet to be analyzed, digitized, or translated.

The seven typically used to affirm tongues as an ecstatic utterance will be analyzed and compared to the historical corpus of literature available on the subject. They are going to be listed along with the relevant quote, and some commentary.

1. Irenaeous:

Against Haeresies I, 13, 3

It appears probable enough that this man possesses a demon as his familiar spirit, by means of whom he seems able to prophesy, and also enables as many as he counts worthy to be partakers of his Charis themselves to prophesy. He devotes himself especially to women, and those such as are well-bred, and elegantly attired, and of great wealth, whom he frequently seeks to draw after him, by addressing them in such seductive words as these: “I am eager to make you a partaker of my Charis, since the Father of all does continually behold your angel before His face. Now the place of your angel is among us: it behooves us to become one. Receive first from me and by me [the gift of] Charis. Adorn yourself as a bride who is expecting her bridegroom, that you may be what I am, and I what you are. Establish the germ of light in your nuptial chamber. Receive from me a spouse, and become receptive of him, while you are received by him. Behold Charis has descended upon you; open your mouth and prophesy.” On the woman replying, “I have never at any time prophesied, nor do I know how to prophesy;” then engaging, for the second time, in certain invocations, so as to astound his deluded victim, he says to her, “Open your mouth, speak whatsoever occurs to you, and you shall prophesy.” She then, vainly puffed up and elated by these words, and greatly excited in soul by the expectation that it is herself who is to prophesy, her heart beating violently [from emotion], reaches the requisite pitch of audacity, and idly as well as impudently utters some nonsense as it happens to occur to her, such as might be expected from one heated by an empty spirit. (Referring to this, one superior to me has observed, that the soul is both audacious and impudent when heated with empty air.) Henceforth she reckons herself a prophetess, and expresses her thanks to Marcus for having imparted to her of his own Charis. She then makes the effort to reward him, not only by the gift of her possessions (in which way he has collected a very large fortune), but also by yielding up to him her person, desiring in every way to be united to him, that she may become altogether one with him.(14)Against Heresies (Book I, Chapter 13) Translated by Alexander Roberts and William Rambaut. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight.

This passage is weak in establishing the nature and definition of tongues. It would make a stronger case for defining the office of prophecy. The Greek word for tongues, γλῶσσα, does not appear in the text.

The more relevant passage that ought to have been quoted is from Irenaeous’ Against Heresies text, Book V, Chapter 6:1:

For this reason does the apostle declare, “We speak wisdom among them that are perfect,” [1 Corinthians 2:6] terming those persons “perfect” who have received the Spirit of God, and who through the Spirit of God do speak in all languages, as he used Himself also to speak. In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the Church, who possess prophetic gifts, and who through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages, and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men, and declare the mysteries of God, whom also the apostle terms “spiritual,” they being spiritual because they partake of the Spirit, and not because their flesh has been stripped off and taken away, and because they have become purely spiritual.(15) Translated by Alexander Roberts and William Rambaut. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. .

There are others too, not so strong as the above that allude to foreign languages such as Against Heresies Book 3, Chapter 12:1, and Book 3, Chapter 17:2. None of these are mentioned or wrestled with in the source-books when drawing up their conclusion of tongues as an ecstatic utterance.

2. Origen

This third century writer is the most quoted. Why he was chosen as the leading Church writer on the subject is questionable. It may be that he was one of the earlier writers on the subject, along with the fact that his works have such a high standard of both piety and intellectual foresight that many other writers shortly after him lacked. As demonstrated in my previous article, Origen on the Gift of Tongues, his contribution to the subject is very small compared to other writers such as Gregory Nazianzus or Augustine, Bishop of Hippo.

Against Celsius VII:8-9

” Then he goes on to say: “To these promises are added strange, fanatical, and quite unintelligible words, of which no rational person can find the meaning: for so dark are they, as to have no meaning at all; but they give occasion to every fool or impostor to apply them to suit his own purposes.”(16)Fuller documentation and citation can be found at my articleOrigen on the Gift of Tongues.

A number of authors use this passaged to correlate the historical gift of tongues with ecstasy. However, it does not have the word for tongues γλῶσσα in it. Nor does Origen even propose or intend this to be a didactic on tongues.

The following have used this to support their position: Frederick Farrar, The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Johannes Behm: Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Bauer: A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament.

Origen’s Commentary in the Epistle to the Romans is closer to what he believed, though it is seldom found or discussed in the major works.

Commentary in the Epistle to the Romans 1:13

Now one must ask how the Apostle is under obligation to the Greeks and the non-Greeks with the teachers of wisdom and the foolish ones. How is it then he heard from these very ones from which he was bound under obligation? I indeed believe thereupon him to have accomplished the obligation within the diverse nations that he received through the grace of the Holy Spirit [the ability] to speak in the languages of all the nations, even as he himself says, “I speak in tongues more than you all,” because then the knowledge of languages is not according to anything within himself, but he received on behalf of those which were about to be preached. The obligation is being brought forth in all those which he receives from God the knowledge of language.

