Tag Archives: higher criticism

Early Pentecostal Tongues: Part 4

The relationship between Pentecostals and the historians Philip Schaff , F. W. Farrar and others along with their influence on the modern definition.

This is final of a four-part series covering how the traditional definition of tongues all but died and was replaced by the pentecostal practice of glossolalia — an umbrella term for the language of adoration, singing and writing in tongues, and/or a private act of devotion between a person and God.

Part 1 contained introductory comments. Part 2 gave a detailed account on the twofold problems of pentecostal tongues; the failure of the miraculous missionary tongues and negative image of gibberish promoted by the media. Part 3 focused on the solutions early pentecostals declared in resolving these two tensions.

Before 1906 there were only two definitions of speaking in tongues within the traditional christian practice: a miracle of speaking one or more foreign languages or a sound being transmitted and miraculously converting into a language within the hearers mind. After 1906, the definition expanded to four different types of tongues expressions. The most important and dominant theme was that of tongues as a personal expression of adoration and worship.

As documented in Part 3, the Pentecostals based their new definitions found in commentaries and historical accounts; mainly those of Philip Schaff, the renowned Anglican writer and speaker Frederick Farrar, the Anglican authors Conybeare and Howson, and a small number of other writers who belonged to the same interpretative framework called higher criticism.

This article is an extension of Part 3, but is a specific examination of the higher criticism authors and how they were incorporated into the pentecostal message.

Historians that Pentecostals rely on for their tongues practice.

Philip Schaff

Philip Schaff (January 1, 1819 – October 20, 1893) was the number one source that the early pentecostals used to trace their tongues-speaking history. This has already been demonstrated in part 3 of this series where Pentecostals built a historical framework for tongues largely through Schaff’s historical framework. Here are a few more additions to his already revealed relationship.

It is hard to go wrong with such a respected and venerated academic. He is one of the first American-based religious scholars to gain such universal admiration and a literary powerhouse. He produced and oversaw a vast library of publications relating to church history. The level of detail reflecting the history of Christendom is unrivaled even by today’s standards. The attempt by Pentecostals to align his scholarly history with their own experience would be more than enough to establish their newfound identity and acceptance into the religious echelons. They partially succeeded by doing so.

Philip Schaff

Schaff was a Swiss-born, German-educated professor who studied at three of the most prestigious schools of theology; the universities of Tübingen, then Halle, and finally Berlin. He studied under the greatest German names of theology and philosophy ever produced, especially that of August Neander who is considered the father of the modern glossolalia movement.

His qualities of ecumenism along with his disdain for sects and denominations would have been a welcome theme for Pentecostals. (1)For Good or For Ill: Philip Schaff’s Ecumenical Transatlantic Vision of the Church and its Future. Thesis by Greg R. Clarkson. December 3, 2008

This historian moved to the United States in 1843 and became a professor of Church history and Biblical Literature at the German Reformed Theological Seminary of Mercersburg, Pennsylvania.(2)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Schaff He later taught at the Union Theological Seminary, New York City, and served there until his death.

Although Schaff himself was not a mystic, he had a keen interest in glossolalia, especially in applying it to the Irvingite movement which was one of the most discussed theological issues during his life. He was critical about the Irvingites and concluded it was nothing more than religious excitement—a practice tracing a lineage to the Montanists in the second century.(3)“Analogies to this speaking with tongues may be found also in the ecstatic prayers and prophecies of the Montanists in the second century, and the kindred Irvingites in the nineteenth; yet it is hard to tell, whether these are the work of the Holy Ghost, or Satanic imitations, or what is most probable, the result of an unusual excitement of mere nature, under the influence of religion, a more or less morbid enthusiasm, and ecstasis of feeling.” — Philip Schaff. History of the Apostolic Church with a General Introduction to Church History. Trans. By Edward D. Yeomans. New York: Charles Scribner. 1859. Pg. 197

Frank Bartleman, one of the integral proponents of the Azusa Street Revival, cited Schaff for affirmation of the tongues displayed in 1906:

We will quote from well known authors some interesting extracts on the subject of “speaking in tongues.” Dr. Philip Schaff, in his “History of the Christian Church,” Vol. I, page 116, says: “The speaking with tongues is an involuntary psalm – like prayer or song, uttered from a spiritual trance, and in a peculiar language inspired by the Holy Ghost. The soul is almost entirely passive, an instrument on which the Holy Ghost plays His heavenly melodies.(4)Bartleman. How Pentecost came to Los Angeles. Self-Published. 1925. Pg. 76; The quote can be found in Philip Schaff. History of the Christian Church, Volume I: Apostolic Christianity. A.D. 1-100. Third Ed. Vol. 1. New York: Charles Scribner and Sons. 1889. Pg. 438

The Assemblies of God publishing arm, Gospel Publishing House, thought so highly of Schaff that they produced a tract from his works, and put it up for sale through their flagship newspaper.

The tract, called the Person of Christ, showed how deeply ingrained Schaff had become in the pentecostal psyche. The actual advertisement is displayed along with a typed facsimile below:

“The Person of Christ” By Philip Schaff. “The one question pushing its way persistently into the hearts and minds of men is ‘What think ye of Christ?’ A clear, concise and convincing answer is given to the world in the pages of this book. No man can afford to miss from his library or his life the ripened fruit of Dr. Schaff’s mind. He has entered the Holy of Holies and brought back to his fellow men a divine message. For the man who desires to know Christ and desires to be more like Him, and desires to lead others to Him, this book is one of God’s choicest gifts.”(5) The Pentecostal Evangel. Aug. 27, 1927 No. 712

Frederick Farrar

Frederick William Farrar was a gifted Anglican philologist, historian, writer and speaker. His talents was recognized by Queen Victoria who made him her honorary chaplain.(6)http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/farrar/bio.html He was later called Dean Farrar to reflect his later position as the Dean of Canterbury. His many publications, especially The Life of Christ, was highly successful both in England and the United States. He was a friend of Charles Darwin and a pallbearer at his funeral. There are two books published by him that have special interest to speaking in tongues. One highly regarded by early pentecostals, and the other oddly ignored.

Frederic William Farrar
Frederic William Farrar

Darkness to Dawn

Farrar rose to prominence in the pentecostal community when A. A. Boddy published in the May, 1914 edition of Confidence an article called “Glossolalia in the Early Church.”(7)The Bridegroom’s Messenger claims it originated from a group in Bournemoth, England The author is an anonymous Church of England clergyman but it would have been nice to know his hame. The title is misleading because it is a book review of Darkness to Dawn. The book was written by the late Dean of Canterbury, Frederick Farrar. The reviewer had a high respect for the intellectual and historical genius of this high ranking Anglican leader. Although the book was a well-received story about fictional characters in early Rome, the historical framework was considered historically accurate – especially concerning the mode of worship and the rite of speaking in tongues.

