Utterance Versus Gift of Tongues

Image of four early Pentecostal leaders and three magazines

An analysis of early Pentecostal theology and their distinction between utterance and the gift of tongues.

This article is an addendum to Solutions to the Pentecostal Crisis. An exploration about why early Pentecostals changed the definition of tongues. One from miraculously speaking a foreign language to an alternative version.


After the failure of missionary tongues at Azusa, a dual tongues framework began to accelerate within early Pentecostals as a response. They began to reinterpret Pentecost as a speaker who had no control over the emission, the duration, the nature of the sound, the meaning, or when it would happen. Neither did the person understand what they were speaking. The sign that a person was transformed and empowered overtook the concept of foreign languages. Their idea of a second tongue, the gift of tongues explicitly mentioned by St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, was a miraculously permanent, controlled condition. The earliest Pentecostals centered the gift of tongues around foreign languages. Those who possessed the gift of tongues could call upon this gift at will.

The utterance aspect further evolved in Pentecostal history into a heavenly or non-earthly language, similar to if not equal to glossolalia. The definition of the gift of tongues followed later in this same trajectory.

The following will traverse this narrative arc through its infancy to its standardization. The goal is not to establish whether this doctrine is correct but to follow the historical trajectory. The veracity of this doctrine is up to the reader to decide.1 Nor is it to investigate the history of the Baptism of the Spirit with the initial sign of speaking in tongues.

Where, when, and who started, this dual distinction is unknown. The concept can trace back to the Holiness movement and systematized less than a year after the Azusa Street revival in 1906. A correction was required after Pentecostal leaders recognized a severe theological problem. Those who supposedly had the miraculous ability to speak one or more foreign languages were later found not to have this ability. This problem was especially critical for followers who believed they had this tool for evangelization.

This article is long. As per the Gift of Tongues Project, there is copious attention to details and lengthy quotes. The coverage is technical and forces the reader to wander into semantics.

Pre-Pentecostal influence: the Christian Missionary Alliance

The Christian Missionary Alliance was one of the principal forerunners of the Pentecostal movement. They were one of the last stepping stones before the 1906 Pentecostal revolution. They were already discussing the distinction between foreign languages and a sign gift in 1898. Secondly, they encountered a similar problem to Azusa Street, where a group of missionaries traveled to a foreign country with the supposed gift of miraculously speaking in a foreign language. Upon arrival to the specified linguistic group, they did not have the ability.2

But does the Bible really warrant the expectation of the gift of tongues for the purpose of preaching the Gospel to the heathen? We must frankly say that we are not quite clear that it does, and yet we would not dare to discourage any of God’s children from claiming and expecting it if they have the faith to do so and can see the warrant in His word.

We believe that in some cases, in the apostolic times, this gift was bestowed for this purpose, and was so employed. We believe that on the day of Pentecost the people of all lands did hear the Gospel each in his own language; but we just as firmly believe that afterwards this gift was continued, not so much as a vehicle of evangelistic work as a sign of supernatural power and working, and that it was accompanied by the gift of interpreting, so that the foreign tongue had really to be interpreted to the hearers, or they would not have understood it. Therefore, it certainly was not intended in these cases to be the original channel for the preaching of the Gospel, but simply a sign of some supernatural presence in the heart of the speaker. Had it been designed directly to make the truth plain to a foreigner, there would have been no need for an interpreter, and no occasion for the apostle’s exhortation in Corinthians about disorder, confusion and discredit to the work of God through the unguarded use of this gift in their assemblies. The apostle says distinctly in this connection : “Tongues are for a sign, not to him that believeth, but to him that believeth not,” and he had rather preach one word for edification in a known tongue, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongues.3

The thought here is a primitive form without the keywords but shows a ready framework for distinguishing between utterance and the gift of tongues.

Early Pentecostalism Utterance and the Gift of Tongues

V. P. Simmons

V. P. Simmons was an early historian of Pentecostal tongues and considered a patriarch of the movement. His words carried authority within the early Pentecostal world. He clearly defined the difference but did not state whether these people spoke in foreign or heavenly languages.

