The bible teaches in Acts that the miraculous gifts were given at the
laying on of the apostles hands. Therefore, they could have still been in
existence in the late 2nd century (up to 100 years after John the apostle
died). Is there any reference to miraculous gifts by the early ‘Church
Fathers’ in their writings (Clement of Rome, Papais, Ignatius, Polycarp,
etc), who themselves may well have been given the ability by the
apostles? My understanding of the purpose of the miraculous gifts was to
confirm the spoken word, until it had been collated (as the Bible).
Considering that the Muratorian Canon wasn’t established until late in the
2nd century, then the gifts would have had a purpose until then.

The best that I can tell from my reading of the early church fathers,
there is no evidence of the presence of such gifts of the Holy Spirit as
speaking in tongues and prophesying in the church after AD 100. The only
exceptions to this are among heretical groups. For example, there is some
evidence of charimatic activities such as speaking in tongues among the
Marcionite sect in the late second century. One interpretation of the
apparent ceasing of the gifts is that they faded, not because there were
no longer any people alive who had had hands laid on them by an apostle,
but that there was no need for the gifts of the Spirit. Whether this is
what Paul was referring to in 1 Corinthians 13 when he talked about gifts
ceasing is debatable.

You mention that the possibility that the gifts may have ceased because
the Bible was complete and there was no new revelation to be confirmed by
gifts. I agree that there may be some truth in this. Hebrews 2:4 states
that one purpose of the miraculous gifts was to testify to and confirm the
truth of the gospel message. You also mention that you are not so sure
about this explanation based on the earliest known “canon” of the New
Testament, the Muratorian fragment, being from around AD 170. Actually, I
believe that you can assume that the canon of the New Testament began to
crystalize well before AD 170. Already by AD 100, we can see from such
writers as Polycarp and Ignatius that there were a set of writings such as
the four gospels, Acts, and several of Paul’s letters which were clearly
considered inspired and part of a maturing body of writings which
eventually became the New Testament.

So I guess I am confirming the basic thrust of your comments. We should
be careful and admit that the Bible does not give us either a solid date
for the ceasing of the miraculous gifts or a single definite reason for
God allowing the gifts to disappear. However, I agree that given the
evidence it is reasonable to conclude that the gifts had ceased or all but
ceased by about AD 100 and that this happened because the original reason
for their presence in the church had disappeared as well.

For more on this topic, I would recommend a book by Douglas Jacoby titled
The Spirit, which is available at

John Oakes

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