C.M. Robeck Jr. in The New International Bible Encyclopedia wrote about Origen’s Commentary in the Epistle to the Romans 1:13 as an affirmation that he “viewed it as a bridge to cross-cultural preaching.”(17)Geoffrey W. Bromiley. The New International Bible Encyclopedia. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans. 1984? Vol. 4. “Tongues, Gift of” by C.M. Robeck Jr. Pg. 874 Romans 1:13, is a good argument, but he then cited 7:6 which is very vague. It is difficult to find the correlation with 7:6 and he may be stretching his argument here. This discussion once again can be found in more detail inside the previous article, Origen on the Gift of Tongues.

The most important Origen contribution has been overlooked by most authors. His position is defined in Against Celsus 8:37: “if I may so say, but one voice, expressing itself in different dialects.” This is the first time the concept of one voice — many dialects occurs in any Patristic writing. This tongues doctrine may be the earliest definition found by any writer on the subject. Gregory Nazianzus covered this one voice — many dialects position and caused more tension than resolution. This is a very serious oversight.

3. Eusebius

Ecclesiastical History V:16

There is said to be a certain village called Ardabau in that part of Mysia, which borders upon Phrygia. There first, they say, when Gratus was proconsul of Asia, a recent convert, Montanus by name, through his unquenchable desire for leadership, gave the adversary opportunity against him. And he became beside himself, and being suddenly in a sort of frenzy and ecstasy, he raved, and began to babble and utter strange things, prophesying in a manner contrary to the constant custom of the Church handed down by tradition from the beginning.(18)Translated by Arthur Cushman McGiffert. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 1. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1890.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight.

Almost all authors who trace tongues as an ecstatic utterance ultimately arrive at this passage for validation. The problem with this passage is twofold. Number one, the greek word for tongues, γλῶσσα, does not appear, and secondly Eusebius does not make any correlation between the Montanist ecstasy and the gift of tongues. It is extrapolated by modern researchers.

If the higher criticists were more familiar with ancient church writings, they would have been able to build a stronger case around the Donatists than the Montanists (see An Analysis of Augustine on Tongues and the Donatists for details). However, the Donatists were not even mentioned in any source work.

This whole controversy is an important one. It is covered in more detail here: A Critical Look at Tongues and Montanism.

4. Tertullian

Against Marcionem V: 8

Let Marcion then exhibit, as gifts of his god, some prophets, such as have not spoken by human sense, but with the Spirit of God, such as have both predicted things to come, and have made manifest the secrets of the heart; let him produce a psalm, a vision, a prayer – only let it be by the Spirit, in an ecstasy, that is, in a rapture, whenever an interpretation of tongues has occurred to him; let him show to me also, that any woman of boastful tongue in his community has ever prophesied from among those specially holy sisters of his.(19)Translated by Peter Holmes. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 3. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight.

This is the first time the Greek word γλῶσσα is used in the primary proof-texts of tongues as ecstasy. It is an obscure passage though. It does not give enough information to build an argument.

Irenaeous, Origen, Eusebius and Tertullian, these four are the most referenced and earliest citations on the gift of tongues. These Church writers are all first cited together in August Neander’s 1832 publication Geschichte der Pflanzung und Leitung der christlichen Kirche durch die Apostel later translated into English as History of the Planting and training of the Christian Church by the Apostles.(20)August Neander. History of the Planting and training of the Christian Church by the Apostles. Translated by J.E. Ryland. New York: Leavitt, Trow. 1847. Pg. 24 As outlined earlier in A History of Glossolalia: Origins Neander is one of the leading founders of the modern definition. The Patristic construct that he promoted has not been analyzed or changed much since his publishing in the mid 1800s.

5. Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis

PKE Feine’s account found in the The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge is the only modern author found to use Epiphanius’ account as validation for tongues as ecstasy.

Against Haeresies XlVIII: 4 (MPG: Vol. 41. Col. 861ff)

There is no translation given because the subject matter does not make a compelling argument and it is a waste of resources and time to translate from the Greek into English.

It is difficult to pin-point exactly why this passage was referenced in relation to the gift of tongues. Tongues is not directly referenced and it is a problem to even find the inference. The greek key-word γλῶσσα is not used in this passage, nor any noun of the equivalent meaning. The word ecstasy is located but only in relation to prophecy.

He described the Montanist practice of ecstatic utterance from Epiphanius’ book, Against Heresies (Adversus Haereses XLVIII:4) to strengthen his argument but then neglected to mention Epiphanius’ direct discourse on Pentecost (Adversus Haereses XXXIX) and incredible description of the Corinthian tongues (Adversus Haereses XLII) — a place where Epiphanius argued that the conflict in Corinth was about ethnic problems between Attic, Aeolic and Doric Greeks. Both of these passages, which the writer ignored, seriously erodes his argument of tongues as an ecstatic utterance relative to the Greek culture of the time. Feine also quoted the Montanist practice from Eusebius’ book, Ecclesiastical History, where the term γλῶσσα does not occur.

The discussion of Epiphanius on the tongues of Corinth, Adversus Haereses XLII, omitted by all the source-books, can be found here: Epiphanius on the Problem Tongues of Corinth.

6. John Chrysostom

Homily 29 on I First Corinthians

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. You know that when you were Gentiles, you were led away unto those dumb idols, howsoever ye might be led.

This whole place is very obscure: but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place. And why do they not happen now? Why look now, the cause too of the obscurity has produced us again another question: namely, why did they then happen, and now do so no more?(21) Translated by Talbot W. Chambers. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 12. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1889.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. .

