A friend of mine recently asked what the early church believed about spiritual gifts, and I put together the following quick response. I will attempt to add some formal source citations later today.

Justin Martyr (mid 2d century) mentions believers receiving many different gifts, but nothing, it seems, of the miraculous variety (Dial. 39).

Irenaeus (late 2d century) seems to spiritualize treading on serpents (as treading on heretics) (Haer 2.20). At one point he writes,

“the Lord raised the dead, and the apostles did so by means of prayer, and this has been frequently done in the brotherhood on account of some necessity. When the entire church in that particular locality entreated God with much fasting and prayer, the spirit of the dead man returned, and he has been bestowed in some answer to the prayers of the saints.” (Haer 2.31)

[That’s an interesting remark there. Is he referring to apostles all the way through?] Elsewhere Irenaeus talks about some being able to exorcise and prophesy and heal, and does so “calling upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In yet another place he says,

“We 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.” (Haer. 5.6)

Clement of Alexandria also believes that gifts such as prophecy, preaching, and martyrdom were present in the church (Strom. 4.21)

Tertullian, of course, believed very strongly that miraculous gifts were present in the church, though false teachers also display such signs. He challenges Marcion to

“exhibit, as gifts of God, some prophets–such as have not spoken by human sense, but with the Spirit of God–such as have both predicted things to come and have made manifest the secrets of the heart. Let him produce a psalm, a vision, a prayer,– only let it be by the Spirit, in an ecstasy (that is, in a rapture) whenever an interpretation of tongues has occurred to him.” (Against Marcion 5.8)

Origen also says something quite interesting:

“Traces of those signs and wonders are still preserved among those who regulate their lives by the teachings of the Gospel.” (Contra Celsus 1.2)

In another place Origen says,

“The Jews no longer have prophets or miracles. Yet, traces of those things are still found among Christians to a considerable extent. Some of those miracles are more remarkable than any that existed among the Jews. I have witnessed these myself.” (Contra Celsus 2.8)

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