Hierdie is die eerste keer dat hierstaanek ‘n oorspronklike Engelse artikel pos. Die rede is omdat ek die artikel in Engels geskryf het vir ‘n Engelse vriend. Die betoog: Moderne “Spreek in Tale” is sonde omdat dit nie in die Bybel is nie, daarom nie van die Heilige Gees is nie, en dus in die vlees is.
The first is the pillar of the Reformation: Sola Scriptura. This means that the Bible is the infallible and inerrant word of God, it is authoritative, necessary, sufficient and clear. The Bible is therefore the only source of objective truth and the only standard of truth. God speaks to us through His Word, incarnated in Christ and written in the Bible. Since we believe that the canon of the Bible is closed, no “new revelation” may be added to the Bible and nothing may be subtracted from the Bible.
The Holy Spirit speaks to us through the text of the Bible. (1 Corinthians 1:22-24) We cannot fully understand and believe the text without the Spirit, and the Spirit never moves outside the bounds of the text. (Romans 10:17)
The second principle is the total depravity of man. In Romans 7 Paul states: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Please note that Paul refers to himself as a born again person, since somebody who is not born again does not want to abide by the law or please God. He states in Romans 3:10 “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God.”
In Jeremiah 17 we read: 7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. 8 He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” 9The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
What Jeremiah says here is that we cannot trusts our hearts, that is our emotions or experience. We have to trust God instead!
So what does this mean? Simply this: Our experience cannot be the standard of truth. While it is not unimportant, our experience has to be placed under the authority of Scriptures. Our experience has to be interpreted through the lens of Scriptures.
I have been in this debate many times before, and people who practise tongue speaking invariably come back to this argument: “I experience it, therefore it is true.” The Bible says that our experience cannot be trusted. Our interpretation of our experience cannot be trusted. The only trustworthy source of truth is the Holy Spirit as He reveals Christ to us in the Bible.
Therefore, if it is not in the Bible it is not of the Holy Spirit but of the flesh.
So what does the Bible teach?
My contention is that the Bible does not teach that the gift of languages has anything to do with unintelligible ecstatic utterances but that that it consists of real human languages, spoken by people who never learnt those languages before. Because they are real languages, they can be understood by real people, and can be translated into other, known languages.
Firstly, the dictionary meaning of the Greek word “glossa” (I do not know Greek, but Google does 🙂 ) According to the NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon :
- the tongue, a member of the body, an organ of speech
- The language or dialect used by a particular people distinct from that of other nations
Note that the Greek word “glossa” simply means “languages” when it does not refer to the physical tongue in your mouth. Nothing more, nothing less. The reason why translators still use the word “tongue” is out of reverence for the original King James translation, when the word “tongue” still meant “language” in the commonly spoken English language. Language changes, unfortunately Bible translators are often bound by tradition.
So now let us go to the Bible, verse by verse, and see what God says about it.
Mark 16:17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues [languages]
No conclusion can made be about what languages (or “glossa”) the disciples would speak, except that it would be “new”, that is, languages that they did not know before.
Acts 2:5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?9Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
It is clear that the disciples did not make funny speech-like sounds, but spoke in real languages that they did not know before, so that people present heard the gospel in their own “tongues”.
Acts 10:44While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46For they were hearing them speaking in tongues [languages] and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47“Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”
Acts11:15 As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”
Peter says that Cornelius and his family received the same gift they did: In other words the gift of speaking in foreign languages they did not know before.
Acts19:1 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. 7 There were about twelve men in all.
This is the only passage in the Bible where people spoke in languages where it is not specified that it was the same gift as what was given to the apostles at Pentecost. But there is no mention of any different type of language or “tongue” other than existing human languages here or anywhere in the book of Acts. It is therefore completely inappropriate to say that they did not speak real, existing human languages. To assume it is to add to the text of the Bible, and to say that it says what it simply does not.
With this in mind, one has to assume that when Paul uses the same word for languages, “glossa” in the book of 1 Corinthians, he means the same thing Luke did when he wrote Acts. Remember that Luke was a disciple of Paul, and wrote the book of Acts under Paul’s apostolic authority about 5 years after Paul wrote 1 Corinthians.
