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Speaking in Tongues and Xenoglossia

Book of Acts, Pentecost

“Pentecost” by Canadian artist Gisele Bauche.
Used with permission of the artist.
Gisele’s website is at spiritualityandart.ca


This article is available in Urdu here.

Even though the Pentecostal Movement, with the resurgence of spiritual manifestations and abilities, has been in existence for just over a century, the use of these manifestations, including the phenomenon of glossolalia (speaking in tongues) remains a confusing and contentious issue for many Christians.

In this article, I provide a very brief overview of the scriptures that mention speaking in tongues, and then I look at the setting and events recorded in Acts 2:1-12. This is where the Galilean believers were filled with the Holy Spirit for the first time and began speaking in tongues, and where those nearby heard their own languages being spoken. I will also give a very brief account of the beginning of the Pentecostal Movement which began in 1900. And I share a few personal experiences.[1] My hope is that this article will take some of the contentions out of the issue of “tongues” and perhaps some of the confusion too.

New Testament Teaching on Speaking in Tongues

The biblical theology of glossolalia is primarily based on a few experiences of the early church rather than on clear or comprehensive teaching. Luke, in the book of Acts, and Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, are the only two New Testament authors to mention tongues.[2]

Luke, in Acts 2:4ff; 10:46 and 19:6, simply relates certain episodes of glossolalia in his historical narrative, with no commentary or explanation.[3] Luke offers no description of the nature of tongues, nor does he provide insight on its purposes or on how tongues is to be used in the life of the individual Christian or in the church.

Similarly, Paul is silent about the nature of tongues. He does not explicitly say why God has given this gift. However, he does, in passing, indicate several ways in which it functions. (Turner 2009:224) While Paul gives some instruction about the use of glossolalia in church meetings, much of Paul’s teaching about tongues in 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14 was written to curb the Corinthian’s over-enthusiasm and misuse of this particular spiritual ability. So any insight on the use of tongues here must be seen in the light of Paul’s real intent in writing to the Corinthian church. That is, his corrective, rather than didactic, intent.

Most of what can be learnt about glossolalia from both Luke and Paul is gained from deductions and inference only. We must be very wary not to exegete more from Luke and Paul’s writings than is warranted, nor draw firm conclusions.

The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost

In chapter 1 of Acts we see that immediately before his return to heaven, Jesus had instructed his followers to stay in Jerusalem and wait there until the promised Holy Spirit came. His followers obeyed this instruction, and ten days later, on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out on all the Christian believers for the first time.

We do not really know how many believers were meeting together at Pentecost. Paul estimated that at the time of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension there were about 500 Christian believers in all (1 Cor 15:6). In Acts 1:15, Luke specifically mentions that 120 believers were meeting in an upper room when they were choosing a new Apostle to replace Judas Iscariot. Perhaps there were a few hundred Christian believers meeting together on the Day of Pentecost.

Many people assume that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Christian believers occurred in the same upper room that is mentioned in Acts 1:13. However, we cannot be certain that this is the case. In Acts 2:2, the Greek word which is often translated as “house” in the New Testament is also used for the Jerusalem Temple.[4] Perhaps Jesus’ followers were meeting in the Temple courts on the Day of Pentecost. This seems especially likely considering that Pentecost was a Jewish holiday with special Temple services. We know that the very early church regularly met together in the Temple courts after Pentecost; perhaps this activity had already begun before Pentecost.[5]

If the disciples were meeting in the Temple courts when the Holy Spirit came, it would more easily explain why so many people overheard the believers speaking in tongues. It would also help to explain how Peter could (seemingly) immediately stand up and address several thousand Jewish pilgrims, pilgrims who had come from all over the Roman Empire to Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish festival of Pentecost (Acts 2:5). It is improbable that the events of Acts 2 occurred within the confines of an upper room, even a spacious one (Acts 1:13,15).

