June 2, 2015

Were Tongues Real Languages?

by Nathan Busenitz

We begin today’s post with a question: In New Testament times, did the gift of tongues produce authentic foreign languages only, or did it also result in non-cognitive speech (like the private prayer languages of modern charismatics)? The answer is of critical importance to the contemporary continuationist/cessationist debate regarding the gift of tongues.


From the outset, it is important to note that the gift of tongues was, in reality, the gift of languages. I agree with continuationist author Wayne Grudem when he writes:

It should be said at the outset that the Greek word glossa, translated “tongue,” is not used only to mean the physical tongue in a person’s mouth, but also to mean “language.” In the New Testament passages where speaking in tongues is discussed, the meaning “languages” is certainly in view. It is unfortunate, therefore, that English translations have continued to use the phrase “speaking in tongues,” which is an expression not otherwise used in ordinary English and which gives the impression of a strange experience, something completely foreign to ordinary human life. But if English translations were to use the expression “speaking in languages,” it would not seem nearly as strange, and would give the reader a sense much closer to what first century Greek speaking readers would have heard in the phrase when they read it in Acts or 1 Corinthians. (Systematic Theology, 1069).

But what are we to think about the gift of languages?

If we consider the history of the church, we find that the gift of languages was universally considered to be the supernatural ability to speak authentic foreign languages that the speaker had not learned.

In the early church, the writings of Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Hegemonius, Gregory of Nazianzen, Ambrosiaster, Chrysostom, Augustine, Leo the Great, and others all support this claim. Here are just a few examples:

Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 329–390): “They spoke with foreign tongues, and not those of their native land; and the wonder was great, a language spoken by those who had not learned it. And the sign is to them that believe not, and not to them that believe, that it may be an accusation of the unbelievers, as it is written, ‘“With other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people, and not even so will they listen to Me” says the Lord’” (The Oration on Pentecost, 15–17).

John Chrysostom (c. 344–407), commenting on 1 Cor. 14:1–2: “And as in the time of building the tower [of Babel] the one tongue was divided into many; so then the many tongues frequently met in one man, and the same person used to discourse both in the Persian, and the Roman, and the Indian, and many other tongues, the Spirit sounding within him: and the gift was called the gift of tongues because he could all at once speak divers languages” (Homilies on First Corinthians, 35.1).

Augustine (354–430): “In the earliest times, ‘the Holy Ghost fell upon them that believed: and they spoke with tongues,” which they had not learned, “as the Spirit gave them utterance.’ These were signs adapted to the time. For it was necessary for there to be that sign of the Holy Spirit in all tongues, to show that the Gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth” (Homilies on the First Epistle of John, 6.10).

In reaching this conclusion, the church fathers equated the tongues of Acts 2 with the tongues of 1 Corinthians 12–14, insisting that in both places the gift consisted of the ability to speak genuine languages.

The Reformers, similarly, regarded the gift of tongues as the supernatural ability to speak real foreign languages. By way of example, here is John Calvin’s treatment of 1 Corinthians 12:10:

John Calvin: “There was a difference between the knowledge of tongues, and the interpretation of them, for those who were endowed with the former [i.e. the gift of tongues] were, in many cases, not acquainted with the language of the nation with which they had to deal. The interpreters rendered foreign tongues into the native language. These endowments they did not at that time acquire by labor or study, but were put in possession of them by a wonderful revelation of the Spirit.” (Commentary on 1 Cor. 12:10)

To the names of the Reformers, we could add the names of the Puritans, and the names of theologians like Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, Charles Spurgeon, and B.B. Warfield among many others.

Even Charles Fox Parham, the founder of modern Pentecostalism, was absolutely convinced that the biblical gift of tongues consisted of the supernatural ability to speak in human foreign languages that the speaker had never learned. When he and his students initially experienced the modern gift of tongues, they thought it consisted of real human languages. Parham stated his position clearly in a number of newspapers at the time. (These quotes come from chapter 2 of John MacArthur’s Strange Fire.)

Charles Parham cited in the Topeka State Journal, January 7, 1901:  “The Lord will give us the power of speech to talk to the people of the various nations without having to study them in schools.”

Charles Parham cited in the Kansas City Times, January 27, 1901: “A part of our labor will be to teach the church the uselessness of spending years of time preparing missionaries for work in foreign lands when all they have to do is ask God for power.”