This speaking in tongues as the Spirit gives utterance is not the gift of tongues. Those who speak in tongues as the Spirit gives utterance have not the power to control it at will, it seems that it comes at such times as they are in close touch with God, the Spirit takes their tongues and speaks through them, gives them utterance. Those who have the gift of tongues, seem to be able to speak different kinds of tongues, and seem to be able to speak at will.4

The Bridegroom’s Messenger

The original editor of the Bridegroom’s Messenger, G. B. Cashwell, found his Pentecost at Azusa Street and brought this energy back to Atlanta. The impact of Cashwell and his newspaper was considerable within the Holiness hotbeds of the southeastern United States.

Here is an excerpt from the Bridegroom’s Messenger on this topic from the February 1, 1908 edition:

This speaking in tongues as the Spirit gives utterance is not the gift of tongues. Those who speak in tongues as the Spirit gives utterance have not the power to control it at will, it seems that it comes at such times as they are in close touch with God, the Spirit takes their tongues and speaks through them, gives them utterance. Those who have the gift of tongues, seem to be able to speak different kinds of tongues and seem to be able to speak at will.5

Lum and Crawford

Clara Lum and Florence Crawford were the longtime editors of the Apostolic Faith Newspaper, which originated at Azusa Street and later moved their publishing office to Portland, Oregon, in 1909. The reasons are unclear about the move, but historians believe it was a personal rift between Seymour and Crawford. Rumour has it they took the mailing list with them, which severely crippled the Azusa Street Mission.

The dual tongues issue was at the forefront and forced their opinion. Their response had to fit in their firm belief that it was the supernatural outpouring of foreign languages:6

We have no Scripture for speaking in tongues except as the Spirit gives utterance. It is not you that speaks, but the Holy Ghost, and He will speak when he chooses. Don’t ever try to speak at will. “It is not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.” What is not of the spirit is of the flesh or the devil. We know that some, by getting out of the Word, have been led off into fanaticism and have become a prey for the devil. If we go beyond the Word in any demonstration, it leads into wild fire and fanaticism. Up to date, we know of no one that has received the real gift of tongues, for if they had, we believe they could go out and preach to any nation in their own tongue.7

This quote, “We have no Scripture for speaking in tongues except as the Spirit gives utterance,” was a difficult one to decipher. Neither Lum, Crawford, or the combination of the two, properly defined what utterance meant in this context.

One needs familiarity with Lum and Crawford’s earlier coverage of the Azusa Street outbreak. They correlated utterance with the miraculous production of one or more foreign languages. The inference in their reply suggests the speaker did not know which language they were speaking at the moment, and it could change without warning. This outcome is similar to the well-known holiness leader and missionary Alfred Garr, who believed his supernatural empowerment of Bengali had altered without notice to a different language. Lum and Crawford were not aware through their years in this realm that anyone had the permanent miraculous ability to speak another language. Nor did they know of anyone who could deliberately choose which language to speak at their command.

Their earliest editions of the Azusa newspaper did not represent this dual meaning. This theory did not appear in their publications until 1909.

The Apostolic Faith newspaper editions after 1911 are much more subdued. There were fewer testimonies on the miracle of tongues. By 1918, the only reference is general and appears as a narrative of the movement’s former days.

The Latter Rain Evangel

Stone’s Church in Chicago produced this magazine. This monthly publication is an essential piece of early Pentecostal history. A digitized 1909–1910 compendium found at the University of Southern California’s website demonstrates that they straddled between the dual definition of tongues as a miraculous gift of speaking one or more foreign languages and as a sign of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.8

One more example requires notation, and that is their inclusion about T. B. Barratt’s tongues experience. T. B. Barratt was a British/Norwegian Pastor and one of the founders of Pentecostalism in Europe. His Baptism in the Holy Spirit happened in 1907 but took nine months more before he had the sign of tongues. He then stated that the Lord “kept me waiting for a fuller sign of the gift of tongues.”9 What did he mean by the fuller sign? The meaning is not known, but the dual theme once again is found as a pattern.

