Monthly Archives: June 2015

Modern Pentecostal Books on Speaking in Tongues

A brief survey of modern Pentecostal and Charismatic books on the practice of speaking in tongues.

This is an addendum to The Gift of Tongues Project whose focus is to trace the evolution of the doctrine tongues from inception until now.

The Gift of Tongues Project started with pentecostal literature and pentecostal historical assumptions. Once I started reading the ancient texts, it forced to abandon such pretexts and let the ancient writers speak for themselves.

Here is a partial list and commentary of pentecostal and charismatic publications and authors pertinent to the history of the pentecostal doctrine of tongues. Some are only available in print, while others have made their way online. This is in no way exhaustive, and many more can be added.

They Speak with Other Tongues.

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John Sherril’s publication, “They Speak with Other Tongues,” is the top selling book from the Pentecostal perspective. First published in 1964, the writeup at Amazon claims over 2.5 million copies have been purchased.

The book is not a theological treatise, but written from an investigative journalist perspective, starting from a sceptical point of view, and then finishing as a convert to contemporary tongues speaking. The strength in the book is its narrative. It is so smooth and personal throughout, and contains an element of mystery that forces the reader to continue reading until it is resolved. It is a masterpiece from a literary perspective, but weak in the history and logical background. This book gave legitimacy to the growing pentecostal, and birthing charismatic movements. Even though it is over 51 years old, the popularity has not been surpassed by any later pentecostal or charismatic writer.

Jesus and the Spirit.

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The next book goes to a non-Pentecostal scholar who is both sympathetic and critical with the Pentecostal experience, James Dunn. He is well-known and respected in the academic theological world, and popular within the greater Protestant realm. His 1974 book, “Jesus and the Spirit,” gave an external third-party legitimization to Pentecostal practice. This may have been the point when Pentecostalism was allowed into the mainstream of the evangelical movement. He draws from classical Greek sources, not Ecclesiastical ones to draw his conclusions, which falls more in line with the Pentecostal experience.

The Hidden Power of Speaking in Tongues.

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The recently published, “The Hidden Power of Speaking in Tongues,” by Mahesh Chavda, a pastor whose bio says his TV ministry reaches a billion households globally, and that he and his wife are responsible for over one million conversions,(1)http://www.newreleasetoday.com/authordetail.php?aut_id=811 is a terribly written book that appears self-serving, lacking theological focus, and creates more problems than solutions. I never finished reading it.

A History of Speaking in Tongues and Related Gifts.

The academic work, “A History of Speaking in Tongues and Related Gifts,” by George H. Williams, and Edith Waldgovel, is built into the psyche of pentecostal intellectual thought. It is the only well-known piece from a contemporary mystical perspective that seriously attempts to reconcile the ancient writings with the modern experience. They produced a convincing reference – much better than any of its predecessors. However, it fails on two crucial points. First of all the two authors restrict their historical exegesis on already available English translations of the Church Fathers. This is seriously problematic because less than 20% of historical Church literature has been translated into English. Secondly, they build their conclusions on what the dominant Greek Dictionaries and Commentaries conclude, which purposely neglected the ancient Church writers because they believed they were not trustworthy. They felt that classical Greek writers were more dependable. This changes the definition of tongues substantially. This goes into a different realm and both their article, and the greater problems they faced are covered in detail in one of the following series of articles called The History of Glossolalia, specifically Patristic Literature on Tongues as an Ecstatic Utterance.

Charisma Magazine

Charisma Magazine, on the other hand, doesn’t even think that there is any historical incompatibility. What Pentecostals and Charismatics do today is assumed to be consistent with the Biblical record without question. Charisma Magazine has a circulation of about 275,000 readers and is highly influential in the pentecostal and charismatic realm.(2)As of 2009, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charisma_(magazine) In the article 5 Things You Need to Know About Speaking in Tongues the author, Brian Alarid, lead pastor of Passion Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico and area coordinator with the Billy Graham Association, writes that “The gift of tongues is a known or heavenly language unknown to the speaker that enables him or her to communicate directly with God.” His statement is full of assumptions based on an ignorance of historic christian literature and tongues movements over 2000 years.

Pentecostal Experience: Towards a Reconstructive Theology of Glossolalia.

Rev. Heidi Baker wrote her PhD thesis on the pentecostal perspective of speaking in tongues. Pentecostal Experience: Towards a Reconstructive Theology of Glossolalia collects and analyzes a large library of pentecostal thought to build a constructive framework for speaking in tongues. She succeeds and this thesis is one of the most formative works on building a pentecostal systematic theology. Her coverage of pentecostal thought after the 1900s is very detailed and helpful.

The Pentecostal Three

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Anything by the following Pentecostal scholars, Stanley Burgess, Vinson Synan or Gary B. McGee, are well researched and substantiated works. Gary B. McGee’s small publication for the Overseas Ministries Study Center, “Shortcut to Language Preparation?” covers the old Pentecostal tension between divine inspiration of tongues, or the regular route of language study, is a seminal work. Vinyan has written copiously on pentecostal subjects. His 1999 article printed in Christianity Today, “The Second Comers,” first caught my attention, and saw his name tagged in the “Encyclopedia of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity,” which in itself is a grand work worth mentioning. These scholars and the Encyclopedia shows that the Pentecostal brand of Christianity has matured and willing to deal honestly with its own history, even if it is different from today’s expressions.

For more information:

The Jews In Their Land During the Talmudic Age

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Book Review: The Jews in their Land in the Talmudic Age by Gadaliah Alon.

