Monthly Archives: February 2012

Summary of the Gift of Tongues Project

Yesterday, October 22nd, this article encouraged readers to wait for the book to come out. Unfortunately, the book idea is stalled again. But that is good news. Too many people have come to this article wanting a summary now. Your request has resulted in a two-part summary being developed. It is nearly complete and will be posted. Part I should be ready by October 30th.

Speaking in Tongues Today

The contemporary practice of speaking in tongues and how influential this doctrine is throughout the world.

The modern christian rite of speaking in tongues is largely attributed to the pentecostal movement. One of the cornerstones of this movement happened in 1906 in Los Angeles which is now referred to as the Azusa Street Revival. There are close antecedents to Azusa Street that contributed to the explosion of tongues in 1906, but Azusa brought to the public conscience what was already occurring in many grass-roots Christian religious groups across the United States. Any passionate reader of the Bible and most christian movements that claim adherence to the most purist form of Christianity will likely try to reproduce the miraculous events outlined in the Book of Acts. The late 1800s and early 1900s in the United States fostered strong sentiments in this area among a broad spectrum of the protestant faith.

Speaking in tongues is an inherent part of the pentecostal and charismatic identities. This practice is one of the key features that distinguish them apart from other christian movements.

How widespread is the Pentecostal/Charismatic movements?

The statistical combination of both charismatic and pentecostal followers throughout the world is estimated at 8% of the world’s population. One quarter of all christians are pentecostal or charismatic.1.

The child-prodigy of the pentecostal influence, the charismatic movement, happened later. It was the culmination of the unsuccessful attempt to synergize pentecostal ideology within the traditional structures of established churches such as the Episcopalian, Methodist, Catholic and many other mainline churches. This rejection led to many of those people imbued with pentecostal type experiences to form their own independent churches. These congregations became labelled as charismatic churches. Their exponential growth has now outnumbered the pentecostal movement.

The combination of the pentecostal and charismatic movements, which is now labelled under the umbrella term, Renewalists, is the fastest growing sect of Christianity throughout the world. Renewalism is not restricted to any geographical location, race, or socio-economic group. It is found being practiced by a varied assortment of christians throughout the world.

This rapid growth of christian mysticism along with its distinctive theology of speaking in tongues makes a historical study imperative.

What is speaking in tongues in most churches today? What does the modern speaking in tongues phenomenon look and sound like?

Here are some videos:

Reinhard Bonnke

This following is a portion of a speech along with a pronouncement of tongues given by Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke at a large indoor gathering. His Christ for the Nations website claims over 55 million documented decisions for Christ under his ministry, which is largely aimed at the African continent.

Kenneth Hagin

Kenneth Hagin, a mid-1900s pentecostal preacher who had a large following, has a full length YouTube video practicing this rite. This is a typical example of speaking in tongues, though it is not always done in a Sunday service. It is found more frequently in weekday services, prayer sessions, pastoral settings, and special events. Notice the excitement, enthusiasm and positive feedback from the audience.

The tongues sequence can be found at the 7:00 minute mark.

Children speaking in tongues

The emphasis within some Renewalist groups is so strong that their children learn this practice at an early age. The following is a YouTube video that shows young children practicing this rite in an unidentified religious setting.

How do Renewalists describe their experience?

Some Renewalists may call it a heavenly language that only the individual, God and special interpreter understands. Others may say it is a private prayer language. Some shrug their shoulders and say it is simply a God thing that defies explanation. Another expression is to be singing in the spirit. This is when a number of people sing together harmonically in tongues. A handful may say that it is the spontaneous ability to speak a foreign language. Renewalists do not believe that they are speaking gibberish nor speaking in a language of ecstasy. Ecstatic utterances hardly involve any mental faculties whereas the Renewalist believes it is a deliberate outcome of a controlled mind.

Renewalism and Catholicism

The following link will take you to a video on the effect of Renewalism within the Catholic faith:

Pentecostalism: a Challenge to the Historic Christian Church

What does this all mean?

There are more examples that can be found at YouTube in respect to tongues speaking, but the majority demonstrate extreme forms. These are not representative of the tongues-speaking movement as a whole.

These videos demonstrate the contemporary practice, but do not answer the antecedents to these events. There are historical influences, movements, and peoples that have shaped today’s definition which is quite different from its earliest historical beginnings.