The writer believed that Farrar had accidentally paralleled the early christian history of tongues with the modern day pentecostal movement and captured the sense that no other historian had accomplished:

Once more the Dean rightly dwells on the mystic character of “the tongue;” I also (this is worthy of special note) on the mixture of the different languages in “the tongue,” being, as it were, as he says, “the essence and idea of all languages.” Furthermore, how truly does he sum up the impression of the tongues upon the hearts of the hearers as being a blending of ecstatic worship, wonder, thanksgiving, and intercession, often untranslateable, but entering, and possessing with a like burden of worship, and intercession, the spirits of all who are “in the Spirit.”

THE SAME SPIRIT. As we read this marvellously accurate portrayal or the manifestations accompanying the Glossolalia, it is difficult to realise that Dean Farrar had never been present at one of these latter day Pentecostal gatherings (having died several years, at least, before the present Revival of the “Charismata” in the Church), and the extract we have dealt with not only shows how faithfully and successfully he has delineated, from history, the true Scriptural phenomena of the Pentecostal effusion of the Spirit, but the whole passage is, to our minds, a very convincing proof of how, whether we examine the manifestations and operations of the’ Holy Spirit in the Christian assemblies of the days of Nero, or of the Twentieth Century. . .”(8)Confidence. May 1914. Vol. VII. No. 5. Glossolalia in the Early Church. Historical descriptions from the late Dean of Canterbury. Pg. 88-89

This article started a long-lasting connection between Pentecostals and the late Frederick Farrar. The article itself made its rounds through the Pentecostal community for decades.(9)The same article was reprinted three months later in the Christian Evangel; and in 1917 with the Bridegroom’s Messenger; April 1, 1917. Vol 10. No. 198; a breviary can be found in the Latter Rain Evangel in 1925. Latter Rain Evangel. September, 1925. Pg. 22 By 1923 the book was converted into a tract. It was advertised and distributed by the Pentecostal Evangel, the official publication of the Assemblies of God. The advertisement in their newspaper reads: “The substance of this tract has been taken from “Darkness and Dawn” by Dean Farrar, and is based on a true account of the manifestations of the Spirit as they were seen in the Church in the days of Nero.”(10) Pentecostal Evangel. June 9, 1923. No. 500

Darkness to Dawn tract found advertised in the Pentecostal Evangel

The tract advertisement promoted that the book was a true account. It became a seminal reading for all Pentecostals who wanted to know the historical background to speaking in tongues. It was advertised and promoted in every edition of the Christian Evangel for many years.

Comments about his book graced the lips of important pentecostal leaders. For example, Paul H. Walker, a prominent Church of God (Cleveland) minister included the book as part of his timeline for the history of tongues.(11)Church of God Evangel. Nov. 18, 1933. Vol. 24. No. 37 Ernest S. Williams, Superintendant, Assemblies of God, opined about Farrar’s Darkness to Dawn book in a 1939 edition of the Pentecostal Evangel. He was encouraged by the parallels by Farrar’s view of early Christianity and modern Pentecostalism. He felt the lessons learned from the book can be applied to modern Pentecostal living.(12)Pentecostal Evangel. May 27, 1939. No. 1307. Pg. 3

The Life of St. Paul

Farrar’s important theological work, The Life of St. Paul is omitted from any promotion within the pentecostal realm. This book had historical significance because it was one of the gateways of German religious thought into the English religious vocabulary. Oxford Encyclopedia co-credited Farrar as the creator of the English word glossolalia.

Farrar promoted that the tongues of Pentecost had nothing to do with a foreign language. “Pentecost, does not contain the remotest hint of foreign languages. Hence the fancy that this was the immediate result of Pentecost is unknown to the first two centuries, and only sprang up when the true tradition obscured.”(13) Frederick W. Farrar. The Life and Work of St. Paul. London: Cassell and Company. 1897 (originally published in 1879). Pg. 53ff This comment was almost verbatim from the great German scholar that he so greatly admired, August Neander.

Conybeare, and Howson

The new concept of tongues as a divine language was also found in Britain where a pentecostal newspaper, Confidence was published. This paper began in 1908 under the editorship of A. A. Boddy, an Anglican vicar at All Saints in Monkwearmouth, Sunderland, England.

A picture of A. A. Boddy who had a large influence with early pentecostals on the historical understanding of tongues

Confidence gave a slightly more critical and intellectual nuance to the movement at a critical juncture in the movement’s infancy.

In the second issue of Confidence, Boddy immediately goes into the intellectual side and quotes from an 1850s publication, the Life and Epistles of St. Paul, by W. J. Conybeare and J. S. Howson. Two Anglican scholars whom Boddy relates; “No writers are more trusted in conservative and orthodox circles than these eminent scholars and Anglican Divines. They wrote about the year 1850, and have both passed away. Dr. Howson became Dean of Chester Cathedral. They would have rejoiced if they had been spared to the days of the Latter Rain, and themselves received the Gift of Tongues, in the Lord’s great goodness.”(14)Confidence. May 1908, No. 2. Pg. 4

Title page from Conybeare and Howson’s The life and Epistles of St. Paul

What Boddy didn’t realize was the theological background of these two hallowed authors. These leaders had adopted the German higher criticism approach. By doing so they embraced the relatively new theory about tongues. The main component of this theory concerns the persons under the power of the Spirit was in an ecstasy, pouring forth utterances in communication with God that they themselves could not comprehend. They totally excluded the traditional interpretation and failed to resolve the tension between their conclusion and the ancient one. Here is a quote directly from their work:

Besides the power of working miracles other supernatural gifts of a less extraordinary character were bestowed upon the early Church. The most important were the gift of tongues and the gift of prophecy. With regard to the former there is so much difficulty, for the notices of it in Scripture, in fully comprehending its nature. But from the passages where it is mentioned we may gather thus much concerning it: first, that it was not a knowledge of foreign languages, as is often supposed; we never read of its being exercised for the conversion of foreign nations, nor (except on the day of Pentecost alone) for that occasion the foreigners present were all Jewish proselytes, and most of them understood the Hellenistic dialect. Secondly we learn that this gift was the result of a sudden influx of supernatural inspiration, which came upon the new believer immediately after his baptism, and recurred afterwards at uncertain intervals. Thirdly, we find that while under its influence the exercise of the understanding was suspended while the spirit was rapt into a state of ecstasy by the immediate communication of the Spirit of God. In this ecstatic trance the believer was constrained by an irresistible power to pour forth his feelings of thanksgiving and rapture in words; yet the words which issued from his mouth were not his own; he was even (usually) ignorant of their meaning. St. Paul desired that those who possessed this gift should not be suffered to exercise it in the congregation, unless someone present possessed another gift (subsidiary to this), called the interpretation of tongues, by which the ecstatic utterance of the former might be rendered available for general edification.(15)W. J. Conybeare, J. S. Howson. The and Epistles of St. Paul. Vol. 1. New Edition. London: Longman, Green, Longman and Roberts. 1961. Pg. 506. This quote is found in Confidence May 1908, No. 2

Boddy and the majority of Pentecostals do not interpret Conybeare and Howson as higher criticism scholars, rather they saw two respected academics from an established and respected institution whose views align closely with their experience.

