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August 31, 2003


Leon Zitzer

You can find an excellent article on Paul and speaking in tongues in Krister Stendahl's "Paul Among Jews and Gentiles and Other Essays", pp. 109-124. It should be easily available in paperback from Fortress Press. As I remember, he said that for Paul, glossolalia was just one of many possible gifts and should not be exaggerated out of importance. Here is one quote from the book (p. 111):

"Thus, in Paul's mind, the gift of glossolalia is not a sign of spiritual accomplishment, it is not the graduation with high honors into the category of the truly spiritual. To him glossolalia is the gift that fits into his experience of weakness. All this is quite in keeping with Paul's consistent argument against any piety or theology marked by triumphalism, i.e., by an overstatement of spiritual superiority and gnostic flight from the powers of sin and death."


Mass hysteria? Peer pressure? My own view that this is not a true religious phenonmenon but rather an emotional contagion that somehow participants find pleasant and empowering. This kind of group activity is mood altering and is probably akin to snake handling and whirling Derish kind of activity. Altering one's mood whether through drugs or physical activity that gets the adrenalin pumping does not bring one closer to god except in one's own mind, and then again, even if this is the case, who is to say that it isn't helpful to people in their quest for spiritual experience?

All the best,


Frank Gibbons

There is a distinction between "speaking in tongues" and "praying in tongues".

A friend of mine, while in the Ukraine a year or two ago, prayed over a local resident. The man being prayed over related to my friend that he was speaking in his native language. The Holy Spirit, it would seem, wanted to give this guy some manifest sign of encouragement. (You can read about this incident on Ralph Martin's Renewal Ministries web site). Although, in this incident, there was prayer, the Holy Spirit wanted to "speak" to somebody personally through the prayer. Usually, when one speaks in tongues, he is delivering a prophecy or a word of knowledge to a community or to an individual. Somone with the gift of interpretation of tongues is need to translate the message. Praying in tongues, on the other hand, is a form of communal or individual praise and worship. It is usually not a language known to man, but rather promptings that the Holy Spirit gives to aid us in worship. Some may point to 1 Corinthians 14:13-17 to dispute this. I've always felt that praying or singing in tongues was a legitimate and sometimes beautiful form of praise. I'm just too lazy to dig through my old charismatic libray to find the arguments that support my feeling.

David Kubiak

Could Mr. Gibbons enlighten us as to what religion he professes? I cannot place anywhere in Roman Catholicism the holy-roller phenomena he describes.


Paraphrasing St John Chrysostom, speaking in tongues isn't useless, but it's very nearly useless......

Will Duquette

I agree with Mr. Gibbons, and point Mr. Kubiak at the Renewal movement in the Roman Catholic church. I once attended the Southern California Renewal Conference in Anaheim, California; it was a huge event, sanctioned by the local dioceses, and indeed prophecies and so forth occurred during the general sessions in line with St. Paul's recommendations. (This was in the mid-1980's; perhaps things have changed.)

In the passage from Corinthians, Paul is speaking about how to conduct orderly church services. The kind of prayer groups about which the question was asked are engaging in spontaneous group praise, through the medium of tongues, which would be inappropriate during the middle of the Eucharist.

As for the notion that speaking in tongues is due to "mass hysteria" or "peer pressure", all I can say is that that isn't my experience--and I was extremely skeptical about it for many years.

Cris Rapp

Thanks Amy, for posting my question. I just realized that I forgot to identify the chapter in First Corinthians: it's from 1 Corithians 14: 27-30.

Thanks for your comments, particularly Mr. Duquette's (though it's not clear to me that Paul is speaking *only* about how to conduct orderly church services, and not making a more general, stronger claim--can you elaborate?). Please keep them coming. Yours in Christ!


In my Pentecostal days this is how we handled this. Praying in tongues is a private activity because it only benefits the prayer. BTW, praying in tongues was an ability for all and distinct from the gift of praying in tongues. The gift of praying in tongues was for public edification as are all the 1 cor 12 spiritual gifts.

Public praying in tongues, i.e., the gift, was only to be done if there was someone who it was established had the gift of interpretation of tongues. The distinction between public and private speaking in tongues is not one of volume but audience. Everyone during worship could and would speak loudly in tongues-still that was private prayer because the audience is the individual and God.

The public praying in tongues was when there was silence and someone spoke in tongues to the congregation and it was public because the congregation was the audience and the tongues were expressing a burden and something applicable to all the people. Our explanation for why only three public speakers in tongues was that by the third person, what the Holy Spirit wanted to communicate to the people had been communicated and everything else would simply be repititious.

I haven't had any experience with Catholic charismatics so I'm not sure how the do these things. But to my reading 1 Cor 12-14 seems straight forward if you distinguish between the private and public speaking in tongues and if that distinction is based not on volume but intended audience.

Another interpretation of the gift of tongues was the ability to speak an unknown human language for the purpose of evangelization.

