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Bible Gemz 1764 - The Gift of Tongues Referred to by Luke (Acts 2, 10, 19) and Paul (1 Corinthians 12, 14)

February 11, 2018

On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place.

Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting.

Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them.

And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.

At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem.

When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.

They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee,

and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages!

Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia,

Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome

 (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!” (Acts 2:1-11)

 

Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 

For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself." (Acts 2:38-29)

 

Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message. 

The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, too. 

For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter asked, 

"Can anyone object to their being baptized, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we did?" 

So he gave orders for them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Afterward Cornelius asked him to stay with them for several days. (Acts 10:44-48)

 

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior regions until he reached Ephesus, on the coast, where he found several believers.

 “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” he asked them. “No,” they replied, “we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

 “Then what baptism did you experience?” he asked. And they replied, “The baptism of John.”

Paul said, “John’s baptism called for repentance from sin. But John himself told the people to believe in the one who would come later, meaning Jesus.”

As soon as they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Then when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in other tongues and prophesied.

There were about twelve men in all. (Acts 19:1-7)

 

“Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said.” 1 Corinthians 12:10

 

 

How did you go with the exercise I gave you yesterday? Did it crystalise things for you? Did you find you wrote down things which were not in accord with your denomination’s statements of belief, or do you believe your denominational belief to the letter? Are these beliefs truly yours or someone else’s?

 

Do you know what the gift of tongues is or are you confused? If you are confused, join the club, many are. The reason is because of the Greek text that lies behind this verses. 

 

(GNT)  ἑτέρῳ       δὲ   γένη   γλωσσῶν, ἄλλῳ       δὲ   ἑρμηνεία        γλωσσῶν· 

          to another and  kinds tongues    to others and  interpretation tongues

 

The Greek which lies behind all of the passages referring to tongues above are all related to the Greek noun γλωσσα meaning tongue. The changes on end of the word all relate to the grammatical role the word “tongue” is playing in the sentence and whether it is singular or plural. The word glossolalia is used as technical term to describe the phenomenon of speaking in an unknown language, especially in religious worship practised especially but not exclusively by Pentecostal or charismatic Christians. The word glossolalia doesn’t appear in the text of the Bible. It is a word coined to refer to the phenomena of “speaking in tongues”. The word is to a degree onomatopoeic in the sense that it sounds like what it is describing.

 

All other verses from the Book of Acts simply use the Greek word for tongue. The translations of 1 Corinthians 12:10 fall into two categories: those which translated this verse literally and preserve "tongues" in the translation (19) and those which interpret the word to mean languages (4). The numbers I included for 1 Corinthians 12:10 are a count of the spread of translations I have loaded on E-sword and how they handle this verse. Most as you can tell choose "tongues" in this case, they decide to go for the literal translation and not interpret. But it is interesting that the LITV (The Literal Translation of the Bible) chooses languages. In fact showing that it is not literal on some things. In other words they are making an interpretive choice here and not taking the literal route. When that happens there is generally a theological or denominational reason behind it. 

 

"and to another, workings of powers, and to another, prophecy, and to another, discerning of spirits, and to another, kinds of languages, and to another, interpretation of languages." (LITV) 

 

So too you have to make a choice as to which side of the fence you come down on. There are those who interpret tongues to mean languages (as in normal languages) and there are those interpret it to mean a heavenly language which is given at a particular moment, imparted by the Holy Spirit. Some choose to explain it as meaning normal languages, one from the many languages spoken on the earth. The latter generally choose "languages" to get around the supernatural way in which "a spiritual tongue" is meant to be imparted. But by doing that you have not got around the problem, the supernatural element is still present because in many cases "tongues" are spoken without any study or learning of a language. People just start speaking in a new language. I have heard anecdotal stories which claim a person’s tongue ended up being Biblical Hebrew or another tongue was proved to be Latvian etc. 

 

Still other research has been applied to tongues in the case of those who speak what they believe to be a tongue from the Holy Spirit, namely their prayer language and linguistic experts have claimed that it does not have the structure of a normal language. i.e none of the normal elements that are present with languages were reportedly there. Others claim tongues to be merely repetitive and therefore not a language. You will come across all kinds of reactions and proofs one way or another on tongues/heavenly languages. You still have to make a choice on what you personally believe on the issue of tongues. 

 

Because there is a denominational / theological divide on this, Wycliffe don't take a stand along denominational lines. A translation of the Bible ideally has to be acceptable across the board. Wycliffe don't push theological or denominational barrows. We are interdenominational. In terms of translation sometimes that is good, sometimes it is not helpful. Committee type translations will often sit on the fence on theological issues because they are a committee. Individual translations (where one person has translated the Bible) can err on the side of making interpretative choices for you when you don’t want them to do so. You have to choose what side you come down on. 

 

I would be more interested in the answer to the question "How strongly do you hold the view you have?" If your view of speaking in tongues is wildly divisive by nature that can be more problematic than whether your choice is yes or no on tongues being acceptable or not. I desire to be biblical not "denominationally right" in order to be aligned with a particular camp or group. I will tell you straight what the text says and what the issues are - to the extent that I know them. 

 

What does speaking in tongues (glossolalia) actually mean? 

Is it languages or is it the pentecostal tongues? 

The word is used to translate both concepts. Therein lies the problem. There is not a clear line of demarcation. 

 

This Gemz has turned out longer than I intended. For that reason I am not going to add personal anecdotal comment at this point, or even at all. I will be led by reader responses as to where I go from here. But I will begin to pick apart the passage in Acts 19:1-7 seeking to gain the understanding of what Luke meant when he wrote the words. Don't forget the fact that this passage currently in focus is strongly connected to the baptism mentioned before it and is part of the overall unfolding story of the manifestation of tongues throughout the Book of Acts in connection with baptisms.  Whether I add personal stories or not remains to be seen. 

 

Having dealt with all this preamble I will turn to the text of what Luke wrote in Acts 19:1-7 in the next Gemz. 

 

 

Those who know that glossolalia is not God’s path for them and those for whom it is a proven enrichment should neither try to impose their own way on others. J L Packer

 

Those who pray with tongues and those who pray without tongues do it to the Lord; they stand or fall to their own master, not their fellow-servants. J L Packer

 

In the same sense that there is in Christ neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female, so in Christ there is neither glossolalist nor non-glossolalist. J L Packer

 

Latin is a dead tongue 
And Romans made songs! 
Then no one disagree: 
It delighted them in theory 
Now it's "the Latin" in me. 

Ana Claudia

 

 

 

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