What the scriptures say about
TONGUES,
NEW or OTHER LANGUAGES
Spirit or prayer language; also see Tongue and confusion of tongues (languages)
References:
Easton's Bible Dictionary | Smith's Bible Dictionary | International Standard Bible Encyclopedia | Thompson Chain Reference

TONGUES in scriptures [BibleGateway Search]

select Cross Reference Bible links - also see: Genesis 11:9 - confusion of tongues into many languages
Psalms 35:28 - My tongue will proclaim your righteousness, your praises all day long.
Psalms 37:30 - The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak what is just.
Psalms 120:02 - Save me, LORD, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues.

Isaiah 28:11 But he will speak to this nation with stammering lips and in another language; (See 1Cor 14:21)

Mark 16:17 These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new languages;

Acts 2:4 They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other languages, as the Spirit gave them the ability to speak.
Acts 2:7-11 ff They were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, "Behold, arenít all these who speak Galileans?
How do we hear, everyone in our own native language?
...we hear them speaking in our languages the mighty works of God!" (tongues + prophecy)
Acts 2:17 ff and Joel 2:28-32 It will happen afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters will prophesy.
Acts 10:45-46 (tongues + prophecy were evidence of the gift of the Holy Spirit given to Gentiles)
Acts 19:6 When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke with other languages and prophesied.

1 Corinthians 12:8-10 For to one is given through the Spirit ..., to another different kinds of languages ...
1 Corinthians 12:30 (not all have the same gifts)
1 Corinthians 13:1 (evidence is love)
1 Corinthians 14 "Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit.."
1 Corinthians 14:5 Now I desire to have you all speak with other languages, but rather that you would prophesy. For he is greater who prophesies than he who speaks with other languages, unless he interprets, that the assembly may be built up.
1 Corinthians 14:6 (a church group profits more from words they understand)
1 Corinthians 14:18-23
1 Corinthians 14:39 "Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues."


TONGUES, Gift of [Easton's Bible Dictionary]

Granted on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4), in fulfilment of a promise Christ had made to his disciples (Mark 16:17). What this gift actually was has been a subject of much discussion. Some have argued that it was merely an outward sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit among the disciples, typifying his manifold gifts, and showing that salvation was to be extended to all nations. But the words of Luke (Acts 2:9) clearly show that the various peoples in Jerusalem at the time of Pentecost did really hear themselves addressed in their own special language with which they were naturally acquainted (Compare Joel 2:28,29).

Among the gifts of the Spirit the apostle enumerates in 1 Corinthians 12:10-14:30,, "divers kinds of tongues" and the "interpretation of tongues." This "gift" was a different manifestation of the Spirit from that on Pentecost, although it resembled it in many particulars. Tongues were to be "a sign to them that believe not."


TONGUES [Smith's Bible Dictionary]

I. glotta , or glossa , the word employed throughout the New Testament for the gift now under consideration, is used--
(1) for the bodily organ of speech;
(2) for a foreign word imported and half-naturalized in Greek;
(3) in Hellenistic Greek, for "speech" or "language."
The received traditional view, which starts from the third meaning, and sees in the gift of tongues a distinctly linguistic power, is the more correct one.

II. The chief passages from which we have to draw our conclusion as to the nature and purpose of the gift in question are--

1. (Mark 16:17)

2. (Acts 2:1-13; 10:46; 19:6)

3. (2 Corinthians 12:1; 2 Corinthians 14:1) ...

III. The promise of a new power coming from the divine Spirit, giving not only comfort and insight into truth, but fresh powers of utterance of some kind, appears once and again in our Lordís teaching.
The disciples are to take no thought what they shall speak, for the spirit of their Father shall speak in them. (Matthew 10:19,20; Mark 13:11)

The lips of Galilean peasants are to speak freely and boldly before kings.

