Speaking in Tongues in the Bible

What happened at Pentecost?

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in 2015.—Ed.


 
“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.”
—Acts 2:4

hogegalust-gnunetsi

SPEAKING IN TONGUES IN THE BIBLE. This Armenian manuscript was illustrated by Zakaria Gnunetsi in 1575. It depicts Acts 2 when Jesus’ disciples receive the gift of speaking in tongues at Pentecost. Some believe this is the first instance of glossolalia in the Bible, but others maintain that the disciples are speaking human languages.

What happened at Pentecost in the New Testament?

Acts 2 describes a miracle: During the festival of Pentecost, Jesus’ disciples are given the Holy Spirit, and they begin speaking in tongues (other languages). Are the disciples speaking in human languages, or is this an instance of glossolalia in the Bible?

Glossolalia—speaking in angelic tongues—is described as a spiritual gift in 1 Corinthians 12–14. Webster’s dictionary defines glossolalia as “prayer characterized chiefly by incomprehensible speech, originating in primitive Christianity and now practiced by Pentecostal groups in ecstatic forms of worship.”

Ben Witherington III addresses what happened at Pentecost in his Biblical Views column “Speaking in the Tongues of Men or Angels?” in the July/August 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. While some believe that Acts 2 is the first instance of glossolalia in the Bible, he maintains that it is not.

When the disciples begin speaking in tongues, Acts 2:6 says that the crowd of Diaspora Jews who were in Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost “gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.”

Those who believe this is an instance of glossolalia in the Bible say that two miracles took place: The disciples were speaking in angelic tongues, and each person heard the message in his native language. However, Ben Witherington III contends that just one miracle occurred. The disciples miraculously began speaking other human languages, which is supported by the Greek grammar of Acts 2:6. Witherington explains:

The phrase “in their native language” modifies the verb “speaking” in verse 6, not the verb “hearing.” So there is exactly one miracle of speech at Pentecost—a miracle my Greek students regularly pray for, namely, the ability to suddenly speak a foreign language without further study! In short, the Pentecost story is not about glossolalia, despite the name of the modern Protestant denomination. If you want to find a story about glossolalia in a story about conversion in Acts, then you should turn to the story of Cornelius in Acts 10.

In our free eBook Easter: Exploring the Resurrection of Jesus, expert Bible scholars and archaeologists offer in-depth research and reflections on this important event. Discover what they say about the story of the resurrection, the location of Biblical Emmaus, Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb, the ancient Jewish roots of bodily resurrection, and the possible endings of the Gospel of Mark.

bruegel-tower-of-babel

TOWER OF BABEL. Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s painting Tower of Babel is on display at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Ben Witherington III explains that what happened at Pentecost—speaking in tongues—overcame the effect of the Tower of Babel—the confusion of language.

Witherington further explains that what happened at Pentecost is the opposite of what occurred at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1–9). As a result of the Tower of Babel, human language is confused, and a language barrier is created, but at Pentecost, the language barrier is surmounted:

At Pentecost the multiple languages problem and language barrier is not resolved, but the Good News overcomes the problem by being shared in all the various languages of the persons present there. While Pentecost doesn’t reverse the effect of God’s confusing the languages at Babel, it overcomes the problem for the sake of the salvation of the nations.

To see Ben Witherington III’s full analysis of what happened at Pentecost, read his Biblical Views column “Speaking in the Tongues of Men or Angels?” in the July/August 2015 issue of BAR.

——————

BAS Library Members: Read the full Biblical Views column “Speaking in the Tongues of Men or Angels?” by Ben Witherington III in the July/August 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.
 


 
This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on July 13, 2015.
 

 

Learn more about Pentecost and read more articles by Ben Witherington III in the BAS Library:

Bargil Pixner, “Church of the Apostles Found on Mt. Zion,” Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 1990.

Ben Witherington III, “Biblical Views: Text Archaeology: The Finding of Lightfoot’s Lost Manuscripts,” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2014.

Ben Witherington III, “Biblical Views: Images of Crucifixion: Fresh Evidence,” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2013.

Ben Witherington III, “In the Beginning: Religion at the Dawn of Civilization,” Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 2013.

Ben Witherington III, “Biblical Views: Spirited Discourse About God Language in the New Testament,” Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 2012.

Ben Witherington III, “Biblical Views: Making Sense of the Unlikely Easter Story,” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2011.

Ben Witherington III, “Biblical Views: Jesus Has the Last Word,” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2010.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.
 


