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Perpetua and Pentecostalism

On a March morning in about the year 202, a twenty-two year old woman walked onto the warm sands of the arena in Carthage, North Africa. There she felt a sword shoved between her ribs and she took the ‘wavering right hand of the youthful gladiator to her throat.” Swept up in the purge of Septimus Severus and the edict outlawing conversion to Judaism or Christianity, it has been the

In 1907 a revival spread from a small mission on Azusa Street in Los Angeles, California. From humble beginnings, the activities and spiritual dynamic of that place would make its mark on the world. This event would become in essence a commissioning center for what would become one of the twentieth century’s most controversial movements and launch Pentecostalism. To this event people came to observe and took back to their churches both reports and the experience of speaking in other tongues, the experience of prophecy, the experience of signs and wonders not enjoyed in such an all encompassing a manner since the early church.

In one of the services a woman from Pasadena who was already a Christian of faith stood in a Pentecostal meeting, “I do not ask for tongues but I want to love God with all my heart and soul and my neighbor as myself,” and it was reported she “immediately began to speak with tongues.”

These early Pentecostals were accused of being heretics, aligned with the devil, and other labels used during the Azusa Street revival and in events following to malign the participants. To be certain there were extremes and theologies developed that created many problems for the nascent revival movement. One such episode occurred in Oklahoma City in 1906 and it was clearly understood that the people marching naked through the streets and into a hotel lobby were both crazed and ‘holy rollers.” Similar events were reported with various levels of humor, chagrin, or distain in newspapers across the country.

“Enthusiasms” was one term used to define these exuberant manifestations of both spiritual contrition and joy. The early church and its ‘enthusiasms’ had been tamed, labeled primitive, and the church of the new 20th century was hoped to be a place of culture and refinement.

What those early Pentecostals experienced was similar to the experiences of a Christian in the second century. The spiritual life and martyrdom of Perpetua of Carthage
‘The Passion of the Holy Martyrs Perpetua and Felicitas.” The Anti-Nicene Fathers, translation of the writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325. Volume 3, Latin Christianity. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1976, pg. 699f.
Jackson, Samuel Macauley., ed. The Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. Volume VIII. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1959, pg. 466.
Corum, Fred T., ed. Like as of Fire, a reprint of the old Azusa Street papers, Wilmington, Mass.: Fred Corum, 1981, pg. 20 (The Apostolic Faith (November 1906): 2).

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