The promise of our Lord to his disciples, "They shall speak with new tongues," (Mark 16:17) was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, when cloven tongues like fire sat upon the disciples, and "every man heard them speak in his own language." (Acts 2:1-12)

IV. The wonder of the day of Pentecost is, in its broad features, familiar enough to us. What views have men actually taken of a phenomenon so marvellous and exceptional? The prevalent belief of the Church has been that in the Pentecostal gift the disciples received a supernatural knowledge of all such languages as they needed for their work as evangelists. The knowledge was permanent. Widely diffused as this belief has been it must be remembered that it goes beyond the data with which the New Testament supplies us. Such instance of the gift recorded in the Acts connects it not with the work of teaching, but with that of praise and adoration; not with the normal order of menís lives but with exceptional epochs in them. The speech of St. Peter which follows, like meet other speeches addressed to a Jerusalem audience, was spoken apparently in Aramaic. When St. Paul, who "spake with tongues more than all," was at Lystra, there is no mention made of his using the language of Lycaonia. It is almost implied that he did not understand it. (Acts 14:11) Not one word in the discussion of spiritual gifts in 1Cor 12-14 implies that the gift was of this nature, or given for this purpose. Nor, it may be added, within the limits assigned the providence of God to the working of the apostolic Church,was such a gift necessary. Aramaic, Greek, Latin, the three languages of the inscription on the cross were media, of intercourse throughout the empire. Some interpreters have seen their way to another solution of the difficulty by changing the character of the miracle. It lay not in any new character bestowed on the speakers, but in the impression produced on the hearers. Words which the Galilean disciples uttered in their own tongue were heard as in their native speech by those who listened. There are, it is believed, weighty reasons against both the earlier and later forms of this hypothesis.

4. It is at variance with the distinct statement of (Acts 2:4) "They began to speak with other tongues."

5. It at once multiplies the miracle and degrades its character. Not the 120 disciples, but the whole multitude of many thousands, are in this case the subjects of it.

6. It involves an element of falsehood. The miracle, on this view, was wrought to make men believe what was not actually the fact.

7. It is altogether inapplicable to the phenomena of (1 Corinthians 14:1) ... Critics of a negative school have, as might be expected, adopted the easier course of rejecting the narrative either altogether or in part.

What then, are, the facts actually brought before us? What inferences may be legitimately drawn from them?

(a) The utterance of words by the disciples, in other languages than their own Galilean Aramaic, is distinctly asserted.

(b) The words spoken appear to have been determined, not by the will of the speakers, but by the Spirit which "gave them utterance."

(c) The word used, apoftheggesthai , has in the LXX. a special association with the oracular speech of true or false prophets, and appears to imply a peculiar, perhaps physical, solemn intonation. Comp. (1 Chronicles 25:1; Ezekiel 13:9)

(d) The "tongues" were used as an instrument not of teaching, but of praise.

(e) Those who spoke them seemed to others to be under the influence of some strong excitement, "full of new wine."

(f) Questions as to the mode of operation of a power above the common laws of bodily or mental life lead us to a region where our words should be "wary and few." It must be remembered then, that in all likelihood such words as they then uttered had been heard by the disciples before. The difference was that before the Galilean peasants had stood in that crowd neither heeding nor understanding nor remembering what they heard, still less able to reproduce it; now they had the power of speaking it clearly and freely. The divine work would in this case take the form of a supernatural exaltation of the memory, not of imparting a miraculous knowledge of words never heard before.

(g) The gift of tongues, the ecstatic burst of praise, is definitely asserted to be a fulfillment of the prediction of (Joel 2:28) We are led, therefore, to look for that which answers to the gift of tongues in the other element of prophecy which is included in the Old Testament use of the word; and this is found in the ecstatic praise, the burst of sang. (1 Samuel 10:5-13; 19:20-24; 1 Chronicles 25:3)

(h) The other instances in the Acts offer essentially the same phenomena. By implication in ch. (Acts 14:16-10) by express statement in ch. (Acts 10:47; 11:15,17; 19:6) it belongs to special critical epochs.

V. The First Epistle to the Corinthians supplies fuller data. The spiritual gifts are classified and compared arranged, apparently, according to their worth. The facts which may be gathered are briefly these:

8. The phenomena of the gift of tongues were not confined to one church or section of a church.

9. The comparison of gifts, in both the lists given by St. Paul -- (1 Corinthians 12:8-10,28-30) --places that of tongues and the interpretation of tongues lowest in the scale.

