WELCOME TO THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES

 

THE TONGUES ISSUE: PART ONE

PRESENTED ON 11-24-12

       I grew up as a youth attending a Pentecostal Church where my parents were members.  This particular denomination of Christianity traces its roots to events that go back to AD 1901 and takes its name from events that occurred at the Feast of Pentecost in the spring of AD 31. A distinctive feature of the Pentecostal Church doctrinal system is speaking in tongues as a witness to having been baptized by the Holy Spirit. While most Pentecostals acknowledge that one receives the Spirit of God at the time of conversion and water baptism, baptism of the Holy Spirit witnessed by speaking in tongues is seen as a second baptism that enables a Christian to live a more sanctified life. 

       The modern day tongues phenomenon began during a New Years prayer vigil in January of 1901 held at a Bible College in Topeka Kansas.  There, an attendee began to speak in tongues.  Sometime thereafter the college closed down and the president of the college took to the streets as an itinerant preacher, preaching a message that emphasized speaking in tongues.  In time, more and more people were attracted to this message and around 1906 the first Pentecostal Church was established in Los Angeles followed by the Azusa Street Revival of 1906 to 1909 which generated worldwide interest in what became known as Pentecostalism.  From this humble beginning the Pentecostal Church has grown to be a major denomination within Christendom. It is also known as the Assemblies of God.

       As already mentioned, a major emphasis of Pentecostal Church theology is being baptized by the Holy Spirit and receiving the gift of speaking in tongues.  As a youth I witnessed a great deal of this phenomenon of speaking in tongues.  Both my parents spoke in tongues.  During a typical church service, individuals at the service would begin to speak in tongues.  Sometimes others would offer an interpretation of what was presented in tongues.  I remember the head pastor of the church often providing an interpretation of what someone spoke in tongues.  These interpretations often were exhortations to live a more Godly life and often were prophecies about a coming revival or a soon to occur return of Christ.       

       In the years since the development and growth of the Pentecostal Church, the speaking in tongues phenomenon has spread far beyond the Assembly of God Churches.  Tongues speakers can now be found in many Protestant denominations and also in the Catholic Church, Mormon Church and other Christian groups.  Of interest is the observation that speaking in tongues is also found in non-Christian groups such as Islam and Buddhism. Tongues speaking as practiced today (also referred to as ecstatic speech), has been seen historically to have occurred in various ancient Egyptian and Greek religious systems as well.      

Tongues throughout church history:

       During the early years of the Christian Church we see tongues being manifested in a variety of ways.  Acts chapter two records supernatural events on the Day of Pentecost in AD 31 which gave witness to the giving of the promised Holy Spirit. These events produced the phenomenon of speaking in tongues which was the speaking in languages that had not been learned by those doing the speaking.

       In Acts 10 we have the account of Apostle Peter bringing the Gospel message to the Gentile Centurion Cornelius and his family and friends.  We see the Holy Spirit being poured out upon all those who heard and accepted Peter’s message at the house of Cornelius.  It’s recorded that when this happened, these Gentile converts spoke in tongues.  In Acts 19, we have the account of Paul baptizing some disciples at Ephesus and laying hands on them and they receiving the Spirit and speaking in tongues. Then in 1 Corinthians, chapters 12-14, we see Paul dealing with the tongues issue in the Church at Corinth.     

       After the time of the early development of the Christian Church, there is little recorded history of speaking in tongues. Where tongues speaking is shown to have occurred, we can't be sure of the nature of such tongues. Was it the speaking of recognizable extant human languages or was it the kind of ecstatic speech we see in modern times? 

       The early Church leader Irenaeus, writing in AD 150, speaks of Christians speaking in tongues. The nature of such tongues is not identified. Around AD 172, a church leader named Montanus made speaking in tongues a core doctrine of his theology which also included strict asceticism. The nature of the tongues speaking is not known.  His movement didn’t go very far as Montanus was branded a heretic and driven out of the Church. 

       Church leaders such as Augustine considered tongues to no longer be operational in the Church as it was felt this was a gift given to the early Church leaders and converts for the purpose of demonstrating the validity or the Christian message.

       There is little evidence of tongues speaking after Montanus until the end of the seventeenth century when tongues speaking broke out in southern France among a Christian group called Huguenots. Tongues speaking from the 1600's to the present appears to be ecstatic speech as opposed to the speaking of recognizable extant human language. In the early eighteenth century, tongues speaking occurred among a group of Catholic priests called Jansenists.