Charles Parham cited in the Hawaiian Gazette, May 31, 1901: “There is no doubt that at this time they will have conferred on them the ‘gift of tongues,’ if they are worthy and seek it in faith, believing they will thus be made able to talk to the people whom they choose to work among in their own language, which will, of course, be an inestimable advantage. The students of Bethel College do not need to study in the old way to learn the languages. They have them conferred on them miraculously    . . . [being] able to converse with Spaniards, Italians, Bohemians, Hungarians, Germans, and French in their own language. I have no doubt various dialects of the people of India and even the language of the savages of Africa will be received during our meeting in the same way. I expect this gathering to be the greatest since the days of Pentecost.”

Parham, and his students, were convinced by their study of the New Testament that the gift of tongues consisted of the miraculous ability to speak in human foreign languages that the speaker had not learned. But there was one major problem. The tongues-speech of Parham and his students quickly proved to be something other than human foreign languages. In the words of charismatic authors Jack Hayford and David Moore:

Sadly, the idea of xenoglossalalic tongues [i.e. foreign languages] would later prove an embarrassing failure as Pentecostal workers went off to mission fields with their gift of tongues and found their hearers did not understand them. (The Charismatic Century, 42).

Other historians report the disappointment faced by early Pentecostals when it became clear that their tongues did not consist of authentic foreign languages:

S. C. Todd of the Bible Missionary Society investigated eighteen Pentecostals who went to Japan, China, and India “expecting to preach to the natives in those countries in their own tongue,” and found that by their own admission “in no single instance have [they] been able to do so.” As these and other missionaries returned in disappointment and failure, Pentecostals were compelled to rethink their original view of speaking in tongues. (Robert M. Anderson, Vision of the Disinherited, 90–91)

It might be worth noting that these early Pentecostals not only spoke in tongues, they also wrote in tongues. And some of these early tongues writings were published by local newspapers. Agnes Ozman, one of Parham’s students, was the first to speak in tongues on January 1, 1901. She reportedly spoke in the Chinese language, thereby launching the Pentecostal Movement. Ozman also claimed to write in Chinese. The picture at the top of this article showcases her work.

When it became apparent that the Pentecostal understanding of tongues did not consist of human languages, the entire movement was faced with an interesting dilemma. They could uphold their exegetical understanding of tongues and deny their experience. Or, they could hold on to their experiential understanding of tongues and radically change their exegesis. They chose the latter. And thus, a new understanding of the nature of the gift of tongues emerged out of twentieth-century Pentecostal experience.

To be fair, modern charismatics acknowledge the possibility that tongues can sometimes be foreign languages. They point to anecdotal evidence in an effort to claim that on rare occasions foreign languages might be spoken by a modern tongues-speaker. But those anecdotes do not hold up under scrutiny. As D. A. Carson rightly observes:

“Modern tongues are lexically uncommunicative and the few instances of reported modern xenoglossia [speaking foreign languages] are so poorly attested that no weight can be laid on them” (Showing the Spirit, 84).

When professional linguists study modern glossolalia (tongues-speech), they come away convinced that contemporary tongues bear no resemblance to true human language. After years of extensive research, University of Toronto linguistics professor William Samarin concluded:

Glossolalia consists of strings of meaningless syllables made up of sounds taken from those familiar to the speaker and put together more or less haphazardly. The speaker controls the rhythm, volume, speed and inflection of his speech so that the sounds emerge as pseudolanguage—in the form of words and sentences. Glossolalia is language-like because the speaker unconsciously wants it to be language-like. Yet in spite of superficial similarities, glossolalia fundamentally is not language. (cited from Joe Nickell, Looking for a Miracle, 108)

This brings us back to the question we asked at the beginning. Has the church, historically, been right to conclude that the gift of tongues in the New Testament consists of the supernatural ability to speak in foreign languages previously unknown to the speaker? Or is the modern charismatic movement right to conclude that the gift of tongues encompasses something other than cognitive foreign languages?

For a full discussion related to those questions, from a cessationist perspective, click here.

Nathan Busenitz

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Nathan serves on the pastoral staff of Grace Church and teaches theology at The Master's Seminary in Los Angeles.
  • 4Commencefiring4

    It amazes me that missionaries who thought they were going to be able to miraculously communicate with people in far away lands like China, before getting on the boat and spending perhaps weeks making the trek, wouldn’t have discovered before they ever left our shores that no Chinese people in America could understand them.

    “Hello, Charles? Alexander. We may have to rethink this trip. I just ordered a corned beef on rye from Hop Sing down at the bodega, and he shrugged and gave me his sandals.”

