Of all the seemingly typical practices evident throughout today’s progressive “Spirit lead” denominations, none causes more division, speculation and confusion than the gift of “SPEAKING IN TONGUES” (“Glossolalia;” from Gk, glossai, 'tongues, languages,' and lalein, 'to speak').  

The phenomenon of “speaking in tongues,” technically has been manifested in nearly every Christian denomination in recent years. It is estimated that between 140 and 370 million Christians engage in “glossolalia” worldwide. These figures reveal that up to 20% of all Christians engage in “glossolalia” and it is becoming increasingly accepted within mainstream Christian churches.  Yet, the contemporary phenomenon of “speaking in tongues” is actually a recent development within Christendom. It is part of the Pentecostalism of the twentieth century, beginning in modern times around 1900 and gaining prominence during the 1960's, (involving the charismatic movement) right up till the present day.

That there are millions of sincere Christians around the world, desirous of worshiping God in “spirit and in truth” there is little doubt - many Pentecostals and Charismatic’s (not to mention other Protestant and Catholic tongues speakers) claim to possess this supernatural gift. Speaking in unknown tongues is associated with certain rites of passage - the baptism of the Holy Spirit, anointed prayer, edification, intercession and is often deemed the unmistakable proof that one either does or does not possess God’s Holy Spirit. “Tongues” therefore, is an extremely sensitive subject – a cause of fervent debate and simmering divisions.

It might be a surprise to some however, that “tongues” is not unique to the Christian faith. The truth is that many different religions, cults, sects (including plethora of pagan rituals and customs – shamanism and witchcraft) share this phenomenon. Glossolalia is found among the Inuit (Eskimos), The Saami (Lapps), in Japanese seances in Hokkaido, in a small cult led by Genji Yanagide of Moji City, the shamans in Ethiopia in the zar cult and various spirits in Haitian Voodoo. L. Carlyle May shows that glossolalia in non-Christian religions is present in Malaysia, Indonesia, Siberia, Arctic regions, China, Japan, Korea, Arabia, and Burma, among other places. It is also present extensively in African tribal religions.

Although much has been written on the subject (both from a Christian and secular viewpoint), many Christian studies are prone to heavy bias, any objective outlook usually ending somewhat inconclusively. So what is the REAL Scriptural truth (the exact meaning of the original texts) regarding this popular Christian practice and what (if any) historical evidence is there available to us that might help in an attempt to get at the truth of the matter regarding “tongues?”

Far from being hazy, Gods Word is emphatic in its treatment of this delicate subject - So much so in fact, that we ourselves have been challenged and prompted by God’s Holy Spirit to cleave to the truth of the Scriptures and forsake all personal interpretations. Yes, it’s one of those subjects! What you learn here will challenge you. It may even upset you, shock you or anger you. Are you prepared to let the Scriptures guide you? If vigilant study proves this phenomenon to be what is generally considered a marvellous blessing from God, then nothing more needs be said nor proved. If however the Bible disproves modern tongue-talking as unscriptural, then those of us practicing it are not free, but are in bondage to what could only be described as “a sacred cow” of global proportions. Indeed few need reminding of the spiritual mandate requiring us to test the spirit behind every practice and every wind of doctrine.

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but TRY THE SPIRITS whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)



The meaning of “Glossa”


For most of us, our introduction to “speaking in tongues” comes very much with the territory of the day to day practices of church life – particularly prayer and intercession, “spiritual warfare” and the like. In the Scriptures, the supernatural gift of “tongues” is evident at the spiritual conception of the early church recorded in the New Testament book of Acts during the famous event at Pentecost AD 33. It should be no surprise then, that this historical event is the highest authority by which the modern tongue talker stakes his/her claim.


“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance...” (Acts 2)


There it is. It’s right there in the Bible for all to behold and wonder – Spirit filled Christian’s speaking in tongues! Need we go any further? Yet, herein lies one of the most profound truths regarding this event. Unbeknownst to most Christians, this portion of scripture is also the undoing of any argument concerning the NATURE of the “language” spoken under God’s anointing. Keep in mind, you have probably read these verses dozens of times before and not seen it. Are you ready?

“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues (glosssa) as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own LANGUAGE...

And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak, Galileans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue (dialektos) wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and the strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:4-11).

Can you see it? It’s right there in the Scriptures! The word translated both “tongue” and “tongues” is the Greek word glossa and aside from meaning the organ of the body used in speaking, literally means “a language.” A KNOWN language! It is used in the plural (tongues), with reference to supernaturally speaking in a language (a foreign language), a total of 20 times, but only in Acts and I Corinthians. Where glossa is not a supernatural gift, it is clearly used to represent a known language, as in Rev. 10:11, 13:7 & 17:15 where some combination of “…peoples, and multitudes, and nations and tongues [Gk: glossa—languages]…” is used. Strong’s concordance confirms this outright.

glossa (strongs Gk1100) gloce'-sah; Of uncertain affinity; the tongue; by implication a language (specifically one naturally unacquired): - tongue.


Also in these verses we find not only the Greek word glossa but the Greek term dialektos (strongs Gk1256) which means dialect, or “language of a nation or region.” In Acts 1:19 the term dialektos means the vernacular language of a country. It has the same meaning in Acts 2:6,8.


What languages were those “Spirit filled” Christians speaking? Was it some indiscernible spirit language, some unknown angel tongue that only the speaker and God could understand? NO! – not in the slightest!

“....And how hear we every man in our own tongue [language/dialect], wherein we were born?....”


It is obvious that all these people from many different countries were hearing in their own language, the specific language of their nation. The languages in which the Disciples were speaking were known foreign languages and dialects. And the people were amazed that these Galileans, uneducated in the “proper” schools, and all from a lower class of society, could speak these foreign languages - foreign languages which had not been learned by the speakers previously and which were not learned at that time. The gift of languages was instant and spontaneous. It was not “learned.”


“The crowd detects that the speakers are not foreigners but Galileans who could not have learned these foreign languages in any natural way. Their utter amazement was caused by the fact that these unlearned Galileans suddenly spoke in the native mother tongues of the various listeners.” (Speaking in Tongues by Gerhard Hasel)


Far from the mysterious and unintelligible guttural, babbling sounds of the modern Christian experience, these men and women of God were speaking of the glories of God, to an international crowd that had gathered in their presence.


This particular “gift” symbolized more than a necessity for communication, (since nearly everyone in Jerusalem could have comprehended Aramaic or Greek) rather by this first proclamation of the Spirit, the divisions of humanity were symbolically overcome. Ever since the Tower of Babel described in Genesis 11:6-9, mankind had been divided and scattered by diverse languages. Now people were united, each understanding equally the utterance of God's Word through the Disciples! The event also focused attention of the fact that from the start, the news of Jesus was addressed to the vast Diaspora. As events unfolded, these Jews from across the world became the principal conduit for the proclamation in its early years. Yes there seems to be a real practical reasoning behind this supernatural phenomenon.


This was also the first occurrence of the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” So if “tongues” refers to an earthly language in Acts 2, one would expect to see the pattern repeated in other scriptures as well. Is there a similar pattern elsewhere in Scripture?  Acts 10 records the salvation of Cornelius and his family who are Gentiles. As the Apostle Peter preaches to them, they believe the Gospel; they are saved; they are baptized with the Spirit; and they begin to speak in tongues.

“Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.' While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God” (Acts 10: 43– 46).

These Gentiles began to “speak in tongues” upon the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Is this the same phenomenon as that recorded in Acts 2? Acts 11 provides proof.  In Acts 11, Peter defends his preaching to the Gentiles. The Jews in Jerusalem had questions about whether preaching to the Gentiles was the right thing to do. Peter tells them that God appeared to him in a vision and instructed him. Get ready for the clincher. In Acts 11: 15 Peter says;

 “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning”

Would the Jews present with Peter at Cornelius’ house have accepted mere babbling as valid evidence of the Spirit’s coming? What happened to the Jews in Acts 2? They began to speak in other foreign languages! Peter said the same thing happened to them as happened to us. What would that require? It would require miraculously speaking in an earthly language that they had not learned or studied. We cannot deny, that an earthly language is being described in Acts 2 and in Acts 10.

There are four occasions where tongues occur, in the Book of Acts: Acts 2, probably in Acts 8, Acts 10 and Acts 19.

In Acts 2, the Jews receive the Spirit and are brought into the Church. In Acts 8, the Samaritans believe, are saved, receive the Spirit and are brought into the Church. In Acts 10, the Gentiles believe, receive the Spirit and are brought into the Church. In Acts 19, the disciples of John the Baptist believe, receive the Spirit and are brought into the Church. On each of these occasions the Spirit comes in a special way and manifests His coming by the “speaking of tongues” to a special group of people. It is always in the context of an Apostle’s ministry.

Without a doubt, the presence of tongues in these instances served to unify the Church - it removed any question as to the validity of the conversion. The Jews from Acts 2 questioned whether the Gentiles should be viewed as part of the Church. However, any doubt was removed when Peter said, They have received the same gift as we have. Yes the gospel message was to be heard and believed by all manner of migrants and foreigners. From then on, there was no question that the Church would be comprised of Jews, Gentiles, Samaritans and followers of John the Baptist. It would be a unified Church under the leadership and authority – in ONE Spirit! Is this making sense?!



Tongues as a sign of Judgment

“Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature. In the Law it is written, “BY MEN OF STRANGE TONGUES AND BY THE LIPS OF STRANGERS I WILL SPEAK TO THIS PEOPLE, AND EVEN SO THEY WILL NOT LISTEN TO ME,” says the Lord. So then tongues are for a sign” (1 Cor. 14: 20– 22).

This reference from the Apostle Paul further cements the foundational understanding of “tongues” as speaking in foreign languages. Paul refers to speaking in tongues as “a sign” The quote Paul uses is from the Book of Isaiah. In the passage, the Prophet Isaiah is foretelling the captivity of the Northern Kingdom of Israel:

“Indeed, He will speak to this people through stammering lips and a foreign tongue, He who said to them, 'Here is rest, give rest to the weary,' and, 'Here is repose,' but they would not listen” (Is. 28: 11,12).