This passage has been utilized and interpreted many ways. It is not used by the majority of the source books, but does exist in the more conservative religious publications. Some have used it to mean the gift had died in the earliest ages of Christianity. Others have interpreted it to mean that the institutional Church quelched it, and later it was re-introduced by the Montanist movement.

The utilization of Chrysostom’s statement makes it appear as a final event that already happened in history and is not bound to be repeated again.

Unfortunately, the majority of publications are being too selective here. He wrote more on this subject that gives some insights.

It is clear from reading Chrysostom’s Homilies on I Corinthians, especially 29-36 that he believed it was speaking in foreign languages. There is no doubt. For example he wrote in Homily 35:

There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and no kind is without signification:” i.e., so many tongues, so many voices of Scythians, Thracians, Romans, Persians, Moors, Indians, Egyptians, innumerable other nations.(22) Translated by Talbot W. Chambers. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 12. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1889.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. .

One of the most important contributions that Chrysostom wrote which reflected the mood and theological position of his era has been left out in any publication. It is found in Homily 35 in his Homilies on I Corinthians:

At this point he makes a comparison between the gifts, and lowers that of the tongues, showing it to be neither altogether useless, nor very profitable by itself. For in fact they were greatly puffed up on account of this, because the gift was considered to be a great one. And it was thought great because the Apostles received it first, and with so great display; it was not however therefore to be esteemed above all the others. Wherefore then did the Apostles receive it before the rest? Because they were to go abroad every where. And as in the time of building the tower the one tongue was divided into many; so then the many tongues frequently met in one man, and the same person used to discourse both in the Persian, and the Roman, and the Indian, and many other tongues, the Spirit sounding within him: and the gift was called the gift of tongues because he could all at once speak various languages.(23) Translated by Talbot W. Chambers. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 12. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1889.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. .

Here Chrysostom outlined a framework to the miracle of tongues very similar to that of Origen, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Augustine Bishop of Hippo asserted. The idea of tongues as a supernatural endowment of foreign language(s) unknown beforehand by the speaker.

There may be more in Chrysostom’s writings on the subject too. He has not been covered in any detail yet in the Gift of Tongues Project. This is just a preliminary finding.

Whether it continued or ceased in the Church is a different question than the nature and definition of tongues.

7. Clement of Alexandria

Stromata I:431:1?

Plato attributes a dialect also to the gods, forming this conjecture mainly from dreams and oracles, and especially from demoniacs, who do not speak their own language or dialect, but that of the demons who have taken possession of them. He thinks also that the irrational creatures have dialects, which those that belong to the same genus understand.(24) Translated by William Wilson. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. .

This early Church writer is quoted only occasionally to prove that the miracle of tongues was an ecstatic utterance.

The Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament used this citation to support the claim of tongues as an ecstatic utterance.(25) Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament. Horst Blatz, Gerhard Schneider ed. USA:William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1990. Pg. 253 It is difficult to find the actual quote due to different numbering and chapter conventions between English translations. The chapter and verse subdivision I:431:1 is not typical and cannot be confirmed. Conjecture postulates that it would likely be 1:2 in the English translation of the Ante-Nicene Fathers and this is the quote given above.

Clement made no allusion or direct correlation between Plato’s discourse and that of the miracle of tongues in the Bible.

The above seven are the main Ecclesiastical citations used by most of the major books on defining the gift of tongues. There are other seldom used citations such as the Testament of Job,(26)I can’t find the exact reference but from reading suppose it it this: “And she sang angelic hymns in the voice of angels, and she chanted forth the angelic praise of God while dancing.”The Testament of Job11:21 Justyn Martyr(27)”“For the prophetical gifts remain with us, even to the present time.”ANF01. The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, Cyprian, Hippolytus(28)http://books.google.ca/books?id=9nJLAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA244&lpg=PA244&dq=hippolytus+gift+of+tongues&source=bl&ots=97_YzdbC7S&sig=7bSfGBTicBXs4maI52BQUQCV5DU&hl=en&ei=uaQCTf23EMyVnweEqsnlDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=9&ved=0CDwQ6AEwCA#v=onepage&q=tongues&f=false, Novatian(29)”This is He who places prophets in the Church, instructs teachers, directs tongues, gives powers and healings, does wonderful works, offers discrimination of spirits, affords powers of government, suggests counsels, and orders and arranges whatever other gifts there are of charismata; and thus make the Lord’s Church everywhere, and in all, perfected and completed.”ANF05. Fathers of the Third Century: Hippolytus. Pg. 641, a certain Dionysius,(30)It is mentioned by Ronald A. Kidd in his Charismatic Gifts in the Early Church. Massachusetts: Hendrickson. 1984. Pg. 81 but I haven’t been able to validate where exactly he quoted from. and Firmilian,(31)Once again it is mentioned by Ronald A. Kidd in his Charismatic Gifts in the Early Church. Massachusetts: Hendrickson. 1984. Pg. 83 but I haven’t been able to validate where exactly he quoted from. but these have not been repetitively used within scholastic circles such as the ones stated above. They offer no further contribution to the nature and definition of tongues but all, except for the Testament of Job, are more aimed at the continuance or cessation of the miraculous in the Church.

