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Early Pentecostal Tongues: Part 4

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

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.

PhilipSchaff
Philip Schaff

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)For Good or For Ill: Philip Schaff’s Ecumenical Transatlantic Vision of the Church and its Future. Thesis by Greg R. Clarkson. December 3, 2008

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)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Schaff 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)“Analogies to this speaking with tongues may be found also in the ecstatic prayers and prophecies of the Montanists in the second century, and the kindred Irvingites in the nineteenth; yet it is hard to tell, whether these are the work of the Holy Ghost, or Satanic imitations, or what is most probable, the result of an unusual excitement of mere nature, under the influence of religion, a more or less morbid enthusiasm, and ecstasis of feeling.” — Philip Schaff. History of the Apostolic Church with a General Introduction to Church History. Trans. By Edward D. Yeomans. New York: Charles Scribner. 1859. Pg. 197

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)Bartleman. How Pentecost came to Los Angeles. Self-Published. 1925. Pg. 76; The quote can be found in Philip Schaff. History of the Christian Church, Volume I: Apostolic Christianity. A.D. 1-100. Third Ed. Vol. 1. New York: Charles Scribner and Sons. 1889. Pg. 438

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) The Pentecostal Evangel. Aug. 27, 1927 No. 712

Frederick Farrar

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)http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/farrar/bio.html 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.

Frederic William Farrar
Frederic William Farrar

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 Bridegroom’s Messenger claims it originated from a group in Bournemoth, England 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)Confidence. May 1914. Vol. VII. No. 5. Glossolalia in the Early Church. Historical descriptions from the late Dean of Canterbury. Pg. 88-89

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)The same article was reprinted three months later in the Christian Evangel; and in 1917 with the Bridegroom’s Messenger; April 1, 1917. Vol 10. No. 198; a breviary can be found in the Latter Rain Evangel in 1925. Latter Rain Evangel. September, 1925. Pg. 22 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) Pentecostal Evangel. June 9, 1923. No. 500

Darkness to Dawn tract found advertised in the Pentecostal Evangel

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)Church of God Evangel. Nov. 18, 1933. Vol. 24. No. 37 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)Pentecostal Evangel. May 27, 1939. No. 1307. Pg. 3

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

A picture of A. A. Boddy who had a large influence with early pentecostals on the historical understanding of tongues

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)Confidence. May 1908, No. 2. Pg. 4

ConybeareandHowson
Title page from Conybeare and Howson’s The life and Epistles of St. Paul

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)W. J. Conybeare, J. S. Howson. The and Epistles of St. Paul. Vol. 1. New Edition. London: Longman, Green, Longman and Roberts. 1961. Pg. 506. This quote is found in Confidence May 1908, No. 2

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)Weekly Evangel. June 3, 1916. No. 142. Pg. 4.

Encyclopedia Brittanica

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) “The Baptism with the Holy Ghost and the Evidence” as found in The Church of God Evangel. Nov. 18, 1933. Vol. 24. No. 37. This dictionary had little influence.

James Stalker

Frank Bartleman called upon a theologian named James Stalker (1902-1924ish) to support his experience.(18)Frank Bartleman. How Pentecost came to Los Angeles. Self-Published. 1925. Pg. 77 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)Bartleman’s quotation of Stalker is not literal. He has edited the copy from Stalker’s original, though it doesn’t hurt his cause. See The original Life of St. Paul on Pg. 102 and compare it Bartleman’s. 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.

Pulpit Commentary

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 Pulpit Commentary. Vol. 13. “The Opinions of the Press” A quote from the Guardian. London: Kegan Paul, Trench & Co. 1884. Pg. 2 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 Church of God Evangel. March 17, 1945. Pg. 2

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)The Weekly Evangel. April 22, 1916. Vol. 136. Pg. 6 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)Acts of the Apostles by Lord A. C. Hervey. Bishop of Bath and Wells. As found in The Pulpit Commentary. Edited by H. D. M. Spence, Joseph Excell. New York: Funk and Wagnall’s. ND. Pg. 48ff

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)Pentecostal Evangel. July 23, 1927. No. 707. Pg. 2. See the Pulpit Commentary Page 456 for more information. 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)Pentecostal Evangel. July 23, 1927. No. 707. Pg. 2. See the Pulpit Commentary Page 457 for more information.

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.

thomasbarratt
T. B. Barratt.