10. The main characteristic of the "tongue" is that it is unintelligible. The man "speaks mysteries," prays, blesses, gives thanks, in the tongue, (1 Corinthians 14:15,16) but no one understands him.

11. The peculiar nature of the gift leads the apostle into what at first appears a contradiction. "Tongues are for a sign," not to believers, but to those who do not believe; yet the effect on unbelievers is not that of attracting, but of repelling. They involve of necessity a disturbance of the equilibrium between the understanding and the feeling. Therefore it is that, for those who believe already, prophecy is the greater gift.

12. The "tongues," however, must be regarded as real languages. The "divers kinds of tongues." (1 Corinthians 12:28) the "tongues of men," (1 Corinthians 13:1) point to differences of some kind and it is easier to conceive of these as differences of language than as belonging to utterances all equally mild and inarticulate.

13. Connected with the "tongues" there was the corresponding power of interpretation.

VI.

14. Traces of the gift are found in the Epistles to the Romans, the Galatians, the Ephesians. From the Pastoral Epistles, from those of St. Peter and St. John, they are altogether absent, and this is in itself significant.

15. It is probable, however, that the disappearance of the "tongues" was gradual. There must have been a time when "tongues" were still heard, though less frequently and with less striking results. For the most part, however, the pierce which they had filled in the worship of the Church was supplied by the "hymns and spiritual songs" of the succeeding age, after this, within the Church we lose nearly all traces of them. The gift of the day of Pentecost belonged to a critical epoch, not to the continuous life of the Church. It implied a disturbance of the equilibrium of manís normal state but it was not the instrument for building up the Church.


TONGUES, Gift of [International Standard Bible Encyclopedia]

1. Basic Character of 1 Corinthians 14:
A spiritual gift mentioned in Acts 10:44-46; 11:15; 19:6; Mark 16:17, and described in Acts 2:1-13 and at length in 1 Corinthians 12 through 1 Corinthians 14, especially chapter 1 Corinthians 14. In fact, 1 Corinthians 14 contains such a full and clear account that this passage is basic. The speaker in a tongue addressed God (1 Corinthians 14:2,28) in prayer (1 Corinthians 14:14), principally in the prayer of thanksgiving (1 Corinthians 14:15-17). The words so uttered were incomprehensible to the congregation (1 Corinthians 14:2,5,9, etc.), and even to the speaker himself (1 Corinthians 14:14). Edification, indeed, was gained by the speaker (1 Corinthians 14:4), but this was the edification of emotional experience only (1 Corinthians 14:14). The words were spoken "in the spirit" (1 Corinthians 14:2); i.e. the ordinary faculties were suspended and the divine, specifically Christian, element in the man took control, so that a condition of ecstasy was produced. This immediate (mystical) contact with the divine enabled the utterance of "mysteries" (1 Corinthians 14:2) -- things hidden from the ordinary human understanding (see MYSTERY ). In order to make the utterances comprehensible to the congregation, the services of an "interpreter" were needed. Such a man was one who had received from God a special gift as extraordinary as the gifts of miracles, healings, or the tongues themselves (1 Corinthians 12:10,30); i.e. the ability to interpret did not rest at all on natural knowledge, and acquisition of it might be given in answer to prayer (1 Corinthians 14:13). Those who had this gift were known, and Paul allowed the public exercise of "tongues" only when one of the interpreters was present (1 Corinthians 14:28). As the presence of an interpreter was determined before anyone spoke, and as there was to be only one interpreter for the "two or three" speakers (1 Corinthians 14:28), any interpreter must have been competent to explain any tongue. But different interpreters did not always agree (1 Corinthians 14:26), whence the limitation to one.
2. Foreign Languages Barred Out:
These characteristics of an interpreter make it clear that "speaking in a tongue" at Corinth was not normally felt to be speaking in a foreign language. In 1 Cor 14:10 English Versions of the Bible are misleading with "there are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world," which suggests that Paul is referring directly to the tongues. But tosauta there should be rendered "very many," "ever so many," and the verse is as purely illustrative as is 14:7. Hence, foreign languages are to be barred out. (Still, this need not mean that foreign phrases may not occasionally have been employed by the speakers, or that at times individuals may not have made elaborate use of foreign languages. But such cases were not normative at Corinth.) Consequently, if "tongues" means "languages," entirely new languages must be thought of. Such might have been of many kinds (12:28), have been regarded as a fit creation for the conveyance of new truths, and may even at times have been thought to be celestial languages--the "tongues of angels" (13:1). On the other hand, the word for "tongue" (glossa) is of fairly common use in Greek to designate obsolete or incomprehensible words, and, specifically, for the obscure phrases uttered by an oracle. This use is closely parallel to the use in Corinth and may be its source, although then it would be more natural if the "ten thousand words in a tongue" of 14:19 had read "ten thousand glossai." In no case, however, can "tongue" mean simply the physical organ, for 14:18,19 speaks of articulated words and uses the plural "tongues" for a single speaker (compare 14:5,6).
3. A State of Ecstasy:
A complete explanation of the tongues is given by the phenomena of ecstatic utterances, especially when taken in connection with the history of New Testament times. In ecstasy the soul feels itself so suffused with the divine that the man is drawn above all natural modes of perception (the understanding becomes "unfruitful"), and the religious nature alone is felt to be active. Utterances at such times naturally become altogether abnormal. If the words remain coherent, the speaker may profess to be uttering revelations, or to be the mere organ of the divine voice. Very frequently, however, what is said is quite incomprehensible, although the speaker seems to be endeavoring to convey something. In a still more extreme case the voice will be inarticulate, uttering only groans or outcries. At the termination of the experience the subject is generally unconscious of all that has transpired.

