A Christian religious phenomenon in which the believer, in an ecstatic state, speaks in a foreign language or utters unintelligible sounds that are taken to contain a divine message.
Many Christians believe the genuine gift of tongues to have been confined to earliest Christianity, and first came to the apostles at Pentecost, or the celebration seven weeks after Passover. Classic Pentecostal Christians see speaking in tongues as a definite sign of baptism by the Holy Spirit.
Other groups that advocate glossolalia are the Shakers, Quakers, and Latter-day Saints, or Mormons. Early Methodists spoke in tongues, as did some Presbyterians during the 1830s. During the Shakers's wave of spiritual manifestations (1837-47), worshipers composed hymns and prayers in tongues delivered by the spirits. Since these languages were unintelligible to mortals, the songs were learned phonetically.
Modern charismatics, such as the Pentacostalists and Charismatics, maintain that the worshiper may or may not speak in tongues following the conversion experience. Like the gifts of healing, wisdom, prophecy, miracles, and spirit divination, the ability to speak in tongues is not given to everyone. Many psychologists explain the phenomenon as a hypnotic trance that results from religious excitement.
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