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)T. B. Barratt. Published Lecture. The Truth about the Pentecostal Revival. 1908. Pg. 21 He also wanted to emphasize that the gift was not to “usurp the ordinary study of Languages.”(27)T. B. Barratt. Published Lecture. The Truth about the Pentecostal Revival. 1908. Pg. 34

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)Confidence. Feb. 19th, 1909, Vol. II. No. 2. Pg. 37 He later continues in 1909 to instill the idea of speaking in a foreign language as the most common practice.(29)Confidence. May, 1909. Vol. II. No. 5. Pg. 118

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)T. B. Barrett. In the Last Days of the Latter Rain. London: Elim Publishing Company, Ltd. 1928. Pgs. 80-91; He is quoting from Farrar’s “Life and Work of St. Paul. London: Cassel and Company. 1897. Pg. 53. 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)T. B. Barrett. In the Last Days of the Latter Rain. London: Elim Publishing Company, Ltd. 1928. Pgs. 80-91 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)http://revival-library.org/shop/index.php/e-books/pentecostal-revival/other-pentecostals/product/329-t-b-barratt-the-gift-of-tongues

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)T. B. Barratt. The Gift of Tongues. What is it? NP. NL. 1914. Pg. 22 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[/ref]. 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)A Mrs. Polman from Amsterdam explaining her experience. Confidence. Aug. 1913 Vol. VI. No. 8. Pg. 151 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.

Conclusion

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

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.

References   [ + ]

V. P. Simmons on the Church History of Tongues

The early Pentecostal writer V. P. Simmons on the Church history of tongues.

V. P. Simmons is an unknown name in the annals of pentecostal history and even moreso in the general historical records. However, the impact of his historical thesis which connects the speaking in tongues of the 1900s with the first-century rite still echoes in pentecostal establishments everywhere. His name may be forgotten but his framework is relatively intact.

The pentecostal theology of speaking in tongues has a distinct historical framework and interpretative system. This unique framework can be traced to his article in a religious newspaper called the Bridegroom’s Messenger back in 1907. Not much is known of Mr. Simmons outside of his contributions to this newspaper.

The Bridegroom’s Messenger held him in the highest honor: “Brother Simmons is known among Pentecostal people as a writer and thinker and an observer of religious movements for years. He has known something of “Pentecost” for about fifty-two years. His observations and research has made his judgment valuable and reliable.”(1)Bridegroom’s Messenger. Sept. 15, 1909. Vol. 2. No. 46

His History of Tongues work was published and republished on a number of occasions in the Bridegroom’s Messenger — an important and influential early pentecostal newspaper that was published out of Atlanta. It arguably supplanted the Azusa Street newspaper, Apostolic Faith in reach and influence by 1908. The Church History of Tongues was converted into a tract and sold by the Bridegroom’s Messenger which gave it a wide reading through North America and the world.

Other writers and editors greatly expanded on the same historical framework penned by him later on. He was somewhat a patriarch of the tongues movement. He had been actively following the subject since the late 1850s.

Enclosed are entire articles by Simmons, a number of quotes, some background texts from the Bridegroom’s Messenger and a few additional notes.

Articles, Quotes, and Notes

Dec. 1, 1907. Vol. 1. No. 3

“A History of Tongues” V. P. Simmons (Frostproof, Fla.)

With the passing of the apostolic age, only one reference in the writings of the early fathers concerning praying, speaking, or singing in tongues, has come down to us. It is more than probable that records of martyrdom on the one hand, and the theological controversies on the other, has crowded out much pertaining to spiritual devotion and spiritual exercises in the church.

We will briefly note what facts have cropped out in church history upon the subject of “tongues.”

1. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, born probably, in Asia Minor, A. D. 115, died at Lyons, France, A. D. 202, for twenty-five years Bishop of Lyons, was a scholar of Polycarp, who, in turn was a disciple of the Apostle John. Drifting westward as far as France in A. D. _77, he became the leader of the Christians and their most learned defender of the faith. In his Adv. Haer. VI page 6, he writes, “We have many brethren in the churches, having prophetical gifts, and by the Spirit speaking in all kinds of languages.” From this statement of Irenaeus the inference is quite conclusive, that, for at least one hundred years after the apostles, “tongues” continued in the church; thus confuting the oft repeated statement that it was confined to the apostle’s day only.