 

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  1. Alan Pierre says

    Xenoglossy

  2. Robert says

    Is it biblical to speak in tongues today.

  3. Robert says

    John Calvin, I think, is presently in Heaven. However, he did a huge disservice to his followers in several denominations today by maintaining that the miracles of the early Church were to just get the Church started, and that was that. The Modern Church is starving, as a result!

    To understand what is being discussed in this article, you must experience the “tongues” firsthand in your own prayer life. I’m a Roman Catholic, yet shortly after being prayed for by my Pentecostal bretheren in 1972, I received the gift of “tongues” or glossolalia, and this gift has somehow stayed with me ever since. I have seen miraculous effect of my unintelligible utterances on two Hindus (who shortly afterward showed up at our Christian prayer meeting!), but most times, the gift seems to be a facilitating prayer-mode for my own private prayer that allows me to praise and worship The Most High, even when I don’t feel like praying – sort of a Psalm 50 response.

    Paul of Tarsus advocated that the gift not be used in public community worship 1Cor 14:6-23, but emphasizes verse 18! It is a very, very powerful prayer, as it seems to be the Voice of the Holy Spirit Himself speaking to God the Father. The effects of this type of prayer on my own life are generally immediate and tangible. BTW, I had a rough upbringing, and perhaps I need supernatural miracles every day, just to keep me in the Church!

    Finally, the outward manifestation of the falling of the Holy Spirit upon the New Testament early converts is attested to by the Kol Ha Kadosh. See Philip in Samaria Acts 8:14-16, Peter in Cornelius’ house Acts 10:44-49 & 11:15-16, Paul in Ephesus Acts 19:1-7. Note that the effect in Samaria was so powerful, that Shimon the Magician offered Peter money for the ability to cause this effect, and the falling of the Holy Spirit upon the house of Cornelius actually preceded the water baptism! All of this is still very much evident in our modern Christian churches if you seek sufficiently.

    There is so much more to say and experience in this gift, but I must necessarily limit my response for this column.

  4. Chris says

    Ben is correct! In the KJV what happened in Acts 2:4 is described as “other tongues” which means just that – other earthly languages….

    It’s in 1 Corinthians 12-14 that Paul mentioned praying in an “unknown tongue” (glossolalia), Heavenly language and tongues of angels (1 Corinthians 13:1) that he says that his Spirit prays mysteries to God and Human understanding is unfruitful.

    So big difference between “other tongues” & “unknown tongues”

  5. Kurt says

    Tongues, Speaking in
    A joint statement by the Fountain Trust and the Church of England Evangelical Council admitted: “We are also aware that a similar phenomenon can occur under occult/demonic influence.” (Gospel and Spirit, April 1977, published by the Fountain Trust and the Church of England Evangelical Council, p. 12) The book Religious Movements in Contemporary America (edited by Irving I. Zaretsky and Mark P. Leone, quoting L. P. Gerlach) reports that in Haiti ‘speaking in tongues’ is characteristic of both Pentecostal and Voodoo religions.—(Princeton, N.J.; 1974), p. 693; see also 2 Thessalonians 2:9, 10
    Clearly, modern-day speaking in tongues is very different from the gift of holy spirit given to Jesus’ early followers. In fact, there is no reliable record of anyone receiving that same miraculous power since the death of the apostles. This is not surprising to Bible readers. Regarding the miraculous gifts, including that of speaking in tongues, the inspired apostle Paul prophesied: “They will cease.” (1 Corinthians 13:8) How, then, can one discern who has the holy spirit today?

    Who Give Evidence of Having Holy Spirit?
    Jesus well knew that the gift of tongues would cease relatively soon after the formation of the Christian congregation. Shortly before he died, Jesus mentioned a timeless sign, or mark, that would identify his true followers. “By this all will know that you are my disciples,” he said, “if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) In fact, in the same verse where God’s Word foretold that the miraculous gifts would eventually cease, it says: “Love never fails.”—1 Corinthians 13:8.
    http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1200275865

  6. phineas says

    What I don’t get about the “speaking in tongues” business is that when it supposedly happens in the bible, the listeners understand what the disciples are saying. When people supposedly “speak in tongues” nowadays, they just spout endless strings of nonsense syllables. The OED defines “Glossolalia” as “The phenomenon of (apparently) speaking in an unknown language, especially in religious worship. It is practiced especially by Pentecostal and charismatic Christians.” The disciples on Pentecost were apparently speaking in multiple known languages. I don’t see the connection.