What we do know for certain is that ten days after Jesus returned to heaven, his followers were meeting together in one place on the Day of Pentecost.[6] At about 9 o’clock in the morning, the Holy Spirit was poured out on every person present, both men and women (Acts 1:14, 2:17-18). There was a sound like a mighty, rushing wind; there was a vision of tongues of fire that distributed and remained on the head of each person, and we know that every person spoke in tongues: every believer, not just the twelve apostles.

Xenoglossia: Speaking in Tongues or Hearing Languages?

The immediate consequence of being filled with the Holy Spirit was that the Christian believers began speaking in other tongues, that is, they were speaking a language they had not spoken previously. Many people assume that the Christian believers were speaking in real languages, and have termed this phenomenon as xenoglossia. The word Xenoglossia is derived from the Greek words xenos which means “foreign” and glossa which means “tongue” or “language”. I would like to suggest that the Christians were not speaking actual foreign languages, but that they were vocalising freely as the Spirit led them. And yet, the onlookers from the crowd were hearing actual foreign languages. The reason I am suggesting this is because of something I experienced in early 1984.

In the 1980s I was a member of Petersham Assemblies of God. Speaking in tongues was a regular practice in our meetings. Many individuals would speak in tongues as we simultaneously offered prayer and praise to God during periods of corporate worship. Two or three people would also speak in tongues prophetically, with someone interpreting the tongue’s message.

One Sunday morning a Chinese lady started speaking in tongues during a meeting and then suddenly, halfway through her “message”, she started speaking in perfect English—my own language.[7] I had never heard someone speak in tongues and in English in the one “message”. The practice in our church was that one person would speak in tongues but then another person would provide the interpretation. After the church meeting, I had lunch with my husband (who was my fiancé at the time) and my mother. During lunch, I happened to mention that I thought it was unusual that the Chinese lady had been speaking in tongues and then in English. My statement caused some confusion for a little while, but finally I understood that even though I had heard perfect English, my husband and mother had only heard glossolalia for the entire time the Chinese lady was speaking. The English message that I heard was a supernatural occurrence, a “supernatural hearing”.

Let me relate another story of “supernatural hearing”. A few years ago my mother, who is a Christian, was travelling through Europe. On a two and a half hour train journey, my mother struck up a conversation with another passenger. They had been conversing for a while when all of a sudden my mother realised that the other woman had been speaking in German the whole time, a language my mother could barely understand, while my mother had been speaking in English the whole time. The surprise caused by this realisation ended the conversation.

While it was undoubtedly a supernatural endowment that enabled the Christian believers to speak in tongues on the Day of Pentecost, an ability given by the Holy Spirit, I suggest that the ability to hear real languages was another supernatural ability given by the Holy Spirit on that occasion. I believe that xenoglossia may be more a miracle of hearing than of speaking. The crowd of devout Jews who were staying in Jerusalem, and had gathered around the Christians, certainly heard their own native languages.[8] Luke states three times (in Acts 2:6, 8 & 11), that the Jews and Jewish proselytes, who had come from all parts of the Roman Empire heard their own foreign languages being spoken by the Galilean disciples.[9] This caused a great deal of astonishment among many in the crowd (Acts 2:12).[10]

Real Languages?

In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, Paul uses the expression “the tongues of men and angels”. Some people take this to mean that when someone speaks in tongues they are speaking a real language, a human or angelic language. However, Paul’s real intent in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 was not to provide information on the phenomenon of tongues but to teach that the use of any spiritual gift or manifestation is worthless, and achieves nothing, unless the gift is ministered in love. Paul used the rhetorical device of hyperbole (exaggeration) and made four statements with hypothetical “ifs” to make his point about love in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.[11] Because of these factors, it is doubtful that the expression “tongues of men and angels” might mean that speaking in tongues involves speaking real languages.[12]