2. After the reformation under Luther a century and a half passed before anything definite is recorded concerning “tongues.” The Protestant French Huguenots were a godly people, who for long generations furnished many thousands for martyrdom, and still more for banishment—a full million banished from their native land, and many ten thousands sealing their faith by their blood, during that long Catholic persecution. It naturally speaks for itself that the Holy Spirit put His sealing grace upon so steadfast and devoted a people. Upon this true people for generation, the spiritual supernatural gifts seemed to rest. From the repeal of toleration, A. D. 1685, the Catholics, like wild beasts, hunted this devoted class of their countrymen, wiping out 166 of their towns, devastating their country, sparing neither men, women, nor children, as they fled to the mountains, to dens and caves of the earth. God was with them, and the Holy Ghost fell on them in mighty power, and supernatural manifestations. Among the Huguenots were some well uneducated; speaking the purest French; others back in the mountain seclusions, like the Camisards, the Cevennes, and others, speaking a very illiterate dialect. On both classes, the learned and the illiterate, came the supernatural manifestations. I quote from the Library of Universal Knowledge, Vol. III, page 352. (From A. D. 1685-1705, again A. D. 1715-1729, also A. D. 1775-1789): “There was a singular psychologic or spiritual phase in the history of the C. that must be noticed. It was a sort of inspiration or ecstasy. The subject who had endured long fasting, became pale, and fell insensible to the ground. Then cam violent agitations of the limbs and head; and finally the patient, who might be a little child, a woman, or half-witted person, began to speak in good French of the Huguenot Bible, warning the people to repentance, prophesying the immediate coming of the Lord in judgment, and claiming that these exhortations came directly from the Holy Ghost; after a long discourse the patient returns to his native patois (that is, to his illiterate dialect) with no recollection of what he had been doing or saying. All kinds of miracles, so they believed, attended upon the Camisards, strange lights guided them to places of safety (from their prosecutors), unknown voices spoke encouragement, and wounds were often harmless. Those who were in ecstasy of trance fell from trees without sustaining hurt.” “The supernatural was part of their life.” Such is the statement of Andrew Findlater, LL. D., acting editor of the fifteenth volume Library of Universal Knowledge, 1880 edition.

Dr. Philip Schaff, in his History of the Christian Church, also in Religious Encyclopedia, speaks of the Camisards, prophets of the Cevennes, as speaking in unknown tongues, as well as talking in pure French, when in natural conversation theirs was an illiterate dialect.

Before leaving this devout people, it might be added that, from the restoration of the Bourbons to the throne of France, A. D. 1814 and 1815, another bitter persecution, even to martyrdom, broke upon the Protestants of France, and with it these supernatural manifestations seemed to be again revived.

3. Dr. Shaff also mentions the early Quakers and early Methodists as “speaking in tongues,” but not having the data for either will pass them until such time as we can present facts in this case.

4. “Lasure” movement in Sweden, A. D. 1841-1843, the phenomenon of speaking in tongues is also recorded in history.

5. In connection with the Irish revival (Protestant), A. D. 1859, was the “speaking in tongues.” See Shaff’s History of Christian Church for particulars.

6. Under the ministry of Edward Irving, born in Scotland, A. D. 1792, died A. D. 1834, much of the supernatural was manifested. Irving taught school A. D. 1812 at Huddington, where Jane Welsh, afterwards wife of the historian Carlyle, was among his scholars. Educated at the University of Edinburgh, in A. D. 1815 began preaching __ became assistant pastor under Dr. _____ at Glasgow, A. D. 1822, called to the Caledonian church of the Covenanters at London. So rapid was this church under his ministry that in two years it grew from a small people to a congregation of 6,000. In his ministry Irving made the second personal coming of Christ very prominent, also an entire abandonment of self to God, of which he was an example. Thomas Carlyle, himself a cold and critical writer, said of Edward Irving (A. D. 1835): “His was the freest, brotherlinest, bravest human soul mine ever came in contact with. I call him on the whole the best man I have ever found in this world or hope to find.” Such was the man that became leader of the “Catholic Apostolic Church,” sometimes called “Irvingites,” after the Presbyterian body threw him overboard. He lived and walked too near God for any ecclesiastical organization to manage. In the spring of A. D. 1830, on the shores of the Clyde, Scotland, among some pious Presbyterian men and women, the Holy Spirit fell in wonderful manner. The speaking in tongues quickly spread into widely separated parts of Scotland.

