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and Faith Movements
Theories to Historic Documentation
Happened to the Authentic Gifts?
Comparing Theories to Historic
Comparing Theories to Scripture
Comparing Theories to Scripture
What Happened to the Gifts:
Scriptural Indications (Part 1)
What Happened to the Gifts:
Scriptural Indications (Part 2)
Section 1 | Section
2 | Section 3 | Section
| Section 5
us establish the timing for each of these theories. With regard
to the first theory, the last of the 12 apostles to die was
most likely John. So, when is the date of John's death?
"According to 2d-century authorities John died at an advanced
age at Ephesus (c.A.D. 100). However, many scholars believe
that John the apostle and John of Ephesus were two different
persons." (Bartleby.com, The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth
Edition. 2001. "John, Saint.")
"At the end of the 2nd century, Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus,
claims that John's tomb is at Ephesus, identifies him with
the beloved disciple, and adds that he "was a priest, wearing
the sacerdotal plate, both martyr and teacher." That John
died in Ephesus is also stated by Irenaeus , bishop of Lyon
c. AD 180, who says John wrote his Gospel and letters
at Ephesus and Revelation at Patmos." (Britannica.com, "John
the Apostle, Saint.")
From the two above sources, we can see that John's death is
confirmed by both Irenaeus and Polycrates to have occurred
around 100 AD.
Now, when was the New Testament completed? This question can
be simply answered by finding out when the last book of the
New Testament was written.
"Revelation or Apocalypse, the last book of the
New Testament. It was written c.A.D. 95 on Patmos Island
off the coast of Asia Minor by an exile named John, in
the wake of local persecution by the Emperor Domitian (A.D.
81-96)." (Bartleby.com, The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth
Edition. 2001. "Revelation.")
From this excerpt, we can see that Revelation is traditionally
dated to have been completed around the year 95 AD, which
is during the reign of Domitian. This fact is based around
a quote from Irenaeus.
3. ...We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing
positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary
that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present
time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the
apocalyptic vision. For that was seen no very long time since,
but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian's reign.
(Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book V., Chapter XXX.)
Irenaeus' statement here forms the foundation for dating the
book of Revelation since Irenaeus' recounts that the apocalyptic
vision of John was seen "towards the end of Domitian's reign,"
which extended from 81-96 AD. Therefore, we can conclude that
the close of the New Testament canon occurred around 95 AD
with the writing of the last book of the New Testament, the
book of Revelation.
The reason that the destruction of the Temple is often taken
to mark the end of the charismatic gifts is that with the
destruction of the Temple came the end of the Sadducees and
also the entire Pharisaic religious system. It is implied
in this theory that the gifts existed entirely (and we say
entirely on purpose) as a testimony to the Jews who were still
under this religious system. Therefore, once the system ceased,
the gifts ceased as well.
(NOTE: If the gifts existed partially as a testimony to the
Jews under this religious system but also existed for other
reasons, then the destruction of the Temple would not necessarily
mark the end of the gifts so long as the other reasons for
the gifts continued passed that point in time.)
And we can also identify the date when the Jewish Temple was
"The rebellion against Rome that began in AD 66 soon focused
on the Temple and effectively ended with the Temple's destruction
on the 9th/10th of Av, AD 70." (Britannica.com, "Jerusalem,
"Jewish Temples...The temple of Herod, to which Jesus went,
was destroyed A.D. 70; its ruins have symbolized to the
Jews their dispersion." (Bartleby.com, The Columbia Encyclopedia,
Sixth Edition. 2001. "Temple, edifice of worship.")
As the two excerpts above demonstrate, the Jewish Temple was
destroyed in 70 AD.
Now that we have all three dates, we can compare them to the
historical documentation regarding the occurrence of the gifts
in the first and second century. If the gifts passed away
with the death of the last apostle, then the gifts would have
passed around 100 AD with the death of John the Apostle. If
the gifts passed away with the close of the New Testament
canon of scripture, then the gifts would have passed away
around 95 AD when John wrote the book of Revelation. If the
gifts passed away with the destruction of the Temple, then
the gifts would have passed away around 70 AD.