A few neuroscientists have studied what happens in the brain when a Christian speaks in tongues, and they have found that the language centre of the brain is not used when someone speaks in tongues as it is when someone speaks a real language. (Newburg 2006) Some respected linguists, such as William J. Samarin (1972) and Felicitas Goodman (1972:121-2) have studied glossolalia and they recognise that the utterances of someone speaking in tongues may resemble the usual language patterns of the speaker in some regards; however, they have not seen any evidence that glossolalia involves real languages. Over the years there have been claims from time to time that certain Christian tongues-speakers were speaking real languages. Yet no cases have been substantiated, and many cases have been discredited. There is no evidence[13] that Christian glossolalia involves speaking real languages.[14]

Xenoglossia and Overseas Missions

Judging by Jesus’ statement recorded in Acts 1:8, one of the main purposes of being filled with the Spirit and exercising spiritual abilities was, and is, to enable and empower missionary endeavours. Jesus told his followers, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). In the early church, the excitement and power that the Holy Spirit brought was a huge motivator and enabler for spreading the gospel message. Since the resurgence of spiritual abilities, which began in 1900, missions have also been understood as being one of the main purposes of spiritual gifts.

In 1900 a young woman named Agnes Ozman asked her minister Charles Parham, to pray for her that she might be filled with the Holy Spirit. Parham a “holiness” minister who ran a small Bible College, of which Agnes was a student, obliged; and Agnes began speaking in tongues. Agnes Ozman is the first person (recorded) in modern times to speak in tongues.[15] This event marks the beginning of the modern Pentecostal Movement. Others in Parham’s Bible College were also filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. Parham began teaching on tongues, and his message and influence spread. Following a visit by Parham to a church in Azusa Street, Los Angeles, the well-known Azusa Street Revival broke out.

As a result of the Azusa Street Revival (1906-1911), thousands of tongues-speaking Christians went overseas in order to bring the Gospel message to non-English speaking communities. These Christians had next-to-no missionary training and were dismayed to discover that their tongues-speaking was unintelligible to the people they were hoping to share the Gospel with. Virtually all Pentecostals at that time thought that tongues-speaking was “a gift of foreign languages granted for evangelistic purposes, and Charles Parham continued to believe this view till his death in 1929, despite mounting counter-evidence.” (Turner 1996:298) There is no doubt that the experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues provided a great impetus for missions. However, tongues did not seem to have a practical application.

I suggest that God can, and occasionally does, make the free vocalisation of someone speaking in tongues intelligible to certain hearers.[16] I believe he may have done this with the tongues-speaking of the first Christians. He did this with the Chinese woman and me in 1984. He made German intelligible to my mother.[17] My experiences have led me to believe that xenoglossia does happen, but rather than it being a supernatural speaking of real, unlearned, foreign languages, it is a supernatural hearing of real languages.


[1] Speaking of the gift of the Holy Spirit as an event which can be unmistakably recognised, Leslie Newbigin (1961:91) observes:

“Theologians today are afraid of the word ‘experience’. There are some good reasons for this, and also some bad ones. But I do not think it is possible to survey this New Testament evidence, even in the most cursory way … without recognising that the New Testament authors are free from this fear. They recount happenings which we would subsume under the head of religious experience and do not hesitate to ascribe them to the mighty power of God and to give them right of way in theological argument over long cherished convictions.”

[2] Other Bible verses which may allude to speaking in tongues include:

  • Isaiah 28:11, which Paul quotes in 1 Cor 14:21 in the context of “tongues”.
  • John 3:8, which refers to the voice, or sound, of the Spirit.
  • Romans 8:26, which refers to the Holy Spirit helping us to pray in ways beyond intelligible speech.
  • Jude 20, which refers to praying in the Holy Spirit as a means of edification (cf. Eph. 6:18a)

[3] “No developed ‘theology of the Holy Spirit’ is identifiable in the book of Acts. Instead we find a ledger-accounting of the Spirit’s activities as they unfold in the life of the early faith-community.” Devenish (2010:66)