Hilary of Poitiers is referred to but his position is under-appreciated: “And we learn that all this prophecy was fulfilled in the case of the Apostles, when, after the sending of the Holy Spirit, they all spoke with the tongues of the Gentiles.”(32)as found in On the TrinityVIII:5, Pg. 144. He clearly defined the miracle as foreign languages but few have seriously consulted his position.

Patristic citations severely under-reported.

In comparing what works are available and what have been cited in the source-books, it has been found that the majority of church writings available are severely under-utilized, and the ones that are chosen are very selective and weak. Most of the important ones cited in major dictionaries do not even contain the word γλῶσσα in it. This is what has led to the current theological dilemma.

Why have the ancient Church records been neglected on this subject?

There is a number of reasons why patristics and ecclesiastical writings have been ignored within major source-books on this subject. One of the reasons is the rejection of patristics as a valid source of history. There was once a time where Patristic studies had an elevated status, but for various reasons, had to be dethroned. Most of the primary source books come from an era that reflects this. This is outside the scope of this article. More on this can be found at The Historical Rejection of Patristics and its Legacy, which documents the rise of the rationalist movement and the de-authorization of Patristics and Ecclesiastical writings.

The second reason is because there are so few that have access to, or knowledge of the Church Fathers in Latin or Greek. Access to ecclesiastical writings have always been very limited until the advent of digital technologies. It would be a very difficult task to sew together the various writers manually. The last ten years have opened up the availability of Church writers in a way unheard of in the vestibules of history. This subject can be reopened under a new light.

Another problem is the lack of Protestant scholars trained in patristics. The contemporary practice and debate of the tongues doctrine is largely restricted to a number of protestant sects — it hardly dints the catholic psyche. There are few, if any, Protestants, especially those of the the gifts of the spirit persuasion that are trained in Latin or Greek. The contemporary catholic scholars on the other hand, many who have the expertise, have had little interest in the subject, because it has little impact on their communities. This has also added to the contemporary tension on the christian doctrine of tongues.

For further reading:

References   [ + ]

A History of Glossolalia: Did it exist before 1879?

To find out if the words ecstasy or glossolalia existed before the 1800s and how these terms have developed over time.

As described previously in A History of Glossolalia: Origins, it was approximately 1830 that the new definition of tongues as glossolalia was introduced in German religious circles, but it was not universal. Neither was the concept found in the popular realm of English works until Farrar introduced it in 1879. So far, this proposition has been proven through tertiary source materials with a few references to primary and secondary source materials.

A further examination of the primary, secondary and additional tertiary source books is required to substantiate the assertion that the term glossolalia was added after 1879. Indeed, after careful review of such materials, this was found to be true. The Gift of Tongues Project likes to substantiate all claims and therefore the following is how this conclusion was arrived at. The article then goes one step further to briefly document how this influence affects us today.

Table of Contents

  • Glossolalia in Greek dictionaries published before 1879
  • Glossolalia in dictionaries published between 1880 and 1890
  • Examining pre-1879 commentaries for glossolalia
  • Examining publications after 1879 for glossolalia
    • Dictionaries and language aids
    • Secondary source material
  • Books published in the 1900s and later on glossolalia
  • Glossolalia found in modern English Bibles
  • The influence of ecstasy/glossolalia in contemporary in-house church discussions
  • Conclusion

Glossolalia in Greek dictionaries published before 1879

The following Greek dictionaries were published before 1879 and demonstrate that the word ecstasy, glossolalia or a related synonym did not exist at all in any Greek dictionary published before 1879.

  • Stephanus Lexicon. This Greek dictionary of dictionaries has human language only. No reference to ecstasy or any other variant.

    Henrico Stephanus, or more properly Henri Estienne, was credited for compiling the most definitive Greek dictionary in the latter 1500s and it continued in popularity for centuries. This work still has value even for modern Greek Ecclesiastical translators. The 1598 version has an exhaustive list of which the word γλῶσσα and almost every variation of its form used. It simply states γλῶσσα being language. Ecstasy does not occur in any of its forms.(1) Lexicon GraecoLatinum Recentiss. Ad formam ab Henrico Stephano etc. 1598. Col. 328

  • The 1825 version of Cornellii Shrevelli’s Lexicon: Græco-Latinum. It simply used language with little else. (2) As found in Lexicon Manuale: Græco Latinum et Latino Græcum . Revised and enlarged by Petrus Steele. American Edition. New York: Collins and Hannay. 1825. Pg. 110

  • The 1836 version of James Donnegan’s, A New Greek and English Lexicon: Principally on the Plan of the Greek and German Lexicon of Schneider. This one published tongues primarily meant language but also could be an antiquated dialect or foreign expression.(3) James Donnegan. A New Greek and English Lexicon: Principally on the Plan of the Greek and German Lexicon of Schneider. Second edition. Boston: Hilliard, Gray and Co. 1836. Pg. 329

  • The 1858 version of the Greek Hesychii Alexandrini lexicon gave a simple definition with no reference to ecstasy or utterance, though it does relate to divination and to Plato.(4) Joannem Albertum. Hesychii Alexandrini lexicon. Reprinted. Amsterdam: A.M. Harkert. 1965 (Microfiche of the 1858-1864 version). Pg. 136

  • The Tyro’s Greek and English Lexicon in 1825, simply defined it as “speech – the tongue – tongue piece”,(5) The Tyro’s Greek and English Lexicon: Or a Compendium in English of the Celebrated Lexicons of Damm, Sturze, Schleusner, Schweighaeuser. John Jones, LL.D. ed. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown and Green. 1825. Pg. 269 referring to a piece in a musical instrument.