The Assemblies of God newspaper which briefly had the name, Weekly Evangel wrote a detailed piece in 1916 called “ Article VII. — The Gift of Tongues, and the Pentecostal Movement.” A writer named B. F. Lawrence concluded the miraculous endowment of tongues as a missionary aid was unfounded. He cited Schaff, Conybeare and Howson as his authority. Speaking in foreign languages can occur, but this is not the main purpose. The intent is to magnify God in whatever way that happens.(16)Weekly Evangel. June 3, 1916. No. 142. Pg. 4.

Encyclopedia Brittanica

This Encyclopedia was cited only on a few rare occasions, and the only one marked for this research was in the Church of God Evangel in 1933.(17) “The Baptism with the Holy Ghost and the Evidence” as found in The Church of God Evangel. Nov. 18, 1933. Vol. 24. No. 37. This dictionary had little influence.

James Stalker

Frank Bartleman called upon a theologian named James Stalker (1902-1924ish) to support his experience.(18)Frank Bartleman. How Pentecost came to Los Angeles. Self-Published. 1925. Pg. 77 Stalker was a Free Church of Scotland minister and was widely known in the United States where he frequently spoke at seminaries and churches. Stalker didn’t think that the gift of tongues was a rite of speaking a foreign language – it was a tranced utterance and impassioned rhapsody.(19)Bartleman’s quotation of Stalker is not literal. He has edited the copy from Stalker’s original, though it doesn’t hurt his cause. See The original Life of St. Paul on Pg. 102 and compare it Bartleman’s. Here is yet another author borrowing from the Higher Criticism cupboard. This author fit in with Bartleman’s belief that the inspiration could express itself in musical forms.

Pulpit Commentary

The Pulpit Commentary was a large 23 volume work that approached Biblical exposition from a number of angles. Volumes began appearing in the later 1800s and took over thirty-years to complete. There were over 100 contributors to different sections of the Bible who were from clergyman to dissenting ministers.(20)The Pulpit Commentary. Vol. 13. “The Opinions of the Press” A quote from the Guardian. London: Kegan Paul, Trench & Co. 1884. Pg. 2 The editors were two Anglican-based clerics; Rev. H. D. M. Spence and Rev. Joseph S. Exell.

The Assemblies of God magazine published on two occasions using the Pulpit Commentary as an explanation for speaking in tongues. The first one was in 1916 by John S. Mercer, and the second time in 1927 by Ernest S. Williams. Ernest S. Williams was a general superintendent of the Assemblies of God and also an original participant at the Azusa Street revival.

The Pulpit Commentary was greatly held in esteem that it was republished by the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), a leading pentecostal denomination.(21)The Church of God Evangel. March 17, 1945. Pg. 2

The two sections of the Pulpit Commentary cited by Mercer are the Book of Acts by Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells, Rev. Lord A. C. Hervey, and I Corinthians by F. W. Farrar.

Mercer quoted the Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells that tongues were the languages of both men and angels.(22)The Weekly Evangel. April 22, 1916. Vol. 136. Pg. 6 which nicely fit into the mechanics behind pentecostal mystical speech. However, this quote does not accurately reflect the Bishop thought. The Bishop thought that there was no doubt that it was a miracle of foreign languages. An alternative could have been a miracle of hearing, but he found that less convincing. He refuted the idea of tongues being for missionary purposes. He covers the positions of Farrar, Neander and other rationalists, and was not convinced by their arguments. The bulk of his exposition covers their positions. Neither did he believe it was gibberish. He concluded with a philosophical conclusion: tongues signified that all converges into the unity of Christ. The first Pentecost was a symbol that there will come a time that everyone and everything will speak and understand the same speech.(23)Acts of the Apostles by Lord A. C. Hervey. Bishop of Bath and Wells. As found in The Pulpit Commentary. Edited by H. D. M. Spence, Joseph Excell. New York: Funk and Wagnall’s. ND. Pg. 48ff

The Pulpit Commentary on I Corinthians was written by none other than F. W. Farrar himself.

Ernest S. Williams wrote a work in defence against the pentecostal practice of tongues being one of indecency and frenzy. He aligned his argument with Farrar’s exposition in the Pulpit Commentary where Farrar stated that it was unhistoric and unwarranted “that ‘the gift of tongues’ was a power to speak in foreign languages.”(24)Pentecostal Evangel. July 23, 1927. No. 707. Pg. 2. See the Pulpit Commentary Page 456 for more information. After deconstructing the missionary tongues argument, Williams proceeded to affirm his definition of tongues through Farrar who insisted it was similar to the impassioned soliloquies of inarticulate utterance of the Montanists.(25)Pentecostal Evangel. July 23, 1927. No. 707. Pg. 2. See the Pulpit Commentary Page 457 for more information.

T. B. Barratt’s defence against Higher Criticism literature

T. B. Barratt, a powerful Norwegian preacher and associate of Boddy, was partially responsible for the expansion of Pentecostalism in Europe. He recognized the encroachment of higher criticism within the ranks and fought against it.

T. B. Barratt.

He too provides a historical chart of tongues through the centuries that is very similar to what V. P. Simmons did in 1907 and makes a 1600 year jump from Augustine to the Lutheran Reformation, ignoring any catholic literature.(26)T. B. Barratt. Published Lecture. The Truth about the Pentecostal Revival. 1908. Pg. 21 He also wanted to emphasize that the gift was not to “usurp the ordinary study of Languages.”(27)T. B. Barratt. Published Lecture. The Truth about the Pentecostal Revival. 1908. Pg. 34

He does acknowledge that it could be a heavenly or divine language, but he downplays it. He also recognized it can also can be a combination of the person’s intellect and a divine intervention; “The human mind may use expression stored up by previous experiences, but God brings them out and uses them.”(28)Confidence. Feb. 19th, 1909, Vol. II. No. 2. Pg. 37 He later continues in 1909 to instill the idea of speaking in a foreign language as the most common practice.(29)Confidence. May, 1909. Vol. II. No. 5. Pg. 118

In 1909, Barratt produced the book, In the Last Days of the Latter Rain which may be the most comprehensive coverage on speaking in tongues from a pentecostal standpoint. In this book, he ardently struggled against higher criticism and tried to maintain a progressive traditional stance. The book is a reactionary one based on an article he read on tongues that he disagreed with. Unfortunately, he failed to identify the author, but the citations and structure closely parallel the works of Frederick Farrar. Barratt denounced the higher criticist idea that the Pentecost “does not contain the remotest hint of foreign languages,”(30)T. B. Barrett. In the Last Days of the Latter Rain. London: Elim Publishing Company, Ltd. 1928. Pgs. 80-91; He is quoting from Farrar’s “Life and Work of St. Paul. London: Cassel and Company. 1897. Pg. 53. and the real Pentecost was obscure so a later tradition two-centuries made it out as a miracle of speech. The anonymous writer added that Greek was an international language that the known world shared, and it was unnecessary to speak in foreign languages for the expansion of the Gospel.

He also refuted the idea that the tongues of Corinth were sounds instead of languages,(31)T. B. Barrett. In the Last Days of the Latter Rain. London: Elim Publishing Company, Ltd. 1928. Pgs. 80-91 and disagreed with Frederick Farrar’s assessment of tongues not being a foreign language.