The evidence brought forward by Simmons, Lum and Crawford, Cashwell, and the Latter Rain Evangel show the definition broadening. The concept moved from its original Pentecostal understanding of a supernatural endowment of one or more foreign languages.

Partial Standardization of Utterance and the Gift of Tongues

The distinction between the two tongues remained, but the emphasis began to tilt towards utterance. The understanding changed from missionary expansion to a one-time experience that defined one’s religious identity. An evolution perhaps borrowed from the Irvingites in the 1830s (called sealing) via Charles Parham.10 The Assemblies of God and Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) began to incorporate this concept in their foundational beliefs and teachings. More organizations likely adopted this at the same time, but these two were the ones studied.

The Assemblies of God

This organization began to recognize a distinction between the two entities as early as 1914. The following is one of the better explanations. Most descriptions throughout the early Pentecostal world are obscure or are presumptive.


Refers to the gift of speaking with various kinds of tongues (1 Cor. 12:10.) This gift differs from speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance (Acts 2:4) and which always accompanies the “Latter Rain” outpouring of the Holy Ghost.

1. What is speaking with Tongues? It is an apportionment by the Holy Spirit whereby one is able to speak with tongues of one sort or another. This gift seems to have manifested itself frequently in ecstatic utterances, utterances which were probably unintelligible to the person himself, and which generally–not always–he was unable to interpret to others. To meet this need, then, there was imparted to others the ministry of interpretation, whereby the sense of what was being uttered was conveyed to the hearers.

The “unknown tongue” is unknown to the speaker, though it may be known to others. The “unknown tongue” may be totally unfamiliar. It may be a language of heaven.

. . . Not all speaking in tongues, however, finds utterance in a state of ecstasy. It is often heard during prayer, in travail of soul, or in intercession.11

Another significant aspect of this work was the shift of the gift of tongues from the miraculous ability to speak a foreign language at will to an ecstatic utterance. It is one of the first references to the Pentecostal practice of the gift of tongues that parallels glossolalia definitions found in Higher Criticism literature.12

By 1916, the Assemblies of God did not use the gift of tongues in their doctrinal statement. They wrote utterance instead.13

Even though 1916 marks a theological milestone, the definition was still in the process of change, and the uniformity was not complete. For example, a contributor to the official Assemblies of God magazine, The Weekly Evangel, believed that two different kinds of tongues operated at the first Pentecost. The first one was in unintelligible utterances while the disciples were in the upper room, while the second kind was intelligible languages when they went outside into the street.14 The author further added that on at least three occasions where tongues occur in the Book of Acts. They only signify the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. He differentiated these occurrences from the gift of tongues. The gift of tongues was not a mandatory or expected event for every Christian.15 The writer did not elaborate on the distinction between the two.

The Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee)

A. J. Tomlinson, editor of the Church of God’s official magazine, The Church of God Evangel wrote extensively on speaking in tongues. He also took great lengths to explain the difference between utterance and the gift of tongues, albeit in abstract wordiness. His conclusion remained obscure as if obscurity was built-in as part of the definition.

Here is another proof of the difference in the gift of tongues and the tongues as the Spirit gives utterance.

In the 14th chapter of 1 Corinthians when the word “spirit” is used it is always with a small letter, and Paul says, “my spirit prayeth.” But in other places when the word is used to designate the Holy Ghost giving utterance, the word begins with a capital letter, thus, “They began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

In Paul’s regulation of the tongues he does not attempt to regulate the Holy Ghost, and says nothing about the tongues as the Spirit gives utterance.

. . .And it also says that when they received the Holy Ghost “they began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:4) Then when we speak as the Spirit give the utterance we are sure He does not mock us, and that He is able to produce any language the He shall choose. Then when we have the gift of tongues, we can know this as well as we have a gift from a friend, and then the bible names the utterances “tongues” whether unknown or interpreted. “For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God, for no man understandeth him ; how be it in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.” Are we to say there is nothing spoken just because we do not understand what is said? Do we have any right to raise such a question when the Bible declares that there will be tongues (languages) spoken that no man will understand, and not even the speaker?

