What Is Speaking In Tongues?

Part Seven – Tongues & Interpretation Of Tongues

By Craig Bluemel

Birth Of The Corinthian Church


DISCLAIMER: While I personally detest the fanaticism and spiritual charade of charismania, this study and series is not intended as a tool to disarm the charismatic church from its proper use of prophecy, speaking in tongues and interpretation of “kinds” of tongues.  Throughout this series I affirm the use and personal practice of hetérais glossalaliá (i.e. – speaking by the spirit in unknown tongues as in 1 Corinthians 14:2).  What this study explains is the correct application for the apostle Paul’s written instructions to the early Corinthian church regarding the practice of various kinds of tongues and interpretation of tongues mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:10, 28, 30.


In this Part 7 the meaning of various kinds of tongues and interpretation of tongues mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:10, 28, 30; 14:3 ff will be discussed.  To truly understand this subject outside the paradigms of Pentecostalism’s extremes and outside the rigid legalism of Christian fundamentalism, one must be acquainted with the historical development of the early church in Corinth, beginning with its founding in 55 AD.  The development of the first church in Corinth is recorded in the Book of Acts chapter eighteen.  Unlike the activity of the churches in Jerusalem that were forced to meet house to house due to the control of the temple and synagogues by indignant, self-righteous Pharisees and scribes, Corinth was a city where some synagogue leaders embraced Paul’s gospel message and believed in Jesus as the Messiah. 


When Paul first came to Corinth (after leaving Athens), he met a Jew named Aquila and his wife Priscilla.  They had recently been deported from Rome, along with thousands of other Jews, when Emperor Claudius issued an edict that all Jews must leave the city.  Paul stayed with them, working with Aquila in their common craft as tentmakers and each Sabbath he reasoned with both Jews and Greeks from the Scriptures (Acts 18:1-4).  Once settled in Corinth, Paul sent word to Macedonia for Timothy and Silas to join him.  By the time Timothy and Silas arrived at Corinth, Paul was fully engaged preaching and teaching in the synagogues and certain Jews that were displeased at Paul’s gospel gave him such strong opposition, that just as had happened in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:46 ff), he told them, “From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”  He left the district of Corinth where the hostile Jews were, and went to the house of Titius Justus (Acts 18:1-7).


·          Acts 18:7-18 He then left there and went to the house of a man named Titus Justus, who worshiped God and whose house was next door to the synagogue.  8 But Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed that Jesus is the Messiah, together with his entire household; and many of the Corinthians who listened to Paul also believed and were baptized.  9 And one night the Lord said to Paul in a vision, “Have no fear, but speak and do not keep silent; 10 for I am with you, and no man shall assault you to harm you, for I have many people in this city.”  11 So he settled down among them for a year and six months, teaching the Word of God.  12 But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia (most of Greece), the Jews unitedly made an attack upon Paul and brought him before the judge's seat, 13 declaring, “This fellow is advising and inducing and inciting people to worship God in violation of the Law.”  14 But when Paul was about to open his mouth to reply, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of some misdemeanor or villainy, O Jews, I should have cause to bear with you and listen; 15 but since it is merely a question of doctrine about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves; I decline to be a judge of such matters and I have no intention of trying such cases.”  16 And he drove them away from the judgment seat.  17 Then they all seized Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and beat him right in front of the judgment seat. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this.  18 Afterward Paul remained many days longer, and then told the brethren farewell and sailed for Syria; and he was accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. AMP


Acts 18:7-18 is the account of the birth of the Corinthian church and it provides a glimpse of how believers met weekly on the Sabbath.  In this narrative the early church imitated the protocol of the Jewish synagogue meetings by reading the Old Testament Scripture aloud.  After the Scripture reading certain individuals were allowed to stand up and exhort.  Those who were qualified to teach interpreted the meaning of a particular Scripture passage.   


A man named Crispus was the leader of the synagogue and along with his household and many other Corinthians he believed the gospel message (Acts 18:8).  Paul stayed in Corinth for 1 ½ more years teaching the word of God, and toward the end of his first stay in Corinth, the Jews brought false charges against him in the Roman court of Galileo, the proconsul of Achaia.  Galileo refused to hear the charges against Paul because it was a matter of Jewish religion, proving the early church had been meeting during this initial time period in the synagogue (Acts 18:11-13).  When Galileo refused to listen to them, the Jews beat another man named Sosthenes, who was also the leader of the synagogue.  The names of Crispus and Sosthenes as leaders of the synagogue are important because Paul mentions these men by name in his epistle to the Corinthians. 


·          1 Corinthians 1:1-2, 11-14 Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2 to the church of God which is at Corinth… 11 For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe's people, that there are quarrels among you.  12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, "I am of Paul," and "I of Apollos," and "I of Cephas," and "I of Christ."  13 Has Christ been divided?  Paul was not crucified for you, was he?  Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?  14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius…NAS


Paul and Sosthenes both wrote his first epistle to the Corinthians while they were staying in the city of Ephesus (1 Corinthians 1:1-2).  After being severely beaten Sosthenes departed Corinth with Paul to escape the Jewish hostility.  However, the other synagogue leader named Crispus remained in Corinth and may have become one of the first elders appointed in the church there. 


In 1 Corinthians 1:12 Paul rebukes the Corinthian believers because each one was saying, "I am of Paul," and "I of Apollos," and "I of Cephas," and "I of Christ."  The name, “Cephas,” is the Aramaic equivalent for Peter; both of these words means, “rock.”  The fact that Paul writes his rebuke to the Corinthians by using the Aramaic name instead of the Greek name lends credibility to the fact he is addressing a predominantly Jewish-convert church, because Aramaic was often the language spoken among Jews, whereas Greek was typically the language spoken among Gentiles in Asia. 


The mention of a Jewish man named Apollos in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is important because Apollos was highly educated and well schooled in the Scriptures.  Apollos was probably trained in the rabbinical tradition, and he journeyed to Corinth after his conversion.  Having been instructed more accurately in the Scriptures concerning Jesus as the Christ, his oratory prowess and knowledge enabled him to powerfully refute the Jews publicly in Corinth, making him a valued asset there (Acts 18:18-19:1)


SUMMARY – Paul, Aquila and Priscilla, Timothy and Silas worked to galvanize the Corinthian church.  The church first met in the home of Titius Justus, and shortly thereafter in the synagogue whose leaders included Crispus and Sosthenes.  Apollos joined the church at Corinth later to assist with teaching and publicly refuting the Jews.  When Paul, Aquila and Priscilla departed Corinth to journey to Syria, Timothy remained there as a teacher in the church because his Greek and Jewish background enabled and to mediate some of the problems there.  The various ethnic tongues spoken by believers in Corinth were Greek, Aramaic, and Latin, and in the synagogues, Hebrew was spoken, especially during the public reading of the Old Testament Law and Prophets. 


The Corinthian Church Patterned After Synagogue


The Corinthian church patterned its meetings after that of the Jewish synagogue, since the synagogue was the place where everyone could hear the Scriptures read and explained.  Unless you understand the way the synagogue services operated, you cannot understand the apostle Paul’s instructions to the Corinthian church.  Below are select excerpts from the International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1996 by Biblesoft to describe how the synagogue operated:


Synagogue, from the Greek word sunagoge means, "gathering" (Acts 13:43), "gathering-place" (Luke 7:5), and was the name applied to the Jewish place of worship in later Judaism in and outside of Palestine.   Próseche, "a place of prayer" (Acts 16:13), was probably more of the nature of an enclosure, marking off the sacred spot from the profane foot, than of a roofed building like a synagogue.


The essential aim of the synagogue was not prayer, but instruction in the Law for all classes of the people. Philo calls the synagogues "houses of instruction, where the philosophy of the fathers and all manner of virtues were taught." (Compare Matthew 4:23; Mark 1:21; 6:2; Luke 4:15,33; 6:6; 13:10; John 6:59; 18:20).  There was usually a moveable ark, in which the rolls of the Law and the Prophets were kept. In front of the ark, and facing the congregation, were the "chief seats" for the leaders of the synagogue and the learned men (Matthew 23:6). From Nehemiah 8:4 and 9:4 it appears there was a platform from which the Law was read, although it is not mentioned in the New Testament, was of ancient date, and in use in the time of Christ.


The “leader” of the synagogue (such as Crispus or Sosthenes) are sometimes referred to as “rulers” of the synagogue.  The word translated “rulers” is from the Greek “archisunagogos,” (Compare Mark 5:35; Luke 8:41,49; 13:14; Acts 18:8,17).  In most synagogues there were several leaders (Compare Mark 5:22; Acts 13:15).  The leader(s) were most probably chosen from among the elders. Usually it was required that a synagogue has ten leaders, and of those ten leaders, three of them were chosen as the chief seats.  It was the responsibility of the leaders to control the synagogue services and to decide who was to be called upon to read from the Law and the Prophets and who was to be chosen to preach (Acts 13:15; compare Luke 13:14); he also had to look after the discussions, and generally to keep order.  The person that read the Law and said the prayers had to be someone of good character. The leader of the synagogue appointed a man at each meeting known as, the interpreter.  It was the interpreter’s duty to translate into Aramaic the passages of the Law and the Prophets, which were read in Hebrew (Meghillah 3:3; compare 1 Corinthians 14:28). This also was probably not a permanent office, but at each meeting the leader chose someone of good character to fill the position.


