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Tongues, Speaking in

Tongues, Speaking in

Vocalization that sounds like a language but is devoid of semantic meaning or syntax; also known as glossolalia. Glossolalia is a protolanguage based on the everyday spoken language of the person, but lacking enough sounds (vowels and consonants) upon which to build an actual language. Glossolalia often occurs in a religious context, most notably modern Pentecostalism, where it appears as a vocalized religious expression.

Glossolalia is to be sharply distinguished from xenoglossia, or xenoglossy, the speaking or understanding of a foreign language one does not normally know or recognize. In the Bible, glossolalia is referred to as the tongues of angels (1 Cor. 13:1), possibly suggesting that the unintelligible sounds are an angelic language.

Glossolalia is familiar to most from its association with the birth of Christianity at Pentecost as described in the Christian New Testament (Acts 2), though what in fact is described is an event of xenoglossia. Those listening to the apostles speak were amazed to hear the sermon each in their own language. The more obvious example of glossolalia occurred in the Corinthian church of which Paul spoke when he said, "For he that speaks in a tongue speaks not unto men but unto God; for no man understands, but in the spirit he speaks mysteries" (1 Cor. 14:2).

There are accounts of how the gift of tongues descended on the London congregation of Rev. Edward Irving in 1831. Robert Baxter, in his book Narrative of Facts Characterizing the Supernatural Manifestations in Members of Mr. Irving's Congregation (London, 1833), gives a narrative of his own experiences:

" The power of the Spirit was so great upon me that I was obliged to call out, as in agony, for pardon and forgiveness and for strength to bear a faithful testimony. In these cryings I was, however, at the time conscious of a power of utterance carrying me beyond the natural expression of my feelings. for the space of more than ten minutes I was, as it were, paralysed under a shaking of my limbs, my knees rapping one against the other, and no expression except a sort of convulsive sigh. During this period I had no other consciousness than this bodily emotion, and an inexpressible constraint upon my mind, which although it left me composed and sensible of all I was doing, yet prevented my utterance and gave no distinct impression, beyond a desire to pray for the knowledge of the Lord's will. This increased so much that I was led to fall on my knees and cry in a loud voice 'Speak, Lord, for they servant hearest,' and this I repeated many times, until the same power of the Spirit which I had before felt, came upon me, and I was made to cry out with great vehemence, both of tone and action, that the coming of the Lord should be declared, and the messengers of the Lord should bear it forth upon the mountains and upon the hills, and tell it to the winds, that all the earth should hear it and tremble before the Lord."

The utterances often began in an unknown tongue and then passed into English. As one witness described them, "The tongue invariably preceded, which at first I did not comprehend, because it burst forth with an astonishing and terrible crash, so suddenly and in such short sentences that I seldom recovered from the shock before the English commenced."

The phrases were mostly taken from the Scriptures and repeated again and again. The actual words of the tongues were not recorded. Baxter believed them to be a jargon of sounds. However, the possessed also spoke with extraordinary fluency in languages with which they were but imperfectly acquainted. The utterances were supposedly grandiose both in manner and diction.

In a pamphlet, Drei Tage in Gros Almerode (Three Days in Great Almerode), J. Busching, a theological student at Leipzig, Germany, described ten cases of glossolalia at a religious revival in 1907 at Almerode, a small town in Hesse. The phenomena began with a hissing or peculiar gnashing sound. It was said that these sounds were produced when the subject, not wishing to disturb the order of service by interrupting a prayer already commenced, tried to repress the inward impulse acting on the speech organs; but the sounds had to come out, and the momentarily repressed glossolalies only burst forth with increased vigor.