Then the way we know we speak in a language if we have the gift of tongues, or speak as the Sprits16 gives utterance, is because the Bible states it plainly. And we believe the Bible from lid to lid whether we understand it fully or not.17

Consolidation and Dissension of the Dual Tongues

1919 to about 1924 roughly marks the era where this doctrine was stratified and involved one crucial disputation. The idea of speaking in tongues as the miraculous ability to speak a foreign language is given third-place status and gave way to ecstatic utterance and, more importantly, a confirmation of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence.

The Bridal Call: Western Edition

The Bridal Call was the official newspaper of Aimee Semple McPherson, the founder of the Foursquare Gospel Church. She was “part of William Durham’s Full Gospel Assembly in Chicago, McPherson became known for interpreting glossolalia, translating the words of people speaking in tongues,” before her rise into stardom and her later distance from speaking in tongues.18 The following quote was not written by her but by a person named Herman L. Harvey.19 Harvey confidently asserted that the theory of speaking in tongues for evangelization in foreign lands was incorrect. It was a “sad mistake” that needed correction and that there was “no record in the Bible of tongues for preaching in other languages after the day of Pentecost.”

Furthermore, he vacillated on whether tongues were a foreign or an angelic language.

It may be the spoken language of some nation or tribe in the earth, it may be the language of angels. The inspired Apostle speaks of the “tongues of men and angels,” leaving us such an inference.

It is clearly not the purpose of God to bestow a language that will work automatically upon heathen and sinners of other lands and tribes.

When the Spirit was first poured out in California a few years ago a sad mistake was made by some who acted upon the belief that all they had to do was to reach some heathen land and the language would be always the very dialect needed.

There is no record in the Bible of tongues for preaching in other languages after the day of Pentecost.20

F. F. Bosworth

This matter ramped up in intensity when F. F. Bosworth addressed this realm. F. F. Bosworth, an early Pentecostal faith healer, evangelist, and one of the founders of the Assemblies of God. He had reservations about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with the initial sign of speaking in tongues.21 He departed from the Assemblies of God over this doctrine. His literary output revealed essential clues on the utterance vs. gift of tongues definitions and its history in his disagreement.

Bosworth’s contribution to the topic is great. For this reason, his quotation is larger than most. His objections to the Assemblies of God’s position on the Baptism on the Holy Spirit is worth the reader’s time to contemplate.

. . .I am absolutely certain that it is entirely wrong and UNSCRIPTURAL to teach that the miraculous speaking in tongues on the Day of Pentecost was not the gift of tongues God set in the church and which is so often mentioned in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Not only is there not a solitary passage of Scripture upon which to base this doctrine, but on the other hand the Scriptures flatly deny it. That there is no Scripture for this distinction between speaking in tongues as the Spirit gave utterance at Jerusalem and the gift of tongues at Corinth, is being seen and admitted by many Bible students and teachers in the Pentecostal movement. In fact, some in the movement have never believed this distinction was Scriptural or true.22

One page over:

. . .At a recent State Council of the Assemblies of God, when the chairman of the Council was asked by one of the young ministers if there was a passage or a number of passages upon which to base this distinction, he publicly admitted that there was not a single passage. Charles F. Parham, who came forward with this doctrine in the year 1900, is the first man in the history of the world to publicly teach it. He saw that it was not possible to teach that speaking in tongues will in every case accompany the Baptism in the Spirit, unless he could make it appear that the speaking in tongues on the Day of Pentecost was something separate and distinct from the gift of tongues at Corinth. He is also the first man in the history of the world to teach that none have ever been baptized in the Spirit except those who have spoken in tongues.

The facts are that hundreds of the greatest soul-winners of the whole Christian era, without the gift of tongues, have had a much greater enduement of power and have been used to accomplish much greater and deeper work than Mr. Parham.