The reading of the Law and the Prophets took place after prayers were read. A section of the Pentateuch called a “pericope,” was read aloud from the law every Sabbath.  Once the section of the Law had been read, then the interpreter translated verse by verse from Hebrew into Aramaic (Meghillah 3:3). The whole Pentateuch was divided into 154 pericopes, so that in the course of 3 years it was read through in order. After the reading of the Law a section of the Prophets was read called the “Haphtarah,” which was the pericope from the Prophets for that particular Sabbath.  The interpreter did not necessarily translate from the Prophets verse by verse, but in paragraphs of 3 verses (Meghillah, loc. cit.).


After the Law and the Prophets were read a sermon followed, which was an  exposition of the Law.  Eventually the sermon became more devotional in character. Anyone in the congregation might be asked by the ruler to preach, or might ask the ruler for permission to preach.  After the sermon a Levitical priest was called upon to beseech of God’s blessing and at the end of the blessing the congregation said in unison, “Amen.”  (From International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (c) 1996 by Biblesoft)


Synagogue meetings provided an opportunity for all manner of people to hear and learn about the Law and the Prophets.  Even the Greek word ecclesia, which is usually translated as, “church,” in modern Bibles, originated in the synagogue.  The Septuagint is the Hebrew Old Testament translated into Greek and it uses the word ecclesia seventy times when it translates the Hebrew word, “kve,” or “qahal,” (could also be spelled Cahal). It means to call together, to assemble, or gather together.  In Corinth, the church gathering included slaves and they were numerous because the greater percentage of the human population was made up of slaves.  Many slaves came from regions of North Africa, Egypt, and many other places where Roman conquests resulted in subjugating defeated foes into slavery.  Eventually the apostle Paul gave written instructions in his epistles concerning them and specified that slaves must be taught the word of God just like the rest of the believers. 


·          1 Corinthians 7:21-22 Were you a slave when you were called?  Do not let that trouble you.  But if you are able to gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity. 22 For he who as a slave was summoned in to union with the Lord is a freedman of the Lord, just so he who was free when he was called is a bond servant of Christ. AMP


·          1 Corinthians 12:13-14 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.  14 For the body is not one member, but many.   NAS


Once a community of Jews was converted to faith in Jesus as the Christ and the new covenant was fully embraced, elders were appointed from among the believers in the church.  The elders of the church did not necessarily correspond to the former leaders of the synagogue.  The elders that labored diligently in oratory discourse (interpreting) and teaching of the Law and the Prophets were considered by all to be teachers.


The churches in Asia were usually patterned after the synagogue and this is overtly obvious by the tone and use of words in the apostle John’s writings to the seven churches that are in Asia (Revelation 1:4).  In his message to Smyrna, John warns the church elders in Revelation 2:8-9 of the blasphemy spoken by those who say they are “Jews,” but are in reality a part of the, “synagogue of Satan.”  Why would the apostle John refer to the church as a synagogue unless the synagogue (meaning “gathering place”) was the stereotypical model and protocol for assembling together?


The apostle John writes a similar message to the church in Philadelphia (see Revelation 3:7-12), whereby he uses a quote from Isaiah 22:22 ff to describe the messianic role of Jesus as the one who holds possession of, “the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens.”   This wording indicates John is writing to a Jewish convert base of NT believers.  As he wrote of the “synagogue of Satan,” to the church of Smyrna, he offers the same warning to the Philadelphia church saying, “Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie--I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you.”  What all of this proves is that the churches in Asia are not to be presumed as Gentile converts only when in reality they are deeply rooted in the Judaic background.


The Christian church in Corinth eventually modified the way synagogue meetings were operated because of the change in covenants and individual interaction with the spirit of God and of Jesus.  Weekly reading of the Scripture on the Sabbath continued but there was much more liberty and spiritual freedom and women were given opportunity to speak unlike the strict format of Judaism in synagogue.  The various ethnic tongues spoken by believers in Corinth included Greek, Aramaic, Latin, some Egyptian dialects, Syriac and in the synagogues, Hebrew was usually spoken during the public reading of the Old Testament Law and Prophets. 


The dominant language in Corinth was Greek.  Latin was probably spoken in some circles because of the number of retired veterans from the Roman army that had been settled there.  Latin was typically the language of the Roman government though more often than not edicts published in Latin were also published in Greek.  That Latin was widely used in Corinth should not come as much of a surprise, for even in Jerusalem we find evidence that Jews spoke Latin, Greek and Hebrew as illustrated in the inscriptions used on the sign hung over Jesus when he was crucified.


·          John 19:20 And many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek.  AMP


Interestingly, though not usually noticed, is that Paul uses several Greek words in his epistle to the Philippians that probably reflect on its status being like that of like Corinth (as a Roman colony); the words he uses were possibly intended to counter imperial propaganda (e.g., 2:6, 'ísa theoú'-‘like god,’ a term used of the emperor in the imperial cult).  Latin would have been more predominant in cities designated as Roman colonies such as Philippi and the region of Achaia, of which Corinth was the principal city. 


Aramaic would have just been spoken among Jews though evidence from inscriptions probably points to Greek as the everyday language of Corinthian Jews.  Aramaic was primarily used by Jews of Palestine and parts of Mesopotamia and a related language, Syriac, was common in the area we now call Syria, but in reality, this tongue consisted of variations of Aramaic.  In addition to speaking Greek, Hebrew and Latin, Aquila and Priscilla, two important figures working with Paul to establish the church in Corinth spoke Syriac because Aquila was born in Pontus, which is modern-day Syria.  Aquila and Priscilla spoke Latin because they lived in Rome prior to Claudius’ edict for all Jews to leave the city (Acts 18:2), and they spoke Greek and Aramaic in the course of everyday life as part of their ten-making trade (Acts 18:3-4).  It is certain they spoke Hebrew as well because they were able to explain the way of Jesus to Apollos more accurately from the Old Testament Scriptures (Acts 18:26).


Hebrew was pretty much limited to Jewish scholars, scribes and rabbis in the study of the Old Testament.  Generally in synagogues outside of Palestine the weekly scripture reading would be given in Hebrew, then a translation often with commentary was read in Aramaic and perhaps in Greek in many synagogues.  The primary version of the Old Testament used by Diaspora Jews was the Greek Septuagint.  Greek was also the primary language of the cities of the province of Asia.  However, in the countryside a number of native languages would have been encountered such as Phrygian.


An understanding of how these languages were put into practice in the church meetings explains what Paul’s written instruction in 1 Corinthians 12:7-10 mean regarding, “various kinds of tongues,” and the, “interpretation of tongues,” as a manifestation of the spirit for the “common good” in the church.  The “interpretation of tongues,” could refer to the modifications made to the traditional rabbinical synagogue sermon after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, as certain NT elders developed into teachers in the church.  The reason we know tongues and interpretations are related to the function of teachers is because excerpts taken from the context in which Paul mentions them in his letter of instructions to the Corinthians say so.


·          1 Corinthians 12:28-31 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers… and those speaking in different kinds of tongues…Are all apostles? Are all prophets?  Are all teachers…do all speak in tongues… do all interpret?  But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way. (NIV)


A teacher was a man in the church that had working knowledge of the languages of the people and the languages of the Scriptures, providing expressions of wisdom and knowledge through exhortation, admonition and revelation.  Teachers also devoted their time and efforts to didactic teaching, which developed into a form of thorough explanation combining the translation from Hebrew in the OT into the tongue of the people, known in Greek as, “hermeneuo,” or the combination of translation plus detailed explanation of its meaning known in Greek as, “diermeneuo.”


This Greek term, “diermeneuo,” is the same word Luke uses in his gospel to describe how the greatest Teacher of all, the Lord Jesus Christ, translated and then interpreted by giving his disciples a detailed explanation of the Old Testament Scriptures, explaining to them how the Law and the Prophets are fulfilled in and through him as the Christ (see below).