Modern American Pentecostalism began in 1901 with the speaking in tongues that occurred at the Bethel Bible School in Topeka, Kansas. While away during the Christmas season of 1900, the school's founder set a task for the students: investigate the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" and discover what, according to the Bible, is the sign(s) of its presence. When he returned on New Year's Eve, he asked what the students had discovered. They replied, "speaking in tongues." Shortly after reaching a consensus on that point, the group retired to the chapel, where they entered a time of prayer. Then, on New Year's Day, 1901, Agnes Osman became the first person in modern times to ask for and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit with the accompanying sign of speaking in tongues.

Usually accompanying speaking in tongues is the additional phenomenon of the "interpretation of tongues," in which a reputed "translation" of the glossolalia is offered. An interpretation of tongues does not always occur even when it is prayed for. When it does occur, the speaker may either envision a written translation or hear it inwardly, or perceive directly the meaning of the foreign words.

Receiving the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" accompanied by speaking in tongues became the distinguishing mark of Pentecostalism. The movement spread from Topeka to Houston, Texas, and then to Los Angeles, California, from where it spread around the world.

Although Pentecostals were denigrated as "Holy Rollers" through much of the twentieth century (see George B. Cutten's Speaking with Tongues ), in the 1960s Pentecostalism began to spread through the mainline Christian churches first in North America and then in Europe. This new charismatic movement, as it was called, brought a new respectability to Pentecostalism and resulted in the acceptance of Pentecostals into the larger Evangelical movement. It also led to new attention to glossolalia by social and behavioral scientists and historians. While supernatural explanations still dominate among Pentecostal believers, a more mundane perspective has emerged from those who have observed glossolalia widely.

A few detractors put forth the idea, a remnant of religious prejudice from earlier in the century, that glossolalia was a sign of psychopathology. This idea was possibly the first laid to rest as it had no basis in empirical data. In fact, quite the opposite was found to be true, in that Pentecostals seemed to have a higher level of mental health than that of the general population.

Other detractors suggested that glossolalia was simply gibberish; however, linguistic studies, most prominently that of William Samarin, have suggested that it is in fact a very structured speech, easily distinguishable from gibberish or attempts to imitate glossolalia. It is also said to be a protolanguage, highly structured and derived from the everyday language of the speaker.

Its relation to everyday language suggests that it too, like everyday language, is a learned behavior, and experimental data, testing people's ability to learn glossolalia in a nonreligious setting, provides some substantiation of this hypothesis. Others have also suggested that glossolalia is related to altered states of consciousness. Glossolalia is not generally associated with severe alteration of consciousness as in trance or hypnosis, but it seems to involve lightly altered consciousness such as that which occurs in daydreaming.

Historians have noted the widespread appearance of glossolalia in various religious traditions from ancient Greece to modern Spiritualism, although certainly the great majority of recorded cases are in Christianity. Some Christians have countered the obvious implications of cross-cultural studies by arguing that some tongues speaking is simply a ruse by the devil to imitate the actions of the Holy Spirit.

Sources:

Christie-Murray, David. Voices from the Gods: Speaking in Tongues. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978.

Cutten, George B. Speaking With Tongues: Historically and Psychologically Considered. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1927.

Goodman, Felicitas D. Speaking in Tongues: A Cross-Cultural Survey of Glossolalia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972.

Kelsey, Morton T. Tongue Speaking: An Experiment in Spiritual Experience. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1968. Reprint, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1973.

Kildahl, John P. The Psychology of Speaking in Tongues. New York: Harper & Row, 1972.

Samarin, William J. Tongues of Men and of Angels: The Religious Language of Pentecostalism. New York: Macmillan, 1972.

Spanos, Nicholas O., Wendy P. Cross, Mark Lepage, and Marjorie Coristine. "Glossolalia as Learned behavior: An Experimental Demonstration." Journal of Abnormal Psychology 95 (February 1986): 21-23.

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Speaking in Tongues

Speaking in Tongues

The phenomenon of speaking in tongues during ecstatic religious experiences is also known as glossolalia, and began among the first Christians.