  • John Grove’s 1830 Greek student dictionary, admittedly based on Schrevelii, simply stated, the tongue; a tongue, language, speech, converse; the tongue in the mouth piece of wind instruments.”(6) John Groves. A Greek and English dictionary, comprising all the words in the writings of the most popular Greek authors. Boston: Hilliard, Gray, Little and Wilkins. 1830. Pg. 126

  • E.A. Andrew’s long-named 1852 dictionary: A copious and critical Latin-English Lexicon: founded on on the larger Latin-German lexicon of William Freund L with additions and corrections from the lexicons of Gesner, Facciolati, Scheller, Georges, etc., also only contains a light and simple definition. They understood it as well to mean only lingua – which is translated into English as language.(7)E.A. Andrews. A copious and critical Latin-English Lexicon: founded on the larger Latin-German lexicon of William Freund L with additions and corrections from the lexicons of Gesner, Facciolati, Scheller, Georges, etc. Vol. 1. New York: Harper. 1852. Pg. 888.

Glossolalia in dictionaries published between 1880 and 1890

However, between 1880 and 1890, some cracks started to be revealed between traditional and contemporary Greek dictionaries:

  • E.A. Sophocles 1887 Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine periods kept γλῶσσα as the traditional definition — a language, nation or people.(8) E.A. Sophocles. Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine Periods. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1900 (Reprint of the 1887 version). Pg. 333.

  • A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Bing Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Nove Testamenti or better known as Thayer’s Greek Lexicon in the mid to late 1880s leaned more towards it being ecstatic, but not quite. This demonstrates the noun was in a transitory stage of redefinition.

    … as appears from I Co. xiv. 7 sqq,. is the gift of men who, rapt in an ecstasy and no longer quite masters of their own reason and consciousness, pour forth their glowing spiritual emotions in strange utterances, rugged, dark, disconnected, quite unfitted to instruct or to influence the minds of others: Acts x. 46; xix. 6; I Co. xii. 30; xii. 1; xiv. 2,4-6, 12, 19, 23,27, 39. The origin of the expression is apparently to be found in the fact, that in Hebrew the tongue is spoken of as the leading instrument by which the praises of God are proclaimed … and that according to the more rigorous conception of inspiration nothing human in an inspired man as thought to be active except the tongue, put in motion by the Holy Spirit…”(9)A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Bing Grmm’s Wilke’s Clavis Nove Testamenti. Translated Revised and enlarged by Joseph Henry Thayer, D.D. New York: American Book Company. 1889. Pg. 118

    The dictionary went on to cite Meyer, Schaff, and Farrar to support its position. It may be one of the first major Greek-English dictionaries to introduce this concept

Examining pre-1879 commentaries for glossolalia

It may not be convincing enough to follow only the dictionaries that a redefinition of the Christian doctrine of tongues started in the early 1800s. Therefore, the same examination will also be done with commentaries.

It was found that before the 1800s commentaries do not have a single correlation between tongues, ecstasy or with the Greek prophets. For example:

  • John Lightfoot’s 1660 A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica: Matthew – I Corinthians,(10)John Lightfoot. A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica: Matthew – I Corinthians. Translator unknown. Vol. 4. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House. 1979. Pg. 28, 256ff

  • Matthew Henry’s 1704, Commentary on the Whole Bible (11)Matthew Henry. Mathew Henry’s Commentary on the whole Bible. IV – Acts to Revelation. New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Co. ND. Original Publish Date, 1704. Pg. 15-18, 572, 576, 581 and

  • John Gill’s 1775 Entire Exposition of the Bible,(12)Gill’s Commentary found here do not contain such a reference.

  • The British Empiricist, John Locke (1632-1704), relied on Lightfoot’s interpretation of Corinthians being a Hebrew language liturgy problem. He made no reference to any other interpretation.(13)Arthur Wainright ed. A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul to the Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, Ephesians. As found in The Clarendon Edition of the Works of John Locke. John W. Yolton, gen. ed.Oxford: Clarendon Press. ND. Pg. 241

  • The 1752 edition of the Monthly Review, covered a book on Christian tongues and concluded that it had ceased its purpose at Pentecost. There was no reference to any other explanation. Almost thirty years later, the same periodic piece published in 1787 a book review that defined the gift of tongues as musical tones, of which the reviewer concluded, “We think it unnecessary to lay any of the Author’s arguments before our Readers; most of them are hypothetical and none of them satisfactory, while the original word militates to strongly against them.”(14)The Monthly Review. Vol. 77. London: R. Griffiths. 1787. Pg. 510 The first article claimed the standard interpretation for the time, the second suggested any idea different from tongues as a foreign language was far too foreign for the public to consider. They were not ready for any deviation from the standard interpretation.