For the state, compare Philo, Quis rerum. divin., li-liii.249-66: "The best (ecstasy) of all is a divinely-infused rapture and `mania,' to which the race of the prophets is subject. .... The wise man is a sounding instrument of God's voice, being struck and played upon invisibly by Him. .... As long as our mind still shines (is active) .... we are not possessed (by God) .... but .... when the divine light shines, the human light sets. .... The prophet .... is passive, and another (God) makes use of his vocal organs." Compare, further, the descriptions of Celsus (Origen, Contra Celsus, vii.9), who describes the Christian "prophets" of his day as preaching as if God or Christ were speaking through them, closing their words with "strange, fanatical, and quite unintelligible words of which no rational person can find the meaning." The Greek papyri furnish us with an abundance of magical formulas couched in unintelligible terms (e.g. Pap. Lond., 121, "Iao, eloai, marmarachada, menepho, mermai, ieor, aeio, erephie, pherephio," etc.), which are not infrequently connected with an ecstatic state (e.g. Reitzenstein, Poimandres, 53-58).

Interpretation of the utterances in such a state would always be difficult and diversities of interpretation would be unavoidable. Still, with a fixed content, such as the Christian religion gave, and with the aid of gestures, etc., men who felt that they had an understanding of such conditions could undertake to explain them to the congregation. It is to be noted, however, that Paul apparently does not feel that the gift of interpretation is much to be relied on, for otherwise he would have appraised the utility of tongues more highly than he does. But the popularity of tongues in Corinth is easily understood. The speaker was felt to be taken into the closest of unions with God and hence, to be an especial object of God's favor. Indeed, the occurrence of the phenomenon in a neo-convert was irrefragable proof that the conversion was approved by God (Acts 10:44-48; 11:15; 19:6). So in Mark 16:17 the gift is treated as an exceptional and miraculous divine blessing (in this verse "new" is textually uncertain, and the meaning of the word, if read, is uncertain also). Moreover, for the more selfish, the gift was very showy (1 Corinthians 13:1 suggests that it was vociferous), and its possession gratified any desire for personal prominence.

