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Early Pentecostal Tongues: Notes and Quotes

A digest of early Pentecostal based newsletters.

As per the Gift of Tongues Project one out of the four aims is being fulfilled here: to provide the source texts in a digital format.

In the case of Pentecostal literature, there is an abundance of information that could take months or years to digitize. However, many of those works only have a small footprint on speaking in tongues that fits the criteria for further research. For the purpose of brevity and avoiding digitization of complete newsletters, important quotes from the early Pentecostal based newsletters have been identified and provided below.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Christian Alliance and Missionary Weekly
  • Apostolic Faith Newspaper (Los Angeles)
  • Apostolic Faith Newspaper (Portland)
  • Confidence
  • Christian and Missionary Alliance
  • The Bridegroom’s Messenger
  • The Assemblies of God Publication
  • The Weekly Evangel
  • The Christian Evangel
  • The Pentecostal Evangel
  • The Latter Rain Evangel
  • The Church of God Evangel
  • White Wing Messenger
  • The Bridal Call
  • The Pentecostal Holiness Advocate
  • Notes
  • For more information on pentecostal tongues
  • Continue reading Early Pentecostal Tongues: Notes and Quotes

    Charles Parham on Speaking in Tongues

    Charles F. Parham
    Charles Parham, 1873 — 1929 AD

    Discovering what speaking-in-tongues meant to Charles F. Parham.

    Charles Fox Parham 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 — a movement that is considered the public symbol for the pentecostal message being spread throughout the world.

    Parham is both a controversial and complex figure that goes far beyond his codifying speaking-in-tongues within the holiness movement. This article focuses on what Parham believed the miracle of tongues to be; was it a foreign language, a heavenly one, ecstatic, or a combination?

    It is not the goal of this writing to discern whether his perception was true or not, rather, it is simply to ascertain what he believed.

    Neither does this investigation want to revisit the historical contribution of Parham’s Apostolic Faith Movement. This has already been well documented.

    It is not hard to find his position both experientially and theologically on the subject – he believed it to be the miraculous endowment of speaking in a foreign language unknown beforehand by the speaker for evangelistic/missionary purposes.

    The idea of it being foreign languages was clearly made by his wife, Sarah Parham, in her published biography, The Life of Charles F. Parham: the Founder of the Apostolic Faith Movement.1 Of course, it is entirely valid to recognize any biography produced by a relative will have an implicit bias, which this book contains but on the case of defining his concept about speaking-in-tongues, it can be held as source material.

    It is hard to discuss speaking-in-tongues without first addressing the emerging doctrine called the Baptism of the Spirit in relation to Parham. However, this is outside the scope of this article or the Gift of Tongues Project but some acknowledgment must be given. Reference to this new doctrine is made from Sarah Parham’s book where she wrote:

    On Mr. Parham’s return to the school with his friends, he asked the students whether they had found any Bible evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The answer was, unanimous, “speaking in other tongues.”

    Services were held daily and each night. There was a hallowed hush over the entire building. All felt the influence of a mighty presence in our midst. Without any special direction, all moved in harmony. I remember Mrs. Parham saying, “Such a spirit of unity prevails that even the children are at peace, while the very air filled with expectancy. Truly He is with us, and has something more wonderful for us than we have known before.”

    The service on New Year’s night was especially spiritual and each heart was filled with the hunger for the will of God to be done in them. One of the students, a lady who had been in several other Bible Schools, asked Mr. Parham, to lay hands upon her that she might receive the Holy Spirit. As he prayed, her face lighted up with the glory of God and she began to speak with “other tongues”. She afterward told us she had received a few words while in the Prayer Tower, but now her English was taken from her and with floods of joy and laughter she praised God in other languages.

    There was very little sleeping among any of us that night. The next day still being unable to speak English, she wrote on a piece of paper, “Pray that I may interpret.” [Pg. 60-61]

    In reference to speaking-in-tongues as a miraculous endowment of a foreign language, there are many references that suggest this was their belief. Here a few examples:

    • On one occasion a Hebrew Rabbi was present as one of the students, a young married man, read the lesson from the Bible. After services he asked for the Bible from which the lesson was read. The Bible was handed him, and he said, “No not that one, I want to see the Hebrew Bible. That man read in the Hebrew tongue.”