The origins and transition of the doctrine of tongues from natural human language to ecstasy between 1820 and 1879 is not covered here, but can be found at The History of Glossolalia: Origins

Examining publications after 1879 for glossolalia

The following is an analysis of the dictionaries, commentaries, and some Bible translations after this period. The approach here is not to trace the linear development of the thought but to analyze the most widely used and trusted primary, secondary and tertiary source-books that most Bible researchers used to form a contemporary opinion.

The publications produced since the late 1800s and especially early 1900s leads one to think that the concept of tongues as an ecstatic utterance was the only historic and complete conclusion. The majority of these texts fail to be comprehensive and does not allow the reader to understand the different theories, ecclesiastical usage and approaches to this complex subject.

The following is simply to trace the doctrine of tongues in popular literature from 1879 onwards and how the idea of ecstasy was injected into it. Another treatise has been written on the comparative usage of Ecclesiastical literature in the primary source books and can be found at The History of Tongues as an Ecstatic Utterance: An analysis of Patristic Usage.

Dictionaries and language aids

  • The most popular language aide for Greek Bible students is the dictionary, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. This has highly influenced scholars, ministers and Greek translators for almost a century now. Though the first edition is not available for research, the second edition, published in 1979 reflects the evolution. It concluded strongly on the side of ecstasy with only one very brief reference to ecclesiastical usage:

    There is no doubt about the thing referred to, namely the broken speech of persons in religious ecstasy. The phenomenon, as found in Hellenistic religion, is described esp. by ERhode (Psyche’ 03, Eng. trans. ‘25, 289-293) and Reitzenstein; sf. Celsus 7, 8;9. The origin of the term is less clear. Two explanations are prominent today. The one (Bleek, Henrici) holds that γλῶσσα here means antiquated, foreign, unintelligible, mysterious utterances (Diod. S. 4, 66, 7 κατὰ γλῶτταν=according to an old expression). The other (Rtzt., Bosset) sees in glossolalia a speaking marvelous, heavenly languages.(15)Walter Bauer, ed. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature: Second Edition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 1979. Pg. 162

    This lexicon goes into much further detail than the quote above. It graphs almost the entire history of the ecstatic tongues doctrine by listing the important authors’ names and titles of their articles with no explanation of their special contribution or viewpoint, leaving the Patristic and any other opinions almost entirely aside. German works, for the most part, are referred to. One of the more important ones was written by Erwin Rhode.

    A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature key-sourced Erwin Rohde’s work, Psyche: the Cult of Souls in its coverage of the Christian practice of tongues. The book is an incredible description of classical Greek religion with a strong portion focusing on ecstasy and frenzy. Rohde himself did not make any correlation with that of the Corinthian tongues problem or Pentecost, but the association could easily be made by the reader. A portion of Rohde’s masterpiece can be found here at Rohdes, Psyche: the Cult of Souls.

    The lexicon also does cite J.G. Davies 1952 opine, Pentecost and Glossolalia — a short treatise on why the miracle is not ecstatic but foreign languages. Davies article is however very short and lacks any real historical contributions.(16) Based on what I could glean from the first page of three found at Oxford Journals. They want too much money for such a small 3-page document, so this will have to suffice.

  • It became normative for this concept to appear in translator guides such as Max Zerwick’s, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament, where the Greek student is advised to translate the glôssa of the Book of Corinthians as “ecstatic utterance.”(17)Max Zerwick. A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament. Roma: Editrica Pontificio Instituto Biblico. 1988. Pg. 525

  • This is not held so strongly by the competitor, Linguistic Key to the New Testament by Fritz Rienecker. It hardly states anything, referring one to the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament which is pro-ecstatic and Hellenistic.(18)Fritz Rienecker, Cleon Rogers. Linguistic Key to the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. Pg. 433

Secondary source material

  • The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, an original German publication introduced to an English audience in the 1960s, takes on an approach established by August Neander in the 1850s with some additional appendages. Johannes Behm, the contributor for the Gift of Tongues wrote in this dictionary:

    In Corinth, therefore, glossolalia is an unintelligible ecstatic utterance. One of its forms of expression is a muttering of words or sounds without interconnection or meaning. Parallels may be found for this phenomenon in various forms and at various periods and places in religious history.”(19)Johannes Behm.γλῶσσα” as found in Gerhard Kittel, ed. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. G.W. Bromiley Trans. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. Vol. 1. 1964. Pg. 722

    Behm then wrote a very strong unsubstantiated assertion:

    “Paul is aware of a similarity between Hellenism and Christianity in respect of these mystical and ecstatic phenomena.”

    “b. If the judgement of Paul on glossolalia raises the question whether this early Christian phenomenon can be understood merely in the light of the ecstatic mysticism of Hellenism, the accounts ot the emergence of glossolalia or related utterances of the Spirit in the first Palestinian community (Ac. 10:46; 8:15.; 2:2 ff.) make it plain that we are concerned with an ecstatic phenomenon which is shared by both Jewish and Gentile Christianity and for which there are analogies in the religious history of the OT and Judaism.”(20) IBID. Pg. 724

  • The same outlook was expressed by E. Andrews in The Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible:

