TONGUES VOL 2: GENUINE BIBLICAL LANGUAGES
As we consider “genuine biblical languages”, the starting point is the assumption that there is an authentic gift of glossolalia that presumably is potentially valid today, although under what conditions and why is a different question. Gifts of teaching, preaching, and pastoring are self-evidently valid or able to be independently validated, but what is the validation of speaking in "tongues"? How is that accomplished? Indeed, what is "speaking in tongues"? Considering the difficulties of defining the term, and the apparent difficulties in ascertaining and authenticating the gift, one feels compelled to agree with Robinson (Meyer 1975, 142) that the phenomenon has stolen a position out of all proportion to its biblical importance and ecclesiastical value. Robinson, a glossolalist and former Pentecostal preacher states:
There are sixty-six books in the Bible, and only three of them mention tongues. There are 1,189 chapters in the Bible, and only seven refer to tongues. There are 31,162 verses, and only twenty-two mention tongues. Sheer quantity is not, of course, a proper criterion for evaluating scriptural teachings. By the same token, however, a practice which is mentioned so seldom, hardly deserves the attention that some give tongues, and the benefits do not seem to be commensurate with the cleavages that are created.
Similarly, Bergsma (1965, 13) reflecting on the repetitious and almost daily "unsignificant (sic) revelations" of modern glossolalists, believes that they are "misguided or ... presumptuous. It is like the Himalayan Mountain in obstetrical labour and producing a mouse!". The preoccupation and emphasis is out of all proportion to the minimal (if any) benefits derived, and indeed the mischief it generates.
Dogmatic assertions and practices of various groups call glossolalia into a position of contention that is really dependent upon appropriate definition of what glossolalia precisely is and a determination of what other phenomena might be associated with it. To reiterate, since none of the gifts given to the church have been abrogated or modified, then it behoves us to clearly identify the nature and purpose of glossolalia for the church, so that we don’t negate God’s gift on the one hand, or abuse and debase it on the other because of misuse.
I have contended (in Volume 1: Tongues: Confused by Ecstasy) that ecstasy is the confusing element because it was characteristic of the contemporary Corinthian Mystery Religious practice and that that background was carried into the Corinthian church thus colouring Paul’s treatment of the subject. Ecstasy is not an essential element of glossolalia.
Manifestation of this phenomenon of ecstasy through the years has often been a confusing element. Ecstasy is a point of debate about authentic prophetic gifts in the Old Testament. It is a point of debate about valid revival movements from the second century A.D. forward. It is a significant point of debate in contemporary society and the Pentecostal/charismatic movement of the twentieth century and beyond.
Ecstasy is the focus of much debate, which shows the polarization of views on the same phenomenon, some declaring it to be of God, others as strongly affirming that it is of the devil. Some see it is a neutral phenomenon, others as a psychological phenomenon.
The issue is further confused by the manifestation of ecstasy and associated phenomena in a variety of cultures that in many cases approximate to the phenomenon of claimed spiritual gifts and their expression. It was necessary to carefully examine these phenomena to help to ascertain the nature and source of the phenomena, and to distinguish them from authentic biblical phenomena.
A careful study of the significance of ecstasy was pursued (in Volume 1) to help to establish the nature of the test case at Corinth. However, since Corinth is a case of abuse, it was necessary to trace back to Acts (which makes reference to authentic cases of glossolalia in the Bible) to ascertain the nature of glossolalia there. In turn, this pursuit forced the study back to the Old Testament, because all the expressions in the Acts are related to the fulfilment of the prophecy of Joel. The prophecy of Joel in turn bears on the nature of Old Testament prophecy generally, and it’s supposed association with ecstasy.
This retrospective study of prophecy makes it possible to clarify the principle of the relationship, if any, between ecstasy and gifts in general, and glossolalia in particular. It also bears on the special case of 1 Corinthians 14:21, referring to glossolalia in a prophetic setting. Having set that foundation, it is then possible to move forward to apply those principles to the twenty-first century to clarify authentic spiritual manifestations, and in particular to address the issue of authentic charismata.
Further, most commentators agree that the glossolalic phenomenon in the Acts (apart from the prophetic correlation) is different from that at Corinth. But why? What then is a valid charismatic glossolalia? It is contended that the Acts draws attention to the only authentic cases (and they are three) of glossolalia in the Bible. The book of First Corinthians gives a corrective to an abuse, with no clear authentication of an identified gift. Paul gives guidelines necessitated by the background of religious ecstasy. Hence, instead of proposing ground rules for a valid spiritual expression, it becomes apparent that First Corinthians is giving a restrained corrective against an abuse of contemporary culture that masqueraded as an authentic Christian experience. It is ecstasy that is the confusing element to this picture.
Having noted that Acts is the only reference to authentic glossolalic expression (as a valid one-stage linguistic utterance—see below), it is essential to underline that there are nevertheless no authenticated cases of the Genuine Biblical (complementary) Glossolalic Gift for the church anywhere (including the bible) ever. Malony (1982, 145) states: “no research has proven these utterances to be understandable in the syntax or semantics of any extant language”. Likewise, investigation of the corollary “interpretation of tongues” has “never verified the claim to speak in an actual foreign language unknown to the glossolalist” (Pattison 1968, 74). Sullivan (1976, 159) states that there has been no case of genuine xenoglossia verified to the satisfaction of scientific observers (so also Malony and Lovekin 1985, 254). Duewel (1974, 90-91) states that there are no known examples of xenoglossia. Kildahl states that there are no “scientifically confirmed recordings of anyone speaking in a foreign language” (Kildahl 1986, 363).
The overall significance of the study was to provide a basis for authenticating a valid glossolalic expression, and all this comes from the foundation of the test case in Corinth, which in turn is dependent upon an understanding of ecstasy in the antecedent Mystery Religions of Corinthian contemporary society.
NOTE: RE XENOGLOSSIA
• Xenoglossia. Speaking in unlearned foreign languages (this is the nature of true glossolalia) (Carson 1988, 79). Real (genuine) language. This was the expectancy of the modern Pentecostal movement in 1900. Subsequently—reported in 1910—there was this expectancy in sending of missionaries, expecting them to be able to use foreign languages as they went to India, China, and Japan, “but all proved egregious failures” (Reilly 1910, 9). Harris (1973, 6) has discovered instances of more than 60 languages spoken by people who don’t actually know them. It was claimed that the majority of occurrences in the Middle Ages were in missionary work (Kaasa 1963, 157). More detail will be shown progressively.
We will now address the recapitulation in the following three ways:
1. Chapter 1 is a recapitulation of the findings of Volume 1—sifting and refining them—in order to prepare the ground for this study; to bring those issues into perspective for Volume 2—the establishment of a truly biblical construct of God’s gift for the church.
2. Chapter 2 provides careful exegetical comments on the relevant sections of 1 Corinthians 12-14, to identify the authoritative principles and criteria to help identify the true biblical glossolalic gift, and its expression. It will also show Paul’s corrective approach.
3. Chapter 3 draws all the material together with the careful identification of the biblical criteria, and other delineating guidelines, which precisely defines a valid glossolalic construct of the complementary gift for the church.
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