The argument that the miraculous manifestation of the tongues on the Day of Pentecost is distinct from the gift of tongues, called, in the Scriptures “The manifestation of the Spirit,” falls flat when we consider the seventh and eighth verses of the twelfth chapter of First Corinthians. In the seventh verse Paul says, “The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” Some have taught and written that “The manifestation of the Spirit” here mentioned is always the speaking in tongues as the Spirit gives utterance, as on the Day of Pentecost. They that this is for all who receive the Baptism in the Spirit, but that it is not the gift of tongues later mentioned in the same chapter.23

And later on:

But once again, as to the distinction, or supposed distinction, between tongues in the Acts and at Corinth, after which we will leave you to an impartial searching of the Scriptures touching this point. It is insisted that the speaking in tongues in the Acts was only temporary and that every Christian should speak in tongues as the initial sign of being baptized, while the gift of tongues dealt in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians implies permanence and that few have the permanent gift. If this theory is right, with its necessary distinction between tongues and tongues, then we agree that it is the most important doctrine of the New Testament, for what can be more important than for Christians to receive the enduement of power so absolutely necessary to accomplish the work that God wants done? Then it is not strange indeed that not one of the inspired writers of any of the epistles to any of the New Testament Churches, preachers and saints scattered abroad, ever made the slightest passing reference to that kind of speaking in tongues which is the evidence of the baptism?24 25

He openly disagreed with the distinction between utterance and the gift of tongues. He believed it had no theological foundation and was a matter of debate within Pentecostalism during his time. He made another surprising point. He claimed that one of the forerunners of Pentecostalism, Charles Parham, introduced this concept in 1900. There was no antecedent.

If this is true, then one logically may ask, why did Parham introduce this distinction?

There is not enough information to substantiate his thinking on the subject, only speculation. A previous article demonstrated that Parham asserted that speaking in tongues was the miraculous ability to speak in a foreign language. He thought the primary purpose was for missionary expansion. There was no deviation from this position in his biography or primary sources. Therefore, the distinction he made between utterance and the gift of tongues was not about language. Instead, it was about the unpredictability vs. permanence of this attribute.

This statement requires further explanation. Parham and his followers revealed a pattern that points towards this duality. An interview posted by the Chicago Newspaper, Inter Ocean, 1901, gave a clue. The journalist had asked the Parhamites if they could give an example:

The converts say they are not able to control this gift. They cannot speak a foreign tongue at will, so they were not able to demonstrate their linguistic attainments at the request of The Sunday Inter Ocean reporter. However, Mr. Parham asserted that he and several others of the mission have conversed intelligently with native Frenchmen, Germans, and Swedes.26

Parham and his followers spoke in multiple languages but stated they could not control the language they spoke or the moment it would occur. Neither was there any suggestion that they understood what they were speaking or whether the language would change to a different one while they were speaking.

The first person credited to speak in tongues and a student of Charles Parham, Agnes Ozman, later reflected that she spoke several languages, and “it was clearly manifest when a new dialect was spoken.”27 This account is dissimilar to an earlier one where the testimony claimed she spoke in Chinese but revealed an important theological nuance. In a later statement, Ozman did not declare which languages she spoke, only that she was aware of the moments that the language had changed.

Parham built a theological framework of speaking in tongues based on the ambiguity found in utterance. If the speaker did not know what language they purportedly spoke in, if it changed without a moment’s notice or even mid-sentence, and they had no control if or when it happened, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to prove or validate by a third party. On the other hand, if speaking in tongues were a permanent state where the speaker could control at will and speak a foreign language, the person or a third party could validate this. The use of utterance as a key component of the Baptism of the Spirit with the initial significance of speaking in tongues was given a strategic boost with this dichotomy. Utterance did not require empirical evidence that the gift of tongues required.

Bosworth demonstrated the concept was far from settled within the broad spectrum of parties and individuals during his time. The following shows that the definition of tongues continued to evolve into a stratified version.

John G. Lake

John G. Lake, a Pentecostal evangelist and healer heavily influenced by Alexander Dowie and Charles Parham, also demonstrated the fractured state of the definition in early Pentecostalism. He avoided the trappings of utterance vs. gift of tongues. Nevertheless, he maintained a dualistic definition of what Bosworth objects to as “between tongues and tongues.” He prescribed Paul’s words of unknown tongues as found in the English Bible to mean an internal revelation with little relevance to human language.