Frank Gibbons

Mr Kubiak,

You need only look back to the Catholic Charismatic conference held in Rome where people prayed in tongues at St. Peter's and where prophecies were delivered from the alter. The Charismatic Renewal had the blessings of both Paul VI and John Paul II. You can research the 1980 or 1981 Rome conference where charismatic representatives met with John Paul II and professed unwavering loyalty to him. And, believe me, he appreciated it.
The gift of tongues is considered the least of the charismatic gifts. Some of the other gifts are prophecy, healing, the word of knowledge, and the discernment of spirits. Jesus used these gifts in His ministry. For example, when He tells the woman at the well that she is indeed not married to the man she is with and that she has been married five times before, He is exercising the word of knowledge. Jesus said that His followers would perform even greater works than He did. Go through the Gospels and count the number of times Jesus heals people and tell me that healing is not meant to be a ministry of the Church. Many of the saints exercised extraordinary gifts and even in recent times, Padre Pio was known to have experienced bilocation. The extraordinary gifts of the Spirit are meant to be used in love to build up the church. They are not necessarily a sign of personal holiness -- the fruit of the Spirit are evidence of holiness and they enable us to put on the character of Christ.
Many of the leaders (not all) of the Charismatic Renewal were very orthodox individuals. To gauge their orthodoxy, read "A Crisis of Truth" by Ralph Martin (written in 1981 you might say that is "prophetic"). I suggest that you read books, pro and con, on the use of the extraordinary gifts.

Sandra Miesel

But the so-called Rome prophecies haven't come true, according to a charismatic friend. I'm trying to find out what they said for a research project. In case anyone could point me to a publication or website, I'd appreciate it.

Frank Gibbons


Well, the prophecies, as I recall, mainly dealt with the church having its structures shaken. We've just had a very influential Cardinal resign in disgrace recently and the "hedge" that was hiding many of the crimes committed by the clergy has been removed. Our seminaries have shown that they're in serious need of an overhaul. Does this mean the Rome prophecies were true or have come to pass? I don't know. But I don't know how one could summarily say that they haven't. However, the point that I was trying to make was that charismatics were welcomed to Rome in 1975 and that John Paul II in 1981 acknowledged their fealty to him.

I just found a few hits on Yahoo using "Rome 1975 prophecies" as my search string. There are a few hits that you might find interesting.



The gift of tongues in prayer is quite real and can have a place in the spiritual life, especially when God uses it to ask a proud or reserved person to submit to Him or place trust in him. It does not imply holiness, however; in actually no spiritual phenomena of this type do by themselves. Holiness is of another order than simple phenomena.

However, it is a truism in the spiritual life that as surely as consolations are sought by people who pray, those consolations can be a danger to spiritual growth if they become a goal or a desire which interferes with faith or love for God and/or others. Persons for whom these sorts of things don't become a goal are probably not harmed, but people like that may be somewhat rare. Good spiritual direction is probably necessary to discern what is going on. Care must also be taken that evil does not intrude on the practice.

Tongues can serve a legitimate purpose, but they take their place among prayer types properly, whichever purpose they serve.

A danger signal is precisely the desire to supplant the Holy Mass with them, as the Sacrifice of the Mass is the chief Christian prayer.


Actually this passage you cite makes more sense in a wider context--read the whole of 1 Corinthians 14 and you will see it.

Sandra Miesel

Thanks, Frank. My friend made the remark 8 years ago or more, before the Situation, so perhaps his remarks have been overtaken by events.

Sandra Miesel

Thanks, Frank. My friend made the remark 8 years ago or more, before the Situation, so perhaps his remarks have been overtaken by events.
I didn't mean to imply that the Pope was anything but enthusastic about the charismatic movement.

kate dawson

In response to Mr. Kubiak above, the Pontifical Council of the Laity issued statutes and recognized a lay association of Catholic covenant charismatic communities in 1990 or 91 - the Pope has annually sent a letter of encouragement to this fraternity's annual conference and the Pope is quite fond of the charismatic movement - which he numbers among several "moves of the Holy Spirit" since Vatican II along with (among others) Communion and Liberation(Italy), Neocatechumenate, Couples for Christ.

David Kubiak

I take this side of the Pope's enthusiasms to be his pronouncements as a private theologian, and apparently a number of Roman officials agree. I am reliably told that major curial figures are aghast at the Holy Father's support of the Neo-Catechumenal Way, which they regard as a cult, and which they fear is corrupting the majority of the clergy for the diocese of Rome.

And if the Holy Ghost chooses to talk to me, I trust He will do so in Latin, a language which we both understand.

Henry Dieterich

I have been a participant in the Catholic charismatic renewal for over thirty years; in fact, it was the instrument of my conversion to the Church from unbelief. What Mr. Gibbons has posted reflects the understanding of most Catholics involved in charismatic renewal. For a more theological reflection, you might look at two books by Fr. George Montague, "Holy Spirit: Growth of a Biblical Tradition" or "Christian Initiation and Baptism in the Holy Spirit" (with Fr. Kilian McDonnell).
As for speaking in tongues, I have been to many prayer meetings at which someone spoke alone in tongues and someone else interpreted. Interpretation is not translation, since in every case that I know of, the language was unknown to all present. I find that in most cases these "messages" are generally expressions of praise to God rather than prophecies directed to the assembly. Mostly tongues are a gift for prayer: "the Spirit interceding with groans too deep for words." I myself have had occasion to wonder, What is this for? I seems very repetitive, for one thing, and besides, it involves little rational thought. Thinking of this, I recall the scenes in Holy Scripture in which the glory of God in heaven is glimpsed, as in Revelations or in Isaiah 6. In those scenes, the behavior of the saints and angels is not characterized by rational reflection, but rather by a great deal of repetitive activity. If I were repeating, "Holy, Holy, Holy" like the cherubim, I would not be less repetitive than when I am praying in tongues. If an entire prayer meeting were singing a complex Gregorian Alleluia together, it would be no more discursive than praying or singing together in tongues, except that in the latter case we don't all need to know the tune. It is a way of being united in worship without the distraction of having to think of something to say, since nothing we can say is equal to God anyway.
As for the 1975 Rome prophecies, here's a link:
I was there, by the way. What is at this link is an excerpt. I think we can see the beginnings of the fulfillment of these prophecies; I also think that in the perspective of Church history, very little time has passed since then. I don't know if "Buildings that are now standing will not be standing" refers to actual buildings (most of the people who heard it shuddered, because they thought of the one they were standing in, St. Peter's Basilica) or to figurative structures. I myself recalled that line on Sept. 11th. In the end, all prophecy, whether received at a charismatic gathering or a Marian apparition or the locutions of a stigmatist, must be tested.
I hope this helps.