·          Luke 24:27 Then beginning with Moses and throughout all the Prophets, Jesus went on explaining and interpreting (diermeneuo) to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning and referring to Himself.  AMP


In 1 Corinthians 12:30 when Paul poses two rhetorical questions, “Do all speak with tongues?” and, “Do all interpret?”   He alludes to the role and function of teachers.  What he is asking is this: Do all believers in Corinth have the capability to speak in the tongues (glossa) of the Hebrew Old Testament Scriptures?  Do all have the capability to translate and then interpret by providing a thorough explanation of the Scriptures to others in the church?  The obvious answer to these rhetorical questions is a resounding, “No.”  Those who assume the responsibility of teaching take upon themselves a heavy weight of responsibility, as the Book of James says:


·          James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, self-constituted censors and reprovers of others, my brethren, for you know that we teachers will be judged by a higher standard and with greater severity than other people; thus we assume the greater accountability and the more condemnation.   AMP


Exhortations, admonitions and verbal expressions of knowledge and wisdom were not limited to only teachers, but came preferably from mature believers.  These verbal expressions of knowledge and wisdom are described in 1 Corinthians 12:8 as, “the word (logos) of wisdom and the word of knowledge,” respectively.  The Amplified Bible does a nice job of translating this verse:


·          1 Corinthians 12:8 To one is given in and through the Spirit the power to speak a message of wisdom, and to another the power to express a word of knowledge and understanding according to the same Spirit.  AMP


In his epistles, Paul uses the Greek word, “logos,” to describe the public oration given by those who understood and could explain how the Old Testament related to Jesus Christ and the church.  Logos is a Greek word that denotes, “the expression of intelligence.”  In the first epistle to the Corinthians, logos is the verbal expression of one’s spiritual knowledge and wisdom and translated in modern Bible texts as, “the word of knowledge,” and, “the word of wisdom,” (1 Corinthians 12:8).  This required that the speaker have knowledge of Scripture of course, but also that he be endued with the divine capabilities that are demonstrative of the quality of character consistent with those who walk according to the Spirit of God and of Christ and not after the flesh. 


·          1 Corinthians 12:7-11 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. NASU


The “various kinds of tongues” represent the public reading of Hebrew Scripture (i.e. - the Law and Prophets); the corresponding, “interpretation of tongues,” is the translation of the Hebrew reading into Aramaic and Greek (or whatever languages were spoken by believers in the church).  Because the way for salvation thru Christ was opened to the Gentiles, who were usually Greek speaking, the interpretation to the reading of the Scriptures each Sabbath included a corresponding translation from Hebrew into Greek.  Paul was certainly qualified as one that could speak in several tongues, and he could also interpret, as evidenced by his conversation in both Greek and Hebrew in the selected passages below:


·          Acts 21:37, 39-22:2 Just as Paul was about to be taken into the barracks, he asked the commandant, “May I say something to you?” And the man replied, “Can you speak Greek?”  Paul answered (in Greek), “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no insignificant or undistinguished city. I beg you, allow me to address the people.”  40 And when the man had granted him permission, Paul, standing on the steps, gestured with his hand to the people; and there was a great hush. Then he spoke to them in the Hebrew dialect, saying, 22:1 “Brethren and fathers, listen to the defense, which I now make in your presence.”  2 And when they heard that he addressed them in the Hebrew tongue, they were all the more quiet.  AMP


To “interpret” kinds of tongues meant more than merely translating from Hebrew to Aramaic or Greek because it involved an explanation of what was being said.  The people needed to know how the Old Testament Scriptures testified to Jesus as the Christ.  Since the Corinthian church was comprised at first of mostly Jews and Jewish proselytes newly converted to faith in the gospel message of Jesus Christ, Paul’s style of writing throughout his first epistle always included an explanation of Old Testament Scripture.  His method combines spiritual thoughts with spiritual words in an exhortation-style epistle that is often poetic and didactic and associates the Law and the Prophets with current spiritual and mundane issues among Christians.


SUMMARY: The Corinthian church patterned its meetings after the Jewish synagogue, as a place where all classes of people could hear the Scriptures (i.e. - the Law  & the Prophets) read and explained.  The meetings began with a prayer, followed by reading Old Testament Scriptures aloud in Hebrew from scrolls by someone appointed by the leader.  Following the reading in Hebrew, a bilingual direct translation of the Law in the common tongue was spoken for all to understand.  Later, the direct translation of the Law included an interpretation in Greek to accommodate the needs of the Greek-speaking Gentile converts.  As the gospel message spread throughout the world in the first century the scriptures were translated into more and more “kinds” of tongues to accommodate the growing needs of all NT believers to hear and understand God’s inspired written word.


Interpretation Of Tongues


The Greek word translated as “interpretation” in 1 Corinthians 12:10 is, “hermeeneía,” (NT: 2058), which means, “to translate.”  The only other place in the Greek NT this exact word hermeeneía is used is in 1 Corinthians 14:26 (below); in this context there is little doubt Paul is discussing proper technique for the interpretation or translation after someone reads the Scripture aloud in a tongue:


·          1 Corinthians 14:26-28 What is the outcome then, brethren?  When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation (hermeeneía). Let all things be done for edification.  27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret (diermeneuo); 28 but if there is no interpreter (diermeneuo), he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God. NASU


A simple clue that it is the Old Testament Scriptures being discussed by Paul is found in the phrase, “each one has a psalm.”  Individuals would use the psalms, often in connection with a musical chord as a means of supplying spiritual edification to others.  Many of the Old Testament psalms are composed in a lyrical manner and set to be expressed with music.  This ancient Hebrew custom was already in existence centuries before the Christian church was born. The same word is used of teaching the Scriptures with the wisdom of Christ in Paul’s epistle to the Colossian church.


·          Colossians 3:16-17 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. NAS


Notice Paul divides his instructions in between 1 Corinthians 14:26 & 14:27 regarding proper church etiquette (as it pertains to the reading of the Law).  In 1 Corinthians 14:26 he says, “each one,” has, “a tongue,” and also each one has, “an interpretation.”  The Greek word used for, “interpretation,” in 1 Corinthians 14:26 is hermeeneía and should be rendered simply, “a translation.”  The distinction between 1 Corinthians 14:26 and 14:27 is that 14:27 uses a slightly different Greek word, “diermeneuo,” (defined below) instead of hermeeneía and the second distinction is that 1 Corinthians 14:26 says each one “has” a tongue whereas 1 Corinthians 14:27 says if anyone “speaks” in a tongue. 


·           “Interpret, interpreter” (1 Corinthians 14:27–28) = diermeneuo (NT: 1329); it means, “to interpret or translate by thoroughly explaining.”


The Greek cognate of diermeneuo used in 1 Corinthians 14:27-28 is referring solely to the translation and thorough interpretation of the Old Testament Scriptures, Jesus uses this very Greek word diermeneuo in his efforts to expound upon the Law and the prophets, describing himself and how these verses are fulfilled in him to his disciples on the road to Emmaus after the resurrection.


·          Luke 24:27 Then beginning with Moses and throughout all the Prophets, Jesus went on explaining and interpreting (diermeneuo) to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning and referring to Himself.  AMP


In 1 Corinthians 14:26 Paul says each individual person has (possesses) his or her own native tongue (language or dialect), but 1 Corinthians 14:27 says anyone that SPEAKS in a tongue, it must be, “by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret (diermeneuo).”  This obvious distinction between simple possession of a tongue in 1 Corinthians 14:26 and the verbal expression of a tongue (i.e. – speaking) in 1 Corinthians 14:27 is made by Paul to differentiate between what is done by a believer to edify SELF (14:26) and what is done by a believer to edify the CHURCH (14:27-28). 


Hermeeneía in 1 Corinthians 14:26 implies the individual’s ability to be holding in his or her possession an ethnic dialect (i.e. – tongue) or the translation (hermeeneía) of the Scriptures in that same dialect.  On the other hand, 1 Corinthians 14:27 uses diermeneuo because it is a word that conveys more than merely holding in one’s possession a translation; rather, diermeneuo infers in this text active participation to bring edification to others by translating the Scriptures thoroughly; in other words, to translate by providing a detailed explanation.


Among Corinthian churches a confusing state of affairs developed each time they assembled together because some Christians were speaking aloud individually in an unknown tongue, while others, feeling the spirit of God for the first time ever would stand and speak from the Scriptures by using his or her own native ethnic dialect (from whatever country or region in which they were born or lived as residents).  Chaos ensued and soon directions for church protocol and etiquette became necessary for any meaningful growth to happen.  Hence Paul’s words, “If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret.” 


The Greek word Paul uses for, “interpret,” in 1 Corinthians 14:27-28 is a modification of hermeneuo and is a compound word that joins the preposition diá (meaning, “through,”) to the word hermeneuo (meaning, “translate”) producing the Greek word, “diermeneuo.”   Diermeneuo means literally, “to translate through,” or more user-friendly definition, “to translate by thorough explanation.”  Diermeneuo is the Greek word that Paul uses to illustrate what transpired during the reading of the Scriptures in the Corinthian church.  To get an idea of how these early church meetings functioned, look closely at Paul’s encounter with the synagogue protocol at Pisidian Antioch:


·          Acts 13:14-16 … They arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. 15 And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets the synagogue officials sent to them, saying, "Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it." 16 And Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand, he said, "Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen…”  (The entire narrative can be found in the text of Acts 13:14- 49) NAS


In the narrative above, we see an exact case of how the synagogue officials, after the reading of the Scriptures, asked Paul to exhort them, recognizing he was a learned teacher (rabbi).  This corresponds to either the interpretation, or the sermon aspect of synagogue protocol.  Both of Paul’s epistles to the Corinthians contain quotes from the OT and the first epistle to the Corinthians has numerous mentions about, “the Law.”