Five years later a lecture by Barratt in 1914 was put into print: The Gift of Tongues. What is it? Delivered in Möllergaten 38, Kristania (Oslo, Norway), Saturday evening, June 20th, 1914 – a little more than a month before World War I began. It was an oration turned into a small book that “was specifically delivered to answer the criticism’s that had been made by the famed American Bible teacher, Dr. A. C. Dixon who had preached against ‘Pentecost’ the day before at The Tent of Meeting, Kristiania, on Friday 19th June, 1914.”(32)http://revival-library.org/shop/index.php/e-books/pentecostal-revival/other-pentecostals/product/329-t-b-barratt-the-gift-of-tongues

The oration shows a shift in the pentecostal doctrine of tongues and movement towards the words; ecstasy and utterance. He once again entertains the idea that it is possible that sometimes it can be a non-human or heavenly language, but emphasizes the miracle of foreign language by a wide margin. He defends against the idea that Pentecost was a miracle of language and Corinth ecstatic utterances. “The Bible represents the same kind of tongues in both Jerusalem and Corinth. If they spoke in ecstatic exclamations in Corinth, then they did so in Jerusalem also. Possibly they spoke both in language and in ecstasy in both places.”(33)T. B. Barratt. The Gift of Tongues. What is it? NP. NL. 1914. Pg. 22 He was aware of Neander’s redefining of tongues as an ecstatic rhapsody and rejected it. He had a strong emphasis in the book on the miracle of speaking in foreign languages. However, he does waffle on the subject. He declares that he has seen both. “We have personal experience of both of these forms of speaking in tongues, and have heard them extensively used by the Spirit at our meetings”[ref[/ref]. He believed that when a person spoke, they did not know what they were speaking. It was an undefined sound. Barratt recognized the conflict in theories but he fails to clearly resolve this tension.

T. B. Barratt and the Confidence newspaper follow a similar pattern to that of the Apostolic Faith newspaper after 1910 where the activity of speaking in tongues has less coverage. One major reference happens in a 1913 issue where a woman wrote about speaking in tongues and expressed: “One is lost in God, swept up to heavenly places, and gives utterance in strange sounds, in an unknown tongue, which flow over our lips, now as shouts of joy, then as fervent utterances of love towards our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and then as petitions.”(34)A Mrs. Polman from Amsterdam explaining her experience. Confidence. Aug. 1913 Vol. VI. No. 8. Pg. 151 Her experience shows a change in attitude in tongues from a missionary to a personal and private one.

Unfortunately, Barratt’s attempt to reconcile the traditional interpretation with modern practice and his proper critique of historical criticism never took hold in the larger collective mind of the pentecostal hive. Both Barratt and Boddy became sidelined from the American corpus. The opening of World War I caused many countries to form isolationist thinking and actions which would have limited both Boddy and Barratt in the American affairs of Pentecostalism at a critical juncture of its emerging structure. Barratt was also mired in theological problems inside his Norwegian church and community that were unique to his situation. One must be cognizant of the fact that he was writing in the language of religious scholarship. This would be offputting for the majority of the collective pentecostal mind who were reactive against such an approach. Neither did Boddy nor Barratt fully endorse the baptism with the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues. This too would have been a factor.

In respect to speaking in tongues being foreign languages, he was in the same boat as the editors of the Apostolic Faith Newspaper, Clara Lum and Florence Crawford. They were old guards in an evolving and changing movement.


This completes the four-part series on why the traditional tongues of Pentecost was relegated mostly to the sidelines and replaced by glossolalia— an umbrella term for the language of adoration, singing and writing in tongues, and/or a private act of devotion between a person and God.

The new definitions arose because of the failure of missionary tongues and the media’s backlash of gibberish. Instead of admitting that their announcement of the miraculous return of speaking in tongues was a mistake, they chose to find a different meaning that explained what was really happening in their midst.

This series clearly shows that Pentecostals looked at certain histories that lined up with their own experience, especially that of Schaff, Farrar, a lesser input from Conybeare and Howson, and a few others. Philip Schaff and F. W. Farrar were so heavily relied upon that it would be fair to say that Pentecostals are followers of these authors tongues framework.

The shift began happening already in 1907 and continued an evolution whereby by 1947 Pentecostals believed solely in tongues as a private means of expression and that missionary tongues was a sad mistake that had been corrected.

This narrative demonstrates how early Pentecostals lacked the fundamental tools of hermeneutics to study the doctrine themselves and the longstanding effects of it. They had to leave it to third-party specialists who were capable of reading, interpreting and translating Greek, Latin and other texts and weaving a historical narrative. They had no sense that the external authors they depended on were solely from a higher criticism framework – who often didn’t even include the traditional interpretation. Even today, Pentecostal scholars have yet to make this connection or reevaluate this doctrine using a critical apparatus.

For more information

Charles Sullivan has been involved with the charismatic movement since the 1980s and presently attends a charismatic church in Winnipeg called The Church of the Rock.

References   [ + ]

Early Pentecostal Tongues: Part 1


This four-part series covers how the traditional definition of tongues all but died and was replaced by the pentecostal practice of glossolalia — an umbrella term for the language of adoration, singing and writing in tongues, and/or a private act of devotion between a person and God.

This series was started to settle a mystery – why the doctrine of tongues had changed so dramatically after 1906. Up until the early 1900s the christian doctrine of tongues was a stable doctrine that either was a miraculous ability to speak in one or more foreign languages, or a miracle of one language being adapted in transmission and understood within each listener’s mind.

After 1906, a potpourri of definitions arose. There was the traditional doctrine of a miraculously endowed foreign language by some while others added newer ones, depending on a number of influences: the gift of tongues vs. the utterance of tongues, writing in tongues, singing in tongues, the language of adoration and worship, a private prayer language, and glossolalia. For an unknown reason, the miracle of hearing was entirely dropped from the pentecostal conversation.

This is an investigation into solving this mystery.

Table of contents for the entire series:

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: The Tongues Crisis

  • The Missionary Tongues Movement
  • The Missionary Tongues Dilemma
  • The Gibberish Movement

Part 3: Solutions to the Pentecostal Tongues Crisis

  • Ignore the Problem
  • Utterance vs. Gift of Tongues
  • Writing and Singing in Tongues
  • Tongues as an Expression of Praise and Adoration
    • V.P. Simmons
    • William Manley and the Household of God
    • A. B. Cox
    • Paul H. Walker
  • Tongues as a Heavenly or Private Prayer Language
  • Tongues as Glossolalia

Part 4: Pentecostals, Tongues and Higher Criticism

  • Pentecostal Reliance on Higher Criticism for defining Modern Tongues
    • Philip Schaff
    • Frederick Farrar
    • Conybeare and Howson
    • Encyclopedia Brittanica
    • James Stalker
    • Pulpit Commentary
  • T. B. Barratt’s Defence against Higher Criticism
  • Conclusion


The Gift of Tongues Project has traversed through a variety of challenges: from identifying, translating and digitizing important Greek, Latin and Syriac texts, to understanding ancient Greek philosophy and Jewish liturgy, wading through medieval Catholic mysticism and early Protestant writings, and charting through the German scholars to find answers. The study has centred on places such as Alexandria (Egypt), Constantinople, Rome, London, Kagoshima (Japan), Berlin, and Los Angeles.