  7. Alan says

    It’s hard to see how any of this would leave a trace in the archaeological record. Where’s the evidence?

  8. Adrian says

    “Are the disciples speaking in human languages, or is this an instance of glossolalia in the Bible?”
    Or….could this just be a made up story? I guess these articles are not written from an objective standpoint…

  9. jacquita says

    Unless you site a source that is from the first to third century, it is just the writers opinion. Critics of speaking in tongues do not have the gift.. Read 1 Corinthians 12: 4-11 list the gifts that people are given. Two of those gifts listed in verse 10 is different kinds of tongues and another gift listed is interpretation of tongues. 1 Cor 14:2 For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, No one understands him, however in the spirit he speaks mysteries.
    1 Cor 13:8 is a contrast between love and the gifts. We know today that knowledge has increased greatly, it has not vanished away and neither has tongues ceased.
    I have a friend that was a Missionary in Nevada to the Indians. He started many small churches there. In one service a Spanish speaking fellow came into the service and when the preacher gave the plan of salvation he came forward. The preacher was concerned with getting an interpreter for the Spanish speaking man but he had heard the message in Spanish. Explain that.

  10. Robert says

    (Robert #3 again replies)
    Most Christians today obtain an education – that results in a “belief”, tentative as it is.
    When the Lord reveals Himself to you – that results in “Faith”. No-one can take that away from you afterwards. Faith is also a supernatural gift.

    Experience his Love (also a supernatural gift), which includes tongues as a prayer language. You will then have it.
    This is all accessible to you today. Please, please dear Christians – pray for his revelation to you. Use the Name of his Son to ask for it (as He says) and you will receive.

    It is true, I have seen demonic tongues firsthand. But we know how the devil counterfeits.

  11. Kurt says

    Methods of Preaching—Using Every Means to Reach People
    God’s people use a variety of methods of preaching to reach the largest audience possible
    Crowds gather around Jesus on the shore of a lake, but he boards a boat and pulls away a short distance. Why? He knows that the surface of the water will amplify his voice and that the large audience will be able to hear his message more clearly.—Read Mark 4:1, 2.

    In the decades surrounding the Kingdom’s birth, faithful disciples of Christ followed his example, using novel techniques to spread the good news of the Kingdom to large audiences. Under the direction of the King, God’s people continue to innovate and adapt as circumstances change and new technologies become available. We want to reach as many as possible before the end comes. (Matt. 24:14) Consider just some of the methods we have used to reach people, no matter where they live. Think, too, of ways that you can imitate the faith of those who spread the good news in the early days.(search Tongues)
    http://www.jw.org/en/search/?l=en&q=Tongues&mt%5B0%5D=ro&mt%5B1%5D=dig&mt%5B2%5D=pdf&mt%5B3%5D=epub&mt%5B4%5D=mobi&mt%5B5%5D=audio&mt%5B6%5D=mp3&mt%5B7%5D=aac&mt%5B8%5D=video&cat%5B0%5D=other&cat%5B1%5D=bqa&cat%5B2%5D=families&cat%5B3%5D=pubs&cat%5B4%5D=news&cat%5B5%5D=au&fpd%5B0%5D=any&sortBy=rel&s=0#?insightsearch_id=ba303c5c-ef5d-48ef-b9ce-f0b8e8c76bf5

  12. Doug says

    I would like to ask the advocates of speaking in tongues today a question. When you speak in tongues, is there an interpreter? According to Paul, that is a pre-requisite prior to a person speaking in tongues. That is how you know it is from God.

    27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.

  13. Robert says

    Hi Doug:
    Paul’s letters to the churches regarding speaking in tongues have to do with the community worship gathering – not for private prayer. Paul’s letters do outline the correct manifestation pretty accurately for the community worship. Tongues need interpretation in the group worship. In private prayer, even in cases where somebody else hears the prayer, we very rarely get an interpretation. The one exception in my own life that I outlined earlier turned out to be classical Sanskrit which resulted in my two Hindu friends being convinced that something really interesting was happening, and they came to our big prayer group meeting to find out for themselves. I’d never studied, or even heard Sanskrit before that.

    Tongues in my private prayer have a very powerful effect. I see results, which are always in conformance with Scriptures on my own life. The Lord hears, and answers, despite my sinful human state. I think that it is his own Voice speaking from within me – His Holy Spirit. I try to conform to his Will, and let Him speak for Himself. I can tell you – I am not “holy” per se!

    A good analogy might be that the Lord seems to have given us a personal one-channel cell phone for communicating our deepest experiences and needs to Him.