·          1 Corinthians 9:8-9 I am not speaking these things according to human judgment, am I? Or does not the Law also say these things? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, "You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing." God is not concerned about oxen, is He? NAS


·          1 Corinthians 9:20-21 And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law, though not being myself under the Law, that I might win those who are under the Law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, that I might win those who are without law. NAS


Most relevant to this study is the apostle Paul’s mention and use of actual quotes from the Hebrew OT in his instructions to the Corinthians concerning speaking in tongues; this is proof that interpreting a tongue has something to do with explaining the meaning of OT Scripture verses.  Below are three places in this context the Law is mentioned and/or quoted from:


·          1 Corinthians 14:21 In the Law it is written, “By men of strange 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. NAS


·          1 Corinthians 14:34, 36-37 Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says… 36 Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only?  37 If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord's commandment.  NAS


·          1 Corinthians 15:3-4 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.   NAS


·          1 Corinthians 15:56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law. NAS


Why does the apostle Paul refer to the OT Scriptures so many times in his first letter to the Corinthian church?  Perhaps the reason lies in the fact that this church was comprised of a strong Jewish convert base, along with many educated Greek-speaking converts, (aka Gentiles).  The educated Greeks were undoubtedly proselytes to Judaism, and this is evident from the context of Acts chapters 17-19 where Paul is seen first entering Jewish synagogues in every city he evangelized.  In Berea and Athens (just before Corinth) both Jews and Greeks believed Paul’s gospel, and then in Corinth, he was aided by Aquila and Priscilla, along with Apollos, Timothy and Silas, all of whom were Jewish converts to Christ, and mighty in the Scriptures, able to instruct others in the Law and the Prophets concerning the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus as the Messiah to Israel.


Salient to this discussion about synagogues is the fact that synagogues were a community affair and not just a place to meet and go to church.  As mentioned previously, the foremost aim of the synagogue was teaching people of all classes and races the Scriptures.  One reason such large volumes of people were converted to the gospel at one time is due to their mutual understanding of the Law and the Prophets thru the teaching provided each Sabbath in synagogue.  Every three years completed the designated cycle for reading thru the entire Pentateuch, which included the translation in the common dialect(s) of the people, and sermons, exhortations, and quite regularly, didactic teaching by the rabbis.  This meant the entire community was typically of one mind and heart concerning the interpretation of the Scriptures, resulting in mass conversions once the synagogue leaders embraced the gospel of Jesus as the Christ.


Only a few Jewish rabbis or scribes spoke fluent Hebrew, which was the language of the Old Testament scriptures.  The OT was the primary Bible used by the early church, before the Pauline and other epistles had been written, then copied and circulated.  Because manuscripts of the OT were limited the only place to hear them read was at a Jewish synagogue.  This became problematic because learning about the OT was essential for every Christian believer to understand God’s plan of atonement thru Jesus and the need for a Messiah.  With the advent of the gospel came necessary changes in venue and previous exposure to OT paved the way for a new and improved message and format.  With salvation the Scripture sermons and exhortation focused on Jesus as the Messiah (the Christ) who suffered and rose from the dead; this was always Paul’s emphasis.


The use of Scripture was fundamental for defense of the faith against the Jews that opposed the church, especially the efforts to evangelize Jewish synagogues.  From the beginning the Scriptures played an important role in the Corinthian and other churches.  Paul's custom in every city was to reason with the Jews from the Scriptures by explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead.[1]  A prime example of this is a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, who was mighty in the Scriptures, but had only known John’s message.   Priscilla and Aquila taught him more accurately the message of Jesus from the OT, and as a result, Apollos used the Scriptures as Paul did to demonstrate that Jesus was the Christ.[2]


Just before arriving in Corinth Paul and Silas went to Berea and entered the synagogue of the Jews.  These noble-minded Jews examined the Scriptures daily, and many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.  This is proof that churches in this region of Asia were comprised of both Jews and Greek converts.[3]  It is very important to prove how integral the OT Scriptures were to the fabric of the Corinthian church.  This gives a foundation for understanding exactly what “kinds of tongues” and “interpretation of tongues” meant in relation to the public reading and explanation of the OT scriptures.  The apostle Paul mentions his use of the Scriptures initially to make known the gospel in Corinth, illustrating the fact that chapters 12, 13 and 14 are also related to them.


·          1 Corinthians 15:1-4 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.   NAS


Paul stayed in Corinth for 1 ½ years teaching the churches from Scripture, along with Timothy, Silas, Apollos, Aquila and Priscilla, to but a few workers.  In his letter of instructions to Timothy, Paul mentions how important a role the OT Scriptures served in teaching and exhortation.


·          2 Timothy 3:13-17 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.  14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them; 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings, which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith, which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.   NAS


·          2 Timothy 4:11-13, 19-20 Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service.  12 But Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus.  13 When you come bring the cloak, which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments19 Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.  20 Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus. NAS


Unlike today the early church did not have access to the Scriptures in a tongue most could understand because most Bibles (bíblos) were either parchment or papyri scrolls (manuscripts) that were scribed in ancient Hebrew.  Some copies of the Septuagint scriptures were in use; the Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.  Some manuscripts were available in Syriac and a few other dialects as well, but these were relegated to a few areas, often remote and rural. 


There was a need for people able to “interpret” the OT Scriptures on behalf of all the believers meeting together.  Those with “kinds of tongues” and “interpretation of tongues” are used by Jesus to bridge language barriers, especially during the public reading of Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures.  Below is only a brief list of dozens of passages in Paul’s epistles to the Corinthian church that contain quotes or paraphrased quotes from the Old Testament.  Note carefully his use of the phrase, “It is written,” because this is always a reference by Paul to the Old Testament Scriptures (albeit often a paraphrase or taken from the Septuagint version).  For comparison, below the NT quote of the OT I indent and bullet the actual Scripture verse Paul references from either the Law or the Prophets.


·          1 Corinthians 1:19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside."


·          Isaiah 29:14 Therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous; and the wisdom of their wise men will perish, and the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed." NASU


1 Corinthians 1:31 that, just as it is written, "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord." NAS


·          Jeremiah 9:24 But let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things," declares the LORD. NASU


1 Corinthians 2:9 but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.”  NAS


·          Isaiah 64:4 For from of old no one has heard nor perceived by the ear, nor has the eye seen a God besides You, Who works and shows Himself active on behalf of him who earnestly waits for Him.   AMP


1 Corinthians 3:19-20 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God.  For it is written, “He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.” NAS


·          Job 5:13 He catches the so-called wise in their own trickiness, and the counsel of the schemers is brought to a quick end. AMP


·          Psalms 94:11 The Lord knows the thoughts of man, that they are vain, empty and futile--only a breath.   AMP


1 Corinthians 10:7 And do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, " The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play." NAS


·          Exodus 32:6 So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play. NASU


1 Corinthians 15:45 So also it is written, "The first man, Adam, became a living soul." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. NAS


·          Genesis 2:7 Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. NASU


1 Corinthians 9:9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.”  God is not concerned about oxen, is He? NAS


·          Deuteronomy 25:4 You shall not muzzle the ox when he treads out the grain. [Also see this quoted in 1 Timothy 5:17,18.]   AMP


The text of 1 Corinthians 9:9 is written almost identical to Paul’s other letter that he wrote to Timothy (see below).  Timothy spent much of his time instructing the churches between the city of Ephesus (his base of operations) to the north, but he was foremost among teachers in the city of Corinth, which was at the southern-most end of his travels.  When Paul first entered Corinth, he recognized immediately the need for qualified help to bridge the language and cultural barriers, so he sent to Ephesus and had Timothy and Silas journey to Corinth.


·          Acts 16:1-3 Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra.  And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, 2 and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.  NASU

When he met Timothy Paul realized immediately that his background, as both Jew and Greek, would be an asset in breaking down cultural barriers.  An added benefit was the fact Timothy was raised from an early age to have a working knowledge of the Scriptures.  This means Timothy was probably one of the believers Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 12:10, 28, & 30 that spoke in the various individual ethnic languages (i.e. – “kinds of tongues” or more literally, “kindred languages”).  Timothy’s role was very important in this regard, because he was able to explain the meaning of the Bible to the Greeks and the Jewish converts alike, relating to them how Jesus fulfills the messianic passages.  Though he was younger than the typical age for an elder, Timothy’s strong background in Scripture qualified him as such, as seen in Paul’s instructions to him in 1 Timothy 5:17-18.