Described in Acts 2:118, the Holy Spirit granted to the apostles the ability to speak in the languages of the foreigners who had assembled in Jerusalem for the observance of Pentecost. The visitors were amazed they could speak with them in their native language.

While Holy Spirit allowed the apostles to converse suddenly in a foreign language, later references implied that glossolalia was a kind of religious ecstasy or unintelligible babbling. In I Corinthians, Paul lists the variety of spiritual gifts that might be received by Christians; he writes that one such blessing is the ability to interpret what another speaking in tongues might be saying. Paul states that those who speak in a tongue that only God can understand might well be pleasing themselves, but they deliver no edification to others in the church. He concludes that, if one speaks in unknown tongues and no one can interpret the speech, then "let him keep silence in the church and speak to himself and to God."

Paul's denigration of the act of speaking in tongues set the standard for Christians down through the centuries. Various church fathers advised against the practice, and St. John of Chrysostom (c. 347407) believed that the usefulness of glossolalia for the Christian ended in the first century. St. Augustine (354430) denied that any special ability, such as speaking in tongues, prophesy, and so forth, proved one's faith. With the advent of the Protestant Reformation, leaders such as Martin Luther (14831546) dismissed glossolalia as unnecessary to the Christian faith.

In the eighteenth century, however, certain new visionary sects, such as the Shakers and the Catholic Apostolic Church, began to consider speaking in tongues as one of the special gifts given to true believers. Then, in the early 1900s, Pentecostalism declared that "Spirit-baptism" brought with its indwelling power the ability to speak in tongues. In the 1960s, glossolalia became suddenly popular even among the more mainstream churches.

While the movement spread in the 1970s, the position largely taken by the mainstream church bodies was that, while it may be legitimate gift from the Holy Spirit, glossolalia was hardly the normative expression for Christians and did not denote a superiority over those who did not practice it. However, today's approximately 500,000 practicing Pentecostals continue to believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to bring about a baptism of the spirit like that received by the apostles that enabled them to speak in tongues.


Sources:

dyer, luther b. tongues. jefferson city, mo.: le roi, 1971.

rosten, leo. religions of america. new york: simon & schuster, 1975.

sherrill, john l. they speak with other tongues. new york: pyramid books, 1965.

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glossolalia

glossolalia (glŏs´əlā´lēə) [Gr.,=speaking in tongues], ecstatic utterances usually of unintelligible sounds made by individuals in a state of religious excitement. Religious revivals are often accompanied by manifestations of glossolalia, and various Pentecostal (see Pentecostalism) movements cite for authority the Acts of the Apostles, which records that on the day of Pentecost the Apostles "were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them ability." There are other New Testament references to the phenomenon. The Corinthian believers overvalued the gift; Paul in 1 Corinthians encouraged the orderly use of the gift and "interpretation" of the utterance so that all might be edified. In Acts, however, the use of the gift produces speech in other human languages as a kind of reversal of the confusion of tongues produced at the Tower of Babel.

See J. P. Kildahl, The Psychology of Speaking in Tongues (1972); G. T. Montague, The Spirit and His Gifts (1974).

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Glossolalia

Glossolalia (Gk., glossa, ‘tongue’, + lalia, ‘speaking’). ‘Speaking in tongues’, the phenomenon, common in many religions, of a person speaking in words or word-like sounds which form a language unknown to the speaker. Related phenomena are xenoglossolalia, speaking in a foreign language unknown to the speaker but known to the hearer; and heteroglossolalia, speaking in a language known to the speaker which the hearer hears in his/her own language.

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"Glossolalia." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Glossolalia

Glossolalia

A form of religious speech generally called "speaking in tongues" or "pseudo-tongues." It is also occasionally confused with xenoglossis, which refers to speaking in tongues unknown to the medium or psychic.

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glossolalia

glossolalia the phenomenon of (apparently) speaking in an unknown language, especially in religious worship. It is practised especially by Pentecostal and charismatic Christians.

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