Monthly Archives: November 2010

A History of Glossolalia: Did it exist before 1879?

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

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

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

Table of Contents

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

Glossolalia in Greek dictionaries published before 1879

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glossolalia in dictionaries published between 1880 and 1890

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

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

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

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

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

Examining pre-1879 commentaries for glossolalia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Examining publications after 1879 for glossolalia

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

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

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

Dictionaries and language aids

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secondary source material

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

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

    Behm then wrote a very strong unsubstantiated assertion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The article then contradicts itself at the end:

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

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

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

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

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

Books published in the 1900s and later on glossolalia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glossolalia and the modern English Bible

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

For further information:

References   [ + ]

A History of Glossolalia: Origins

How glossolalia entered the christian doctrine of tongues vernacular and became the entrenched form of interpretation.

The 1800s was the era of a major transition in the interpretation and understanding of the doctrine of tongues. This is a time when the traditional interpretation which consisted of a supernatural spontaneous utterance of a foreign language gave way to enigmatic themes such as ecstatic utterances, prophetic utterance, ecstasy, and glossolalia.

Table of Contents

  • Why speaking in tongues became a popular item for scholars to publish in the 1800s
  • Ecstasy vs. Glossolalia
  • The people behind the new definition
  • The propagation of the new definition
  • August Neander and his influence on Philip Schaff in promoting tongues as an ecstatic utterance
  • The expansion of the new definition into the world of English literature
  • Conclusion

Why speaking in tongues became a popular item for scholars to publish in the 1800s

A major factor that fostered such serious study was the Irvingite movement’s claim in the 1830s to have revived the gift of tongues. This movement has already been covered in detail and can be found in the above link. This brought the study of the gift of tongues out of a long slumber and into the critical attention of religious scholars throughout Europe.

The assertion about the Irvingites may be an over-generalization because the story of the alteration begins a few short years before them, but without this controversial apocalyptic and tongues-speaking group, international inquiry to the doctrine of tongues would never have occurred. There would have been no catalyst for propagating a new definition.

Ecstasy vs. glossolalia

One has to be mindful of the use of the word ecstasy used throughout this article.
Medieval catholic mysticism had defined ecstasy as a prerequisite state before a divine encounter – very similar but not exactly to what renewalists today call baptism in the Holy Spirit. Indeed, this was a such an important word in the late medieval vocabulary that the massive sixteenth-century Greek dictionary by Stephanus, Thesaurus of the Greek Language, allowed considerable space to define this Greek word. Ecstasy was a well known concept in catholic circles at this time. The German academic community had taken this familiar religious symbol to express this phenomenon. However, the idea of ecstasy was not sufficient in the long run. It was the starting point in the evolution of the doctrine of glossolalia.

The people behind the new definition

The rise of glossolalia can be traced to Germany in the late 1700s and the 1800s. This is the apex where the Rennaissance, Reformation, Humanism, Protestant and anti-Catholic fervor all combined together to produce some of the greatest historical and philosophical works from a christian framework. These influences are reflected in the introduction of glossolalia to the christian doctrine of tongues.

The story of glossolalia begins with five German scholars who promoted a fresh new approach to Biblical interpretation that purposely tried to avoid the trappings of traditional and enforced interpretations of Biblical texts:

  • Friedrich Schleiermacher whose method of interpreting the Bible along with his systematic theology, has granted him one of the most powerful and influential personages that only the likes of Augustine can topple. He did not like institutional dogma or forced creeds and approached theological subjects from a sociological perspective. He promoted that any process cannot be forced to conform to an established framework and a conclusion does not have to arrive at a preconceived end.

  • A fellow teacher of Schleiermacher at the University of Berlin, W.M.L. de Wette, an Old Testament specialist who refined the idea of myth as a valid form of exegesis.(1)Protestant Theology and the Making of the Modern German University. Pg. 194

  • Ferdinand Christian Baur the founder, leader and teacher at Tübingen School of Theology(2)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferdinand_Christian_Baur who was deeply influenced by Schleiermacher and later by the philosophical influences of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Hegel is a major figure in his own right but his direct influence on glossolalia is faint. However, he created a new framework for Biblical interpretation which allowed such ideas to spawn.

  • Freidrich Bleek, a student of de Wette and highly praised by Schleiermacher himself, became one of the foremost German Biblical scholars of all time. He rose to prominence when he published “Origin and Composition of the Sibylline Oracles,” and “Authorship and Design of the Book of Daniel.”(3)http://www.1902encyclopedia.com/B/BLE/friedrich-bleek.html

  • Last, but perhaps the most influential on the modern definition of speaking in tongues, was August Neander. August Neander was a disciple of Schleiermacher but more conservative in his views and less speculative on theological subjects.(4)1902 Encyclopedia Britannica He also taught at the University of Berlin along with Schleiermacher and de Wette.