      At another time while Mr. Parham was preaching he used another language for some time during the sermon. At the close a man arose and said, “I am healed of my infidelity; I have heard in my own tongue the 23rd Psalm that I learned at my mother’s knee. [Pg. 62]

    • During the wonderful altar service, the audience, having been previously dismissed, moved quietly and informally about, hearing and witnessing the marvelous demonstrations of the power promised to believers. Sometimes as many as twenty various languages were spoken in one evening, not an unintelligent utterance of mere vocal sounds, but a clear language spoken with the intonations and accents only given by natives, who repeatedly gave testimony to that effect.

      It was my privilege to be frequently in concourse with some professors from the city schools and colleges, all of whom spoke some foreign language and one of them spoke five languages. He said to im the most marvelous thing about the use of these languages was the original accent they (the workers) gave. They demonstrated that under instruction, it was impossible for an American to learn. They gave the REAL FOREIGN ACCENT SO PERFECTLY, that when he closed his eyes, it seemed to him as though he were listening to utterances from his native masters in the Old World.

      To me this was very convincing, coming from those unbiased and competent judges. They oftimes interpreted for me when languages they knew were spoken. Many foreigners came to the meetings and were frequently spoken to in their native tongue, with the original accent that could not be perfectly acquired. This, more than anything else, convinced them that it was wrought by some power above the human. Their hearts were always touched and they frequently went to the altar for prayer, convinced that it was the real power of God. [116-117]

    A persistent theme in this book was that speaking-in-tongues was not gibberish — a tome directly aimed at what Parham accused the Azusa Street Revival of doing:

    I hurried to Los Angeles, and to my utter surprise and astonishment I found conditions even worse than I had anticipated. Brother Seymour had come to me helpless, he said he could not stem the tide that had arisen. I sat on the platform in Azusa Street Mission, and saw the manifestations of the flesh, spiritualistic controls, saw people practicing hypnotism at the altar over candidates seeking baptism; though many were receiving the real baptism of the Holy Ghost.

    After preaching two or three times, I was informed by two of the elders, one who was a hypnotist (I had seen him lay his hands on many who came through chattering, jabbering and sputtering, speaking in no language at all) that I was not wanted in that place. [Pg. 163]

    It has been previously documented in the Gift of Tongues Project that the leaders and the official newspaper of the Azusa Street Revival viewed speaking-in-tongues as the miraculous endowment of a foreign language. Parham was introduced to Azusa as Seymour’s spiritual father. It wasn’t very long before he fell out of favour with Azusa. Some may think it was his segregation or perhaps supremacist views. Perhaps it was an internal leadership problem or their style of worship. We may never know exactly what the reasons were. He must have been personally demoralized and that his assessment of the practices of Azusa, whether true or not, was an effort to regain his lost stature.

    It is clear that speaking-in-tongues as ecstasy, prayer or heavenly language were not part of Parham’s religious vocabulary. He certainly believed it was the miraculous spontaneous utterance of a language unknown beforehand by the speaker for evangelistic or missionary purposes. Parham would have vehemently disagreed with Wikipedia’s description that he “associated glossolalia with the baptism in the Holy Spirit”, because he felt it was known human languages, not glossolalia, which implies something psychological or non-human speech.■

    For more information:

    The Language of Instruction in the Corinthian Church

    A look at the ancient Jewish rite of instruction in Hebrew with an immediate translation into Aramaic or local vernacular. How it potentially impacted the earliest Corinthian assembly and how this rite evolved in the church.

    This is part 5 of a series on Corinth which attempts to correlate the mystery rite of tongues outlined in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians with standard Jewish liturgy of the time.

    For more information on this series go to Introduction to the tongues of Corinth

    The tradition of Jewish instructors speaking in Hebrew lasted for centuries. It is no longer practiced in synagogues today but was an important function in Judaism around the first-century. This little-known practice had an important part to play in the Jewish identity, and as will be shown, was a factor in the tongues conflict in Corinth.

