The relationship between Pentecostals and the historians Philip Schaff , F. W. Farrar and others along with their influence on the modern definition.
This is final of a four-part series covering how the traditional definition of tongues all but died and was replaced by the pentecostal practice of glossolalia — an umbrella term for the language of adoration, singing and writing in tongues, and/or a private act of devotion between a person and God.
Part 1 contained introductory comments. Part 2 gave a detailed account on the twofold problems of pentecostal tongues; the failure of the miraculous missionary tongues and negative image of gibberish promoted by the media. Part 3 focused on the solutions early pentecostals declared in resolving these two tensions.
Before 1906 there were only two definitions of speaking in tongues within the traditional christian practice: a miracle of speaking one or more foreign languages or a sound being transmitted and miraculously converting into a language within the hearers mind. After 1906, the definition expanded to four different types of tongues expressions. The most important and dominant theme was that of tongues as a personal expression of adoration and worship.
As documented in Part 3, the Pentecostals based their new definitions found in commentaries and historical accounts; mainly those of Philip Schaff, the renowned Anglican writer and speaker Frederick Farrar, the Anglican authors Conybeare and Howson, and a small number of other writers who belonged to the same interpretative framework called higher criticism.
This article is an extension of Part 3, but is a specific examination of the higher criticism authors and how they were incorporated into the pentecostal message.
Historians that Pentecostals rely on for their tongues practice.
Philip Schaff (January 1, 1819 – October 20, 1893) was the number one source that the early pentecostals used to trace their tongues-speaking history. This has already been demonstrated in part 3 of this series where Pentecostals built a historical framework for tongues largely through Schaff’s historical framework. Here are a few more additions to his already revealed relationship.
It is hard to go wrong with such a respected and venerated academic. He is one of the first American-based religious scholars to gain such universal admiration and a literary powerhouse. He produced and oversaw a vast library of publications relating to church history. The level of detail reflecting the history of Christendom is unrivaled even by today’s standards. The attempt by Pentecostals to align his scholarly history with their own experience would be more than enough to establish their newfound identity and acceptance into the religious echelons. They partially succeeded by doing so.
Schaff was a Swiss-born, German-educated professor who studied at three of the most prestigious schools of theology; the universities of Tübingen, then Halle, and finally Berlin. He studied under the greatest German names of theology and philosophy ever produced, especially that of August Neander who is considered the father of the modern glossolalia movement.
His qualities of ecumenism along with his disdain for sects and denominations would have been a welcome theme for Pentecostals. 1
This historian moved to the United States in 1843 and became a professor of Church history and Biblical Literature at the German Reformed Theological Seminary of Mercersburg, Pennsylvania.2 He later taught at the Union Theological Seminary, New York City, and served there until his death.
Although Schaff himself was not a mystic, he had a keen interest in glossolalia, especially in applying it to the Irvingite movement which was one of the most discussed theological issues during his life. He was critical about the Irvingites and concluded it was nothing more than religious excitement—a practice tracing a lineage to the Montanists in the second century.3
Frank Bartleman, one of the integral proponents of the Azusa Street Revival, cited Schaff for affirmation of the tongues displayed in 1906:
We will quote from well known authors some interesting extracts on the subject of “speaking in tongues.” Dr. Philip Schaff, in his “History of the Christian Church,” Vol. I, page 116, says: “The speaking with tongues is an involuntary psalm – like prayer or song, uttered from a spiritual trance, and in a peculiar language inspired by the Holy Ghost. The soul is almost entirely passive, an instrument on which the Holy Ghost plays His heavenly melodies.4
The Assemblies of God publishing arm, Gospel Publishing House, thought so highly of Schaff that they produced a tract from his works, and put it up for sale through their flagship newspaper.
The tract, called the Person of Christ, showed how deeply ingrained Schaff had become in the pentecostal psyche. The actual advertisement is displayed along with a typed facsimile below:
“The Person of Christ” By Philip Schaff. “The one question pushing its way persistently into the hearts and minds of men is ‘What think ye of Christ?’ A clear, concise and convincing answer is given to the world in the pages of this book. No man can afford to miss from his library or his life the ripened fruit of Dr. Schaff’s mind. He has entered the Holy of Holies and brought back to his fellow men a divine message. For the man who desires to know Christ and desires to be more like Him, and desires to lead others to Him, this book is one of God’s choicest gifts.”5
Frederick William Farrar was a gifted Anglican philologist, historian, writer and speaker. His talents was recognized by Queen Victoria who made him her honorary chaplain.6 He was later called Dean Farrar to reflect his later position as the Dean of Canterbury. His many publications, especially The Life of Christ, was highly successful both in England and the United States. He was a friend of Charles Darwin and a pallbearer at his funeral. There are two books published by him that have special interest to speaking in tongues. One highly regarded by early pentecostals, and the other oddly ignored.
Darkness to Dawn
Farrar rose to prominence in the pentecostal community when A. A. Boddy published in the May, 1914 edition of Confidence an article called “Glossolalia in the Early Church.”7 The author is an anonymous Church of England clergyman but it would have been nice to know his hame. The title is misleading because it is a book review of Darkness to Dawn. The book was written by the late Dean of Canterbury, Frederick Farrar. The reviewer had a high respect for the intellectual and historical genius of this high ranking Anglican leader. Although the book was a well-received story about fictional characters in early Rome, the historical framework was considered historically accurate – especially concerning the mode of worship and the rite of speaking in tongues.
The writer believed that Farrar had accidentally paralleled the early christian history of tongues with the modern day pentecostal movement and captured the sense that no other historian had accomplished:
Once more the Dean rightly dwells on the mystic character of “the tongue;” I also (this is worthy of special note) on the mixture of the different languages in “the tongue,” being, as it were, as he says, “the essence and idea of all languages.” Furthermore, how truly does he sum up the impression of the tongues upon the hearts of the hearers as being a blending of ecstatic worship, wonder, thanksgiving, and intercession, often untranslateable, but entering, and possessing with a like burden of worship, and intercession, the spirits of all who are “in the Spirit.”
THE SAME SPIRIT. As we read this marvellously accurate portrayal or the manifestations accompanying the Glossolalia, it is difficult to realise that Dean Farrar had never been present at one of these latter day Pentecostal gatherings (having died several years, at least, before the present Revival of the “Charismata” in the Church), and the extract we have dealt with not only shows how faithfully and successfully he has delineated, from history, the true Scriptural phenomena of the Pentecostal effusion of the Spirit, but the whole passage is, to our minds, a very convincing proof of how, whether we examine the manifestations and operations of the’ Holy Spirit in the Christian assemblies of the days of Nero, or of the Twentieth Century. . .”8
This article started a long-lasting connection between Pentecostals and the late Frederick Farrar. The article itself made its rounds through the Pentecostal community for decades.9 By 1923 the book was converted into a tract. It was advertised and distributed by the Pentecostal Evangel, the official publication of the Assemblies of God. The advertisement in their newspaper reads: “The substance of this tract has been taken from “Darkness and Dawn” by Dean Farrar, and is based on a true account of the manifestations of the Spirit as they were seen in the Church in the days of Nero.”10
The tract advertisement promoted that the book was a true account. It became a seminal reading for all Pentecostals who wanted to know the historical background to speaking in tongues. It was advertised and promoted in every edition of the Christian Evangel for many years.
Comments about his book graced the lips of important pentecostal leaders. For example, Paul H. Walker, a prominent Church of God (Cleveland) minister included the book as part of his timeline for the history of tongues.11 Ernest S. Williams, Superintendant, Assemblies of God, opined about Farrar’s Darkness to Dawn book in a 1939 edition of the Pentecostal Evangel. He was encouraged by the parallels by Farrar’s view of early Christianity and modern Pentecostalism. He felt the lessons learned from the book can be applied to modern Pentecostal living.12
The Life of St. Paul
Farrar’s important theological work, The Life of St. Paul is omitted from any promotion within the pentecostal realm. This book had historical significance because it was one of the gateways of German religious thought into the English religious vocabulary. Oxford Encyclopedia co-credited Farrar as the creator of the English word glossolalia.
