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Prophecy and Tongues

Doubting Thomas

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In reading debates between Protestants and "Catholics" (Roman and EO) regarding Scripture and Tradition, some Protestants claim that the Tradition Paul was referring to in 2 Thess 2:15 was nothing more than what became "inscripturated" in the 66 books of the Canon. Leaving aside some of the logical problems with this for a minute, another Protestant argument I've encountered was that before the canon was "closed" (presumably after the last apostle died) that the charismatic gifts of "teaching", of "prophecy" and (to a lesser extent) of "tongues" served to guide the early Church (I Cor 14).

This brings up an interesting question: If the early church was liturgical and basically was the same as it is today, then what do Orthodox Christians make of I Corinthians 14:26-40 which seems to suggest that each of the believers had a "...psalm, ...teaching, ...tongue, ...revelation, ....interpretation..." to contribute to the service? What was the purpose of this, and why is this not practiced today--or is it?
 

dllwatkins

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Hi Thomas,

An obvious answer off the top of my head would be that this Scripture does not, at least, refer to the service of the Divine Liturgy proper.

The reason I say this is because we have the witness of the Liturgy of the Holy Apostle James which is the basis of the Liturgy we use today - that of St. John Chrysostom, as well as the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great and the Presanctified Liturgy of St. Gregory the Dialogist.

In the Divine Liturgy there is no place given to the kind of "charismatic" interaction given in I Corinthians 14:26.

Having been in "Charismatic" and "Third Wave" churches for eight years before becoming Orthodox, I too have before wondered how to understand this Scripture in Orthodoxy.

Regards in Christ,
David

 

Doubting Thomas

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dllwatkins said:
In the Divine Liturgy there is no place given to the kind of "charismatic" interaction given in I Corinthians 14:26.
I didn't think so. I've only attended the Divine Liturgy three times and I didn't see any of this going on, and from what I've read about the Divine Liturgy this kind of interaction does not go on.

Having been in "Charismatic" and "Third Wave" churches for eight years before becoming Orthodox, I too have before wondered how to understand this Scripture in Orthodoxy.

Regards in Christ,
David
Wow...you were Charismatic? I'd be interested in reading your conversion story if you haven't posted it already (or if you wouldn't mind sending me a PM). It is interesting you converted despite the fact that you are unsure of how the Orthodox explain this apparently "pro-Charismatic" passage. I guess this goes to show one doesn't have to have all the answers before converting. :eek:

In Christ,

DT
 

arimethea

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This brings up an interesting question: If the early church was liturgical and basically was the same as it is today, then what do Orthodox Christians make of I Corinthians 14:26-40 which seems to suggest that each of the believers had a "...psalm, ...teaching, ...tongue, ...revelation, ....interpretation..." to contribute to the service? What was the purpose of this, and why is this not practiced today--or is it?
I normaly do not like to comment on scripture but I think you should go back and reread the entire passage again. The Corinthians are being admonshed for doing their own things during the worship service. The advice being given is just the opposite of what happens in a Charismatic worship. The last line says it all... "Let all things be done decently and in order."
 

moronikos

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The Caffeinator said:
Did the charismatic movement even exist before the 20th c?
As we know it--not really. Most of that movement is a spin-off of the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles near the turn of the 20th century. There has always been weird things going on. In the 19th century there was the Shakers who got their name because they shook. Tertullian got hoodwinked into joining the Montanists who were "charismatic" -- the leader claimed to be the incarnation of the Holy Spirit.
 

Thomas04

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Hi Thomas,

Definitely go back and reread the passage. Paul is actually scolding the Church of Corinth because they are claiming everyone is speaking in tongues and is prophecying. His language seems almost sarcastic and harsh to me. He's saying, "you guys are all claiming everyone is prophecying, just how can this be?"

Here's the quote:

"How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation . . . ." -1 Corinthians 14:26

Note how he starts off the whole passage, He basically says, 'How can this be?' He was admonishing them for everyone having a 'prophecy' not saying that its all ok.

I suspect that, (and this part is my opinion) the Church in Corinth wasn't really having everyone speak in tongues, rather they were convincing themselves they were, or and the passage hints at this, false teachers and prophets were standing up and claiming new teachings, by claiming to be prophets sent by God.

