Academic journal article Canadian Journal of History

William J. Seymour and the Origins of Global Pentecostalism: A Biography and Documentary History

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of History

William J. Seymour and the Origins of Global Pentecostalism: A Biography and Documentary History

Article excerpt

William J. Seymour and the Origins of Global Pentecostalism: A Biography and Documentary History, by Gaston Espinosa. Durham, Duke University Press, 2014. xxii, 436 pp. $99.95 US (cloth), $28.95 US (paper).

This is the latest, and the most historically well researched and informed, of a number of articles, dissertations, and books in recent years which have explored the origins and spread of (arguably) the most important Christian religious movement of the twentieth century: Pentecostalism. Espinosa begins with a concise, accurate, to-the-point survey of the Pentecostal movement in general, in North America and the world, including Denominational Pentecostals, those in the Charismatic movement (whether Catholic, Protestant, or other), and Neo-Charismatics and Independents. What unites them is the necessity of a born-again experience with Jesus, "and the second is a desire to be baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit ... Contrary to stereotypes, a person does not have to speak in tongues to be considered a Pentecostal or Charismatic Christian, but they normally desire to do so" (p. 1). In 2006, 45,000 Pentecostals from around the world gathered in Los Angeles to celebrate what many understood to be their centennial, dating the beginnings of their movement to the spirit-filled revival led by an African-American native of Louisiana named William J. Seymour.

Espinosa's intent is two-fold. First, after many years of extensive research, he seeks to put Seymour and the Azusa Street revival back as the "primal and primary, though not exclusive or total, influence on American and global Pentecostal origins from 1906 to 1912" (p. 23). He does not dispute those who find that Pentecostalism, in the US and abroad, has multiple origins, but he does insist on the indispensable influence of Seymour and Azusa Street. Second, Espinosa provides scholars with an astonishing wealth of primary source research, including every single piece of writing that can be documented to have come from William J. …

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