Note the context of Isaiah 28: 11,12: “He will speak to this people with stammering lips,” or as Paul puts it, “Through men of strange tongues.” He is talking about the Assyrians. The Assyrians were going to come down and conquer Israel. The very presence of the foreign language of the Assyrians being spoken among the Israelites was to be a testimony to them that they have been judged by God.

Is should follow then, that the context of 1 Corinthians 14, the idea of a babble (a non-earthly language) is totally foreign. The verse Paul quotes from the Book of Isaiah identifies the word “tongue” as a language. In 1 Corinthians the presence of a foreign language being spoken among the Jews was a testimony (spiritual type) to them by God, that they too were being judged for their unbelief and rejection of the Messiah. The Scriptures are full of these kinds of references regarding God’s judgements.  

 “The Lord will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you shall not understand, a nation of fierce countenance who shall have no respect for the old, nor show favour to the young” (Deut. 28:49,50).

In Deuteronomy God tells Israel if they disobey Him, a nation whose language they do not understand will be brought to conquer them. In Isaiah God tells Israel that they have disobeyed Him. He is going to bring a nation (Assyria) upon them whose language they do not understand. Then in 1 Corinthians 14, Paul reminds Israel that this principle of judgment is still being evidenced. The presence of these foreign languages among the Jews are again God’s testimony: “You have been judged by Me, and now blessing is brought to the Gentiles.” Throughout Scripture, Biblical tongues consistently refers to actual earthly languages.  There is one more word to look at in this discussion of biblical tongues. In 1 Corinthians 12: 10, as he talks about the various gifts, Paul writes:

“To another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues.”

The word translated “kinds” in this verse is literally, genos. It means “nationality,” “race,” or “kindred of people.” Therefore, 1 Corinthians 12: 10 states there are “various kinds of languages,” or “various nationalities of tongues.” The very use of the word “kinds” further identifies “tongues” as an earthly language!



“NEW” and “UNKNOWN” Tongues?

Further confounding the issues surrounding the methodology and practices of modern “tongue” speaking, is the textual problem of the portion of Scripture known as “the longer ending of Mark” (Mark 16:9-20)

“And these signs shall accompany them that believe: in my name shall they cast out demons; they shall speak with new tongues...” (Mark 16:17)


Most scholars follow the approach of the textual critic Bruce Metzger, who holds the view that verses 9-20 were not part of the original text. Mark should have ended at verse 8, the verses after it added much later than the original. That most Christians are unaware of this fact bids poorly for the moral integrity of learned church leaders who are aware. As in most cases of Christian doctrine, tradition holds more weight than fact.


We know that the early Church Fathers, Clement of Alexandria (c150-c215), Origen (c185-254) and Tertullian (c160-c225) never quoted any verses from Mark after the eighth verse of chapter sixteen. The omission by Tertullian is especially important when we realised that, in his writings about baptism, verse 16 would have been especially useful for him. In fact down to the year 325 the passage from Mark 6: 9-20 was quoted only once, by Ireneaus (c130-c200) in 180 CE, in the whole of Christian literature.


In the fourth century the Christian historian, Eusebius (c264-340), in his work Ad Marinum stated that “in the accurate manuscripts Mark ended with the words “for they were afraid” [Mark 16:8].” This opinion is also shared by the famous fourth century theologian St. Jerome (c340-420).


In all the important and earliest extant manuscripts of the Bible , The Codex Vaticanus, the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Syriacus, the last twelve verses of Mark are conspicuously missing. All these manuscripts end at Mark 16:8.


Some modern Bibles are honest enough to at least mention the inconsistencies in the differing texts. In the Good News Bible, Today's English Version, also known as The Bible in Today's English Version, in the Introduction to Mark's Gospel, N.T. it states - page 44: “The two endings to the Gospel, which are enclosed in brackets, are generally regarded as

written by someone other than the author of Mark.”


Here are some other commentaries;


Knox's 1945 RC translation (which received RC authorisation) stated that verses 9-20 were not part of the original Mark (footnote 5 on page N.T. 52)
The New Bible Commentary, F.DAVIDSON, A.M.STIBBS, and E.F.KEVAN (eds), 1959 (2nd edition), Inter-Varsity Fellowship, London, p 839 a-b. "The epilogue (xvi.9-20).


“These last twelve verses present one of the major textual problems of the New Testament. The two Codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus omit the whole section, Four other MSS of less weight supply an alternative and much shorter ending...Mary Magdalene is introduced as a stranger in verse 9, despite her appearance in verse 1... “


“(The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20”


“The two endings to the Gospel ... are generally regarded as written by someone other than the author of Mark.” - Good News Bible p N.T. 44.


The forgery contains the doubtful teaching “whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16), and the dangerous nonsense “Believers ... will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison”" (Mark 16:17-18). See also New Jerusalem Bible, footnote 16a on p 1204; Monsignor Ronald KNOX's translation, The Holy Bible


It has been said, this passage is a fraudulent fabrication of early Christian piety because it is certainly no consolation to Christians, that the earliest gospel contain no account of the resurrection appearance of Jesus. This is most likely the reason for its inclusion!


But textual criticism aside, we can look at Mark 16:17 comparatively to draw to the obvious conclusion. It is simple. The Apostles did NOT speak with “NEW tongues” (some unheard angelic language) 50 days later on Pentecost, because we have this undeniable statement of Scripture stating that: “…we do hear them speak in OUR languages the wonderful words of God.” The languages of the Medes, Cretes, Asians, Elamites, Parthians, Egyptians, Arabians, etc., spoken on Pentecost were anything but “new tongues,” as these tongues/languages are old as the hills. The Scriptures do not contradict.

We should add also, that the King James’ erroneous use of the term ‘unknown’ tongue in the book of Corinthians, does not help the issue either. It is in fact used but six times in the King James (I Cor. 14:2, 4, 13, 14, 19, & 27), and in every instance, the word, unknown is in italics signifying that the original Greek manuscripts did not contain this or any such word! Yes you read that correctly...a little skulduggery perhaps?

“If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and  that by course; and let one interpret.” (Co 14:2) 

The evidence is conclusive. The proper translation of “glossa” is “language” or “languages.” “Tongues” is simply an archaic (dated) and somewhat ambiguous term for the common, everyday speech of multitudes and nationalities everywhere.



Diversities of Language

So the Scriptures clarify for us the nature of these languages by the consistent translation of the terms “diversities, diverse, kinds and diversities and kinds” -  (from the one Greek word genos - strongs gk1085). We can be sure then that the diversities of languages” (which the Apostle Paul stated are “the manifestation of the Spirit”) have nothing to do with unknown or previously unheard tongues but have everything to do with the dialects and regional nuances of known cultures. Is it not even within the realm of possibility that this gift could be a totally different language to that spoken by the different nationalities around the world.

In I Cor. 12:4 we read of diversities of gifts.”

 In verse 6 we read of diversities of operations.”

Both times the word “diversities” is translated from the Greek word diairesis, and it means “variety.” So the word “diversities” is a perfectly fine word to translate it.

But in I Cor. 12:10 we read of: diverse kinds of languages.” In verse 28 we read of: diversities of languages.” And in I Cor. 14:10 we read of: “many kinds of voices [sayings, languages].”

The Greek word “genos” resonates familiar modern associations with English words such as “geno-cide,” “gen-eration,” “gen-ealogy,” and “gen-ius” but the English words “kind” and “diversities,” do not at all convey the way that this word genos is used in Scripture.

Strongs defines this word #1085: genos; kin, born, country, diversity, generation, kind, nation, offspring, stock.

Here is how “context” translates the Greek word genos in other Scriptures:

“The son of consolation, a Levite, and of the country [Gk: genos] of Cyprus.” (Acts 4:36)

“In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen [Gk: genos]…” (II Cor. 11:26)

These were real PEOPLE that Paul was in peril of.

“And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation [Gk: genos]…” (Gal 1:14)

Here genos speaks of nation or nationality.

“But you are a chosen generation [Gk: genos], a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people…” (1 Pet 2:9)

Notice the company that genos keeps in this verse: “generation, priesthood, nation, people.”

We can clearly see that genos carries the primary connotation of that which deals with: “where we were born, our offspring, kindred, country, stock, countrymen, nation, and generation.”

So just what “kinds,” “diversities,” and “kinds” (genos, genos, and genos) of languages is scripture making mention of in I Cor. 12:10b, 28b & 14:10?

The truth is undeniable. Again, it is NOT the speaking in gibberish of some unknown angelic tongue, rather this spiritual gift was a gift of GENOS LANGUAGES” - the real, working, every day languages dealing with genos which is translated throughout the New Testament as: “where one was born, offspring, kindred, country, stock, countrymen, nation, and generation!”

Surely this is why Paul boldly stated: “I thank my God, I speak with languages MORE than ye all” (I Cor. 14:18)

Let’s think about this with some rationality. Why would Paul say this? Why would Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, benefit from such a gift as “tongues?” Why because he travelled through dozens of villages, towns, cities and states, countries and kingdoms that’s why! He spoke with kings and peasants - among the very same “every nation under heaven” spoken of in Acts 2. The gift of “languages” was a vital and necessary instrument given to those God had commissioned to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ amongst the nations! It makes perfect sense doesn’t it?



The Language of Angels?

Needless to say the main scripture used to lend credence to the methodology of modern tongue speaking is found in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian congregation.


“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels (Gk;32 “aggelos”), and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” (1Cor 13:1-2)


We must be careful not to let mere speculation lend weight to our arguments regarding this passage. We must heed the scriptural warning;


 “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” (2 Pet 1:20)


Indeed, where are the other “spiritual witnesses” that lend credence to concept of “angelic tongues?” Is there at least one other verse? No. There simply aren’t any. Could there be a more suitable explanation?


“...The New Testament knows nothing of an 'unknown tongue'. From the very beginning of the church, tongues were known languages, recognized by the listeners..” (Acts 2:4, 6, 8, 11). Warren Wiersbe


The word “angels” in this passage of scripture is the Greek word “aggelos.”


Strongs defines it as; 32 ággelosproperly, a messenger or delegate – either human (Mt 11:10; Lk 7:24, 9:52; Gal 4:14; Js 2:25) or heavenly (a celestial angel); someone sent (by God) to proclaim His message.


