Tag Archives: worship

The role of Hebrew in the Jewish-Aramaic World

The influence of Aramaic and Hebrew on Jewish life around the first-century.

The goal of any information gleaned from this inquiry is to find a possible connection with Hebrew being a part of the first-century Corinthian liturgy. A subsequent purpose is to confirm or deny an assertion by the fourth-century Bishop of Salamis, Epiphanius, that the mystery tongues of Corinth had its roots in the Hebrew language.

We cannot assume any synagogue outside of Israel, let alone Corinth, used the Hebrew language as part of their religious service. So, it requires digging deeper into the relationship between Hebrew and Aramaic to find answers.

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A Jewish-Greek Perspective on the Tongues of Corinth

The following is a journey into identifying speaking in tongues through Hebrew and Greek Jewish traditions.

This is an introduction to a series of articles devoted to this subject.

Researching Jewish traditions about speakers and interpreters has uncovered two very important customs that are so close to Paul’s narrative that it would be hard to call them accidental parallels. The first solution relates to the reading out loud of Scripture in Hebrew with an immediate translation in the local vernacular. The second one is the custom of instructing in Hebrew and providing a translation into the local language.

There is also a third alternative: the use of Aramaic as the principal language of conflict in Corinth. This could be a solution if more information comes forward. For the time being it will be relegated a distant third option and only small snippets of this subject will be addressed. The majority of this series will be devoted to the first two concepts.

These first two options have existed all along but few have paid attention to them in the Christian community. This Jewish-centric approach has been minimized for two reasons: antisemitism and ignorance of Jewish literature in both Catholic and Protestant communities, and the hyper-emphasis on the Greek and Latin cultures to exclusivity by rationalist scholars in the 1800s.

The option of instructing in Hebrew with a translation into the local language best fits the Corinthian narrative. However, the rite of public reading in Hebrew with an immediate translation into the local language does have some strengths that cannot be discounted. The solution could even be a mixture of the two.

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A New Kind of Tongues

How the Pentecostal definition of tongues changed in the early 1900s.

The late Assemblies of God teacher, writer, and professor Gary B. McGee wrote a very factual account on the development and evolution of the doctrine of tongues in the Pentecostal movement.

It is called, Shortcut to Language Preparation? Radical Evangelicals, Missions, and the Gift of Tongues.

It is a well researched article with substantiated sources. This is one of the most definitive works found covering the subject from the late nineteenth century onwards.

He cites the most important leaders in the modern tongues movement, and how the original emphasis was on the supernatural acquisition of foreign languages. This mystical acquirement was hoped to be a solution for the common perception that language learning was a long process and a barrier to a rapid missionary expansion throughout the world.

This forced a serious theological dilemma — miraculous language acquisition wasn’t working. Either the Pentecostal movement as a whole would have to admit they were wrong, or redefine the experience. The latter was chosen.

McGee admits that somewhere between 1906 and 1907 the doctrine of tongues had changed from what was perceived as spontaneous language acquisition into worship and intercession in the Spirit:

Not surprisingly, though claims of bestowed languages had the potential of being empirically verified, such claims severely tested the credulity of outside observers. Corroborating testimony that Pentecostals preached at will in their newfound languages and were actually understood by their hearers proved difficult to find. By late 1906 and 1907 radical evangelicals began reviewing the Scriptures to obtain a better understanding. Most came to recognize that speaking in tongues constituted worship and intercession in the Spirit (Rom. 8:26; I Cor. 14:2), which in turn furnished the believer with spiritual power. Since on either reading–glossolalia for functioning effectively in a foreign language or for spiritual worship–the notion of receiving languages reflected zeal and empowerment for evangelism, most Pentecostals seemed to have accepted the transition in meaning.

It is surprising to find here that an Assemblies of God teacher admitted to this, though it comes across very softly.

Unfortunately, he failed to go into any details on what figures were responsible for this change, and how it became an entrenched doctrine in such a short period.

The full document can be found here: Shortcut to Language Preparation? Radical Evangelicals, Missions, and the Gift of Tongues.