Some doctrines concerning speaking in tongues are based on assumptions rather than explicit Scriptural teaching.  For instance, some Christian denominations claim that glossolalia and other supernatural charismata were applicable for the apostolic age only, when the church was being founded, and are thus no longer applicable. This view is called the Cessationist view, or Cessationism. Well-known 18th-century preacher, Jonathan Edwards, explains the reason behind the Cessationist view: “Since the canon of the Scripture has been completed, and the Christian Church fully founded and established, these extraordinary gifts have ceased.” From Charity & Its Fruits. Jonathan Edwards held this view despite witnessing spiritual manifestations that accompanied the “Great Awakening” revival.
Cessationists quote 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 to back their claims. They believe that the canon of scripture is the “perfect” or “completeness” that is being alluded to in 13:10. However the “perfect” and “completeness”, when we will “fully know” and be “fully known” and see “face to face” (13:12), is more likely to refer to the redemption and transformation of our bodies which will occur when we see Jesus on the Day of Christ. Paul speaks about the transformation of our bodies at length in 1 Corinthians chapter 15.
The New Testament never states that speaking in tongues was a temporary phenomenon. Yet Cessationists view Christians who speak in tongues now as being deluded or even demon-possessed. Jonathan Edward’s claim that the Christian Church had been fully founded and established during the apostolic age is also debatable. The Christian Church today is a vastly different organisation from what it was in the first couple of centuries of its existence, and it continues to change.

[4] The Greek word oikos used in Acts 2:2 is generally translated as “house” or “household” in the New Testament; however it is sometimes used to refer to the Jerusalem Temple. In Matthew 12:4; Mark 2:26; Luke 6:4 the Temple is referred to as the “house-oikos of God.” Jesus referred to the Temple as a “house-oikos of prayer” (Matt 21:13; cf. Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46).  In John 2:16 and 14:2-3 Jesus referred to the Temple as the “house-oikos of my Father”. John 2:17 and Acts 7:47 also clearly refer to the Temple, using the word “house-oikos.” However, Luke does occasionally distinguish between the Temple-hieron and an ordinary house-oikos (e.g. Acts 5:42).

[5] Cf. Acts 2:46: “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. . .” (NIV)
“Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple …” (NASB)

[6] The Day of Pentecost occurred on the fiftieth day after Jesus’ resurrection. The word Pentecost comes from the Greek word for “fifty”.

[7] This lady was definitely not speaking a Chinese language and her English was generally poor.

[8] The Jews and Jewish Proselytes were from fifteen different nations: Parthia, Media, Elam, Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, the parts of Libya near Cyrene, Rome, Crete and Arabia (Acts 2:9-11).

[9] “Own language” (idios dialektos) is used in Acts 2:6 & 8 to make the distinction between “other tongues” (hetera glossa) in Acts 1:4. Glossa is also used in Acts 2:11  when the Jews and Jewish proselytes exclaimed, “We hear them speaking in our languages the great things of God.”

[10] While many in the crowd were “amazed and perplexed” (Acts 2:12, NIV), others, observing the behaviour of the first Christians being filled with the Spirit, made fun of their seemingly silly behaviour. They thought that Jesus’ disciples were drunk (Acts 2:13). Many non-Christians and non-Pentecostal Christians view the practice of speaking in tongues today as being ridiculous. There is nothing new about this perspective. I admit that people speaking in tongues can look silly at times and that the practice looks very out-of-place in “respectable” conservative churches. I have been disturbed by some more bizarre expressions of tongues-speaking that have seen televised.

[11] The four statements that begin with “if” (ean x3, kan x1) in 1 Corinthians 3:1 are third-class conditional sentences with a protasis that presents hypothetical situations.

[12] Some people, such as John MacArthur, a Reformed minister and cessationist, do not believe that the expression “the tongues of men and angels” should be taken literally. Gordon D. Fee (1987:630) states that the Corinthians at least believed that they were speaking real human and angelic languages, especially considering that the Corinthians seem to have had a preoccupation with angels.

[13] Not that any miracle actually requires evidence for it to be a genuine miracle.