What were those antecedents? And why is that people are practising a rite different from the origins? These are two questions that the Gift of Tongues Project seeks to answer in deep and documented manner.

The Gift of Tongues project is full of valuable information, including source works, English translations, commentaries and analysis of this doctrine over a two thousand year period. Click on the following link, The Gift of Tongues Project for more information.

Cyril of Alexandria on Tongues: Technical Notes on Acts

The nature, purpose and problems of translating a medieval narrative on Pentecost and tongues attributed to the fifth century Church Father, Cyril of Alexandria.

The initial purpose of translating was to find out and demonstrate to English readers Cyril of Alexandria’s position on Pentecost from his commentary on the Book of Acts.

The commentary on Acts is not available as a complete edition. Only a small part exists today.

This text is an odd work. It does not make complete sense, and is a large shift in thought from any Ecclesiastical literature on the subject–especially fifth century. Halfway through the Cyril text, it makes an abrupt literary transition. The author(s) write that the people speaking in tongues at Pentecost became arrogant and narrow minded. Whether this is referring to the actual apostles or the other 120 that spoke in tongues at this event is not clear.

A closer look reveals this is not a work that St. Cyril authored. It is a digest of Cyril’s works done by a later copyist. One cannot find an accurate date found from word usage or style, and since this is a printed text, dating cannot be ascertained through calligraphy. It can be broadly assumed a medieval work. Although it is not the work of St. Cyril, it still has some importance in respect to a medieval view of the mystery of tongues. The author(s) do provide some clues as to how the medieval Christian world viewed and interpreted the doctrine of tongues.

What evidences are used to conclude this? Continue reading Cyril of Alexandria on Tongues: Technical Notes on Acts

Cyril of Alexandria on Tongues: Acts

A medieval commentary of the Book of Acts from a fragment attributed to the fifth century Church Father, Cyril of Alexandria.

The following is an English translation of a text relating to tongues and Pentecost. It comes from a supplement to Cyril’s works as found in Migne Patrologia Graeca.

It is highly doubtful that Cyril of Alexandria is the author of this work but it does represent to the medieval mindset on the tongues of Pentecost. For more information on the background, textual analysis and authorship of this text, go to The Cyril of Alexandria Text on Pentecost.

S. Cyrilli Alexandrini Archiep. Supplementum. Fragmenta in Acta Apostolorum

Translation based on Migne Patrologia Graeca. Vol. 74. Col. 757ff. (Ex Catena Crameri, Oxonii 1838)

English Translation of the Greek Text

Cyril. Some, on the one hand, were speaking in languages, and furthermore these ones did not know them beforehand. Meanwhile those proficient in the art of interpreting were taking note, indeed the ears were not now in the manner and custom of such things as this happening. On a different note, the divine Paul confidently asserts with those that were then given the gift to speak in languages, was not an emphasis in a gifting part but as in the form of a sign for believers. And indeed so he provided a persuasive word, having as follows: “That in strange tongues and foreign lips I will speak to this people and they will not believe such a thing.”1 The Spirit dispensed the distribution of the gifts in a variety of ways. So that for instance, they say, this body is certainly joined together by the parts pachu2 and from land, thus also is Christ, truly His body, that is to say, the Church, mindfully apprehended to unity through the many multitude of the faithful, possessing the most perfect composition.

and a little after3 Therefore when the priests under the sun4 were thinking to clearly speak to every language and nation the Gospel and salvation message, a sign was the giving of tongues to them. Men being Galileans, and raised up according to Jewish custom, Hebrews and certainly those from Hebrew lineage, Medes and Parthians too, and to be sure, Elamites and those from the the middle dwellers of the rivers,5 Cappadocia and as well Egypt that they were speaking in their languages. The use was effected in them by the work and grace of the Spirit. For it was written as such, “There appeared to them tongues being distributed as of fire,” etc. Except [how] the manner of stewardship was being done. Not all were approving of the action. When they were at once speaking in different languages, these ones making the grace by the agency of the Spirit as it were something of a show and those who receive the sign [as] an extravagant opportunity. Those unworthy were bound to be lecturing from the holy prophets and make a case about the Gospel doctrines, as6 from things in heaven and in fact from those many who are preaching.7 These people extol as well upon the ability to speak in tongues only, and in fact of this one and only were they supposing it is needful to lay claim to. And that which has been done was in rash actions to the more important things. ■

The English translation of the Greek here appears sloppy, and abrupt. This is not the fault of the translation, but because of the text. This Greek text appears to be a cut-and-paste work of a copyist, who took quotations out of a number of works and pasted them together into a logical sequence. As one reads the many other translations listed on this site attributed to Cyril of Alexandria, many of the sentences are found elsewhere.