    Finally Paul says, “One who speaks with a tongue edifies himself” (and How!). He also says not to argue “theology”, but to simply tell everybody what the Lord has done for you! Here it is.

  14. Robert says

    For Jehovah’s Witness Kurt:
    Ask yourself why the JW tradition has left out the last Chapter of Mark.
    Pick up anybody else’s Christian Canon Bible and look up Mark 16:17-18.
    We see all these signs in our own communities, and you can experience the Lord’s Presence yourself firsthand. Through the powerful Name of Jesus, I invite you today to come out of slavery into freedom.

  15. Barbara says

    It is very simple to understand, in Acts 2 verse 6 the disciples each received a language that was unknown to them so they could speak to the crowds and tell them the story of Jesus in their own language.
    It was the only way for the word of Jesus to spread, they did not have television or telephones back then.
    Now the Jews who had come to Jerusalem for the festival heard about the mighty miracles of Jesus in their own language and they immediately spread the news on their arrival back home.
    I am 79 years old and count myself very lucky that I can remember how I heard as a young child the stories of Jesus as they were read very clearly to me.

  16. Kurt says

    Does not Mark 16:17, 18 show that ability to heal the sick would be a sign identifying believers?
    These verses appear in certain Bible manuscripts and versions of the fifth and sixth centuries C.E. But they do not appear in the older Greek manuscripts, the Sinaiticus and Vatican MS. 1209 of the fourth century. Dr. B. F. Westcott, an authority on Bible manuscripts, said that “the verses . . . are no part of the original narrative but an appendage.” (An Introduction to the Study of the Gospels, London, 1881, p. 338) Bible translator Jerome, in the fifth century, said that “almost all the Greek codices [are] without this passage.” (The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According to S. Mark, London, 1871, J. W. Burgon, p. 53) The New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967) says: “Its vocabulary and style differ so radically from the rest of the Gospel that it hardly seems possible Mark himself composed it [that is, verses 9-20].” (Vol. IX, p. 240) There is no record that early Christians either drank poison or handled serpents to prove they were believers.It should be noted that these verses refer not only to ‘speaking with new tongues’ but also to handling serpents and drinking deadly poison. Are all who “speak in tongues” also encouraging these practices?
    Manuscript L 019 (Codex Regius of the eighth cent.) contains both long and short conclusions in Mark 16 after vs 8, giving the short conclusion first and prefixing to each conclusion a note that says these passages are current in some quarters, while evidently not recognizing either conclusion as authoritative.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses do speak many languages, but we do not engage in ecstatic speaking in “unknown tongues.” But may I ask, Do you believe that the “speaking in tongues” that is done today is the same as what was practiced by first-century Christians?
    Here are some points of comparison that I found to be very interesting.
    http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1101989275#h=11-16:52

  17. colette says

    It amazes me how many lessons are missed by very intelligent minds. My teacher taught me that first unless there is an interpreter to tongues it is from Babalon (the river stix). during the time of the apostles the languages were more merged than now. The movers of the word did not need assistance in interpretation no more than the buyers and sellers of goods at that time. Speaking in tongues is the interpretation of the language of the soul. My teacher taught me that our Father is the God of the deaf, blind and lame. These were the majority of people’s who sought out the apostles. Our Father was reaching beyond the educated and those who are well. When my teacher taught me these things I laughed and said thank you for allowing me to speak tard.

  18. Robert says

    Hi Kurt:
    I’ve studied the background for inclusion of the last chapter of Mark, too. There is a lot of discussion pro & con, but it does appear to be the case that a different writer is the author, as it does many other places in the Bible. I’m okay with that, but I do see most of the effects in my own Christian communities. Paul was bitten by a snake in Acts, and I can attest to the lack of snake bite effects (accidental, of course) in my own person. We certainly don’t advocate drinking poison or handling snakes! We haven’t heard of any poison cases, but it may be that early Christians were poisoned by their enemies, and the Scripture probably reinforced their faith that they didn’t have to worry about poison. BTW, experienced hunters here locally tell me that older rattlesnakes reserve their venom for persistent attacks, and “therefore you didn’t get poisoned”. I did get two pronounced fang marks. But I’m okay with that, too.

    I’d hate to represent myself as a Scriptural scholar, I’m just a professional engineer with a good university and earlier denominational education. I can usually find most scholarly texts extant for your discussions. I’ve recently been studying classical Hebrew to fill in some of the blanks for myself – it’s getting much more obvious to me that there’s a supernatural intelligence behind the Scriptures!