       In the 1830's tongues speaking became prominent in England under the ministry of a man named Edward Irving who taught that tongues signified an outpouring of the Spirit signaling a soon to occur return of Christ. The tongues speaking movement that came on strong in the early 1900's was believed to be evidence of a restored Apostolic Church which in turn was believed to signal an imminent return of Christ. 

       It is to be noted that when the Pentecostal movement first began, restoration of speaking in tongues was looked upon as the pathway for Christians to take the Gospel message to foreign countries where this message could be given in the vernacular of the people and thus prepare them for the anticipated imminent return of Christ. It was quickly realized, however, that the tongues being experienced was not actual human language.  Therefore, it was concluded that the tongues being experienced was a phenomenon which became known as "praying in the Spirit." It was seen as a witness to being baptized by the Holy Spirit. Such baptism is seen as necessary to living a more abundant Christian life and being a more dynamic witness to others.          

Tongues research:

       A lot of independent research has been done relative to the tongues phenomenon.  It’s been found that those who speak in tongues do not appear to be speaking any known language.  Research has shown that most known languages utilize about thirty distinct sounds.  The least amount of sounds utilized in known language is thirteen.  Most tongue speakers utilize around six different sounds in their speaking in tongues.  Therefore, researchers have been unable to associate what is spoken by tongues speakers with any known language.  This doesn’t prove that those who speak in tongues aren’t speaking a real language.  It only shows that no such language has been identified as being spoken in any given human culture.

       It is interesting that those who speak in tongues will use sounds that are common to their native language.  A person who speaks English will use sounds that are germane to the pronunciation of English. A person who speaks German will produce sounds that are common to the German language.  A Spanish speaking person will produce sounds common to the Spanish language.  In other words, the sounds put forth by tongues speakers do not indicate that a known foreign language is being spoken. You cannot tell by listening to a tongues speaker that it is known foreign language that is being spoken.

       It is also interesting that tongues speakers do not reflect local dialects.  A southern US speaker in tongues will not speak in tongues with a southern accent.  Someone from New Jersey will not have an Eastern accent when speaking in tongues.

       Research has determined that tongues language represents a very simple expression of sounds as compared to known languages which by and large are much more complex.  Therefore, researches have concluded that speaking in tongues is not the speaking a known human language.  What has further supported this conclusion is the research done as to interpretation of tongues.  As discussed earlier, as a youth I often witnessed what appeared to be interpretations of tongues.  Someone would speak in tongues and either the same person or someone else, often the church pastor, would offer an interpretation in plain English of what was said.   

       Researchers have studied the interpretation of tongues and found it to be very problematic.  Researches have made recordings of tongues and then played such recordings for those who claimed to have the gift of interpretation. What was found is that each interpreter gave a very different interpretation of the meaning of the tongues.  Other researches have put into print what was spoken in tongues and when presented to would be interpreters, such interpreters gave different meanings to what was written.  

       When interpreters are asked about such inconsistency in their interpretations, they simply claim that God gives different interpretations to the same set of words being interpreted.  Some tongues speakers claim tongues is an angelic or divine language not subject to the rules of earthly language and therefore God can make such language to mean anything he wants to make it mean to any given interpreter.  Therefore, it is claimed that the same set of tongues sounds can be interpreted in different ways. 

       Some feel that the Spirit of God gives interpretation to a specific tongues speaking at the time such tongues are spoken and such interpretation is not available when such tongues are later presented to interpreters.  If this is true, it could explain why there are differences in the interpretation of tongues presented to interpreters at a time separate from the time the tongues were originally given. However, if this is truly the case, it raises serious questions as to the integrity of such after the fact interpreters.

       Some researches have attended Pentecostal Church services and spoken in an obscure foreign language that would not have been spoken or understood by anyone in the church congregation they were attending.  The researchers, of course, knew the language and knew exactly what they were saying in that language.  When someone got up and presented an interpretation of what was said, it did not at all reflect the meaning of what the researcher knew he had said. 

       Yet despite all the research that has been done that raises questions about their being a supernatural connection to speaking in tongues, millions of Christians and some in non-Christian religions as well, have spoken in tongues and continue to do so.  Christian tongue speakers are convinced that tongues are a gift of God facilitated by the Holy Spirit and tongues are seen as a virtual divine language where God communicates His will and facilitates worship through the tongues phenomenon.  Those who speak in tongues believe that what they do is grounded in a number of tongues speaking events recorded in the New Testament Scripture. 