Carrie Tomko

Urquhart's and Tapia's books on Focolare and Opus Dei present a picture of the movements that raises a lot of red flags.

It does seem that the Holy Ghost is presenting His gift of glossolalia to a lot of religions, not just Christianity. One tends to wonder why He would be showering this gift on the Theosophists who worship Lucifer the Lightbearer. But apparently that doesn't concern the charismatics, though why it doesn't concern the Holy Father is a mystery to me.


While I have attended a few Charismatic masses a year for the past ten years,I am not associated with any charismatic prayer group. These masses have been at locations all over the country. I have always been touched by the reverence for the Eucharist and awareness of Jesus present in the Eucharist. People are entirely focused on God. The music is sung prayer -- simple prayers set to music. If there is toungues within mass it brief and only at times where expressions of praise are appropriate. The Charismatics I have met have been by and large very orthodox relative to other Catholic subgroups and very warm and caring. They are often well versed in scripture. They are not adverse to traditional devotions and are often promoters of the rosary. I suppose there are some groups where histrionics or cults of personality take over, but I have as yet to see that. They seem to have a lot of internal (albeit informal) checks and balances on these kinds of things. The priests who are leaders in the movement tend to be very gifted (both in the extraordinary and ordinary sense of the word) and theologically orthodox.

Kate Whittaker


While my experience with charismatics had always been very limited before I started attending Mass with my fiancee (who grew up in a charismatic Catholic parish), I draw a very definite line between the gifts of the spirit manifest in Catholic and pious Christian communities, and some of the phenomena manifested elsewhere. If they are wise, faithful charismatics will recite prayers asking for protection from evil spirits at the beginning of any prayer meeting, as the members of the local community do.

Something like the (sic)"Toronto Airport Blessing" (which sent people into convulsions, animal noises, etc.) seem likely to me to have been influenced by demonic forces.

Looking to the fruits, and the motives of the community, there are some real differences.


Sandra Miesel

I did look at some web postings of the Rome Prophecies. It would be hard to come up with a more generic "prophecy" than "buildings now standing will fall." One could just as easily say "people now living will die." It's unfalsifiable. And when has the Church not faced upheavals and Times of Troubles?
Charismatic Catholicism is just not my style. Not even Fr. Scanlan could get the bestowal of the Spirit to "take" on me. Am I supposed to conclude that God is uninterested in me?

David Kubiak

Brava to Ms. Tomko. What I cannot in any way get over is the idea that an important source of connection to God was removed from the custodianship of the Catholic Church and handed over to Protestants to develop until we benighted Romans finally decided to get with the program. All this 'word of knowledge' vocabulary is pure Oral Roberts to me and will never be anything else.


David, you wrote, "I am reliably told that major curial figures are aghast at the Holy Father's support of the Neo-Catechumenal Way, which they regard as a cult, and which they fear is corrupting the majority of the clergy for the diocese of Rome."

Which "major curial figures" are aghast at the Neocatechumenal Way? Card. Ratzinger is one of its major curial supporters. So is Card. Arinze. Its biggest opponent in Italy was Card. Martini. Cardinal Schonborn is a big supporter. So is Archbishop Pell. Over half the seminarians for the Diocese of Rome are students at the Redemptoris Mater seminary, which is the seminary under the auspices of the Neocatechumenal Way.

Increasingly in Spain and Italy, the only people who go to Church any more are involved in the "movements," particularly the Neocatechumenal Way and the Charismatics. One reality in S. America that has been very successful stopping the hemorrhage to the sects has been the Neocatechumenal Way. In fact, it has been almost the only reality in Catholic Church that has a track record of bringing ex-Catholics back from the sects, and not just keeping the Catholics we have.

Who is your source? Carrie Tomko cites Gordon Urquhart, a disgruntled ex-Focolarino who left his wife and children, declared himself a homosexual, and writes articles for Catholics for a Free Choice. I hope you're not relying on Urquhart as well!

David Kubiak

I will have to plead confidentiality for my source, since in any company no important employee wants to make public disagreements he has with his boss. But I am convinced of the truth of what I have been told, nor should it be surprising, since a number of diocesan bishops do not permit the Neo-Way in their territories.

The group has a classic gnostic agenda, and practices bizarre abuses of the liturgy. I suspect the Holy Father in fact understands as much about it as he does about the American clerical scandal. He is obviously a man of very inclusive good will.

You do not save people from one cult by substituting another. I come back to a fundamental position I have about the history of the post-Conciliar Church: in a series of suicidal moves we brought on ourselves the crisis we now claim to be solving with a collection of gnostic sects. Somebody wrote about the current 'Protestantization' of the Church, which is not the familiar RadTrad charge, but a realization of the fact that people can now have officially approved religious attitudes so various that they can scarsely be thought to possess the same Faith.