    In order to better explain this practice and make an association with the Corinthian gathering, we must go into ancient Jewish literature and citations from some of the more prominent Jewish authorities. Some of which is obscure on the first read and takes a little explanation before the truth becomes clear.

    Talmud Babli Yoma 20b

    Any discussion on the role of Hebrew as a sacred language of instruction will inevitably land on this passage which refers to two Rabbis who lived in the third-century: Rav Shela and Abba Arika. The narrative is about Rabbi Shela wanting to give a lecture in Hebrew which was demonstrated here as the language of Jewish religion and polity — a sacerdotal tongue. In order to perform such a task, a third-party was required to translate it into Aramaic. Abba Arika, often referred to as Rav, offered to provide the translation. While Shela was lecturing, he mentioned call of the rooster and Rav translated it as call of the man. These words call of the rooster and call of the man are almost identical in Hebrew. The words go back into an academic dispute between Jewish scholars on when the priests in the Temple were to wake up and begin their duties. Shela admonished Rav for taking too much liberty in translating. Rav parlayed back that he couldn’t translate it that way because Shela was entirely wrong on this point and demonstrated the thoughts of an uneducated man.

    The text makes Hebrew instruction with an immediate translation into Aramaic a standard procedure during this time.

    Here is the actual Talmudic text in English with a link to the original source in the footnote:

    Rab came to the place of R. Shila, when there happened to be no interpreter to stand next to R. Shila, so Rab took the stand next to him and interpreted, ‘keriath hageber’ as ‘the call for the man’. R. Shila said to him Would you, Sir, interpret it as: Cockrow! Rab replied: ‘A flute is musical to nobles, but give it to weavers, they will not accept it’.1

    This passage used two different words to define the concept of interpreter. The first one was אמורא Amora. The Jewish Encyclopedia explains that this term had two functions. The first one represented all the Rabbinic teachers that flourished during a period of about three hundred years, from the time of the death of the patriarch R. Judah I. (219) to the completion of the Babylonian Talmud (about 500)2 The second definition applies here. “While the lecturer generally pronounced his sentences in the academic language, which was chiefly Hebrew, the Amora gave his explanations in Aramaic. . .”3 The article states that the term Amora as an interpreter or translator was a later usage to that of the word meturgeman and often was interchanged with it.

    The second word used for interpreter is פרש peresh — to interpret, expound, clarify.

    Understanding the word interpret in I Corinthians 14 is one of the keys to unlocking what Paul meant. The Syriac version of this passage is especially helpful which is ܦܫܩ pashek. J. Payne Smith’s Dictionary describes at as to explain, expound, to write commentaries, to translate. The dictionary demonstrated how the word ܦܫܩ was used in the Syrian Church: “he expounds the Six Days of Creation to the congregation,” which exemplifies the fact that Paul wasn’t meaning interpreter to be a literal word for word translation from one language to another but it could be dynamic, or amplified.4

    The Syriac presents the idea that whatever translation was given, just like the incident mentioned with Rav Shela above, wasn’t necessarily a literal word-for-word translation, but an amplified version given by the interpreter that the people could understand. If the concept is taken a step further, peresh could allow an interpreter become too stylistic, or promoting his own oratorial skills at the expense of the original speaker. This may have been a contributor to the Corinthian saga as well.

    Rashi on Hebrew instruction and interpretation

    Almost any analysis on the Talmud will take the researcher to the eleventh-century French medieval Rabbi Rashi. His concise commentary and analysis gives him the classification of one the great writers of the Jewish world. His critiques and analysis are on the same high level as Maimonides and Thomas Aquinas. He chose to explain further the mechanics between the teacher and the interpreter:

    The one who interprets stands beside a sage who gives the homily and the sage whispers the Hebrew language to him and he translates to the common language they hear in.5

    Where Rashi got the idea of the Sage whispering to the translator is not known. This may be a much later tradition than Paul’s time.