       Having provided the foregoing background on the issue of tongues, let's now look at the tongues passages in Scripture that are used to justify the modern day phenomenon of speaking in tongues. In so doing we will attempt to answer several questions.

       #1:  Is speaking in tongues as is practiced today, the same kind of speaking in tongues practiced in the first century Church as seen in the NT Scriptures?  If it is not, what is it?

       #2: Is there a different between the tongues speaking seen at Pentecost, the house of Cornelius, and the disciples at Ephesus and the tongues speaking discussed by Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians, chapters 12-14.    

       #3: Where tongues, along with other spiritual gifts discussed by Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12-14, meant for only the early stages of Christian Church development or were they meant to continue throughout Church history and are evident in the Church today?

       Let's begin answering these questions by looking at the first recorded occurrence of tongues speaking in the Biblical Scriptures.

Tongues at Pentecost in AD 31:

       Acts 2:1-4: When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.  Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other (Greek heteros which means other or different) tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

       Shortly after Christ had ascended to the Father in heaven, his disciples were observing the annual feast of Pentecost.  The Scripture says "they were all together in one place."  We can safely assume the “they” referred too included the eleven spoken of in Acts 1:13 and Matthias who was added to the group (1:26).  Were their others who made up the "they" referred to in Acts 2:1?

       In Acts, chapter one, it is recorded that when the eleven Apostles returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives after seeing Jesus ascend into the clouds of the sky, they went up to a second floor room where they were staying, "When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying" (Acts 1:13, NIV).  The Greek rendered "upstairs" means an upper story room of a private house (See the Arndt/Gingrich Lexicon).

       The names of the eleven Apostles are listed as being present (Acts 1:13). This listing of the eleven being present doesn't necessarily mean others could not have been staying at this location as well.  It is recorded that the eleven “all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” Acts 1-14).  It is unclear as to whether the women, Mary and Jesus’ brothers were also staying at the same location as the Apostles or staying somewhere else. In his Gospel, Luke records that after returning from Jerusalem, the Apostles stayed continually at the temple. It may be at the temple that Mary, the women and Jesus' brothers joined the Apostles in constant prayer and not at a private house.

       Luke 24:51-53: While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

       Regardless of where the followers of Jesus were staying after the ascension, it is recorded they were all together in one place on the day of Pentecost. Who are the "they" and what is the "one place" it is said the "they" were together at?

The location of the "one place."

       Acts 2:1: When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.

         The Greek word homothumadon, rendered "place" in Acts 2:1, means to be with one mind, purpose or impulse according to Greek Lexicons.  In Acts 1:14, where it is said "They all joined together constantly in prayer," the words "joined together" is homothumadon.  Other translations render hemothumadon in Acts 1:14 as "one accord" or "one mind."  Homothumadon appears 12 times in the NT and except for Acts 2:1, this word is generally rendered "with one accord," or "one mind."  Therefore, when it is said "they were all together in one place," it would appear it is not their location that is spoken of but that they were of one mind and purpose as the Greek word homothumadon implies.        

       If it is true Luke is reporting that the "they" were of one mind and purpose, they still would have been at a location when they experienced the tongues event. Where was this location? The Scriptures show that those who experienced the sound of a violent wind were setting in a house. Where or what is this house that is being spoken of? 

       Acts 2:2: Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house (Greek oikos) where they were sitting.

       The Greek for house is oikos. This word appears 114 times in the NT and the Greek Lexicons show this word to have broad meaning. It can refer to a private home or it can refer to a public building.  It can also refer to a group of people. 

       In the NT it is used in all three ways.  It is often used to designate a private residence. It is used figuratively to represent a group of people such as Israel.  You will often see the phrase "house of Israel" in the NT.  Oikos is also used in the NT to designate the physical temple standing in Jerusalem.

       When Jesus threw out the money changers on the temple grounds, He referred to the temple as His Father's house {oikos} (Matthew 21:12-13).  In prophesying the destruction of the temple, Jesus told the religious leaders their house {oikos} would be left to them desolate (Matthew 23:38). In Luke 11:51, Jesus speaks of "the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the temple" (oikos).  Was the house the "they" were sitting in a residential house or was it the temple?      