Notice in verses 37 & 38 Paul writes: "If anyone THINKS himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant." (emphasis mine)

To me, Paul seems to directly be challenging all these "prophets" in the Church of Corinth to confess what Paul teaches is the truth of Christ, knowing the whole time that the "prophets" in fact wont acknowledge Paul's authority because they (the prophets) are wolves in sheeps clothing.

He says that if in fact these people are of God, they will admit Paul is above them in authority, but if they are false teachers, then in fact they are false prophets.

Once you begin to read Paul's epistles really in depth, you'll see most of the time he is very confrontational with false prophets, the gnostics, etc... He doesn't pull any spiritual punches so to speak. And thats what he seemed to be doing here. verse 37 seems to say that if these people are truly part of the Church and are prophecying truth, they'll accept Paul's teachings as from the Lord. And if they don't accept Paul's teachings as from the Lord, then the Church of Corinth should not pay attention to them any longer.

Really the whole passage is a corrective one on the whole issue, and not a passage confirming it.

However, Orthodoxy does teach that tongues do happen, even today. But they happen for a purpose, and not just because they can.

Hope this helps...

In Christ, Chuck



 

Doubting Thomas

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ChuckS,

You do make some good points. I think Paul's main point here is that there should be order in the church. However, he seems to allow for 2-3 people to speak in tongues during a service, provided there is one to interpret what is said (vs. 27-28), and for 2-3 people to "prophesy" in turn (vs. 29-31). He even exhorts the Corinthians to desire earnestly to "prophesy" (v.39). I guess I'm wondering what was the purpose of allowing individuals (presumably lay people) to give prophetic utterances in the early Corinthian church and why the Orthodox (again, AFAIK) doesn't follow that same, albeit orderly, pattern today. What was the function of this "prophecy" when the Church already had been given the apostolic teaching (Tradition) by Paul?
 

Thomas04

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Ok, assuming Paul was ok with allowing people to give prophecy as you say, (which I also agree with your points, however if he was refering to false prophets, would the false prophets have been satisified with only 2 people giving utterances, and the the condition they needed an interpreter as well?) But we'll go with what you're saying. And I have two points...

First, we're assuming (and I do this too) that Paul is addressing this to the laity. Which in fact, he probably wasn't. Remember, the false teachers Paul refers to in so many of his letters, were claiming superiority over the Apostles, or at least being equal to them. Yet the laity of the Church would never claimed sucha thing. (at least not at large) When Paul would write a letter, he, or someone else would then carry the letter to a Church. Now were the letters handed to the laity, ora person Paul had put in charge over the Church? Obviously they would have been given to someone Paul had set in authority over the Church. (ie: the presbyters and deacons) It was the presbyters job to read these epistles in the Churches, and then to explain what Paul was refering to the entire congregation. So it's entirely possible, in fact likely, that many of these instructions were to be carried out by the presbyters and deacons. Certainly one letter would not have been passed around throughout the congregation, which might number in the 100's, or even 1000's. I mean, if a pagan or a Roman had been present they could have taken the letter and destroyed it. Remember, there was no printing press, so when Paul wrote a letter, that was it. It began with just one letter. In this case to the Church of Corinth. Its unlikely, that something so highly valued would be passed around for all to read in their own good time. Especially with so many in the congregation already giving their own interpretations to the teachings of Christ, Paul's letters were deliberately sent to the heads of these Churches.

Secondly, many have a misunderstanding of what makes a prophecy a prophecy. The propehtic tradition of ancient Israel was almost never about what will happen in the future, it was about what was happening here and now. A prophet isn't someone who gives secret knowledge about someone, a prophet is someone who stands up and declares the need for repentance and a turning back to God. And thus, if indeed Paul was saying we should desire prophecy, (whether clergy or laity) he was more than likely refering to the ability to convince those who have fallen away from the Lord, to turn back to Him.
This is why God sent all the prophets of Israel, to turn the nation back to God. And this to me, seems like a more legitimate possibility as to what Paul was refering to here. That we should desire the gift to guide each other back to God when and if we fall away. THis is exactly what John the Baptist did. Telling people to repent to turn back to God. This is the true meaning of prophecy in the Orthodox concept. (and really in Judaism as well)

I would say that many priests are prophets in the respect, though of course not all. Some priests are good and teaching how we should turn back to God, others are good and teaching doctrines, others still are good and counciling, etc...

Now how does this apply to the laity? Well, perhaps it applies to our brothers and sisters in Christ, when they see me fall into something sinful, maybe a friend can come to me and try and set me on the right path.