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.”13 This comment was almost verbatim from the great German scholar that he so greatly admired, August Neander.
Conybeare, and Howson
The new concept of tongues as a divine language was also found in Britain where a pentecostal newspaper, Confidence was published. This paper began in 1908 under the editorship of A. A. Boddy, an Anglican vicar at All Saints in Monkwearmouth, Sunderland, England.
Confidence gave a slightly more critical and intellectual nuance to the movement at a critical juncture in the movement’s infancy.
In the second issue of Confidence, Boddy immediately goes into the intellectual side and quotes from an 1850s publication, the Life and Epistles of St. Paul, by W. J. Conybeare and J. S. Howson. Two Anglican scholars whom Boddy relates; “No writers are more trusted in conservative and orthodox circles than these eminent scholars and Anglican Divines. They wrote about the year 1850, and have both passed away. Dr. Howson became Dean of Chester Cathedral. They would have rejoiced if they had been spared to the days of the Latter Rain, and themselves received the Gift of Tongues, in the Lord’s great goodness.”14
What Boddy didn’t realize was the theological background of these two hallowed authors. These leaders had adopted the German higher criticism approach. By doing so they embraced the relatively new theory about tongues. The main component of this theory concerns the persons under the power of the Spirit was in an ecstasy, pouring forth utterances in communication with God that they themselves could not comprehend. They totally excluded the traditional interpretation and failed to resolve the tension between their conclusion and the ancient one. Here is a quote directly from their work:
Besides the power of working miracles other supernatural gifts of a less extraordinary character were bestowed upon the early Church. The most important were the gift of tongues and the gift of prophecy. With regard to the former there is so much difficulty, for the notices of it in Scripture, in fully comprehending its nature. But from the passages where it is mentioned we may gather thus much concerning it: first, that it was not a knowledge of foreign languages, as is often supposed; we never read of its being exercised for the conversion of foreign nations, nor (except on the day of Pentecost alone) for that occasion the foreigners present were all Jewish proselytes, and most of them understood the Hellenistic dialect. Secondly we learn that this gift was the result of a sudden influx of supernatural inspiration, which came upon the new believer immediately after his baptism, and recurred afterwards at uncertain intervals. Thirdly, we find that while under its influence the exercise of the understanding was suspended while the spirit was rapt into a state of ecstasy by the immediate communication of the Spirit of God. In this ecstatic trance the believer was constrained by an irresistible power to pour forth his feelings of thanksgiving and rapture in words; yet the words which issued from his mouth were not his own; he was even (usually) ignorant of their meaning. St. Paul desired that those who possessed this gift should not be suffered to exercise it in the congregation, unless someone present possessed another gift (subsidiary to this), called the interpretation of tongues, by which the ecstatic utterance of the former might be rendered available for general edification.15
Boddy and the majority of Pentecostals do not interpret Conybeare and Howson as higher criticism scholars, rather they saw two respected academics from an established and respected institution whose views align closely with their experience.
The Assemblies of God newspaper which briefly had the name, Weekly Evangel wrote a detailed piece in 1916 called “ Article VII. — The Gift of Tongues, and the Pentecostal Movement.” A writer named B. F. Lawrence concluded the miraculous endowment of tongues as a missionary aid was unfounded. He cited Schaff, Conybeare and Howson as his authority. Speaking in foreign languages can occur, but this is not the main purpose. The intent is to magnify God in whatever way that happens.16.
This Encyclopedia was cited only on a few rare occasions, and the only one marked for this research was in the Church of God Evangel in 1933.17 This dictionary had little influence.
Frank Bartleman called upon a theologian named James Stalker (1902-1924ish) to support his experience.18 Stalker was a Free Church of Scotland minister and was widely known in the United States where he frequently spoke at seminaries and churches. Stalker didn’t think that the gift of tongues was a rite of speaking a foreign language – it was a tranced utterance and impassioned rhapsody.19 Here is yet another author borrowing from the Higher Criticism cupboard. This author fit in with Bartleman’s belief that the inspiration could express itself in musical forms.
The Pulpit Commentary was a large 23 volume work that approached Biblical exposition from a number of angles. Volumes began appearing in the later 1800s and took over thirty-years to complete. There were over 100 contributors to different sections of the Bible who were from clergyman to dissenting ministers.20 The editors were two Anglican-based clerics; Rev. H. D. M. Spence and Rev. Joseph S. Exell.
The Assemblies of God magazine published on two occasions using the Pulpit Commentary as an explanation for speaking in tongues. The first one was in 1916 by John S. Mercer, and the second time in 1927 by Ernest S. Williams. Ernest S. Williams was a general superintendent of the Assemblies of God and also an original participant at the Azusa Street revival.
The Pulpit Commentary was greatly held in esteem that it was republished by the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), a leading pentecostal denomination.21
The two sections of the Pulpit Commentary cited by Mercer are the Book of Acts by Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells, Rev. Lord A. C. Hervey, and I Corinthians by F. W. Farrar.
Mercer quoted the Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells that tongues were the languages of both men and angels.22 which nicely fit into the mechanics behind pentecostal mystical speech. However, this quote does not accurately reflect the Bishop thought. The Bishop thought that there was no doubt that it was a miracle of foreign languages. An alternative could have been a miracle of hearing, but he found that less convincing. He refuted the idea of tongues being for missionary purposes. He covers the positions of Farrar, Neander and other rationalists, and was not convinced by their arguments. The bulk of his exposition covers their positions. Neither did he believe it was gibberish. He concluded with a philosophical conclusion: tongues signified that all converges into the unity of Christ. The first Pentecost was a symbol that there will come a time that everyone and everything will speak and understand the same speech.23
The Pulpit Commentary on I Corinthians was written by none other than F. W. Farrar himself.
Ernest S. Williams wrote a work in defence against the pentecostal practice of tongues being one of indecency and frenzy. He aligned his argument with Farrar’s exposition in the Pulpit Commentary where Farrar stated that it was unhistoric and unwarranted “that ‘the gift of tongues’ was a power to speak in foreign languages.”24 After deconstructing the missionary tongues argument, Williams proceeded to affirm his definition of tongues through Farrar who insisted it was similar to the impassioned soliloquies of inarticulate utterance of the Montanists.25
T. B. Barratt’s defence against Higher Criticism literature
T. B. Barratt, a powerful Norwegian preacher and associate of Boddy, was partially responsible for the expansion of Pentecostalism in Europe. He recognized the encroachment of higher criticism within the ranks and fought against it.
He too provides a historical chart of tongues through the centuries that is very similar to what V. P. Simmons did in 1907 and makes a 1600 year jump from Augustine to the Lutheran Reformation, ignoring any catholic literature.26 He also wanted to emphasize that the gift was not to “usurp the ordinary study of Languages.”27
He does acknowledge that it could be a heavenly or divine language, but he downplays it. He also recognized it can also can be a combination of the person’s intellect and a divine intervention; “The human mind may use expression stored up by previous experiences, but God brings them out and uses them.”28 He later continues in 1909 to instill the idea of speaking in a foreign language as the most common practice.29
In 1909, Barratt produced the book, In the Last Days of the Latter Rain which may be the most comprehensive coverage on speaking in tongues from a pentecostal standpoint. In this book, he ardently struggled against higher criticism and tried to maintain a progressive traditional stance. The book is a reactionary one based on an article he read on tongues that he disagreed with. Unfortunately, he failed to identify the author, but the citations and structure closely parallel the works of Frederick Farrar. Barratt denounced the higher criticist idea that the Pentecost “does not contain the remotest hint of foreign languages,”30 and the real Pentecost was obscure so a later tradition two-centuries made it out as a miracle of speech. The anonymous writer added that Greek was an international language that the known world shared, and it was unnecessary to speak in foreign languages for the expansion of the Gospel.
He also refuted the idea that the tongues of Corinth were sounds instead of languages,31 and disagreed with Frederick Farrar’s assessment of tongues not being a foreign language.
