Tongues-Speech: A Patristic Analysis -- By: Harold Hunter

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 23:2 (Jun 1980)
Article: Tongues-Speech: A Patristic Analysis
Author: Harold Hunter

Tongues-Speech: A Patristic Analysis

Harold Hunter*

The purpose of this article is to present selected historical data relevant to the possible presence of tongues-speech in the era immediately following the apostles. The word akolalia will be used with the familiar glossolalia and xenolalia to make technical distinctions between various types of tongues-speech. Glossolalia is a form of speech that does not directly correspond to any known language, while akolalia describes that phenomenon in which the speaker uses one language and the audience “hears” the words in (a) different language(s). Xenolalia refers to one speaking in a known language that the person has not learned by mechanical methods.

As to method of research, it should be noted that primary sources have been used for nearly every writer. It is difficult to establish objective criteria for determining the presence of tongues-speech where no explicit claim is made regarding its presence or absence. In view of the association of prophecy with tongues-speech in the book of Acts, and since one form of tongues-speech is listed among the charismata enumerated in 1 Cor 12:8–10, wherever the term charismata or various gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12 are in evidence, especially prophecy, it will be considered to indicate the possibility of the presence of tongues-speech.1

The writings of the apostolic fathers are primarily pastoral—not theological—in orientation. Thus when Clement of Rome says to the Corinthians that “the Holy Spirit was poured out (ekchysis) in abundance (plērēs) you all”2 he may be alluding to the day of Pentecost because ekcheōis the word used for the working of the Spirit in Joel 2:28 (LXX) and Acts 2:17–18 (see John 4:14; 7:37–39). This would be in keeping with Clement’s exhortation to “let each be subject to his neighbor as his particular charisma dictates.”3

Ignatius repeatedly (Rom. introduction; Magn. 8:2; Eph. 17:2; Pol. 2:2; Smyrn. 0:2) refers to the contemporary reality of the charismata. Michael Green

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