    We do see miraculous healings in all our groups, resulting from common prayer and “laying on of hands”. I’ve tried many times to tabulate a list, but that job is overwhelming – it’s a common event!

    I believe that the last chapter of Mark is Canonical, as I personally experience the effects every week. When tongues are publicly used in our prayer groups, we do pray and wait for interpretation. Most are legitimate but some are not, but He also gives us discernment. It’s obvious to all of us which are legitimate and which are not. This was a promised gift, too, and Paul says, “Test the spirits”. We’re not some wierd cult – we all are practicing in the mainline denominations (no JW’s, Scientologists or Mormons, however). Our experiences do conform with Scripture and every legitimate Christian denomination I’ve prayed with has Charismatic or Pentecostal prayer groups, somewhere. Some denominational leadership is hostile, because of Calvin’s writings resulting from his lack of experience of moving in those gifts. We do see a lot of Baptists, for instance, who are otherwise really good Christians, but they have to worship with us in our other denominations once in a while “to get fed”. Everybody should have these gifts, in every Christian denomination, and if you look far enough you will find them. “Many are called, but few are chosen”.

    The bottom line is, you can find out the legitimacy of these words yourself (without an interpreter!). You don’t need me to argue with you. All you have to do is ask the Most High for forgiveness of your sins, then ask for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, in the Name of Jesus, his Son, and to find a local legitimate Christian community to pray with you. The effects of that prayer will answer all your questions. This was promised by Jesus before He left to rejoin his Father, and it is the pattern of all the early churches. It was the evidence of the legitimacy of those churches, and it is very much alive today. You can experience these gifts for yourself.

  19. Kurt says

    Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Practice Faith Healing?
    Jehovah’s Witnesses have never practiced faith healing. Like Jesus, they believe that their primary mission is to preach the good news about God’s Kingdom. They also believe that true Christians are identified, not by faith healing, but by something of far greater importance.

    To be sure, the compassionate healing of the sick in the first century C.E. by Jesus Christ is of great significance to all of us. He thereby furnished a guarantee that under his rule as King of God’s Kingdom, “no resident will say: ‘I am sick.’”—Isaiah 33:24.

    What, though, about today? Faith healers in Christendom as well as in some non-Christian religions claim to perform miraculous healings. Yet, Jesus himself sternly warned against individuals who would claim to have “performed many miracles” in his name. He would say to them: “I never knew you. Get away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:22, 23, International Standard Version) So, are the supposed miracles of modern-day faith healers really an indication of God’s approval or blessing?

    Consider what the Bible says about the healings performed by Jesus. By comparing that Scriptural record with the methods of faith healers today, we can readily determine whether modern-day faith healing is from God.

    Jesus never used healing as a means of attracting followers or large audiences. On the contrary, he performed a number of healings out of public view. Many times he told those whom he cured to reveal the miracle to no one.—Luke 5:13, 14.

    Jesus never charged money for his miracles. (Matthew 10:8) He also had an unfailing record of success. All sick ones who came to him were completely cured, and the healing did not depend on the individual’s faith. (Luke 6:19; John 5:5-9, 13) Why, Jesus even raised the dead!—Luke 7:11-17; 8:40-56; John 11:38-44.

    Though he did perform those miracles, the focus of Jesus’ ministry was not on gathering converts by means of emotional sessions of miracle working. Instead, his primary work was to declare the good news of God’s Kingdom. Jesus organized his followers to become disciple makers, who would teach others about the hope of attaining perfect health under God’s Kingdom.—Matthew 28:19, 20.

    Granted, some of Jesus’ first-century followers had special gifts of healing, but these were to cease. (1 Corinthians 12:29, 30; 13:8, 13) True Christians today are identified, not by acts of healing, but by the bond of self-sacrificing love. (John 13:35) Modern-day faith healing has not produced a genuine family of Christians from all races and backgrounds who are bound together by such love.

    There is, however, a group of Christians who are united by a bond of love so strong that they refuse to harm one another—or anyone else for that matter—even during the fiercest of human conflicts. Who are they? Jehovah’s Witnesses. Worldwide, they are known for displaying Christlike love. Uniting people of diverse racial, national, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds is a miracle, so to speak, and is made possible only by God’s holy spirit. Why not attend one of their meetings and see for yourself?>Faith Healing>
    http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1203237#h=221

  20. Gary says

    Can you be sure that this does not instead reference the speaking strictly in the terms of symbolism, which transcends all languages, and was once understood by all? The root, the branch, the water, the sea, the earth, the tree, the fruit, the chaff, the whirlwind, the moon, the sun, the pit, the clay, the vessel, the lamp, the fire, the cloud, the rod, the star, and so on — The peoples of the ancient world all knew what these concepts referenced, no matter what their own language, culture, or parent religion was.