Five years later a lecture by Barratt in 1914 was put into print: The Gift of Tongues. What is it? Delivered in Möllergaten 38, Kristania (Oslo, Norway), Saturday evening, June 20th, 1914 – a little more than a month before World War I began. It was an oration turned into a small book that “was specifically delivered to answer the criticism’s that had been made by the famed American Bible teacher, Dr. A. C. Dixon who had preached against ‘Pentecost’ the day before at The Tent of Meeting, Kristiania, on Friday 19th June, 1914.”32
The oration shows a shift in the pentecostal doctrine of tongues and movement towards the words; ecstasy and utterance. He once again entertains the idea that it is possible that sometimes it can be a non-human or heavenly language, but emphasizes the miracle of foreign language by a wide margin. He defends against the idea that Pentecost was a miracle of language and Corinth ecstatic utterances. “The Bible represents the same kind of tongues in both Jerusalem and Corinth. If they spoke in ecstatic exclamations in Corinth, then they did so in Jerusalem also. Possibly they spoke both in language and in ecstasy in both places.”33 He was aware of Neander’s redefining of tongues as an ecstatic rhapsody and rejected it. He had a strong emphasis in the book on the miracle of speaking in foreign languages. However, he does waffle on the subject. He declares that he has seen both. “We have personal experience of both of these forms of speaking in tongues, and have heard them extensively used by the Spirit at our meetings”[ref[/note]. He believed that when a person spoke, they did not know what they were speaking. It was an undefined sound. Barratt recognized the conflict in theories but he fails to clearly resolve this tension.
T. B. Barratt and the Confidence newspaper follow a similar pattern to that of the Apostolic Faith newspaper after 1910 where the activity of speaking in tongues has less coverage. One major reference happens in a 1913 issue where a woman wrote about speaking in tongues and expressed: “One is lost in God, swept up to heavenly places, and gives utterance in strange sounds, in an unknown tongue, which flow over our lips, now as shouts of joy, then as fervent utterances of love towards our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and then as petitions.”34 Her experience shows a change in attitude in tongues from a missionary to a personal and private one.
Unfortunately, Barratt’s attempt to reconcile the traditional interpretation with modern practice and his proper critique of historical criticism never took hold in the larger collective mind of the pentecostal hive. Both Barratt and Boddy became sidelined from the American corpus. The opening of World War I caused many countries to form isolationist thinking and actions which would have limited both Boddy and Barratt in the American affairs of Pentecostalism at a critical juncture of its emerging structure. Barratt was also mired in theological problems inside his Norwegian church and community that were unique to his situation. One must be cognizant of the fact that he was writing in the language of religious scholarship. This would be offputting for the majority of the collective pentecostal mind who were reactive against such an approach. Neither did Boddy nor Barratt fully endorse the baptism with the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues. This too would have been a factor.
In respect to speaking in tongues being foreign languages, he was in the same boat as the editors of the Apostolic Faith Newspaper, Clara Lum and Florence Crawford. They were old guards in an evolving and changing movement.
This completes the four-part series on why the traditional tongues of Pentecost was relegated mostly to the sidelines and replaced by glossolalia— an umbrella term for the language of adoration, singing and writing in tongues, and/or a private act of devotion between a person and God.
The new definitions arose because of the failure of missionary tongues and the media’s backlash of gibberish. Instead of admitting that their announcement of the miraculous return of speaking in tongues was a mistake, they chose to find a different meaning that explained what was really happening in their midst.
This series clearly shows that Pentecostals looked at certain histories that lined up with their own experience, especially that of Schaff, Farrar, a lesser input from Conybeare and Howson, and a few others. Philip Schaff and F. W. Farrar were so heavily relied upon that it would be fair to say that Pentecostals are followers of these authors tongues framework.
The shift began happening already in 1907 and continued an evolution whereby by 1947 Pentecostals believed solely in tongues as a private means of expression and that missionary tongues was a sad mistake that had been corrected.
This narrative demonstrates how early Pentecostals lacked the fundamental tools of hermeneutics to study the doctrine themselves and the longstanding effects of it. They had to leave it to third-party specialists who were capable of reading, interpreting and translating Greek, Latin and other texts and weaving a historical narrative. They had no sense that the external authors they depended on were solely from a higher criticism framework – who often didn’t even include the traditional interpretation. Even today, Pentecostal scholars have yet to make this connection or reevaluate this doctrine using a critical apparatus.
For more information
- Early Pentecostal Tongues: Part 1 An introduction to this series
- Early Pentecostal Tongues: Part 2 The Missionary Tongues, the Missionary Dilemma and Gibberish.
- Early Pentecostal Tongues: Part 3 Pentecostal solutions to the Missionary Tongues and Gibberish Crisis.
- See also the data behind this series:
- Early Pentecostal Tongues: Notes and Quotes Citations on tongues from early pentecostal newspapers.
- Early Pentecostal Books on Speaking in Tongues Citations on tongues from early pentecostal books.
- A. Garr’s letter on his failure of missionary tongues
- V. P. Simmons: one of the earliest pentecostal historians on speaking in tongues.
- This series is an extension of an earlier series covering the origins of the glossolalia doctrine in the 1800s A History of Glossolalia
Charles Sullivan has been involved with the charismatic movement since the 1980s and presently attends a charismatic church in Winnipeg called The Church of the Rock.
Pentecostal solutions to the missionary tongues and gibberish crisis.
This is part-three of a four-part series covering how the traditional definition of tongues all but died and was replaced by the pentecostal practice of glossolalia — an umbrella term for the language of adoration, singing and writing in tongues, and/or a private act of devotion between a person and God.
The first article contained introductory comments. The second gave a detailed account on the twofold problems of pentecostal tongues that needed to be addressed immediately. The first was the failure of the miraculous missionary tongues and the second was the conclusion of outside observers believing the participants were simply practising gibberish.
This work delves into how the early Pentecostals solved the doctrinal tongues crisis.
This research draws from the early pentecostal newspapers and authors. Special notes will be made where there are references to publications and authors who are from the higher criticism perspective. This is important because, as will be shown, the early pentecostal leaders were heavily influenced by a number of these authors and works.
Early Pentecostal Tongues builds on a previous series that focused on the origins of glossolalia doctrine in the early 1800s called The History of Glossolalia. The emphasis of the original series was how the concept of glossolalia overtook the traditional definition and became the only option in most primary, secondary and tertiary source materials produced after 1879. As will be shown, the dominance of higher criticism in the publication realm helped shape the framework for pentecostal tongues as well.
For those new to the Gift of Tongues Project or to the subject of speaking in tongues, The History of Glossolalia, is a good place to star in order to understand the following.
Table of Contents
Looking for a Solution
- Ignore the Problem
- Utterance vs. Gift of Tongues
- Writing and Singing in Tongues
- Tongues as an expression of praise and adoration
- Tongues as a Heavenly or Private Prayer Language
- Tongues as Glossolalia
Looking for a Solution
The redefinition process started almost simultaneously after speaking in tongues became fashionable in 1906.
The solutions are various. A few adhere to the traditional definition, while most looked to the popular religious encyclopedias, dictionaries and commentaries for answers.
Ignore the Problem
A prevalent theme in Pentecostal histories was to ignore that any problem existed about the nature and practice of speaking in tongues. There is no mention in any materials of any controversy, contradiction, or problem requiring a solution. A shift in thought are seen in their historical narratives, but lack internal critical assessment or any acknowledgement.
This especially can be found with the early pentecostal editor, writer and pioneer, Stanley Frodsham. His book“With Signs Following: the Story of the Pentecostal Revival in the Twentieth Century,” was once the definitive book on anything Pentecostal by a Pentecostal. First published in 1926, and revised many times, even after 1946, it is a very good, well documented book. Likely the best of any early Pentecostal histories. The first 17 chapters of the book documents people miraculously speaking in foreign languages, and then an unexplained shift occurs in the last portion of his writing. He concludes at the end of the book that christian tongues is a secret speech, something between man and God.1 He never delved on what necessitated or caused this change.
