|“Speaking In Tongues”
By Dr. Russ Hills © Copyright 5/26/08
A Humble Attitude
The Apostle Paul wrote to one of his disciples (Titus):…Be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men. For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But, when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared...
…He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior…I want you to speak confidently, so those who believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds (Titus 3:2-8).
Psychology, Sociology & Interpretation
Throughout history some have written on the subject of the Psychology of Religion. A popular modern book would be helpful. There are many factors that “program” people for predispositions for interpreting and interacting with life in general and a relationship with God and His Word in particular.
By now, I think that many people in the fields of psychology and sociology recognize the need and importance of endorphins in a person’s life. Some people seem to be more needy than others and tend to be more euphoria oriented. Environment has long been recognized as very influential in human development. With the advent of DNA research more consideration is being given to the importance of genetic “programming.”
Those who have an innate and/or developed need for euphoric experiences tend to be more emotion/experience oriented and more “revelation” ecstatic experience oriented. This may lead to a tendency to accept doctrines/teachings that make them feel very good or euphoric without engaging in serious study about what the Word of God says. This kind of experience has been present in many religions. Some examples are noted below.
There are varying degrees of “closed” social groups in America that draw lines of inclusion or exclusion based on: theological preferences and/or socio-economic preferences and/or racial preferences and/or political preferences.
Of course, in cultures that are virtually totally closed, such as Afghanistan, programming is purposefully limited so as to maintain a male dominated society that promotes the acceptance of criminal abuse against women and children. It is more than tragic that our government feels that America is in such great need of allies that they make alliances with a nation that is ruled by little (but high effective) Hitlers.
A Grave Error
One of the gravest errors of the “church” throughout history has been the denial of the admonition by the Apostle Paul to his disciple Timothy: Study [be diligent/have a passion for] to show yourself approved [by/after testing] unto God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing [understanding and applying] the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
As a tentmaker, Paul may have been making an allusion to tent making. It was very important to get it right so the pieces fit together properly. It was important for the maker, to be known as trustworthy and competent. It was important for the buyer so he could be appropriately protected from the elements.
This is underscored in 3:16-17: All scripture is inspired [God breathed] and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof [convince/expose - see Hebrews 4:12], for correction [regarding sin/any violation of God’s Word] for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God will be “perfect” [complete see Ephesians 6:10-17] thoroughly equipped [having tools and training] for every good work.
A Grammatical-Historical Approach To Study
The Word of God that Timothy had available to him is what most Christians today refer to as the “Old Testament.” If it was important for a man who was a disciple of the Apostle Paul, who had access to other Apostles and lived so close to events relating to the development of the “New Testament” to be diligent, it certainly is important for people in the 21st century.
Regarding the development of the “New Testament,” things that we need to do that Timothy did not, have to do with the study of: language, history and archaeology. As with other subjects in the Bible, it is true with the issue of “speaking in tongues.”
“Speaking In Tongues”
The Book of Acts
From a “religious and cultural” standpoint, it is important to understand that the people who were at The Temple in Jerusalem in Acts 2 were primarily Israelites (and those who had converted to Judaism - proselytes) who had traveled to Jerusalem out of obedience to the Torah/Law (Leviticus 23:15-21). When Peter spoke, he made references to the words of King David (Acts 2:25-36) and the prophet Joel (Acts 2:16). Peter did not present special information about who David or Joel were. They didn’t need one. They were not ignorant about important persons or words of God. Those who were obedient to follow the Law were well aware of David and Joel.
The feast (Heb. Shavuot – weeks – “Pentecost”) was a commanded first fruits (barley) festival that took place 7 weeks plus one day after the end of Passover. And, there were indeed first fruits: Then, those who gladly welcomed his [Peter’s] words were baptized [dipped/immersed]. And, about three thousand souls [lives] were added that day (2:41).
Linguistically, it is important to understand that the Acts Chapter 2 experience specifically had to do with speaking in other languages. The context makes that clear. The general word for tongue (Gr. glossa) is used in Acts 2:4 & 11. It is specifically defined by the context: And how we each hear in his own dialect (Gr. dilectos) in which we were born, Parthians and Medes and Elamites and those living in Mesopotamia, both Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, both Phygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the regions of Libya over against Cyrene and the temporarily residing Romans, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabian (2:8-11).