The burden of proof is therefore on the party who states that it was non-human languages to prove that Paul did not mean human languages in 1 Corinthians.
1 Corinthains 12:8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues [languages], to another the interpretation of tongues.
“Various kinds of languages”. Does this mean that Paul speaks here of unintelligible utterances? The text definitely does not say that, it simply says “various kinds of languages” Look again at the text in Acts 2:
Acts 2:8And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?9Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”
Can you say with any degree of honesty that Acts 2:8-11 does not qualify as a list of “various kinds of languages”?
1 Corinthians 12:28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?
It is often said that all believers should speak in tongues. Paul asks the rhetorical question here: “Do all speak with foreign languages?” The answer from the context is obviously “No.”
1 Corinthians 12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
What are the tongues of angels?
To find out, we must first look at the point Paul wants to make: He will show us a better way, that of love. Love is better than speaking foreign languages, prophecy, understanding, knowledge and sacrifice. In fact, Paul says, love is so much better than these things that even if we could imagine the absolute perfect instances of them, love would still be better.
- “Understand all mysteries.” It is obvious that man who is finite cannot understand all mysteries. Understanding all mysteries is a non-transferable attribute of God. Only God who is infinite can understand all mysteries. Paul implies hypothetical perfection that is clearly beyond human capabilities in this life or the next.
- “All knowledge.” Again this is a non-transferable attribute of God. Only God has all knowledge.
- “All faith, to move mountains” Again the word “all” points to a hypothetical perfect faith.
- “If I deliver up my body to be burnt” presents the ultimate perfect sacrifice we can make in this life.
So what Paul here says is that even if, in the hypothetical situation, that we had God-like attributes in terms of knowledge, understanding, faith and sacrifice, but we had no love, we would still be nothing. Love is superior to all these things. Even if they were absolutely perfect, love would still be better.
So with that in mind, does Paul say here that there are people who speak with the languages of angels? Does he say that there are people with all understanding or knowledge? Obviously not!
But let’s say, for arguments sake, that some people do in fact speak the languages of angels. Would angels speak in real languages that communicate information or in a senseless repetition of sounds? There are many instances in the Bible where angels spoke to people, and they always used intelligible language!
Now read the rest of 1 Corinthians 13 to hear why Paul says that about love!
So, what was Paul’s problem with the Corinthians? He had quite a few problems with them, in fact, but the main problem was that they did not have love. They practised spiritual gifts in order to build their own egos, instead of to build up the body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 14:1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 2For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.
Who speaks in an unknown language does not speak to men but to God. So far in the Bible there has not been the slightest insinuation that “glossa” means anything but human languages. In the context of spiritual gifts, real human languages that people spoke but have not learnt before. That is, unknown, foreign but existing human languages. So what Paul say here is: If somebody speaks in a language that the congregation does not understand, he does not speak to other men, for only God understands what he says. What he says remains an absolute mystery to his hearers.
So why do these people speak in foreign languages that no one in the congregation understands?
3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.4The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church.
“The one who speaks in languages builds himself up.” Paul does not speak here of people who speak languages in the privacy of their own homes, because he says “no one understands him”, so there is obviously an audience. So this is not some private spiritual edification that Paul speaks of here. Paul is reprimanding people who speak in foreign languages in order to show off. People who want other people to know they are special because they have received gifts others have not. People who “Build themselves up.”
Remember what Paul said in verse 1? “Pursue love!” Remember what Paul preaches in the previous chapter? You must have love! Now he says why he hammers so much on love: People use their spiritual gifts not for love, but to selfishly show off, instead of building up the church.
5Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.
“I want you all to speak in languages” Does this mean everybody in the church should speak in languages? See what he says about being single:
1 Corinthians 7:6 Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. 7I wish that all were as I myself am. [Single] But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.
Does Paul say everybody in the church must be celibate? Obviously not. Some, like him, have received the gift of celibacy, others have received other gifts. The same goes for the gift of languages. Even though Paul would like all to speak in languages in an abstract way, the truth is that each one has his own gift of God. Paul says explicitly in the previous chapter that not everyone has the gift of languages!