       In Luke 24:53 it is shown that when the Apostles returned from Jerusalem "they stayed continually at the temple, praising God."  This being the case, you would think they would have been at the temple on the day of Pentecost seeing this was a High Day Sabbath. Acts 2:15 shows it was the third hour of the day (9:00 AM) when the tongues event occurred. This would have been the time of the morning prayer and sacrifice at the temple.

       The temple was the seat of worship for Israel. It was virtually considered the dwelling place of God. Pentecost was a required observance.  Many thousands were in Jerusalem for this event. A great deal of space would be needed to accommodate all these people. The temple grounds would be the logical place for this gathering to take place. The church historian Edersheim writes that the temple grounds had room for 210,000 people. It is evident from Scripture that when the temple was referred to it was the temple complex that was being referred to which consisted of a number of buildings as is clearly indicated in Scripture.

       Mark 13:1-2: As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!" "Do you see all these great buildings?" replied Jesus. "Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."

       The temple grounds consisted of a number of buildings besides the temple. There were  two large courtyards and multiple dozens of porticos which were house-like structures that ran along the walls of the temple grounds and were used for a variety of activities. It could very well be it was one of these porticos where the Apostles and possibly others were sitting when the tongues event occurred. 

       It is recorded in Acts 2:41 that that after Peter finished what has become known as his  Pentecost sermon, around 3000 were baptized and added to the fellowship on that very day of Pentecost. Where were they baptized?  While the temple was still standing, there were  ritual immersion pools located around the southern and southwestern portions of the Temple Mount. It is believed it was these pools that would have been used to baptize these converts. This further indicates it was at the temple grounds where the tongues event described in Acts chapter 2 took place. 

       Finally, we see recorded in Acts 2:46 that "Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts."  The temple area continued to be the gathering place for those who had accepted the message delivered to them on Pentecost. The evidence seems to favor the temple as the “house” they were setting in when they heard the sound of a wind and began to speak in tongues.

Who are the "they" who spoke in tongues?

       Who were the "they" who were all together and of single mind and purpose on the day of Pentecost?   Were the “they” only the Apostles?  Did the “they” include the women, Mary and Jesus’ brothers?  Were the “they” the nearly 120 believers mentioned in Acts 1:16? 

       Acts 1:16: In those days Peter stood up among the believers  (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty)

       In Acts 2:5-8 it’s recorded that the Jews who heard the sound of the blowing wind and the speaking in tongues asked, "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language (NIV)?  It’s to be noted that the word “men” does not appear in the Greek in this passage.  Therefore, this passage can’t be used to definitively determine it was only Galilean men who are speaking in tongues.  This passage only establishes those speaking in tongues were all Galileans.

       Whether this tongues speaking was limited to only the Apostles or included other men and possibly women we can’t be certain.  There are arguments that can be made for seeing only the Apostles as speaking in tongues and arguments for others, including women speaking in tongues. Let's look at the arguments.

       It is recorded that some made fun of what was happening and accused the tongues speakers of being drunk with wine

       Acts 2:13Some, however, made fun of them and said, "They have had too much wine.

       It’s then recorded that Peter stood up with the eleven and defended the tongues speakers by saying the following: 

       Acts 2:14-15:  "Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning (NIV).

       It’s again to be noted that the word “men” is not in the Greek.  Peter stands up with the eleven and says “these are not drunk.”  Who are the “these”?  It could be argued that because Peter stands up with the eleven and makes this statement, it was the eleven plus Peter who were the “these” who were doing the speaking in tongues.  If this is the case, the tongues speaking may have been limited to the twelve Apostles and only the twelve Apostles were the “they” of Acts 2:1. 

       It is to be noted that the promise of the giving of the Holy Spirit was initially given by Jesus to the eleven Apostles who were present when Jesus ascended to the Father. Acts 1:1-9 shows it was only the Apostles who were present at the ascension. This could indicate that it was only the Apostles who initially became recipients of the Holy Spirit.

       If the tongues event did take place at the Temple, women were not allowed to mix with men.  They had a designated separate area where they could congregate called "The Women's Platform."  Women were also not allowed to express themselves on theological matters.  This would indicate women would not have been proclaiming the things of God in different tongues.

