Tongues: Confused by Ecstasy - READ MORE

Fully revised—May 2011.
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tonguesBook_sml.jpgThe focus of this study is upon ecstasy as the confusing antecedent of Corinthian glossolalia. Most commentators accept ecstasy as the most significant characteristic of the Corinthian Christian glossolalic phenomenon. This assumption is questioned in this research, because it needs to be clarified. It is contended 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. It is not to be seen as an essential element of glossolalia.

Most commentators agree that the glossolalic phenomenon in the Acts is different from that at Corinth. 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 a 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.

It should be added, that the Acts experiences speak of valid one-stage linguistic phenomena, whilst the gift to the church in 1 Corinthians is clearly a two-stage phenomenon.

Bergsma, 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 benefits derived, and indeed the mischief it generates.

The overall significance of the study is 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.

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