    Why did Paul not mention Hebrew specifically in his text?

    Paul was purposely being vague because of the ethnic tensions between the traditional Aramaic Jews, the Hellenized Jews who were eager not to lose their ancient Jewish language and customs, and Greek adherents who came from different Doric, Aeolic, and Attic linguistic backgrounds. If he took a side with any of them by naming a certain language, or showing a preference for one over the other, he would have potentially started a split; alienating one group from another. He was in a very difficult position. His reply showed that he was interested in establishing an effective teaching methodology within the parameters of traditional Judaism that assisted both the Greek and Aramaic Jewish layperson, along with Greek converts in learning. He was emphatic that education was the priority, language was secondary to this goal.

    Could it be Aramaic instead?

    Saul Lieberman outlines in his book, Greek In Jewish Palestine certain practices within the third-century that proposes a different view that may even discount the Hebrew theory and replace it with Aramaic. He stated that when Jewish preachers went into Greek towns, they preached in Aramaic.6

    This comment by Lieberman is along the same line of reasoning with a Latin work called the Ambrosiastor text. If we link these two pieces, then Aramaic was the central problem. This conclusion provides a compelling alternative to the Hebrew instruction theory. However, Hebrew instruction has a little bit more substantiation, but not decisively. I put it at 55-45 for Hebrew.

    It is a confusing triangle of languages. The reader must be aware of this.

    How it evolved in the Church

    The Epiphanius text believed the practice of instruction and reading in Hebrew was still being performed in the earliest Corinthian Church. Yet there is one difference between Paul’s exhortation and two hundred years or so later to the time of Rav Shila–during Paul’s time a teacher instructing in Hebrew could provide his own translation.

    Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret.7

    Rabbinic tradition during Rav Shila’s time did not allow for a person to translate their own speech. Someone else was obligated to do the translation.

    On the other hand as one reads on in the I Corinthians letter, Paul prefers that when someone speaks in a foreign language before the assembly of believers that a third-party interpreter/expositor be utilized.

    If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God.8

    As to Hebrew being the language of instruction, it probably died within the first forty years after the founding of the assembly of Corinth—maybe even earlier. The Jewish revolt and Rome’s sacking of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD led to a widespread distrust of anything relating to anyone belonging to the Jewish race. Any symbols or practices would have been less apparent or even removed for fear of anti-Jewish sentiments especially in a major Roman-ruled city such as Corinth. This was even more apparent under the emperorship of Domitian (81–96 AD), “where there was scarcely a Jew to be seen (in the Roman Empire) during his reign.”9 He also sought to destroy all the family members of the Davidic line in order to maintain perpetual control.10

    The fateful decision to excommunicate the entire Jewish-Christian movement by the decree called the Birkat ha-Minim11 from the Jewish world somewhere around 90 AD also may have accelerated the loss of the Hebrew language and Jewish identity in the fledgling movement.

    The changing demographic influenced the removal of Hebrew as well. The common Greek adherents began to quickly outnumber the Jewish ones in all the assemblies. An anonymous early text covering II Corinthians claims believed this happened around 100 AD.12

    Afterwards, Greek took over Hebrew as the primary language in the church. Saul Lieberman asserted this in his findings. He referred to a church in Scythopolis—especially focusing on a man name Procopius. Procopius lived during the late 200s (AD). Scythopolis was a Greek populated city slightly below the Sea of Galilee and a little west of the Jordan river. Today it is known as Bet She’an. He explains that the the roles of speakers and interpreters continued in the church, albeit in a slightly different form.