Stanley Frodsham first encountered the pentecostal movement while a young man in England. His first personal encounter with speaking in tongues happened at A. A. Boddy’s church in Sunderland, England. Frodsham then started a religious periodical out his hometown, Bournemouth, called Victory. He later moved to the United States and was the editor for the Assemblies of God magazine called the Pentecostal Evangel. His involvement with Pentecostalism along with his editing and writing numerous compositions over the decades gave him a quasi-official status for creating an early biography of the movement.
This has been a very popular approach.
Utterance vs. Gift of tongues
One would naturally look at the Azusa Street based Apostolic Faith newspaper to see how they resolved the tongues problem. Unfortunately, the Mission was mired in personal conflict that took away all the momentum they had accrued. By 1909, Azusa was becoming a figurehead and a symbol, not a source of authority. The initial thrust and evangelistic zeal was composed of people from the east-coast and mid-west that converged upon Azusa. The power quickly shifted to these centres soon after the pentecostal outburst occurred.
Clara Lum and Florence Crawford were the longtime editors of the Apostolic Faith Newspaper which originated at Azusa Street and later moved their publishing office to Portland, Oregon, in 1909. The reasons are unclear about the move but historians believe it was a personal rift between Seymour and Crawford. Rumour has it they took the mailing list with them which severely crippled the Azusa Street Mission.
Perusing their Portland articles, the sense of awe is gone. The editorial reported little about what was happening internally within Los Angeles or Portland and focused on reprinting snippets from other like religious periodicals.
The Apostolic Faith (Portland) Newspaper engaged with another similar newspaper Bridegroom’s Messenger on an important theological distinction about speaking in tongues. The Bridgegroom’s Messenger divided the church tongues practice into two categories: one an uncontrolled utterance, and the other, a volunarily controlled foreign language. The Bridgegroom’s Messenger text seems to indicate that utterance is not necessarily a human language. Their meaning is left ambiguous. Perhaps this is on purpose.
This speaking in tongues as the Spirit gives utterance is not the gift of tongues. Those who speak in tongues as the Spirit gives utterance have not the power to control it at will, it seems that it comes at such times as they are in close touch with God, the Spirit takes their tongues and speaks through them, gives them utterance. Those who have the gift of tongues, seem to be able to speak different kinds of tongues, and seem to be able to speak at will.2
The original editor of the Bridegroom’s Messenger, G. B. Cashwell, found his Pentecost at Azusa Street and brought this energy back to Atlanta. The impact of Cashwell and his newspaper was considerable within the holiness hotbeds of the southeastern United States.
Clara Lum and Florence Crawford, not wanting to be excluded from the discussion, and having almost 18 months to percolate on the subject, replied:
We have no Scripture for speaking in tongues except as the Spirit gives utterance. It is not you that speaks, but the Holy Ghost, and He will speak when he chooses. Don’t ever try to speak at will. “It is not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.” What is not of the spirit is of the flesh or the devil. We know that some, by getting out of the Word, have been led off into fanaticism and have become a prey for the devil. If we go beyond the Word in any demonstration, it leads into wild fire and fanaticism. Up to date, we know of no one that has received the real gift of tongues, for if they had, we believe they could go out and preach to any nation in their own tongue.3
They concluded the person who miraculously utters does not know what foreign language they were speaking in, and even if they did, it was not a controlled condition, and therefore not suitable for missionary purposes. The gift of tongues was for those who had the miraculous ability to speak a foreign language at will and consequently a powerful tool for missionary and evangelistic purposes. These people theoretically had the miraculous ability to choose a language on the fly. Unfortunately, Lum or Crawford never witnessed this willful and controlled state where the gift of tongues was exercised. Only the uncontrolled powerings of an utterance–a hypothetical state where the speaker did not perceive what language or languages they were speaking.
The Apostolic Faith Newspaper in 1906 was full of miraculous accounts of speaking in foreign languages. Their comments of never witnessing the actual gift of tongues from Azusa Street and onward is startling. The reply may be the closest thing to an apology.
Secondly, the one who uttered in a language was an escape clause. Few, if any, knew exactly what the person was speaking. The expression was the result of a personal divine encounter that could not be immediately explained. Lum and Crawford were released from making any judgements or critical evaluations of the occurrences because of this.
Regardless, the discussion between the editors of the Apostolic Faith and the Bridegroom’s Messenger was one of the first signs of the definition broadening from its original Pentecostal understanding.
The Apostolic Faith editions after 1911 are much more subdued on the miracles of tongues with far fewer testimonies. By 1918, the only reference is general and appears as a narrative of the movement’s former days.
Writing and Singing in Tongues
The missionary tongues emphasis is dominant but the idea of writing in tongues also has some influence. The Irvingites had a demonstration of this writing in tongues doctrine in the 1830s and in the early 1900s, one of Charles Parham’s students, Agnes Ozman, was credited with writing in tongues, and another account described shortly by a Lillian Garr also strengthens that this was a frequent practice.4
A sample of Agnes Ozman’s writing in tongues can be found on the internet or in James Goff’s Fields White Unto Harvest: Charles F. Parham and the Missionary Origins of Pentecostalism
The appearance of writing in tongues shows that missionary tongues wasn’t entirely absolute and there was a subculture that had other traditions developing.
Singing in tongues is unique to the pentecostal movement. The Apostolic Faith Newspaper (Portland) described it in this way: “. . .One of the manifestations that followed Pentecost was the heavenly singing by a chorus of voices in supernatural sweetness and harmony. It was melting—wonderful. Praise God, many missions have had it since then. The song is inspired, it is an anointing of the Spirit. God gave new voices to old men and women and to people who had never been able to sing, and to those that had lost their voices.”5
Frank Bartleman described his Azusa experience as a new song and described the environment in musical terms. He first described the event as a linguistic miracle and then described a parallel experience as a personal emboldening to sing. “I felt after the experience of speaking in “tongues” that languages would could come easy to me. And so it has proven. And also I have learned to sing, in the Spirit. I never was a singer, and do not know music.”6
The above is a YouTube video demonstrating singing in tongues at a contemporary International House of Prayer meeting.
Writing and singing in tongues is symbolic for Pentecostals to channel feelings of an inexpressible joy. A 1916 edition of the Weekly Evangel described it as such: “He that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men but unto God.”–(I Cor. 14:2) The language of which the apostle is here speaking seems to have been of a very peculiar sort–an unintelligible vocal utterance, that which is often manifested at this present day, in great spiritual revivals. We are constituted that when there rises up in our souls a strong rush of tender emotions we feel utterly incapable to put them into words. If expressed at all they can only be in the quivering lip, the gleaming of the eye and the convulsive chest. The groans, the sighs, the rapturous shouts cannot be interpreted.”7
There may be much more to this speaking in tongues genre but there is very little historical literature to go by. It may have been passed down through oral rather than literary traditions.
Tongues as an expression of praise and adoration
Out of all the solutions, this is the major one.
The Apostolic Faith Newspaper slowly crept out of being at the forefront of the pentecostal voice. They were victims of their own success. New voices edged out the old ones, and a general sense of structure was beginning to develop.
Pentecostal authorities began to look critically at the speaking in tongues issue. The experiential factor that A. G. Garr pronounced God ordained and needed no defence or explanation was not sufficient for a growing and increasingly fractured movement.
The early Pentecostal search for an answer was a difficult one as they had not developed any analytical form of analysis. The highly respected pentecostal scholar, Gary B. McGee, described the early pioneers as high on personal experience and low on academic study or reflection. If they did reflect, they would not draw from their own distinct intellectual thoughts. The movement, having no history before the late 1800s, borrowed from scholars of other protestant traditions, assuming that “Pentecostal teachings could be easily integrated with some of these formulations without undermining the credibility of Pentecostal beliefs.”8
The conservative religious nature of the pentecostal movement, largely due to the influence by its holiness parent, also added to the complexity of the problem. They were totally opposed to any form of biblical interpretation that represented the German school of higher criticism. This strong position was featured in a 1919 edition of the Pentecostal Evangel — the voice of the Assemblies of God. They wrote;
These Assemblies are opposed to all radical Higher Criticism of the Bible and against all modernism or infidelity in the church, against people unsaved and full of sin and worldliness belonging to the church. They believe in all the real Bible truths held by all real Evangelical churches.”9
This established the pentecostal community identity with the fundamentalists on biblical authority. The polemic was limited to this threat and did not extend to the writings on higher criticism related to speaking in tongues. Furthermore, it will be demonstrated the conclusion supplied by higher criticism became the framework for the various pentecostal practices on tongues.
