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Tongues and Other Miraculous Gifts in the Second Through Nineteenth Centuries, Part 2: 3rd to the 5th Centuries


John of Egypt and Pachomius

There are records of many fourth-century individuals who had various gifts of miracles. Among these individuals was John of Egypt (d.394), who was especially famous for his prophecies, his miracles, and his ability to read the thoughts and discover the secret sins of those who visited him.39

Another fourth-century figure associated with miraculous gifts was Pachomius (A.D. 287-346), who sometimes spoke in Greek and Latin, even though he had never learned either language.40


The Lives of Anthony and Martin

Two of the most important biographies of this period are the Life of Anthony by Athanasius and the Life of St. Martin by Sulpitius Severus. Anthony was a pioneer of monasticism in Egypt and Martin was one of the first to lead a monastic life in Gaul. Both of these individuals were noteworthy for their devotion to God and for the miracles that accompanied their respective ministries. In the Life of St. Martin, Chapter 16, Severus wrote that “the gift of accomplishing cures was so largely possessed by Martin, that scarcely any sick person came to him for assistance without being at once restored to health.”41 A full recapitulation of all of the miracles recorded in the biographies of these two early monks would be beyond the scope of this paper, but both are filled with many specific examples of healings and other miracles, recorded by contemporary authors.

By the time of the late fourth century, gifts of the Spirit were far more prevalent in the monastic movement than they were in the mainline churches. Monasticism was the movement of spiritual awakening and renewal during the fourth and fifth centuries. It was an attempt to avoid the compromises that the Church had made during the fourth century, when Christianity became first the preferred, and finally the state religion of the Roman Empire. As a result of this, many adaptations were made to paganism. The Church increased in wealth, and positions of Church leadership became rather prestigious. In its attempt to avoid these developments, monasticism sought to re-invigorate the Church with the life of New Testament Christianity. In keeping with this, there was an expectation of contemporary miracles at this time.


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Category: Church History, Winter 1999

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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