G32 ἄγγελος, aggelos, ang'-el-os From ἀγγέλλω aggellō (probably derived from G71; compare G34; to bring tidings); a messenger; especially an “angel”; by implication a pastor: - angel, messenger.


Aggelos” lends itself more to relaying the idea of “the message” over the nature of the messenger. Though “aggelos” is used 176 times in the New Testament, only the context determines the nature of the actual messenger.


32 (ággelos) can refer to “a human messenger” (cf. John the Baptist, Mt 11:10, quoting Mal 3:1; see also Lk 7:24, 9:52). 32 /ággelos (plural, angeloi) refers to heavenly angels over 150 times in the NT, i.e. spiritual beings created by God to serve His plan.


Look at the following examples.


“For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger (aggelos) before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.” (Mat 11:10) 


“And when the messengers (aggelos) of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind?” (Luk 7:24)


“And sent messengers (aggelos) before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.” (Luke 9:52)


It is interesting that these particular verses carry the connotation of a message of authority, purposefulness - a mandate with real anointing. We know for a fact that Paul spoke in tongues (“known languages.”) but he adds, “AND angels,” which a logical study of ALL the Bible texts proves he did not do. In fact here, the word “though” is characterised as “a particle of conditionality It is a theoretical idea like “what if?” or “let’s just say.” It is a supposition, not a fact!


G1437 ἐάν, ean, eh-an' From G1487 and G302; a conditional particle; in case that, provided, etc.; often used in connection with other particles to denote indefiniteness or uncertainty: - before, but, except, (and) if, (if) so, (what-, whither-) soever, though, when (-soever), whether (or), to whom, [who-] so (-ever). See


Carrying on. The theologian Warren Wiersbe observes in his Bible commentary;


“It is unfortunate that our translators inserted “unknown” in 1 Corinthians 14:2, because the New Testament knows nothing of an “unknown tongue.” From the very beginning of the church, tongues were known languages, recognized by the listeners (Acts 2:4, 6, 8, 11).

It is especially notable then, that other Scholars and teachers share a similar view. Ironside and John MacArthur see the expression “tongues of angels” as speaking of a “divine eloquence” – an ability to talk with real anointing.  MacArthur writes;

 “Paul is simply saying that, were he to have the ability to speak with the skill and eloquence of the greatest men, even with angelic eloquence, he would only become a noisy gong...”

Indeed what is completely overlooked here is the hypothetical nature of this portion of scripture which was undoubtedly written for the sole purpose of “proving a point”- this being that spiritual gifts are fine, but LOVE is the “MORE excellent way.” Yes, Paul was actually talking about LOVE! As we shall discover, “LOVE” bears all the hallmarks of the FRUIT of the Spirit. They are assuredly HIGHER than the GIFTS of the Spirit!

1Corinthians 13:1-8


1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not LOVE, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.


2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity LOVE I am nothing.


3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not LOVE, it profiteth me nothing.


4 LOVE (not prophesying, not speaking in tongues, etc., but LOVE) suffereth long, and is kind; LOVE (not prophesying, not speaking in tongues, etc., but LOVE, you get the picture) envieth not; LOVE vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,


5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;


6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;


7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.


Did you notice all the fruits of the Spirit in verses 4-7 directly above?  Notice how they flow from the source of TRUE spiritual maturity - LOVE?  LOVE never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away! Boast all you like of the GIFTS of the Spirit – it shall profit you NOTHING!


9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.


10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.


11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.


How many Christians revel in their giftings like a child over a new “toy?”


12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.


13 And now abideth faith, hope, LOVE, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Nowhere do the GIFTS of the Spirit prove a believers worth or point to “special blessings” from God. The sign of a spiritually enlightened Christian is embodied by how he LOVES his fellow man – it is displayed in his CHARACTER, his empathy, his kindness, his gentleness, his peace, his self control. THERE IS NO OTHER SUBSTITUTE! 

Indeed, Paul makes a point of “ramming the point home.” In almost prose like fashion, Paul eloquently paints a portrait of this most noble trait. The very concept of a “language of angels” is typically hyperbolic. Paul uses hyperbole repeatedly in verses one and two when he writes, “If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”(vs. 2)

Even if we did entertain the commonly held viewpoint of Paul’s reference to an “angelic tongue,” its use within the whole construct of this passage surely proves its intended meaning. Remember he said; 

“though… I have… ALL knowledge,” Yet did he? No!

“though I have… ALL faith,” but did he? No.

“though I… give my body to be BURNEDbut did he? Obviously not - Paul was beheaded in Rome. “Though I may leap tall buildings in a single bound” would not entirely be out of place here!

Would then the Apostle Paul speak with the languages of heavenly “angels?” Not according to ANY of the other Scriptures that mentions tongues! The answer is obvious.

Similarly, here is another portion of scripture that is heavily relied upon in support of the argument for some “supernatural unknown tongue.”


“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Rom 8:26) 


It is suggested time and time again that these unintelligible utterances are proof of a manifestation of the Holy Spirit that supersedes the carnal or rational mind, instead being a direct channel (by means of a spiritual language) to God. Isn’t this therefore a form of talking in “tongues?”


Well, let’s really read this scripture.

“Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought [Gk: ‘as it BEHOOVES’—that which is necessary & binding]: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings [What kind of groaings? Our groanings? The spirit groaning through US? NO…] …which CANNOT BE UTTERED(Rom. 8:26.)

“…UNSPOKEN groans,” Emphatic Diaglott,

“…INARTICULATE groanings,” Concordant Literal New Testament, etc.).

A closer look at scripture once again reveals the truth of the matter. It should be obvious to anyone with a modicum of common sense, that if something is not uttered or spoken, that “something” is NOT heard!



PAUO and the gift of “languages”

Vigilant scholarship often lays to rest speculative or biased opinion. It’s astounding how many of the simple, provable truths of God’s Word are lost to us in the translational processes. Some of the seemingly minor nuances found in certain Bible translations have profound effects on our understanding of major doctrinal points of view. The issue of “tongues” is no different.  If we are ever in doubt, going back to the original Greek or Hebrew languages will always point us closer to the truth.

 The argument for modern tongue speaking being a spiritual gift for us today heavily relies on its use in the context of other gifts such as “prophecies” and “knowledge.” Surely if both the gifts of prophesying and knowledge are still in use in the church, so also is the gift of languages right?

 This is where we have to choose whether scripture is divinely inspired or not (where the “rubber meets the road” so to speak) and it requires a spiritual mind to see the very truth before us. Are you prepared to let the scriptures guide you in the spirit of truth on this matter?

“Charity [love] NEVER FAILS [Gk: ekpipto, never become inefficient]: But whether there be prophecies they shall fail [Gk: katargeo—be rendered useless, vanish away, make void, nullify, be discarded, etc.]: whether there be languages, they shall cease [Gk: pauo—to stop, quit, desist, come to an end]; whether there by knowledge, it shall vanish away [Gk: katargeo—same as for prophecies]… and now abides faith, hope, charity [love], these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (I Cor. 13:1,8,13).

·         Love = never fails (ekpipto) [never lapses]

·         Prophesying = shall fail (katargeo) [be discarded]

·         Languages = shall cease (pauo) [will cease]

·         Knowledge = vanish away (katargeo) [be discarded]

We need to give very serious consideration to the language used here. Let’s look at the meanings of the above Greek words.

The first one, “Love,” will never fail! Why? It shall never lapse (ekpipto)

But notice the next three, prophesying, languages and knowledge come to an eventual end, albeit in different ways. We need to pay close attention to the words!

Paul said that prophesying would katargeo, and knowledge would also katargeo (be discarded)

But what did Paul state would happen to the “gift of tongues?” He said they would “pauo.” And what does PAUO mean?

“Pauo” - Strongs 3972:” “to make to cease or desist.”.

Why is that? Why do prophesying and knowledge come to one kind of an end, but tongues/languages comes to a different kind of a end? Here is the TRUE scriptural answer to this question. God has two different purposes for prophesying and knowledge, and languages!

The answer is found in the usage of the two words: katargeo and pauo. The King James Translators partly saw the answer, but they were not consistent (obviously so, they translated the very same Greek word, katargeo two different ways in the very same verse). They rightly stated that languages shall cease, but they saw how katargeo is used many times in Scripture, hence they said that “knowledge shall vanish away” rather than “cease.”

Notice that both prophecies and knowledge are said to “fail” and “vanish away,” as the same Greek word is used for both- katargeo. But when it says that “languages shall cease” it is a different word- pauo. Why is this? Do they not all meet with a similar fate? No, no they don’t, and that’s why a different word is used to describe their ending.

Remember that it is usage that determines the real meaning of words. Dictionaries and the study of etymology can be big helps, but in the end it is usage which gives us the best definition. And, the more and different ways that we can see a word used, the more precisely we can see its true meaning.



The Greek word “katargeo” has the connotation of coming to an end, falling into disuse, annulling, discarding, growing old, useless, and being done away, etc. Sometimes it can be used in a situation where something comes to an end rather quickly, but many times it is used to describe something that is fading into disuse, the KJV Translators using: “shall vannnish away.”  There are various examples in the sciptures of how katargeo is used to represent something that expires or is discarded over a prolonged period:

“Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down, why cumbers/encumbers [Gk: katargeo] the ground” (Luke 13:7 — "…make even the ground useless," Rotherham).

Here we are told that this katargeo was rendering the ground useless for 3 years.

In this verse we see that the process of God “…discarding [katargeo] it and them…” is still going on after two thousand years.

“Then comes the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down [Gk: katargeo] all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till he has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed [Gk: katargeo] is death” (I Cor. 15:24-26).

From the above we see that katargeo can take three years until something ends, or two thousand years and still counting till something else ends, or even throughout the entire reigning of Jesus Christ until all enemies including death itself is abolished. So here is Scriptural proof that anything that is a katargeo consummation can take as long as man is still in the flesh to come to a final end. And prophesying & knowledge are specifically said to come to a katargeo end.  But NOT SO WITH “tongues!”