A magnificent piece of scholarly work that touches on life in Israel from 70 to 640 A.D.

His retelling of the story of Middle-East mankind during this period draws from classical Greek, Roman, Patristic, and Rabbinic sources that is simply astounding. He combines religion, culture, language, economic systems, leadership structures both in the Jewish community and in context of Roman occupation, historical analysis, and social perspectives into an intelligent and cohesive narrative. He especially excels covering the change in religious, social and leadership structures after the destruction of the Temple, and the traditions that underlies the development and establishment of the Mishnah and Talmud.

The work is ascribed to Gedaliah Alon, who is an enigma. There are no photos in any popular biography of him, and those bios are normally only a paragraph long. He never wrote a book, but yet there is one. In Israel, where he was a teacher at the Hebrew University, there is a street in Jerusalem named after him, but this is a quiet reminder. He was the first recipient of the Israel Prize, the highest honor given by the State of Israel for excellence, but this only extends to the modern Israeli conscience, not to the English speaking world. His name was never echoed in the halls of the Hebrew University while I was there, nor were there any statues or busts found. He was married to a Mina Alon, and had at least one child, Nahi Alon, who is a clinical psychologist, but the information is sparse.

It was chance that I picked up the book at the Hebrew University’s Akademon book store back in the 1980s. The cover looked interesting and thought it would be worth the risk. It was packed in my to be looked at later file, which took a couple of years to turn the cover. Ever since that first page was turned, it changed my approach to historical critique. This unknown man has had a deep influence on my own approach to the narratives that surround the Christian narrative.

This book is a must-read for anyone trying to develop an idea of how the Middle East world operated during this period, especially for Jews living in the land of Israel.

Alon suddenly died of a heart attack at 49 years of age back in 1950. Admirers of Alon who were deeply impressed by his teachings, collated the many monographs that he previously published, and combined them with his lecture notes to make a posthumous book dedicated to him. Shmuel Safrai, one of his students and later a professor at the Hebrew University, was instrumental in the process. The book was originally written in modern Hebrew, but later translated by Gershon Levi into English, and so the The Jews in their Land in the Talmudic Age was born.

His story begins in Russian controlled Kobryn, Belarus, where he excelled in his Talmudic studies, and then went to the Unversity of Berlin for a year, which likely broadened his mind to other disciplines outside of Judaism. He then immigrated to Israel and completed his studies at the Hebrew University, and remained there as a teacher for the rest of his life. The foreward in his book claims that he refined the system of interpretation set out by Adolf Büchler(1)Pg. IX an “Austro – Hungarian rabbi, historian and theologian” who wrote distinguished works on the Jews during the Second Temple period. (2)http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/3787-buchler-adolf

He was a historical chronographer, not a theologian by any means, though he does greatly draw from these resources to add to his narrative, they are rarely central to any of his themes. This is what sets him apart, and likely makes him so indistinguished. He appeals neither to the practicing Jew, nor to the ardent Christian, or to those uninterested in religion. This makes his audience quite small, but to those who are looking for coverage of this period from a comprehensive historical literature perspective, this is a veritable gold mine.

The eminent teacher has not escaped criticism. Doron Mendels, a present full-time professor at the Hebrew University, claims that Alon reflected the age that he lived in. Mendels claims that Alon’s background of Orthodox to enlightened Jew, and then European nationalist reflected a writing that wished to redefine Judaism both in historic and modern terms – a “fragmetized type of memory”,(3)Doron Mendels. Memory in Jewish, Pagan and Christian Societies of the Graeco-Roman World, New York: T & T Clark International. 2004. Pg. 131 and another recent book, Judaism and Crisis: Crisis as a Catalyst in Jewish Cultural History, states that Alon wrote with Zionistic sympathies.(4)Armin Lange, K. F. Diethard Romheld, Matthias Weigold. Judaism and Crisis: Crisis as a Catalyst in Jewish Cultural History. Schriften des Institutum Judaicum Delitzschianum. Vol. 9. Vandehoek & Ruprecht. 2011. Pg. 189

The greatest drawback to Alon is price. The work was originally published in Jerusalem by Magnes Press, which the picture above is from. It was two volumes and has long been out-of-print by them. Harvard University Press has reprinted a paperback version, combining both original volumes into one for under $65.00 US. It may be in your local library, but it is one of those books that you want to keep near your desk. It is a handy resource.

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History of Tongues Book Update

The rough draft of “The Problem Tongues of Corinth” is now completed and in the process of being evaluated before it is brought to an editor for proofing.

This is part II of a three part series on the “History of the Christian Dogma of Tongues,” which aims to take over from where the Gift of Tongues Project left off. The Gift of Tongues Project is a web portal with a fourfold aim of collating, translating, analyzing and digitizing any ancient texts relative to the Gift of Tongues. Its focus was on the immediate texts with little attention how each one fit in the big picture. The History of the Christian Dogma of Tongues publication spends little time on the fourfold aims of the Gift of Tongues Project and focuses on the greater narrative – how the pieces fit together and telling a story about this doctrine which has evolved and changed over the centuries.

It is a very interesting story with many ancient writers being introduced to the topic for the first time. The book will change how the topic is viewed and will start a new conversation.

The findings are so overwhelming that I challenge anyone to disprove, which they likely can’t, unless of course they re-write history.

If you want to know more about the progress of the book, or anything at all about what is coming up on this website, please subscribe to my email newsletter.