Schleiermacher and de Wette do not have a direct say in the development of glossolalia being added to the christian doctrine of tongues, but their framework to allow such an inclusion is obvious.

The propagation of the new definition

The late 1800s historian, author and Biblical exegete, Heinrich Meyer believed the first known academics to publish a critical work on tongues defined as an ecstatic utterance were Freidrich Bleek and FC Baur around 1830, just before the Irvingite movement’s break-out.(5) 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. He wrote:

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.(6)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. 371.

The Exegetical Handbook authored by Heinrich Meyer believed that most commentators followed the standard definition that speaking in tongues was either a spontaneous speaking in a foreign language or the ability to easily learn a new language through study before Bleek and Baur came out with their alternative opinion.(7) 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. 365

A German dissertation on tongues in 1836 entitled, Die Geistesgaben der ersten Christen: insbesondre die sogenannte Gage der Sprachen, by a man named David Schulz concluded that the greatest thinkers on the subject were Bleek, Baur and Augustus Neander.(8)David Schulz. Die Geistesgaben der ersten Christen: insbesondre die sogenannte Gage der Sprachen. Breslau: A. Gosohorsky. 1836. pg. 3 Neander came a little later than the first two, but his contribution had more of a universal impact.

These three are so important that almost all modern scholarly and clinical Biblical interpretation trends on the gift of tongues can be traced to them.

Two nineteenth-century Anglican scholars, Chr. Wordsworth and Rev. Edward Hayes Plumptre would disagree. Plumptre believed the glossolalia doctrine to be the “theories of Bleek, Herder, and Bunsen,”(9) “Tongues, Gift of” by E.H. Plumptre. Dictionary of the Bible. William Smith, LL.D. ed. London: John Murray. 1863. Pg. 1556 and Wordsworth attributes Heinrich Meyer, de Wette, and Bunsen.(10)Wordsworth, Chr. The Greek New Testament. Vol. 2. London:Rivertons. 1930. Pg. 44 However, the texts they allude to cannot be located, and this study is unfortunately restricted to English translations of German texts. Based on English texts found so far, Heinrich Meyer’s evaluation and other works combine to mark Bleek, Baur and Neander as the top three.

August Neander and his influence on Philip Schaff in promoting tongues as an ecstatic utterance

Augustus Neander
Augustus Neander

Neander was the more prolific expositor and his literature was highly praised. He was referred to by more theologians on the doctrine of tongues than any other. It was through him the modern definition became an entrenched one throughout western Christendom.

His legacy in religious studies was so great that, Philip Schaff, who edited the highly praised and popular publication, History of the Christian Church, conceded that his work was an updated and modernized version of Neander’s writing.(11) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Schaff Schaff was trained in Germany, but moved to the US as a professor and widely disseminated Neander’s views. Neander also influenced Frederick Farrar, an English theologian and writer, who convincingly brought Neander’s thoughts to the positive attention of English readers.

The basis of Neander’s opinions can be credited to two writers, one named Herder, which is not detailed any further in Neander’s writing but is likely Johann Gottfried Herder, and “particularly Bauer, in his valuable essay on the subject in the Tubinger Zeitschrift für Theologie, 1830, part ii., to which I am indebted for some modifications of my own view.”(12)Augustus Neander. Planting and Training of the Christian Church by the Apostles. London: Henry G. Bohn. 1851. 3rd ed. Vol. 1 Pg. 15. The spelling of Bauer rather than Baur may be a transliteration problem but it was FC Baur he was referring to.

Neander also knew that the new definition clashed with the traditional one and readily admitted a sharp departure, “If, then, we examine more closely the description of what transpired on the day of Pentecost, we shall find several things which favour a different interpretation from the ancient one.”(13) IBID. Neander. Pg. 12

The “ancient one” described by Neander, was a very worded text, believing that at the times of the apostles, Pentecost was a miraculous outpouring, enabling unlearnt men to speak in languages they did not know, then in later times, this would not reoccur. From that point, the universal promulgation of the Gospel had to be done through extensive language study.