THE SPIRIT OF MAN HAS A VOICE. Do you get that? The spirit of man has a voice. The action of God in your spirit causes your spirit to speak by its voice. In order to make it intelligent to your understanding it has to be repeated in the language that your brain knows. Why? Because there is a language common to the spirit of man, and it is not English, and it is not German, and it is not French, and it is not Italian, or any other of the languages of earth. It is a language of the spirit of man. And, oh, what a joy it was when that pent-up, bursting, struggling spirit of yours found it’s voice and “spake in tongues.” Many a time I have talked to others in the Spirit, by the Spirit, through the medium of tongues, and knew everything that was said to me, but I did not know it with this ear. It was not the sound of their words. It was that undefinable something that made it intelligent. Spirit speaks to spirit, just as mouth speaks to mouth, or as man speaks to man. Your spirit speaks to God. God is Spirit. He answers back. Bless God. And I believe with all my heart that is what Paul had in mind when he talked about the “unknown” tongue. The unknown tongue, that medium of internal revelation of God to you. The common language of the spirit of man, by which God communicates with your spirit.28

The stress of unknown tongues as a pscyhic phenomenon was his primary motif, though he did concede that miraculously speaking in a foreign language could be a byproduct.

Down there at Jerusalem they not only spoke in tongues, but they spoke the languages of the NATIONS. If it was possible for old Peter and old Paul, or for the Jewish nation,then it is possible to every last one, Not to speak in tongues alone, as we ordinarily understand that phase, but to speak because God dwells in you and speaks to whomsoever and will in whatever language He desires.29

His reading of the English Bible supported his supposition of unknown tongues. He was unaware that the idiom unknown tongues was an English interpolation added against the Catholic Church during the Reformation. It does not exist in the Greek texts. See Uncovering the Unknown Tongues for more information.

Smith Wigglesworth

Smith Wigglesworth was an influential early Pentecostal contributor who was best known for his willingness to physically punch-out maladies from a person. Sometimes this came with brutal consequences, and some locales banned such behavior. He also integrated speaking in tongues as a fundamental part of his faith regimen. He, too, separated utterance from the gift of tongues.

After receiving the Baptism in the Holy Ghost and speaking in tongues as the Spirit gave utterance, I did not speak with tongues again for nine months. I was troubled about it because I went up and down laying hands upon people that they might receive the Holy Ghost, and they were speaking in tongues, but I did not have the joy of speaking myself. God wanted to show me that the speaking in tongues as the Spirit gave utterance, which I received when I received the Baptism, was distinct from the gift of tongues which I subsequently received.30

What did he mean by utterance and the gift of tongues? He made the distinct separation using the common keywords. His following citation of unknown tongues found in English Bible translations of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians gave a small clue.

God has ordained this speaking in an unknown tongue unto Himself as a wonderful, supernatural means of communication in the Spirit. As we speak to Him in the unknown tongue we speak wonderful mysteries in the Spirit.31

However, Wigglesworth’s thought here is puzzling. He never clarified the difference between these two entities. He did leave a strong impression of a mystical language in his practice and teaching.

Both Wigglesworth and Lake demonstrate a further shift from the earliest definition of Pentecostal speaking in tongues. It now had little association with speaking foreign languages. Both utterance and the gift of tongues had begun a demonstrable shift to heavenly or ecstatic sounds. There is little difference between the two entities. The firm entrenchment of this concept happened before 1924.

Donald Gee

This leader came a little later in the Pentecostal fold. His major contribution was between 1924 and grew from there until 1966. The significance of his influence requires inclusion. He represents the Pentecostal tongues doctrine’s solidification and the abandonment of the two tongues theory. By his time, the sign gift of ecstatic tongues was the primary interpretation.

