|Listen to the Bible|
Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading
In 1 Corinthians chapter 14, we read about a commonly misunderstood concept: speaking in "unknown" tongues. Before I begin, let me give a quick Biblical backstory - a framework - from which to properly interpret this reference, using only Scripture to interpret Scripture.
Paul is the most misunderstood Bible writer. His writings are used to nail God's Law to the Cross, undercut the Sabbath making it appear Biblical to worship on any day we choose. The misunderstood writings of Paul are even given the power to trump the Words of Christ! For Yahshua said that He had not come to do away with the tiniest part of the Law - nor would any of it be taken away "till Heaven and earth be removed!" (Matthew 5:17-18).
But even such plain statements from Christ have been insufficient to stem the tide of false interpretations of Paul's teachings. The list of "new" doctrines which appear to come from the apostle Paul go on and on... But the truth is that if Paul had really undercut the Old Testament, the Bereans wouldn't have accepted his teachings. The Bible tells us that they listened to Paul and searched the Scriptures daily to see whether these things (that he taught) were true (Acts 17:10-11).
What "Scriptures" did they search? The Old Testament writings! Only the Old Testament was in existence at the time of Paul's preaching! Thus, we see a powerful testimony that Paul didn't teach "new" doctrines, which undid and superimposed upon the former Word. Rather, Paul's teachings were in harmony with what was already given in the Old Testament.
In fact, if Paul had dared to undermine the Law of God (Torah) and set aside the prophets, he would have been considered to be an apostate - not an apostle!
Scripture gives us a test by which to determine whether a teaching is true or not. This was the very test the Bereans used to test the doctrines of Paul. And he passed, by the way!
The test we are to use to determine whether a doctrinal teaching is true is found in Isaiah 8:20:
Isaiah 8:20 "To the Law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them."Okay... now we have the backstory needed to study the concept of "unknown tongues" found in 1 Corinthians 14. To rightly interpret this concept we must test our interpretation of it - by Isaiah 8:20 - by the Law and Old Testament. So... "Where is speaking in tongues found in the Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy), or Old Testament?"
Now at this point you may be thinking, "Wait a minute! Speaking in tongues never even took place until the Early Christian Church - after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit! How can you look for speaking in tongues in the Old Testament, when it hadn't happened yet?"
Actually that belief, while commonly held, isn't the truth at all! Every teaching - in order to be truth - must be found in the Old Testament. The Torah and Prophets are the lenses which we must put on our spiritual eyesight in order to correctly interpret the New Testament - no exceptions!
Additionally, the belief that the Holy Spirit was never poured out in the Old Testament is a doctrinal myth. So is the belief that speaking in tongues had no Old Testament precedent! I will prove this in just a moment. But let's start at the beginning in order to correctly understand the concept of speaking in tongues - and what it should really look like - according to proper Scriptural interpretation. We'll carefully examine what speaking in tongues is - and what it isn't.
On a wave of emotion, the man at the front of the church broke into a language only he and his God could understand. Bob Jones (name changed), a worshiper at The Pentecostals of Pleasanton, a small congregation in the San Francisco Bay Area…
Jones was speaking in tongues, a form of verbal prayer scholars call glossolalia. For him — and a growing numbers of Christians worldwide — the experience is a direct means of communication with God that is a transcendent and crucial part of his faith."It is kind of a high," Jones said later, describing the most common form of speaking in tongues as an indecipherable expression of personal prayer and praise. "It is like being with the Lord. I feel that sense that everything is OK."This Sunday (the article was referring to a Sunday in June), Christians will celebrate Pentecost, when the Bible says God sent a "mighty wind" among Jesus' disciples and they prayed in unknown languages. "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit," the Book of Acts says, "and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."Over the last half century we have witnessed the incredible growth of the Pentecostal movement. Pentecostalism has even challenged the hold of the catholic church in South America, where there are 17 million Pentecostal members in brazil alone. It has been estimated that in the United States alone, 200,000-300,000 Catholics have become "Pentecostal" or "Charismatic". (A NEW GUIDE AND ALMANAC RELIGIONS OF AMERICA, By Leo Rosten 1975 ).
The hallmark of the Pentecostal movement is its belief in miracles specifically speaking in "tongues". Most Pentecostals believe that in order to be a "true Christian one must be able to speak in the Spirit", in other words those religious denominations which cannot (or don’t) speak in tongues are not from a Holy Spirit.
What is sometimes called classical Pentecostalism grew out of the late 19th century holiness movement in the United States. The holiness preacher Charles Fox Parham began preaching (1901) to his Topeka congregation that speaking in tongues was objective evidence of baptism in the Spirit.
After the Los Angeles mission of Parham's apostolic faith sect became the center of a great revival (1906) the movement quickly spread around the world. Over the next two decades the movement split along doctrinal and racial lines. Of the many Pentecostalist denominations in the United States today, characterized by belief in the experience of holiness or Christian perfection. This perfection is climaxed by an "infilling of the Holy Spirit," as evidenced by "speaking in tongues," ecstatic utterances frequently unintelligible to listeners.
So many points of truth have been counterfeited by Satan. Is it possible that speaking in tongues has a false and a true manifestation? Could it be that God's true speaking in tongues has been counterfeited? I believe it has. And I can show you why.