I have first-hand knowledge of the Neocatechumenal Way, having been involved in a Neocatechumenal community in my parish for many years. I assure you, it's not a cult and it's not gnostic. At one stage of the Way, a community undergoes an intense doctrinal formation. Do you want to know which books are used? The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the main text. Other books are Ratzinger's Introduction to Christianity, St. Thomas Aquinas Commentary on the Apostles Creed, and various patristic works. Of course, the Bible is used extensively in the Neocatechumenal Way, and its always interpreted in the light of the Church's tradition. That point is made clear in the initial catechesis.

The Eucharistic Liturgy, as celebrated within the Neocatechumenal Way, is very "participatory" and post-Vatican II, but it's also very reverent. Years ago the Holy Father celebrated Mass for a large gathering from the Neocatechumenal Way at its center in Porto San Giorgio... and he celebrated it just as it's always celebrated in the Neocatechumenal Way.

Having said that, I admit that there are some in the Curia who are opposed to the Neocatechumenal Way. There are, as you have said, dioceses in which it is not welcome. Generally, though perhaps not always, these tend to be dioceses dominated by liberals. Check it out, and you'll find that what I'm saying is true? Do you know where it's been forbidden in the U.S., for example? Or in England or Italy? Very instructive, to say the least.

Jeanne Schmelzer

For those who have never prayed in tongues, it can't be explained. When I pray in tongues, I can pray - much like those who pray the rosary - over and over again the same repetitive prayer. In the end (or during) I feel great peace. I have never felt emotional like you might hear of those who do. It gives me great strength to perform my duties and go through the tough times. It is a devotional aid much like any other prayer. It does purport to be given to those who desire to submit even their prayer language to the Lord. Many people feel funny about the Lord taking that complete of a charge of their lives. And as above, the fruit is to be looked at. Just because one person or one group acts one way and another acts rather strange, is no reason to discount the gift of tongues. Just because I pray in tongues doesn't indicate my holiness. It is my actions that (hopefully) result that determine that.

Remember that the early Christians prayed in tongues. It isn't a Protestant event. The Protestants may pray in tongues because they take seriously what scripture says - at least on that subject. The charismatic gifts that St. Paul talks about were common to ordinary people early-on until the 4th century when the Church became more institutionalized and the gifts then were religated to the hierarchy. St. Paul had to write his letters to correct the abuses cropping up in the early communities and so we can learn from them even as these same abuses crop up today.

As far as the Pope blessing the Charismatic Movement, I need to tell you that the Pope himself prays in tongues. This is recorded by Fr. Hampsch,C.M.F. on his tape called "Receiving the Gift of the Holy Spirit." Discernment of Spirits is a very important function to root out anything that isn't of the Lord. So I would say that if the Pope does it, who am I to dispute its validity?

The Cardinals that are sighted above who approve of the movement, seem to be the most orthodox in keeping and advocating the church's doctrine.

In the last 25 years, I've paid attention to people and how they express their faith. There are very good people - holy people - who have never even heard of the gift of tongues in this day and age. So I would conclude that this gift isn't required to advance in holiness. The gifts of the Holy Spirit in whatever form they take is what's important.

As a new Charismatic 28 years ago, I thought that because I came to the Lord this way, that would be the only way people could! Well, life and experiences many years later has rooted me in reality and the Spirit blows where he wills. What God wants is to be the center of our lives. Plain and simple. That's it. But to live out that simple fact isn't easy and I'm glad for the Sacraments and all the help I can get from the Church. The Lord has a sense of humor and keeps us off-balance when we become set in our ideas. Namely giving the Gift of Tongues to Protestants who ask when some of the Catholics turn him down. This is in no way a condemnation of those who don't care to pray in tongues. It just means that the Lord doesn't have the same boundaries for his grace that we have personally established.

Tom Harmon


I trust that if the Holy Spirit talks to you, He will do so in any way he so ordains.


Here are my comments on this subject Amy -- I hoe you are able to depart from conventional traditions -- this information plus more of my thoughts are at the web site mentioned above ---Sincerely- Brian

A Study of Tongues
When Jesus referred to what is commonly called tongues the context was separation, Matt 13:14. In Isaiah 28:11 (The first biblical mention of Tongues) the Priest’s had been rebellious (unbelieving) and had rejected and forgotten the knowledge God had offered them. God had allowed the devil to steal some of their knowledge of the kingdom (Matt 13:11-12, Hosea 4:6).

They were sliding backwards in their relationship with God. As a result the enemy captured them. In effect, God separated believers from unbelievers (1 Cor 14:22). In the case of Isaiah 28 the unbelieving Priests were separated from Isaiah.

It should be noted that this is a gift of speaking, not hearing. The ability to spiritually hear (understand) comes into play in Matt 16:17.

Jesus is our example and in order to understand the phenomenon called tongues we have to first see what He did and said about the topic.

This study will begin with Mark 16:17 where Jesus said that in His name this sign (tongues), among other signs would follow those who believe. Jesus Himself endorsed this phenomenon, and as with any sign it is meant to communicate or confirm something to others.

Speaking generally this is to signify or prove that God is involved in this event, as if to say God has put His signature on it.

In Acts 2:3 we see that tongues of fire came and rested on each of those present. The phrase tongues of fire is translated in some versions cloven tongues of fire, which is more accurate.

The literal wording is that “languages of fire were distributed” to them, distributed being number 1266 in the Greek dictionary of the New Testament contained in the Strong’s concordance to the Bible and languages being number 1100.

