Baptism by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament

Previous Contents


13. One thing to “speak in other tongues” and another to “utter”.

However, let us return momentarily to the day of the Pentecost, and see how Luke the Evangelist formulates his description of the phenomena that accompanied and followed the Baptism of the Holy Spirit:

"...they began to speak in other tongues (λαλείν ετέραις γλώσσαις), in the manner that the Spirit gave them to utter (ἀποφθέγγεσθαι)."   [Acts 2:4]

The question is:  Does the expression "speaking in other tongues" have the same meaning as the word "utter" (tongues)?  The description by Luke below clarifies this for us:

"But Peter, standing up together with the eleven, raised his voice and spoke (απεφθέγξατο) to them:  'Men of Judea... hearken to my words.  For it is not, as you suspect, that these (who speak in tongues) are inebriated, for it is (only) the third hour of the day (around 8 in the morning). Rather, this (phenomenon) is what had been said by the Prophet Joel: [...I shall pour forth from my Spirit upon every flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy (προφητεύσουσιν) ... I shall pour out from my Spirit, and they shall prophesy (προφητεύσουσι)...]'."   [Acts 2:14-18] 

We can see here that Peter identifies the verb "to speak" with the verb "to prophesy".   However, we have already shown in Chapter 11 that "PROPHESYING" IS ONE THING, AND "SPEAKING IN TONGUES" IS ANOTHER. Therefore, to "speak/utter" is one thing, and to "speak in other tongues" is another. The Christian will first receive the speaking of tongues inside the heart, and will later be inspired intellectually and comprehend what Christ and the Prophets have said, so that he too can eventually prophesy. Now, whether those "tongues" become vocal utterances is strictly up to the Holy Spirit.

The tongues that were heard on the day of the Pentecost by the Apostles, were spoken tongues (languages) that were unknown to the apostles, but were comprehended by those who were listening: "...(We) Cretans and Arabs hear them (the Apostles) speaking in our own languages (λαλούντων αὐτῶν ταῖς ἡμετέραις γλώσσαις) of the great works of God..." [Acts 2:11].  It is obvious from the above, that there is no comparison between the comprehended tongues that were heard on the day of the Pentecost, and the incomprehensible tongues of those with "glossolalia" (tongue-speakers) in Corinth, judging by what the Apostle Paul has written.  The speech in foreign but familiar languages on the day of the Pentecost was an act (energy) of the Holy Spirit, so that the foreign visitors in Jerusalem could be evangelized and also to make apparent the unifying effect of the Christian faith among the linguistically divided peoples.

Therefore, there were two kinds of "tongues", each of which had its own characteristics and was fulfilling its own purposes. Let us therefore examine the differences between them:

1.   In the Acts of the Apostles, the tongues were comprehended and clear to all those in the audience who spoke those languages (Acts 2:8,11), whereas in Corinth, the tongue-speaking (glossolalia) was not understood by the audience (1 Corinthians 14:27-28)

2.   In Acts, the purpose of the tongues was to make the presence of the Holy Spirit evident to all the standers-by, as well as prove the authenticity and the Divine authority of the Christian kerygma (Acts 8:16-17, 10:44-45), whereas in the Church of Corinth, the glossolalia was for the personal edification of the tongue-speaker (1 Corinthians 14:4).

3.   In Acts, there was no need for an interpreter, whereas in the Church of Corinth, the interpreter was necessary (1 Corinthians 14:28).

4.  In Acts, those with glossolalia spoke to the people, whereas in Corinth they were speaking "to God" (1 Corinthians 14:2).

5.   In Acts, the foreigners who heard the tongues "were amazed and in wonder" (Acts 2:7), whereas in Corinth, Paul warns the believers that the unbelievers would mistake those in the Church with glossolalia as "demon-possessed" (1 Corinthians 14:23).

6.   In Acts, the speaking of tongues was verbal, comprehensible and in already spoken languages "...(We) Cretans and Arabs hear them (the Apostles) speaking in our own languages (λαλούντων αὐτῶν ταῖς ἡμετέραις γλώσσαις) of the great works of God..." [Acts 2:11 and 10:46], whereas in the Church of Corinth, glossolalia was a secret prayer (a monologue), or an improvised psalm-chant (1 Corinthians 14:15), which was unintelligible to the others present (1 Corinthians 14:23).

7.  In Acts, tongues were a phenomenon that was manifested only in special circumstances, so that authority would be added to the evangelizing message of the apostles by the presence of the Holy Spirit (for example the Pentecost, Caesaria, Ephesus). In the Church of Corinth however, glossolalia was a customary Ecclesiastic function.

8.  In Acts, tongues were manifested outside the Church, as a sign of a mass visitation by the Spirit, whereas in the Church of Corinth, glossolalia appears as an edifying gift/charisma within the bosom of the Church.

9.  In Acts, the purpose of spoken tongues was evangelizing (Acts 2:11), whereas in the Church of Corinth, the purpose was edification (1 Corinthians 2:4).

10. The tongues in the Book of Acts was an unprecedented miracle, whereas in the Church of Corinth, glossolalia was a frequently occurring charisma - at times doubted for its supernatural origin.

Keeping in mind the difference in the character, the content, as well as the purpose of the one kind of tongue and the other, we are not entitled to regard both these manifestations of the Holy Spirit as a single, similar experience, and to support a dogma of glossolalia that is rendered common to both on it.

The apostle informs us that - also at the time - there were various "species of tongues", such as "thanksgiving tongue" (1 Corinthians 14:16), "glorification tongue" (1 Corinthians 14:15) and "psalm-chanting tongue" (1 Corinthians 14:15).

These species of tongues were nothing more than manifold displays of expressions towards God, which manifested themselves internally in those who had glossolalia.



Previous Contents


Article published in English on: 24-5-2010.

Last update: 24-5-2010.