However difficult these challenges have been, one of the greatest mysteries has been why the semantic range of christian tongues had been so greatly expanded since the early 1900s. It remains one of the most difficult keys to solving this puzzle.

The late Pentecostal professor, Gary B. McGee lightly touched on this topic believing the shift happened because of the failure of the missionary tongues movement. Unfortunately, he hardly delved into any detail on this. The early Pentecostal biographer, Stanley Frodsham, simply ignored the transition and jumped from the traditional to the new definitions without any explanation. Regardless of any pentecostal author, there is a serious lack in any of their literature detailing this shift.

There definitely was a crisis of tongues in early pentecostalism; largely because of the missionary tongues failure but also because of the public outcry that this movement was bonkers. They were accused of manufacturing gibberish. These two tensions forced early pentecostals to either review their tongues doctrine or admit they made mistakes. History clearly shows they chose to revise their definition.

How did they do this and where did they get license to do such?

There is one theory that has hardly been investigated and that is the correlation between early Pentecostalism and the original doctrine of glossolalia devised by German scholars in the early 1800s. Glossolalia became the standard interpretation in the primary and secondary religious dictionaries, encyclopedias and commentaries before the 1900s. In fact, it was hard to even find the traditional definition of speaking in tongues within any substantive publication by this time.

The Early Pentecostals on Tongues is a continuation of a previous series; History of Glossolalia which covered the origins and early development of the glossolalia doctrine. The emphasis of the original series was how the concept of glossolalia overtook the traditional definition and became the only option in most primary, secondary and tertiary source materials produced after 1879. As will be shown, their dominance in the publication realm helped shape the framework for pentecostal tongues as well.

By the early 1800s the traditional doctrine began to unravel and different streams of understanding began to appear. This began with the London-based Irvingite movement in the 1830s which brought a heightened academic interest and a critical re-analysis. This led to German scholars reclassifying speaking in tongues as glossolalia – that is speaking in tongues was an unintelligible discourse proceeding from an ecstatic state above the ordinary language of communication.(1)Augustus Neander. Planting and Training of the Christian Church by the Apostles. London: Henry G. Bohn. 1851. 3rd ed. Vol. 1 Pg. 11 In short, they defined speaking in tongues as a psychological condition rather than a miraculous state. The leading scholar of this subject was August Neander, whose thoughts made it into the English religious vocabulary largely through the later influence of Philip Schaff and Frederick Farrar.

This is a critical study on Pentecostalism between 1906 and 1930 and how it was deeply influenced by doctrine of glossolalia. The Pentecostal archives, along with the Missionary Alliance archives, and books produced by early pentecostal leaders were resourced to see the connections between early pentecostalism and higher criticism on the topic of tongues. Higher criticism was the name of the scholarly movement whose framework produced the original glossolalia doctrine. This study will show there was a deep connection.

It was an unintentional connection. Early Pentecostals were deficient in any intellectual framework and internal mechanisms to solve this doctrinal dilemma. They lacked the textual skills of Greek, Latin or Aramaic where the majority of tongues texts resided untranslated into English. Instead, they chose to look at the currently available histories and secondary books published in the English language for their solution. Here they found the works of the highly touted historian Philip Schaff, the Anglican church leader and writer, Frederick Farrar, the Anglican writers Conybeare and Howson and a short list of others. Pentecostals found that these writers conclusions matched their experiences. They did not realize that these authors were strong proponents of the higher criticism doctrine of glossolalia that started in the early 1800s – a doctrine that departed substantially from the christian traditional definition.

All of these scholarly writers lived near the time the pentecostal outbreak happened. They were held with high authority and esteem in the religious academic world. None of these authors had connections with Methodism or establishments that American Pentecostalism was railing against. Neither were these authors adhering to the doctrine of cessationism which the pentecostal accounts are always in contest with. These were all great writers who could be understood by someone with an intermediate reading level. All of these authors were appealing to an experience, not a doctrine.

The early pentecostals were looking for a solution that was within the bounds of Biblical interpretation, free from a preconceived bias, inclusive of the variety of tongues experiences that their pentecostal activity had discovered under the perceived and unquestionable direct power of the Holy Spirit.

The historian Schaff and other similar writers were able to fill this void. Their emphasis on a divine encounter that impacts the innermost soul and results in exalted preaching, ecstatic utterances, poetic words, adoration, and sometimes accidentally a foreign language fit nicely in with the early pentecostal experience.

Pentecostals didn’t realize that these authors formulated and promoted an alternative explanation that started in the 1830s. This doctrine did not follow the traditional christian trajectory of tongues. Ironically, the modern pentecostal definitions are the children of German higher criticism.

There are no early or even later Pentecostal writers that seriously pondered their experiences through the primary source literature of Greek, Latin, or Aramaic dictionaries or texts. They steadfastly held to tertiary literature especially English ones.

The baptism of the Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues is a doctrine unique to the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement that started in the early 1900s. An editorial decision has been made not to trace this doctrine. The final ambition of The Gift of Tongues Project is to find out why the traditional definition all but died in 1906 and why it was replaced by glossolalia. This is the final piece for the Project to complete.

The major goal of the Gift of Tongues Project is to trace the perceptions of speaking in tongues throughout the centuries. The perceptions need not necessarily align with reality. The realities, whatever they may be, are up to the reader to decide. You don’t even have to agree with my commentary or analysis. As per the Gift of Tongues Project goals, the majority of the important source texts have been digitized and provided on this website. You can look at the sources themselves and draw your own conclusions.

Although this series will demonstrate today’s doctrine of tongues a new phenomenon in the annals of christian history, it should not be viewed as the litmus test for Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Third Wavers credibility (collectively called Renewalists). There is much more to Renewalists than speaking in tongues. They have grown far beyond tongues and have forayed into far more important matters. The Renewalists are positive agents for social change in our world.

Next: Early Pentecostal Tongues Part 2: The Tongues Crisis.

References   [ + ]

The Irvingites and the Gift of Tongues

A detailed account of the 19th century Irvingite Church and its founder Edward Irving; who they were, what they believed, and why they are considered the source of the modern tongues movement.