So, in short, we find the charismatic gifts occurring in orthodox
churches after the year 100 AD, then all three of these theories
would be invalidated based upon a comparison to historical
We should restate for the record that Justin Martyr lived
110-165 AD and Irenaeus lived 115-202 AD. Both authors are
"For the prophetical gifts remain with us, even to the
present time. And hence you ought to understand that [the
gifts] formerly among your nation have been transferred to
us. And just as there were false prophets contemporaneous
with your holy prophets, so are there now many false teachers
amongst us, of whom our Lord forewarned us to beware; so
that in no respect are we deficient, since we know that
He foreknew all that would happen to us after His resurrection
from the dead and ascension to heaven. (Justin, Dialogue with
Trypho, CHAP. LXXXII.)
According to Justin Martyr, the prophetic gifts continued
"to the present time" which would have been somewhere between
at least 130-165 AD, which means that according to at least
1 orthodox Christian source, the gifts continued for more
than 60 years after the destruction of the Temple, more than
30 years after the death of the last apostle, and more than
35 years after the close of the New Testament canon.
But Justin Martyr is not the only orthodox Christian writer
to testify to this.
"For this reason does the apostle declare, "We speak wisdom
among them that are perfect," (6) terming those persons "perfect"
who have received the Spirit of God, and who through the
Spirit of God do speak in all languages, as he used Himself
also to speak. In like manner we do also hear many brethren
in the Church, who possess prophetic gifts, and who through
the Spirit speak all kinds of languages, and bring to
light for the general benefit the hidden things of men, and
declare the mysteries of God, whom also the apostle terms
"spiritual," they being spiritual because they partake of
the Spirit." (IRENAEUS AGAINST HERESIES, BOOK V.CHAP. VI.)
In the above excerpt, Irenaeus first speaks in the past tense
of the Apostle Paul speaking in tongues. Then Irenaeus continues
"In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the Church,
who possess prophetic gifts." By using the phrase "in like
manner" and the pronoun "we" along with the present tense,
it is clear that Irenaeus means that the prophetic gifts continued
to occur in the orthodox churches of his own time. Irenaeus
even specifically includes speaking in tongues among the prophetic
gifts, which continues to occur.
(Please note the use of the word "many" in the phrase "we
do also hear many brethren." Irenaeus is not referring to
a scattered, obscure few. He is saying there were plenty of
Christians who still possessed the gifts in his day, including
Now, for example, if tongues were supposed to cease with the
destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, then why do we see the
Holy Spirit still imparting tongues well over 70 years later?
All of those alive in 70 AD would have died out by then. Yet
the Holy Spirit continued to give the gift of tongues to new
believers born after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD
for 70 years or more. These statements from Justin Martyr
and Irenaeus documents the occurrence of the prophetic gifts
at least until 140-202 AD, more than 80 years after the destruction
of the Temple, more than 40 years after the death of the last
apostle, and more than 45 years after the close of the New
So, in this point, the testimony of the two orthodox Christian
writers Justin Martyr and Irenaeus is in agreement. The prophetic
gifts including the gift of tongues continued well into the
middle of the second century AD, which is literally decades
after each of these 3 theories require the gifts to pass away.
Therefore, the theories that the gifts were supposed to pass
away with the death of the last apostle, the close of the
New Testament canon, or the destruction of the Temple are
disproved by a comparison to historical documentation regarding
the gifts among orthodox churches.
