In researching for a presentation in my 1 Corinthians seminar, I was made aware of what Gerald Hovenden claims are occurrences of “tongues” in the Old Testament. The first, and most certain – though still challenged, is that of Saul in 1 Samuel 10. Saul gets caught up in some sort of ecstatic uttering of prophecy that was taking place with a band of prophets. Then later in 1 Samuel 19:20-24, there is inspired speech again, which is presumably intelligible. While Hovenden concludes that these are not episodes of “speaking in tongues” – they demonstrate that ecstatic uttering of prophecy was known in OT times. Then, Harrisville points out interesting occurrences of similar behavior in the Intertestamental Period. “Similar parallels appear in Jub. 25:14;78 in the Test. Judah 25:3;79 in 1 Enoch, Similitudes 40 and 71:11 ; in 4 Mac. 10:21,80 and in the Martyrdom of Isaiah 5:14 which from the standpoint of the history of forms at least belongs to the period of Antiochus. Taken as a whole, these parallels appear to support the contention that for the OT and Inter-Testamental Jewish community, glossolalie utterance was not regarded as a category separate from the ecstatic per se. A reading of Philo, e.g., tends to reinforce this position. On the other hand, with the exception of the parallels in Jub. and the Test. Judah from which it may be inferred the inspired speech constituted intelligible utterance, the remainder ranges from references to a modicum of intelligibility (1 Enoch, Similitudes 40) to the unintelligible or inarticulate (I Enoch 71:11 and the Martyrdom of Isaiah 5:14), thus yielding soil for the development of a term exclusively applied to ecstatic speech. p47 of Speaking in Tongues: A Lexicographical Study.

While none of this demonstrates the same behavior or practice mentioned in the New Testament, specifically in 1 Corinthians 12-14, one can see the background against which the Apostle Paul will make his argument.

Jumping forward a few Millennia, here is a video of the modern Charismatic expression of “speaking in tongues”.

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