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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

…those who are in truth His disciples, receiving grace from Him do in His name perform miracles, so as to promote the welfare of other men, according to the gift which each one has received from Him.  For some do certainly and truly drive out devils, so that those who have thus been cleansed from evil spirits frequently both believe in Christ, and join themselves to the church. Others have foreknowledge of things to come: they see visions, and utter prophetic expressions. Others still, heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they are made whole. Yea, moreover, as I have said, the dead even have been raised up, and remained among us for many years. And what shall I more say? 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…9

From these passages it is clear that a wide range of miraculous gifts were operative in the church at Lyons, where Irenaeus was writing, sometime after A.D. 178.


At a slightly later period, Tertullian of Carthage, the father of Latin theology, wrote some of his most important works. His profound influence upon Christian theology in the West is almost universally recognized. His works provided the terminology that was to be used by theologians, not only in the ensuing Christological and Trinitarian debates, but throughout all of Western church history down to the present day. He is probably best remembered for his defense of the earliest forms of the doctrine of the Trinity in his refutations of various heresies, including Sabellianism, which reduced the status of the persons of the Trinity to modes or manifestations of one God. According to the Sabellians, the Son and the Holy Spirit were merely temporal modes of the self-revelation of the Father. One of the passages from Tertullian that is quoted in this connection is from Tertullian’s Against Praxeas, according to which Praxeas, who was a Sabellian, had put to flight the Paraclete, and crucified the Father.10 Such statements illustrate Tertullian’s concern for the full personhood of each of the persons of the Trinity and make him a champion of orthodox Trinitarianism. But it is of even greater interest to read Tertullian’s statement in its context, for while his concern for the full personhood of all three persons of the Trinity is clearly evident, his primary concerns for the recognition of spiritual gifts. He wrote:

For after the Bishop of Rome had acknowledged the prophetic gifts of Montanus, Prisca, and Maximilla, and, in consequence of the acknowledgement, had bestowed his peace on the churches of Asia and Phrygia, he, by importunately urging false accusations against the prophets themselves and their churches, and insisting on the authority of the bishop’s predecessors in the see, compelled him to recall the pacific letter which he had issued, as well as to desist from his purpose of acknowledging the said gifts. By this Praxeas did a twofold service for the devil at Rome: he drove away prophecy, and he brought in heresy; he put to flight the Paraclete, and he crucified the Father.”11

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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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