“Accordingly, since the third century it has been generally admitted, that a supernatural gift of tongues was imparted on this occasion, by which the more rapid promulgation of the gospel among the heathen was facilitated and promoted. It has been urged that as in the apostolic age, many things were effected immediately by the predominating creative agency of God’s Spirit, which, in later times, have been effected through human means appropriated and sanctified by it; so, in this instance, immediate inspiration stood in the place of those natural lingual acquirements, which in later times have served for the propagation of the gospel.”(14) IBID. Neander. Pg. 9

He felt that the use of xenoglossolalia was unnecessary for the expansion of Christianity:

“But, indeed, the utility of such a gift of tongues for the spread of divine truth in the apostolic times, will appear not so great, if we consider that the gospel had its first and chief sphere of action among the nations belonging to the Roman Empire, where the knowledge of the Greek and Latin languages sufficed for this purpose…”(15) IBID. Neander. Pg. 10

And then further reckoned that not only had the miraculous ability to speak a foreign language at Pentecost ceased, but it was replaced by a spiritual language:

“Thus the speaking in foreign languages would be only something accidental, and not the essential of the new language of the Spirit. This new language of the Spirit is that which Christ promised to his disciples as one of the essential marks of the operation of the Holy Spirit on their hearts.”(16) IBID. Neander. Pg. 14

He clearly concluded that the tongues indicated in I Corinthians to be ecstatic:

“something altogether different from such a supernatural gift of tongues is spoken of. Evidently, the apostle is there treating of such discourse as would not be generally intelligible, proceeding from an ecstatic state of mind which rose to an elevation far above the language of ordinary communication.”(17) IBID. Neander. Pg. 11

Neander personally visited the Irvingite congregation while Irving was still leading, and concluded that although the Irvingites believed they were spontaneously speaking in a foreign language unknown to them, he observed that the reality demonstrated otherwise; “Still less can I admit the comparison with the manifestations among the followers of Mr. Irving in London, since as far as my knowledge extends, I can see nothing in these manifestations but the workings of an enthusiastic spirit, which sought to copy the apostolic gift of tongues according to the common interpretation, and therefore assumed the reality of that gift.”(18) IBID. Neander. Pg. 12

Schaff felt that Neander had failed in his examination of tongues and charged him with being a victim of rationalism.(19) 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. 201 — though it is hard to find the difference in his position with Neander’s. Schaff believed the gift of tongues to be, “an involuntary, spiritual utterance in an ecstatic state of the most elevated devotion, in which the man is not, indeed, properly transported out of himself, but rather sinks into the inmost depths of his own soul, and thus, into direct contact with the divine essence within him . . .”(20) 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. 199

He simply reinforced Neander’s position. One of the major proofs he used was by analogy of the Irvingites;

“The speaking with tongues in the Irvingite congregations, as it manifested itself in the earlier years of this sect in England, was at first a speaking in strange sounds resembling Hebrew, after which the speakers continued in their English vernacular…”(21)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. 198

He then reported of an eyewitness account of a Michael Hohl, who described an Irvingite experience. He saw a person going into a trance, produce violent convulsions and then, “An impetuous gush of strange, energetic tones, which sounded to my ears most like those of the Hebrew language”.(22) 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. 198 Schaff then used the Irvingite experience to conclude:

“Could we appeal to the Irvingite glossolaly, as a reasonable analogy, we should here have a similar elevations, in which according to Hohl’s account above quoted, the ecstatic discourses were delivered first in strange sounds, like Hebrew, and afterwards, where the excitement had somewhat abated, in the English vernacular. Yet this analogy might be used more naturally to illustrate the relation between speaking with tongues and interpretation of tongues.”(23) 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. 202

He also hesitatingly used the Irvingites, with some caveats, as a point in the evolving tongues history:

“The speaking with tongues, however, was not confined to the day of Pentecost. Together with the other extraordinary spiritual gifts which distinguished this age above the succeeding periods of more quiet and natural development, this gift, also, thought to be sure in a modified form, perpetuated itself in the apostolic church. We find traces of it still in the second and third centuries, and, (if we credit the legends of the Roman church), even later than this, though very seldom. 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.”(24) IBID. Schaff. Pg. 197

Philip Schaff was very intrigued by the gift of tongues and it must have been an important religious topic within the religious realm during his time. In the first ever meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in the US which was held in January 1880, Schaff chose to publicly read his work, “The Pentecostal and the Corinthian Glossolalia.”(25) http://www.sbl-site.org/SSchapter1.aspx

Schaff’s view on speaking in tongues was limited to an academic audience. It wasn’t until the next author, Frederick Farrar, published a book that met a much wider audience in the English speaking world and the doctrine took the next step to being a universal standard.

The expansion of the new definition into the world of English literature

Frederic William Farrar
Frederic William Farrar

This new definition was restricted to Germany, but this significantly changed in the English world when Frederick Farrar published in 1879; The Life and Work of St. Paul.

This author and his works may be forgotten in the annals of history, but in his time, he was well-known. Not only did this Englishman tirelessly work his way through the ranks to be the Dean of Canterbury(26)http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/farrar/bio.html, but a friend to Charles Darwin and later a pallbearer at Darwin’s funeral.