Here is how we are told that TONGUES (LANGUAGES) will consummate: “…whether there be languages, they shall cease [Gk: pauo—‘stop, quit, end, cease’]…” (I Cor. 13:8). But is there a difference in the “time” it takes for something that is katargeo to end, and something that is pauo to end? Yes there is. Here is how the word pauo is used in Scripture:

“Now when He [Jesus] he had left [Gk; pauo] speaking, He said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught” (Luke 5:4).

How long do we suppose it was between the time Jesus stopped speaking and Jesus commanded Peter? A few minutes? It was very quickly, not years.

“And they came to Him, and awoke Him, saying, Master, master, we perish. Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased [GK: pauo], and there was a calm” (Luke 8:24).

How long did it take to cause the wind and raging water to cease? A few minutes? Certainly not hours or days.

“And it came to pass, that as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased [Gk: pauo], one of His disciples said unto Him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And He said unto them. When ye pray, say…” (Luke 11:1-2).

Jesus “ceased” praying in an instant. Or do we believe Jesus went hours, or days between praying. To stop something by use of the word pauo is to end it very quickly.

“…and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left [Gk: pauo] beating of Paul. Then the chief captain came near, and took him…” (Acts 21:32).

As soon as they “left” beating of Paul the chief captain came. Not hours or days later, but right then. The word pauo does not linger for centuries as does the word katargeo.

So, herein lies the most crucial truth regarding the Biblical practice of “tongue speaking.” When Paul taught that “languages” would end by way of pauo, he was unequivocally stating that the gift of “tongues” would end very quickly as compared with “prophesies and knowledge” which will fade out over centuries and eons of time. Therefore, we still have “prophesies & knowledge,” whereas the gift of “languages” is never ever mentioned again after I Cor. 14 for the remaining years of Paul’s ministry! Nor is the gift of “languages” ever mentioned by any other New Testament writer. Is that clear enough? This is shocking stuff!

You see, this revelation alone carries serious implications for those of us interested in upholding the truth of God’s Word. In the light of scriptural truth, it behoves us to consider whether or not modern tongue speaking is in any way authentic as a practice or whether it is simply nothing more than a self aggrandizing carnal display of the flesh.  

If however we are still in doubt or unconvinced by the textual issues surrounding the practice of modern “tongue speaking,” then perhaps its authenticity is proven via methodology and practice alone. - Perhaps experience carries more weight than mere “theory?”



Do ALL speak with Tongues (languages)?

“Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with languages? Do all interpret?” (I Cor. 12:29-30)

Already a simple reading of the Scriptures puts to rest one particular argument surrounding the practice of “tongues.” Contrary to mainstream Christian teaching, the Scriptures totally contradict the stubborn supposition that speaking in tongues is absolutely necessary proof that one actually carries “the true anointing” of God’s Holy Spirit – and yes Christian leaders can be THAT stubborn! There are countless preachers, evangelists, church elders, pastors and home group leaders the world over, convinced in their convictions on this very “fact.”In the above verse (in the Greek) these questions are not even rhetorical questions! They are statements of fact. Notice the following translations:

“Not all [are] Apostles. Not all [are] prophets, Not all [are] teachers. Not all [have] powers. Not all [have] the graces of healing. NOT all are speaking languages, Not all are interpreting” (Concordant Literal New Testament)

“All are not Apostles; all are not Prophets; all are not Teachers; all are not Powers; all have not Gifts of Cures; all do NOT speak in different Languages; all do not interpret” (Emphatic Diaglott).

How can Christian leaders be so blind to the truth? Do ALL Spirit filled Christians “speak in tongues” as so many teachers proclaim? NOT IF WE BELIEVE THE SCRIPTURES! There is no need to place a question mark after these statements of fact. Obviously not “all” are Apostles, and likewise, “all do NOT speak in different languages.” Furthermore, Paul already states in verses 8-10, that to ONE is given this gift and to ANOTHER a different gift, but not all get all the gifts. Here is the truth – do not be deceived. Speaking in “tongues” is IN NO WAY, THE ONLY SIGN of one having God’s Holy Spirit. More importantly, after giving us two separate lists of spiritual gifts, Paul tell us this:

“But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you A MORE EXCELLENT WAY” (I Cor. 12:31).

And just what could be more excellent than any or all of these gifts of the Holy Spirit? Answer: LOVE!

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, [love] I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I AM NOTHING. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profits me nothing.

Charity [love] suffers long [is patient], and is kind; charity envies not [is not jealous]; charity vaunts not itself [doesn’t brag or boast], is not puffed up, does not behave itself unseemly [not immoral], seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things [all God’s Truths] hopes all things [that are promised in God’s Word], endures all things. CHARITY NEVER FAILS…”



Edifying - the Church or the individual?

In I Cor. 12 we read of two lists of “spiritual gifts” from God. And before listing them, Paul clearly tells us:

“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal” (Verse 7).

This is an important point. There MUST be a “profit” or “contribution to all” as the Greek bears out, from these gifts. As we will see conclusively proved from Scriptures, speaking in “tongues” is never ever to be a physical spectacle for self-aggrandizement of the flesh!

“For to one is given [not to ‘all’, but to certain ones only] by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit: To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy [inspired speaking]; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues [languages]; to another the interpretation(I Cor. 12:8-10). In verse 28 Paul gives us another list of gifts:

“And God has set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of languages.”

 “Wherefore languages are for a SIGN, not to them that believe, but to them that believe NOT…” (I Cor. 14:22).

And what then was the purpose to “speaking in tongues (languages)?” Surely it was a sign that the gospel was to be shared to the Gentile nations - supernaturally in the dialects of those receiving the good news!

 [1] Speaking in a language is ALWAYS a special sign for an unbeliever to hear a message in his own language, NOT a sign for believers:

 [2] Speaking in a language must ALWAYS edify the Church:

“I would that you all spoke with languages, but rather that you prophesied [that means to give an inspired message of God]: for greater is he that prophesies than he that speaks with languages, except he interpret, that the church may receive EDIFYING” (I Cor. 14:5).

[3] Speaking in a language ALWAYS requires that [a] no more than 2 or 3 speak on the same occasion, that they [b] speak one at a time, that there has already been someone selected who knows how to [c] interpret the languages to be spoken, and if no interpreter can be found, then they [d] CANNOT speak in the church:

“If any man speak in a language, let it be by two, or [a] at the most by three, and that [b] by course [one at a time], and [c] let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him [d] keep silence in the church” (I Cor. 14:27-28).

A far cry we must agree from the practices taught within Pentecostal and Charismatic congregations. Many “enlightened” churches do the complete opposite of Paul’s instruction and encourage corporate tongue speaking with no interpretation at all!

“Follow after LOVE, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that you may prophesy [speak under inspiration of God’s Spirit]. For he that speaks in a tongue speaks not unto men, but unto God: for NO MAN UNDERSTANDS HIM; howbeit in the spirit he speaks mysteries” (I Cor. 14:1-2).

Paul told the Corinthians that [1] they should desire spiritual gifts, [2] for the purpose of prophesying, because [3] no one understands what he is saying if he speaks in a language. So is it a good thing to speak in a language if no one understands you? NO, of course not. Next Paul states, “BUT…” But what? If speaking in a language is not a good thing to do if no man understands what you are saying, then WHAT IS GOOD? Well, Paul answers:

“BUT he that prophesies [is inspired of God to speak in the language of the congregation] speaks unto men to EDIFICATION, and EXHORTATION, and COMFORT [consolation](Ver. 3). NOW THAT’S A GOOD THING TO DO! Paul continues in Verse 4:

“He that speaks in a tongue [language] edifies himself [well that’s a selfish thing to do!] BUT he that prophesies [is inspired to teach by God’s Spirit in the language of the congregation] edifies THE CHURCH [now that’s the unselfish thing to do].” Paul again admonishes them by saying:

“I would that you all spoke with tongues, BUT RATHER [here is Paul’s instructions as to HOW this gift is to be properly used] that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesies than he that speaks with languages, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying” (Verse 5).

Now Paul gives us the one “exception” clause which will put “speaking in a language” on equal footing with “prophesying” - that is inspired teaching in our own language. And what is that one thing that is absolutely necessary for speaking in a language to be acceptable in the congregation of God’s Church? Someone must be able to INTERPRET what the person said in a foreign language. But what if there is no interpreter present?

“But if there be no interpreter, LET HIM KEEP SILENCE IN THE CHURCH” (verse 28).

There you have it. Speaking in tongues is fine, IF, and only if, “except he INTERPRET” so that the whole church receives “edification, exhortation, and consolation.’ This teaching is clear. This teaching is simple. There is no misunderstanding Paul’s admonition. Yet how many tongue speaking churches actually OBEY Paul’s admonition?

Next, notice what Paul instructs us in verse 6:

“Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with languages, what shall it profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?”

If your teaching is not by revelation, knowledge, prophesying, or doctrine, “what shall it profit you,” Paul asks? Nothing else is acceptable. But is this true of the modern tongue-speaking phenomenon?  Are we speaking to the entire congregation by “revelation, knowledge, prophesying, or doctrine,” or are we babbling “gibberish” into the air, in which case NO ONE IS EDIFIED, the whole endeavour being only an exhibition of the FLESH?

Paul continues:

“And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” (Verses 7-.)

It is above all, necessary for one who speaks in a language, to be UNDERSTOOD! Paul attempts to make it ever clearer:

“So likewise you, except you utter by the language words easy to understand, how shall it be known what is spoken? For you shall speak into the air” (Verse 9).

Verse 10: “There are, it may be, so many kinds [Gk: genos] of voices [disclosure, saying, or language] in the world, and none of them is without signification [none is dumb or mute]. Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice [language], I shall be unto him that speaks [we speak in languages] a barbarian [foreigner], and he that speaks shall be a barbarian [foreigner] unto me.”

This couldn’t be clearer. Paul is stating that if we don’t understand a language spoken to us by a foreigner to us, we become foreigners to each other.

Verse 12: “Even so [in the very same way] ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church."  All these gifts are all about edifying the church..” not making a spectacle of ourselves, in our flesh.

Verse 13-14: “Wherefore let him that speaks in a language pray that he may interpret." For if [a supposition, not a fact, same as though ] I pray in a language, my spirit prays, but my understanding [my mind] is UNFRUITFUL.”