It is written that “tongues are for a sign . . .to them that believe not.” That is to say, the manifestation of the glossolalia does provide and evidence of something supernatural in a meeting of Christians that can arrest attention and open the way for the preaching of the Word to do its work. In this case the sign of the tongue is of the nature of a miracle. This was its nature on the Day of Pentecost. Then we may expect it to be in some recognizable language, which makes it much more impressive when the language is naturally unknown to the speaker. Ordinarily there is no need to be anxious to identify a “tongue” spoken under a fullness of the Spirit. The Scripture says that “no man understandeth him.” At this late hour there is no need to explode the fallacy that the gift of tongues was given for “preaching the gospel to the heathen.” That false idea was never supported by the context, nor by experience. Testimonies that seem to support it are to a miracle, not to the gift of tongues. It is for speaking to God “in a mystery.” The context teaches that the purpose of the gift of tongues is devotional, and for uttering praise or prayer. It is a language given to the human spirit by the Holy Spirit for expressing ecstatic utterances that the speaker finds it difficult to declare in his ordinary language. Obviously this would not be of use in a public meeting where no man could understand it, and for that purpose the Spirit can give a parallel gift of “interpretation of tongues” in order that others may be able to say an intelligent “Amen.” This does not alter the essentially devotional character of the utterance in a “tongue,” nor turn it into a message. We are left with the plain inference that the proper sphere for the gift of tongues in a private devotion, and for that reason it need not occupy us unduly as a gift for ministry.32


The data collected to draw this conclusion is from research collected over three years ago and updated with additional material recently digitized and posted by other institutions. Early Pentecostal literature is still in its infancy with digitization and availability. There is much more to come. The results may change depending on new information coming available. Pentecostal scholars may argue manipulating the data to meet my ends and fulfill a pre-established argument. The evidence so far suggests otherwise. If any scholar has information and data that proves a different trajectory, this document is open for revision.