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.”(27) Frederick W. Farrar. The Life and Work of St. Paul. London: Cassell and Company. 1897 (originally published in 1879). Pg. 53ff

Once again the influence of Neander is clearly stated. “I do not see how any thoughtful student who really considered the whole subject can avoid the conclusion of Neander, that “any foreign languages which were spoken on this occasion were only something accidental, and not the essential element of the language of the Spirit.”(28) IBID. Farrar. Pg. 53ff

He introduced a newly-made noun into the English language, glossolalia, with this statement:

“The glossolalia, or “speaking with a tongue,” is connected with “prophesying”–that is, exalted preaching–and magnifying God.”(29)IBID. Farrar. Pg. 53

It is clear that the noun glossolalia was first coined and used in the English language around 1879. The Oxford Online English Dictionary previously attributed Farrar and an author named Lily as the creators but both have been removed from the present Dictionary with no reference to any antecedents at all.(30)http://dictionary.oed.com. I can’t say when this was removed but am absolutely sure it existed. This is how I originally found Farrar’s name. The Websters Revised Unabridged Dictionary 1913, traced the introduction of the word glossolalia from only Farrar.(31)Websters Revised Unabridged Dictionary 1913. Found on the web here

Nothing substantial has been found yet on the author named Lily, though by virtue of Oxford Dictionaries association with Farrar, his views must have been closely aligned.

Conclusion

The formulation of glossolalia was clearly developing. However, questions still linger. Do the primary source books agree that glossolalia was introduced around 1879? Were there strong objections to the new definition? These questions and more are answered in this series.

For further reading:

An examination on why the traditional doctrine of tongues as a supernatural endowment of a foreign language all but died and was replaced by the doctrine of glossolalia.

This series of articles will demonstrate how the new definition originated in the early 1800s and has progressed to the strong doctrine that presently exists.

The reader will discover a rich story behind the development of this concept with exact names, disputes, and places. The series will clearly show the change from a miracle of speech or hearing to glossolalia. This change was a process that took over a century to develop and became universally and unquestionably entrenched.

What is glossolalia and were the ancient Christian writers aware of this practice?

Though there are a number of words to describe modern tongues speaking such as ecstasy, ecstatic utterance, frenzy, etc., glossolalia will be used throughout this series as a blanket term.

Glossolalia, ecstasy, and ecstatic utterances are the same words to explain something that is unintelligible and meaningless. “Glossolalia is language-like because the speaker unconsciously wants it to be language-like.”(32)a quote from William Samarin as found in: Robert Carroll. The Skeptic’s Dictionary. A collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions. New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons. 2003. Pg. 135

This new definition has its own history separate from that of the ecclesiasts who guarded the old doctrine of tongues as a miracle of either a person spontaneously speaking a foreign language or the recipient hearing sounds in one’s own tongue. Rarely has the new definition of glossolalia been critically examined or traced from its initial beginnings to the present. This is what the series, A History of Glossolalia, is all about.

This series is part of the Gift of Tongues Project that has a fourfold purpose of collecting, digitizing, translating and analyzing important texts relating to the christian doctrine of tongues. The overwhelming evidence collected so far maintains the church had always understood the miraculous use of tongues at Pentecost as either spoken or heard as foreign languages. Historical leaders such as Augustine, Gregory Nazianzus, Epiphanius, John Chrysostom, Cyril of Jerusalem, Cyril of Alexandria, the Ambrosiaster text, Pachomius, the Venerable Bede, Pope Benedict XIV and more have covered the subject. The details may be different but all agree that it was a foreign human language. Their critical debates were whether it was a miracle of hearing or speaking, or whether the language constructed itself in the mind or converted at the last moment on the lips.(33)For more information on whether it was a miracle of speaking or hearing, see Gregory of Nazianzus on Pentecost and Michael Psellos Michael Psellos on the Tongues of Pentecost.

These church writers were not aware of an alternate interpretation of tongues as ecstasy or glossolalia.

Michael Psellos in the eleventh century was well aware of the Greek prophetesses going into an ecstatic state and speaking in foreign languages. He knew that there could have been a relationship between this and the Christian practice but dispelled the correlation outright. Neither did he believe that the ancient Greek prophetesses spoke gibberish or a highly exalted language. He believed they were speaking a foreign human language. When the connection between the Greek prophetesses and Christian tongues was made in the early 1800s, Psellos important contribution to the debate was neglected out of ignorance or wilfully ignored.(34)Michael Psellos on the Tongues of Pentecost.

The initial problem connecting glossolalia with the christian doctrine of tongues.