[14] “The best attested example of xenolalia [xenoglossia, where people spoke real languages] are … outside the Christian movement (for example spiritist circles) …”  (Turner 1996:299, footnote 25)

[15] It is important to note that while the occurrences of glossolalia, and other spiritual manifestations, greatly diminished after about 200 AD, there has been, throughout the Church’s history, isolated cases where Christian individuals and groups spoke in tongues. Since 1900, the practice of glossolalia has become increasingly more widespread among Christians.

[16] Perhaps this experience of “xenoglossia” happens frequently. I would not have even been aware that I was hearing anything remarkable (when I heard the Chinese lady speaking perfect English) if I had not discussed it with my fiancé and mother. How many similar cases have there been where the hearers were unaware that anything remarkable was happening? How many cases of xenoglossia have never been told?

[17] Perhaps it was a miracle of “xenoglossia” that enabled Balaam to hear his donkey speak real words (Num. 22:28ff).

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Devenish, Stuart, The Spirit in the Church and World: Study Book (Brisbane: Australian College of Ministries, 2010)

Fee, Gordon D., The First Epistle to the Corinthians (The New International Commentary on the New Testament; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987)

Goodman, Felicitas, Speaking in Tongues: A Cross-Cultural Study of Glossalalia (London: University of Chicago Press, 1972)

Hunter, Harold D., “A Portrait of How the Azusa Doctrine of Spirit Baptism Shaped American Pentecostalism” Enrichment Journal (Spring 2006): 78ff. (Source)

Newberg, A., Wintering, N., Morgan, D., and Waldman, M., “The measurement of regional cerebral blood flow during glossalalia: A preliminary SPECT study,” Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging 148.1 (2006).

Newbigen, Leslie, “The Community of the Spirit” in The Household of God (London: SCM Press, 1964)

Turner, Max, The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts in the New Testament Church and Now, Revised Edition (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2009)

Samarin, William J., Tongues of Men and Angels: The Religious Language of Pentecostalism (New York: Macmillan, 1972)

© Margaret Mowczko 2010
All Rights Reserved

This article has been adapted from an assignment submitted to the Australian College of Ministries on the 3rd of December, 2010.

Image Credit

The illustration of Pentecost is by Canadian artist Gisele Bauche. I’ve used it with the permission of the artist. Gisele’s website is at spiritualityandart.ca

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20 thoughts on “Speaking in Tongues and Xenoglossia

  1. Very interesting. I somehow feel a bit stupid having never thought off the Day of Pentecost outpouring happening in the temple. The supernatural understanding experiences are interesting in that they would also show that the tongue speaker’s language need not be a “understandable” tongue, but that a miracle of understanding will be another method God uses to communicate the message.

  2. Hi Jay,

    Thanks for leaving a comment. I’m glad you found the information interesting.

    While, I don’t think we can’t know for certain that the Christians were meeting together in the Temple Courts when the Holy Spirit was poured out, it does make a lot of sense and fits the events very well.

  3. Marg, thanks for sharing your personal experience. I have not visited any Pentecostal Churches, nor have I ever known anyone who spoke in tongues. In general, if the story had come from any other sources, I would be skeptical, but since it comes from you, I consider it completely credible, and as a result, my viewpoint has been broadened. Your experience with the Chinese lady and your mom’s experience with the German lady is really remarkable.

    1. Hi Mabel, I think God must be doing remarkable things all the time. To me it is remarkable that, for the most part, we rarely recognize that God is at work. I believe that most of his blessings and supernatural workings fly under or, more likely, above our (puny) radars. 🙂

  4. Thanks David. Me too! 😉

  5. Excellent and thoughtful essay.

    Under the radar, that’s me!