    • Jason

      Having previously attended a congregation that taught all sorts of stuff like this, just about anything can be explained away as a deeper, more mystical meaning.

      For instance, in the very amusing conversation you created Alex could have been “corrected” any number of ways:

      Perhaps the devil confused the person he was talking to so that he would doubt his ability to do the mission trip (probably with some allusion to Moses thinking he was unworthy because he wasn’t a master of speechcraft added for additional “Bibleness”). This would mean the trip was especially important, as it warrented specific opposition.

      Maybe God was trying to tell him something. Could it be that he should fast (since he didn’t get food) for the mission trip (symbolized by the sandals)?

      The only limit is Chuck’s creativity. Everything that confirms the popular belief is praised while everything else is explained away as meaningful, but not in the obvious way.

      Without a specific standard against which to measure things one explaination is as good as another.

  • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

    When scripture is twisted to fit an experience, God is not behind it.

    • Courtney King

      I totally agree with you! But I do have a genuine concern. I have not yet decided what I believe as far as to continuation of gifts. I am still learning. But I do find it interesting that those who most firmly believe in the ceasing of the gifts like tongues and prophecy are in large part convinced by experience. Jesse said this in his article, “Why I am a cessationist” : “My strongest argument is also the most circular, so I might as well get
      it out of the way at the front. I believe the sign gifts have ceased,
      because they are not around anymore.” To me this basically means, “In my experience, I have never seen any of the sign gifts, so I don’t believe they exist.” The emphasis is on experience. So honestly, I see the same thing in a lot of cessationists. They try to explain away the portions of scripture that don’t align with their views and their experience. I think the more honest thing would be for all Christians to acknowledge that in a lot of areas, we simply don’t know. Where Scripture is silent, we ought to be so careful to not dig in our heels.

      Also, the only reason I put this question here, is because you raise such an excellent point. I’m not trying to argue at all. I am just sympathetic to both sides of the debate.

  • Still Waters

    A short study of the English etymology of ‘language’ demonstrates what the NT meant by ‘tongues’. The word ‘language’ is derived from the Old French ‘langage’ via the Norman invasion of England. As French is a Romance language, the origin of ‘langage’ was the Latin ‘lingua’ meaning ‘tongue’. Indeed, in modern French, the word ‘langue’ is used to refer both to the physical tongue and to language as a social construct. Thus, ‘speaking in languages’ and ‘speaking in tongues’ are the same thing.
    I used to work at a conference centre that was non-denominational. We served all types, but the most amusing were the Pentecostals. I remember one meeting presided over by a prophetess. We had finished our work and gone to rest, but we could hear that prophetess holding forth in ‘tongues’ from the chapel. I was studying a couple of different languages at the time, and I was not impressed. I could tell there was no grammatical structure or any kind of syntax to the utterings. I know from experience that if a language is real, you can learn it simply by listening and being around the people who speak it long enough – I picked up a lot of a tribal langue that way once. But what I heard as ‘tongues’ in that meeting could never be learned because it had no meaning.

  • fundamentals

    If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels. Hyperbole? Or heavenly language?

    • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

      Hyperbole. Compare Galations 1:8. Jews often stated or swore by something greater than themselves to make a point, see Hebrews 6:16.

    • Still Waters

      Jane’s is an excellent point. However, to give the hypothetical case that there was a heavenly language distinct from any other language, from what the Bible says, could we infer that somehow our built in decoding systems, which allow us to learn any earthly language given time and experience, cannot not fathom the language of heaven without a special visitation from the Holy Spirit. I would say, “No.”

      Consider all the angelic encounters recorded in the Bible. Even Balaam understood the angel he spoke to (he also understood his ass); although the Holy Spirit seems to have only used that greedy prophet at certain times for God’s own purposes and left him to his own devices for the rest of the time. In fact, every time angels are recorded as speaking, they are understood by the hearer; and likewise, angels understand the human speakers.

      Both Paul and John were told not to repeat certain things they heard in Heaven, but they did understand them, and John wrote much of what he heard in Heaven. So even if there was a heavenly language, it is translatable into our earthly tongues. Thus, those who claim to speak in a heavenly tongue should be able to be understood, or as Paul said, have a translator (interpreter) who understands them.

      I have heard supposed interpretation in displays of ‘speaking in tongues’, and I have to say, that there seems to be no consistent correspondence of any kind between what the tongue speaker and what the interpreter say. For example, an interpreter who speaks for a much longer or shorter time than the original speaker is suspect; also, if there are repeated words in the interpreter’s message, but no corresponding repeated sounds in the speakers utterings, that also is highly questionable.