An implicit bias in the doctrine of glossolalia is its absence or little use of the church Fathers. Many scholars who were proponents of tongues as glossolalia failed to recognize or integrate base Christian texts, selectively choosing weaker ones instead. They neither wrestled with the church texts in any detail to assert or repudiate their claims.

The church fathers focused mainly on the Day of Pentecost in Acts where they believed the experience to be people supernaturally endowed with the ability to speak in foreign languages. Paul’s coverage of the tongues problem in Corinth has been more difficult for the ancient church writers to cover. Most have avoided literally explaining it, choosing to go into allegory or emphasizing the moral force of the text: the need for charity instead of pride. Noted exceptions to this were: Epiphanius, who saw the Corinthian problem as an ethno-linguistic conflict, the Ambrosiaster text, which summed it up as conflict between Aramaic and Greek speaking Jews; and the Cyril of Alexandria text which explained problems arising from hypothetically speaking in Eastern languages such as Mede in a Greek speaking community. These church writings can be found documented at the Gift of Tongues Project.

Problems connecting Montanism and their glossolalia with the christian doctrine of tongues.

Scholars from the realm of higher criticism have introduced Eusebius’ coverage of the Montanist movement and their ecstasies as the historical definition of speaking in tongues in the church. However, the Greek keyword for tongues doesn’t even occur in the text. This omission is very problematic and weakens this solution. The ecclesiastical writers made no connection with the Montanists regarding speaking in tongues. Neither can any person find documents with the church specifically arguing for or against Montanist tongues. The Montanist experience for explaining Christian tongues didn’t arrive until 1500 years after the Montanist experience by Conyers Middleton in his publication, Free Inquiry.(35)see Conyers Middleton and the doctrine of tongues This is a later interpretation that cannot be substantiated through early historical literature.

An overview on the history of glossolalia series.

How the doctrine of glossolalia first appeared and took over this subject matter is a complex journey that requires a series of articles to answer. To get started, here are a number of brief thoughts to set things up for the articles to follow:

The nineteenth-century Irvingite Movement can be blamed for renewed interest into the subject. They brought the tongues theology out of a deep sleep and into the critical attention of the international community; from the layperson to magazines, newspapers and scholars. It summoned a deep theological debate that was in the cross-hairs between the traditional supernaturalists and the quickly rising rationalist movement. The Irvingite event was the litmus test for both parties credibility.

The rise of the glossolalia definition and the abandonment of the traditional one was also largely due to the casualty of ecclesiastical writings being dropped as historical literature and switched to the category of legends and myths. There is a purposeful de-emphasis of ecclesiastical writings in the primary, secondary and tertiary sourcebooks from the 19th century onwards.

This has had a profound impact on the controversies surrounding this doctrine. In fact, if this de-emphasis on ecclesiastical writings did not exist, it would change the modern debate altogether.(36) A more detailed account on why and how the Ecclesiastical writings were dropped and not considered a legitimate source for scholarly study can be found at this link, The Historical Rejection of Patristics and its Legacy

The series of articles.

These are all generalizations here, which the Gift of Tongues Project normally tries to avoid. In this case, some introduction was necessary. This is a large work and is broken into a number of articles. Here is the complete listing:

References   [ + ]

Introduction to the History of Glossolalia

An examination on why the traditional doctrine of tongues as a supernatural endowment of a foreign language all but died and was replaced by the doctrine of glossolalia.

This series of articles will demonstrate how the new definition originated in the early 1800s and has progressed to the strong doctrine that presently exists.

The reader will discover a rich story behind the development of this concept with exact names, disputes, and places. The series will clearly show the change from a miracle of speech or hearing to glossolalia. This change was a process that took over a century to develop and became universally and unquestionably entrenched.

What is glossolalia and were the ancient Christian writers aware of this practice?

Though there are a number of words to describe modern tongues speaking such as ecstasy, ecstatic utterance, frenzy, etc., glossolalia will be used throughout this series as a blanket term.

Glossolalia, ecstasy, and ecstatic utterances are the same words to explain something that is unintelligible and meaningless. “Glossolalia is language-like because the speaker unconsciously wants it to be language-like.”(1)a quote from William Samarin as found in: Robert Carroll. The Skeptic’s Dictionary. A collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions. New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons. 2003. Pg. 135

This new definition has its own history separate from that of the ecclesiasts who guarded the old doctrine of tongues as a miracle of either a person spontaneously speaking a foreign language or the recipient hearing sounds in one’s own tongue. Rarely has the new definition of glossolalia been critically examined or traced from its initial beginnings to the present. This is what the series, A History of Glossolalia, is all about.