As previously stated in the introduction, lacking in-depth theological training, biblical or ecclesiastical language skills, missing a comprehensive view of church history, and a dislike for anything that represented an institutional christian position, they turned to the English Bible dictionaries, commentaries, and writers that they felt were non-dogmatic in order to solve the tongues dilemma. They especially had a great love for the German turned American historian and theologian, Philip Schaff; the Anglican writer, theologian and Dean of Canterbury, Frederick Farrar; the Anglican theologians Conybeare and Howson, and a very short list of other authors and publications. The early Pentecostals felt safe that Schaff’s American identity and the Anglican writers were reliable sources, free from modern bias.
This examination will show how much Pentecostals depended on the above authors for their new definitions and how much influence these authors accidentally had with this movement.
None of the following authors being examined or quoted would admit such an association, but the data is clearly evident.
V. P. Simmons was the first one to attempt to reconcile the pentecostal experience of the 1900s with the German glossolalia timeline.
Simmons was a regular contributor to a pentecostal periodical called, The Bridegroom’s Messenger which was started by the G. B. Cashwell. Many pentecostal denominations today such as the Assemblies of God and the Church of God (Cleveland) can trace their history to G. B. Cashwell in some form.
It only took the third publication of the Bridegroom’s Messenger to attempt this connection. An article titled, “A History of Tongues” by V. P. Simmons (Frostproof, Fla.) was the first and foremost work on the subject. Simmons was a temperance worker, emphatic about the second coming of Christ, and had been involved with tongues speaking movements since the late 1850s. He was highly respected by the Bridegroom’s Messenger.
See V. P. Simmons on the Church History of Tongues for the original article.
This same work was repeated two more times in the Bridegroom’s Messenger throughout the years.10 The article was converted into tract form by the same newspaper and advertised for sale in the March 1, 1908 edition.
The article had a direct influence for over two-decades. The last reprint found was in a denominational newspaper called the White Wing Messenger (March, 1928) – which represented the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee).11 The Church of God is one the oldest and largest pentecostal denominations in the world.
This is his timeline for speaking in tongues.
- He starts with Irenaeus in the second century
- The Montanists12
- The Camisards13
- The Quakers and early Methodists
- The Lasure movement in Sweden
- The Irish revival in 1859
- Edward Irving14
- The Second Adventists/Gift Adventists
- Charles G. Finney
The structure from 1 to 8, with the exception of Cyprian, is similar to what is found in Philip Schaff’s History of the Christian Church15 and the Religious Encyclopedia16 which was edited by Schaff. Simmons does not break Schaff’s structure. Instead, he adds the Irvingites, which happened before the Quaker’s and Methodists, after Schaff’s list ends.
Simmons was hesitant about including Quakers and Methodists to the history of tongues because there was no primary information that connected them. However, since Schaff included them in his analysis, he left it in the list. The Second Adventists (a movement distinct from the present Second Day Adventists) is his own contribution because he personally knew the leaders.
He desperately wanted to connect Pentecostalism with Montanism; “Montanism was simply a reaction of the old, the primitive Church, against the obvious tendency of the Church today to strike a bargain with the world, and arrange herself comfortably in it.” However, he failed to cite it properly and attributed it to Schaff even though it was written by W. Möller in editor Schaff’s A Religious Encyclopaedia or Dictionary of Biblical, Historical, Doctrinal, and Practical Theology entry on Montanism.
Secondly, he asserted that the early church leader Irenaeous, Tertullian, and Cyprian endorsed and defended the Montanists speaking in tongues. This is historically incorrect. There is no literature from any of these writers substantiating such a fact. The only connection can be made is that Tertullian supported the Montanist overall cause, but did not specifically cover Montanist tongues.
Neither did Simmons realize that the key word for tongues, γλῶσσα glossa, does not exist in the critical text related to Montanism. This, along with a number of other problems, makes the case for speaking in tongues by the Montanists a weak one, if at all.
For more information on the Montanists and their alleged speaking in tongues see; A Critical Look at Tongues and Montanism
Simmons would have been better off to side with the Donatists. This was a group described by Augustine. They would have been a better faith movement to identify with because they were proponents of tongues-speaking and were opponents of the institutional catholic church.
After Cyprian, he recognized that almost 1600 years of history had been omitted. He believed this was because most academics concealed the practice. “ They evidently consider tongue talking a fanaticism, a weakness, to be kept out of sight.”18 He felt that Schaff, along with a person named Andrew Findlater, LL. D., acting editor of encyclopedia of universal knowledge, as two historians that did not suppress the subject.19
Simmons did not provide an alternative 1600 year history of tongues that would inevitably draw from Catholic sources or review pertinent christian literature in the original texts. — a significantly large corpus hardly translated into English. He felt content the concealment by the establishment for over this period as a sufficient conclusion. This interpretation fit nicely in with the Pentecostal narrative.
A 1931 edition of the Bridesgroom’s Messenger updated Simmon’s timetable and added a few additions from the Catholic Encyclopedia. Francis Xavier was referenced where it was written: it “is said to have made himself understood by the Hindus without knowing their language.”20 This is a slight improvement over Simmon’s original. However, the Bridesgroom’s Messenger failed to comprehensively examine Xavier. The Sainthood process for Xavier was partly decided on the basis of speaking in tongues. However, the reality was otherwise. Xavier had linguistic difficulties. The successful political pedalling for his Sainthood, which had serious economic benefits for many parties involved, had been a source of embarrassment for the Catholic Church. It led to Pope Benedict the XIV issuing a treatise on the subject that set forth clear investigative rules for determining whether a person divinely spoke in tongues or not.
For more information on the legend of Francis Xavier see: Francis Xavier Speaking in Tongues
William Manley and the Household of God
In 1909, William Manley, another participant directly blessed at the Azusa Street church, and well known as an evangelist, published a detailed article in his Household of God periodical titled “Tongues: Their Nature and Use According to the Commentators”. The article compiled a list of books and commentaries to prove that speaking in tongues was a language of praise and thanksgiving; purposely shifting the emphasis away from foreign languages. Who was the author and when was this published? We know Manley was the editor and possibly the author. The article cannot be located in the incomplete Household of God archive. However, a reprint can be found in the Bridesgroom’s Messenger in the January 15th, 1909 edition.21
The work cited a number of critical commentaries: (Clicking on the names will take you directly to their books and pertinent pages cited on tongues):
Adam Clarke; Matthew Henry; Henry Alford; Philip Smith; Gotthard Lechler; Cunningham Geikie; Frédéric Godet; Jameson, Faucette and Brown; John Fulton (actually James Vernon Bartlett); and especially Philip Schaff. Schaff was the last on the list and given by far the longest quotation. 22 The article demonstrates how quickly the definition had evolved since 1906.
A closer look at the commentators selected gives some detailed clues on how editor Manley and Pentecostals in general were inclined to reach a conclusion of speaking in tongues being a language of prayer and adoration.
Adam Clarke, was one of the leading theologians in the Methodist movement. He promoted the idea of it being a tongue for the expansion of the Gospel.
Matthew Henry was a presbyterian minister in the early 1700s whose written works greatly impacted later protestant leaders. Manley quoted from him to assert that speaking in tongues is a manifestation of being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Henry Alford “The great work of his life, however, was his Greek Testament (4 vole., London, 1849-61; thoroughly revised in subsequent editions), which introduced German New Testament scholarship to English readers. . .”23 He was a disciple of August Neander — the foremost writer and promoter of tongues as glossolalia.
Philip Smith admittedly followed Schaff’s guidance along with another influence, canon Robertson. He admits he shares their defects.24
Gotthard Lechler studied in Germany and was a disciple of August Neander.25
Cunningham Geikie was a prolific presbyterian theologian and writer with strong ties both in Canada and England. He doesn’t appear to fit in any equation. His books contain a high number of references to German sources and in one of his publications thanks a certain Professor G. Ebers of Leipsic, Germany for his contributions.26 Charles Spurgeon and Franz Delitzsch highly recommended his works.27 His quotation by Manley gives the sense that there is a comprehensive community of theologians from different christian movements that are all in agreement with speaking in tongues.