“Mr. Cardale, a Scotch lawyer, brought the news to London, and in 1831 his wife and Mr. Taplin began to ‘prophesy’ and to speak in an unknown tongue in Irving’s church. Irving fell in with the movement, heartily convinced of its scriptural basis and divine authority. Forsaken by a large part of his congregation, he began to hold services on May 6, 1832, with 800 communicants in a new place of worship.” — Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. II, page 1119. “The order of this movement was: The ‘prophesyings’ were addressed to the audience in intelligible English, and like the Quaker utterances; but the ‘tongues’ were monologues or dialogues between the speaker and God which non one could understand.” Encyclopedia as above, Vol. 1, page 422. This marvelous, supernatural work continued with this people for years, even after the death of the saintly Irving.

7. Among the Second Adventists of America the talking tongues was manifest. In A. D. 1854, Elder S. G. Mathewson spoke in tongues and Elder Edwin Burnham interpreted the same. The writer knew both of these men of God well, has often sat under their preaching. They were large men physically, mentally an spiritually. By some, Edwin Burnahm was regarded as the most gifted in eloquence and used the most glowing rhetoric of all the preachers connected with the Second Advent movement since the days of Edward Irving.

In the early Seventies, A. D. 1873, and onward again among a portion of the Second Adventist believers, the talking in tongues, accompanied largely with gift of healing, was manifested in New England. They were called the “Gift Adventists.” Their most noted leader was Elder Doughty, a man, all things considered, the writer regards as having the strongest faith and power in prayer of any person with whom he ever became acquainted. On Elder Doughty abode the gift of healing in a wonderful degree.

In this recital but one other case will be noted.

8. Charles G. Finney was born A. D. 1792, in Western Connecticut, born again A. D. 1821. Quickly after his conversion he received the baptism of the Holy Ghost and began speaking in tongues. A subject to which in his early experience his attention had never been called. He did not know what to make of it. An indescribable sweetness took control of his whole being. From that hour he abandoned the law business for gospel work. For fifty-four years an active evangelist, much of which time also president of Oberlin, Ohio, College. It is claimed that more than one hundred and fifty thousand were converted under his labors. On him abode such Holy Ghost power that people were powerfully convicted by just his looking at them without speaking. Probably his equal as an evangelist of divine power has not been known to the church since the days of the Apostle Paul. The case of Finney speaking in tongues and concealed by his friends and biographers, as a weakness in the great man, has had a parallel in the experience of many another consecrated laborer. Let not those who have received the Comforter—with tongues, doubt the anointing of a harrowed labourer in the Master’s vineyard whose experience is unknown.”

Republished in February 1, 1908. It is announced in the March 1, 1908 that it is published in a tract form. A version very similar to his but the initials of someone else, Feb. 1, 1911. Vol. 4. No. 79. Reprinted in the White Wing Messenger, March 31, 1928. Vol. V. No. 7 Pg. 3 and continued in April, 14, 1928, Vol. V. No. 8.

April 15, 1908. Vol 1. No. 12

“History of Tongues: Additional Testimony” by V. P. Simmons.

“In writing up testimony concerning prominent persons in the Church in earlier times of Christianity, following the death of the apostles, it behooves one to be very careful whom he indorses or condemns; for prominent writers of those times were either bitter in condemnation, or worshipful in praises of leaders among them. Taking Arius, for example, some writers denounce him as a bitter, obnoxious heretic, while others hold him up as the most saintly church leader of his time.

1. The Montanists, the followers of Montanus, who, A. D. 156, appeared as a new prophet of Ardaban, in Phrygia, on the frontier of Mysia. Both Montanus and his disciples were subjects of severe criticism of ecclesiastics, and by others praised for their fervent piety, their self-denial, their courage in facing martyrdom, their long continuance in prayer, their ardent belief in the supernatural. Like the Pentecostal people of today, they had bitter assailants and zealous defenders; and also like the Pentecostal believers of our times they talked in tongues.

Montanus called “the prophet” and two very active Christian women, named Priscilla and Maximilla, called “the prophetesses,” saintly in their lives, ardent in the gospel labor, laying great stress upon the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and inward illumination, prophesying, speaking in tongues, in all things led of the Spirit, given to fasting, prayer and self-denial, they were very separate from the world, and insisting that an ecclesiastical organization was not the Church, but “an inward illumination of the Holy Spirit upon believers did constitute them the true Church.” See History of Universal Knowledge, Vol. 10, page 160-1. Also Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, page 1561-2, third edition. For full four hundred years the Montanists contained a separate existence, suffering persecution, even to martyrdom, from the heathen, and bitter exclusion from the Catholic party. Rigid in morals, laying great stress on divine leading, they ever affirmed that the very substance of the Church was the Holy Spirit.