And, we would make one further note at this point. If the
gifts were only supposed to confirm the apostles' ministry
to the extent that the gifts were supposed to pass away after
the death of the apostles, then why did God give the gifts
to others besides the apostles? In other words, if God meant
the gifts to exclusively testify to the apostles' legitimacy,
then why were the gifts going to other members of the Church
during the apostles' lifetimes? Giving the gifts to others
besides the apostles necessitates that the gifts testified
to the divine mandate for all those who had the gifts, not
just the apostles. Anyone who had the gifts as a result of
the apostles' ministry was likewise being authenticated by
those miracles. And since the gifts passed to others besides
the apostles during the lifetime of the apostles and in the
decades that followed the deaths of the apostles, we have
no reason to think that the gifts should not continue indefinitely
just because the apostles were no longer around.
The gifts were not so exclusively for the purpose of authenticating
the apostles themselves that God did not give them to others
both during and after the apostles' lifetimes. Nor did the
practice of the gifts by others counteract the gifts' purpose
of authenticating the apostles' teaching and God-given authority.
Conversely, the presence of the gifts among other Christians
besides just the 12 apostles both during and after their lifetimes
testifies to the fact that the existence of the gifts in other
men did not in any way undermine the authority of the apostles
nor would that authority be undermined by the practice of
the gifts by other men besides the apostles. In fact, the
opposite is true. If the gifts continued even after the deaths
of the apostles, then the divine origin of the apostles' teaching
would continue to be confirmed by the presence of the gifts
among those who kept to the apostles' teaching in every generation.
In fact, we see evidence of this in the writings of Asterius
Urbanus with regard to his refutation of the Montanists.
"THE EXTANT WRITINGS OF ASTERIUS URBANUS. Book I. Chapter
X. For if, after Quadratus and the woman Ammia in Philadelphia,
as they say, the women who attached themselves to Montanus
succeeded to the gift of prophecy, let them show us which
of them thus succeeded Montanus and his women. For the apostle
deems that the gift of prophecy should abide in all the Church
up to the time of the final advent. But they will not
be able to show the gift to be in their possession even at
the present time, which is the fourteenth year only from the
death of Maximilla."
Here Asterius demonstrates that the fact that the gifts have
not continued among the Montanists after the death of Montanus
indicates that the Montanists of Asterius' day had deviated
from sound doctrine. For, according to Asterius, the apostle
(who as we will see is Paul) taught that the gifts should
continue among the orthodox until the return of Jesus Christ.
(In the light of the ancient representation for this theory,
we should also emphasize the apparent absence of any ancient
representation for the theories that the gifts were supposed
to pass away as a result of the close of the New Testament
canon, the death of the last apostle, or the destruction of
the Temple in 70 AD.) And by stating this, Asterius shows
that the continuation of the gifts after the deaths of the
apostles would further serve to confirm the apostles' teaching,
just as we have suggested.
This is, no doubt, why authors like Irenaeus, Asterius Urbanus,
and Eusebius sought to expose the error and fraudulent nature
of the so-called gifts among the heretical groups, just as
we have seen in the historic survey section of these articles.
For, the heretical groups, such as the Montanists and the
Gnostics, were using their gifts as evidence that their teaching
was from God. Orthodox writers refuted such claims in two
ways as we have seen in our tests for authenticity. First,
by exposing how the heretics deviated from apostolic teaching.
Irenaeus does this extensively regarding the Gnostics, particularly
Marcus who seemed to be able to prophecy. And second, by exposing
how the manner in which the gifts were practiced among the
heretics deviated from the manner of the gifts among the orthodox.
This is how Asterius Urbanus and Eusebuis refuted the counterfeit
gifts among the heretics such as the Montanists. In this way,
no amount of miracles could give someone the authority to
contradict the apostles' teaching. And since that was the
case, the continuation of the gifts in no way allowed for
those who came after the apostles to alter the teaching of
So, in conclusion we again say the following. The gifts were
not so exclusively for the purpose of authenticating the apostles
themselves that God did not give them to others both during
and after the apostles' lifetimes. Nor did the practice of
the gifts by others counteract the gifts' purpose of authenticating
the apostles' teaching and God-given authority.