And Paul tells us to “have no fellowship with the UNFRUITFUL works of darkness” (Eph. 5:11).

So even if one had the gift of languages, he should NOT speak without an interpretation, because it is “unfruitful” (ver. 14), it is just praying to “himself” (ver. 4), it does not “edify, exhort or comfort” (ver. 3), it is not “by revelation, knowledge, prophesying, or doctrine” (ver. 6), it is not a “distinct sound,” (ver. 7), for one merely “speaks into the air,” (ver. 9), you are like a “barbarian” to whom you speak (verse 11), therefore, “If there be no interpreter, let him keep SILENCE in the Church…”

Verse 15: “What is it then? [How should it be done?]. I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding [the mind] also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding [the mind] also. Else when you shall bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupies the room of the unlearned [uninformed] say A-men at your giving of thanks, seeing he understands NOT WHAT YOU SAY? For you verily give thanks well [that is if you truly are speaking in a foreign language, and not gibberish] but the other is NOT EDIFIED.”

There is just no Scriptural excuse for speaking or praying at a church service in a language if there is NO INTERPRETER PRESENT- WE ARE NOT TO DO IT! How many “despise the Word of God” in their disobedience? Dare we ask!



 Carnal vs Spiritual

Verse 18: “I thank my God, I speak with languages more than ye all.”

This particular statement gives us valuable insight into the obvious purpose and nature of Biblical “tongues speaking.” After all, why might Paul be so desirous of this particular spiritual gift over his contemporaries? Well, being called to the Gentiles, he visited numerous countries, regions and cities where many genos”- “languages” were spoken! Although Greek was spoken by many people throughout the Roman Empire, Paul would have been confronted with numerous different languages (including nuisances of various dialects) on his extensive and gruelling travels. Therefore “tongues” were indeed tan essential “sign” to unbelievers rather than to believers (I Cor. 14:22).

Undoubtedly, “tongues” was a spiritual gift intended for the conviction of conversion of “infidels,” that they might be brought into the Christian church! Not only that, but converts were to be built up in their Christian faith by profitable instructions...in their own language! The gift of “tongues” was necessary to spread Christianity, and to gather churches quickly - persecution “on masse” throughout the Roman empire was not far off.

We should mention of course the huge impact Christianity would have on the culture of those who sought to embrace it. The Roman Empire (for the most part) at the time ruled with religious tolerance, various pagan religions, cults and sects flourished – a veritable melting pot of influences, ideas and philosophies collided and mingled and ultimately was absorbed by all those they came into contact with. Christianity was often seen by anyone who took any notice, as just another cult that had emerged from the social ethers.

The implication of this cross pollination of ideas was felt far and wide even in the early church communities. We see evidence of these dynamics (which we shall look at in depth later) within the Corinthian congregations to whom Paul was addressing his concerns. It lay in its membership, many of whom had left their pagan religions (there being many to choose from in Corinth) but retained some of their practices, ecstatic tongue speaking being but one of them. With this in mind Paul explained the need for maturity concerning spiritual practices within the body of Christ. He therefore continues:

Verse 19: “Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understand [mind] that, by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in a language.”

Could all modern tongue-talkers say “Amen” to that admonition? Would they honestly and truly “RATHER speak five words with your understanding mind, than ten thousand words in a language?”

Verse 20: “Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be you children, but in understanding be men."

Paul is surely stating; Brethren, please don’t desire to speak ten thousand words in a language for the purpose of turning a gift of God into a display of the flesh. Rather speak just a few words in the Church, but speak them with real meaning and understanding. And remember Paul is speaking to those who have the gift of speaking in FOREIGN LANGUAGES, not in speaking gibberish that HAS NO INTERPRETATION!

Verse 21: “In the law it is written, With men of other languages and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear Me, says the Lord”

So what value is to be found in a language that cannot be understood? God drove His people into captivity where they spoke “another language,” the Assyrian language where they were  unable to equate their sins with their unfortunate dilemma. Those foreign languages did not speak to their hearts then and it is for this reason that Paul’s reference here is so pertinent to the Corinthian congregation here.

Today “tongue speaking” is often seen as a sign of spiritual maturity within Christian denominations, an assurance that God has bestowed upon them “everything” that they might be “enriched by Him” and lacking nothing.

“Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their’s and our’s. Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ. That in every thing ye are enriched by Him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge. Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: So that YOU CAME BEHIND IN NO GIFT, WAITING FOR THE COMING OF OUR lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 1:1-7).

HOWEVER, despite all these wonderful gifts from God, here was the real spiritual condition of most Corinthian believers:

“And I, brethren [the brethren of the whole church] could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes [‘be not children in understanding’ I Cor. 3:1] in Christ. I have fed you with milk [all their ‘enrichment in utterance and knowledge’ Paul calls ‘MILK’] and not with meat [speaking in languages is milk, not meat] for hereto ye [the word ‘ye’ means ‘ALL of you’] were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are YET CARNAL… are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (I Cor. 3:1-4).

The Corinthians came behind in NO GIFT- they DID speak in “languages,” but that gift did no more cause them to “hear me” [God], than if they had not been given this gift. One who did not possess the gift of languages could still be a very spiritually mature believer, and one who did possess this gift of languages could be “YET carnal.”

The Corinthians “came behind in no gift,” which included the gift of "utterance and knowledge." Yet, Paul says they were “babes on milk” that they were “not able to bear spiritual meat.” And Paul admonished them: “Brethren, be not CHILDREN IN UNDERSTANDING,” for that is exactly what they were spiritual CHILDREN, and not mature men. And worse yet, they “were YET CARNAL.” Just as Israel did not spiritually benefit when God spoke to them “with other lips [languages],” neither did the Corinthian’s mature out of spiritual childhood even though God not only spoke TO them, but also spoke THROUGH them by the miracle gift of genos [the languages, tongues, and dialects, of many nationalities] languages.”

And lest anyone believe that to be “yet carnal” merely means to be not quite spiritually mature yet, let’s read Paul’s own definition of “carnal;”

“For to be carnally minded is DEATH… because the carnal mind is enmity [‘hostility, opposition, hatred’ against God] for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:6a & 7).

Continuing in Verse 22: “Wherefore, languages are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying [inspired teaching and preaching] serves not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.”

Again, Paul says that “languages are a sign to nonbelievers.” But how many times do Pentecostal tongue-talkers use this gift on non believers, rather than among themselves which all believe. Just how is this a sign to believers? Then why would any wish to use this gift of languages among believers? These are Scriptures that are in no way open to interpretation. There are few Christians alive today that have the ears to heed these warnings.

Verse 23-25: “If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with languages [all at the same time], and there come in those that are unlearned or unbelievers, will they not say that YE ARE MAD [CRAZY]? But if all prophesy [‘by COURSE’—one at a time, Ver. 27], and there come in one that believes not, or one unlearned, he is convinced by all, he is judged by all: and thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.”

Surely here we are presented with a real spiritual accomplishment - a sinner coming to true repentance and acknowledgement of the goodness of God. And what has brought about this accomplishment of God’s Spirit? Speaking in languages? NO. It is simple - Prophesying or speaking the inspired word of God with the understanding of the MIND, after all does the practice of today’s “tongue-talking” truly convert anyone?



Silence or Confusion

Today the use of “tongues” in has become a spectacle of mass disobedience on EVERY level! Unbelievers are subjected to the public displays of this counterfeit doctrine on international television, world renowned preachers and teachers break out in the middle of their sermons or talks with incoherent bursts of gibberish and then continue on speaking as if some divine revelation has just been espoused. We must insist -this kind of “tongue speaking” is NOT one of the genos languages” spoken by the early Apostles, neither does it stand up to the requirements and guidelines as stated in scripture. Think about your own Church experiences -weigh them up against the tenets of Scripture. Let’s look at this display of the flesh as practice by Christians today. Today, “tongues” is;

1...NOT by or from inspiration of God.

2...A practice where non-believers are NOT understanding what is being babbled.

3.... a practice where participants are NOT following any admonition or instruction of the Scriptures!

4... a practice which requires an interpreter. There is almost NEVER an interpreter present in “tongue speaking” congregations! And let’s face it – when by some rare chance some-one does choose to “give it a go” – it is usually a fairy sketchy affair! Under these circumstances, NOT even the believers understand what is being babbled! This is NOT spiritually speaking in a real language, but is rather a vanity-filled demonstration and exhibition of the carnal FLESH!

Verses 26:28: “How is it then, brethren? [‘Well, my brothers, let’s add up what I am saying’ The Living Bible] When ye come together, every one of you has a psalm, has a doctrine, has a language, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done unto EDIFYING.”

If “all things” done in any church do not “EDIFY” the entire body of believers, then what is being done is wrong and a sin.

“If any man [‘any man’—‘Let you women keep SILENCE in the churches, for it is NOT PERMITTED for them to speak’ Verse 34, {not even in their own language}] speak in a language, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course [orderly: one at a time]; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him KEEP SILENCE IN THE CHURCH; and let him speak to himself, and to God”

EVERY single word of every single language spoken in the congregation must be INTERPRETED, or let EVERY single “tongue-talker” “keep SILENCE in the church.”

“Let the prophets [inspired speakers] speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sits by, let the first hold his peace [keep silent]. For ye may all prophesy ONE BY ONE, that all may LEARN, and ALL may be comforted. And the spirits of the prophets are SUBJECT TO THE PROPHETS. For God is not the author of CONFUSION, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints…”

Paul’s instructions are clear: “ALL prophesying [inspired speaking of any kind, must be done…] …ONE by ONE.” Is this always the way it is done in tongue-talking churches? And the reason given is so that “all may learn.”

Next, a very important point: ‘The SPIRITS of the prophets are SUBJECT to the prophets.” But is this the case within Charismatic and Pentecostal tongues-speaking churches? Or is it not rather the other way around, and the people themselves are subject to “the spirits” that control their carnal and unscriptural exhibitions? Yes this is affronting stuff! The Word of God offends and penetrates even the most “soulish” parts of our hearts and minds!