Now with all that said, (sorry for rambling) I'll finally give in and assume Paul meant exactly what you said, that the laity could do this in Church. First, they would NOT have been permitted to do this in worship during the Liturgy. Such an idea would have been completely unheard of in Judaic form worship. Worship, the Liturgy is about us focusing on God, not God focusing on us. So as a Jew, Paul would NEVER have said to do this during worship. Could he have allowed it afterwards? I'll concede that that is certainly possible. However, IF this tradition did exist, again, it wasn't because people were given new teachings by God, for Paul in other letters condemns such ideas. It more than likely was prophecy in its Hebraic (not protestant) sense, that in someone standing up and calling for their brothers and sisters to turn back to God.
But again, this would never have been done during actual worship, as something spontaneous.

Hope I was clear, and not to "wordy"....:)











 

Doubting Thomas

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ChuckS,

So are you suggesting that this could have taken place AFTER the Liturgy but before the congregants was dismissed that Sunday? It does seem that Paul indicates that this taking-of-turns "prophecying" or "tongue-speaking" or whatever is taking place when the local church comes together to worship as in the same context he admonishes the women to "keep silent". I'm just wondering if at some period in the church history there was point in the service in which this orderly pattern could occur. Could this have been in a "transition" period before the liturgy was set and "standardized"? Do any of the Fathers comment on this?
 

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I am sorry if my musings muddy these waters, but after reading DT's question this morning I spent a good part of the day reading the passage in Greek (several 'versions') and I am not finished putting this into context. But,
sometimes translations are fraught with potholes. I think this is one.
Where the text reads +¦++-ë-â-â++/+¦++-ë-â-â+¦++ it is translated as 'tongues'. This is Classical/Koine for the modern +¦++-ë-â-â+¦ meaning "idiom" or language - specifically in context here -'foreign language' (not gibberish except to those who do not understand that language.)
I THINK we should read 'tongue(s)' as "foreign language", 'interpretation' as "translation", and 'revelation' as "interpretation".
When I get more time I'll work some more on this. The Bible is full of instances of translation which are not strictly correct but have become institutionalized.
Example: LOGOS - the Word. Where this came from is beyond me. It means "Reason".

Demetri
 

katherine2001

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When I read the passage, I also get the idea that Paul is admonishing them for how it is done. People say things in tongues (and I think that the Orthodox have a very different idea about what speaking *in tongues* is than the Charismatics/Evangelicals do), but there is nobody there to interpret what they are saying, so the speaking in tongues helps (or edifies) nobody. He admonishes them because of this. He says that if nobody understands what the person is saying, then what good is it doing? Unfortunately, in the charismatic services I've seen and witnessed, the very thing he admonishes the Corinthians for goes on all the time. I've read a pretty good book on this topic called "In Peace Let Us Pray to the Lord: An Orthodox Interpretation of the Gifts of the Spirit" by Fr. Alexis (Trader). It is published by Regina Orthodox Press. He is an American who is a monk on Mt. Athos in Greece. That book might be a very good place for you to start.

 

Thomas04

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Doubting Thomas said:
ChuckS,

So are you suggesting that this could have taken place AFTER the Liturgy but before the congregants was dismissed that Sunday? It does seem that Paul indicates that this taking-of-turns "prophecying" or "tongue-speaking" or whatever is taking place when the local church comes together to worship as in the same context he admonishes the women to "keep silent". I'm just wondering if at some period in the church history there was point in the service in which this orderly pattern could occur.
Well I was just trying to point out, by elimination what this is NOT refering to. I conceded that Paul "could" have allowed such a thing to take place AFTER Liturgy. Even today, after Liturgy, like at Christmas, some Churches will sing western Christmas carols. (like O Come All ye Faithful, not Jingle Bells..LOL!)

This is of course done AFTER Liturgy, when the priest closes the Liturgy and in a sense dismisses us from the union of heaven and earth, and back to the world. (relatively speaking sense we're always in the Kingdom but I think you get what I mean)

I'm saying at that point, things like prophecy, (in its Hebraic sense of calling for repentance) could have taken place. There are no writings of the fathers on this issue, that I know of, but it is possible.

Do things like this happen now? Well not the prophecy issue, but sure, sometimes after Liturgy a priest might have a Church tour or something. In it he might talk about theology, or whatever. Recently my priest, went to the local Serbian Church (I'm in the GOA) and gave a lecture in the Church there about issues that that Church is dealing with. Afterwards we all prayed, but it was not a Liturgy or anything.