    Are you sure that this does not instead reference the universal language which was spoken by the Prophets of old? For no one speaks that language today, but for the poets and the singers. But it is as valid today as it was back then; maybe even more so.

  21. colette says

    Very insightful Gary. Our travels are common. I do question the road of the Jahovas witnesses. I am allowed by the Father to question. The gifts of the Father are never ours. The fantasy of one mind overpowering another or believing that they are more blessed than another is what causes my doubt. Too many loose ends in this religion. Loose ends leave many interpretations for the same quote. It implies that we are capable. We are not. If we were so Inpowered we should never see death by The gifts of our own hand. Heal thy self if you think any one but the Father controls all gifts at all times. It testifies against them to say that a modern religion holds the gifts of the Father. He allows certain children to dwell with his presence, for us his presence are all of the gifts and knowledge attainable. It will never dwell with us as you seem to interpret, but children who dwell with him. In his presence there are no titles. No known names. No ones anything stands above another for he stands above all and erases our sins. I pray you understand what I’m trying to share.

  22. colette says

    Gary,
    It was not for himself, he who came from above.
    He does not need our attention, does not need our Love.
    He does not need attention, an adoring hoard.
    With or without us, he is the Lord.
    The life he gave, he does not see as a loss.
    The scars are all gone, he’s not nailed to a cross.
    Creation is with him, he’s never alone.
    He’s doing just fine at the right of Gods Throne.
    He came to enlighten. He came here to teach.
    He came to show us the heights we can reach.
    Love one another, that’s what he said.
    That’s what he taught. That is our Bread.

  23. Jonathan says

    What did the early church fathers consider speaking in tongues to be? An in-depth thesis:
    http://www.tms.edu/m/17e.pdf

  24. Robert says

    I beg to differ on #23 Jonathan.
    I realize that the referenced study is meant to be valid, but it could be that the study started with prejudice. My own experience, and my own studies of the Church Fathers’ writings disagrees with the conclusions. You can actually come to either pro or con conclusion reading the same writings referenced in the study. Admittedly, I have seen forced or learned tongues in a Pentecostal setting, so I am not denying that occasional or even common case. My own experience cannot be taken away from me, and it has supernatural and Scriptural conformance in results on my own life. You know what you are experiencing, and learned scholars who have not experienced the gift can speculate on it all they want. My first experience with tongues was totally in private, I had no previous experience with tongues in a prayer group, hadn’t even heard them, and for a few years I prayed my own “tongues” without joining any group or hearing anybody else’s “tongues-prayer”. My Baptism in the Holy Spirit came from a group a few blocks away from where I lived alone, and it happened at the same time they personally prayed for me. I did not join their group. The effects of that Holy Spirit Baptism were immediate and quite measureable on my own life, as contrasted with my life prior to that point (April 1972).

    To summarize: There are two types of tongues – public and private, I have experienced both. St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians pretty well sums it up, as far as management of this gift upon the Christian community. Public worship needs interpretation, private prayer does not. Private prayer in tongues does in fact edify. There is very little to add to 1Cor14.

    BTW, an accompanying gift for the community is interpretation, and also discernment. Double interpretation may have troubled the researchers, but the Christians with the gift have no problems in that case, either. It is obvious to them. “My sheep hear the sound of my Voice and follow Me. They will flee from the voice of a stranger”. We understand perfectly what He was telling us. See also Joel re that.