Dr. Philip Schaff, former professor in the Union Theological Seminary, New York, says, “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.”

2. Tertullian, born A. D., 145 (some affirm A. D., 150 as date of his birth), was perhaps the finest scholar, the most extensive writer, the most brilliant leader of the Church of his generation. Born and educated at Carthage, at that time a seat of learning, he was a man of radical temperament, strong convictions, born leader. He early espoused the teaching of Montanus, prophesying, talking in tongues, spiritual visions, practicing self-denial, ardent in labors, opposing the growing ecclesiasticism of the Church. On all social questions he ever drew a distinct line between the Church and the world, he filled out a long life, being an active disputant to the last, and is ever mentioned by Christian writers as a father of the Church.

3. Cyprian, also born at Carthage, about the beginning of the third century, was but a young man when Tertullian died. He early became a disciple of his illustrious townsman, adopting all of Tertullian’s views. He too, was a finished scholar, even in early manhood venerated for his piety. In him, so-called Montanism had an able defendant. The inner life of the Holy Spirit’s leadings, prophesying, tongues, visions, the actual necessity of a positive Holy Spirit given experience. He was wont to call Tertullian his master. Probably more biographies have been written of Cyprian than of any other of the early fathers of the Church. He went to martyrdom A. D., 258.

Thus we have in a period of one hundred years, not less than four great leaders of the early Church championing the Pentecostal teaching of our own times; all of them men of no mean ability, learning, or piety, to wit: Irenaeus, of Lyons, Montanus, of Phrygia; Tertullian and Cyprian, of Carthage; together with two illustrations Christian women mentioned in this article. Each and all of these had a large following, while all of them battled the then growing spirit of Roman Catholicism.”

June 1, 1909. Vol. 2. No. 39

Historians Dodging Tongues

The many bits of history down through the ages, showing the cropping out of speaking in tongues, are but an indication that hidden under the surface is far more that might have been written had not biographers and writers of church history concealed facts about this subject.

If clear headed Christian scholars like Irenaeus, Tertullian and Cyprian of the earlier centuries endorsed the Montanists, defending them in their speaking in tongues, it is probable those eminent men were not alone in their approval of tongues and prophesying.

In fact, Irenaeus, in his Adv. Heur, page 6, writes: “We have many brethren in the churches having prophetical gifts, and by the Spirit, speaking in all kinds of languages.”

The English language abounds with many elaborate encyclopedias; most of them scarcely mention the subject of “Tongues,” leaving for Andrew Findlater, LL. D., acting editor of encyclopedia of universal knowledge, and Philip Schaff, D. D., LL. editor of History . . . [a portion of the copy is illegible]

Lutheran writers . . .[a portion of the copy is illegible] silent about the tongue movement in Sweden about A. D. 1841-1843, leaving it to Dr. Schaff, of another denomination, to bring out. Methodist literature abounds in Christian biography and history of Methodist religious awakenings, but how silent are they all upon any tongue talking in their membership, leaving Dr. Schaff and Dr. Bushnall (in his work, “Supernaturalism”), to mention tongue talking among Methodists. Most Presbyterian and Congregational writers give us facts of Methodist history concealed by Methodists themselves.

Elder I. C. Welcome wrote a large, excellent work, “History of the Second Advent Message,” showing great research in compiling; but not a word about Adventists speaking in tongues; and yet from A. D. 1845 to the present time, both in the ministry and laity, this spiritual exercise has almost continually been manifest among some of the most devout and saintly of Second Advent believers. (The writer is collecting quite a goodly number of facts for future publication on this line.)

I do not say that biographers and historians are dishonest in concealing these matters from the readers. They evidently consider tongue talking a fanaticism, a weakness, to be kept out of sight; but in some way it will out, and readers will know that their biographers and compilers are not impartial.

June 1, 1910. Vol. 3. No. 63

“The Exercise of Tongues.” By V. P. Simmons.

The writer having had no personal experience concerning “tongues,” can only judge by observation, and the general effect of “the tongue” movement.

The variety of exercises of “tongues” seems to be: (1) Talking in tongues, (2) exhorting in tongues, (3) singing in tongues, (4) praying in tongues, (5) writing in tongues, (6) interpreting in tongues, (7) playing in tongues upon musical instruments.