Also, I was assuming that when you said tongues, you are refering to the historic intepretation of tongues, understood by the fathers and he Church for 2000 years. When Orthodox talk about speaking in tongues its not about talking jiberish, its about talking in a REAL human language that one doesn't know how to speak.

For example, I once a read a story of a Greek priest, who was visiting someone in (I think france) who were former parishinors. They had been away for many years, and had a yougn daughter, who didn't speak greek, but only french. The priest didn't speak french but only Greek. Anyways, he went to their home to anoint the daughter, because the daughter was very ill and near death. The priest went into the girls room, and asked the parents to leave them for a time, they did. Shortly thereafter, the priest came out of the room, and said, "I thought you said she didn't speak greek, I understood everything she said." The parents replied, "she doesn't speak greek, only french." They then wnet in to talk to the girl, and the girl said, "i thought father could only speak greek and not french" They answered that he can't speak french. Yet the reality was the priest and the girl carried on a conversation for over a half hour, yet neither could speak the language the other knew!

I'm sure I botched some of the story up, (as I dont think it was french but something else) but this is a fairly contemporary event, like in the last 100yrs I believe. Anyways, what took place with that priest is what Bibical tongues is all about. It never had anything to do with the charismatic tongues. It was about what that priest and little girl experienced, not "blah, yadda, garble" :=)

BTW I too was charismatic at one point, just in case you wondered. :)


Hope this makes sense as to what I'm talking about. :)



 

OrthodoxCelt

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I am also a recent convert from the charismatic movement. I have red In Peace Let Us Pray to the Lord by Fr. Alexis (Trader), he talks about how tongues is the "prayer of the heart" or the "Jesus Prayer". In the book he says that the problem wasn't that everyone was speaking at the same time but that nothing was said at all (everyone not saying a word but praying silently). I'm not sure this is correct either. I asked my priest and he never came out and said it was heresy but simply said not everything that has an icon on the cover is accepted as dogmatic by the church. So, I still haven't figured it out for myself but I leave that up to the Lord.
In the (what I like to call) "Charis-maniac" church I had many experiences with so called "tongues" and other crazy phenomena and I can tell you that none of it was the real McCoy. All of it was of the flesh and some of it bordered on the occult. I've "laughed in the spirit" and faked being "slain in the spirit" and all of it in my experience was just a show. I thought back then, I was feeling the Holy Spirit, but it was just a psychological and emotional seeking out for pleasure. I was trying so hard to feel good and achieve the next "spiritual" high. It was not spiritual at all, it was all about me. Now that I've come to realize what true spirituality is (a dying to yourself and and the passions) I thank God for delivering me out of deception and receiving me into his Body the Church.
Don't think that now that I am Orthodox I never get emotional or feel anything, because I do. There's no greater feeling than hearing the priest say "The servant of God Patrick receives the body and blood of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and for life everlasting." My first communion I cried like a baby, realizing that God had allowed me to partake of himself despite my many many screw ups. I was told, those moments are what the fathers called consulations, not to be expected but to be cherished like a cold cup of water during a marathon.
Anyways, sorry I went off on that tangent, but I guess I'm just trying to say that tongues and everything else miraculous is not to be saught out to fulfill some selfish emotional or psychological motive. Even though I don't understand what speaking in tongues may be, I'm not worried about it. I just concern myself with trying to run the race that Christ has set before me. All the other things are secondary.
 

peterfarrington

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From the Cath. Enc. (I disagree with the particular author's de-mythologizing tongues but some of the detail is useful, such as below)

"In post-Biblical times St. Irenaeus tells us that "many" of his contemporaries were heard "speaking through the Spirit in all kinds (pantodapais) of tongues" ("Contra haer.", V, vii; Eusebius, "Hist. eccl.", V, vii). St. Francis Xavier is said to have preached in tongues unknown to him and St. Vincent Ferrer while using his native tongue was understood in others."
 

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Very interesting, PT.
Thanks. I like this excerpt. It supports my not-yet-finished-retranslation of I Cor 14: 26-30.
Demetri
 

JohnCassian

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I think that part of the problem, also, is that we're leaping far too quickly to the 'supernatural'. The word 'tongue' or 'tongues' in Greek (glossa) typically refers simply to languages. So, for example, in Acts 2, the Apostles are speaking in tongues that are understood by everyone, which are precisely different languages.