Edward Irving

Edward Irving was a Scottish clergyman in London, England during the 1830s. Pockets of England were in a period of prophetic expectation and excitement — a sense that the end was drawing near and the supernatural gifts of the original Apostles would return. Margaret Oliphant, one of the foremost biographers of Irving’s life, described this angst among her generation: “unclaimed and unexercised supernatural endowments, which had died out of use so long, would be restored only at the time of the Second Advent, in the miraculous reign, of which they form a fitting adjunct,”(1)Oliphant, Margaret. The Life of Edward Irving, Minister of the National Church, London. London: Hurst and Blackett, Publishers. 1862. Vol. 2. pg. 104. As found in a copy at Google Books. and “that the Holy Ghost ought to be manifested among us all, the same as ever He was in any one of the primitive Churches.”(2) IBID Oliphant pg. 105

Irving had this same prophetic feeling and believed that when the Holy Spirit had been released for the end of the world, one of the significant expressions of this occurring would be through the appearance of supernatural tongues — the same manifestation described in the Book of Acts. Oliphant wrote that Irving and the movement found it fulfilled in a woman named Mary Campbell. Here is a portion of the description given by Oliphant:

“When in the midst of their devotion, the Holy Ghost came with mighty power upon the sick woman as she lay in her weakness, and constrained her to speak at great length, and with superhuman strength, in an unknown tongue, to the astonishment of all who heard, and to her own great edification and enjoyment in God, –’for he that speaketh in a tongue edifieth himself.” She has told me that this first seizure of the Spirit was the strongest she ever had…”(3) IBID Oliphant, Vol. II pg. 129 as found in copy at Google Books.

Another Biographer, Washington Wilks, remained more decidedly general on who started it and did not specifically ascribe it to Campbell:

“When therefore, in the spring of 1830, he heard of Scottish women speaking as did the Twelve on the day of Pentecost, he suspected no travestie of that wondrous story, but felt only hope and thanfulness. He despatched an elder to inquire into the thing, who brought back a good report, and found the tongues of flame sitting on his own wife and daughters,”(4) Washington Wilks. Edward Irving: And Ecclesiastical and Literary Biography. London: William Freeman. 1854. Pg. 204.

Margaret Oliphant declared that Mary’s experience was the beginnings of the modern tongues movement, “It was thus that agitating and extraordinary chapter in the history of the modern Church, which we have hereafter to deal with, began.”(5) IBID Oliphant pg. 130 She also added that the movement grew fast and became a national phenomenon, “There is not a corner of this part of the island where the subject of Prophecy and the Second Advent have not in the Church firm and able supporters.”(6) IBID Oliphant pg. 118

Irving himself became very popular. On at least one occasion he spoke before 12-13,000 people.(7) IBID Oliphant pg. 85 One Church he pastored began with 50 people and quickly went up to 1500.(8) IBID Wilks. Pg. 31. Seating became a problem and had to be resolved with the issuing of tickets.(9) IBID Wilks. Pg. 32.

The concept of a tongues revival had become a top story in “every periodical work of the day,”(10) IBID Oliphant pg.170 and made its way into the then popular Fraser’s Magazine, where Irving was granted three articles on the topic. This helped to quickly expand this message.

Irving had a wide range of influence. Washington Wilkes described it best:

“The Duke of York repeated his visit, and carried with him other members of the royal family. …The parliamentary leaders of both sides, and even the Tory premier, Lord Liverpool (much to the lord Eldon’s horror)–the judges, and barristers of every degree–fashionable physicians and medical students–duchesses, noted beauties, city madams–clerics and dissenters–with men and women who rather followed the fashion than made particular to either intellect or religion…”(11) Washington Wilks. Edward Irving: And Ecclesiastical and Literary Biography. London: William Freeman. 1854. Pg. 31.

It also extended to the philosophical arena, where he held a friendship with the philosopher/writer, Thomas Carlyle; an acclaimed figure when London was at its peak of world dominance.(12) http://carlyleletters.dukejournals.org/misc/thecarlyles.dtl Carlyle’s community included people such as Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Alfred Tennyson, John Stuart Mills and more.

What attracted Carlyle to the movement was not his longtime friendship to Irving or the Second Advent angst expressed in Tongues and Prophecy, but to “root out Established Churches altogether,”(13) TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 10 February 1833; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18330210-TC-JAC-01; CL 6: 314-323 which was a reference to the Scottish National Church. Carlyle reflected the public wariness of this Church entity. This may have been part of the initial attraction with such a wide audience. When Carlyle wrote the obituary of Edward Irving in the Fraser’s magazine in 1834, he exclaimed how Irving opposed the fashion of the day and sought after the spiritual; an antithesis to was occurring in the Church during that era.

Irving’s end-time fervour, prophecy and gift of tongues became so popular that some reactionary forces began to develop. Andrew Drummond, author of Edward Irving and his Circle described that anti-Irvingite pamphlets were disseminated to counter Irvings theology and practices.(14) Drummond, Andrew Landale. Edward Irving and his circle. London: J. Clarke & Co., Ltd. Pg. 181

The gift of tongues was central to Irving’s message, believing that this was the precursor to the end of the world. In Irving’s personal appearances and speeches, the emphasis on tongues-speaking was central to his platform. So much so, Thomas Carlyle had him nicknamed “gift-of-tongues Irving.”(15) TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 15 August 1834; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18340815-TC-JAC-01; CL 7: 267-275

Over the years, Irving’s emphasis on tongues became a serious point of disagreement with Carlyle. To Carlyle, this was no longer an intellectual or religious pursuit, but a personal one that led Carlyle to believe Irving was mentally unstable. Carlyle described this state in some of his letters, “his body and mind seem much broken; yet if he could but live, we rather fancied he might shake off the Tongue-work.”(16) TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 21 September 1834; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18340921-TC-JAC-01; CL 7: 301-309 And that he was overzealous with it, “the Tongue concern is quite out in this quarter: my poor lost Friend! Lost to me, to the world and to himself.”(17) TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 8 January 1833; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18330108-TC-JAC-01; CL 6: 287-295 One night Irving demonstrated personally the gift of tongues to Carlyle and company, to which Carlyle wrote, “with singular calmness, [Irving] said only “There, hear you, there are the Tongues!” And we too, except by our looks which probably were eloquent, answered him nothing, but soon came away, full of distress, provocation, and a kind of shame.”(18) Thomas Carlyle. Reminiscences. New York: C. Scribner’s. 1881. pg. 252

His prominence as a national and international phenomenon was a short lived span of three to four years. Oliphant summed it:

“Never was congregation of Scotch Presbyterians, lost in the mass of a vast community, which never more than half comprehends, and is seldom more than half respectful of Presbyterianism, so followed by the observation of the world, so watched and noted. In the mean time, the mystic world within concentrated more and more around the only man who to bear the brunt, he whom the outside world accused of endless vagaries, whom his very friends declared to be seeking notoriety at any cost, and from whose side already the companions of his life were dropping off in sad but inevitable estrangement…”(19) IBID Oliphant. The Life of Edward Irving, Minister of the National Church, London. Vol. 2.IBID Oliphant pg. 211

Wilks took on a different, albeit more populous conclusion:

“Fashion had gone, her idle way, to gaze on Egyptian crocodiles, Iroquois hunters, or what else there might be: forgetting this man–who, unhappily, could not in his turn forget.”(20) IBID Wilks. Pg. 204

The biggest question in relation to this work, relates to what Irving and his followers thought this gift of tongues to be. Mary Campbell initially thought herself to have miraculously spoken in the language of the Pelew islands, which M. Oliphant noted could not be authoritatively disputed.(21) IBID Oliphant Vol. 2 pg. 206 On at least one occasion it was believed to be Turkish or Chinese.(22) IBID Oliphant Vol. 2 pg. 206 The definition immediately became a source of discussion. For example, there was an account of a member of the Regent Square Church who argued that the gift of tongues was not a short-cut to missionary success;(23) Andrew Drummond. Edward Irving and his Circle. London: J. Clarke & Co., Ltd. 1937. Pg. 183 inferring that the gift of tongues was xenoglossolalia. This question also brought on the debate of whether a spirit-filled Christian really needed to perform the intensive process of studying a language, or wait for a spiritual infilling which would consequently render the spontaneous ability.