      The only way I could see the possibility of there being a heavenly tongue is if one reads the account of Pentecost as saying that the apostles spoke a language that could be understood by all the different nationalities who were listening, rather than actually speaking those national languages. But that actually supports my argument that a heavenly tongue should be understandable to humans, because none of the listeners were Christians.

      They were listening to be converted, and thus, needed to understand the heavenly tongue, if indeed it was such a thing. Only three thousand were converted that day, which would lead one to think that not all of them were being worked on by the Holy Spirit. All of which would indicate, if such a heavenly language exists, it would be immediately understood and require no interpreter. Clearly, one who speaks in glossolalia cannot claim to be speaking a heavenly tongue.

      • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

        My response now to those who push tongues as a heavenly prayer language is to ask them, “Why then did Paul say that tongues were for unbelievers and not believers?” They either cannot respond or accuse me of putting God in a box by using scripture. It’s frustrating.

    • Curt

      The greater context of the verse helps explain the intent of the whole argument being presented. “If you can do ANYTHING, but have not love it’s meaningless.”

  • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

    I once confronted a youth pastor who was said to be “teaching” the students to speak in tongues. As we spoke he became agitated and literally backed me in a corner, so I pretended to speak in tongues (babbling). He lit up as if he was witnessing a miracle. I stopped and said, “No, that was fake. And that is what kids do when you teach them a counterfeit gift.” He turned and stormed out.

    • 4Commencefiring4

      Like Andy Kaufman’s little foreign man, Latka Gravas. “Ee bee daa.” Very good.

  • E S Gonzalez

    First, thank you for revisiting this topic.
    I’d greatly appreciate it if someone would speak to 1 Cor 14 in light of this post, where the writer SEEMS to make a case for the validity of “speaking in tongues” as unintelligible language but an argument against its abuse to show-off or present oneself as “super spiritual” (for lack of a better phrase).
    My understanding from that passage of Scripture is that, “Yes, it IS real thing but it’s WITHOUT purpose or benefit to the CHURCH unless it’s interpreted to build up.
    v2: “For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.”
    v5: “Now I want all you to speak in tongues …”
    v6: ” … if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching?”
    v14: ” … If I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful.”
    v18: “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. Nevertheless …”
    v22: “Thus tongues are a sign NOT for believers but for UNbelievers …” (Honestly, I’ve read this and thought, “Is this why I don’t respond well to the act? Because I’m a believer?” lol Seriously. I’d like to come to some peace about this thing.)
    Also, I do contrast (rightly or wrongly) what Paul is writing about here to what went down in Acts 2, where there–in my opinion–is NO ROOM for the interpretation of unintelligible language.
    Where I’ve landed is here: While I have a very hard time believing that what I’ve heard those around me utter to this point is Spirit-given, I’m not prepared to say it does not happen at all today. I just don’t feel comfortable saying that so decidedly.
    However … as for myself … if it’s God’s will for me to ever be used in this way, I pray and EXPECT it to look the way it did in Acts 2:
    -outside of my control;
    -intelligible (to SOMEONE, lol) language being used in an undeniably PURPOSEFUL way (someone who speaks that language is PRESENT to hear whatever it is GOD has COMPELLED me to say to him or her.);
    -powerfully glorifies the Lord, points to Him
    Finally, I think it’s important to note that we’re not all meant to do it and should not be counted as lacking the Holy Spirit or Its fullness if we don’t (end of 1 Cor 12); and we should not forbid it (1 Cor 14:39) (but rather pray for discernment and tests the spirits). That’s my understanding anyway …
    Thanks again for writing about this.

    • Renton

      Full exegesis of 1 Cor 14 in ‘Tongues Revisited: A Third Way.’ available On Amazon in Kindle version. See also http://www.tonguesrevisited.com

    • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

      E S, first it is important to note that Paul was writing this letter to the Corinthians around the same time as mentioned in Acts 18. So like those at Pentecost, the Corinthians were given the ability to speak in different languages to reach unbelievers around them. The problem was that they were using the gift selfishly, showing off to other believers, thus Paul’s criticism of “Stop acting like children.”

      Think of it this way; If I showed up a Bible study and began to speak in German, but no one else in the room could speak German, I might impress a few people, but no one would understand me. So if I speak in a language that no one else in the room can speak, I am in fact not speaking to men, but to God (who alone can understand all languages). Anything I say would be a mystery to those in the room. That is what Paul was trying to correct. Paul was grateful they had this gift which was intended for unbelievers, but rebuked them for using it to edify themselves and not others. I must admit that if I was given the ability to speak German I might be showing it off too.