Frédéric Godet, a Swiss-Protestant theologian, studied in Germany and was especially influenced by Neander.28
David Brown, the author of the commentary on the Book of Acts for Jameson, Faucett, and Brown’s Commentary Critical and Explanatory of the Whole Bible was one of the few who had no connection with Germany, but was an assistant to Edward Irving.29 Mr. Irving and his movement was the precedent setting event in protestant history that awoke the tongues debate out of a slumber and into a hotly debated subject.30
John Fulton was the editor of Ten Epochs of Church History that the Household of God lifted the citation from. Many authors contributed to the Ten Epochs. The quote in this case was from James Vernon Bartlett. There is little biographical information on either one.
Philip Schaff was left for the end of the article and was given slightly more space than the rest of the quotations. One of the more important Schaff quotations emphasized praise, adoration and a personal religious language.
“It was an act of self devotion, an act of thanksgiving, praying, singing within the Christian congregation by individuals who were wholly absorbed in communion with God, and gave utterance to their rapturous feelings in broken, abrupt, rhapsodic, unintelligible words. It was emotional rather than intellectual. * * * * the language of the spirit or of ecstasy as distinct from language of the understanding.”31
More about Schaff will be explained in Part 4.
The reader can clearly see a pattern developing here where the Pentecostal framework for speaking in tongues was based on higher criticism. The combination of pentecostal experience plus the higher criticism approach of it being a language of adoration was a natural fit.
It is noteworthy to see three who were left off the list that would have appealed to the pentecostal protestant sense. The great seventeenth-century churchman and Hebraist John Lightfoot, whose commentary on I Corinthians, especially his coverage on tongues, published in English in 1859, was a masterpiece. John Gill, whose commentary follows that of Lightfoot, or Jean Calvin’s Commentary on Corinthians. None of these would easily agree with the above observations.
A. B. Cox
A. B. Cox wrote for the Bridal Call: Western Edition in 1919 on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit where he devoted some thought to the history of speaking in tongues. The magazine was started by popular pentecostal media icon Aimee Semple Mcpherson. She is noted as one of the major influences in the rise of Pentecostalism. Not much can be obtained about Mr. Cox except for his contribution to the Bridal Call.
A look at his historical timeframe on tongues is similar to that of Simmons. He went into a few more details but there are some flaws.
Cox asserted that Origen, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine, most of the church fathers believed the disciples of Pentecost were miraculously and permanently endowed with the power of foreign languages. This statement, with maybe the exception of Augustine, cannot be substantiated from these early church writers themselves.
The following quotation; “Augustine wrote in the fourth century, “We still do what the apostles did when they laid hands on the Samaritans and called down the Holy Ghost on them, in the laying of hands. It is expected that converts should speak with new tongues,” cannot be substantiated in any of Augustine’s works.
This citation has become part of the pentecostal myth. It is found in the Church of God Evangel in 1933,32 and was also repeated by the well known pentecostal theologian and radio speaker, Carl Brumback in his 1947 work, What Meaneth this? A Pentecostal Answer to a Pentecostal Question.33
Cox cites Gregory of Nazianzus to make a connection with the tongues of Babel, but makes no mention of Gregory’s miracle of tongues paradox—a central aspect of Gregory’s coverage on tongues. It makes the researcher ask if Mr. Cox actually looked at the text itself or simply lifted his quote from a third party source.
He goes on to claim further sources Oshausen, Baumgarten, Thiersch, Lechler, Hackett, Glaag, Plumptre, Schaff, Schmiedl and Zeller. Most of these are German higher criticism authors with an exception of Edward Hayes Plumptre. Plumptre was entirely familiar with the German position on tongues. His analysis was hesitant, but still followed their framework.34 A further look at sources by Cox demonstrates that this was an edited copy from Schaff’s History of the Christian Church35
Paul H. Walker
Mr. Walker was an important leader in the Church of God (Cleveland, TN) denomination between the 1920s and 1960s. His article, “The Baptism with the Holy Ghost and the Evidence” written 1933, goes into historical detail to assert his position. It is one of the more lengthy works that follows the typical pentecostal historical framework. There are a few problems:
He cited Frederick Farrar’s book, Darkness to Dawn as a primary source, though it is only a work of fiction.
He too cites the same spurious reference to Augustine about converts being expected to speaking in tongues.
It must be noted that he too references Schaff’s History of the Christian Church in his reference to speaking in tongues through the ages.36
Tongues as a Heavenly or Private Prayer Language
The shift from missionary tongues to language and adoration allowed the definition to move into a new direction. One of the effects of this transition allowed the concept tongues as a heavenly devotional language—a language of men and angels. Most mixed this concept with the traditional one of foreign languages believing that the definition allowed for either to happen.
The first one was posted on April 22nd, 1916 for the “interest of the Assembly of God” on the nature of speaking in tongues.
This is not a gift of different languages as some have believed, but is an emotional or heavenly language, in which the speaker speaks only to God.37
The author then supports his claim from the Pulpit Commentary that it was “an unintelligible vocal utterance,” and that it was sometimes a human language, others heavenly or angelic ones. 38
Two months later, another article was posted that credited its teaching from A. A. Boddy and the pentecostal movement in England. There was a heavy emphasis on Conybeare and Howson’s Life and Epistles of St. Paul,” and Philip Schaff’s “Apostolic Church”. With these evidences the author included a double answer that integrated both the old and new definitions:
We see that the belief that the gift was for the preaching of the Gospel to foreigner, is unfounded. Foreign people did certainly hear their own languages on the day of Pentecost (the disciples were not, however, on that occasion, preaching the Gospel but magnifying God–the common use of the gift) therefore the Spirit must have sometimes given a known language.39
A 1920 edition of their publication acknowledged the ability to divinely speak a foreign language but moreso encouraged the personal aspect; “With an understanding of the private use of the gift of tongues as a medium of expressing the heart’s deepest emotions, a greater field of usefulness opens before us, and Christian believers should have a greater interest in being filled with the Spirit and power for the accomplishing of divine work in the world than they have in merely—for their own comfort and satisfaction–getting rid of a troublesome inward disposition.”40
A writer by the name of Herman L. Harvey weighed in on the subject for Aimee Semple McPherson’s, Bridal Call: Western Edition and he too vacillated on the definition. He gave more emphasis on the personal expression as a human, angelic or prayer language and did not believe speaking in tongues was for missionary activity. He cautioned about an unspecified group in California (clearly referring to the Azusa Street revival) who had made a “sad mistake,”41 for promoting such a doctrine.
