Sunday, April 28, 2013

X: Xenolalia


In case some of you don't know, I am and have always been Pentecostal. Pentecostals are the ones that speak in tongues. I believe in speaking in tongues, and in fact do it on occasion. The fancy term for speaking in tongues is glossolalia. It usually refers to speaking in an unknown, or heavenly language through the power of the Holy Spirit. But did you know that is not the only kind of tongue-talking early (and some current) Pentecostals believed in?

There is another kind, called xenolalia, which means speaking in an earthly language one has never personally learned. Experiences with xenolalia have not been well documented in an academically reputable way, so that causes some people to doubt it really ever happens/happened. But here is an excerpt from a book by Roberts Liardon called God's Generals that will give you an example of what I am talking about. This story reputedly took place in the Tabernacle of Indianapolis built by Maria Woodworth-Etter in 1918 while she pastored there:
"One incredible Tabernacle story involved a Romanian family. Their daughter suffered from tuberculosis and two Pentecostal women had come to their house to pray for her. Discovering that their daughter had been healed after the prayer, the family searched for a Pentecostal church and found the Tabernacle. During their first service, a lady who had been miraculously healed from cancer, stood and delivered a message in tongues for twenty-eight minutes. Some wondered why Sister Etter allowed her to continue so freely in the Spirit for such a length of time [because, believe it or not, even tongue-talking Pentecostal churches believe in order!]. But their questions were answered the next Sunday when it was learned that this woman was speaking Romanian, a language she had never heard nor learned.

"This little Romanian family heard a message from God in their own language as they sat listening, completely overwhelmed. The father was the only one who could speak English. It has been said that Maria and the Tabernacle members 'learned to expect such experiences as much as some congregations expect to sing the doxology at the end of their services.'"
 
I have also heard stories of early Pentecostal missionaries who would set out for foreign countries without learning the language, expecting that God would speak the language through them as a supernatural sign to the foreigners of His presence with the missionary.

As far as I know, I have never witnessed xenolalia, though I have witnessed plenty of glossolalia. The biblical reference for xenolalia is in Acts chapter 2, when people were first reported to have spoken in tongues, and people from "all nations" heard the gospel preached in their own languages by local, unlearned disciples in Jerusalem where they had all gathered for a national feast.

I know some traditions believe spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues have ceased. But have you ever witnessed xenolalia...or have you ever witnessed God move in a supernatural way so that no one could deny it was the power of God? I would love to hear of your experiences.

P.S. No, I'm not a snake-handler...I'm not that kind of Pentecostal. ;)
 

11 comments:

  1. A great post for a most awkward letter, You did well .

    Yvonne.

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  2. It's not only Pentecostals that speak in tongues. I'm extremely Catholic, I can speak in tongues. On Pentecost Sunday when the disciple's came out of hiding they were all speaking in tongues, and people from differing nations understood what they were saying. I believe that's how it goes.

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    1. Yes!! I have heard that others do, too, but have not come across any who claim to do so. Thank you for sharing!

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  3. My dad can speak in tongues and he's just a run of the mill, non-denominational, Bible believing, Christ following Christian. The first time I heard him, I was a bit scared as I'd never heard him do it before. But now it fascinates me. And it makes me happy that he has such a close relationship with God.

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    1. That is awesome, Rebeccah. I really respect people who let God reveal Himself to them even in ways they don't understand. That is really a leap of faith sometimes! Thank you for stopping by!

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  4. I had never actually heard of this word before. Thanks for teaching e something new!

    #atozchallenge, Kristen's blog: kristenhead.blogspot.com

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  5. I grew up baptist, then penecostal, then interdenominational, then non-denominational. I can honestly say that I've seen speaking in tongues all throughout, and I received the gift of tongues at an early age, praying in my living room. As my gift started to grow, I actually was able to give interpretation. Is there a fancy name for that? Tongues with interpretation? Just curious. Love your article.

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    1. As far as I know, yes, it is simply referred to as tongues and interpretation...but Scripture seems to view it very positively - it is what makes the tongues practical for edification :). Thank you for stopping by!

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  6. I have witnessed xenolalia before. It was at the church I attended since I was younger. A woman visited to preach that night. Other churches in our congregation came to hear the Word and while getting ready to start our final prayer and alter call, one woman started to speak in tongues. Hers was different. She was an African American Woman and when she spoke in tongues it was from an Asian country.

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  7. I have been in a Pentecostal church since I was about 7 years old. My entire immediate family has received the gift of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. My sister and my son have both been missionaries to Africa for a number of years now. Their gift of tongues was not so they could preach in the language of he country they are in but for special lifting up during their prayer time. Not all could be explained here. John Sherrill wrote a book that may interest you. They Speak with other Tongues. Amazon has it. He started out as a skeptical reporter to write about it and expose it if untrue and ended up experiencing it.

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  8. John G Lake's Book "Adventures in God" (Public Domain) includes a couple of stories where Xenolalia occurred. The one that sticks out the most in my memory was a little girl (~7 y/o) spoke in tongues in a Church service in South Africa, and a man suddenly perked up, as she was witnessing to him in his native language.

    You should be able to find the PDF online by simply searching for "Adventures in God PDF". It's public domain, so no worries about copyright issues. The copyright expired 30+ years ago.

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