This series is part of the Gift of Tongues Project that has a fourfold purpose of collecting, digitizing, translating and analyzing important texts relating to the christian doctrine of tongues. The overwhelming evidence collected so far maintains the church had always understood the miraculous use of tongues at Pentecost as either spoken or heard as foreign languages. Historical leaders such as Augustine, Gregory Nazianzus, Epiphanius, John Chrysostom, Cyril of Jerusalem, Cyril of Alexandria, the Ambrosiaster text, Pachomius, the Venerable Bede, Pope Benedict XIV and more have covered the subject. The details may be different but all agree that it was a foreign human language. Their critical debates were whether it was a miracle of hearing or speaking, or whether the language constructed itself in the mind or converted at the last moment on the lips.(2)For more information on whether it was a miracle of speaking or hearing, see Gregory of Nazianzus on Pentecost and Michael Psellos Michael Psellos on the Tongues of Pentecost.

These church writers were not aware of an alternate interpretation of tongues as ecstasy or glossolalia.

Michael Psellos in the eleventh century was well aware of the Greek prophetesses going into an ecstatic state and speaking in foreign languages. He knew that there could have been a relationship between this and the Christian practice but dispelled the correlation outright. Neither did he believe that the ancient Greek prophetesses spoke gibberish or a highly exalted language. He believed they were speaking a foreign human language. When the connection between the Greek prophetesses and Christian tongues was made in the early 1800s, Psellos important contribution to the debate was neglected out of ignorance or wilfully ignored.(3)Michael Psellos on the Tongues of Pentecost.

The initial problem connecting glossolalia with the christian doctrine of tongues.

An implicit bias in the doctrine of glossolalia is its absence or little use of the church fathers. Many scholars who were proponents of tongues as glossolalia failed to recognize or integrate base christian texts, selectively choosing weaker ones instead. They neither wrestled with the church texts in any detail to assert or repudiate their claims.

The church fathers focused mainly on the Day of Pentecost in Acts where they believed the experience to be people supernaturally endowed with the ability to speak in foreign languages. Paul’s coverage of the tongues problem in Corinth has been more difficult for the ancient church writers to cover. Most have avoided literally explaining it, choosing to go into allegory or emphasizing the moral force of the text: the need for charity instead of pride. Noted exceptions to this were: Epiphanius, who saw the Corinthian problem as an ethno-linguistic conflict, the Ambrosiaster text, which summed it up as conflict between Aramaic and Greek speaking Jews; and the Cyril of Alexandria text which explained problems arising from hypothetically speaking in Eastern languages such as Mede in a Greek speaking community. These church writings can be found documented at the Gift of Tongues Project.

Problems connecting Montanism and their glossolalia with the christian doctrine of tongues.

Scholars from the realm of higher criticism have introduced Eusebius’ coverage of the Montanist movement and their ecstasies as the historical definition of speaking in tongues in the church. However, the Greek keyword for tongues doesn’t even occur in the text. This omission is very problematic and weakens this solution. The ecclesiastical writers made no connection with the Montanists regarding speaking in tongues. Neither can any person find documents with the church specifically arguing for or against Montanist tongues. The Montanist experience for explaining Christian tongues didn’t arrive until 1500 years after the Montanist experience by Conyers Middleton in his publication, Free Inquiry.(4)see Conyers Middleton and the doctrine of tongues This is a later interpretation that cannot be substantiated through early historical literature.

An overview on the history of glossolalia series.

How the doctrine of glossolalia first appeared and took over this subject matter is a complex journey that requires a series of articles to answer. To get started, here are a number of brief thoughts to set things up for the articles to follow:

The nineteenth-century Irvingite Movement can be blamed for renewed interest into the subject. They brought the tongues theology out of a deep sleep and into the critical attention of the international community; from the layperson to magazines, newspapers and scholars. It summoned a deep theological debate that was in the cross-hairs between the traditional supernaturalists and the quickly rising rationalist movement. The Irvingite event was the litmus test for both parties credibility.

The rise of the glossolalia definition and the abandonment of the traditional one was also largely due to the casualty of ecclesiastical writings being dropped as historical literature and switched to the category of legends and myths. There is a purposeful de-emphasis of ecclesiastical writings in the primary, secondary and tertiary sourcebooks from the 19th century onwards.

This has had a profound impact on the controversies surrounding this doctrine. In fact, if this de-emphasis on ecclesiastical writings did not exist, it would change the modern debate altogether.(5) A more detailed account on why and how the Ecclesiastical writings were dropped and not considered a legitimate source for scholarly study can be found at this link, The Historical Rejection of Patristics and its Legacy

The series of articles.