Let's start our study of "tongues" in the Old Testament, in order to get our "spiritual glasses" on, which enables us to correctly interpret 1 Corinthians 14.
The term "tongues" or "tongue" appears in the Old Testament a total of 160 times. In every case, without exception, the word "tongue" or "tongues" is translated from the original Hebrew word lashon (Strong's Concordance #3956), which means:
Thus we see that "tongues" (in term of speaking) in the Old Testament always means "languages". It would take far too long to show all 160 Old Testament references to "tongues". But here are a couple of those references, which are sufficient to prove the point:
Now, with this in mind, we would expect to find that God's gift of tongues should be a gift of speaking languages in the New Testament as well. And it is. Consider the story found in Acts 2:
Acts 2:1-11 "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, 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 Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God."
When the Holy Spirit was poured out in Acts 2, the recipients began to speak in tongues. But this wasn't gibberish! What actually happened is that the apostles were given the ability to preach in one language (the language spoken in Galilee) and yet the listeners heard the sermon in their own language! This was even more miraculous because many languages were represented there among the audience - yet they all heard the sermon fluently spoken in their own native languages.
Thus, we see that the Acts 2 event of speaking in tongues was an ability to speak other human languages, which the speaker could not have done without a miracle.
But we need more evidence to support this growing biblical picture. We need to address my prior statement that speaking in tongues can be found in the Torah. To show this, I'd like to show you where the Torah tells of the Holy Spirit being poured out.
Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the 70 elders of Israel, in the time of Moses. We find the account in Torah, in Numbers 11:16-17. Numbers 11 also tells us the results of this outpouring:
Numbers 11:24-25 "And Moses went out, and told the people the words of Yahweh, and gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the Tabernacle. And Yahweh came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the Spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease."
In fact, not only did the elders at the Tabernacle receive this outpouring of the Holy Spirit, but also two men in the congregation received the Spirit. These were Eldad and Medad. Because they had spiritually readied their hearts, Yahweh poured out His Spirit on Eldad and Medad and they also began to prophesy.
Numbers 11:26-29 "But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the Spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the Tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp. And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them. And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? Would God that all Yahweh's people were prophets, and that Yahweh would put His Spirit upon them!"
When the Holy Spirit was poured out - both in Numbers 11, and in Acts 2, the immediate response of those who received it was to prophesy! Sometimes, prophesying involves speaking of future events that are hard to understand - as happened with Eldad and Medad. And sometimes prophesying involves preaching the Gospel - as happened with the apostles in Acts 2. But it is prophesying - not speaking in gibberish - which always accompanies the outpouring of the Holy Spirit:
Joel 2:28 "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions."
Perhaps you may be wondering how prophesying can be preaching the Gospel, as happened in Acts 2. Remember that Yahshua said John the Baptist was the greatest of the prophets. Yet, he didn't foretell the future. He preached the Gospel, and called the people to repentance. It is also key to recognize that prophets speak in languages which the listeners can understand - but that doesn't mean that the listeners will always understand what is being said!.... but we'll come back to that concept in a moment.
We've looked at how the Bible portrays the outpouring of the Holy Spirit - and we've seen how this should be understood through the lens of Torah.
Now let's return to 1 Corinthians 14, to the reference to "unknown tongues".
1 Corinthians 14:2, 14-15 "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.... For if I pray in an [unknown] tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also."
The first thing to notice is that the word "unknown" appears in these verses in parenthesis. This is significant. Words in parentheses were added by Bible translators, and were not present in the original text! This means that the word "unknown" was added by Bible translators, and that it didn't belong in these verses at all. But because the word "unknown" was added to 1 Corinthians 14, Christians have come to believe that speaking in gibberish demonstrates the receipt of the Holy Spirit!
Proper Bible study - by interpreting 1 Corinthians 14 through the Torah precedent and through studying the verses in context both reveal that 1 Corinthians 14 isn't referring to gibberish at all. So what caused Bible translators to confuse the message by adding this word to 1 Corinthians 14?
When Daniel was shown prophetic visions of future events, his visions came to him in plain Hebrew (for he spoke Hebrew), but that didn't mean he understood the vision! Many times, he didn't understand it at all. In fact, an angel had to be sent from Heaven to make him understand the concepts which had been given to him, even though they were presented in his mother tongue (Daniel 10:14).
So one way in which a prophesy can be "unknown" even though presented in our own language, is when that prophesy is incomprehensible in content - not language.
Similarly, because spiritual things are only spiritually discerned, we may hear the plain Gospel message given in our own language - yet not be able to comprehend the message, without the interpreting work of the Spirit also.
In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul is not starting a new doctrine on speaking in tongues. When the Holy Spirit is poured out, both in the Old and New Testaments, the results were the same - prophesying took place. AND the prophesies given were spoken in the language of the hearers - nowhere in Scripture is there a single case of speaking in tongues - as it manifests in Pentecostalism today.
The only reason why the manifestation of "tongues" might be "mysterious" to the hearers is that spiritual things are only spiritually discerned. The Gospel, to the carnal heart, is a mystery. But, through the interpreting work of the Spirit, we are empowered to discern spiritual mysteries. This is biblically sound, true speaking in tongues. Anything else fails Isaiah 8:20 - and is a counterfeit.