Tongue speaking in Christian and pagan worship (1 Corinthians 12)

Bilderesultat for speaking in tongues

Speaking in tongues was a recognized part of the life of the early church. In Acts 2 tongues are identified as foreign languages understood by the various pilgrims in Jerusalem. In 1 Corinthians, however, it is unclear whether tongues were unlearned languages (as on the day of Pentecost), angelic languages or inarticulate groanings “that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26). Whatever the case may have been, Paul laid down several rules for the speaking of tongues, one of which was that tongues should always be translated so that all present might benefit.

Some argue that there were parallels to tongue-speaking in the pagan world. It is true that other cultures knew of various sorts of ecstatic speech, which could sometimes include either unintelligible speech or foreign words and phrases. Some pagan rites (with the aid of alcohol or drugs) worked people into a state of delirium. At pagan oracles, ecstatic priestesses sometimes delivered messages purported to be from gods. People would describe these priestesses as “raving”, but that usually referred to the fact that their meaning was obscure. A pagan oracle might have been delivered in everyday Greek, but its meaning might still have been puzzling or confusing, even to a Greek-speaking audience. The words were understandable, but their message was unclear.

The Corinthian church was full of diversions, sexual immorality and different kinds of heresy that did not survive. It could hardly have been called the most spiritual church of all, yet this was the church where we find speaking in tongues. It may be derived from this that the speaking of tongues is not a proof of high spirituality. Paul had to lay down several rules of speaking in tongues because the Corinthian church did this wrong. One of the problems they had was that the temple prostitutes from the temple to Aphrodite would come into the church, speaking in tongues like they did for Aphrodite. They may have become Christians, but carried on some of their practices from the temple of Aphrodite.

It has also been reported that many others also speak in tongues. When Dalai Lama speaks in tongues, it could be more like the ecstatic speak mentioned above. When Satanists speak in tongues, however, it is mostly African languages that are unknown to the people who speak it. It has also been reported that speaking in tongues in churches today often are African languages or just a few words mentioned over and over again.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.” (1 Corinthians 14:22) Some say because of this verse that the speaking of tongues was a sign gift, a sign to the Jews that also heathens could get saved and receive the Holy Spirit. In the first century there was nothing that separated the church more than the claim from Paul and Peter that people who were non-Jewish also could get saved. The speaking of tongues were supposed to prove that.


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