Glossa is used again in Acts 10:46 by the Apostle Peter. Peter defines the use of glossa by saying: Can anyone forbid water that these may not be baptized [dipped/immersed], who the Holy Spirit received/ who received [Gr. elabon] the Holy Spirit even/just like we have (Acts 2:47). The Greek word elabon can be translated in 1st or 3rd person.
The Book of 1 Corinthians
Historically and culturally, the situation in Corinth was very different that that of Jerusalem. At the time of the writing of the “New Testament” Jerusalem was the center of learning for the Law and the Prophets of the “Old Testament.” As with any human culture, there was hypocrisy. But, God’s Word was still the publically recognized goal of the culture even if it was not followed.
Rome destroyed Corinth in 146 B.C., leaving a very small number of local ethnic Greeks. In 44 B.C., Julius Caesar ordered Corinth to be rebuilt to become the capital city for the province of Achaia. It became an important seaport of commerce that helped to connect the Eastern Empire with the West.
Freed slaves from many provinces were delivered to provide the majority population. It became a Greco-Roman poly[pan]theistic culture that was degenerate even to Greco-Roman standards. By the time the Apostle Paul came along (51 A.D.) the population was about 500,000. The Isthmus games were conducted there, along with sports wagering and other gambling.
Prostitution in general was a part of city “life.” But, it was one of the few Greek cities that also included cultic/religious prostitution. The temple of Aphrodite (Greek name)/ venus (Roman name) had over 1,000 prostitutes. (Illustrated Bible Dictionary, General Editor: Herbert Lockyer, Consulting Editors: F.F. Bruce, R.K. Harrison, Ronald Youngblood & Kermit Ecklebarger and William Smith’s Bible Dictionary, revised and edited by F.M & M.A. Peloubet, both by Thomas Nelson Publishing, Nashville Tennessee)
Along with the general poly[pan]theism, moral condition and profitable trade location, Corinth had another important influence – the oracle of Delphi. The oracle of Delphi (just across the Gulf of Corinth from Corinth) was probably the most significant religious site to most people in ancient Greece. City-State kings frequently consulted the oracle before making important decisions. One example of that was a consultation by King Leonidas of Sparta before he and 299 other Spartans died at Thermopylae in 480 B.C.
The oracle was a woman who engaged in ecstatic utterances – speaking in (unknown) tongues. The speech was interpreted by an associate at the temple. This form of ecstatic utterance has existed since the days of the Babylonian Empire and has been a part of Hinduism and “Eastern Mysticism” for thousands of years.
One expression of that (oracle at Delphi experience) today comes through the Eastern Mystical “kundalini” experience. “Kundalini” is a Sanskrit (ancient language of India) word meaning “coiled.” This is usually associated with the coiling of a snake that is prepared to release energy (strike).
The association with kundalini and the snake is well attested to by thousands of statue idols in India. This is all the more interesting because the original resident of the oracle of Delphi was thought to have been a half woman- half snake creature (python). It is also interesting that the Greek god apollo (a name very much like “Apollos”) was thought to have conquered the snake creature.
Much of the speaking in tongues seen today “in the church” is unlike what was seen in the New Testament because “the church,” for the most part, met in homes (Romans 16:5, 1Corinthians 16:19 and Colossians). So, when Paul describes assembly functionality, he does so in a home setting where everyone may be “drafted” by the Holy Spirit to express a gift. That is what is found in most of 1 Corinthians 12.
That is not to say that the home groups saw their home group as an assembly independent and exclusive of the other home groups in a particular city. This is evidenced by Paul’s greeting in Chapter 1:2: …to the assembly of God who live in Corinth. Paul addressed a regional church when he wrote to the assemblies of the province of Galatia. Linguistically, the word that is used in 1 Corinthians is glossa.
All these things being true, I find it rather remarkable that God chose to deal with the issue of “speaking in tongues” in Corinth. As far as I can remember, explicit mention of unintelligible tongues that require a spiritual gift for interpretation are not addressed in any other letters to churches. Even though the Apostle Paul mentioned that he spoke in tongues more than any of the Corinthians, considering his view of prophecy vs. tongues, it is possible that “tongues” was not a common experience in the other churches.