    On the other hand, Eusebius informs us that Procopius was (around 286) a Reader and Interpreter from Greek into Aramaic in the church of Scythopolis. In the Hellenized town of Scythopolis it was necessary to render a Greek passage in Aramaic before the people could understand it! But Zahn is quite right in his remark that whereas the Biblical lessons, the liturgy and the sermons in the church of Scythopolis were in Greek, there was need of an Aramaic translator for the benefit of the peasants who attended the church. Probably even the peasants knew the limited practical everyday vocabulary of Greek, but explanations by an interpreter (תרגומן) in the mother-tongue of the masses were quite welcome. [/note]

    Lieberman refers to an author named Zahn on this topic. The original quote and text from Zahn has not been located. Fortunately, and more important, the actual Eusebius text is available and narrates about Procopius:

    His family was from Baishan; and he ministered in the orders of the Church in three things :–First, he had been a Reader; and in the second order he translated from Greek into Aramaic; and in the last, which is even more excellent than the preceding, he opposed the powers of the evil one, and the devils trembled before him.13

    It is not clear whether Procopius translated homilies given in Greek into Aramaic during the service, or performed this function for other needs. However, the overall structure appears to support that he was a translator for the homily done in Greek.

    A female traveller named Egeria provides an important piece to the puzzle. She lived in the late 300s AD and made a pilgrimage to Israel and surrounding areas. She came from Europe, but it is unknown exactly where. Neither does anyone know who she came with, or how she was funded. All that exists today is a portion of her letters which contains important information about early christian worship in Israel. Her work is called Peregrinatio or Itinerarium Egeriae. In it she wrote:

    3. Now, forasmuch as in that province some of the people know both Greek and Syriac, while some know Greek alone and others only Syriac; and because the bishop, although he knows Syriac, yet always speaks Greek, and never Syriac, there is always a priest standing by who, when the bishop speaks Greek, interprets into Syriac, that all may understand what is being taught.

    4. And because all the lessons that are read in the church must be read in Greek, he always stands by and interprets them into Syriac, for the people’s sake, that they may always be edified. Moreover, the Latins here, who understand neither Syriac nor Greek, in order that they be not disappointed, have (all things) explained to them, for there are other brothers and sisters knowing both Greek and Latin, who translate into Latin for them.14

    She clearly demonstrated that the church indeed had inherited the ancient practice of speakers/interpreters. She also reinforced that Greek was the primary language. Aramaic (called Syriac in her text) was secondary while Hebrew had no place in this paradigm. Egeria’s description also substantiates Procopius as an official interpreter in this rite.

    Do the Jews still practice these rites in synagogues today?

    The public reading of Hebrew is still practised and, furthermore, is part of the traditional rite of Jewish children moving into adulthood.

    The interpreter has a different trajectory. The interpreter, known in Hebrew as the Meturgamen later became an odious name. Those who held such an office took too much liberty for their own gain. A Jewish work called, Ecclesiastes Rabbah compiled somewhere between the sixth-to-eighth centuries of earlier sources, remarked about the abuse of the interpreter’s office.

    It is better to hear the rebuke of a wise man than for a man to hear the song of the fools. Because a man who hears the song of fools is better than the meturgamens who raise their voices in song for the people to be entertained.15

    The office was phased out, but it is not known exactly when, though it is assumed somewhere around the sixth-century.

    Conclusion

    If one takes face-value the information provided, Paul was referencing the the one who speaks in a tongue as one teaching or lecturing in Hebrew. The interpreter was the speaker or another person familiar with both Hebrew and the target language, translating it on the fly. Paul mentioned in I Corinthians 14:13 that a person who speaks in a foreign unnamed tongue should himself interpret it. I Corinthians 14:28 outlines two conditions that govern whether a teacher should refrain from teaching. We will assume once again he is thinking about Hebrew here, though it is not listed in his actual text. Firstly, if the teacher speaking in Hebrew is not familiar with the local language and cannot translate it himself. The second is when a third party familiar with both Hebrew and the local language is not available to translate. The teacher should remain silent.

    This was the environment Paul was up against in writing his letter to the Corinthians. It was a church composed of Jewish-Hebrew, Jewish-Aramaic, Jewish-Greek, and non-Jewish Greek members. It was a time where all things of religious faith were allowed to be reexamined, especially in the context of Jewish tradition; what rituals were to be included from previous liturgical traditions, what were to be removed, and what new traditions should be started. The Jewish tradition was the underlying base. The Church was both restorative to the ancient Jewish identity but forward looking at the same time. It was more inclusive of many different ethnic groups and practices. Paul seemed unconcerned about the language issue itself but wanted to maintain some type of order so that all these different language speaking groups could operate cohesively together.