I would argue that St. Paul is speaking of something quite simple and practical. For at least the first 5 centuries of the existence of the Church, there was not one homily. On a typical Lord's Day, any lay preachers present would preach, followed possibly by some Deacons, after which all Presbyters present would preach, and then finally the Bishop would preach. In Acts 2, St. Peter clearly, with his quote from Joel, identifies prophecying with the proclamation of the Gospel from the Scriptures. Therefore, when St. Paul is saying that those who prophecy should do so one at a time, and in good order, he is arguing precisely for this usage, that those who are going to preach should do so one at a time, so that everyone can hear every one of them.

Likewise, in Israelite religion, Hebrew was a sacred language. Only Hebrew could be spoken within the Temple courts. This was, at the time, the most shocking part of Acts 2, that the Gospel was being proclaimed to all people in all languages, not only to the Hebrews. The Roman Empire was a cosmopolitan society. The Church in Corinth might expect to see Romans, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Ethiopians, and Jews fairly regularly in her midst. And these people did not all speak the same language. St. Paul is admonishing them not to preach in a language that is unknown to the rest of the body unless there is someone there to interpret.

One can imagine a typical Lord's Day in Corinth where perhaps a travelling preacher from Jerusalem might arrive and start preaching in Aramaic. Those who knew the language might gather around him, while the others stand confused. Then a presbyter who knew Egyptian might begin to preach to his fellow countrymen. Then someone from the upper social classes might begin to orate in Latin. The rest of the congregation might cluster around someone else preaching in Greek. With all the noise, you can imagine all of the preachers raising their volume levels to be heard. Then you can imagine what a new potential convert might think walking into this cacophonous, disorderly scene.

Or at least, St. Paul could imagine, and so he gave the admonishment to the Corinthian Church to have those who preach proclaim one at a time, and in one language at a time, and not in a language that was not understood by all unless there was someone there to interpret and translate.

There are other passages in which St. Paul describes his internal prayer and mystical experiences, which I fervently believe in, but this isn't one of them.

As for why the Orthodox Church no longer practices this...we do, though with today's American audience's attention span, we're lucky if we can be made to sit (let alone stand!) still for even one homily.
 

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Chuck S. said:
For example, I once a read a story of a Greek priest, who was visiting someone in (I think france) who were former parishinors. They had been away for many years, and had a yougn daughter, who didn't speak greek, but only french. The priest didn't speak french but only Greek. Anyways, he went to their home to anoint the daughter, because the daughter was very ill and near death. The priest went into the girls room, and asked the parents to leave them for a time, they did. Shortly thereafter, the priest came out of the room, and said, "I thought you said she didn't speak greek, I understood everything she said." The parents replied, "she doesn't speak greek, only french." They then wnet in to talk to the girl, and the girl said, "i thought father could only speak greek and not french" They answered that he can't speak french. Yet the reality was the priest and the girl carried on a conversation for over a half hour, yet neither could speak the language the other knew!
Unless this is another similiar experience, you did botch up the story a bit ;).

This happened with Father Porphyrios and the young woman was indeed French. Initially there were two other young women in the room with them, both Greeks, one of whom spoke French and was acting as interpreter. After a little bit, Father Porphyrios sent the girl out side who was interpreting but allowed the other who spoke no French to remain for a little bit longer. She heard Father Porphyrios speaking in Greek and the young woman responding in French after which he sent her outside too. When the young French woman finally came outside she was full of joy but could not understand why everyone had said that Father Porphyrios could not speak French since the whole time after the first girl had left the room he had spoken to her in perfect French!

:eek: :D ;D

John.
 

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This is an example of what I believe took place at Pentecost:  The priest spoke Greek, his interlocutor spoke French, the Holy Spirit acted as a Universal Translater, and each understood the other.
 

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Well this is going to be an interesting first post, but here it goes  :)

People are pretty good at recognizing real language from gibberish. People watching a movie where some "alien" is speaking can quickly figure out that the actor is just making noise. As a result it is not uncommon for some type of actual language to be used for such tasks. Sometimes a language is created for the role, other times a relatively obscure but existing language is used by the actor. In any case the idea is that you can sometimes tell when someone is just making noises.

I have been attending a Protestant church for a bit over 18 years now that accepts the existence of the "gift of tongues" and defines them as a supernatural language. I have yet to hear an example of the "gift" that I was able to recognize as language. This does not prove anything, but I feel that it represents a reasonable sample for my current view of the claims.
 
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