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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: June 2014

Chapter 2 - Background and context

Summary

Charismata in the early church

The early church was a community of the Holy Spirit, and the freedom of expression and spontaneity of its worship may not have been very different from that of many Pentecostal and Charismatic churches today. Some of the characteristic features and ecstatic phenomena of Pentecostalism like prophecy, healing and speaking in tongues were common. Although not all scholars agree on their frequency, the New Testament at least bears witness to unusual manifestations of the Spirit, especially in the book of Acts and the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians. Speaking in tongues, prophecy and miraculous healings are among other ‘spiritual gifts’ or charismata mentioned several times in Acts, and although their frequency is less noticeable in the epistles of Paul, he gives directions for their use in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. Christian worship in the first century was quite different from what the experience is for most people today. Nevertheless, throughout the history of Christianity there have been reports of charismata and other phenomena associated with the emergence of Pentecostalism in the early twentieth century. Some of these reports are discussed in this chapter.