Robert Baxter, a close and controversial associate to Irving, initially believed it to be a foreign language, for when he spoke in tongues:

“of which he recognised Latin and French, both of which he appears to have understood previously; and Italian, which his wife recognised; and a fourth language, which she declared to be Spanish. Mr. B. forgets to state whether he had ever studied these latter languages, and he confesses that his wife neither remembered nor was able to translate what he spoke in them.”(24) Urban, Sylvanus. REVIEW.–The Unknown Tongues. The Gentleman’s Magazine. London: William Pickering. Vol. 1. 1834. Pg. 207

One must note that Baxter recanted on all that he had said or done later on, but the quote above still validly reflects what the common opinion was at the time.

Andrew Drummond also described in his book, Edward Irving and his Circle, that Irving had changed his position on the gift of tongues. It moved from the historic traditional position to that of a dual one. He made a distinction between the tongues of Pentecost and that of Corinth.

“The final article in Fraser’s Magazine appeared in April, 1832. He opens by claiming that tongue-speech was same form of utterance given at Pentecost; whereas in his March article he distinctly denied that glossolalia in his time was designed as a miraculous way of evangelising by languages unlearnt – Pentecost being unique and modern manifestations resembling rather those at Corinth.”(25) IBID Urban, Sylvanus. REVIEW.–The Unknown Tongues. Pg. 164

It is clear here that Irving believed that the xenoglossolalia that occurred in the Book of Acts, was unreproducible. The question naturally arises then, what did Irving think was the tongues at Corinth.

Drummond once again supplied the answer, “Irving replied that he had not the least idea of the meaning of Tongues”, and “aspired to be no more than the humble pastor of the flock”.(26) IBID pg. 172 It is clear from both Oliphant’s history and especially Carlyle’s correspondence that tongues was integral to Irving’s religious experience. His “least idea” statement initially may lead the reader to believe that he was avoiding the definition, but in reality, it was an important part of his glossolalic doctrine which will be clarified in the following paragraphs.

First of all George Pilkington’s first-hand experience with Edward Irving and his followers documented a clue to his theology. Pilkington thought he was destined to be a tongues interpreter in Irving’s assembly but shortly discovered major problems. In his autobiographical writing, The Unknown Tongues discovered to be English, Spanish, and Latin; and the Rev. Edward Irving proved to be erroneous in attributing their utterance to the influence of the Holy Spirit, he outlined the perceived failures, specifically about his participation in the use of glossaly in the public worship. He assumed the glossaly as nuances of different languages mixed together, and attempted to publicly expound translations. In the initial try, he was called into a meeting with Irving and his leaders, by which he was told, “You cannot interpret by human understanding; interpretation must be given by the Spirit.”(27) No Author Given. Revelation–The “Tongue.” As found in Monthly Review. Vol. 1. London: G. Henderson. 1832. Pg. 33. From the copy found at Google Books. Irving believed tongues to be entirely divine and to be mixed with human reason or language he thought to be impossible. If humans were to be able to define it, then it is no longer supernatural.

Another person named Vero Catholicus, who personally visited Edward’s Church around 1830, gave another clue about Irving’s opinion on tongues:

“I accordingly took convenient lodgings in London and attended Mr. Irving’s Lectures, &c. especially at 6 every morning for about a week, when he closed his lectures on “the Unknown Tongues.” His reasoning to prove that the unknown tongue spoken in the apostolic times as well as by themselves, was in many instances a language not spoken or understood by any people of the earth, and only to be comprehended by immediate revelation, was to my mind quite unsatisfactory and inconclusive…”(28) Vero Catholicus. Address to the Female Members of the Church of Christ in Toronto. Toronto: W.J. Coates. 1937. Pg. 4 (as found at this site)

Thomas Carlyle noted that whatever Irving was doing had little association with a human language. This was demonstrated by a meeting where Irving walked around with his child in his arms and “burst forth a shrieky hysterical, “Lah lall lall!” (little or nothing else but l’s and and a’s continued for several minutes)”(29) IBID Carlyle. Reminisces. Pg. 252

Wilks gave a very good commonsense observation of the whole matter:

“The mental condition out of which it arose was just then a very common one in the religious world, and is not without parallel in ecclesiastical history–namely, despair of the world’s conversion by the ordinary methods of evangelization; and the desire of supernatural manifestations as a prelude to the Lord’s second advent.”(30)IBID Wilks. Pg. 203

Oliphant also notes that there is a discrepancy between the definition at the start of the movement and later on, “the hypothesis of actual languages conferred seems to have given way to that of a supernatural sign attestation of the intelligible prophecy.”(31) IBID Oliphant. Vol. 2. pg. 206

Pilkington, Vero Catholicus, and Oliphant clearly demonstrated that Irving and his followers later believed that the gift of tongues was a heavenly language that could not be translated by human interpreters. Any attempt to do so was to limit the divine into human terms, a concept that was sacrilegious to the Irvingites.

It is clear from the evidence submitted so far, that Irving and his followers shifted from the traditional position of tongues being a spontaneous utterance of a foreign language unknown beforehand by the speaker to a heavenly language. Which naturally begs the question, why?

Obvious nonetheless and described from his article in Fraser’s Magazine, the historical gift of tongues as outlined in the Book of Acts was not happening in the context of his community. This brought on a serious dilemma, the gift of tongues was so central to Irving believing the end-time was coming, that he could not withdraw an activity already stated to have begun. This forced Irving and his followers into a quick re-definition.

Did Irving and his circle come up with this new definition themselves or did they borrow from some other source?