Seen through spiritual eyes, this is a New Testament fulfillment of an Old Testament shadow of things to come.

In Second Chronicles 7:1 we see the fire of God consuming the sacrifices and the Glory of the Lord filling the House of God in response to Solomon’s prayer. Romans 12:1 tells us that Christians should present their bodies as living sacrifices. 1 Corinthians 6:19 states that Christians are the Temple of God.

In concert then we see the fire of God descending upon the Temple. As is the case with the burning bush in Exodus 3:2, the living sacrifice is not consumed. In this case the living sacrifice speaks forth the language of fire becoming a witness (sign) and a bearer of the fire.

When they spoke languages of fire the discussions themselves were a sign to others that these people were Jesus witnesses, Acts 1:8.

God is described as a Consuming fire Deut 4:24, and there is a biblical correlation between fire and the purifying of metal. It is logical then that this new form of communication will purify Man’s heart.

The next event referred to is in Acts 2:5-11. Devout (God fearing, 2126 Strong’s) Jews in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven heard about this event and came to see what it was all about.

Jews by definition were from Israel and a non-Israelite could become a Jew through circumcision of the flesh, Ex 12:48. From Acts 2:5 then we see that converts to Judaism were in the group in Jerusalem.

The group of Jewish believers and converts was amazed because they each heard the Galileans speaking about the mysteries of God (1 Cor 14:2) in their native languages.

The native language of the Jews in the group was Hebrew and the native languages of the Jewish converts are mentioned in Acts 2:9-11.

The power from God to be Jesus witnesses included the ability to speak of the mysteries of God, 1 Cor 14:2.

It was apparent to the Jews and converts that the Galileans (including uncircumcised followers of Jesus) had received the ability to discuss the mysteries of God.

Until Pentecost only those circumcised in the flesh could partake of the covenant with God.

Why would hearing the Galilaean followers of Jesus declare the wonders of God be a sign from God to the Jews and converts to Judaism?

One reason that seems to be logical is that God wanted the hearers (circumcised Jews) to know He had accepted those speaking (both circumcised and uncircumcised people from Galilee).

God had given these Galileans the knowledge necessary to understand and speak about the same spiritual mysteries that the God Fearing Jews understood.

They were enabled to speak this way by God; therefore they were to be treated as brethren by the circumcision group.

For an example of this refer to Acts 10:47 where Peter recognized the outpouring because of the language spoken.

In the above mentioned case and in Acts 2:11 it was not the language spoken that served as the sign but the content of the discussions that indicated to the hearers that God had given this “knowledge” (Lk 8:10) to these individuals.

It is important to remember that circumcision was a Jewish requirement and also a requirement for converts.

Now the Jews were hearing people being moved upon by God and they had not undergone physical circumcision. What was God trying to tell them? He was telling them for one thing, that the reality had come and the shadow was no longer a requirement. The shadow being physical circumcision and the reality being circumcision of the heart.

The painful ordeal called circumcision that had been required in order to have a covenant relationship with God was now being replaced, i.e. a change in the law (Heb 7:12).

Those who had allowed this to be done to them were understandably upset that others were given the same gift without having to go through the physical pain.

The thing they did not realize at the time was that the removal of the fleshly desires from the heart is much more painful than the temporary physical pain caused by circumcision, Ex 12:48-49.

To understand better a knowledge of the times will be helpful. In Isaiah 9:1 Galilee is referred to as Galilee of the nations (or Gentiles). They were considered to be aliens and separated from God up until this time.

Another fact to remember in discussing this is found in Matt 4:25 where we are told that great multitudes followed Jesus, and some of His followers were non-Jewish people, Matt 15:25 and Acts 2:9-11.

Galilee was a melting pot of nationalities and languages; it was not one place but a circle of cities or a district.

The fact that the God-fearing Jews and converts heard the Galileans in their native languages should be not considered the focus of the explanation of this event. This is not a gift of hearing but a gift of the ability to speak concerning the mysteries of God.

The Jews and converts to Judaism heard the Galileans speak in their native languages simply because some of the Galilaean speakers were from the nations from which the Jewish converts were native.

The focus of the event was that Gentiles could now participate in the covenant. This can be seen in Peter’s explanation mentioned in Acts 2:14-21 and in Joel 2:28-32.

In Acts 2:6-11 the Jewish believers and converts were commenting on the fact that they heard the Galileans speaking of the “wonderful works of God”.

This was familiar to them because they understood the same “truths” when they entered into their covenant with God.

To assume or read into this event the unscriptural theory of ecstatic utterances is to unduly mystify the topic when a scriptural alternative is available.

This is actually referring to spiritual understanding being communicated, in the speaker’s own language.

Which is indicating to the hearers that spiritual understanding had been given to the speakers by God (refer to Mt 16:17).

The entire doctrine which can more accurately be called a tradition, of ecstatic utterances was based on a misunderstanding of Acts 2:6 and 7 and 1 Cor 14:2.

Peter was not only explaining this to the Gentiles but also telling His Jewish brethren that this was a fulfillment of prophesy.

So if the God-fearing Jews and converts heard the Galileans speaking the covenant language then they must conclude that God was pouring His Spirit out on all flesh.

This was in response to circumcision of the heart. Regardless of whether or not the person was circumcised in the flesh.