    Such ecstatic speech as described above prevailed among the earliest Hebrew prophets, the professionalized nebi’im, who, as Yahweh enthusiasts, wandered about the country in bands, working themselves into religious frenzy by means of music and dancing… The word nabi, by which they were called, was probably suggested by their ecstatic babblings and their hith-nabbe, “prophesying,” may well have corresponded to the glossolalia, though scholars are not agreed upon this. In Hellenistic circles also, followers of the Dionysian cult, or of some mystery religion, under powerful emotional pressures of ceremonial rites, often slipped into ecstatic states bordering on frenzy, and expressed themselves in forms intelligible only to the initiated. Through the centuries glossolalia has frequently reappeared among Christian groups, the Montanists, the Camisards, the Irvingites, and many modern sects given to emotional extremes. The psychological aspects are patent.(21)E. Andrews. The Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible. Vol. 4. New York: Abingdon Press. 1962. Pg. 672

  • The 1993 compendium, The Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, considered a “monumental work by an ecumenical group of scholars”,(22)books.google.com/books?isbn=0802828035 asserted that the origin of glossolalia in the Corinthian Church can be found in the “Syncrestic piety of the Hellenistic Mediterranean world.”(23)Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament. Horst Blatz, Gerhard Schneider ed. No Translator name given. USA: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.: 1990. Pg. 253. Translated from the original: Exegetisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament.

  • Even the encyclopedias had this new thought entrenched. The 1917 edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia, played down the miraculous and described tongues in a weakly tone, concluding:

    It was the Holy Ghost who impelled the disciples “to speak”, without perhaps being obliged to infuse a knowledge of tongues unknown. The physical and psychic condition of the auditors was one of ecstasy and rapture in which “the wonderful things of God” would naturally find utterance in acclamations, prayers or hymns…(24) Found on the web newadvent.org.

    The article then contradicts itself at the end:

    Faithful adherence to the text of Sacred Scripture makes it obligatory to reject those opinions which turn the charism of tongues into little more than infantile babbling (Eichhorn, Schmidt, Neander).(25)IBID newadvent.org.

    There is hardly any reference to any of the patristic writings on their conclusion either. This contradictory style of writing on glossolalia is confusing and offers the reader no sense of conclusion.

  • The 1987 version of Encyclopedia Britannica, claimed the gift of tongues to be, “utterances approximating words and speech, usually produced during states of intense religious excitement… Glossolalia occurred in some of the ancient Greek religions and in various primitive religions.”(26)Encyclopedia Britannica. Vol. 11. Ed. 15. 1987. Pg. 842

  • The 1911 New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge vacillates in the definition, slightly mentioning the traditional stance without great success. The author then stated the gift of tongues along with St. Paul’s experience to be one of an ecstatic experience(27)PKE Feine. The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. Samuel Macauley Jackson, ed. New York: Funk and Wagnalls. 1911. Pg. 36-37 and then makes a correlation with the Greek religion.(28) IBID. PKE Feine. Pg. 38

  • The popular Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible in Five Volumes alluded to tongues and ecstasy though not overtly.(29) R.A. Cole. “Tongues, Gift of” as found in The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible in Five Volumes. Merril Tenney ed. Vol. V. NP.ND. Pg. 775 A favorite of Evangelical Bible Students, The New International Bible Encyclopedia, gave prominence to the thought of tongues being ecstatic, citing influences of the Greek Delphic Oracles.(30)Cecil Robeck Jr. “Tongues, gift of” as found in The New International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. NP. ND. Pg. 872

Books published in the 1900s and later on glossolalia

Commentaries and books, especially since the 1900s, promote tongues as an ecstatic utterance almost exclusively.

  • One of the most acclaimed commentators of the 20th century, Hans Conzelmann, paved the way for a broader audience to accept the new definition. In his, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, published in 1975, he contended:

    . . .that speaking with tongues is unintelligible to a normal man, even a Christian. On the other hand it must be meaningful, must be logical in itself. For can be translated into normal language, which is again made possible by a special gift…. If we could explain it, then we must set out from comparable material in the history of religion, above all from the Greek motif of the inspiring *pneuma*, which is expressed especially in Mantic sources, and is bound up more particularly with Delphi. The deity speaks out of the inspired.(31)Hans Conzelmann. A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians. George W. MacRae, ed. Philadelphia: Fortress Press. 1975. Pg. 234

    He vacillated between ecstatic and real languages, mixing the two together in understanding Pentecost in the Book of Acts: “The Pentecost narrative alternates between an account of an outbreak of glossolalia and miraculous speech in many languages. Luke has fashioned it not its present form as an episode with a burlesque impact, a mixture of themes which lead to reflection. In addition to the meaningful event as such, the episode contains instructive material in the description of the scene itself.”(32) Hans Conzelmann. A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles. Trans. by J. Limburg, A. Thomas Krabel, DH Juel. Philadelphia: Fortress Press. 1987. Pg. 15 He believed Luke’s reflection of Pentecost as being a “naive legend.” and that Luke lost “conception of the original glossolalia.”(33) IBID Conzelmann. A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles. Pg. 15

  • The New International Commentary on the New Testament, edited by the revered Evangelical F.F. Bruce, does not go so far to indicate Greek syncretism, but the tongues of Corinth were not human language.(34) F.W. Grosheide. Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians. As part of The New International Commentary on the New Testament. F.F. Bruce ed. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. 1953. Pg. 317