       On the other hand, Peter tells those who were accusing the tongues speakers of being drunk that they were not drunk but what they were seeing and hearing was a fulfillment of what Joel prophesied which included saying that,  "Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy" (Acts 2:18).  Does Peter telling the accusers that what they were seeing and hearing  was the result of the pouring out of the Spirit on both men and women indicative of there being women who were also speaking in tongues?  We can't be sure.  

The tongues experience:

       Hearing a sound:     

       Acts 2:2: Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues  as the Spirit enabled them.

      What was this sound? What were the tongues of fire? What was the nature of the tongues they were speaking?  Where they the kind of tongues we hear spoken today in a Pentecostal Church service? 

       The Greek word translated "sound" is eekos and simply  means a sound. Luke uses a cognate of this word to describe hearing the roar of sea waves (Luke 21:25). In Hebrews 12:19 the writer uses this word to describe the sound of a trumpet. The Greek word translated "violent" means strong and mighty.  It must be noted that what was experienced was not an actual violent wind but a sound like a blowing violent wind. Who all heard this sound?  Was it just those who spoke in tongues or did others here this sound as well? 

       Acts 2:6: When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.   

       What sound did the crowd hear?  The Greek word translated sound in Acts 2:6 is not eekos but phonee.  Both the Arndt/Gingrich and Thayer's Greek Lexicons define phonee as sound, tone, noise and voice as in the utterance of words. Phonee is found 141 times in the NT and is almost always translated "voice" where it can be seen by context to refer to the the utterance of words. On a few occasions phonee is used to describe the sound of a trumpet, wind, water and even wings.

       In Acts 2:6 phonee is used in association with the crowd coming together in bewilderment because of hearing the recipients of the Holy Spirit communicating with them in their native languages. Therefore, it may be that the sound heard by the crowd was the utterance of these different languages and not the sound the tongues speakers heard.

       Tongues in the Greek:

       The English word tongue is taken from the Greek word glossa.  Greek Lexicons define glossa as the physical tongue or as language.  Glossology is a term used to identify the study of languages and dialects.  The word glossa appears in the Greek New Testament fifty times. It is used in a variety of ways.  It is often used metaphorically to represent speech. 

       James 3:5-6: Likewise the tongue (Greek: glossa) is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue (Greek: glossa) also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

       1 Peter 3:10 For, "Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue (Greek: glossa) from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.

       By context, we know that both James and Peter are using the word tongue to speak of expressing thoughts in language that are commonly understood by those who are within hearing distance of such language. 

       Acts 2:25-26:  David said about him: "`I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue (glossa) rejoices; my body also will live in hope.

       Here glossa is used in a figurative sense to express the thought that ones speech is one of expressing joyful language. Glossa appears eight times in the Revelation and in seven out of the eight times is used to identify cultures of people who speak a particular language.  Here are a few examples:

       Revelation 5:9: And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language (glossa) and people and nation.  

       Revelation 14:6: Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth--to every nation, tribe, language (glossa) and people.

       It should be evident from the context that glossa is being used to identify groups of people who speak the same language within their group and that such language is commonly understood by those in the group who speak it. 

      As will be seen as we proceed with this discussion, every single occurrence of glossa in the New Testament appears to be associated with the expression of extant human language. As already covered, modern day tongues speaking does not appear to be related to any extant human language. Is there Scriptural reason to believe that there is glossa generated by the Holy Spirit that is language not related to any known human language and that such language can be understood only through someone gifted by God to interpret such non-human language?  Keep this question in mind as we continue with this discussion.

        Tongues of fire:

      It is recorded, “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.” The Greek rendered “seemed” is optomai and simple means to see something and is used in this manner multiple times in the NT.  Most translations render this word as “appeared” in the passage under consideration.  The Greek word pur rendered “fire” in this passage is used both figuratively and literally of fire in the NT.   

       It’s recorded that what appeared to them were tongues of fire. Most translations render it as “like as of fire.”  The indication is that what was seen were flame-like projectiles that appeared as physical tongues.  It doesn’t appear that what was seen was actual fire.  Flames of a fire fan out in many directions. This tongue like phenomenon of fire appears to be used here to show how the observed tongues flared our and landed on the recipients. Here are several renderings that indicate this.

       And tongues spreading out like a fire appeared to them and came to rest on each one of them (New English Translation {NET}).