·          1 Timothy 5:17-18 Let the elders that rule well, be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine.  For the scripture saith, ‘Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The laborer is worthy of his reward.’  Webster’s Bible


There are many more OT references used throughout both the first and second epistles Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, but space forbids listing them all.  The most specific to the subject of tongues and interpretation is 1 Corinthians 14:21, because here Paul uses a passage from Isaiah 28:9-13 to prove there were some in the Corinthian Christian community that would not listen to his correction.  This is seen by the tenor of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians throughout his first epistle, where he asks them if they prefer him to come with a rod or in love.  Isaiah’s prophecy has an application to the converted Jews within the community of believers (i.e. – the church) that continued in the immaturity and fleshly ways, refusing to “listen” to the correction being given to them.


1 Corinthians 14:21 In the Law it is written, "By men of strange 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. NAS


·          Isaiah 28:9-13 "To whom would He teach knowledge, and to whom would He interpret the message? Those just  weaned from milk?  Those just taken from the breast? 10 For He says, 'Order on order, order on order, Line on line, line on line, A little here, a little there.'" 11 Indeed, He will speak to this people through stammering lips and a foreign tongue, 12 He who said to them, "Here is rest, give rest to the weary," And, "Here is repose," but they would not listen. 13 So the word of the LORD to them will be, " Order on order, order on order…”   NASU


The “lips of strangers” is also a reference to the way these immature Jewish converts treated Timothy, who was, by many of the Jews considered to be lesser than them due to his Greek father.  As you recall, Timothy was sent to Corinth by Paul to mediate on his behalf, and address some of the immorality and other problems.  Just a few verses later, Paul makes mention of their resistance to Timothy and he warns them to accept Timothy and his teaching and exhortations.


·          1 Corinthians 16:10-11 When Timothy arrives, see to it that you put him at ease, so that he may be fearless among you, for he is devotedly doing the Lord's work, just as I am.  11 So see to it that no one despises him or treats him as if he were of no account or slights him. But send him off cordially, speed him on his way in peace,  that he may come to me, for I am expecting him to come along with the other brethren.   AMP


The apostle John identified pseudo brethren within the church in his apocalyptic message as being of, “the synagogue of Satan,” and referring of course to false brethren, who, “say they are Jews, but lie.” (Revelation 2-3)  The verses just prior to 1 Corinthians 14:21 speak of the immaturity of those converted Jews that were not acting in love:


·          1 Corinthians 14:20 Brethren, do not be children immature in your thinking; continue to be babes in matters of evil, but in your minds be mature men.  AMP


SUMMARY: Speaking in kinds of tongues is a reference to the various languages (dialects) used to read and “interpret” the Scriptures.  The Greek word for “interpretation” in 1 Corinthians 14:26 is akin to that used in Luke 24:27 when Jesus “interpreted and explained” the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, beginning with Moses, as he walked with his disciples after the resurrection.


Unknown Tongues, Kinds Of Tongues & Chaos In The Corinthian Church


There are basically two different types of speaking in tongues discussed by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthian church. 


1.      The first is referred to as, “various kinds of tongues,” in the text of 1 Corinthians 12:10, 28, & 30; this is a reference to those who speak by divine inspiration to explain, translate or interpret the meaning of OT scripture. 


2.      The second type of “tongues” discussed in the epistle of First Corinthians is a prayer to God in an unknown language or tongue mentioned in 1 Corinthians 14:2 ff.


Much confusion exists in Christendom today concerning these two complete different types of tongues.  A great deal of confusion and misinterpretation by Christians comes from doctrinal prejudice and poor translations of the Bible available.  For example, the Greek word “glossa” is mistranslated as “tongues” throughout 1 Corinthians chapters 12 thru 14.   The Greek “glossa” is the most common Greek word used in the New Testament for languages; however it is almost always translated as, “a tongue” or as “tongues” in nearly all Bible versions available.


Adding fuel to the fire of confusion is how uninformed Christians, charismatic and non-charismatic alike, associate the word, “tongues” with Pentecostalism.  Ask most Christians what it means to speak in a tongue, or to speak in tongues (plural), and you’re likely to get a rhetorical reply, “Do you mean ‘tongues’ as in ‘speaking in tongues?’  Like the charismatic churches practice?” 


On the other hand, if someone asks, “What is your native tongue,” it is obvious their inquiry is about one’s language or dialect.  When speaking in a “tongue” is mentioned outside the narrow paradigms of doctrinally prejudicial religious conversations, people understand the primary application of is a language and not a spiritual gift.  A “tongue” is simply a language or a dialect spoken, but in Christian circles, reference to tongues, kinds of tongues, and speaking in tongues connotes Pentecostalism. 


To determine whether tongue refers to a known dialect or to an unknown prayer in tongues, it is important to follow basic guidelines such as following the tenor of context , taking into consideration the historical, societal, and cultural environment of the people to whom the epistle was written, by whom it was written, and why it was written; these fundamental considerations must always be applied objectively and without partiality.  Also, in the diligent study of New Testament Scriptures, always consult with the original Greek text to establish root word definitions, use of prepositions, verb tenses, etc.  If a person uses only his or her English Bible version, it is impossible to determine the meaning and application of tongues in 1 Corinthians chapters 12, 13 and 14.


The “various kinds of tongues,” in the text of 1 Corinthians 12:10, 28, & 30 refer to indigenous languages spoken by individual NT believers, many of whom were from unrelated ethnic backgrounds.  The assemblies of believers in the mercantile city of Corinth were multilingual in two ways.  First, nearly everyone spoke Greek as a common tongue, unless they were from Palestine, in which case they may have spoken both Aramaic and Greek.  For the most part, Jews from Jerusalem were the only ones that continued speaking Hebrew.  Hebrew was a tongue fading in NT times.[4]  We see evidence that Jesus and his disciples may have communicated with each other in both Hebrew and Aramaic.


·          John 20:16 Jesus said to her, Mary! Turning around she said to him in Hebrew, “Rabboni,” which means Teacher or Master.  AMP


Also, people spoke individual variations of language dialects that were unrelated to each other.  For example, a resident of Asia Minor probably spoke Greek, but if his native birthplace were Egypt, then he would have spoken an Egyptian tongue as well.  The same person would need Greek to communicate across genetic (racial) lines, but he would speak his native Egyptian tongue in the community he lived in.  In the apostle Paul’s written instructions to the Corinthians in his first epistle, he uses the phrase, “various kinds of tongues,” in the context of individual expression for the “common good” in the assembly of believers.  You will see later that he is using Greek words, “heterais génee gloossoón,” (“kinds of tongues) applicable for reading Scripture aloud in a dialect common to all.


·          1 Corinthians 12:7, 10-11 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues (heterais génee gloossoón), and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. NASU


·          1 Corinthians 12: 28 And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. NASU


·          1 Corinthians 12: 30 All do not have gifts of healings, do they?  All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? NAS


The text of 1 Corinthians 12:7 says each Christian in the church of Corinth is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the, “common good.”  This tells us that Paul is not writing about prayer in unknown tongues in these particular verses (although he does later). 


In 1 Corinthians 12:7, 10-11 Paul writes instructions aimed at those individuals in the church that possess the ability to speak and translate languages (or tongues).  The NAS version of 1 Corinthians 12:10, “various kinds of tongues,” is derived from three Greek words, “hetéroo génee gloossoón.”  Having previously exhausted my research options in the Greek lexicon dictionary definitions of these words, I found it helpful to try a different approach.  I started by combining the first two Greek words, ‘hetéroo’ and ‘génee.’  The combination of these two Greek words equals, “heterogene” and this is closely related to our English word, ‘heterogeneous.’  


Heterogeneous is a word that can be traced to the early 17th century and it was formed from Medieval Latin, “heterogeneus.”  Heterogeneus is derived from the Greek heterogenes, which is literally “other kind,” from héteros (meaning, “other”) + génos, (meaning, “kind”).[5]  Heterogeneous is a contemporary word that best describes in modern English what the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthian church nearly 2000 years ago.  He uses the word cognates individually, but the meaning conveyed is the same as heterogeneous, “consisting of individual elements that are unrelated or unlike each other.” 


Paul is saying that certain people in the Corinthian church spoke tongues (plural) or language dialects, which were ethnic languages unrelated to each other.  In other words, they were bilingual or multilingual, or they spoke variations of one language, such as Aramaic.  Oftentimes, as in languages spoken today, the variations within a certain dialect are completely unrelated.  Or an individual may have spoken Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic (the most likely of all possibilities), making him an effectual tool in the weekly reading of Scripture in the meetings that were patterned after the synagogue protocol.


This should not come as a surprise, given the fact that Corinth was considered an international port city with an estimated population ranging between 600,00 to 700,00 residents, the vast majority of whom were slaves, captives of nations subjugated to Rome.  This huge and diverse population meant a large variety of tongues was spoken and many of these tongues were unrelated to each other.  Also, there were Roman soldiers, often from different regions, merchants, sailors, prostitutes, religious cults and sects of Jews from different nations, to name but a few of Corinth’s assorted population.  Perhaps a factor even greater than the aforementioned was the reign of Julius Caesar who saw the necessity of blending the heterogeneous populations into one people and thus extending Roman citizenship.[6]  Only in theory was Julius Caesar’s goal achieved linguistically and though Greek was mandated as the universal tongue, the same mandate had been in effect since the days of Alexander the Great, and in practice the Greek language was not realized uniformly throughout the Empire.


