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WHAT IS AN UNKNOWN TONGUE?

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 7
1 Corinthians 14:1-5
Acts 2:1-13

 

“For he that speaketh in an
unknown tongue …”

 

WHAT IS AN UNKNOWN TONGUE?


One emphasis of the Charismatic Movement is tongue-speaking. But much of it takes the form of ecstatic utterances which cannot be understood. Practitioners of such ecstatic utterances will often point to the expression “an unknown tongue” in 1 Corinthians 14:2 for validation. Are these unknown tongues ecstatic utterances or real foreign languages? To answer this question, let us go back to the event of Pentecost in Acts 2. Acts 2:4 tells us that when the disciples were filled with the Holy Ghost, they “began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” The word for “tongues” in this case is the Greek word glossais from which we get the English word “glossary.” Thus, these “tongues” that were spoken were real foreign languages that had proper morphology, vocabulary and syntax. This can be seen in the reaction of the people who testified in Acts 2:6-8 that they heard the Apostles in their own languages (Greek: dialektos, i.e. dialect). “Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:9-11).


Another claim by practitioners of ecstatic utterances is that the tongues which they speak are angelic tongues (cf. 1 Cor 13:1). Closer examination of that verse would reveal that Paul was employing a hyperbole. He was not saying that he was able to speak any angelic tongue, but that even if he could and had not love, he would be nothing. Moreover, whenever angels spoke in the Scriptures, they did so in the languages used by men (i.e. Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic). These were not ecstatic languages but known languages! Thus, from the evidence of the Holy Scriptures, the Charismatic practice of ecstatic utterances has no basis and must be rejected.


THOUGHT: All practices must be examined carefully in the light of Scripture.
PRAYER: Lord, grant me a good grounding in biblical doctrines.