      When passages are not read in their context and manipulated to fit an experience that is not consistent with scripture and history, there is deception. Hope that helps.

      • Ben Thorp

        I’m not convinced that speaking a known language that only you understand really equates with “mysteries in the Spirit”.

        I think the problem here lies in the fact that it’s impossible to come to the text without bias. Most people who approach it saying “it obviously means real languages” are actually saying “I’m a cessationist”, because I can’t recall a single occurrence of someone saying “exegetically it’s obviously earthly languages, and therefore I’m praying for God to give me the gift in that way”.

        Moreover, if try and work from a continuationist standpoint, we need to recognise that, from the point of view of the speaker, an earthly language they have never learned is just unintelligible as anything else. Would tongues therefore have no place in single-language congregations?

        For the sake of transparency, I am a continuationist, I do believe in “heavenly” tongues as well as earthly tongues, I do know of at least one instance of somebody I have met personally who has given a tongue and been told afterwards by a visitor which language they were speaking. I also believe that tongues has been badly misused and abused in the church (but then – so has preaching, and I still believe in that….)

        • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

          Ben, I encourage you to read all the resources on this topic here on Cripplegate. Because this is an issue that is often approached with much bias, it is important to research what church history can reveal about it, when did this form of tongues begin and how do we rightly divide the Word to come to an accurate understanding of what Paul was saying. Cripplegate can offer you a wealth of knowledge on this topic from men who have studied this extensively and prayerfully.

          • Brett Vermillion

            The bias written into and read from Church history is almost as pronounced as the articles about the charismatic gifts are here on Cripplegate. As for “rightly dividing the word”, cessationism is a very weak exegetical position, no matter how much I would like it to be true. No one would ever come to this conclusion from the text alone. And students of Church history should know the cessation position came into favor in the Church through pragmatism, not prayerful and extensive study.

          • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

            Brett, since I assume you are a student of church history, you must be familiar then with what John Chrysostom, Augustine, Theodoret of Cyrus, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Owen, Thomas Watson, Matthew Henry, John Gill, Jonathon Edwards, James Buchanan, Robert Dabney, Charles Spurgeon, George Smeaton, Abraham Kuyper, William Shedd, Benjamin Warfield, Arthur Pink and D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones had to say on the gifts of the spirit during their time in church history?

            If not, I would encourage you to stop by your local bookstore and sit down for a minute with MacArthur’s book “Strange Fire” and read the section in the back called “Voices from church history”. And may your conclusions be based on prayerful and extensive study.

          • Brett Vermillion

            I believe that people generally resort to lecture and condescension when they cannot make a sound argument to support their assertions. I would also point out that you did not address either one of my 2 simple points, let alone give a convincing argument to refute either. I have Dr. MacArthur’s book. As a last bit of advice you might want to check your list of names and edit out those men who disagree with you. That might require a bit of study.

          • Wispa

            Brett, there is a very sound exegetical basis for cessationism. See, for example, Tom Pennington’s talk from the Strange Fire conference: http://www.gty.org.uk/resources/sermons/TM13-7/a-case-for-cessationism . Please take the trouble to listen to it.

            But I also have to say that the onus is on continuationists to prove their case, not just exegetically, but also practically. The supposed spiritual gifts practiced by charismatics/pentecostals today are nothing of the sort and objectively fall far short of the Biblical definitions.

          • Brett Vermillion

            Wispa, I appreciate your approach and understand your arguments. I listened to the Strange Fire conference and have listened to Tom’s preaching before, including when he would fill in for Dr. MacArthur while I was attending Grace Community Church. I am well aware of the arguments. I would like for his beliefs and yours to be true and not to have to deal with all the nonsense the charismatic movement. Please understand that I am not arguing that cessationism is false. But I have to be honest with the text and good argument from scripture just cannot be made, no matter how skilled the exegete. And since a strong exegetical argument can be made for continuation I would disagree with you and say the onus is on the cessationist to make his case. Best to you.

          • chrisleduc1

            By the way the very fact that the denomination “Pentecostalism” is named after the event described in Acts 2 – Pentecost – that should be a huge red flag. They knew full well that the Church always understood that the gift of tongues was real human languages. Thats what they thought they had. But after being proven to be nothing more than gibberish, they refused to admit they were wrong and instead came up with an entirely new “spiritual gift” of “tongues” that was unknown throughout Church history.