This Greek word gloossoón is a variation of a Greek root word, “glossa.”  Our English word ‘glossary’ is derived from glossa.  Glossa is a word traced to the Mid-16th century via the Old French word, glose` and is from the Medieval Latin, ‘glossa,’ meaning literally, “an obscure word.”   It is from the Greek word, “glossa,” meaning, “tongue” or “language,” which is the source of the English words, ‘epiglottis and polyglot.’  Our modern English word, “gloss,” is a transliterated form of the Greek word glossa; the word gloss (plural glosses).


As a noun gloss or glossa is defined in its relationship to languages or tongues as follows: 


1.      GLOSS = a short definition, explanation, or translation of a word or phrase possibly unfamiliar to the reader, often located in a page margin or collected in an appendix or glossary; an explanatory word or phrase:.


2.      GLOSS = an explanation of something; an interpretation or; (e.g. - Her account provides an interesting ‘gloss’ on the theme of widowhood).


The verb forms for gloss is used in different tenses, (i.e. - past tense = glossed, past participle = glossed, present participle = glossing, 3rd person present singular = glosses).  As a verb the word gloss has two applications that are appropriate for its use in First Corinthians:


1.      GLOSS = to give a short definition, explanation, or translation of a word or phrase that may be unfamiliar to the reader; to explain a word or phrase.


2.      GLOSS = To gloss means to insert explanations in a text; to add or to enter the necessary glosses in a manuscript or piece of writing.[7] 


Thayer's Greek Lexicon defines glossa (NT:1100) as: a tongue, i. e. the language used by a particular people in distinction from that of other nations: e.g. - Acts 2:11.[8]  The example Thayer’s gives in Acts 2:11 refers to the dissimilar (unrelated) languages (or tongues) spoken by the devout Jews, who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast days.  I used Thayer’s because it gives this example illustrating two facts relevant to “kinds of tongues,” and these two pertinent facts are listed below:


1.      The Jews heard the Galilean disciples speaking in 16 different tongues (glossa) totally unrelated to the region of Galilee they were from.  The list of dialects spoken by the Galileans included the following:


·          Parthians

·          Medes

·          Elamites

·          Mesopotamia

·          Judea

·          Cappadocia

·          Pontus (Syria)

·          Asia

·          Phrygia

·          Pamphylia

·          Egypt

·          Libya

·          Cyrene

·          Visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes

·          Cretans

·          Arabs


2.      In Acts 2:14 when Peter raised his voice to speak, he did not address the Jews from every one of the 16 regions, districts or countries mentioned above, because his message was directed specifically to the, “Men of Judea, and all you who live in Jerusalem…”  It is likely Peter spoke to the Jews who were listening in either Hebrew or Aramaic because either tongue is a possibility, as proven in a similar NT passage whereby the apostle Paul spoke in fluent Hebrew to an audience of Jews mentioned earlier in this study (SEE Acts 21:40 & 22:2).


Carefully following the context of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians and simultaneously comparing definitions of “kinds of tongues” (heterais génee gloossoón) from Thayer’s and “heterogeneous glossa” from Microsoft Encarta, the following expanded and amplified translation of 1 Corinthians 12:7, 10b, &11 was produced to accurately describe what Paul’s instructions mean:


·          1 Corinthians 12:7, 10b, &11 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good…10 …and to another short glossary explanations in unrelated ethnic languages (meaning unrelated to the Hebrew OT Scripture) and to another the interpretation of that particular (ethnic) tongue. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.


The combination of these three Greek words, “hetéroo génee gloossoón,” in 1 Corinthians 12:10 results in a translation that is more comprehensive and applicable way we use modern English.  However, before such a translation can be properly rendered, consideration must be given to the following:


1.      Their role of these three Greek words in forming our modern English words, such as the example given above, “heterogeneous.”  Also, consideration should be given to how the transliterated word forms are used today in the 21st century.  For example, how do we use words like gloss, glosses, glossary, hetero, and gene in modern English?  A collegiate level dictionary that traces the etymology of root word cognates should be used.


2.      The context in which all three Greek words are used in the Scripture is factored into calculating the meaning.


3.      Greek reference study helps, such as Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, are used to define the words in the literal sense.


4.      The historical, cultural, and societal perspective must be given due consideration, such as the different ethnic languages of peoples.


5.      Paul’s use of specific Greek words elsewhere in his letters to the Corinthians (first consideration) and then elsewhere in letters to other churches in Asia.


6.      The contribution of each word the modern origins and use, from whence came our current Bibles, such as the King James Version is used in conjunction with, “different indigenous languages of a particular people.”  


Because a variety of unrelated language dialects existed in the Corinthian churches, and because individuals and/or groups of individuals spoke these dialects, gravitating toward those within the church that were from similar ethnic backgrounds, a noticeable impediment to communication quickly developed.  Recognition was given to mature Christians who were bilingual and multilingual because these persons would read the Scriptures and then translate the meaning for various indigenous peoples.


Sectarianism also developed alongside the lingual challenges because the early church was a work in progress.  With the help of the apostles, the elders appointed by them in every church, and the men whose training and/or spiritual background enabled them to “interpret” and apply the truth of Scripture, those gifted with “kinds of tongues” worked alongside them and order was established.  Eventually apostolic instructions required that anyone that functioned in the role of teacher be held to a higher standard because everyone honored Scripture as final authority.


Teachers were only one manifestation of the spirit for the “common good” and recognition was given to any and all persons inspired in the spirit to give brief explanations (glossa) to the public Scripture reading.  Usually this meant someone provided a glossary explanation of the Old Testament scriptures and then another would interpret (hermeneuo) the meaning of the explanation in the vernacular of those members presently assembled together.  These glossary explanations were often referred to as, “an expression of knowledge,” or an, “expression of wisdom,” (aka a “word of knowledge” & a “word of wisdom”).  This summarizes the first of two types of tongues, “kinds of tongues,” for the reading of Scripture in various tongues or ethnic dialects to accommodate the needs of bilingual or multilingual church assemblies, and the interpretation of what was read from Scripture each week via exhortations, didactic teaching, encouragements, expressions (lógios) of knowledge or expressions (lógios) of wisdom.


The second type of tongue is an unknown tongue, as a prayer to God in the spirit, which cannot be interpreted.  This is the speaking in tongues mentioned in 1 Corinthians 14:2-5.


·          1 Corinthians 14:1-6 Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual words, but especially that you may prophesy.  2 For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries.  3 But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation.  4 One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church.  5 Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying.  6 But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking in tongues, what will I profit you unless I speak to you either by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching?  


Imagine now if you can, the possibility of having a new church in Corinth, meeting together in one place, the combination of Jewish and Gentile converts, including the servants of the wealthy, who as slaves may have spoken unrelated dialects.  The scripture has already shown that as many as 16-18 different tongues were spoken in one region, and it is not unreasonable to assume that even if that many dialects was not present in the Corinthian church, enough chaos erupted when they assembled to warrant Paul’s letter of instructions.


Also factor into your view of the Corinthian church the fact that speaking in unknown tongues was the norm in ALL churches throughout Asia and Palestine. The examples speaking in unknown tongues from the Book of Acts, aside from the first example I have already discussed in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, is quite revealing because some form of inspired speech, prophecy, or other kinds of spiritual expressions always accompanied unknown glossalaliá (i.e. - speaking in unknown tongues); consider these examples:


·          Acts 10:45-46 And all the circumcised believers who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Gentiles also.  46 For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God.  NAS


·          Acts 19:6,10 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying…10 And this took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. NAS


Here is a summary of the factors that contributed to the confusion Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14:


1.      Jewish and Greek converts to Christ met together, following the protocol of modified synagogue services.


2.      The reading of the OT Scripture aloud in Hebrew was then given an interpretation in Aramaic.


3.      Some individuals, recognizing the growing number of heterogeneous (unrelated) languages, gave short glossary explanations for the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Scriptures in various differing tongues.


4.      To explain the meaning of the translation of the Scriptures in different tongues, different individuals would speak aloud with an interpretation of the various unrelated dialects.


5.      Add to this mix that nearly everyone present also spoke in unknown tongues, and some people prophesied, while at the same time others thought they were prophesying, but were blurting the unbridled zeal of any new convert to Christ.


6.      There was immorality between some believers (e.g. – incest), selfish Epicureanism among others and a mix of Greek philosophical rhetoric mistaken for spiritual dialogue thrown in for good measure.


7.      The Greek (Gentile) converts did not have the same foundational background of understanding in the Old Testament, so they were asking questions at these meetings, trying to ascertain the messianic fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.


8.      Women, formerly forbidden to speak or be recognized began to ask question they had waited a lifetime for answers to.