4. The Account in Acts 2:
The account in Acts 2 differs from that of 1 Corinthians 14 in making the tongues foreign languages, although the ability to use such languages is not said to have become a permanent apostolic endowment. (Nor is it said that the speech of Acts 2:14-36 was delivered in more than one language.) When the descent of the Spirit occurred, those who were assembled together were seized with ecstasy and uttered praises to God. A crowd gathered and various persons recognized words and phrases in their own tongues; nothing more than this is said. That the occasion was one where a miracle would have had unusual evidential value is evident, and those who see a pure miracle in the account have ample justification for their position. But no more than a providential control of natural forces need be postulated, for similar phenomena are abundantly evidenced in the history of religious experience. At times of intense emotional stress the memory acquires abnormal power, and persons may repeat words and even long passages in a foreign language, although they may have heard them only once. Now the situation at Jerusalem at the time of the Feast gave exactly the conditions needed, for then there were gathered pilgrims from all countries, who recited in public liturgical passages (especially the Shemoneh `Esreh) in their own languages. These, in part, the apostles and the "brethren" simply reproduced. Incomprehensible words and phrases may well have been included also (Acts 2:13), but for the dignity of the apostles and for the importance of Pentecost Luke naturally cared to emphasize only the more unusual side and that with the greatest evidential value. It is urged, to be sure, that this interpretation contradicts the account in 1 Corinthians 14. But it does so only on the assumption that the tongues were always uniform in their manifestation and appraisement everywhere -- and the statement of this assumption is its own refutation. If the modern history of ecstatic utterances has any bearing on the Apostolic age, the speaking in foreign languages could not have been limited only to Pentecost. (That, however, it was as common as the speaking in new "languages" would be altogether unlikely.) But both varieties Luke may well have known in his own experience.
5. Religious Emotionalism:
Paul's treatment of the tongues in 1 Corinthians 12 through 1 Corinthians 14 is a classical passage for the evaluation of religious emotionalism. Tongues are a divine gift, the exercise is not to be forbidden (1 Corinthians 14:39), and Paul himself is grateful that he has the gift in an uncommon degree (1 Corinthians 14:18). Indeed, to those who treat them simply with scorn they become a "sign" that hardening is taking place (1 Corinthians 14:21-23). Yet a love of them because they are showy is simply childish (1 Corinthians 14:20; 13:11), and the possessor of the gift is not to think that he has the only thing worth obtaining (1 Corinthians 12). The only gift that is utterly indispensable is love (1 Corinthians 13), and without it tongues are mere noise (1 Corinthians 13:1). The public evidential value of tongues, on which perhaps the Corinthians were inclined to lay stress, Paul rates very low (1 Corinthians 14:21-23). Indeed, when exercised in public they tend to promote only the self-glorification of the speaker (1 Corinthians 14:4), and so are forbidden when there is not an interpreter, and they are limited for public use at all times (1 Corinthians 14:27-28). But the ideal place for their exercise is in private: "Let him speak to himself, and to God" (1 Corinthians 14:28). The applicability of all this to modern conditions needs no commentary. Ultra-emotionalistic outbreaks still cause the formation of eccentric sects among us, and every evangelist knows well-meaning but slightly weak individuals who make themselves a nuisance. On the other hand, a purely intellectual and ethical religion is rather a dreary thing. A man who has never allowed his religious emotions to carry him away may well be in a high state of grace--but he has missed something, and something of very great value.

See also SPIRITUAL GIFTS ; TONGUES OF FIRE .

LITERATURE.
Plumptre in DB is still useful. Wright, Some New Testament Problems (1898), and Walker, The Gift of Tongues and Other Essays (1906), have collections of material. Of the commentaries on 1 Corinthians those of Heinrici (latest edition, 1896), Lietzmann (1907) and J. Weiss (1910) are much the best, far surpassing Robertson and Plummer in ICC (1911). For the Greek material, see ... in the index of Rhode's Psyche. Gunkel, Die Wirkungen des heiligen Geistes (1888, 2nd reprint in 1909), was epoch-making. For the later period, see Weinel, Die Wirkungen des Gelstes und der Geister (1899); Lake, The Earlier Epistles of Paul (London, 1911); and see Inge in The Quarterly Review (London, 1914).
Burton Scott Easton


TONGUES [Thompson Chain Reference]
 # Confusion of

    * Genesis 11:9

# Gift of

    * Mark 16:17
    * Acts 2:4
    * Acts 10:46
    * Acts 19:6
    * 1 Corinthians 12:10
    * 1 Corinthians 14:5

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