I've noticed here and there the odd practice of inducing an extreme, seizure-like bodily shaking in oneself, which seems quite strange to me; it's not at all clear what the purpose is. Some people claim that it may have come from the Quakers, although Pentecostal's do it, and it occurs when the Holy Spirit fills the body. It also seems to be encouraged in some Evangelical circles, as it was explicitly said to be the force of the holy spirit in the movie Jesus Camp (2006).

What exactly is this practice called, and where did it come from?

I don't recall reading anything about it in the Bible.

If you require an example, since I don't know what it's called I'm unable to find videos of it successfully on Google ("christian shaking" doesn't quite work), but what reminded me of it was the few seconds of this clip of one of the "Sweet Brown" remixes.

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    Sometime when I haven't already hit the sack I'd like to pull up some related resources and put together an answer. My basic argument will be controversial but I think represent both a Biblically and historically accurate Christianity in saying that while these movements (pun intended) often come with Christian terminology attached, they actually represent an entirely different religion. There tend to be more parallels to Kundalini than to Christ.
    – Caleb
    Commented Apr 25, 2012 at 22:43
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    I think it's usually called being "slain in the Spirit." Although I think this term is also sometimes used to describe more than just the "bodily shaking." I'll leave it to someone with more knowledge and time to provide a complete answer.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 3:56
  • A form of this phenomenon is performed in the movie Leap of Faith, as a ploy to solicit donations to a fraudulent evangelist (perhaps like many real-life evangelists?). It's also featured (and made fun of) in the movie Borat.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 4:03
  • I myself haven't seen anything like seizures, but I have seen large-scale body twitches (as in, the whole upper body) and those did occur in connection with the Holy Spirit. That certainly doesn't say that all such twitches and the like are due to the Holy Spirit. Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 4:11
  • @Caleb. All religions are to a greater or lesser extent syncretic. Ideas are often freely borrowed.
    – TRiG
    Commented May 10, 2012 at 18:15

3 Answers 3


The practice is called being slain in the spirit

It is likely that this practice has existed for millennia; and that it is more a self-induced ecstasy than any kind of actual action of God upon the person. It is thought that 'prophets' in the Old Testament time may have done such things to try to induce visions. The prophets of Baal do something similar here:

Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.

Here's something from an Orthodox source on the issue: http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith7112

It appears St. Paul was questioned about the working of the Holy Spirit through the Gifts. Corinth was greatly influenced by Greek paganism which included demonstrations, frenzies and orgies, all intricately interwoven into their religious practices. In post Homeric times, the cult of the Dionysiac orgies made their entrance into the Greek world. According to this, music, the whirling dance, intoxication and utterances had the power to make men divine; to produce a condition in which the normal state was left behind and the inspired person perceived what was external to himself and the senses.

In other words, the soul was supposed to leave the body, hence the word ecstasy (ek stasis). They believed that while the being was absent from the body, the soul was united with the deity. At such times, the ecstatic person had no consciousness of his own.

The Corinthians of Paul's time were living under the influence of Dionysiac religious customs. It was natural that they would find certain similarities more familiar and appealing. Thus the Corinthians began to put more stress on certain gifts like glossolalia. No doubt the Apostle was concerned that their ties and memories of the old life should be reason enough to regulate the employment of Glossolalia.

While not utterly identical, these ecstasies - which is the only really good term we have for it in English - have an origin in common human natural religious yearnings. They are not specifically Christian but reflect the person's desire to be a instrument of God, even to the point of frenzied ecstasy.

  • Is there any early source indicating Dionysiac tradition included glossolalia? Maybe somebody has an answer as the above “affable Greek” is now in heaven.
    – Jess
    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 3:21

I understand we all may not fully understand the unseen, those things that are hard to be grasped by the human mind, but we need to be careful when speaking about the movement, the power, the Anointing of God, that causes a man or woman in God to shake, perform a holy dance, to speak in tongues, etc. God's Power is not earthly, so why does it seem strange for believers to have the Holy Ghost, shaking, trembling, dancing in the Holy Spirit?

When Jesus was resurrected, he was raised in All Power, in/through the Holy Spirit, the type of Holy Power that heals, resurrects, in which miracles are performed through his believers, those who believe that we have that same type of Anointing, same type of Power flowing through us, being filled with Holy Spirit. There are some whose faith is not where it should be, because the Holy Ghost I know, is a Person, Who is the Spirit of God, a Holy Fire, Consuming Holy Fire, from heaven above.

  • Jesus had the Spirit without measure. Is there any Scriptural example of Jesus shaking, dancing, or any other type of ecstatic movement? Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 1:35
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    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 4:17
  • Welcome, Norman! Thanks for your contribution. On what basis do you make the judgment that "There are some whose faith is not where it should be..." Commented Nov 13, 2021 at 1:57

Physical Manifestations Physical manifestations are not new to the revivals of this century. While there are such manifestations in pagan religions, that does not negate their validity in the Christian religion (Satan always has counterfeits).

In the Bible, there is record of physical effects on the body when it comes into contact with the Spirit of God. Notice the effects manifest in the prophet Daniel's experiences when he was approached by God's angels! Moses's countenance was changed when on Mount Sinai, such that he had to put a mask over his face in order to communicate with the Israelites. Recall hoe the soldiers all fell backwards to the ground when Jesus spoke to them. And also, note the physical effects on Paul on the road to Damascus. {Recall how even Belteshazzar shook when he saw the manifestation of God, so much his pants fell off!}

Decent and in Order

While different people respond physically to the Presence of God, it goes without saying that it is required that "all things be done decently and in order." Within a church setting, the elders must make sure such happenings are to be at an appropriate time, and within a "beleivers' meeting that is fully instructed in such matters. "Wild fire" is not appropriate, for that would bring reproach on the Gospel if an unbeliever were to happen in, as Paul admonished in the letter to the Corinthians.

Shakings and falling down in the Spirit were common in the revivals of Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield years ago. These are not just Pentecostal denominations characteristics. In fact people from many denominations have had them evident. [See the booklets of the Full Gospel Business Mens' Fellowship] And notice that these manifestations are not limited to illiterate peoples, but occur among the aristocracy, as well [consider the Jansenites of France.] Many of the people in the Toronto Revival who experienced these were of all walks of life, and they testify that God moved in their lives in a transformational way.


To make sure things remained edifying, and to the glory of God, Jonathan Edwards wrote a magnificent book, Religious Affections that laid out guidelines for Christians in religious meetings. Excellent writing! If there are sufficiently Bible-trained elders in a local church [or revival setting], manifestations occasionally are to be seen as legitimate results of God's presence and working in human lives for their edification.

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