9.      Many of the converted Jews, although having put their faith in Jesus as the Christ, had not grown in respect to understanding the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets, because they had only been exposed to the traditional Judaic interpretations.  This resulted in problems with Judaizers and those who attempted to bring the requirements of the Law into the gospel of grace.


10.  Strong leadership was wanting at first, and there was constant hostility from unbelieving Jews and Greeks alike.


Combine these factors and more, and you can see that Paul’s epistle to the Corinthian church is addressing much more than problems with speaking in unknown tongues.  Pentecostals today have a very shallow perspective of this epistle, as do non-charismatics.  Pentecostals try to use the epistle to prove their position and non-charismatics use it to deny any use of tongues today. 


When Paul mentions his desire that, “all” speak in tongues, this is referring of course to prayer in an unknown tongue.  The justification for this conclusion is found in the context.


There are several overlapping of issues being dealt with in Paul’s letter and it is not as cut and dried as one might think. 


Revelation 19:10

For The Testimony Of Jesus IS The Spirit Of Prophecy


Acts chapter two describes the first New Testament experience of speaking in other (unknown) tongues.  I have proven from clear text of scripture that when the disciples first spoke in “new tongues” it was the fulfillment of Jesus’ last words to them concerning, “the promise of the Father” (Mark 16:15-17).  I have also proven that the disciples’ first spoke in UNKNOWN (heterais) tongues (glossa) on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem as they prayed and waited to be imbued (immersed, saturated, cleansed, purified) with and into the morally blameless spirit and life of the glorified spirit of Jesus. 


I have also proven that during the time the 120 disciples in Jerusalem spoke in tongues, they also began speaking in 16 different dialects unfamiliar to them.  While the account in Acts 2:4-14 does not give the details of what the disciples said in these 16 dialects, the Jews that were listening to them speak described their tongues as being, “the mighty deeds of God”  (Acts 2:11).  The Greek word for, “mighty,” in Acts 2:11 is from the same cognate (word family) used in at least two other accounts when speaking in tongues is mentioned in the Book of Acts.  The first account is found in Acts 10:44-48 (below) when Peter and the other circumcised believers bring the gospel message for the first time to the Gentiles.  The second account is found in Acts 19:6 when Paul laid hands on some disciples of John the Baptist who began speaking in tongues and, ”prophesying.”


What you will discover in this section is the link and association between, “prophesying” (aka – “prophecy”) and, “speaking the mighty deeds of God,” and, “exalting God.”


·          Acts 2:11 “… we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God. "  NAS


·          Acts 10:44-48 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message.  45 All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.  46 For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, 47 “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?”  48 And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. NASU


·          Acts 19:6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying.   NAS


When Peter heard the Gentiles speaking in tongues, and exalting God, something they said caused him to immediately recognize this glossalaliá experience as being identical to the experience of the 120 disciples of Jesus, which occurred in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost.  The reason we know it is the same experience is what Peter says in Acts 10:47, “Surely no one can refuse the water for these {Gentiles} to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we {circumcised believers} did, can he?”


What is rather curious about Peter’s expression is exactly HOW Peter knew that the Gentiles “received the Holy Spirit,” in just the same way as they had in Jerusalem?  There’s a major discrepancy between the glossalaliá encounter at Pentecost’s and the Gentiles’ tongues experience.  The discrepancy is simple; at Pentecost, the 120 disciples also spoke in the 16 different individual dialects of the devout Jews listening to them.  The Gentiles at Caesarea (Acts 10:24) that spoke in tongues did so in front of Peter and a few other circumcised believers that accompanied him there. 


No mention is made in the context of Acts 10:44-48 to speaking in a different dialect other than tongues (Acts 10:47).  Adding even more clues to follow is the fact that the disciples of John the Baptist in Acts 19:6 began speaking with tongues and prophesying.  The only similarity between the three texts is speaking in tongues… or is it?  To solve the problem and answer these questions we must refer to the Greek text and similarities in words used.


The words in Acts 2:11,  “mighty deeds,” are translated from a Greek word, “megaleios” (NT: 3167), which means, “magnificent, i.e. (neut, plural as noun) a conspicuous favor.” 


The words in Acts 10:46, “exalting,” are translated from a Greek word, “megalunóntoon,” (aka megalunoo = NT: 3170), which means, “to make or declare great, i.e. increase or figuratively to extol, to laud, or to celebrate.”  It also means, “to deem or declare great, i. e., to esteem highly.”[9]  Megalunoo also means, “to show great mercy to someone or to do him great kindness.”[10]


The words megaleios (NT: 3167) in Acts 2:11 is used in only one other place in the entire NT, which is Luke 1:49, where Mary gives praise to God who has done, “great things,” for her by causing her to be pregnant with the Christ.  Providentially, megalunoo (NT: 3170), in Acts 10:46 is also used Luke 1:46 & Luke 1:58 in regard to the advent of the Christ to Israel, but solely in context with how God the Father created in the womb of a virgin named Mary a seed that would one day be born as the Deliverer (Messiah) to Israel.  This information is the all-important link to the accounts in Acts 2:11 (“speaking the mighty deeds of God”), Acts 10:46 (exalting God) and Acts 19:6 (prophesying). 


Below is the portion of text from Luke 1:41-58 with the Greek words, megaleios and megalunóntoon appropriately identified in blue highlights.  Also highlighted in blue are phrases or words that relate directly to Jesus as Israel’s Messiah (aka Christ, Lord, Son of David, heir to David’s throne, horn of salvation, prince, etc).  Megaleios, megalunóntoon, and another word “megas” have extremely strong ties in the Hebraistic tradition, which is why these words are used repeatedly in the famous text of Luke chapter One; below is the text and the individual Greek words have been highlighted to make the connection and association of these two Greek words megaleios (Acts 2:11) and megalunóntoon (Acts 10:46) to Jesus, which will play an important role in understanding what was said when people spoke in tongues and prophesied.

Luke 1:41-58

41-45 And it came about that when Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  42 And she cried out with a loud (megálee = NT: 3173) voice, and said, "Blessed among women are you, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!  43 And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord."


46-54 And Mary said: "My soul exalts (megalúnei = NT: 3170) the Lord, 47 and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.  49 For the Mighty One has done great (megála = NT: 3167[11]) things for me; and holy is His name.  50 And His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him. 51 He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.  52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble.  53 He has filled the hungry with good things; and sent away the rich empty-handed. 54 He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, 55 as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his offspring forever. " 


55-58 And Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home.  57 Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she brought forth a son.  58 And her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy (emegálunen = NT: 3170) toward her; and they were rejoicing with her. NAS


Both Greek words used in the texts above (megaleios and megalunóntoon) are derived from the same root word, “megas,” (NT: 3173), which is defined as, “great, large, particularly of physical magnitude.”  Megas has a very wide range of uses, but in the texts discussed here the application is to the greatness of God’s deeds done in or thru the person of His son Jesus. 


In Acts 19:6 when Paul had laid his hands upon the disciples of John the Baptist in Ephesus, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying.  The Greek word translated as, “prophesying,” is, “profeeteuoo,”  (NT: 4395); Thayer's Greek Lexicon defines this word profeeteuoo as meaning, “to break forth under sudden impulse in lofty discourse or in praise of the divine counsels.”  The reference given by Thayer’s Lexicon for places profeeteuoo can be found in this particular use is Luke 1:67; This text in Luke 1:67 is the response of Zechariah to what the angel Gabriel told him about his son John and the coming Messiah.    


·          Luke 1:67-79 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied (profeeteuoo) saying: 68 "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, 69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of David His servant—70 as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old--71 --salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us; 72 to show mercy toward our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant, 73 The oath which He swore to Abraham our father, 74 to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, 75 In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days. 76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; For you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways; 77 to give to His people the knowledge of salvation By the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high shall visit us, 79 to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. "  NAS


The Greek word “megas” is also used in Luke 1:15 with respect to the Baptist; the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah when he was ministering as priest in the temple, revealing to him that his son will be named John and take a vow, and become as the forerunner to Jesus as the Christ.


·          Luke 1:15 “… For he {John} will be great and distinguished (megas) in the sight of the Lord.”  AMP


The Greek word for “prophesying” in Acts 19:6 is identical in word form to the Greek word used for prophesying in 1 Corinthians chapter 14 in the following passages:


·          1 Corinthians 13:9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.  KJV


·          1 Corinthians 14:1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. KJV


·          1 Corinthians 14:3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.  KJV


·          1 Corinthians 14:4 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.  KJV


·          1 Corinthians 14:5 I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.  KJV


·          1 Corinthians 14:24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:  KJV


·          1 Corinthians 14:31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.  KJV


·          1 Corinthians 14:39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.  KJV


SUMMARY: In each occurrence of speaking in tongues in the Book of Acts, there was also impulsive audible reaction by the participants; this divinely inspired verbal expression is referred to as the following:


·          In Acts 2:4, 11 they began to speak in tongues & after this, in 2:11 they were speaking of the mighty deeds (megaleios) of God

·          In Acts 10:46 they began speaking with tongues and exalting (megalunóntoon) God

·          In Acts 19:6 they began speaking with tongues and prophesying (profeeteuoo)

·          The words speaking of the mighty deeds of God, exalting God, and prophesying refer to the same experience or response of the human spirit to contact with God’s spirit.