An often unspoken admission from those of us who have engaged in modern “tongue speaking,” is the fact that those participating don’t know what they are saying, what they are praying or singing and ultimately don’t understand how unscripturally they are behaving. For example – and this is quite an eye opener; scripture knows nothing of falling over BACKWARD in the presence of God as is evident with so much of the practices of modern churches under “the anointing,” on the contrary! In all cases in the Scriptures of anyone paying homage to anyone, (be it a lord, king, or God Himself), it was done by “falling on one’s FACE,” (Abraham, Gen. 17:3 to Jesus, Matt. 26:39). Perhaps there is more to be discovered in this fact alone concerning charismatic phenomena than we would all like to admit?

And just what kind of “spirits” are we talking about here? Since “GOD is not the author of confusion?” This doctrine of "unknown tongues" IS (although few would admit it) in practice and theory “confusion” and what’s more, it has become “an idol of the heart” to so many. There are many Christians addicted to the euphoria of “anointing” led ministries – running up to the front of church to “get their fix” at every and any opportunity.

“They shall be ashamed, and also confounded, all of them: they shall go to CONFUSION together that are makers of IDOLS(Isa. 45:16—also see Ezek. 14:3-7).

Could it be that what we see today is nothing but a weak shameful counterfeit sham of the original Gift of languages in the early New Testament Church? The instruction of the Apostle Paul regulating the use and practice of speaking in languages is completely book-ended. There is no room for personal interpretation on this subject. The truth of this doctrine is found in I Cor. 14, and nowhere else.

·         If it isn’t a real genos language,

·         if it isn’t spoken one by one,

·         if it isn’t interpreted,

·         if it isn’t a sign to an unbeliever,

·         if it isn’t understood by the mind,

·         if it doesn’t edify the whole church

Then it is a counterfeit!

It would therefore seem that there is no more Scriptural backing for singing in languages, or praying in languages, or meditating in languages than there is to break any of the commandments regulating it in I Cor. 14. If one cannot interpret and thus understanding with the mind what is being said or sung, it is useless and derelict for whatever purpose it is supposed to serve! Not an easy truth to swallow for those of us who have grown so accustomed to such practices in churches and in our Spiritual walks!



Origins and Influence

So, if what is being practiced in churches today is so far removed from the actual “gift of tongues” of the Scriptures, then how on earth did modern tongue speaking become such a mainstream and accepted part of Christian culture? Few realise that the various issues and arguments regarding tongue speaking is not a new one nor is it a phenomena indigenous to the Christian faith alone.

Ecstatic tongue speaking is in fact prevalent in many religions and cultures worldwide. Historically it was also associated with the various Greek and Roman “mystery religions” some of which were hugely influential in New Testament times but especially so in Corinth where the Apostle Paul directed much of his admonition. Perhaps this is the vital clue towards understanding the historical and cultural influences implicated at Corinth and why the church today is in such confusion over the doctrine of speaking in tongues?

Since the Corinthian assembly gave undue pre eminence to “speaking in tongues,” it is only to be expected that anyone seeking to understand the Corinthian phenomenon should desire to know the reason for this stress. It is highly probable that the Corinthian Christians brought aspects of their pagan background into their worship and theology. These false perspectives and practices were characteristic of the contemporary religious setting in Corinth from which they had been converted. The Apostle Paul, in order to rid the church at Corinth of these ideas, used various means of argumentation to combat these practices, even using some of their terminology for the purpose of argument.



It is not a new thought that pagan forces were hard at work in the church at Corinth, but their identity and to what degree they influenced that congregation, is a matter of debate. Scholars of the History of Religions School, earlier in this century believed that Christians, including those at Corinth, were affected by the Hellenistic mystery religions. Religious ecstasy, particularly “glossolalia,” is found in the mystery religions or the religion of Apollo, rather than in Gnosticism as some have suggested since it is deemed a later Christian heresy. Whatever the cause, the church in this hub of pagan perversity was in grave trouble; the church abounded in non biblical and immoral practices.

It has been said that the early church emerged during a period of time when the major religions of the Roman Empire were losing their grip on individuals. One reason for this may be that since the philosophers had found the gods wanting, the fear of the gods had been removed. Furthermore, in view of Roman domination over different countries and cities, the impotency of the gods became more and more obvious. If a god could not help the city, how could he meet an individual’s needs? The constant flux seen in the pantheon of Greek and Roman gods offered individuals little hope.

People turned from obvious myth to that which they could feel and experience.  The conquests of Alexander the Great, brought in new ideas which found favour with many of the western Mediterranean cultures. The mystery religions swiftly spread in a world in which travel was relatively easy and in which soldiers, who believed in these mystery religions, moved from place to place. People were seeking a change of some sort, which the dynamic of the religious syncretism (a fusion of diverse religious beliefs and practices) provided.

Religion is obsessed with the afterlife. Ancient cultures were more so, especially when life was cheap and the world was so brutal. People shared a great need for salvation(soteria) in this life and the next. Men and women were eager for such a communion with the divine, such a realization of the interest of God in their affairs, as might serve to support them in the trials of life, and guarantee to them a friendly reception in the world beyond the grave…. The communion with some saving deity, then, was the (goal) of all practice of the mysteries.



The mystery religions (the great cults of the Greco-Roman empires) were diverse. The Greek world abounded with all sorts of private associations with their respective gods. Even these varied in their myths, dramas, and practices. For example, the Eleusian variety is first heard of at Eleusis, close to Corinth and Athens. This mystery had agricultural worship at its centre. The Dionysian mystery was very excessive in its religious practices, including uncontrollable ecstasy, eating of raw flesh, and orgies. A third important cult was that of Orpheus. It had an early influence on the people of Greece, being possibly a revised version of the cult of Dionysus. Its power was waning even by the time of Plato, who may have encountered it.

Three sources are the most probable candidates for the ecstatic phenomenon seen at Corinth: the Cybele-Attis cult, the Dionysian cult (both mystery religions), and the religion of Apollo.

The worship of Cybele-Attis was accepted by the Greeks in approximately 200 B.C. The rites of this cult were extreme in nature. Priests, who were stirred by clashing cymbals, loud drums, and screeching flutes would at times dance in a frenzy of excitement, gashing their bodies. Even new devotees would emasculate themselves in worship of the goddess.

The Cybele-Attis mystery religion existed in the first century A.D. Emperor Claudius (A.D. 41—54) introduced a festival of Cybele-Attis which focused on the death and resurrection of Attis.14 Montanus, a second-century Christian heretic, known for his ecstatic excesses, was a priest of Cybele at one time. However there is little evidence indicating that a temple of Cybele-Attis was in Corinth during the first century, though the Corinthians may have been familiar with that cult.

Dionysus, the god of wine, became one of the most popular gods of the Greek pantheon. The pine tree became identified with him, and the Delphic oracle commanded the Corinthians to worship a particular pine tree out of which two images of the god were made. Some of the practices involved are as follows…

“Following the torches as they dipped and swayed in the darkness, they climbed mountain paths with head thrown back and eyes glazed, dancing to the beat of the drum which stirred their blood…. In the state of ekstasis or enqousiasmos, they abandoned themselves, dancing wildly…. and calling "Euoi!" At that moment of intense rapture they became identified with the god himself…. They became filled with his spirit and acquired divine powers.”

In 187 B.C. the Roman senate sought to ban the Dionysian cult but was never fully successful. It was revived under Julius Caesar and remained in existence at least until the time of Augustine (A.D. 354—430).The question remains whether it was widely active during the first century A.D. and especially in Corinth. Some have argued that the Dionysian cult had permeated the Mediterranean world at the time of Paul, and was a background to Paul’s words;

 “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord” (Eph 5:18-19)

Dionysus was worshiped in Corinth as early as the fourth century B.C. with a temple located in the Sacred Glen. This most likely indicates that the cult of Dionysus may have been in Corinth at the time of Paul. Dionysus was worshiped at Delphi across the gulf from Corinth, substituting for Apollo when supposedly he was spending the winter with the Hyperboreans. This continued at least during the time of Plutarch (A.D. 46—120) so the Dionysian religion probably would have had some influence on Corinth.

The third major cult that may have had influence on the Corinthians was that of Apollo. Several temples in Corinth were for the worship of Apollo and the famous shrine at Delphi was primarily that of Apollo. Funnily enough, studies conducted at Delphi have uncovered a probable cause of its notoriety. The analysis of the hydrocarbon gases in spring water near the site of the Delphi temple found that one was ethylene, which has a sweet smell and produces a narcotic effect described as a floating or disembodied euphoria.

“Ethylene inhalation is a serious contender for explaining the trance and behavior of the Pythia,...Combined with social expectations, a woman in a confined space could be induced to spout off oracles,”

 Diane Harris-Cline, a classics professor at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

According to traditional explanations, the Pythia derived her prophecies in a small, enclosed chamber in the basement of the temple. If the Pythia went to the chamber once a month, as tradition says, she could have been exposed to concentrations of the narcotic gas that were strong enough to induce a trance-like state.

Interestingly, the slave girl that Paul encountered in Philippi on the way to Corinth had a spirit of Python, or one inspired by Apollo. The ecstatic tongues-speaking of the oracle and the subsequent interpretation by the priest at Delphi were widely known. The cult of Apollo was widespread in Achaia, but especially around the temple of Delphi across from Corinth. This religion easily could have provided the kind of impetus for spiritual experience found in the Corinthian church.

Greece had long experience of the utterances of the Pythian prophetess at Delphi and the enthusiastic invocations of the votaries of Dionysus. Hence Paul insists that it is not the phenomenon of “tongues” or prophesying in itself that gives evidence of the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit, but the actual CONTENT of the utterances.

With the ecstacisrn of Dionysianism and the emphasis on tongues-speaking and oracles in the religion of Apollo, it is not surprising that some of the Corinthians carried these pagan ideas in the church at Corinth, especially the practice of “glossolalia” for which both of these religions are known (though the Dionysian cult did not include interpretation of the “glossolalia” as did that of Apollo).



The mysteries were cults whose practices and secret beliefs were not shared with the uninitiated. In view of their great importance, it is extraordinary that today, we know almost nothing about them. Everyone initiated had to take an oath not to reveal them and their influence was so strong that apparently few ever did. The major teaching in the mystery religions was rebirth and immortality of the initiates. Their rites were baptism, dedication, and the sacramental meals.