  1. This publication is round three of attempting to untangle this doctrine. Attempts were found in various versions of the article, Solutions to the Pentecostal Tongues Crisis as a subcategory. The coverage failed. The initial obstacles were of lack of data and unfamiliarity with this early Pentecostal doctrine. Fortunately, the recent unearthing of more material from this period has led to an improved interpretation.
  2. See Early Pentecostal Tongues in Crisis for more information.
  3. Author Unknown. “The Gift of Tongues,” as found in Christian Alliance and Missionary Weekly. Friday, February 12, 1892. Vol. VIII. No. 7
  4. See V. P. Simmons on the Church History of Tongues.
  5. The Bridegroom’s Messenger. February 1, 1908. Vol. 1. No. 7
  6. In an earlier version of Solutions to the Pentecostal Tongues Crisis it was stated that Lum and Crawford were debating with the Bridegroom’s Messenger about the nature and purpose of tongues. The statement is withdrawn due to a lack of substantiation.
  7. The Apostolic Faith (Portland) July 1909. No. 8
  8. The Latter Rain Evangel. Anna C. Reiff editor. Chicago: The Evangel Publishing House; William Hamner Piper. Vol. 2, nos. 1-12, Oct. 1909 – Sept. 1910 –Digitized and located at the University of Southern California. Libraries. The following numbering system is not correlated to the page numbers but by USC’s digitized system. A. Xenolalia: Pg. 47 (Zulu Language), 71 (Mandarin, Hakka dialect, and an African tongue), 79 (Hebrew or Yiddish, Chinese, German), 116 (speaking about the Azusa Street Revival), 191 (German). B. Sign Gift: Pg. 57, 62, 74, 101, 155, 282. These results are not an exhaustive study, and there is much more available on their website. This observation is only a general perusal.
  9. The Latter Rain Evangel. Anna C. Reiff editor. Chicago: The Evangel Publishing House; William Hamner Piper. Vol. 1, nos. 1-12, Oct. 1908 – Sept. 1909–Digitized and located at the University of Southern California. Libraries.
  10. For more information see the following articles: Charles Parham on Speaking in Tongues, The Irvingites and the the Gift of Tongues, and The Irvingite Influence on Pentecostalism
  11. Andrew L. Fraser. “A Contrast in Values,” as found in The Christian Evangel. Number 52, August 1, 1914. Pg. 1
  12. The crossover of Pentecostal doctrine with glossolalia as found in the primary and secondary sourcebooks is found in Pentecostals, Tongues, and Higher Criticism
  13. Minutes of the General Council of the Assemblies of God. St. Louis. Mo. Oct. 1 – 7, 1916 Pg. 11
  14. G. R. Polman. “As the Spirit Gave Utterance,” as found in The Weekly Evangel. Number 178, February 24th, 1917. Pg. 5
  15. IBID. G. R. Polman. “As the Spirit Gave Utterance,” as found in The Weekly Evangel. Number 178, February 24th, 1917. Pg. 5
  16. Should read ‘Spirit’ but ‘Sprits’ is a misprint in the original copy. I will leave as is.
  17. A. J. Tomlinson. The Gift of Tongues: Part 6. As found in The Church of God Evangel. Cleveland, Tenn. Vol. 8, No. 21, June 23, 1917. Pg. 1
  18. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aimee_Semple_McPherson
  19. I could not find any information on this person. If a reader can provide some biographical information, please contact me.
  20. Herman L. Harvey. “The Gift of Tongues” as found in The Bridal Call: Western Edition. April 1919. Vol. II. No. 11. Pg. 7
  21. Bosworth wrote this originally around 1920 but it is now only found in his later works
  22. F. F. Bosworth. Do All Speak With Tongues? I Cor. 12:30. An Open Letter to the Ministers and Saints of the Pentecostal Movement. No Date. New York: The Christian Alliance Publishing Company. Pg. 4. This book has no date of publishing but likely published in the 1930s. Literary evidence suggests that he first forwarded this thought in 1919. Special thank you to Roscoe Barnes III for his research, blog, and correspondence about F. F. Bosworth. Mr. Barnes has more information on why Bosworth’s position was already established in 1919.
  23. IBID. F. F. Bosworth. Do All Speak With Tongues? I Cor. 12:30. An Open Letter to the Ministers and Saints of the Pentecostal Movement. No Date. New York: The Christian Alliance Publishing Company. Pg. 5–6
  24. IBID. F. F. Bosworth. Do All Speak With Tongues? I Cor. 12:30. An Open Letter to the Ministers and Saints of the Pentecostal Movement. No Date. New York: The Christian Alliance Publishing Company. Pg. 8–9
  25. A special thank you to Dr. Roscoe Barnes III for his insightful work on F. F. Bosworth and drawing my attention to this Pentecostal pioneer.
  26. The Inter Ocean. “In Tower of Babel: Occupants of Topeka Mansion Talk in Many Queer Jargons.” Chicago. Illinois. 1901. Sunday, Pg. 37
  27. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnes_Ozman. Quoting from Frodsham, Stanley Howard (1928). With Signs Following: The Story of the Latter-Day Pentecostal Revival. Gospel Publishing House.
  28. The Collected Works of John Lake. Jawbone Digital.com. 2013. Pg. 382
  29. The Collected Works of John Lake. Jawbone Digital.com. 2013. Pg. 375
  30. https://smithwigglesworth.blogspot.com/2008/01/gift-of-tongues.html 1924
  31. https://smithwigglesworth.blogspot.com/2008/01/gift-of-tongues.html 1924
  32. Donald Gee. Spiritual Gifts in the Work of the Ministry Today. Springfield: Gospel Publishing House. 1963. Pg. 54ff.

2 thoughts on “Utterance Versus Gift of Tongues”

  1. In my research on this complicated and confusing subject, I have, through the years read almost every one of the teachers mentioned in this well researched article. As mentioned, some of the most anointed Christian leader’s used by God did not have/use a gift of tongues. Even Corrie ten Boom, who had the gift, never spoke of it in public. Of all the books I’ve read on the subject, many mentioned above, and some not mentioned; the best explanation I’ve seen was in the Collected Works of Billy Graham in the section describing the Holy Spirit and the sign gifts.
    I suggest it to anyone seeking a true and fair Biblical explanationon on this controversial subject.


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