  • William Barclay, a popular commentator that has attracted a conservative audience, also didn’t accept the idea of the Greek influence but still thought ecstasy was the central core, it was “very common in the early Church. A man became worked up to an ecstasy and in that state poured out a quite uncontrollable torrent of sounds in no known languages… the very desire to possess it produced, at least in some, a kind of self-hypnotism and deliberately induced hysteria which issued in a completely false and synthetic speaking with tongue”.(35)William Barclay. The Letters to the Corinthians. As part of The Daily Study Bible. Rev. ed. Toronto: G.R. Welch Co. Ltd. 1975. Pg. 127

  • The NIV Application Commentary: I Corinthians significantly added to the idea that tongues and ecstasy are synonyms. The writer succinctly stated on the Corinthian tongues that it did “not imply that Paul recognized glossolalia as actual foreign languages spoken by people somewhere on earth, or even that they have a comparable linguistic structure,… Various Greco-Roman religions were well-known for their outburst of ecstatic speech and unintelligible repetition of “consense” syllables”.(36)Craig L. Blomberg. NIV Application Commentary: I Corinthians. Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House. 1994. Pg. 293

The influence of ecstasy/glossolalia in contemporary in-house church discussions

A few examples on how the word ecstasy and associated terms have affected modern day tongues perspectives within and outside the Church.

  • The concept of ecstasy has been used by more conservative Christian leaders as an attack on Pentecostals and Charismatics. For instance, John MacArthur has argued that the Pentecostals have gone wrong by following ecstasy rather than biblical truth: “This was a very common practice in their culture. In fact, the term used in I Corinthians to refer to speaking in tongues (glossais lalein) was not invented by the Bible writers. It was a term used commonly in the Greco-Roman culture to speak of the pagan language of the gods which occurred while the speaker was in an ecstatic trance. By the way, this language of the gods was always gibberish. Beloved, as much as I wish it weren’t true, I’m convinced that what we see going on in today’s Charismatic movement is the same kind of situation that occurred in the Corinthian Church – and engulfing of the church in pagan religion.”(37) John MacArthur. Speaking in Tongues: The Truth about Tongues – Part 1. ND. Tape GC 187. http://www.biblebb.com/files/MAC/sg1871.htm

  • The pagan Greek connection was also echoed by J.G. Dunn, who is referred extensively by a selection of Pentecostal and Evangelical thinkers to affirm their doctrine of speaking in tongues:

    There are some indications that the Corinthian glossolalia was indeed ‘ecstatic utterance’, measured in value by them precisely by the intensity of the ecstasy which produced it and by the unintelligibility of the utterances. …These features of Corinthian glossolalia are too reminiscent of the mantic prophecy of the Pythia at Delphi. . . and the wider manifestation of ecstasy in the worship of Dionysus, so the conclusion becomes almost inescapable: glossolalia as practised in the assembly at Corinth was a form of ecstatic utterance – sounds, cries, words uttered in a state of spiritual ecstasy.(38) J.G. Dunn. Jesus and the Spirit. London:SCM Press. 1975. Pg. 242

Glossolalia and the modern English Bible

The idea of tongues as an ecstatic utterance entered into some Bible translations –though this is a minority. The majority of Bibles keep the traditional reading and do not introduce the new definition. The King James version remains unaffected with its own problem of “unknown tongues” in the text, which has misled many an English reader for its original intention. Even though the adjective unknown was not initially written to express the concept of ecstatic utterances, it blends in quite well. The ubiquitous New International and New American Standard Bibles simply follow their traditional approach which is neutral.

Two newer English Bible translations have revised their translation with a glossaly interpretation:

  • The New English Bible translates the tongues passages with the new definition, Acts 19:6 “and when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them and they spoke in tongues of ecstasy and prophesied,”(39) The New English Bible. Cambridge: Oxford University Press. 1961. Pg. 217 and I Corinthians 14:2, “When a man is using the language of ecstasy he is talking with God.”(40) IBID. NEB. Pg. 296

  • The popular Message Bible, I Corinthians 14:4ff “The one who prays using a private “prayer language” certainly gets a lot out of it, but proclaiming God’s truth to the church in its common language brings the whole church into growth and strength.”(41)Bible Gateway website.

Study notes at the bottom pages of different Bibles have not been extensively reviewed for this work. It does bring up a question on how extensive Bible study notes have been used to perpetuate the myth of ecstatic utterances. For example, the Harper Study Bible teaches in its study notes that the phenomenon in Acts is languages, but in Corinthians, “the tongues are described as ecstatic utterances not corresponding to any known languages but given direct expression to ineffable emotions with insights of the souls.”(42) Harper Study Bible: The Holy Bible RSV. Harold Lindsell, ed. New York: Harper and Row. 1946. Pg. 1714 This whole realm remains unstudied.

Conclusion

The results of this study suggest that glossolalia and the associative definitions did not enter the tongues theology until later in the 1800s. After it took hold, the ancient traditional position was excluded. This erroneously leads the reader or any ardent Bible student to think that there is no other option and it must be understood as some form of ecstatic utterance or glossolalia.

The modern historians have also reframed the christian doctrine of tongues to fit into the glossolalia paradigm. Instead of tracing the tradition of speaking in tongues through church literature, the majority have chosen to follow the trajectory of classic Hellenistic literature instead.

For further information:

References   [ + ]