  6. Myself being a Cessationist and former continuest, have many more reasons than using the cannon closed for cessation of the gifts. One is in which history has proven through the writings of the patristic fathers. But first is what scripture tells us about why and when the gifts would be poured. Continuest have assumed that the gifts of tongues would continue beyond “the last days”. They in error interpret “the last days” as the end of this earth. But that’s further from what Saint Peter and Saint Paul interpreted scripture. The last days or lords day was a reference to the last days before the destruction of Jerusalem also known as judgement on Israel. In Acts 2 Saint Peter quotes Joel 2 to remind men of the coming judgment. ” I will pour my spirit” in the sun turning dark and the moon turning to blood are signs of coming judgment and this is the same event Christ points to in Matthew 24 again Sun turning dark and moon symbols. Christ said that ” THIS Generation ( greek word genea not genos) will not pass away until all that takes place. Tongues served a purpose of a sign as judgment on the last days. That’s why Saint Paul in 1Corinth 14 quotes Isaiah 28:11if you read all Isaiah 28 not just verse 11 you’ll see the context is Judgment by the destruction of Jerusalem. And that’s why Saint Paul says “Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. (1 Corinthians 14:22 ESV)
    Continuest have no case for continuation of the gifts just assumptions. That’s why for 25 years of me running in the Charasmatic circles not once I seen the actual gift of languages displayed from church to church I went. To gues would cease as a whole not a partial.

  7. Hi Joseph, Thanks for explaining the Cessationist position more clearly. While I think your understanding of the “last days” is plausible, I’m not convinced. But I will think about it.

    It is simply impossible for me to hold a Cessationist view because I have seen spiritual gifts being used many times; and I’ve seen many miracles over the years, some in answer to my own prayers. (Spiritual gifts are not necessarily used in church services but in Christian communities.)

    I’m don’t know what country you live in, but in places like China and Africa and in Latin America, the Holy Spirit is ministering to people in amazing ways. Moreover, I personally speak in tongues regularly.

  8. I am doing a study on the courts in heaven. That is how I came to your website; I was cross referencing speaking in tongues in court. There is some judicial teaching on the court of heaven, which have been great. But just like all studies, use what you can use and leave the rest. I was wondering since they were in the Temple courts when received the Holy Spirit, might it have anything to do with the court of Heaven? And I wonder was your mother speaking to a believer or non believer? If you have any information about speaking in tongues while entering in the courts. Please let me know. Thank you your blog was helpful. 🙂

  9. Hi Kimberly, I don’t think I can help you. I don’t have any information about the courts of the temple and I don’t know anything about courts in heaven.

    I also don’t know whether the person sitting next to my mother on the train was a believer. I’ll ask her tonight, and see if she remembers.

    I think the key to the first believers being filled with the Spirit and speaking in tongues, and their location in the temple courts, was that it was the Jewish feast of Pentecost. Jesus had told the believers to remain in Jerusalem in Judea, even though most of them were Galileans. I do not think they were always cooped up in a room. I believe they spent much of their time in the temple precincts.

  10. No body understood what Agnus osmans spoke. The theory that People speak in their age language and the hearers understand in their language is not correct. In Act 2 or in corinth.It never happened like that,nor in any pentecostal churches today.(1)In such case Holy spirit is working in unbeliever. (2)What is the need of translator (3) you told christian xenoglossia involves speaking real language is not correct 1cori 14;9-10 If you in the language speak words that are not intelligible how will any one understand. what you are saying for you will be talking into empty space,There are I suppose all these many tongue in the world and none is destitute of expression and meaning.

    1. In Acts 2:4-11 the Christians were filled with the Holy Spirit and people from all over the Roman Empire heard them speaking in their own languages. In Acts 2: 6 it says, “each one heard their own language being spoken.” In Acts 2:11 the people say, “we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” (I have had a similar experience myself, so I know it is not a theory.) This phenomena is called xenoglossia.

      There is another kind of ministry of tongues-speaking that needs an interpreter. This ministry is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 14:13, 27-28. Perhaps this was the kind of tongues-speaking Agnes Ozman was doing.

      Still another kind of tongues-speaking is used in prayers and does not need an interpreter because it is a prayer between the person and God.

  11. Hi Marg, I am a skeptic of sorts, studying Christianity to figure out if it is true. I’m curious, if you don’t mind my asking, what the gist of the Chinese lady’s message was when she started speaking in English halfway through her message. Were you the only one who heard it as an intelligible language? / Did anything notable happen at the moment when her message became intelligible to you? Was there an interpreter for her, and if so what language was he/she speaking in? (I am not trying to be critical, but to understand what exactly you experienced.) Thanks.