And then he says that, when someone does speak in another language, it should be interpreted, so that the congregation may be edified, instead f the individual.
6 Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching?
Paul says that if he speaks to them in languages they do not understand, he will be of no benefit to them, unless he also brings them a word from God they can understand.
7If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? 8And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? 9So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air.
Even lifeless instruments should impart information, so what makes the Corinthians think that they can speak in languages no one understands and think it is useful? It is as useful as speaking to the air!
Paul really lays it on the Corinthians here, he does not mince his words!
10There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, 11but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me.
“There are many different languages in the world, none is without meaning.” This is conclusive proof that Paul has been speaking about real, existing human languages all along. If you speak in one of these languages that I do not understand, you are like a foreigner to me, we cannot communicate!
12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.
Look at the word “So”. It means “Therefore!” The conclusion is, stop showing off! If you really want the gifts of the Spirit, start building up the church in love! (Read the previous chapter about love again!)
13Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret.
So if you speak in a foreign language, pray that you may interpret it also, so that you may build up the congregation.
14For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful.15What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying?
This is one of the most misunderstood passages in the debate over the gift of languages. What exactly does he mean with “my mind is unfruitful?”
A few things must be kept in mind when explaining this text.
The first is that Paul says in two places clearly and explicitly that he is talking of existing human languages, and not meaningless utterances here. The first is in verse 10: “There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, 11but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me.” The second is in verse 21: “In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.” This rules out the idea that Paul means that the speaker does not know what he is saying. Paul’s whole discourse here is that the gift of languages is given by God for the purpose of communicating the gospel, not to make people look spiritual! How can I communicate in words that I do not understand?
The second thing that is important to note is that Paul is saying that “my mind is unfruitful” is not necessarily a good thing! If the “mind is unfruitful”, something has to be done about it! “What am I to do?” he asks. If it were a good thing if the mind was unfruitful, would he ask it?
Paul gives the answer to his own rhetorical question: “I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.” We should not turn off our minds when we pray. We should pray with our spirits AND our minds. We should not turn off our minds when we worship in song. We should sing with our spirits AND our minds. This is part of what Jesus meant when he said to the woman at the well that we should worship God in spirit and in truth. Truth is knowledge, and can only be accessed through the mind. How can we worship in spirit AND truth if our minds are switched off?
The last thing that is important is that Paul is not talking about some personal devotional prayers here, he is talking about shared prayer in the congregation. “Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying?”
Please note the word “otherwise!”
Paul says that his mind must be fruitful “otherwise” the hearer will have no benefit of his prayer. So Paul says the “fruitfulness” of his mind is for the benefit of the hearer.
The meaning of “fruitful” according to the dictionary is:
fruitful (ˈfruːtfʊl) adj
- bearing fruit in abundance
- productive or prolific, esp in bearing offspring
- causing or assisting prolific growth
- producing results or profits: a fruitful discussion.
I highlighted the last meaning from the dictionary, since it is relevant here: Paul wants his mind to “produce results or profits.” What are the “results or profits” he wants his mind to produce? “Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying?” He answers this question very clearly: The results he wants his mind to produce is the participation of his hearer in his prayer!
Let me say this again for emphasis: The “fruit” he wants his mind to produce is the participation of his hearer in his prayer so that his hearer may be built up!
When Paul prays in a foreign language his hearers do not understand, his mind does not produce the necessary result in his audience, because they cannot say “Amen to his prayer.”
17 For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up.
So when the speaker speaks in a language his hearers do not understand, his prayer makes perfect sense to himself (“For you may be giving thanks well enough”) but the congregation is not built up.
18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.
This text is seen by many as proof that Paul used the gift of languages as a “private prayer language”. So it is said that all Christians should have a “private prayer language” The text actually says absolutely nothing of the sort. All Paul says is that he seldom uses the gift when he speaks in church. He does not say he uses it as a private prayer language at home!