Remember, he was writing to Corinth (near the oracle of Delphi and included a man named Apollos – linguistically related to the Greek god Apollo). Even though the Corinthian letters would eventually be widely circulated, it should not be assumed that Paul was intending to make every part of the Corinthian letter universal to every church. Remember that the only linguistic verification of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit is in Acts. And, that had to do with known intelligible language.
It should also be noted that book-letters were more important to the assemblies they were addressed to than other letters. Some books (such as Galatians) were more region oriented and thus had a higher level of early circulation. Eventually, all the letters were copied and were more widely circulated. However, the earliest record we have of a church leader listing and recognizing our current 27 New Testament books was Athinasius in 367 A.D. – about 300 years after the Letters of Paul were written – over 200 years after the book of Revelation was written. The first church council to recognize these books was the first council of Hippo (modern coastal city of Annaba, Algeria) in 393 A.D.
An honest reader of the book of 1 Corinthians will understand that it is a letter of correction. Paul addressed their immaturity: Brethren, I could not speak to you as I could to spiritual men, but as to men [who follow the desires] of the flesh [sinful nature]. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food, for you were not yet ready to receive it. Indeed! Even now, you are not yet able…(3:1-2).
Paul recognized that their lack of progress stemmed from their pride/arrogance:…these things I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us, you may learn not to go beyond what is written, so that none of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other (4:6) (also see 4:18). The Corinthian arrogance was expressed in immorality (5:2 & 6:9-10), fraud & law suits (6:1-8) and in selfishness, gluttony and drunkenness at the Lord’s supper (11:20-34).
Part of their selfish arrogance was expressed in wanting importance/prominence over others (as evidenced through divisions (4:6). “Tongues” would have been important to them because of the importance it had in Greek culture, relating to the oracle at Delphi.
Linguistically: 1 Corinthians 12:31 is usually mistranslated earnestly desire the greater gifts. That is because the Greek word used for desire there is tzaluta (from tzalao). It may be translated as either indicative or imperative mood – you are earnestly desiring versus earnestly desire. Another Greek word of interest in 12:31 is kreittona. One translation possibility is: “greater by being more showy” – “more publically impressive.” Relating to immediate chapter context, Paul finishes the Chapter by saying: I show you a more excellent way. He uses the Greek word uperbolan (to throw beyond). This translation, your are earnestly desiring the more showy gifts, fits better in the book context, the chapter context as well as the cultural context.
After putting things in perspective with Chapter 13 (the love chapter) Paul in 14:1 again uses tzaluta (Greek for desire) which again, may be translated indicative or imperative. This time he is using the imperative. “Gifts” is not in the original text. Translators often assume its implied presence and insert it. The word pneumatika is simply “spirituals.”
I believe Paul uses this form to refer to the foundational importance of love as described in Chapter 13. He also uses it to connect those thoughts about love to the importance of prophecy over tongues. Chapter 14.:19:…in the church [in homes] I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in an [unintelligible] tongue.
There is an interesting seeming contradiction in many English translations in 14:22-23. In 14:22 it says tongues (unintelligible utterance) are a sign for unbelievers. In 14:23 it says tongues (unintelligible utterance) are not a sign for unbelievers. Paul quotes Isaiah 28:11-12 in 14:21:
In the Law it is written, “By men of strange [different kind of] 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.
The unbelievers (Greek root word apistuo) referred to in 14:22 are those who are knowledgeable of the Law – those who have been instructed and have refused to believe in Jesus. To them, it is a sign for judgment!
It is possible that there is an insulting inference: “You rejected the Law and the Prophets and prophetic words (which includes prepared messages, unprepared ‘revelatory’ messages as well as the specific gospel message). What you get for that rejection is unintelligible utterances as a sign of judgment.”
In 14:23 the unbelievers are those who are uninformed/uninstructed concerning God’s Word. Special linguistic help may not be needed, since context would be enough for honest readers. But, it is provided through the use of idiotas (“uninstructed regarding the truth”) unbelievers.