    1. Hi Elliot,

      The message was given more than thirty years ago and was relevant at the time, but I no longer remember it. Nothing notable happened to me at the time. I had no idea that anything especially remarkable was happening. And I don’t know if anyone else heard it as intelligible language. I assumed everyone was hearing what I was hearing, but found out later my mother and fiance heard something different.

      There was an interpreter. But, while speaking in tongues can be heard as a real language, it is not spoken as a real language. This is how I understand Acts 2 and my own experience.

      I have had many unexpected experiences where God has spoken to me in some way, so it is impossible for me not to believe in God. (I definitely remember some of the things he said and how they profoundly affected the present situation. God’s clear voice even caused me to save the life of a nephew who was, unbeknownst to anyone, including me, at the bottom of a swimming pool.

      I don’t know how anyone can believe in God without sensing him in some tangible way; and I feel sorry for, and a bit confused about Jesus followers who claim they have never experienced his presence in some kind of tangible way. I pray that everyone will know God, not just as a concept but as a living presence.

  12. Thank you for this article it is top notch, I myself have been studying this subject intensely and I am working on my degree.
    I also attend a “Pentecostal” Church, but for years I have had questions in my mind about S i T although I do practice the Gift.
    My concern is how do you work within a group or congregation that has a certain tradition that is not exactly correct.
    what i mean is that they are God loving and great people who don’t have any ill intentions, but just wont budge from a doctrinal stand even if there is data that suggests a slightly different meaning.
    Some of it involves improper verbiage and terminology, with regards to the “Baptism Of The Spirit”
    its a challenge that I’m engaged in and I know to always let love be first in any kind of discourse .

    God Bless , Joe

    1. Thanks, Joe.

      I imagine many Christians are faced with the challenge of slowly and delicately unravelling faulty theology and unhelpful traditions, and replacing them with biblical, sound theology. I wish you well with that.

  13. Thank you for this article Marg, I really appreciated it.
    I wondered if you might have some insight on a question I had. In Acts 10:46 it says the believers heard the gentiles speaking in tongues and praising God. Do you know if the Greek for that indicates or must mean that each person was speaking in tongues, and through tongues praising God? Or could it also mean for example that some were speaking in tongues, and some were praising God? Also in Acts 19:6, where Paul placed his hands on the believers in Ephesus and they “spoke in tongues and prophesied.” Are they two distinct signs God gave that these believers had been baptized in the Holy Spirit, or were they certainly prophesying through tongues? Basically right now, I think that tongues can be *an* evidence of the Holy Spirit but not necessarily the only evidence! And I wondered how these verses might or might not align with that thought.

    1. Hi Michelle, I definitely don’t think that speaking in tongues is the only or primary evidence that a person is filled with the Spirit. I had a couple of amazing encounters with God that changed my life, and that I can only describe as being filled with the Spirit, before I had the ability to speak in tongues.

      In Acts 10:46 in the Greek, the speaking and magnifying can be understood as two forms of speech. This is how I take it. However, someone could argue that the phrase “magnifying God” is functioning epexegetically and is explaining the “speaking in tongues.”

      The Greek particle τέ in Acts 19:6 more clearly shows that there are two forms of speech: “… the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began both (τέ) speaking in tongues and prophesying.” (My translation)

      Apart from the Good News Translation (“they spoke in strange tongues and also (τέ) proclaimed God’s message”), the English translations I’ve seen don’t translate τέ directly, but a few do translate the verse to show that speaking in tongues and prophesying is not the same thing.

      For example, the CSB and ISV and some others include the word “to” twice to slightly separate the two kinds of speaking.
      CSB: “they began to speak in tongues and to prophesy.”
      ISV: “they began to speak in foreign languages and to prophesy.”

      A few put a comma after “tongues” or “languages” to separate it from “prophesy.”

      1. Thank you so much Marg! That’s very interesting and helpful!

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