A later Latin translator took this Greek copy about Pentecost and put much effort into making it flow better. Below is my English translation of this Latin work:

English Translation of the Latin Text

Some were speaking in languages unknown beforehand. Others were given the work to interpreting these things in the presence of men who greatness of things such as this were by no means quite attentive. Paul indeed asserts to this not having been imparted as a sign of grace but a symbol to those who were of faith, which he says these words in the end, “In other tongues and lips I am going to speak to this people, and neither will they hear such a thing.” Therefore the holy Spirit makes a dispensation of grace. Even as, it says, the body is based on by pieces of dense air and earth, that is also Christ, more correctly His body, that is the Church, continuing in the many holy saints, being joined together in spiritual unity.

And a little later. Therefore when the earthly priests wish to announce the Salvation-Gospel in every language and to all the peoples, they received the gift of languages. Men originating from Galilee, native in Idumea, Hebrews by parents of Hebrews, with Medes and Parthians, Elamites and to those who dwelled in Mesopotamia, Cappadocians and further off to the Egyptians, they were speaking in their own language. In fact the grace of the holy Spirit was working in them. For it has been written; “And there appeared among them a distribution of tongues, even as fire,” etc. Certainly at the beginning not everyone was making sense of these things. In fact afterwards they began to speak in other languages, these ones changing the divine gift of the Spirit into haughtiness and showing off, by now unworthily producing to teach about the sacred prophets and also to instruct about the evangelical doctrines, obviously which had long before and divinely been proclaimed. Thus these ones having too much pride about the gift of tongues are repeating everything to that which already happened, they were immediately pursuing no other matter.

A full synopsis of Cyril of Alexandria on tongues including commentaries, translations, and notes can be found at the Gift of Tongues Project menu. Scroll down to the Cyril of Alexandrian sub-category.

Cyril of Alexandria on Tongues: Zephaniah

The christian doctrine of tongues attributed to Cyril of Alexandria from the commentary on the Book of Zephaniah.

The following is an English translation by Charles Sullivan from Cyril’s Commentary on Zephaniah the Prophet. This translation only covers Zephaniah 3:8-11 where one can find a substantive definition of Pentecost. Not only does it describe what it is, but whether the miracle persisted, or was a one time experience. Analysis and commentary will follow in a later article. In order to assist the reader in building context to this particular translation, Zephaniah 3:8-11 has been provided at the bottom of the document.

This is part of a multi-article series on the texts attributed to the fifth century Egyptian based Church Father, Cyril of Alexandria. However, history, and the manuscript evidence supports that the texts attributed to him are not solely his. For more information on this, see Cyril of Alexandria on Tongues.

The actual Greek copy can be located at Cyril of Alexandria on Tongues

S. Cyrilli Alexandrini Archiep. Commentarius in Sophoniam Prophetam.1

39. It says that concerning Babylonia which had been conquered and concerning those being displaced in the ruin of arrogance, the nations will learn the vengeful force of God against it (Babylon). The ones who at some time laugh at the falling down and destroyed Israel and when the opposite happens they were to see the house being this brilliant and these ones going down again to the holy city, the opposition, who had utterly destroyed at one time those ones plundered, were then about to change the language2 and the rest in high praises to God. Indeed in the old days those shaking the heads and thinking and also saying that the Jewish people were conquered, certainly to prevail that it is of God perhaps somehow assisting with them according to the leader of the Babylonians. Therefore when they were about to notice the cycle of events turning into the opposite, then they will change tongues3 according to their generations, whether by tribe and race and into praises upon God. They could have chosen, I surmise, also to serve under one yoke and to bring offerings, and if they should be somewhere afar in the sphere of lands including those who dwell in the lands of the Ethiopians. And this indeed, let it be spoken in regards to the account up to this time.4. Continue reading Cyril of Alexandria on Tongues: Zephaniah