Tongues as Glossolalia
Even though the early pentecostal followers were fond of historical criticism as it related to speaking in tongues, they hardly embraced the word glossolalia as a term that described their experience. There are some brief moments that surprise such as the Bridegroom’s Messenger (1909) that first quotes Schaff and then adds that the glossolalia at Pentecost was an act of worship and adoration, not a miraculous speech for the conversion and instruction of the masses.42 The writer understood the word close to its original intention, but this was not always the case. A writer named B. F. Wallace wrote in a 1916 periodical and defined glossolalia as speaking miraculously in a foreign language.43 Another account in 1920 states it can be declaring the works of God or uttering real languages on earth.44
In 1947, Donald Gee who is considered one of the fathers of the pentecostal movement went so far as to call tongues ecstatic speech, but he did not go so far as to call it glossolalia. However, it appears to be the same thing to him. Gee taught that the view of early pentecostals on missionary tongues was “mistaken and unscriptural”45 He then clarified the current pentecostal definition on tongues: “From the data presented to us in the Scriptures, it seems clear that the gift of tongues consisted of a power of more or less ecstatic speech, in languages with which the speaker was not naturally familiar.”46
Glossolalia does not appear to take any serious usage in the pentecostal realm until about the 1960s. The Pentecostal Evangel Magazine starts to use it as an abbreviation for speaking in tongues. In a 1962 issue it related about a Lutheran outbreak and described it as a “. . .“spiritual speaking,” known among theologians as “glossolalia” goes back to Christ’s Apostles. . .”47 The Magazine produced a special edition in 1964 with an article promoting glossolalia,48 and in the same year one more article and formation of a glossolalia archive occurred. The first one was a sort of clarification which avoids defining the very nature of tongues:
You may wonder, “what is meant by the word ‘Glossolalia’? It is a theological term applied to the practice of speaking with other tongues. . . it is as old as the Bible. Back in the days of the apostles (over 19 centuries ago) the followers of Jesus experienced glossolalia.49
The second one was the Assemblies of God announcement that they were setting up a “depository of writings on glossolalia (speaking in tongues)” at their main headquarters.50
A current popular pentecostal leader, Rev. Heidi Baker, wrote a thesis entitled Pentecostal Experience: Towards a Reconstructive Theology of Glossolalia in 1995. She branded speaking in tongues as glossolalic prayer. An idiom which she described as an “embodiment and manifestation of God’s real presence to the Pentecostal community and the Church in our world. . . Pentecostal glossolalic prayer may be seen as God’s supernatural union with a person in a pre-conceptual, contemplative way and as an “incarnation” of this in a certain person’s life.”51 I have never heard this being used by a lay pentecostal follower, preached from the pulpit, nor in any other pentecostal literature. Baker was attempting to wrap a comprehensive philosophical framework around tongues and wanted to retain the pentecostal distinctive while doing so. She failed to see the earlier connection between higher criticism or the early development of the word glossolalia when she built her argument. By ignoring or unaware of the antecedents, she demonstrates how thoroughly integrated the higher criticism influence has become. It is part of the DNA of pentecostal experience and no longer questioned.
Next: Early Pentecostal Tongues: Part 4 The connection between early pentecostalism and the writings of Schaff, Farrar, Conybeare and Howson and a few select others.
For more information
The Missionary Tongues, the Missionary Dilemma, and Gibberish.
This is part two of a four-part series on early Pentecostalism that covers how the traditional definition of tongues all but died and was replaced by the Pentecostal practice of glossolalia — an umbrella term for the language of adoration, singing and writing in tongues, and/or a private act of devotion between a person and God.
The first article was the introduction. This second essay attempts to demonstrate three factors. First of all, to show how ingrained the missionary tongues movement had become. Secondly, how the missionary tongues movement had identifiably failed. Third, how the public perception greatly differed and saw this revival simply as harmless gibberish and not a miraculous outbreak.
The solutions to work around this failure and the public tension are the focus of Part 3. Part 4 focuses on the influence of higher criticism authors on the present pentecostal tongues.
Table of contents
Part 2: The Crisis of Early Pentecostal Tongues
- The Missionary Tongues Movement
- The Missionary Tongues Dilemma
- The Gibberish Movement
The Missionary Tongues Movement
The 1800s was where the traditional definition of a miracle of speaking or hearing one or more foreign languages had gained an alternative explanation called glossolalia. This was created by German academics to explain the speaking in tongues phenomenon exercised by the London-based Irvingites in the 1830s. These academics expanded their conclusion about the Irvingites and used it to explain the first Pentecost found in the Book of Acts and St. Paul’s address about tongues in the Corinthians assembly.
The idea of the German glossolalia had not yet influenced the Wesleyan or holiness movements before 1900 and is not part of initial story that culminated at Azusa Street.
Speaking in tongues during this period within these movements was the perceived miraculous ability to speak in a foreign language. More specifically, this era began to develop a sense it was specifically for missionary expansion.
C. T. Studd, a young missionary with China Inland Mission, wrote about promising the claim of Mark chapter 16. This chapter has one verse that asserts that believers shall be empowered to “speak in new tongues.” When C. T. Studd and seven others arrived in China in 1889, they thought they had been empowered to speak in a language the Chinese could understand. While attempting to supernaturally speak, he wrote: “. . .they did not understand us at all at first at Hanchung—thought us idle fanatics.” They were embarrassed and quickly learned that God wanted them to study the language.1
The Christian Missionary Alliance Church waddled through the missionary tongues issue in the late 1800s. The concept can be first traced an unnamed author who wrote in the Friday, February 12, 1892 Alliance periodical. The person believed that the supernatural ability to speak in tongues should be cautiously sought for in every foreign missionary endeavor. On the other hand, it should not be assumed to happen in every circumstance:
Certainly we do expect, in every case where it is claimed by humble believing prayer, a supernatural assistance in acquiring the native language, and we should not be surprised in any case to hear of the direct bestowal of the power to speak an unknown tongues. But we are not prepared to teach this as a definite scriptural promise for all who go to preach the Gospel to the heathen, or consider a lack of faith on the part of any worker who has not received this special gift.2
Almost six-months later, another article was posted in the Alliance magazine by a young missionary by the name of W. W. Simpson (no relation to A. B. Simpson) eager to go to Shanghai. He was hoping for the promise in Mark 16 to miraculously acquire a new language, and if it were not so, then he would study.3
The founder and leader of the Christian Missionary Alliance, A. B. Simpson, saw that this missionary shortcut to learning foreign languages was a consistent problem. His response was likely connected with young missionaries being trained in his bible college. He finally stated in 1898:
In our own day there is the same strained and extravagant attempt to unduly exaggerate the gift of tongues, and some have even proposed that we should send our missionaries to the foreign field under a sort of moral obligation to claim this gift, and to despise the ordinary methods of acquiring a language. Such a movement would end in fanaticism and bring discredit upon the truth itself. We know of more than one instance where our beloved missionaries have been saved from this error and led to prosecute their studies in foreign languages with fidelity and diligence, and their efforts have been rewarded by supernatural help in acquiring languages in a remarkably short time, but not in despair of proper industry and the use of their own faculties under God’s direction in acquiring these languages.4
W. B. Godbey was a revered Wesleyan preacher and one of the most popular and influential speakers in the late 1800s. He felt the immediate supernatural ability to speak in a foreign language was becoming more apparent in his time and noted missionaries in Africa were fulfilling this promise. He was excited that this was “amid the glorious prophetical fulfillment of the latter days.”5
The story then moves over to one of the pentecostal founders: Charles Fox Parham, He was a self-appointed itinerant/evangelist in the early 1900s who had an enormous early contribution to the modern tongues movement. It was his teaching and missional emphasis that encouraged a number of his followers, especially Lucy Farrow, and later William Seymour to go to California and be major patrons in the Azusa Street Revival.
Parham was heavily influenced by A.B. Simpson, and two other controversial notables during this period: Alexander Dowie and Frank Sandford. What they all had in common was the restoration of the primitive church and the imminent coming of the end.
Simpson has already been described. Dowie’s contribution was a mystical one that impacted Parham and gave him authority to inquire within the supernatural realm but there was little correlation with tongues. Sandford had a direct effect on Parham’s view of speaking in tongues. Sandford was a speaker full of charisma and passion that attracted over 600 followers who resided in a community controlled by him named Shiloh in Durham, Maine. He was a christian mystic with apocalyptic ideals who mixed British Israelitism, modern missions, and divine interventions in the everyday life. 6
There was an outbreak of tongues speaking in Sandford’s commune that Parham observed while visiting. This excited Parham who believed the supernatural imposition of foreign languages was a precursor to the end. 7
Secondly, he learned from Sanford’s tract, “The Everlasting Gospel”, about a woman named Jenny Glassey given the miraculous ability to speak and draw and sing in foreign languages. Unfortunately, I do not have access to this tract, but another publication by Sandford called Tongues of Fire described Glassey’s giftings in detail:
May 31. This has been a day of waiting on God to get further orders. Had the joy tonight of hearing Brother Black and Sister Black and Sister Glassey sing a part of the ninth Psalm in an African tongue. Sister Glassey has at different times spoken while in the Spirit, in Greek, French, Latin, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, and several African dialects, words and sentences given her by the Holy Ghost. She has also written many letters of the Greek and Hebrew alphabet. Words in as many as six of these languages have been recognized as such by one who has studied classics, thus proving the genuineness of God’s gifts to our sister. He who said, “They shall speak with new tongues” is proving his words true, thus enabling one like Sister Glassey to preach the “everlasting gospel” to any soul on this globe, with the necessary language at her disposal.8
With all the evidence at hand, the variables led to one deterministic conclusion, the end was nigh, and the era of the supernatural was about to begin. Parham and students of his bible school in Topeka, Kansas, sought this gift and it happened on New Year’s Eve 1901 – Agnes Ozman began to miraculously speak and write in Chinese for three days, unable to speak English.9
Thus began the germination of a new movement that would go beyond the figure of Parham himself. This is where the story now turns west to Los Angeles.