          • Brett Vermillion

            My comments are not in support of Pentecostalism or their claim that the modern “tongues” gift is biblical. I believe the reason some cessationists keep talking about Church history and Pentecostal aberrations is to distract from the weakness of their scriptural argument. In short, nothing Pentecostals do or say strengthens the biblical support for cessation.

          • chrisleduc1

            You are misunderstanding the case that is built upon Church history. Paul said that tongues would cease. He did not make it clear when that would be as that was not his point but rather the simple fact that tongues would cease. Church history records that tongues did in fact cease. All across the Christian world we have testimony from various bishops who were aware of what was going on in their respective regions, and they all say the same thing. Tongues ceased. It’s just the reality of Church history. If you have primary sources saying otherwise, I would seriously love to see them. Do please share your knowledge with me.

          • Brett Vermillion

            I agree Paul said that tongues would cease but he actually did say when, “when the perfect arrives” and we “see face to face”, and we “know fully”.

          • chrisleduc1

            Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple. There are at least 6 different positions as to what “the perfect” is. And that’s just the views on the meaning of perfect.

            Some (such as F.F. Bruce) argue that love itself is the
            perfect. Thus when the fullness of love comes, the Corinthians will put away
            their childish desires.

            Some (such as B.B. Warfield) contend that the completed canon of
            Scripture is the perfect. Scripture is described as
            “perfect” in James 1:25, a text in which the same word for “mirror” (as in v.
            12) is found (in James 1:23). Thus partial revelation is done away when the
            full revelation of Scripture comes.

            Some (such as Robert Thomas) contend that the mature church is the
            perfect. This view is primarily based on the illustration of verse 11 and
            on the close connection between this passage and Eph. 4:11–13. The exact timing
            of the church’s “maturity” is unknown, though it is closely associated with the
            completion of the canon, and the end of the apostolic era (cf. Eph. 2:20).

            For an excellent defense of this view see either, Robert Thomas’s TMSJ article:
            http://www.tms.edu/tmsj/tmsj4g.pdf; or Don McDougall’s TMSJ article: http://www.tms.edu/tmsj/tmsj14g.pdf.

            Some (such as Thomas Edgar) see the believer’s entrance into the
            presence of Christ (at the moment of death) as the perfect. This
            view accounts for the personal aspect of Paul’s statement in verse 12. Paul
            personally experienced full knowledge when he entered Christ’s presence at his
            death (cf. 2 Cor. 5:8).

            Some (such as Richard Gaffin) see the return of Christ (and the
            end of this age) as the perfect. This is also the
            view of most continuationists. Thus, when Christ comes back (as delineated in
            chapter 15), the partial revelation we know now will be made complete.

            Some (such as John MacArthur) view the eternal state (in the
            general sense of the glorified state)
            as the perfect. This view accounts for the neuter of to teleion (as
            a reference to a general state of events and not a personal return of Christ),
            and also allows for the obscurity of revelation to continue into the Millennial
            Kingdom. This view overlaps with both numbers 4 and 5 above in that, according
            to this view: “For Christians the eternal state begins either at death, when
            they go to be with the Lord, or at the rapture, when the Lord takes His own to
            be with Himself” (John MacArthur, First Corinthians, 366).

            Not only do we have this first problem, there several other problems, several which pretty much combine to deliver the death blow to your assertion.

            1. Paul says tongues will cease in 1 Cor 13:8. He also says that knowledge and prophecy will cease. The first issue is that he uses two different Greek words to describe the cessations in 13:8. He alternates between the Greek word used for prophecy ceasing, then a different word for tongues ceasing and then back to the original word for knowledge ceasing. The voice is also different for tongues. So the cessation of the tongues differs from prophecy and knowledge. The text makes that clear- different verbs and different voices in the Greek text, obviously different things being described.

            2. The next problem is that when Paul actually begins to delineate the cessation, he does not mention tongues. In 13:10 he says that what is “in part” will cease. Verse 8, the previous verse tells us what is “in part” and its: knowledge and prophecy. No mention of tongues. Thats because as Paul already established, the cession of tongues is different from that of prophecy and knowledge. So the things that are “in part” according to vs 9 are what we know and what we prophecy. And those are the things that Paul addresses in verse 10 when he explicitly states, “but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.” T

            So simply asserting that tongues will cease ” when, ‘when the perfect arrives’ and we ‘see face to face’, and we ‘know fully’ ” is to make the text say something it plainly does not say.