The mystery-cults of the empire were designed to induce both higher and lower forms of ecstatic feeling. The expression of the ecstatic state took various forms, such as gashing one’s flesh, dancing nude in a frenzy, and speaking in ecstatic utterance. The latter was the means whereby the devotees sought to have communion with the saving deity. Here the significance of the term “glossolalia,” or “speaking in tongues,” comes to the fore. The gift of “tongues” and of their interpretation was not peculiar to the Christian Church, but was a repetition in it of a phrase common in ancient religions. Interestingly, the very phrase glossais lalein, “to speak with tongues,” was not invented by the New Testament writers, but borrowed from ordinary speech!

So, to what probable degree did the mystery cults affect thinking and worship of the Corinthian church, and how did that influence Paul’s discussion in 1 Corinthians 12-14?

If the church was affected by these pagan cults, one would expect to see evidence of these in Paul’s letter, for example, certain allusions or terms that the Corinthians or Paul used. We shouldn’t assume of course that Paul was fluent in mystery terminology, but he certainly was aware of those terms which were in common circulation.

Paul engrossed in welfare of his congregations, must have gained considerable insight into the earlier spiritual aspirations of his converts, and the manner in which they had sought to satisfy them. Even apart from eager inquirers, a missionary so zealous and daring would often find himself confronted by men and women who still clung to their mystic ritual and all the hopes it had kindled. It was inevitable, therefore, that he should become familiar, at least from the outside, with religious ideas current in these influential cults.



The allusions to particular aspects of pagan worship, could well be identified in Paul’s statements to the church at Corinth. Paul wrote that the ability to “speak with the tongues of men and of angels” without love is no better than his being “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor 13:1). This may be an allusion to the use of the instruments in the mystery cults. These instruments were used to produce the ecstatic condition that provided the emotional intoxication needed to experience the sacramental celebration. This is especially true in Dionysianism. Failure to evidence love in the expression of the gifts would be as meaningless as their former pagan rites.

Paul contrasted the pneumatikos, one who has the Spirit, with the psuchukos, the one devoid of the Spirit (1 Cor 2:10 - 3:4 {1 Cor 3:4}). The pneumatic character of worship in the mystery religions was always connected with states of ecstasy, whereas Paul never seems to make this connection. To him the possession of the pneuma is the normal, abiding condition of the Christian. The special meaning of pneumatikos and pneumatika to the Corinthians was mainly due to their ecstatic emphases, especially the phenomenon of “speaking with tongues.”

The actual term mystery (musterion) is used in the New Testament but with a different force (except for possibly 1 Cor 14:2) In the New Testament it refers to the things of God that could not be known by man except through revelation from God. The revelation given of these things by the Holy Spirit is not obscure but clear and is given to be communication to God’s people (1 Cor 2:1 - 16). It is not given privately in unknown words. In heathen religions this word referred to the hidden secrets of the gods which only the initiated could know. Those initiated into such mysteries claimed to have contact with the spirit world through emotional excitement, revelations, the working of miracles and the speaking of unknown words revealed by the spirits. In the New Testament Church every Christian is initiated.

Possibly Paul spoke of these mysteries when he wrote that “one who speaks in a tongue…speaks mysteries” (1 Cor 14:2). If this is not an allusion to mystery terminology, it is certainly not a commendation from the Apostle.



Ecstatic religion by its very nature was and is, self-oriented. Christians were to use their Christian charismata for the common good, but the pagans were totally concerned about their own personal experience, an attitude also prevalent among Corinthian Christians.

Women had an important place in the mystery cults, especially in the emotional and vocal realm. This was especially true in the Dionysian cult. The majority of Dionysian worshipers were women for example. The practice in the early Christian church and in the synagogue from which the church derived much of its order was for the women not to participate much in the vocal activities of the community. This aspect of the pagan cult could well be what Paul was counteracting in 1 Corinthians 14:33 - 36.36. The believers were to conform to the practice of all the congregations of God in having vocal expressions limited to men. Also the use of andras (“males”) rather than anthropos (“men”) in regard to public prayer (1 Tim 2:8) may give evidence of the consistency of this custom.

The desire or at least reverence for the spirits (daimonion)  may also be seen in the Corinthian church. In their pagan past the spirit would enable them to come into contact with the supernatural and to experience a oneness with the god in the state of ecstasy. These same attitudes may well have existed among believers at Corinth. They had difficulty in accepting the fact that an idol (behind whom was a daimonion) was nothing and that meat sacrificed to an idol was just meat (1 Cor 8:1—7). They were zealous for spirits (1 Cor 14:12). Some have said that pneuma here is synonymous with “spiritual gifts,” but this is an unlikely use of pneuma. Also 1 Corinthians 12:1- 3 demonstrates that they were not distinguishing the difference between speaking by the Spirit of God and speaking by means of the daimonion in their previous pagan worship, by whom they were led to false worship.

Such ecstasy was common in all mystery religions. The reason for this common experience is well recorded in fact

Not every man can be a miracle-worker and a seer, but most are susceptible to ecstasy, especially as members of a great crowd, which draws the individual along with it and generates in him the sense of being filled with a higher, divine power. This is the literal meaning of the Greek word "enthusiasm," the state in which "god is in man." The rising tide of religious feeling seeks to surmount the barrier which separates man from god, it strives to enter into the divine, and it finds ultimate satisfaction only in that quenching of the consciousness in enthusiasm which is the goal of all mysticism.”



Unquestionably the Corinthian church was involved in ecstasy. We must understand, that “speaking in tongues” is NOT unique to the Christian faith. This phenomenon existed in various religions.

“There also the pneumatikos, by whatever name he might be called, was a familiar figure. As possessed by the god, or partaking of the Divine pneuma or nous, he too burst forth into mysterious ejaculations and rapt utterances of the kind described in the New Testament as glossai lalein.’

Possibly the carnal Corinthians, recent converts from the pagan religions, were failing to distinguish between the ecstatic utterance of their past and the true gift of tongues given supernaturally by the Holy Spirit. There is no question that the “glossolalia” in the Book of Acts were languages.

If “speaking in tongues” involved a supernatural speech in a real language, then every such utterance required a direct miracle by God. This would mean, in the case of the Corinthians, that God was working a miracle at the wrong time and wrong place! He was causing that which He was directing the Apostle Paul to curtail.

Is there a point of reconciliation for this contradiction? One may be that Paul used glossa for both ecstatic utterance and human language in 1 Corinthians, much as people do today with the term. One may wonder why Paul did not use “mavnti” when he referred to ecstatic utterance, but his method of argumentation may give the answer to this. Another possibility is given.

Even if it were admitted that ecstatic utterance such as was practiced in Hellenistic religion was invading Corinthian Church meetings, Paul would be condemning it by presenting normative Christian “glossolalia” as something radically different in style as well as in content.



To what extent the mystery cults played their part in Paul’s writings to the Corinthian Christians, we can only speculate. However, there is ample proof to suggest that the same confusions permeating church culture then, exist in our churches today.

It is appropriate to ask then, what some of the people who have actually studied various forms of “tongues” say about the Christian phenomenon, compared to other examples of “glossolalia.” And know this, their similarities maybe a little too close for comfort!

It is interesting that the recent authoritative Encyclopedia of Religion calls “glossolalia” a practice of “nonordinary speech behaviour that is institutionalized as a religious ritual in numerous Western and non-Western religious communities.”

Experts in the field of linguistics have diligently studied the phenomenon of “glossolalia” over a period of many years. One of the early investigations was made in the early 1960's by Eugene A. Nida. He provided a detailed list of reasons why “glossolalia” cannot be human language. Another early study, that of W.A. Wolfram in the year 1966, also concluded that “glossolalia” lacks the basic elements of human language as a system of coherent communication.


The highly respected 1972 study of John P. Kildahl (The Psychology of Speaking in Tongues) concludes that “from a linguistic point of view, religiously inspired glossolalic utterances have the same general characteristics as those that are not religiously inspired." In fact, glossolalia is a “human phenomenon, not limited to Christianity nor even to religious behavior.” (Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements by Spittler, P. 340).


 A renowned linguist who has studied Christian “glossolalia” extensively gave a similar definition, describing it as;

 “a meaningless but phonetically structured human utterance believed by the speaker to be a real language but bearing no systematic resemblance to any natural language, living or dead.” (William J. Samarin, Tongues of Men and Angels. The Religious Language of Pentecostalism (New York, 1972).

In a massive study of “glossolalia” from a linguistic perspective by Professor William J. Samarin of the University of Toronto's Department of Linguistics published after more than a decade of careful research, he rejected the view that modern glossolalia is xenoglossia, i.e. some foreign language that could be understood by another person who knew that language. Samarin concluded that glossolalia is a “pseudo-language.”


He defined “glossolalia” as “unintelligible babbling speech that exhibits superficial phonological similarity to language, without having consistent syntagmatic structure and that is not systematically derived from or related to known language.” (William J. Samarin, "Variation and Variables in Religious Glossolalia," Language in Society, ed. Dell Haymes, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972 pgs. 121-130)


Felicitas D. Goodman, a psychological anthropologist and linguist, engaged in a study of various English - Spanish - and Mayan-speaking Pentecostal communities in the United States and Mexico. She compared tape recordings of non-Christian rituals from Africa, Borneo, Indonesia and Japan as well. She published her results in 1972 in an extensive monograph (Speaking in Tongues: A Cross-Cultural Study in Glossolalia by Felecitas D. Goodman, University of Chicago Press, 1972).


Goodman concludes that “when all features of glossolalia were taken into consideration - that is, the segmental structure (such as sounds, syllables, phrases) and its suprasegmental elements (namely, rhythm, accent, and especially overall intonation)” - she concluded that there is no distinction in glossolalia between Christians and the followers of non-Christian (pagan) religions. The “association between trance and glossolalia is now accepted by many researchers as a correct assumption,” writes Goodman in the prestigious Encyclopedia of Religion (1987).


Goodman also concludes that “glossolalia” – “is, actually, a learned behaviour, learned either unwarily or, sometimes consciously.” Others have previously pointed out that direct instruction is given on how to “speak

in tongues,” ie. how to engage in “glossolalia.” Further studies have made comparisons between Christian “glosslolalia” and the chanting languages of those who practice voodoo on the darkest continents of this world.


