Sunday, 9 October 2016

Simon Whom He Surnamed Peter - Part 30

For the next weeks, my Sunday postings will be a transcript of the book "Simon Whom He Surnamed Peter" by the Jersey historian, the Reverend G.R. Bailleine (1873 – 1966).

Most of Balleine's books are either currently in print - as for example his History of Jersey - or online in the form of PDF versions. This book is not, so this is something different. As well as being a Jersey historian, Balleine was also a priest in the Church of England, and Ministre Deservant at St Brelade's Church for a time

by G.R. Balleine

The following Notes are not exhaustive studies of disputed questions. They merely indicate why, where scholars disagree, the author has adopted one view and not another.


Now that we are delivered from the burden of an Infallible Book, this question has to be asked. Acts was written by the author of the Third Gospel, whom the second century believed, probably correctly, to be Luke, a Greek doctor, converted by Paul on his second missionary tour. He joined Paul at Troas, as he quietly shows by substituting we for they: `They came to Troas'; `We came to Samothrace'. This means that from Chapter XVI he is a first-rate authority. But his earlier chapters deal with things that happened twenty years before he had heard of Christianity. And these are the chapters about Peter.

Moreover he wrote late in life. Since he incorporated in his Gospel half of Mark's, which was written after Peter's death, and since Acts was written later than the Gospel, this and other indications s0uggest 75 as a probable date for its composition. So, if Pentecost happened in 30, he was writing forty-five years after the event. By this time he would have to rely largely on written reports. So his accuracy depends on the quality of these documents.

Behind his first five chapters Harnack detects two sources, which he calls A and B. A is the older and more factual. B retells the same stories with miraculous trimmings. In Acts the order is; The Gift of the Spirit (B), the Community of Goods (B), the Healing Miracle (A), the Apostles' Imprisonment (A), the Gift of the Spirit (A), the Community of Goods (A), Miracles of Healing (B), the Apostles' Imprisonment (B).

We have two versions of each incident; and, since A is the better authority, we must adopt A's order: The Healing of the Cripple, the Apostles' Imprisonment, the Gift of the Spirit, the Community of Goods. But we must not ignore B, which often adds useful details.

When A and B end, Luke is left with only isolated stories. Life in Jerusalem was measured by the Great Feasts; yet, though his record centres round Jerusalem, no Feast is mentioned from the Whitsunday Pentecost to a Passover twelve years later, when Peter was arrested. This shows that he had no chronological narrative to guide him.

But for the stories he does tell his authority is probably good. Paul would have told him about Stephen and his own conversion. Philip the Evangelist, in whose house he had stayed (Acts xxi. 8), would have told him of Simon Magus, the Ethiopian Eunuch, Tabitha and the baptism of Cornelius. Though his opening chapters are full of gaps, often gaps of several years, for the facts he relates he has sound evidence behind him.


The Enyclopaedia Britannica's definition is probably correct: `Abnormal and inarticulate vocal utterance under stress of religious excitement.'

Our earliest account of it is in Paul's first Epistle to Corinth. `Tongue-speaking' had broken out there, and the Church had asked his advice. Paul knew it well. `I speak with tongues,' he wrote, `more than you all'; but he added, `I would rather speak five words with my mind than ten thousand in a tongue.' `If I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays; but my mind is a blank.' `He who speaks in a tongue speaks to God, not to man, for no one understands him.' `If outsiders come in, will they not say you are mad?'

Tongue-speaking, as Paul knew it, was unintelligible. Luke was mistaken when he thought it meant speaking in foreign languages. Such a miracle was needless at Pentecost, for pilgrims to the Feast would be Jews or Proselytes, who would understand Greek or Aramaic, which the Apostles spoke fluently.

And no philological miracle was needed for their future work, for Greek was in use all round the Mediterranean, and would be understood in any land they were likely to visit.

Acts has two other references to `tongues'. Cornelius's household `spake with tongues', while Peter was preaching, and he described this as `the same gift that God gave us'. But why should a family group address one another in foreign languages? When Paul baptized some disciples of the Baptist, they too `spake in tongues'; but surely not in Ethiopic!

One can see how the mistake arose. `Tongue-speaking' did not occur often. Luke had probably never heard it. When he found in his source that the Apostles spoke `in other tongues', he took this to mean foreign languages; so he pictured onlookers asking, `How is it that we hear them speaking our own language?'

Whereas the `other tongues' were something quite different. Strong emotion must find an outlet, and the easiest channel is the voice. A deeply stirred crowd hoots or cheers. The greater |the excitement, the less easy it is to articulate clearly.

In modern times religious meetings have been swept with waves of unintelligible babble. Haythornwaite wrote of the early Mormons: `The more illiterate cannot command words as quickly as they wish, and, instead of waiting for a suitable word, break forth in the first sound their tongue can articulate: "O me sonto vonte! Sonto von terry!" '

Many examples could be quoted. In the seventeenth century a struggle broke out inside the Roman Church between Jesuits and Jansenists. By the eighteenth the Jansenists were reduced to a feverish little remnant. A revivalist fervour inflamed them. They saw visions, healed the sick, proclaimed, `The Lord is at hand!', and the thing that amazed onlookers was their speaking with tongues. `In the midst of their worship, they talk an extemporized jargon, which no one understands, not even themselves.' `It is a psalmody, not easy to describe. Some say it is Slavonic; but no one understands.'

A century later a Scottish girl startled a prayer-meeting by speaking `at great length in an unknown tongue'. `Possessed,' wrote her Minister, `by some irresistible power, she uttered for nearly an hour sounds which seemed to be language'. An eloquent Presbyterian, Edward Irving, had at this time the largest London congregation, and one of his elders brought her to London. In small group-meetings here tongue-speaking spread, till it could not be confined to these. One Sunday in 1831, while Irving was preaching, a lady began to shout; a schoolmaster followed her example. But Irving refused `to restrain' the Spirit', and `tongue-speaking' became a regular feature of his services. Reporters flocked to the church. The `tongues' were taken down in short-hand. `Forrima hoopo tanto noostem,' runs one version, `epoongos vangami.' This helps us to guess what Pentecostal tongue-speech may have sounded like.

If it was incoherent gibberish, the sneer of the onlookers, `They are drunk', and Paul's warning, `Will they not say you are mad?', are credible. This is less likely, if the speakers were proving themselves accomplished linguists.

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