Did John Calvin Speak in Tongues?

by Scott

Yep, you heard (or read) the question correctly – Did John Calvin speak in tongues?

In a somewhat recent post at a continuationst blog (not unlike our co-authored blog here at To Be Continued), the author, Jeff Doles, makes the reader aware of a student publication of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary known as The Paper. On page 6 of the March 24, 1975, issue, there is a short piece by Quent Warford and it is entitled, “Calvin Speaks Unknown Tongue.”

The Paper reports:

The volume which allegedly contains the account of Calvin’s ecstatic utterances is in the library at the Episcopal Divinity School. It is his biography by his friend and confidant, Theodore Beza, entitled De Vitam Iohannes Cauvin. It is contained in The Vault, the Rare Book Room at E.D.S. Entering The Vault involves a great deal of red tape, and the invocation of the higher powers of the B.T.I. Prof. Hiles’ dining-hall pass also came in handy.

De Vitam Ihohannes Cauvin was published posthumously by Beza. All it contains concerning glossolalia is a small entry, confided to Beza by Calvin, shortly before the latter’s death. On several oc­casions, Calvin, in his devotions, found himself uttering a lingua non nota et cognota mini. That is, the language was not known or understood by him.

Himself a skilled linguist, Calvin set about to discover the orthography of the utterance. Unable to trace it, he confided to Beza that although the language was Hebraic in character, he yet feared that he had spoken a lingua barbarorum. That is, he feared having spoken in an accursed tongue, such as what was spoken by the Canaanites.

The matter was only a minor one to Beza, who allots it only a few sentences in De Vitam Iohannes Cauvin. Calvin’s concern was only a matter of linguistics. Therefore, there is not enough primary source material to build a case one way or the other.

An interesting read, nonetheless. And, no, it’s not tabloid. You can read the full article at the continuationist blog here.

By the way, I hope to finish out my series on the gift of tongues very soon. I probably have a couple of more posts to put up. My hope is to post the next article later this week. For now, you can see the first 5 articles below:

  • Article 1 – An Introduction to Spirit-inspired speech
  • Article 2 – Some intro thoughts specifically on tongues
  • Article 3 – Some more in depth thoughts on ‘tongues of angels’ in 1 Corinthians 13
  • Article 4 – The 3 purposes of tongues: praise, prayer and proclamation
  • Article 5 – The 2 uses of tongues: personal and public

10 responses to “Did John Calvin Speak in Tongues?

  1. A similar account is contained in the Confessions of St. Patrick.

  2. There are two points to take into account:
    First of all, considering the impact Calvin had on the short & long term in the spiritual realm of his own time and the times to come, I would say ‘yes’ he spoke in tongues.
    Secondly, taking into consideration that the first goal of speaking in tongues is to build up the believer who utters it, I believe he did spoke in tongues as he certainly needed it if you regard what he has achieved (without knowing what he would achieve), and, the fact that there was a lot of seen and unseen opposition.

    And, both points, count probably as well for Luther. I suppose he spoke also in tongues.

  3. Patrick M –

    It’s interesting to note the possibility that some people were used greatly of God but might have never utilised the personal practise of speaking-praying in tongues. This is interesting to think about with Calvin, but I also note God’s grace upon so many in history that might have never spoken in such tongues.

  4. Scott, this is news to me. I’m really surprised by this. One of the early church fathers, Tertullian, also spoke in tongues but not many know of this either. He wrote a series of books on tongues but it has been lost.

  5. No doubt many of the Early Church Fathers spoke with Tongues, but their writings on these Spiritual experiences have been concealed or intentionally destroyed. Much of the truth about these men will be revealed.

  6. Pingback: Can I Be Reformed And Charismatic? « Jesus is the Justice

  7. here’s the full text of Beza’s book:

    Click to access Beza%20Life%20of%20John%20Calvin.pdf

    I’ll be pleased if you can find any English translation of the phrase in that book.

    Here it is, for good measure, at Google Books:

  8. Pingback: Can I Be Reformed And A Continuationist? « Jesus is the Justice

  9. Very interesting. Has anyone done more research on this matter? Sounds like a hoax to me.

  10. Christopher Garcia

    Hi Scott,
    Do you have a copy of this paper by Quent Warford?

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