So where does he use it? He gives the answer explicitly in verse 22: “Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers”
Now tell me honestly: What good is “a sign for unbelievers” if it is used exclusively in the private inner prayer room? Or did Paul do all his private praying in the presence of unbelievers so that his “private prayer language” could be a sign to them? Unfortunately poor exegesis often ends in such absurdity.
Paul used the gift of languages in order to evangelize people across language barriers. He preached on the highways and byways of the most linguistically diverse empire in the history of mankind, up to that point in history.
20 Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. 21In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.”
Paul quotes Isaiah 28:11 here, where it is prophesied that God would take the gospel to the gentiles, people who spoke foreign languages, and who would then in turn evangelize the Jews. The gift of languages was supernatural proof that God was doing just that: Taking the gospel to all the languages of the earth. This is the second time in this passage that Paul explicitly states that the gift of languages is a gift of real, existing human languages.
22 Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers.
As said before; If languages is a sign for unbelievers, then how is it supposed to be a “private prayer language?” See how this is described in Acts 2:
Acts 2:6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?
Unbelievers heard the gospel in their own languages in a miraculous way, and were saved.
23 If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds?
But if unbeliever who did not understand the foreign languages came to a meeting, they would think the people were crazy. This is exactly what happened in Acts 2:
Acts 2:12And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
So this is exactly what Paul says: For some it will be a sign. Others will scoff and say they are drunk or mad.
24But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.
To prophesy is to proclaim the gospel. If an unbeliever comes in and hears the gospel in a language he understands, he may be saved.
Romans 10:13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
1 Corinthians 14:26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 27If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God.
I would like to refer you to this academic article by Samarin: http://philosophyreligion.net/handouts/pdfs/Samarin-Pages_48-75.pdf
Glossas, by this standard, are not human languages, primarily because they really are not systems of communication. They are not characterized by semanticity (7), arbitrariness (8), displacement (10), prevarication (14), and reflexiveness (15). This list is probably incomplete, but the absence of these features is sufficient to demonstrate the nonlinguisticality of glossas.
The scientific study of charismatic tongue speaking results in the conclusion that it does not have the structure of language and therefore does not generally carry meaning. It is not language. Period. Paul says that if someone speaks in a language, it has to be translated (interpreted). Since, according to this scientific study, modern tongue speaking does not have the structure of language, it cannot be interpreted. My own experience of tongue speaking is definitely in line with this: The speech is mostly a repetition of a few words and sounds. Some tongue speakers obviously have a wider range of sounds and available words than others.
The most that an “interpreter” can do is to create new meaning for sounds that are essentially meaningless. But this would emphatically not be an act of “interpretation”. It would be an act of assigning meaning.
It is clear that modern day charismatic tongue speaking does not fit the criteria of the gift of languages.
From the Bible it is clear that:
- People spoke true human languages that they have not learnt before.
- The purpose of the gift was to demonstrate with supernatural power that God was spreading salvation to the nations of the world, and that it was not restricted to Israel any more.
- In practise Christians used the gift to evangelize foreigners, as is amply demonstrated in Acts 2.
- The result of the gift was that foreigners who heard Christians proclaim the gospel in their own languages were amazed, while others said they were mad (2 Corinthians 14), or drunk (Acts 2).
- The Corinthians abused the gift of languages to selfishly “build themselves up”, where God intended all the spiritual gifts to build up the congregation in love.
- The gift of languages was not meant as a “private prayer language” but as a sign to the unbelievers.
- The so called textual proofs for modern day charismatic tongue speaking al collapse with careful exegesis.
As discussed in the introduction, we simply cannot use our experience to prove doctrine. Our experience always has to be placed under the authority of Scripture.
Since modern day tongue speaking bears no resemblance to the spiritual gift of languages, I have to come to the conclusion that it is not a supernatural working of the Holy Spirit but a phenomenon produced by the flesh. It a well known fact that some of the worst heretics today practice tongue speaking, (for example the Word of Faith televangelists) in a way that is indistinguishable from that practised by born again children of God. I personally know people who speak in similar ways when trying to sound stupid or when goofing off.
There is nothing Biblical or miraculous about charismatic tongue speaking. Anybody can learn to do it, Christian or not.