Speaking in tongues

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Speaking in tongues, or glossolalia, is a gift described and explained in Acts 2:1-47 with respect to early Christians. It reappeared in many revivalistic Christian churches in the 19th and 20th centuries, especially in those associated with the Charismatic movement. This phenomenon will enable a person to speak with a series of language-like sounds or syllables that he normally does not use or understand.

In Mark 16:17, Christ states that it will be one of the signs marking those who believe in Him. There have been reports of people inexplicably speaking in French or Russian, for example, yet the most common instances of modern tongues-speaking do not consist of words from a foreign but actual language such as would be spoken routinely by other people in other lands. Rather, this kind of tongues-speaking is what proponents call "angelic speech," i.e. sounds uttered while in an altered state that cannot be considered a known, human language. It is an open question among Christians whether the Biblical references refer to actual languages or to ecstatic utterances or both.

Additional Scriptural references can be found in Acts 19:6 and Acts 10:46. In 1 Cor 12:10 Saint Paul also mentions the experience as one of the gifts of the Spirit.

Christians who hold to the Biblical view of Cessationism believe that the gift of tongues was given only to the early Church, that they ceased once the Church secured a following (generally once those who personally knew the Apostles passed away, and most certainly once the final canon of the New Testament was agreed upon), and that the modern revival associated with the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches is a misinterpretation of Scripture.[1] The latter groups answer that New Testament does not suggest that the gifts were to be only temporary in the life of the Church.

Further reading

  • Horton, Wade H. Glossolalia Phenomenon (Cleveland, Tenn.: Pathway Press, 1996)
  • McGee, Gary B. Initial Evidence: Historical and Biblical Perspectives on the Pentecostal Doctrine of Spirit Baptism (Peabody, Mass.: Henrickson, 1991)
  • Martin, 3rd, Ira Jay. "Glossolalia in the Apostolic Church," Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 63, No. 2 (Jun., 1944), pp. 123–130 in JSTOR
  • Mills, Watson E. Glossolalia: A Bibliography (New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1985)
  • Sherrill, John. They Speak with Other Tongues (Old Tappan, N.J.: Chosen Books, 2004)
  • It should be noted that generally, despite their strong differences on the topic, Cessationalists consider Pentecostals and Charismatics to be true Christians, and vice versa.