Irving had the intellectual capacity to come up with his own definition and also to borrow from the literary and philosophical community. He was well-read and aware of the current theology. Wilks described him thusly, “though devoted to the pulpit, he had prepared himself for a possible application to the bar, and indeed for any learned profession. He added large classical knowledge to his mathematical excellence, and acquaintance with the modern languages and their literature to both”.(32) IBID Wilks. Pg. 7. The naming of his literary favourites also demonstrates a strong intellectual capacity: “I fear not to confess that Hooker, and Taylor, and Baxter, in theology; Bacon, and Newton, and Locke, in philosophy; have been my companions, as Shakespeare, and Spencer, and Milton, have been in poetry.”(33) IBID Wilks. Pg. 127. He also treasured the works of the Spanish Jesuit priest, Manuel Lacunza. It inspired him to publish a translation of Lacunza’s work regarding the second coming in 1827.(34) as found at Wikipedia’s account of Edward Irving here. More importantly was his close relationship with Thomas Carlyle who lived with him for a brief period and was a writer concentrating on German literature for English Magazines.(35) http://www.bartleby.com/223/0104.html

At the same time Irving redefined tongues as a non-xenoglossolalic language not understood by the people on earth, German theologians introduced a similar sentiment with the Irvingites albeit from a more scientific perspective. Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer in his book, Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Epistles to the Corinthians, attributed the redefinition to two German scholars, Friedrich Bleek and FC Baur.(36) Meyer, Heinrich August Wilhelm. Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Epistles to the Corinthians. Edinburgh: T & T Clark. Translated by D.D. Bannerman. W.P. Dickson, editor. 1887. Pg. 366. “Bleek believes that glôssai is a poetic, inspired mode of speech, whereas Baur believes it to be “a speaking in a strange, unusual phrases which deviate from the prevailing use of language.” – partly borrowed from foreign languages.”(37) IBID Meyer. Pg. 371 Meyer does not indicate exactly when Bleek or Baur introduced this thinking, but does date the opposition to it; 1829 for Bleek, and 1830 for Baur, which falls right into the same years as Irving’s prominence.

It was 1830 when the Scottish women first spoke in tongues(38) IBID Wilks. Pg. 204. which began the Irvingite movement and it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Irving syncretized this German definition within the context of their experience, especially when the original definition was failing.

Irving had made the personal decision to allow the practice of utterances in all the Regent Church services. This became very disruptive. The Trustees of the Regent Square Church advised Irving that this gift no longer be part of the Sunday worship service, but free to do otherwise on any other day. Irving refused, “If it be so, it will be simply because I have refused to allow the voice of the Spirit of God to be silence in this church… And now I am ready to go forth and leave them, if the Lord’s will be so. If we should be cast out for the truth, let us rejoice; yea, let us exceedingly rejoice,”(39) IBID Oliphant. Vol. 2. pg. 246 believing it to be an unholy thing to deny such an expression and if forced to do so, he would resign.

This matter was referred to the London Presbytery in 1832, where he was charged with allowing the Church service to be interrupted on the Sabbath, speaking by people not licensed; neither members or seatholders, allowing females to speak, and for the Church service to have a time for the gifts. Note that neither tongues nor prophecy is mentioned specifically.(40) IBID Oliphant. Vol. 2. pg. 261 The Presbytery concluded:

“…that the charges in said complaint are fully proven; and therefore, while deeply deploring the painful necessity thus imposed upon them, they did and hereby do, decern that the said Rev. Edward Irving has rendered himself unfit to remain the minister of the National Scotch Church aforesaid, and ought to removed therefrom, in pursuance of the conditions of the trust-deed of the church.”(41) IBID Oliphant. Vol. 2. pg. 297

The Times newspaper gave a strong indictment on Irving and his band of tongues speakers, “It would, indeed, have been a subject of wonder had they come to a different conclusion, though they had the benefit of a concert upon the ‘tongues’ from the whole male and female band of Mr. Irving’s select performers….- when he profaned the sanctuary of God, but introducing hideous interluded of ‘the unknown tongues,’ it was impossible any longer to tolerate the nuisance.”(42) IBID Oliphant. Vol. 2. pg. 298

Two years later in 1834, Irving died of tuberculosis.

Irving and associates began a new independent Church, called the Catholic Apostolic Church, and although he was one of the central figures in the initial development, he was not considered the founder.

The Catholic Apostolic Church continued with their understanding of this gift until the gradual decline of this movement in 1901.(43) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Apostolic_Church

The broad evangelical movement in that century did not accept the theology of the Irvingites or the Catholic Apostolic Church as a fundamentalist standard. Rather, many, if not most, exemplified them as frauds and charlatans, as the following examples provide.

The Christian examiner and Church of Ireland magazine 1833, wrote:

“I am strongly inclined to adopt Mr. Baxter’s opinion, and conclude that there really is now, as there was in the case of the French prophets, and that of other honest but misled souls, a special agency of the evil spirit, and that Mr. Irving and Sir R. Bulkeley are the passive subjects and victim of supernatural delusion, so as to believe a lie.”(44) The Christian examiner and Church of Ireland magazine for 1833; Dublin: William Curry, Jun. and Company. 1833. Pg. 419

The great Ulster revival in 1859, in which William Arthur, a leader and extensive writer on the subject, was well aware of the Irving doctrine of tongues and purposely excluded it:

““THEY began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” It is not said, “with unknown tongues.” In fact, the expression, “unknown tongues,” was never used by an inspired writer. In the Epistle to the Corinthians, it is found in the English version but the word “unknown” is in italics, showing that it is not taken from the original. Speaking unknown tongues was never heard of in the apostolic days. That miracle first occurred in London some years ago. On the day of Pentecost no man pretended to speak unknown tongues; but just as if we in London suddenly began to speak German, French, Spanish, Russian, Turkish, and other foreign languages, so it was with them.”(45) William Arthur. The Tongue of Fire. London: Hamilton, Adams and co. 1859. pg. 68

The nature of his writing can be understood from two perspectives: the miracle in London was not the ancient tongues as the established Church understood, or, that this was fraudulent with people pretending to speak in tongues. The latter understanding of the text appears to be more correct.

Mr. Arthur took the ancient Church position that the gift of tongues was the ability to speak in the spontaneous endowment of a foreign language for missionary purposes.(46) IBID. Pg. 69-72

William Gibson, another eyewitness writer on the Ulster revival, wrote that Ulster was one of the greatest movements since Pentecost “… a work has had its rise in the past year, not inferior in interest and importance to any, even the most striking manifestations of the Spirit of God, that have been witnessed since the pentecostal period itself.”(47) William Gibson. The Year of Grace: A History of the Revival in Ireland, A.D. 1859. Boston: Gould and Lincoln. 1860. Pg. 24 And of containing, “the occasional suspension of the bodily powers, as indicated by the loss of speech, sight, and hearing; the subjects of them affected as in a trance –deaf, dumb, blind, and motionless–while they would frequently fall into a sleep, in which they continued for hours, and the commencement and termination of which the intimated beforehand to the bystanders,”(48) IBID. Pg. 145 did not contain the gift of tongues as one of his expressions. He was actively trying to distance himself and the Ulster revival from the Irvingites and their ecstasies.

The British historian, Thomas Arnold, tried to personally make sense of the tongues outbreak and concluded, “(In answer to a question about Irvingism at Port Glasgow.) . . . If the thing be real I should take it merely as a sign of the coming of the day of the Lord, – the only use, as far as I can make out, that ever was derived from the gift of tongues.”(49) Arthur Penrhyn Stanley. The Life and Correspondence of Thomas Arnold, D.D. London: B. Fellowes. 1845. Pg. 311

The Irvingites and the Gift of Tongues was temporarily at the forefront of the religious community for a brief period, but was quickly marginalized in the Western Christian religion. But as, Margaret Oliphant noted, it was the start of the modern tongues movement, setting the framework for a bigger manifestation in the years to come.

References   [ + ]