During the last 20-30 years, Christian communities right throughout the world have been swept up in an unparalleled, communal euphoria that has led to a seemingly never ending series of fads and movements within church groups experiencing what is considered, an “outpouring of God’s Spirit.” Such churches are often considered to be experiencing “renewal” and “revival.” “Holy laughter” – (laughing uncontrollably, falling down on the ground, rolling around, having seizure-like activity) being struck dumb, or being “slain in the spirit,” bellowing like animals and causing untold interruptions within church services have become common place and in many cases encouraged.


Pastors the world over keep vigil over their flocks, passport in hand, eagerly anticipating the next “special wave of the Spirit” - in order to bring it back home! On television we are now continually confronted with preachers and evangelists hell bent on making a spectacle of this accepted outpouring, using people under “the anointing,” to almost comical effect. It is disturbing that none of these particular “signs of the anointing” are apparent in the Scriptures in any way shape or form. This in itself should be unsettling news to those participating in such activities. Is such behaviour any different to the ecstatic excesses of the mystery religions of old – the desire for sensory overload and experience more alluring than the instruction of the Word of God? One has to ask.



Spiritual Maturity

For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1 Corinthians 3:3)

So, far from bearing the hallmarks of mature Christian spirituality, all these displays and boastings of the flesh, just go to show how infantile most Christians are. There is a greater spiritual lesson for us learn here in understanding Paul’s chastisement of the Corinthian believers. We must understand that the church at Corinth (despite Paul giving it particular attention) is indicative of the state of carnality running rife through ALL churches EVERYWHERE. Not much has changed.

I Corinthians 1:10-13 says:

10. “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. “

11. “For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.”

12. “Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.”

13. “Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?”

Does this not sound like the church today and down through the centuries? Methodists say, “I am of John Wesley,” Baptists say, “I am of John Smyth,” Lutherans say, “I am of Martin Luther,” etc. Today people cleave to anyone and everyone, give money to ministries, (named after the founders) give their substance over to self appointed leaders and prophets and yet NONE of them would even dream of comparing themselves to the Corinthians in this Scripture! Followers of John Wesley claim that they are SPIRITUAL when they are sanctified through a “second work of grace.” Yet, they are as carnal as the day is long! Holding on to one particular doctrine or philosophy and holding it in hi esteem at all costs is nothing short of an abomination of imbalance. Putting “spiritual gifts” on a pedestal is just as foolish. WE bring mockery to these appointments by the Holy Spirit in our attempts to “out gift” each other!

“For to ONE is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom; and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit:  to another faith, in the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, in the one Spirit;  and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discernings of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues  ; and to another the interpretation of tongues:  but all these worketh the ONE and the same Spirit, dividing to each one severally even as he will.” (1 Corinthians 12:8-11)

Notice that these gifts concern “good works:” they deal with temporary things here and now on earth. BUT - consider the FRUIT of the Spirit. And here is the big difference!

“But the fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Gal 5:22-23 

Yes, when you have the Spirit indwelling, God will product the “fruit of the Spirit” within you. These fruits are the development of God's OWN character/image within our heart and mind! These fruits are much HIGHER in nature than the gifts/works that are for this life, because they are spiritual/heavenly in nature and transcend this physical life/world. This world and the things in it are temporary, but the fruit of the Spirit is “righteousness through Jesus Christ,” is eternal and will always remain as a permanent part of our character. How many today boast of such a marvellous promise? There are plenty that boast of their ability to beautifully “speaking in tongues” or to “cast out spirits” yet how many of us revel in the fact we are being changed and conformed into the image of Christ himself?!

“...being filled with the fruits of righteousness through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Php 1:11)

In fact, the Apostle Paul tells us unequivocally the difference between being spiritually minded and being yet carnally minded:


“For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Rom 8:6) 


But one doesn’t attain the “peace that surpasses all understanding” by doing nothing! It’s no bed of roses this “being changed and transformed!” It’s unpleasant business, this “dying daily to the flesh!” Carnal “babes in Christ” have NO understanding of the process and means by which God achieves His workmanship in us.


After all, there are plenty believers who call themselves “Pauline Christians,” who speak of nothing but grace, as if “grace” were nothing more than a dead noun, defined as “unmerited pardon.” Such people simply cannot accept the strong meat of “the mystery, even the hidden wisdom.”


Few ever concern themselves with “strong meat” of the Word! – stuff which Paul spake “among them who are being perfected.”


“Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church: Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Col 1:24-28)


How many believe like the apostle Paul, that we should be “filling up in our flesh what is behind of the afflictions of the Christ?” After all, isn't that what “the mystery” is? Is it not “Christ in you, the hope of glory?” If indeed, Christ is in you, will you not fill up His afflictions and suffer with Him, just as He Himself suffered? Is that not the very function of grace, according to this very same apostle Paul?


“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,

teaching [Greek - paideuo, chastening] us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Tit 2:11-12)


“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.


Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, living soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world is simply too much “strong meat” for “carnal babes” in Christ who want to hear of nothing but the milk of universal salvation. There is plenty of the milk of God's Word, but we must go beyond the milk to;


“constantly affirm that we who believe ought to forsake ungodliness and worldly lusts, and be careful to maintain good works.” (Rom 8:17)


“This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.” (Tit 3:8)


Albeit it is God Himself who “works in us” - these are verses of God's Word which are seldom, if ever, mentioned within “carnal” congregations.





So just how big a deal is it – proving by the Scriptures, the TRUE nature of “the gift of tongues?” – What are the repercussions for those of us practising it? Well, the implications are bigger than anyone could imagine. It is plainly evident that in the light of hard Biblical facts, we are faced with a long standing dilemma concerning an increasingly accepted and completely CARNAL Christian practice.

Do we cleave to what we have been taught and know or do we seek after the truth that exposes the deeds of darkness and carnal inspiration. If those practicing “tongues” find comfort in doing it, many even doing so for years, how can that possibly hurt them? Although seemingly inconsequential, the fact remains that anyone found clinging to an “Idol of the heart” is but a wicked and slothful servant who will have TAKEN FROM HIM what spiritual truth he may possess.

Too many Christians have been dismissive of the overwhelming Biblical evidence condemning the modern practice of “speaking in tongues.” It is not surprising of course, as sensationalism often wins over sound reason and judgement. Yet as we have seen, the Scriptures expose EVERY aspect of “tongue speaking” for what it is – nothing other than a carnal display of the flesh - a fraudulent copy of a genuine gift, long since fallen into disuse.

Even if modern “tongues” were genuine, pastors and preachers the world over are guilty of ignoring even the most basic instructions regarding its use within the body of the church. It is astounding how many Christians claim to possess the “gift of tongues” and yet so few would admit to possessing the “gift of interpretation!” How many people in churches have even felt pressured to “have a go” at interpreting just to save face or lend credence to the practice? In the rare occasion where people are compelled to interpret, how much is genuine and how much is guess work. You can guarantee that if you put three different people who claim to possess the “gift of interpretation” in a separate room and they were told to interpret some-one talking or singing in “tongues,” you’d end up with THREE DIFFERENT ANSWERS! Let’s be honest!

There are of course those that claim that God’s ways are not our ways. If God chooses to make His Spirit fall upon someone so that they crawl around and roar like a lion or run around in circles laughing at anyone who makes eye contact, then that’s Gods business. The usual response is that these experiences have brought the participant “closer to God.” Some explain that they just “love the Lord more and more” after each experience. The proof is in the “fruit” it is said. Really? Is “tongue speaking” the gateway to becoming a better person? Are “tongue speakers” becoming more and more “Christ like” with every utterance? Are they becoming more loving, less judgemental, more patient, more peaceful, more joyful, more kind as a result of their “prayer language?” Of course not.

Know this. We must never confuse GIFTS of the Spirit, with “FRUIT of the Spirit.” For the “FRUIT of the Spirit” is higher than the “Gifts of the Spirit” than the heavens are higher than the earth! For all of the “GIFTS of the Spirit” are of the earth, EARTHY, whereas the “FRUIT of the Spirit” is truly HEAVENLY. Do we believe that Paul admonished the Corinthians in VAIN when he said:

“So that ye come behind in no gift [‘the gifts of healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, kinds of languages, and interpretation of languages’] …And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual [Even with ALL of the Spiritual Gifts they possessed], but as unto carnal [‘hating God, not being subject to God’s law’] , even as unto BABES [‘infants, immature]… for ye are YET CARNAL” (I Cor. 1:7; 3:1 & 3).

How little has changed. Too many Christians still continue to forsake mature teaching for fleeting sensationalism. The church as a whole remains heavy on the fanciful, the mysterious and ethereal and light on truth and discipline that leads to Godly wisdom. How many of us have missed out on the “meat” of the Word, the deep and profound mysteries of the Scriptures because of our inability to discern “spiritual” things and our insatiable propensity the froth and bubble of carnal religion.

“Tongue speaking” as we know it today is a prime example of carnal inspiration and interpretation run amok. We now know that a variety of factors are at work. Look in any Christian resource shop or book store. There are even pamphlets which describe how to begin speaking in tongues! You tilt your head back, close your eyes, open your mouth and you begin to make sounds... but you do not allow yourself to speak in your own language....you make a sound and just let yourself go. You can imagine what that would be like in a church setting, with someone saying, “That is it! That is the Spirit. You have got it!” Yes, it is that bad. It is decidedly NOT the biblical phenomenon as recorded in Scripture!

Ultimately, believers who are not careful in measuring things by the spiritual principles of the Word tend to get drawn into all kinds of unscriptural activities. The pursuit of truth is a lonely road and those who seek after true wisdom must allow the Word to be the standard and criteria for true “spiritual” living.

Issues must be carefully examined and prayerfully considered. Is the gift of “tongues” practiced throughout churches today in any way authentic according to Scripture? Know this. When the light of truth reveals the things we cling to as false or found wanting, we must take the necessary steps to align ourselves to that truth. It requires us to give up the “idols of our heart” and walk the only avenue available to us through His grace. It is simple. No fuss needs to be made. We must humble ourselves, turn from the hidden works of shame and repent.