    If one reads the Pauline passage with the idea of Hebrew or Aramaic as the language of instruction and understands the Jewish structure of speaking and interpretation in Jewish tradition as outlined in this series, the text is clearly understood. It is not a mystical out-of-this-world experience but the re-imaging of Jewish structure in a newly established branch of Judaism.■

    An English Translation of the Tongues Passages found in De Trinitate

    An English translation of the texts relating to the doctrine of tongues as found in De Trinitate — a work traditionally attributed to Didymus of Alexandria.

    For the actual Greek text, go to The Greek and Latin texts on the Dogma of Tongues found in De Trinitate.

    Didymi Alexandrini. De Trinitate Liber Primus. XVIII:31. MPG. Vol. 39 Col. 348

    In the Book of Genesis, regarding the building of the tower1 the God and Father has revealed the blessed substance, His own Son and His holy Spirit said: “Come, having gone down let us confuse their language so that each one, they were not to be able to hear the voice of [his] neighbour.”2

    And I think as well Moses also shows the equality of the Trinity. He set forth one vine in three roots,3 nowhere then has another root spoken in greater quantity, lest anyone reckon the one person over the other, but all of these in fact we believe three to converge into one deity. On this account the divinely inspired Scripture prevents to make [any form of] hierarchy [within the Trinity] in the altar in which the Three receives praise.

    Didymi Alexandrini. De Trinitate Liber Secundus. MPG. Vol. 39. Col. 728ff

    “For through the agency of the laying of hands they were freeing4 men from various maladies, even when the shadow of Peter’s body falls5 [upon someone], while Paul’s personal6 handkerchiefs too brought about healings.7 And Paul certainly wrote to the Romans, “In respect to the one who believes, that there is to be more than enough for you in the hope [and] in the power of the holy Spirit.”8

    In this perspective Peter was confidently calling out the devil, declaring9 the divine essence of the holy Spirit, saying to Ananias, “How is it10 that Satan has tempted your heart that you are deceiving the holy Spirit?” For who is the one being lied to? [Peter] who was [under] the influence said,“You did not lie to man but to God.”11

    For there was not any kind of reverence in them, who is reduced to that of riches,12 or13 who breathes injustice, or does not see what is the right thing,14 or is not in a state of mind15 concerning the pure nature of the Trinity, as perhaps it was he who ascended the foremost world thrones, and this one possesses in the hands the highest powers.16

    But on the contrary they were taking no notice of the purple authority17 itself, they were masters of riches, possessing the undiminishable treasure of the holy Spirit.

    And they were speaking as well in different languages, “even as”, it says, “the Spirit was giving them to utter.”18 And the Galileans were understanding19 the instruction20 of Parthians, Medes, Persians; and the different sorts of foreign speech of mankind,21 including also Greek, and the Ausonian language.22 Many voices23 were indeed produced, and were showing of such things, we are destined to discover about the age to come, when having been liberated from the bonds of this present world, which corresponds to the voice of Paul, “Where there is not among them Greek, Barbarian, Scythian, but Christ is the all and in all.”24 And clearly he meant the same identical essence as according to the Trinity, “Christ is all and in all.” Where seeing that we seek. . .

    Unfortunately the Greek source text abruptly terminates here, and restarts at a new section that does not pick-up where this text left-off.

    Didymi Alexandri. De Trinitate Liber Secundus. MPG. Vol. 39. Col. 501

    “The water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life,”25 He said this concerning the holy Spirit, where those who believe were destined to receive from Him. And this too, “For we have become partakers of Christ.”26 Then “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,”27 And it was exceedingly fitting such a thing being said in the Book of Acts28 “And there appeared to the apostles tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested upon each one of them, and they were all filled with the holy Spirit.”29 And to which was said by John, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire,”30 by which is similar to the oracle31 by Moses, “God is a consuming fire,” and by Isaiah, “For behold, the LORD will come in fire.”32