- 1 Corinthians 14:2
- "For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for
no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries."
- Pentecostal "speaking in tongues"1 is unintelligible speech uttered
in a state of religious fervour. The justification for this practice is sought in this
- The tongues referred to in this passage are not unknown. The word "unknown" is
not in the Greek text and is deleted in the R.S.V. (This is also indicated by the printing
of "unknown" in italics in the A.V.).
- Pentecostals sometimes argue that since "glossa" (the Greek word for speech)
is used in this verse, rather than "dialektos" (the Greek word for language),
that the unintelligible utterance is intended. This argument is shown to be invalid by the
- "Glossa" and "dialektos" are used interchangeably in Scripture. In
Acts 2:4 the word for "tongues" is "glossa" but in verse 8 the word
for "tongues" is "dialektos" (translated "language", R.S.V.)
- "Glossa" refers to foreign languages in the following passages: Rev. 5:9; 7:9;
10:11; 11:9; 13:7; 14:6; 17:15. "Glossa" also means intelligible speech in the
following passages: Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:11; 1 Jn. 3:18.
- When the disciples spoke in tongues as recorded in Acts 2, fifteen languages or dialects
were spoken. Every man heard them speak in his own language. (Acts 2:7,8). Galilean
fisherman could speak the language of the Elamites although the language had never been
the subject of study. But Pentecostal meetings are characterized by unintelligible speech,
not foreign languages which have been unlearned.
- In 1 Cor. 14, the following differences from Pentecostal practice are noteworthy:
- Pentecostal women usually predominate in unintelligible utterances2 and even
preach during public assemblies.3
But Paul says, "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted
unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home:
for it is a shame for women to speak in the church." (1 Cor. 14:34,35).4
- Pentecostal meetings frequently have more than one person uttering unintelligible sounds
at the same time, but Paul instructs that all things should be done "decently and in
order" (1 Cor. 14:40), and that "if any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it
be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course . . . " (1 Cor. 14:27).
- Pentecostals seldom have any "interpreter" of the unintelligible speech, yet
Paul says, "let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence
in the church . . . " (1 Cor. 14:27,28).
- Many Pentecostals consider themselves compelled by the Holy Spirit to "speak
in tongues"5 yet Paul says,
"the spirits of the prophets are subject tot he prophets." (1 Cor. 14:32).
- It is also appropriate to cite Paul's instruction to the Corinthians: "If any man
think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I
write unto you are the commandments of the Lord." (1 Cor. 14:37).
- It is also relevant to emphasize that "glossalalia" occurs among those who
practice voodoo in Haiti. It is not, therefore, a phenomenon peculiarly
"Christian". This indicates that explanations other than God's Holy Spirit can
account for "glossalalia". It is also noteworthy that "glossalalia" is
now being practised by other denominations including Anglicans and Roman Catholics.6 Do
Pentecostals believe these religious bodies hold the truth of the Gospel? This point is
especially forceful when it is recognize that speaking in tongues is understood by
Pentecostals as an initial sign of Holy Spirit baptism.
- More technically the phenomenon is referred to as "glossalalia" from
"glossa" - tongue, and "lalia" - to speak or talk with. Return
- Many writers have noted this. Bryan Wilson at one meeting
counted twenty-five instances of glossalalia in one assembly, of which twenty-four were
women. He noted that usually three-quarters of the audience consisted of women, and never
much less than two-thirds. "In Pentecostal meetings, women tend to give vent to
pent-up feelings - in tears, heavy breathing, groans, utterances of joy and rapture, and,
of course, tongues." See Bryan Wilson, Sects and Society: A sociological Study
of Three Religious Groups in Britain, (London: William Heinemann Ltd.), pp. 302-303. Return
- For example, Allen commenting on his "miracle revival"
in Naga City, in Southern Luzon states: "Sister Rogers preached a salvation message
to a fine crowd each afternoon . . ." See Miracle Magazine, 14, No. 9, (June,
1969), p. 17. Return
- Pentecostal preachers tend to disregard the Apostle's instruction by a casual dismissal
on the grounds that the church must "move with the times". It is noteworthy that
the Apostle's reason for this instruction is not founded on culturally relative grounds,
but rather on the fall of Eve. (Cf. 1 Tim. 2:11-15). Return
- In recent years within the Elim movement there is an opposite
point of view - that tongues may deter possible converts. Speakers in tongues at revival
meetings have often been silenced. A. A. Allen comments: "It's little wonder that
many Pentecostal preachers today will not have speaking in tongues in their main assembly
and under their tent. Too much of it sounds too downright silly, too obvious that it isn't
genuine. It isn't real." Miracle Magazine, 14. No. 9, (June, 1969), p. 11. Return
- That the gifts can be abused or imitated is acknowledged by some
Pentecostals. A. A. Allen comments as follows: "I wouldn't give you two cents for
what you call a Holy Ghost experience, if the only action you got was a few minutes of
stammering lips: "Bla, bla, bib, gah, gah, goo!" My children said that when they
were six months old! I have seen people do that when they are drunk . . . I have seen many
people whom I believe were merely 'trained' by those who prayed with them, to seemingly
receive the Holy Ghost . . . I believe some Pentecostal denominations are full of people
who have never received the baptism in the Holy Ghost experience. They have just been
patted on the back and shook on the chin, and told what to say, until they couldn't say
anything but, "Bla, bla, gag, gag, goo!" And then somebody said, 'You've got
it!' The only action they got was when somebody shook them under the chin!' "The Book
of Acts is Holy Ghost in Action", Miracle Magazine, 14, No. 9 (June, 1969), p.