  25. Guido says

    Kurt,
    I am an ex-Jehovah witness who discovered by doing his homework, outside the publications of the Wachttower – who are biased in many items – that the organization here also makes a serious mistake. The ending of Marc, yes there are a few with differences, was never in question for the early church fathers. Long before people started to make a fuss about is there are always the quotes from the churchfathers of this ending. Long before two oldest Greek manuscripts (א and B), from the Old Latin codex Bobiensis (it k), the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript, was copied and rediscovered there are more than 20 qoutes of that ending.
    This is a very helpful book: The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According to S. Mark by John William Burgon
    It is free on the internet on these two sites:
    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/26134/26134-pdf.pdf?session_id=f1f5e7080d6433fd855255b7dc7491b429f2c1d2
    https://archive.org/details/thelasttwelvever26134gut
    ^^^^^^
    And also this (again free of charge) might open your eyes:
    F.H.A. Scrivener, A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, fourth ed. (London: George Bell and Sons, 1894), volume 2, pp. 337-344.
    A download at: http://bibletranslation.ws/tag/scrivener/
    You can read it here, not a download: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/scrivener/ntcrit2.html
    ^^^^^^
    We quote Bruce Metzger on the matter. He is clear on this: that the church fathers did not cast away any of the existing ending of Marc, they did not even question there must have been an or no ending. And that is what the Watchtower tries to shovel under the rug. See his: The Canon of the New Testament: its Origin, Development, and Significance (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), pp. 269-270.
    … we may find it instructive to consider the attitude of Church Fathers toward variant readings in the text of the New Testament. On the one hand, as far as certain readings involve sensitive points of doctrine, the Fathers customarily alleged that heretics had tampered with the accuracy of the text. On the other hand, however, the question of the canonicity of a document apparently did not arise in connection with discussion of such variant readings, even though they might involve quite considerable sections of text. Today we know that the last twelve verses of the Gospel according to Mark (xvi. 9-20) are absent from the oldest Greek, Latin, Syriac, Coptic, and Armenian manuscripts, and that in other manuscripts asterisks or obeli mark the verses as doubtful or spurious. Eusebius and Jerome, well aware of such variation in the witnesses, discussed which form of text was to be preferred. It is noteworthy, however, that neither Father suggested that one form was canonical and the other was not. Furthermore, the perception that the canon was basically closed did not lead to a slavish fixing of the text of the canonical books. Thus, the category of ‘canonical’ appears to have been broad enough to include all variant readings (as well as variant renderings in early versions) that emerged during the course of the transmission of the New Testament documents while apostolic tradition was still a living entity, with an intermingling of written and oral forms of that tradition. Already in the second century, for example, the so-called long ending of Mark was known to Justin Martyr and to Tatian, who incorporated it into his Diatesseron. There seems to be good reason, therefore, to conclude that, though external and internal evidence is conclusive against the authenticity of the last twelve verses as coming from the same pen as the rest of the Gospel, the passage ought to be accepted as part of the canonical text of Mark.
    ^^^^^^
    In short: do some studies outside the Wachttower publications. Honesty is something to strive for.
    By the way I was kicked out for asking a number of questions on the real Jesus. They could not answer them so they are not the good servant.

  26. ed says

    Wow how much debating over what is and what isn’t the truth. It is in no doubt that the speaking in tounges in acts is language not of angles but of men. That is why it was understood by the multitudes. It was God’s way of reaching the Jew’s with the gospel of Christ. As for speaking in tongues of angles. I have experienced this and I can’t honestly say it is the holy spirit speaking or not, but I usually know the interpatation personaly. I have also been in churchs where this ocurres but never with three interpatations. It usually is just a bunch of bable.

  27. Isaac says

    Glossolalia (speaking in tongues) is a scientifically verifiable neuro-linguistic phenomenon, albeit rare. Secular coma patients occasionally awake speaking unlearned, even extinct languages. Glossolalia is the key to understanding how our Creator had 70 languages (future language families) spun off from Adam and Eve’s “Edenic” Human Language Program in Genesis 11.

    So this is NOT a Christian topic. Massive evidence for the Tower of Babel is seen at www/edenics.org You have not likely heard of our 30-year multi-national and multi-religous Edenics team’s work because the academic community loathes this evidence of God, and the debunking of Evolution.

    While those who Speak in Tongues or Snake-Handle may not be “saved saints,” they are precious people who prove that we are all children of Adam.

  28. Annie says

    The “tongues” in Acts 2 are obviously human languages in that the crowd understood. They are unknown in that the people speaking had not learned them. This is common among modern Pentecostals and Charismatics. The text does not suggest that the person who spoke in tongues knew that language from that point on. This is true today and also true of the interpretation of tongues that Paul speaks of. It is a gift of ministry and worship. From time to time I have heard of instances when a person spoke/prayed/sang in tongues and someone present knew the language. If you don’t know it, of course it sounds like babel, just as it would if you were in a foreign county among people speaking a language you don’t understand, especially if it is a different language family from your own.