       They saw tongues like flames of fire that separated, and one rested on each of them (International Standard Version)

       And tongues like fire that were divided appeared to them, and they sat on each one of them (Aramaic Bible in Plain English).

       Tongues that looked like fire appeared to them. The tongues arranged themselves so that one came to rest on each believer (God’s Word Translation)

      The implication here is that the fiery looking tongues that landed on the recipients of these tongues were separated or divided with the result being that different tongues fell on different recipients of the tongues. In other words, they all didn't receive the same tongues but different individuals received different tongues which facilitated the speaking of different languages. They weren't all given the same language. They were given different languages.

       This is an important consideration. Because it is said that "each one heard them speaking in his own language," some believe the miracle experienced on Pentecost was not only in the speaking but also in the hearing.

       Acts 2:5-8: Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?

       Some believe the ones given the tongues all received and spoke some kind of neutral language which was then supernaturally translated into separate languages that could be understood by those in the crowd who spoke those languages.  Some take this a step further and believe that the miracle was not in the speaking at all. Some believe the tongues speakers were all speaking in their native tongue but those who heard them, heard them in their own native tongues through instant supernatural translation.       

       The Greek rendered "language" in the above passage is dialektos.  Thayer's Greek Lexicon defines this word as conversation, speech, discourse or the tongue or language peculiar to any people.  The Arndt/Gingrich Greek Lexicon defines dialektos as the language of a nation or region.         

       As already discussed, Luke writes that the tongues were divided or separated as they came down upon those receiving the tongues. This appears to reveal that different tongues landed on different recipients.  If this is the case, there was a number of different tongues that were bestowed  upon the recipients of the Holy Spirit.  These different tongues were then understood by those in the crowd who spoke those tongues. There does not appear to have been any supernatural translation going on. The miracle appears to have been in the speaking only.        

Why the tongues event?

       It is sometimes believed and taught that the reason for the tongues event was to allow the Apostles to preach the Gospel to the Jews visiting Jerusalem to observe Pentecost in languages they could understand. Luke writes there were Jews from every nation under heaven in attendance. It is assumed that these Jews were mostly visitors who did not speak the local language.  The assumption is that these Jews would not have understood the Apostles if the Apostles spoke only in their native tongue which was probably Aramaic. Therefore, the tongues event is seen as necessary to ensure the Gospel message could be understood by those assembled to observe the feast of Pentecost.     

       Acts 2:5-8: Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?

       The narrative of Acts 2 does show that some of those present were visitors from outside of Judea. It's not revealed whether they were unable to speak or understand the native language of the Apostles. What is noteworthy however, is that many if not most of those present where foreigners who had taken up permanent residence in Jerusalem and can be assumed to have spoken not only their native language but also the native language of the Apostles. Therefore, they would not have had to be spoken to in their native language in order to understand the Apostles.    

      The Greek word rendered “staying” in Acts 2:5 is katoikeo. The Greek lexicons define this word as a place of permanent residence, a place of settlement. Strong’s Lexicon defines this word as “to house permanently.”  Thayer’s Lexicon defines this word as to dwell or settle.  The Arndt/Gingrich Lexicon defines it as “cause to dwell, establish, and settle.”  

       Katoikeo appears 47 times in the NT and by context can be seen to identify an on going residency and not just someone visiting from out of town. It’s apparent the Jews being addressed were by and large residents of Jerusalem and would have spoken the same native language as the tongues speakers spoke.  These Jews and converts to Judaism, while originally residing in a number of different countries, had at some point moved to Jerusalem and taken up residence there.

       The NET translation footnotes Acts 2:5 by stating that while there may have been Jews visiting Jerusalem to keep Pentecost, it is probable that the audience consisted of families who had taken up permanent residence in Jerusalem and that archaeological evidence from tombs in Jerusalem indicates that many families immigrated to Jerusalem permanently.     

       Therefore, it is apparent that the majority of those in the crowd hearing the tongues speakers where permanent residents of Jerusalem and would have been able to understand the native tongue of the tongues speakers which was probably Aramaic. If this is the case, we shouldn't be looking at the tongues event occurring for the purpose communication the Gospel message to crowds gathered for Pentecost.  So why the tongues event?

       When the crowd witnessed the tongues event, it is recorded that "they were all amazed and perplexed and they asked one another, "What does this mean?"   Some accused the Apostles of being drunk.  Peter then showed them the reason for this event.