These are all generalizations here, which the Gift of Tongues Project normally tries to avoid. In this case, some introduction was necessary. This is a large work and is broken into a number of articles. Here is the complete listing:

References   [ + ]

A History of Glossolalia: Objections

19th century objections to glossolalia as speaking in tongues.

As shown in the previous article, A History of Glossolalia: the Origins, the new definition of tongues as an ecstatic utterance was not universally accepted and initially ran into strong opposition. Glossolalia was recognized as a departure from the traditional interpretation.

Examples of opposition to the new definition

Two examples demonstrate adherence to the traditional definition in the German community and ignoring the idea of glossolalia.

  • A German lexicographer named Hermann Cremer simply ignored the movement in his Biblico-Theological Lexicon and continued on with the old definition in 1883 and insisted that γλῶσσα always be understood as language.(1)Hermann Cremer, D.D. Biblico-Theological Lexicon of New Testament Greek. Trans. by William Urwick, M.A. Edinburgh: T&T Clarke. 1883. Pg. 164

  • Joseph von Görre, a German historian who wrote a book in the 1840’s on magic and miracle throughout the centuries, mixed the concept of ecstasy and miraculous foreign languages. He described these two features in the experience of St. Jeanne of the Cross who lived in the early 1700’s. She “had this gift when she was in ecstasy; and she could communicate in various languages, according to the needs of its listeners… She had an ecstasy, and spoke Arabic with them, so that they ended up asking for the baptism.”(2) My English translation from the French Translation of the German work. Joseph von Görres, La Mystique Divine Naturelle et Diabolique. Trans. By Charles Sainte-Foi. Paris: Librairie de Mme Ve Poussielgue-Rusand. 1861. 2nd ed. Pg. 453

There are echoes from scholars in England that the new definition had deserted the traditional one.

  • Rev. Edward Hayes Plumptre was a highly esteemed scholar, hymnist and Professor of Divinity at the King’s College in London. His greatest connections with history was his opposition to Charles Darwin and that he was ordained by Bishop Wilberforce – the son of the revered William Wilberforce. Plumptre wrote a compelling overview in the 1863 edition of Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible on speaking in tongues. He compared the ancient versus the contemporary definition and found the new one wanting. His coverage may be one of the most comprehensive historical writings on this religious topic up until this point. He concluded that the “theories of Bleek, Herder, and Bunsen,” cannot be reconciled, “without a wilful distortion of the evidence.”(3) “Tongues, Gift of” by E.H. Plumptre. Dictionary of the Bible. William Smith, LL.D. ed. London: John Murray. 1863. Pg. 1556 In his defence he documented different views over history along with the traditionally accepted one.(4) IBID. Plumptre. Pg. 1557ff

  • In 1871, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown’s Commentary: Critical and Explanatory on the whole Bible, rejected this new thesis, “Tongue must therefore mean languages, not ecstatic, unintelligable rhapsodies…”(5)Jamieson, Fausset and Brown. Commentary: Critical and Explanatory on the whole Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House. Orig. publishing date 1871. Pg. 289

  • Christopher Wordsworth, a leading Anglican scholar in the 1850s, challenged such new thinking and re-affirmed the traditional position. A stance that had the backing of the Anglican Church:

    One of the most convincing proofs of the truth of the Ancient Interpretation of this text, as thus declared by the CHURCH OF ENGLAND, is to be found in the almost countless discrepancies of the Expositors who have deserted that Interpretation.

    There is a large and consistent body of Interpreters, dating from the second century, and continued for many hundred years in all parts of Christendom, in favour of the Ancient Exposition; whereas, on the contrary, the Expositions at variance with it, which have been propounded in modern times, have no ancient authority in their favour; and are as inconsistent with one another as they are irreconcilable with the teaching of Christian Antiquity.”(6)Wordsworth, Chr. The Greek New Testament. Vol. 2. London:Rivertons. 1930. Pg. 44: Or go to Google Books. for the original publication.

  • The 1878 Churchman Magazine reflected such intensity on this matter. A number of letters to the editor argue against a minister of the Irvingite Church, John Davenport, who previously wrote that Pentecost was not foreign languages or for the purpose of universal propagation. A writer replied that this was the weakest and most untenable position to make on this subject.(7) The Churchman. Vol. 38. Pg. 14

Glossolalia overtakes the traditional interpretation.

Although the sampling is small, these writers demonstrate that there was a traditional definition that was in the process of being abandoned and being replaced by a new one. These objections were relatively minor compared to the momentum the doctrine of glossolalia had already accrued. The spirit of the times was decidedly shifting to the new definition.

This will be outlined further in the next segment, A History of Glossolalia: Examining the Source Texts.