  29. heather says

    Speaking in tongues has different forms in the Bible. This example of course is people speaking known languages. But Paul also refers to a type of speaking in tongues in 1 Corinthians that is not necessarily a known language but is to “edify the spirit” of the one speaking, and can sometimes be interpreted by the person speaking. Charismatics today call that a “prayer language” and generally that is completely different than a gift meant for the body overall.

  30. Gregory says

    So some of the disciples began speaking in other languages. Why is it automatically assumed they did not know other languages? If you start speaking Italian to me, for instance, I will be bewildered. No miracle here, just ignorance.

  31. Gabriel says

    I have the “gift” of speaking in tongues but don’t use it – why?
    1. The bible means every time languages and not lalalalalelu…
    2. It was a sign for Israel that the gospel is for all nations. Now it is accepted by every messianic jew I know, that other nations are welcome to Jesus, so the gift is not needed any longer
    3. Record yout tongues an ask someone to interpret. Then ask another to interpret. You will get different “interpretations” – why? because it is no language but lalelu…
    4. it is a psychic phenomen – if you pray for a long time everybody has the chance to skip to lalelu – but in my opinion god does not like it. Since long times lalelu is even a satanic practice, so be careful.

  32. MARILYN COLLIER says

    This is what I was taught in the Lutheran catechism so many years ago. To my knowledge that position has not changed.

  33. Neil says

    I contend that rather than the apostles simultaneously speaking multiple languages, the effect was actually conferred upon the listeners. Everybody UNDERSTOOD in his own tongue…. the apostles were probably actually speaking in their own tongue, but it was being heard and understood by the listener, regardless of what their native language was. So the miracle was not enacted upon the apostles, but upon the listeners. As noted in the synopsis above, the effect was to reverse the curse of the Tower of Babel in order to quickly spread the Gospel to many other languages. No interpreter was required.

    The only other case documented in the New Testament is when Peter went to the home of Cornelius, and similar events occurred. Since Peter was one of the Apostles present at Pentecost. it can be reasonably assumed that the effects were the same.

    Finally, the use of ‘tongues’ at Corinth seems to be something completely different, and more like today’s practice. But if Paul’s writings in 1 Corinthians are read fully in context, (especially Ch. 14) it seems apparent that Paul was trying to discourage the practice of ‘tongues’ in the Corinthian church, as one of many corruptions that troubled that congregation due to the heavy pagan influence of the culture and background of its members. He identifies other gifts that are more beneficial – notably revelation, knowledge, prophecy and teaching – all ways of conveying the word of God. Unintelligible speech does none of that. Verses 4, 6, 9 and 11 he downplays the usefulness of speaking in unintelligible languages.

  34. Kate says

    Gabriel – your comment is very interesting and I agree that “tongues” were for that time and modern “tongues” are babble. I’ve never heard them called “lalelu” and I wonder if you could provide additional information on the meaning of this. I see that there is a German lullaby titled Lalelu about the sandman, and a song titled Satan’s Wife which contains this in the chorus but I’ve never come across this term before. I hope you can enlighten me on how this ties into tongues.

  35. Kevin says

    Speaking in tongues..as pertains to Pentecost. The Apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit spoke through them; everyone…everyone , understood them. It wasn’t the chaotic gibberish that no one understands as exhibited today by these phony, baloney preachers on t.v. or in so called Pentecostal churches. If their(ability) to speak in tongues was real, everyone no matter what race, ethnicity, or dialect, would understand it with clarity! That is what happened at Pentecost. People are being hoodwinked and bamboozled by phony preachers, teaching false doctrine. These are the people who will present themselves before Jesus saying ” Lord I witnessed for you, I spoke in tongues to the people” and Jesus will look at them and say “get away from me I never knew you”. Scripture when taught is meant for “profit”; what spiritual profit is there in some preacher, preaching gibberish to his flock, and them walking away confused. God is not the author of confusion! The two witnesses of Revelation, and God’s elect will speak in tongues when they are offered up before anti Christ, and the whole world will understand them. Just as it was at Pentecost. Remember…The ONLY unpardonable sin, is refusing to let the Holy Spirit to speak through you at this time, not your words, but the Word of God professed by intervention of THE Holy Spirit. Not the perverse exaggerations of some false preacher trying to give validity to his/her closeness to the Father.

  36. Gabriel says

    Dear Kate,
    I just chose lalelu to express that it is no language. I also could have chosen babble as you say.

Continuing the Discussion

  1. How Charismatics and #imb get it wrong on Speaking in Tongues | Laodicean Report linked to this post on July 13, 2015

    […] How Charismatics and #imb get it wrong on Speaking in Tongues […]


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