       Acts 2:14-21: Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:  "`In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.  And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'

       Peter addressed the crowd and directed his answer to fellow Jews and all those who live in Jerusalem.  The Greek word rendered “live” is katoikeo. As already discussed, this Greek word describes a place of permanent residence.  The indication is that he was largely addressing those who lived in Jerusalem and was most probably addressing them in the language common to most of them which, as indicated, was probably Aramaic.  The tongues event may have been a short lived event that got the attention of the crowd and caused many of them to give heed to Peter’s message.

       However, the main reason for the tongues event appears to be to demonstrate that a prophecy of Joel had come to pass. Peter is stating that what the assembly gathered in Jerusalem is seeing is the fulfillment of what the prophet Joel said would happen in the last days.

       "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:  "`In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.

       What they are witnessing is the prophesied pouring out of the Spirit of God on all people. Peter makes this very clear later in his sermon.

       Acts 2:32-33: God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.

       What Peter was telling them was that what they were seeing and hearing gave witness to the Holy Spirit being poured out.  The Apostles speaking in a language or languages they never spoke before was for the express purpose of giving evidence to the fulfillment of what the prophet Joel had promised would occur and what Jesus had promised would occur. The tongues event got the attention of the audience which allowed Peter to proclaim the gospel message to what was now an attentive audience.  Peter goes on to provide a synopsis of the Christ event. 

       Acts 2:22-24:  "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.  This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

       Peter brings to their attention that Jesus was a man accredited by God.  To accredit someone is to authorize and sanction them.  God did this by providing Jesus the power to perform miracles and signs and wonders, all things Peter says they knew.  This further verifies that Peter was addressing a crowd who lived in the area and was familiar with what had happened. Peter reveals to them that it was within God’s will and foreknowledge that Jesus was handed over to them and they proceeded to crucify him even though they knew the good that He had done.  Peter then states that God had made this man they had crucified both Lord and Christ.

       Acts 2:36-38: Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

       Acts 2:41: Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

       Peter’s message and the message of the other Apostles had a powerful impact on those being addressed.  The Apostles message would not have had this impact if it wasn’t for the tongues event.  The tongues event got there attention. The sound of a rushing wind and the appearance of what seemed like tongues of fire upon the tongues speakers must have been impressive. Then to hear these tongues speakers speak in a variety of languages that were not their own really got their attention. 

       Peter told them to repent and be baptized and they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  While it is generally believed that one receives the Holy Spirit when repenting and being baptized, it is a teaching within Pentecostal theology that following water baptism it is important to experience another baptism, the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Baptism of the Holy, Spirit, while not seen as a requirement for salvation, is believed to empower one to live a more Godly life and witness to other.  Speaking in tongues is believed to be confirmation that one has received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and it is believed such baptism of the Spirit is what we see the Apostles experiencing as recorded in Acts, chapter two. 

       The problem with associating the present day tongues phenomenon with what we see recorded in Acts chapter two is that what we see today has no resemblance to what we see in Acts 2.  There certainly isn't a sound like that of a rushing wind the appearance of what looks like tongues of fire accompanying modern day tongues speaking.  What we see in Acts 2 are the tongues speakers speaking a supernaturally enabled languages and others hearing what the Apostles were speaking in their own native language. What we see in charismatic circles where speaking in tongues is practiced, is the utterance of sounds that are not associated with any known language. No one hearing these sounds hears them as their native language.

       Furthermore, when the Apostles spoke in tongues their tongues did not have to be interpreted by someone in order to be understood.  Those hearing the Apostles tongues understood exactly what they were saying because it was being spoken in their native language.  Scripture records that those who accepted the message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.  Peter had told them that when being baptized, they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Nothing is recorded as to any of the three thousand who were baptized speaking in tongues as a demonstration or conformation of having received the Holy Spirit.

       When you look at what happened at Pentecost in A.D. 31, it is very apparent  that the tongues spoken were extant human languages and this event occurred in order to demonstrate the arrival of the promised Holy Spirit which would now be available to all peoples.  What happened on Pentecost, A.D. 31 is not what we see being practiced today.  Therefore, the events recorded in Acts two, should not be used as a template for what we see in the tongues speaking community of the past hundred years or so.  Some Pentecostal Church theologians admit this but feel that other examples of speaking in tongues recorded in the New Testament give credence to present day speaking in tongues. We will begin to address this in Part Two.

PART TWO