For further reading:

References   [ + ]

More on the Historical Rejection of Patristics

The controversy of magic and miracles in the Reformation, how both sides used Patristics for their own conveniences, and the rise of the word ceased in the Christian religious vocabulary.

The fifteenth to nineteenth centuries were focused on the Church tradition of miracles. The Church, which controlled the civil, and religious laws, established its authority and decision making through the works of miracles. It could not easily be questioned. As was previously written, this mysticism influenced every sphere of life; from politics, to health, taxes, and the natural sciences. It did not allow for dialogue, external accountability, or encourage scientific exploration.

The Medieval and Reformation supernaturalists had a greater propensity towards mysticism and overstated the ancient writers to propel their positions. It makes the modern reader think the Patristic writers were more deeply into the supernatural, magic, and miracles than they really were.

In order to bring a new civil order, the foundation of magic and miracle had to be broken. One of the biggest, and most convincing proofs against the mysticism of the time, was that the age of miracles had simply passed, or in its proper theological term, ceased. As previously noted in The Historical Rejection of Patristics and its Legacy, the idea popularized by Conyers Middleton had accelerated over time and became a movement called cessationism. By negating the power of miracles, certain established traditions, individuals, or practices were no longer considered divine, a new social framework could be built.

Both positions were in the extreme, and neither seriously took into account what the earlier writers represented.

If the fourth century writers were allowed to speak for themselves without the perceptions of either camp, miracles were not a priority – not because they had ceased, but it just didn’t fit in with the dialogues and practices of the day. The fourth century writers were more interested in developing doctrines around a Greek philosophical framework than in emphasizing the miraculous. The emphasis was on acquiring knowledge in such a way that changed your worldview and applying these life-lessons in everyday life. In fact, if one does not comprehend the Greek philosophical underpinnings in this period, then understanding of the earlier Church writers is compromised. The author and scholar Panagiotes K. Chrestou agrees, and made this point early on in his helpful book, Greek Orthodox Patrology: an introduction to the Study of the Church Fathers.

Secondly the earlier Church writers did not believe magic and miracles were necessary signs to validate the Church, their leadership or their devoutness, so, not much time was devoted to it. They did occur on certain occasions but neither the Church nor the individual was to be defined by them.

Eighteenth and nineteenth century Protestant theologians and Rationalists interpret the earlier Church writers de-emphasis on the supernatural to mean that the initial miracles of the Church had ceased. The absence should not interpreted this way.

For more info on Patristics and philosophy, read the article, Patrology and Greek Philosophy.

This is an addendum to a previously posted article, The Historical Rejection of Patristics and its Legacy.

Greek Lexicon searches using Google Books

Google Books search engine allows one to enter actual Greek text as a searchable parameter.

This is a very special resource for those who wish to read or translate the Greek Church Fathers. Google Books can be used as one massive Greek Lexicon database.

It still isn’t quite as concise or have the ability to breakdown a conjugation or declension to its root form as the Perseus digital library does but where Perseus lacks in ecclesiastical usage, Google Books array of Lexicons fills in the void.

The Lexicons are old versions, mostly from the 1800s and the meanings are often in an older English vernacular, but these lexicons are classics and still provide a helpful and necessary aid for users today.

This has been mentioned before in my previous article Translation Tips on the Greek Church Fathers but the power of such a tool has both been underestimated and improved since the introduction of that article.

How Google Books has accomplished such a feat, it is not known, but for the difficult to read or translate 4th century texts such as Origen, Eusebius and more it is a must-have tool and a great time-saver.

It provides access to at least 6 different Greek Dictionaries. Not all of them are Greek-English Dictionaries; one is French, another Latin, and if one does a more thorough search than done here, likely German too.

One must keep in mind though that it isn’t always accurate. It appears to have difficulties with character recognition. For example, the common Greek word πνευμα pneuma, yields very few results, though if one looks manually into any one of the dictionaries in the Google Books Greek Lexicons, it appears quite frequently.

Another example is the Greek verb πνευματοφορηθῆναι as found in Eusebius’ Church History. If one enters this Greek copy as a search term in Google Books, it will state no such word exists even if one reduces it to a shortened form like πνευματοφ. However the word does exist in its collection. It was manually found in an old version of Lidell and Scott. The example can be found clicking here. Ironically the Perseus database does not contain this verbal form in their version of Liddell and Scott.

This search tool only works on Google Books website. It does not work with pdfs downloaded from the Google Books.

Before the onset of Google Books, translating the Greek Fathers, especially 4th century ones, was a much longer and tedious process. It is a big blessing that scholars even a decade ago would salivate over.

A big thank-you to Google and this amazing free-service they have provided.