Below is a description of the languages spoken, we know that languages of fire-

1. declare the works of God

2. are a sign to the hearers

3. the recipients of this gift of languages of fire are given it so that they can be Jesus witnesses

4. God-Fearing people understood the things being said

5. Languages of fire speak of the mysteries of God

To briefly look at the topic from another standpoint, consider what Jesus said to John the Baptist when He was being baptized. In Matt 3:15 He tells John to baptize Him because it was right.

Since Jesus would command people to be baptized He allowed Himself to be baptized. He did not need to be baptized but to serve as our example He submitted to it.

This is mentioned because some people think that even though Jesus was our example He did not speak in tongues because He was the Christ and did not have to. This conclusion is clearly unscriptural.

In 1 Jn 2:6 Jesus is said to be our example. The point being, that if Jesus was baptized in order to do what is right and serve as our example He also must have spoken in tongues as an example to His followers.

Nowhere in the Bible is it mentioned that Jesus spoke in the ecstatic utterances, which are referred to as tongues in some sections of the Body of Christ. Regardless of the misunderstanding some people in the Body of Christ have concerning Tongues, as our “example” Jesus unquestionably spoke in Tongues.

Those who think differently do not understand how the Bible describes speaking in Tongues. These people have invented their own form of Godliness and call it speaking in Tongues.

The Bible says that if a person abides in Christ he must walk as He walked, and Jesus said that those who follow Him would speak this way. Also in the case of the Apostle Paul we are told that He spoke in these languages of fire more than most, 1 Cor 14:18.

Just as in Jesus case, the Apostle Paul is never seen in scripture to speak in ecstatic utterances.

Regarding ecstatic utterance there is no record of Jesus or the Apostle Paul actually demonstrating this, but as both examples and teachers there are many demonstrations of their relating the deep mysteries of God.

Referring to the five aspects of languages of fire it can be seen that these two Individuals most certainly communicated this way.

1. Both declared the works of God

2. Their speech was a sign to others

3. Paul was certainly a witness to Jesus

4. God fearing people understood both of them, and rebellious people had trouble accepting the things they said.

5. Both Jesus and Paul spoke of the mysteries of God more than others did, (we know for certain that people who speak in languages of fire relate mysteries 1 Cor 14:2).

Neither Jesus nor Paul were ever seen to speak in any language that was unintelligible to the hearers except when speaking to people who were rebellious toward God, refer to John 10:19. God does not allow rebellious people to understand with their heart, Mark 4:11.

When Jesus disciples asked Him why He spoke to rebellious people in parables in Matt 13:10-14 and Luke 8:10, He said that this “knowledge” had not been given to them.

Jesus here fulfilled Isaiah’s commission, Isaiah 6:9.

A similar type of speech is referred to by Paul in 1 Cor 2:13.

The Apostle Paul said in 1 Cor 14:21 that this language of fire is spoken of in the law, here refer to Isaiah 28:11. This statement of Paul’s links the Old and New Testament understandings of Tongues.

The words translated with stammering lips in Isaiah 28:11 can be translated - with a people (or person) of “strange language”. The word that was translated stammering is number 3934 in the Old Testament Hebrew dictionary contained in the Strong’s Concordance to the Bible.

This section of scripture (Isaiah 28:11) refers to God speaking to Priest’s that He had called to but who did not respond correctly to His call.

Because of this incorrect response (rebellion) God decided to speak to them through a person that they could not understand.

This is a fulfillment of what Jesus said in Matt 13:12. They no longer possessed the spiritual knowledge they once had, it had been stolen from them, Matt 13:1-12.

Isaiah and the drunken priests spoke the same earthly language but they did not speak the same spiritual language. The Priest’s could not understand the spiritual truths (mysteries) Isaiah was relating to them. They trusted in ‘Lies” as Isaiah 28:15 says, they thought they would be spared God’s judgement.

As a result of the incorrect response to the call of God the Priests did not understand the meaning of Isaiah’s message and the enemy (devil) captured them, (rebellious or hard-hearted people are allowed to backslide).

This message of Isaiah’s seemed to be foolishness to them 1 Cor 1:21 and 1 Cor 2:14.

The message in Tongues delivered to the Priest’s by Isaiah can be read in Isaiah 28:14-29.

1. This language of fire in this case would be a sign to those who did not respond correctly to God’s call and they would understand that they were foreigners to those speaking, 1 Cor 14:11.

If I (placing myself in the position of the drunken priests in Isaiah 28 to illustrate my point) see a person obviously as blessed by God as Isaiah was and yet I do not understand what He is talking about I am obviously a foreigner to Him.

This should serve to alert me to the fact that since He (Isaiah) is obviously blessed by God but I do not understand Him, that God has not given me the same knowledge that He has given to Isaiah (1 Cor 2:14).

Note that a person can (referring again to the example of the priests in Isaiah 28) be a priest and still be unbelieving.

The drunken Priests rejected and forgot the knowledge concerning the rest of God (Hosea 4:6 and Isaiah 28:12 and Heb 4:3), because of this they were captured by the enemy.

These rulers of Israel (Christianity) had the responsibility of teaching others, Isaiah 28:9.

However because of their unbelief they received from God only a little understanding here and a little there. How could these priests teach those maturing?

If a person does not understand a teaching about the mysteries of God (someone speaking in tongues) either they are an unbeliever Matt 13:14 or unlearned 1 Cor 14:16.

2. This language of fire would then burn up the chaff and purify or edify the believer, since the understanding of the mysteries of God can do nothing to the believer but make him or her stronger in The Holy Spirit.

So we have Peter and Joel describing the event in Acts chapter 2 and Jesus and Paul and Isaiah telling us why some understand and some do not. The following paragraphs address questions that can be raised in regard to Isaiah 28.

