A seven point historic portrait on the christian doctrine of speaking in tongues. The conclusions have been derived from the Gift of Tongues Project. A research work that has a fourfold aim of locating, digitizing, translating source texts and tracing perceptions from inception to modern times.
These seven points may change if any new documents arise with important new clues.
Click on any of the conclusions for more documentation.
- Speaking in tongues as a miraculous endowment of a foreign language is the most common doctrine throughout two-thousand years of church history.
- Speaking in a private or heavenly prayer language is a new addition to the christian doctrine of tongues — a little over a hundred-years old.
- Speaking in glossolalia was a theory started in the early 1800s and became the most prominent definition in the western world since 1872.
- The longest tongues debate lasted for a thousand-years. It was an argument on whether it was a miracle of speaking or hearing.
- The miracle of tongues ceasing after the first century has been a secondary subtheme from earliest times and gained significant momentum by the earliest Reformation leaders.
- Paul was addressing in the Book of Corinthians the Jewish tradition of teaching in Hebrew and translating it into the local language. He had no mystical intention at all nor connected it to Pentecost.
- There has been no documented case by a reputable third-party about a Christian or group of Christians miraculously speaking in a foreign language over the last one-hundred years.*
The goal of tracing the perceptions of tongues through the centuries may not necessarily align with the actual realities that surrounds the events. The realities are up to the reader to decide. Go to the The Gift of Tongues Project for the source information.
This is only a general summation. There are many more details and movements at the above link.
*7 does not have a clickable link because no documented study has been found.
3 thoughts on “7 Facts About Speaking in Tongues”
Regarding point 7. While documentation is not easy to achieve, I, personally, talked to 2 children using a level of Spanish WAY advanced to what I or Charlotte knew when volunteering at an orphanage in Mexico in 1988. The two boys understood what I was saying perfectly, even if I did not, and one of them was reduced to tears that God would love him so much. So, while I have never, or seek to, use a personal prayer language. I believe biblical speaking in tongues, under the power of the Holy Spirit, can take place as He wishes. Keep up the good work.
Years ago I prayed for a Chilean woman to be baptized with the Holy Spirit who couldn’t speak English. I had shared with her about the Pentecostal baptism through her husband translating into Spanish. During prayer, she trembled, tears came down her face, and she lifted her head and said, “O God, O God, you love me. You love me.” She repeated this about three or four times. This was witnessed by two other people including her bi-lingual husband who was awe-struck and grinning from ear to ear since he knew his wife couldn’t speak any English. Her husband was an officer in the Chilean Navy at the time. I was a U.S. Navy Chaplain.
What was especially remarkable was that she had originally told us that she was not a very good person and was reluctant to believe that God could bless her in this way. She couldn’t see that God could love her and bless her as he did Peter and Paul. Her tongue (unknown to her but known to us) was indeed a prayer, a heart cry reflecting the deepest need of her heart and reflecting the deepest mysteries of grace. (1 Cor 14:2, 14-16) Later when she prayed in tongues again, she asked us what she had said. Of course, this time it was not in English. In her then simple understanding, she thought her prayers in an unknown language by the Spirit would be in English every time.
My observation is that most who reject speaking in tongues or the continuation of miracles today do so on the basis of personal experience and not Scripture. The early Church Fathers record exorcisms and miracles as key to converting pagans long after the NT era. Luther and Calvin, serious Bible scholars, were perplexed that they weren’t seeing these things in their churches and concluded they were unique to the NT era. Many of their heirs continue in this line of thinking. It’s a circular argument not a Biblical one. Point 6, in particular, is an utterly untenable interpretation of Scripture. This makes key statements in 1 Cor 14 unintelligible. (e.g. 1 Cor 14:18, 28, 39) Thank God, the Reformers didn’t take the same approach to justification by faith. There would have been no Reformation.
Thank you for your thoughtful response. On Point 6, I would encourage you first to read the Gift of Tongues Project section devoted to Corinthian Tongues. https://charlesasullivan.com/gift-tongues-project/#anch12
This may help you appreciate why Point 6 was made.