Claim #4

  • Claim: The gift of tongues was never intended to be a gift to speak another human language
  • Author: Jesse
  • Written: 4 years ago
  • Category: Pneumatology
  • Answers: 0

The gift of tongues was never intended to be a gift to speak another human language


The gift of tongues has caused much debate in the Christian world. The debate is not only on whether the gift is still in power today or not, but there is debate also concerning the nature of that gift.

The most common debate is between cessationists, who claim that the gift of tongues was a gift to speak an understandable human language (say spanish, portuguese, etc.)1, and pentecostals/charismatics who claim that the gift was (and is) an ability to speak in non-human languages or a language of angels which no man can understand. Only in Acts 2:4-8, they believe, was the gift a human language, and it was so only for that single occasion. 

In other words, many pentecostals/charismatics claim that the gift of tongues spoken of in Acts 2 was different to the one in 1 Corinthians 14, where Paul says when it is spoken, others will not understand what you are saying (1 Cor. 14:16).

But the Bible never speaks of two different kinds of "gift of tongues", so it either has to be that both Acts 2 and 1 Cor. 14 speak of a gift that was a real human language (or why not a language of angels sometimes), or both were languages that no human understood.

It is more likely that the gift of tongues was (and is) a language that no-one can understand except God (1 Cor. 14:2), and in the occasion of Acts 2:4-8, the miracle was not in the speaking of a language, but in the hearing of the speaking.

It does feel a bit odd to think that the disciples were simultaneously speaking each in a different language and many people from different nations heard what they were saying. How could they hear over all that noise? But what if their ears were opened to hear their own language even though the disciples spoke a language only God can understand? It is notable that Acts 2:6 and 8 both say that the people "heard" them speak their own language, and not that the disciples "spoke" their language.

To give this case some further proof, let us ask the following question: Why does the Bible also speak of the gift of interpretation (1 Cor. 14:13, 27, 28)?

If the tongues needed interpretation, why didn't the Holy Spirit just make them speak in a language that was understood by someone in the church? Just as he apparently did in Acts 2? And if there were a few people in the congregation who could speak a different langauge, was the Holy Spirit avoiding those languages so that the man speaking in tongues wouldn't accidentally speak those languages in order that God would receive all the glory for giving both the language and the interpretation?

If we think of these questions, it should be clear that the languages spoken did not even need to be real human languages. God gives the language so a believer can speak secrets in the spirit to God (1 Cor. 14:2), and He also gives the interpretation if it is needed for the edification of the church (1 Cor. 14: 26-27). There is no proof that the gift of tongues ever was a real spoken language. Not even in the occasion of Acts 2:4-8.


  1.  MacArthur, John. "Acts." The MacArthur Study Bible English Standard Version. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Bibles, 2010. Print. 

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