As demonstrated in the context of Luke 1:41-58 & Luke 1:67-79, the Greek words megaleios (Acts 2:11), megalunóntoon (Acts 10:46), and profeeteuoo (Acts 19:6) are inter-related and are used specifically as Hebraistic to refer to God’s plan of salvation for Israel, according to His promises to the OT fathers, including the following phrases:


·          Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting and she cried out with a loud (megálee = NT: 3173) voice, and said blessed is the fruit of your womb…the mother of my Lord should come to me


·          My soul exalts (megalúnei = NT: 3170) the Lord and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior


·          For the Mighty One has done great (megála = NT: 3167[12]) things And His mercy is upon generation after generation and has exalted those who were humble in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his offspring forever.   The Lord had displayed His great mercy (emegálunen = NT: 3170).


·          Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied (profeeteuoo) saying, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of David His servant—as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old and to remember His holy covenant; the oath which He swore to Abraham our father And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways to give to His people the knowledge of salvation; by the forgiveness of their sins because of the tender mercy of our God to guide our feet into the way of peace. "   


Now that we understand the correct use and application of the Greek words megaleios, megalunóntoon, and profeeteuoo, it is reasonable to assume that when the church at Corinth spoke in tongues, or when they prophesied, it was in some way related to the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel as His covenant people.  Under the terms of the new covenant, “Israel” is not limited to the Jewish people and the circumcision of the flesh, but to all who call upon God thru the name of His son Jesus, resulting in the circumcision of the heart.


In the new covenant prophecy takes on a much different life and character than prophecy written about in the Hebrew Old Testament.  You will see that the “testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 19:10) is the more SURE word of prophecy (2 Peter 1:16-21). A glance at Acts chapters 10 & 19 shows prophesying as an interconnected activity amongst those speaking in new tongues.  Usually OT prophets such as Samuel spoke a word from God whenever Yahweh warned His people, chastised them for sin, or prepared them for an event such as a battle to exhort and encourage them and remind them of what their responsibility would be.  Also, kings and future prophets would be prophesied to concerning their future service to God and His people.


One graphic illustration in the OT that best conveys what happened to a man that prophesied is when the prophet Samuel prophesied to Saul, telling him to meet a group of prophets coming to join him.  In 1 Samuel 10:5-11 Samuel told Saul, “… you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and a lyre before them, and they will be prophesying.  Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you mightily, and you shall prophesy with them and be changed into another man.  And it shall be when these signs come to you, do for yourself what the occasion requires; for God is with you.”   As Saul turned his back to leave Samuel, God changed his heart; and all those signs came about on that day.  When he met the group of prophets the Spirit of God came upon him mightily, so that he prophesied among them.   And it came about, when all who knew him previously saw that he prophesied with the prophets, that the people said to one another, "What has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?"


It is unmistakably clear what happened to those who prophesied in the Old Testament whenever the Spirit of the Lord came upon them to prophesy. Their countenance and demeanor were radically and visibly altered to reflect the power of God; such was the case with Saul, and similar OT passages demonstrate the profound changes seen and witnessed by those that heard these inspired men prophesy.  The most well known incident in the Bible of how the countenance and character changed when God’s spirit descended upon him is Moses, whose radiant face shined so brightly that the Israelites could not even look upon him.


To confirm with absolute certainty that the OT prophets are replaced by a new and much better form of prophecy, read the excerpt below, which is the apostle Peter’s explanation of speaking in tongues and speaking the mighty deeds of God, as pertaining to Acts 2:4-14.


·          Acts 2:14-18 But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: "Men of Judea, and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give heed to my words.  15 "For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; 16 but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: 17 and it shall be in the last days,' God says, 'That I will pour forth of My Spirit upon all mankind; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even upon My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit and they shall prophesy.”  NAS


The transformation of the last day outpouring of God’s spirit enables women and men alike to prophesy.  Prophesying is intended only to be that which magnifies the great Giver of life, God the Father, but is done only in and thru the name, character, and the authority of His only begotten and now glorified son Jesus the Christ. 


The confusion that existed and discussed earlier in the Corinthian church is now evident.  Like the examples mentioned in Acts 2, 10 and 19, whenever believers experienced the outpouring of God’s spirit, it generated a strong response.  They felt the presence of God and the spirit of Jesus was there to counsel, comfort, guide, heal, admonish, exhort, teach, etc.  Men and women alike spoke out with boldness and conviction, but quite often, the flesh tainted it.  People wanted to speak, not to listen.  They wanted to be heard, and not to serve.  Thus Paul’s letters of correction were intended to bridle and temper their zeal for prophecy with emphasis on character development and service thru love.


To avoid the pitfalls of false prophecy, the apostle Peter gives the churches at large a commandment to take heed to the more sure word of prophecy, which included the Law and the prophets (i.e. – what we now refer to as the Old Testament), the eyewitness accounts and teaching of the apostles that recorded their witness in the gospels, and continued that witness in the epistles of instruction to the church.


·          2 Peter 1:16-21 with 2 Peter 3:1-3 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty (megaleióteetos = NT: 3168) 17 For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic (megaloprepoús = NT: 3169) Glory, "This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased"-- 18 and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. 19 And so we have the prophetic (profeetikón = NT: 4397) word (lógon) made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. 20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy (profeeteía = NT: 4394) of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy (profeeteía = NT:4394) was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God… 3:1 This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles. NAS  


CONCLUSION: Speaking in tongues is as relevant today as it was in the first century.  Wherever there is glossalaliá there will also be prophecy.  Prophecy is merely that which man speaks to glorify God thru the counsel and wisdom given in Christ.  I admonish you to use this study as a springboard from which to dig even deeper, and find buried treasure.  I cut this study short by at least 75 pages, seeing it is an inexhaustible topic.


Prophecy is good and to be desired, but above all, love is the most important thing.  While doing a query in Englishman’s for megaluno (NT: 3170) I noted its use regarding the seven sons of Sceva, who improperly and without God’s approval tried to use supernatural power to prophesy and cast out demons; they were left bleeding and naked, and the scripture says, “… and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified (megaluno) Acts 19:14-17


Many charismatics purport to prophesy, but I give little credence to most of it.  When prophecy comes from the impulse of a spirit moved upon by the spirit of Jesus, there is always love and encouragement, not heavy-handed or despotic words, and not the flowery gospel of prosperity.  Paul told the Corinthians, “One who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation.  One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church.  Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying.  But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking in tongues, what shall I profit you, unless I speak to you either by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching? ” (1 Corinthians 14:3-6)


Note that prophecy stands independent of revelation, knowledge and teaching; the reasons for this now seem much clearer because we know that if a person “interprets” it means he was translating the scripture into the dialect of the church, but that did not eliminate the need for teachers, who instructed in didactic form what the scriptures meant and how to apply them.  Those who speak by way of revelation are, in essence, doing the same thing as those that prophesy, because they express the mind of the spirit thru expressions of wisdom or knowledge.


Prophecy adds one component that the others don’t, in that it is the mind of Christ imparted to his people for future guidance and direction.  The prophet Agabus gave Paul a prophetic warning of what he would face should he head for Rome.  This is not to warn so that Paul can avoid calamity and suffering, but because God cares for His people, and wants to help them go thru the crisis leaning upon and relying on Him.


·          Revelation 19:10 And I fell at his feet to worship him.  And he said to me, "Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." NAS


Who was this apostolic messenger that spoke these words to John?  We won’t know till we get to the other side, but we can be certain that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.  To put that into perspective, the experiential interaction of a believer with Jesus is the life of inspired expression.  A relationship with God and with Jesus should always conform to the commandments of scripture, among which the greatest of all is to love each other, even as Jesus has loved us... This is the testimony of Jesus that expresses a life of inspiration.





Continued in Part Eight


Links to the entire "What is Speaking in Tongues” Series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8



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[1] Acts 17:1-5

[2] Acts 18:24-19:1


[3] Acts 17:10-13

[4] John 5:2; 19:13, 17, 20

[5] Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2002. © 1993-2001 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved

[6] From International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (c) 1996 by Biblesoft

[7] ibid

[8] Thayer's Greek Lexicon, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 2000 by Biblesoft

[9] From Thayer's Greek Lexicon, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 2000 by Biblesoft

[10] From The Complete Word Study Bible and The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament Copyright © 1991, 1992, 1994, 2002 AMG International, Inc.

[11] Textus Receptus uses NT: 3167 but Nestles uses NT: 3173

[12] Textus Receptus uses NT: 3167 but Nestles uses NT: 3173