Were those speaking in tongues to the rebellious Priests in Isaiah 28:11 the invading armies of the Assyrians?

If this were the case then the Assyrians would be speaking to them regarding the mysteries of God, 1 Cor 14:2.

This could not have been the case because the Assyrians were unbelievers. The one speaking to the rebellious priests in Tongues was Isaiah the author and prophet, in fulfillment of His commission from God (Is 6:9-10).

The question of who is speaking in Isaiah 28:11 is important also because a person could wrongly conclude that the drunken priests are the people speaking to or teaching the Israelites with stammering lips.

Isaiah 28:12 shows us that it is God (the One directing the Priests into the rest of the Lord) who will speak through stammering lips (strange language) to the drunken priests (who would not listen).

In 1 Cor 14:21 the Apostle Paul also tells us that the one speaking in Isaiah 28:11 is the Lord. It is of course God speaking through Isaiah.

Another concern could be that the Apostles are seen as the only people who could speak in tongues. This is seen not to be true by referring to Acts 11:15-17.

Here it is seen that Peter refers to the Gentiles receiving the same gift that He did.

The Gentiles would then be candidates for speaking in tongues, just as those present and speaking in tongues on Pentecost were.

The people who oppose the doctrine of tongues generally accept the same basic definition of what “tongues are” as the charismatic denominations do.

It is almost universally accepted in Christian denominations that tongues are “ecstatic utterances”. The variations with regard to this doctrine are generally concerned with the use of the gift.

To regard tongues as “ecstatic utterances” has absolutely no scriptural support.

They feel that the actual act of speaking in tongues pertains to “ecstatic utterances” or “unintelligible melodic sounds spoken in rapid succession”, which is absolutely unscriptural.

By making these sounds those who practice this type of activity believe that they are communicating with God. One of the reasons for this misunderstanding is due to the mistranslation of 1 Cor 14:2, which is addressed in the next few paragraphs.

The rest of the study will address some of the possible difficulties with this explanation of the languages of fire, from a charismatic point of view.

Regarding the statement in 1 Cor 12:10 an examination of the Greek word reveals that interpretation can be translated explanation.

A person can speak of spiritual truths but since God is actually speaking not everyone can explain these truths.

By substituting the word explanation for the word interpretation a new understanding will become clear.

In 1 Cor 14:2 many translations state that a person speaking in an unknown tongue speaks to God not to man for no man understands Him.

The translation “to God” and “to man” can just as easily be translated “the God” and “the man”.

We are specifically told that God is speaking to man when He employs someone and speaks through them in mysteries.

This agrees with Isaiah 28:11 where it is indicated that God will speak, and not man.

This translation process is ventured into to prove the point.

The word translated “unto” is numbered 3588 in Strong’s concordance. This word is not translated in the above translation but is present in the original languages.

This is described as the definite “article” meaning - this- that- these- who- which- etc, and simply makes reference to the person.

So the word “unto” can accurately be translated as “the” and in this case is mistranslated as “unto”.

With this translation of the word numbered 3588 in Strong’s concordance the verse reads—

1 Cor 14:2 For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not—the men—but—the God—for no man understandeth him: howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.

This then is in agreement with Isaiah 28:11, and again as is the case in the Job study, a very small mistranslation has created an unscriptural method of thinking.

As far as the rest of the 1 Cor 14:2, we are told that no one understands - but upon consideration - this contradicts all the descriptions of languages of fire (tongues).

In several cases including the instance in Acts 2 we are told that God fearing people did understand, only those referred to as unbelievers and ungifted (unlearned) did not understand.

In view of this and looking at the Greek word that is translated “understands” (Strong’s 191) but which can literally be translated “hears”, the Apostle Paul is clearly making reference to Isaiah 28:11-12.

When speaking in 1 Cor 14:2, the phrase no one “understands” would actually read no one “hears”. In summary then we know that rebellious people don’t hear, listen or understand the word of God.

There is an interesting distinction in 1 Cor 14:24, both “unbeliever” (Strong’s 571) and those referred to as “ungifted” in 1 Cor 14:16 and again in 1 Cor 14:24 (Strong’s 2399) are identified as those who do not understand languages of fire.

In 1 Cor 14:2 these languages are said to relate the mysteries of God, it is clear from the previous discussion why unbelievers will not understand.

Also those who are new Christians or unfamiliar with the mysteries being related at the time will possibly have a hard time understanding as well.

All the more reason why the Apostle Paul would rather speak in terms that would be understood by all present in the Church at the time.

Languages of fire, so to speak, are meant to be a sign to rebellious people, indicating to them and to others around them that they are foreigners to the speakers (Christians) and not brethren.

Put another way they are strangers to the covenants of promise, Eph 2:12.

Either the Holy Spirit has not shown them the reality of the spiritual truths because they did not respond correctly to the call of God, or they are not yet mature enough to understand the speaker.

Looking at another possible problem in 1 Cor 14:14 where it is usually conveyed my spirit prays but my mind or understanding is unfruitful.

Consider that the mind being unfruitful is saying that the mind is not bearing fruit, in other words the mind of the person speaking did not produce this.

This again agrees with Isaiah 28:11 because this is produced by the Spirit of God who is speaking through man.

According to 1 Cor 14:14 if a person prays in a language their Spirit prays, this verse shows us that in biblical terminology speaking in the spirit and in tongues are the same thing.