            But the biggest problem is to come. See, Paul is not talking about the gifts themselves ceasing in 13:10. So basically this entire discussion is a moot point. Paul says when the perfect comes, the partial will cease. Here is the problem, the gift that Paul had and experienced were not incomplete, and those gifts are not to be replaced with a perfect gift. Thats just utter nonsense. Paul is referring to the content of the gifts i.e. the revelation given by the gifts. What we have now is incomplete. When the perfect comes, our understanding will no longer be incomplete.

            Dr. Thomas Edgar (Professor of NT at Capitol Bible Seminary) says in Satisfied By The Promise Of The Spirit:

            “One other significant aspect should be noted. The prophecies and
            knowledge in this passage are not the gifts themselves, as most interpreters
            seem to assume, but the content associated with the gifts. There are several
            reasons for understanding the passage in this way. The gifts are not partial,
            nor will there be a day when the partial gifts will be replaced by complete
            gifts. The stress in this passage is not on the gifts but on knowledge and
            prophecies, such as Agabus’s prophecy regarding famine. The word “prophecies”
            used here does refer to the gift in a few passages. However, it usually refers
            to the prophecies themselves. Likewise, “knowledge” is not described anywhere
            as one of the spiritual gifts. The “word of knowledge” is the gift; however,
            this title is not used here. Finally, verse 12 refers not to gifts specifically
            but to unclear versus direct sight and partial versus complete knowledge. In
            the same way, “tongues” in this discussion must refer to language rather than
            to the gift. When the gift of tongues is being discussed, some qualifying
            addition such as “speak in” tongues or “the” tongues is used. The apparent
            exception in 1 Corinthians 14:26 actually refers to the language spoken rather
            than the gift itself and is, therefore, no exception.

            Someone will object
            that this entire section of 1 Corinthians discusses gifts; therefore, this must
            be the issue here. While Paul is still discussing gifts, in this particular
            section he is discussing the content resulting from the gifts and the basic element
            involved in the gift of tongues. He does this in order to show that the basic
            reason for these gifts is only temporal and the gifts are, therefore, less
            significant than love that lasts. Direct sight and complete knowledge will
            eventually be every Christian’s privilege; therefore, the partial knowledge and
            prophecy resulting from the gifts will no longer be necessary.

            The content resulting
            from these gifts goes on long after the gift was exercised to produce that
            content. For example, Isaiah prophesied many years ago and his prophecy still
            remains, although both Isaiah and his gift are long gone. Thus, whatever the teleion may be, it is only the content
            that continues, not necessarily the gift. It is only language that continues to
            that point, not necessarily the gift. If, as seems apparent in the passage, the
            teleion refers to the individual’s
            presence with the Lord, this passage does not refer to some prophetic point in
            history. These factors mean that this passage does not teach when gifts will
            cease or how long they will last. It serves to remind the Corinthians of the
            abiding nature of love in contrast to the gifts, which by their inherent nature
            are only temporal, only for this life.”

          • Brett Vermillion

            I seems worth noting that it is profitable to make this passage as complicated as possible to avoid the clear reading which undermines your position. I acknowledge that 2 different Greek words are used and that may or may not be significant.

            You said: “So simply asserting that tongues will cease ” when, ‘when the perfect arrives’ and we ‘see face to face’, and we ‘know fully’ ” is to make the text say something it
            plainly does not say.”

            First, you know those quotes were straight from the text so that is exactly what it says. Nice try. Whether tongues and prophecy and knowledge continue until that event or just prophecy and knowledge may be in question (see above).

            I would also say that the clear sense any unbiased person would get from this passage is definitely not right and to say “it plainly does not say” is to make a stronger unsupported assertion than I did even though the plain reading favors my interpretation. Additionally, even if you could prove tongues already passed away, that does nothing for prophecy either here or in another supporting passage in Acts 2.

            And even more you would still have to show where in the scriptures the Holy Spirit changed His mind about the gifts being needed in the Church.

            In short I don’t see any “death blows” in any of this. I don’t think you should be doing any victory dances just because you muddied the waters.

          • chrisleduc1

            Brett I am a little surprised by your response. The text in question says:

            “For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.”

            You tried to say this applies to tongues, even though tongues is explicitly excluded.

            I point that out and your response is “First, you know those quotes were straight from the text so that is exactly what it says. Nice try.”

            Really? Yes, I know they came from the text, however they say nothing about tongues.