Therefore, if the whole church assembles together and all speak in [unintelligible] tongues and ungifted or unbelievers [who have not been instructed regarding the truth] enter, will they not say you are crazy.
14:24-25: But, if all prophesy and an ungifted or [uninstructed regarding the truth] enters, he is convicted by all – he is called into account by all. The secrets of his heart are disclosed [see Hebrews 4:12] and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.
Paul then presents some directives about how [home] church meetings should function.
14:26-33:…When you assemble , each one has:
Let all things be done for edification (building up one another).
If anyone speaks in an [unintelligible] tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn (one at a time) and one must interpret. But, if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the [house] assembly. Let him speak to himself and God.
Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment [evaluate the message]. But, if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent. For you all can prophesy, one by one, so that all may learn and all be exhorted. And, the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. For God is not a God of confusion but of peace as all the assemblies of the saints (holy ones/true believers).
When was the last time you went to a service like that? – Only three people speaking in tongues – one at a time. When was the last time you went to a meeting that everyone had an opportunity to prophesy/preach? Nonetheless, the above is what the Apostle Paul spoke by the Holy Spirit of God.
I can and have spoken in tongues. I have had revelations from God – like the record flood in Oregon in 1996 and the Twin Towers in New York two years before they collapsed. So, I am not a stranger to God’s gifts.
Even so, the spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophet – let all things be done for edification [building up one another]. 99.9% of the meetings I been to in the last 50years did not function as directed above. That does not change the requirements of God’s Word. Paul Goes on: If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things I write to you are the Lord’s commandments! (14:37)
Women speaking in the church 14:34-35
The Greek word for speaking in 14:34 is Laleo. It is commonly used of conversational speaking. Paul had already mentioned that women could pray or prophesy, in the assembly, as long as their heads were veiled (katakalupto) (1 Corinthians 11). Therefore, women ought to have a symbol of authority on their heads for the sake of he angels.
It was common for men to sit on one side of a home (and other meetings – as synagogue practice) and the women on the other. It would be disruptive for women to be frequently asking questions of their husbands during an assembly.
The silence of women mentioned in 1Timothy 2:11 should be understood in these terms. However, 1 Timothy 2:11 is part of an important passage about leadership in the assembly. I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over the man (2:12). This is a part of the book section that includes qualifications for being an elder/overseer/pastor (1Timothy 3).
Also, regarding “mutual” submission Ephesians 5:21: Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God, Paul engages in a linguistic principle of delineation. A statement is made then explained:
A.) Wives submit to husbands (5:22) B.) Submission of husbands to God strongly implied (5:25-33)
C.) Children obey parents (6:1-3) D.) Servants obey masters (6:5-8) E.) Masters obey God (6:9).
Most Christians “culturalize” the wearing of the veil saying it was important for that time and culture, but not for today. That might be a possibility except for the phrase: for the sake of the angels. I have heard discussions about the meaning of the phrase. And, I do not claim to understand the details of what for the sake of the angels means. But, culturalizing does not change the directive to wear a veil.
It is unfortunate that the vast majority of translations confuse the issue of wearing a veil. “Veiled” (katakalupto) is a very different word than “hair”(koma). Wuest’s Expanded Translation is the only version I know of that gets 1Corinthians 11 right. To briefly explain: Chapter 11 has two major aspects – function in the [house] assembly and function outside of the assembly. A woman must wear a veil while praying or prophesying in the assembly. Outside of the assembly a woman should wear long hair as an ongoing expression of submission to God’s appointed order of authority.
In The Last Days perilous time will come. For men will be lovers of themselves… (2Timothy 3:1)
Most of us have been in non-Biblically compliant church environments for so long that it can be challenging to get back to what the Word of God clearly teaches. For us today, that means much repentance. With the great proliferation of non-Biblical meetings and practices, it is absolutely essential that we evaluate everything on the basis of the clear statements of Scripture. If something is not taught by Jesus and His Apostles by word or by example it should not be accepted.
Some helpful sources of information to look at (not already noted):
History of Western Civilization By Will Durant Re: Delphi
Blessings In Yeshua,
Russ --thank you, Russ. -Gordon Wayne Watts