In 1 Cor 12:3 speaking by the Spirit (Holy Ghost) is also mentioned, this reference tells us who is moving the person to speak.

By combining the two verses we can see a clearer picture of speaking by the spirit. The person speaking may be expressing what is in his or her spirit but the ideas being spoken about are originating with God.

These verses then agree with first Biblical mention of tongues in Isaiah 28:11.

In 1 Cor 14:15 if a person prays or praises (while inside {so to speak}) the Holy Spirit, then they can possibly be misunderstood or not understood at all by the unlearned.

The word used for unlearned is Strong’s 2399 “uninstructed” and is different from the word used for unbelievers which is Strong’s 571 “unbelieving”.

Our idea of music or singing is related to the type culture we live in. Singing in the Spirit (Singing about the wonders or mysteries of God) was done by the Israelites in psalms. Singing about the mysteries or wonders of God would equate to singing hymns in whatever culture a person is from.

The Apostle certainly wants to speak in or by the Spirit, but if the mysteries spoken of in the Spirit cause a person not to understand then He would rather speak with His mind.

To clarify what the Apostle means when He says He will pray and sing (Strong’s 5567, which means Praise) with His understanding or mind refer to the use of the term understanding in 1 Cor 14:19.

There it can be seen that the phrase speak words with His mind means to be speaking in order to be understood by the hearers to instruct them.

Refer to 1 Cor 8:13 and remember that Spiritual wisdom is referred to as meat in 1 Cor 3:2.

To be understood this “speaking in order to be understood” should be contrasted with the reason a person speaks in Tongues with regard to unbelievers.

As a sign to unbelievers, the gift of tongues is a tool to show the unbeliever that they are foreigners to the one speaking.

Paul could certainly speak in great detail concerning the mysteries of God. His “knowledge” of the mysteries is certainly above the heads and beyond the understanding of most.

He chose to be understood by the hearers rather than to try to force-feed them meat when they were not ready for it. He gauged his discourse in the Church to the maturity of those present.

Jesus also commented on this when He told His disciples in Jn 16:12-13 that He would not tell them certain things because they could not bear them.

He withheld spiritual wisdom so as not to injure believers with difficult sayings or teachings.

Jesus gives us an example of the proper use of Tongues in John 6:60-66. He uses the language of the fire of God at a time when both believers and unbelievers are present.

In keeping with separating believers from unbelievers Jesus in these verses used the mysteries spoken of to separate the wheat from the chaff.

This resulted in the unbelievers turning back from following Him. In effect purifying the Body of Christ, Mt 13:34.

For someone to speak in the Church words to hard for the believers present to understand is discouraged by the Apostle.

Paul preferred to speak to be understood by the hearers when speaking to believers, in order to instruct them.

Speaking with spiritual wisdom (mysteries) to separate believers from unbelievers is necessary at times (tongues -1 Cor 14:2).

Speaking with the mind concerning the mysteries of God, intending to be understood by the hearers is also necessary (prophesy -1 Cor 14:3).

Each is useful depending on whether believers or unbelievers are being addressed, and Paul said He would use both forms of communication, 1 Cor 14:18-19.

See 1 Cor 2:6 and 7 for an explanation of where Paul spoke hard sayings—among the mature.

Regarding the topic of intercessory prayer in Rm 8:26-27. Consider that in Philippians 2:13 we are told that God works in us to will and do.

This being the case and comparing these verses we can conclude that God speaks to our heart with reference to His will.

Searching our hearts then we will know what the mind of the Holy Spirit is (Philippians 2:5) and we can then make intercession for the saints according to God’s will.

1 Cor 14:6 explains that languages of fire may contain or consist of-

1. revelation

2. knowledge

3. prophecy

4. teaching

In reference to the use of prophecy (4395 Strongs) remember this word simply means speaking forth the words of God to comfort or build up and edify others, 1 Cor 14:3.

Speaking in Tongues is the God given ability to relate the mysteries of God to people in a way that believers will understand and unbelievers will not.

This explanation of the Gift of speaking with languages of Fire will possibly be met with some opposition.

Consider which explanation is easier to verify scripturally this one or those differing from it, and then decide as the Spirit of God leads you. This is only an opinion and as such is probably flawed in some way.

The understanding of mankind can never compete with that of God. The Book of Revelation says that adding to or taking from the words of this prophecy will result in penalties. I feel that this warning pertains to the whole of scripture and not just the Book of Revelation, 2 Tim 3:16 and Rev 22:18-19.

The rewards for obeying the Word of God and the penalties for disobeying the Word of God can be clearly seen in our lives by other people, Matt 12:33 and 1 Cor 11:19.

It is clear that there are many unscriptural doctrines that religious people adhere to. It is equally clear that this is one of the reasons that there are not more Christ-like people in the Body of Christ.

In recent years there has been much prayer in agreement with Jesus prayer to make the body of Christ One, certainly God is answering this prayer.

Consequently Jesus followers are - at this moment in answer to Jesus prayer - being united with the Father in the same manner that Jesus Himself is united to the Father, Jn 17:21.

We are coming into the unity of the knowledge of the Son of God, Eph 4:13.

We must recognize that this means that some of us will have to abandon our opinions especially the ones that can be summarized by the words “I think”. Opinions are fine but they must ultimately rest on the word of God.

The real question becomes, will we be able to minister God’s love to each other knowing that some have been right and some mistaken.

Jeremiah 5:14 Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of hosts, Because you have spoken this word, Behold, I am making My words in your mouth fire And this people wood, and it will consume them.

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