All roads in the Pentecostal movement point to Los Angeles in some particular way. A place where a small church called the Apostolic Faith Mission led by William Seymour, a student of Charles Parham, was just beginning. The name of the church is secondary to its location; 312 Azusa Street. This is where the first outbreak of tongues had become viral news for the first time in almost 70 years. The last two times such an outbreak had such a large attraction was Francis Xavier’s missionary journeys to India and Japan in the mid-1500s and the Irvingites in the 1830s. Xavier’s tongues ability was later proven to be a myth more than fact, but held dearly for a brief time by Catholics throughout Europe while the Irvingites influence was because of their location. They were situated in London – the heart of the British Empire which granted them influence throughout the world.
The Azusa experience in 1906 brought speaking in tongues to the international attention of the religious community and the curiosity of both local and national newspapers. Clara Lum and Florence Crawford, editors of the official newspaper of the Azusa Street Revival called the Apostolic Faith believed it to be the supernatural endowment of a foreign language. The Apostolic Faith had copious citations of people miraculously speaking in numerous foreign languages.
The following early 1970s video is a short excerpt from Mattie Cummings, who was present at the initial Azusa gatherings when she was eight-years old and recalls the miracle of speaking in foreign languages. She does not mention any other alternative definitions. She was interviewed by the noted pentecostal historian, Vinson Synan.
See also the first edition of the Apostolic Faith Newspaper at the Pentecostal Archives site. The newspaper unequivocally promoted tongues as a miracle of foreign languages.
The Missionary Tongues Dilemma
However a serious problem surfaced almost immediately with the gifting of missionary tongues. Those missionaries who went out to a foreign land with the presumption of having the miraculous ability to speak the language of their target group found upon arrival that it didn’t work.
This tension was especially noted with Alfred and Lillian Garr. Alfred and Lillian were high-profile personalities in the holiness movement that received their baptism with speaking in tongues at the Apostolic Faith Mission. Their names frequently appear in the earliest pentecostal literature. The Garr’s came from a Methodist background and were trained at the well-known Asbury Theological Seminary. Over time, the Garr’s departed from Methodism and joined a holiness movement called the Burning Bush. The Burning Bush leaders requested them to lead a church in Los Angeles. It was through this move that Alfred visited the Apostolic Faith Mission and received his baptism and speaking in tongues. His wife joined shortly after in this experience. In a church experience where Mr. Garr was speaking in tongues, he believed a man from India understood that he was speaking in a number of different languages of India, one of them certainly in Bengali. It took less than a year for Garr and his wife to depart for India and start a new life. When they arrived in India, they discovered the gift of tongues did not follow.
A pentecostal leader in England, A. A Boddy, had succinctly asked A. Garr about his gift. Did the supernatural endowment help Garr when he arrived in India? Did others similarly empowered also demonstrate this phenomenon? Garr answered that he did not have the ability. Neither did he see any others succeed. He wrote that the supernatural language he possessed had changed a number of times before he arrived and was no longer of use in his present circumstances. This problem did not shake his faith, because he believed God gave it, and even though it did not help at the moment, that was good enough for him.
See A Missionary Crisis on Speaking in Tongues for the actual letter.
This sort-of admission took some time to develop. Lillian Garr wrote to the Apostolic Faith Newspaper’s April 1907 edition stating that 13 or 14 missionaries and others had received Pentecost while they lived in India, but she omitted any reference to tongues speech. Rather, she shifted the emphasis to interpretation, song, writing in tongues and other manifestations.10 A number of months later the Garrs announce that they no longer were involved in evangelistic efforts because of the linguistic barrier. They shifted focus to equip long-term missionaries who already had these skills.11
Allan Anderson, one of the foremost authorities on pentecostal history states that many so-called endowed missionaries were disillusioned upon arrival, but does not elaborate.12 The recognition of disillusionment is rarely documented in any pentecostal works.
Why these people didn’t confirm these languages by a reputable authority, or seek affirmation from a native speaker in the language they purported to speak before departing adds another level of mystery in the whole narrative.
The Gibberish Movement
A second problem immediately became apparent. The public perception of those speaking in tongues was perceived as the childish babbling of fanatical adherents. The tabloids began turning to a mocking tone and viewed such practices as a form of entertainment—an alternative to the circus. For example the New Zealand Herald, April 3, 1908 reprinted an article from a London newspaper with some added commentary. The author followed a pentecostal service in Islington — a burough in London, England.
The newest sect of rabid revivalists had a fit of temporary insanity last night (says the London Express of April 3) at a small hall in Upper-street, Islington.
The show was held under the auspices of “Holy Brother” Wilson, an Irish-American, assisted by another “holy brother,” who, by his accent, should be of the same nationality.
(The writer narrates different portions of the service and then adds) . . .The “gift of tongues” was loudly invoked, and the gift arrived a little more quickly than anyone anticipated. An anaemic looking girl in the middle of the hall rose to her feet, and let out a yell like a steam siren:—
The Apostolic Faith church in Los Angeles faced similar criticism. The Los Angeles Times wrote a 1906 piece titled, Weird Babel of Tongues. It was written in a condescending and outright mocking tone. The author described the church service and speaking in tongues:
“You-oo-oo gou-loo-loo come under the bloo-oo-oo boo-loo;” shouts an old colored “mammy;” in a frenzy of religious zeal. Swinging her arms wildly about her, she continues with the strangest harangue ever uttered. Few of her words are intelligible, and for the most part her testimony contains the most outrageous jumble of syllables, which are listened to with awe by the company.
Let Tongues Come Forth
One of the wildest of the meetings was held last night, and the highest pitch of excitement was reached by the gathering, which continued to “worship” until nearly midnight. The old exhorter urged the “sisters” to let the “tongues come forth” and the women gave themselves over to a riot of religious fervor. As a result a buxom dame was overcome with excitement and almost fainted.
Undismayed by the fearful attitude of the colored worshipper, another black women [sic] jumped to the floor and began a wild gesticulation, which ended in a gurgle of wordless prayers which were nothing less than shocking.
“She’s speaking in unknown tongues;” announced the leader, in ah [sic] awed whisper, “keep on sister.” The sister continued until it was necessary to assist her to a seat because of her bodily fatigue.14
These reported experiences in the newspapers forced a perception that early pentecostals had serious difficulty to prove otherwise.
There were insider challenges from the movement itself. People like Charles Parham and W. B. Godbey did not believe that the Azusa participants were speaking foreign languages and railed against them.15 However, one must keep in mind that there may have been political and personal problems between Parham and the Azusa Assembly that eventually led to Parham’s disassociation or dismissal. The tongues issue may have been a retaliatory measure.
Representatives of the Christian Missionary Alliance went to a pentecostal meeting in Chicago to assess the movement and struck a more conciliatory tone than Parham and Godbey. They concluded that the experience was not representative of Pentecost but more like what St. Paul described in his letter to the Corinthians – “a means of communication between the soul and God.”16
In 1908, a Baptist minister turned psychologist and then president of Colgate University, G. B. Cutten, looked at the issue from a psychological perspective and deduced that it was nothing more than an emotionally inspired state by those who were of the lower class and didn’t know any better.17
These factors pushed the movement to a crisis point. Either they had to admit that the tongues outbreak was incorrect or redefine the experience.
How did they resolve this tension? This can be found in the next article: Part 3: Solutions to the Pentecostal Tongues Crisis.
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