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Tongues and Other Miraculous Gifts in the Second Through Nineteenth Centuries, Part 1: From the Early Church to the 3rd Century, by Richard M. Riss

From the fact that even to this day the gifts of prophesy exist among us Christians, you should realize that the gifts which had resided among your people have now been transferred to us.5

In this passage, he refers to the gifts of prophesy in the plural. Because prophecy was closely associated with the other miraculous gifts, this would have been perfectly natural.  In a later chapter, Justin writes:

“Now if you look around, you can see among us Christians both men and women endowed with the gifts from the Spirit of God.”6

Justin specifically relates these gifts to Isaiah 11, which says, “And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And He will delight in the fear of the Lord. And He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make a decision by what His ears hear.” It is clear, therefore, that Justin is speaking with specific reference to the gifts of revelation. He is responding to a question that Trypho had asked with respect to the Messiah. Trypho wanted to know why it would have been necessary for Jesus to be filled with the Spirit at His baptism in the Jordan river in fulfillment of Isaiah 11, since if He was God incarnate He should have already been endowed with such gifts from the time of His birth. Justin’s answer was that it was not for His sake that He was baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit, but it was for our sake, that we might be partakers with Him in the spiritual gifts if we are in Christ. It is in support of this argument that he makes the statement quoted above, that “if you look around you can see among us Christians both men and women endowed with gifts from the Spirit of God.”7


The early church father Irenaeus specifically mentions tongues as a gift operative in his own day. In Against Heresies, written in the late second century, Irenaeus stated that there were many who spoke in tongues at the time He wrote as follows:

In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the church, who possess prophetic gifts, and who through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages, and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men, and declare the mysteries of God.”8

“It is not possible to name the number of gifts which the church, scattered throughout the whole world has received from God, in the name of Jesus Christ.”

In this passage, the association of the gift of tongues (or languages) with prophesy is underscored. Once again, there is a reference to prophetic gifts in the plural, and there is a clear association of tongues and prophesy with other revelatory gifts. An entire series of such gifts is mentioned in an earlier portion of Against Heresies, where Irenaeus writes:

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Category: Church History, Fall 1998, Pneuma Review

About the Author: Richard M. Riss (as of Fall 1998) is Assistant Professor of Church History at Zarephath Bible Institute in Zarephath, New Jersey. He holds a Master of Christian Studies degree from Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia (1979) and a Master of Arts in Church History from Trinity Divinity School (1988). He is currently finishing a Ph.D. degree in Church History at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. Richard M. Riss has authored several books including The Evidence of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (1977), The Latter Rain Movement of 1948 and the Mid-Twentieth Century Evangelical Awakening (1987), A Survey of 20th-Century Revival Movements in North America and with Kathryn J. Riss, Images of Revival (1997).

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