Having witnessed nearly of these various exercises, not excepting even a counterfeit of tongues, and having made the tongue movement a study for more than fifty-years, both from church history and the many recitals concerning it in these last of the last days, the following are our conclusions:

1. It has positive, and repeated Bible authority.

2. Not a hint can be found in the Bible that it has been done away, or will be done away, so long as this gospel dispensation lasts.

3. The class who are exercised with “tongues,” are as a rule the most consecrated, the most crucified, the most given to Bible study, the most self-denying, the most humble, loving, prayerful and saintly; far in advance of the ordinary conscientious church members. Their simple child-like faith with which they take the Bible as it reads, is really marvelous in this sceptical age, when even ministers study the Bible to explain it away.

4. To be even remotely associated with them, to attend their services, their camp meeting, to watch them from the outside, is to feel their quiet power. In short one comes to the conclusion that God is with them. Invalids have repeatedly expressed the soothing influence they experienced when under the quiet nursing of this class of believers.

5. The positively supernatural manifestations and exercises, connected with the tongue movement have convinced many thoughtful mean and women, who even came to criticise; but went away acknowledging that God was with them of a truth.

6. The world wide, rapid spread of this so-called Pentecostal work bears the very mark of divinity upon it.

Some without any natural musical gift, who could not even sing, have, while exercised with tongues, sung sweetly, have played upon musical instruments, and even sung in “tongues,” all with a harmony, and melody equal to a trained musician.

To give anything like an analysis would be careful work for one living in the experience of tongues; but for only an observer, it seems somewhat doubtful business.

F. Bartleman in the Way of Faith, concerning “tongues,” says: “Much of it is evidently no particular language. But Paul suggests the possibility of our speaking even in the ‘tongue of angels.’ I Cor. 13:1. We must keep humble, sober, however. Children must not get foolish. And may we not be given also an ‘ecstatic utterance,’ a ‘new tongue’ spoken neither by men nor angels?” Again he says: “This ‘tongue’ may be for private exercise, devotion, prayer, etc., mainly. Some languages, spoken in prayer and otherwise, have been understood. Possibly some never will, nor can be, except by spiritual interpretation. Let us keep a sound mind at all hazards for God.” We infer from I Cor. 14:18, 19, that much of Paul’s speaking in tongues was in private, for his own comfort, and the spiritual rest it imparted. I Cor. 14:28 seems to confirm this thought, while verse 22d brings out another phase of tongues. “Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not.” At such times the tongue spoken may be in a language that some unbeliever present understands; or a new tongues that another gives the interpretation of, “And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest.” Benjamin Wilson in his Emphatic Diaglott thus render I Cor. 14:10: “It may be there are so many kinds of languages in the world, and no one is unmeaning.” His rendering of I Cor. 12:10 is in harmony with this thought. “To another different languages.” It is not possible that all believers living up to their highest privileges may have for their comfort a heavenly “tongue?” to exercise either alone, or with the saints, while those who have the “gift of tongues” (plural) may speak in languages, which either themselves or another may interpret, or an unbeliever present may understand, and so become a recipient of the grace of Christ?
Occasionally one might be permitted of the Spirit to speak in another language for the benefit of a hearer, or hearers. Some three years ago a Christian woman from Los Angeles went as a missionary to Africa. She was permitted to give two discourses in the native language, after which she had to learn their language, to any further instruct them. Some of her converts in speaking in tongues were permitted to speak English, without having learned the same.

August 15, 1911. Vol. 4. No. 92

A Faithful Worker Called Home

On Tuesday morning, August the first, Mrs. Gertrude E. B. Simmons of Frostproof, Fla., died at her childhood’s home in Plainfield, Con.,

. . .Married in 1873 to V. P. Simmons, an ardent temperance worker and preacher of the Second coming, she found full scope for all her rare mental and social gifts.

. . .In October, 1907, at Durant camp meeting Mrs. Simmons received her Pentecost, speaking in another tongue.”

Nov. 1918. Volume 12. No. 207.

With Long Life Will I Satisfy Him.—Ps. 91:16

Dear Sister: I am glad that you have again started the Bridegroom’s Messenger. No other Pentecostal periodical quite fills the place of The Bridegroom’s Messenger to me.

. . .On November 3rd I will be 83 years of age. I have several times been sick, but I pleaded Bible promises for length of days, and the Lord raised me up.

For more information:

References   [ + ]

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