            “Additionally, even if you could prove tongues already passed away, that does nothing for prophecy either here or in another supporting passage in Acts 2.”

            Again, I think you misunderstand the cessationist position as your quote above clearly demonstrates. The argument is that certain gifts have ceased. Continuationists say they call continue. If tongues ceased, then actually the cessationist position is proven to be correct. But I was not trying to make that point from this text, not does this text teach it. My original point was that Paul did not say when tongues would cease. You tried to use the vs 9-10, which speak specifically about prophecy and knowledge, and say they refer to tongues, which as I said “it plainly does not say.”

            “I don’t think you should be doing any victory dances just because you muddied the waters.”

            Again, I dont understand why you are making these accusations. You are misusing Scripture and saying it says things that it does not say. I am trying to clean up the waters after you muddied them.

          • Brett Vermillion

            I gave my single and concise reading of the text. It was clear enough for you to understand and attempt to refute. In your argument you gave 6 different interpretations of the passage without resolution. This really confused the issue. My argument was single and clear. Your argument was confused and muddy. That was my point.

            I wasn’t dogmatic about my interpretation. But I maintain that the text doesn’t eliminate the possibility. And you provided no counter resolution from the text about when tongues cease.

            You were dogmatic that my interpretation couldn’t possibly be true even though you only provided opinion that it probably doesn’t. And any honest reading would have to admit that it is NOT exegetically unsound.

            I didn’t say it “said” that, I said it was my interpretation. You have a strong and uncharitable tendency for exaggeration that adds to muddying the waters and your passion to insultingly disagree.

            You kept asking again and again what my opinion was and then when I give it you accuse me of making dogmatic assertions. But I’m not like you.

          • chrisleduc1

            Brett have you seen the lecture this came from? I would be very curious to know why you think his exegetical case is “weak” ?

          • Brett Vermillion

            Chris, you are conflating a case for tongues being languages with a case for cessation. I agree they were languages, I do not agree that this makes the case for cessation.

          • Wispa

            Brett, I have to disagree with your view on the exegetical basis for cessationism. For example, Tom Pennington’s arguments are drawn from detailed study of the text. So we can’t agree on this or the related onus of proof.

            What I’d like is for you to give me some modern-day examples of the main three supernatural gifts: tongues, prophecy, and healing. I want to know about people who can speak a foreign language that they haven’t learnt. I want to know about predictiive prophecies that come true. And I want to know about people who are miraculously healed of visible medical conditions. Please give me examples of all three that are more than hearsay and can be verified.

            If your continuationist theology is valid, there should be abundant examples for you to draw on. I look forward to heaing from you.

          • Brett Vermillion

            I must have not communicated this very clearly. I didn’t give the exegetical basis for cessationism. I did not say there is no exegetical basis for cessationism. I didn’t even say cessationism is false. I said cessationism originally came into the early Church in much the same way as hard Cessationism came into the modern Church, observation and reaction to error. The scriptural arguments came later, in support of the pragmatic reaction.

            To be clear I believe the scriptural basis for cessationism is weak and imposed on the text through eisegetical manipulation but that is not my argument for continuation. My argument for and belief in continuation of the gifts is completely scriptural, like my belief in Heaven and Hell. I do not need to see them to believe. The Bible has proven itself to be a reliable witness in many ways, both objective and subjective. That’s all I need.

            Even if there was some physical evidence that you would accept as legitimate you would find another explanation for that evidence. And even if you could prove that every miracle in the world was false it would not make a scriptural case for cessation, only a practical case against continuation.

          • Wispa

            Hi Brett,

            I accept that both continuationism and cessationism have exegetical basis. We can disagree over which is correct, but whichever you choose has to be true in practice.

            You cannot take the view that God is giving his people miraculous gifts today if such gifts are absent from the church. That’s cognitive dissonance – believing something which is contradicted by the facts.

            You may be interested to know that I was once a continuationist but then became a cessationist, because I concluded that the claims of continuationists do not stack up. I didn’t want to do this, but everything I saw left me no choice. I would be more than happy to change my position back to continuationism if I am wrong – perhaps I’ve been missing something – but to date I have seen nothing of significance. I note that you avoided answering my challenge.

          • Brett Vermillion

            I did not avoid, I stated it doesn’t make or break my argument and it won’t help or hinder yours. I could give many examples of verified organic sicknesses that people I know have been healed of. But that is irrelevant to my scriptural belief. As it should be to yours. All but the hardest cessationists believe miracles still happen. They believe miracles are only an answer to prayer, not due to spiritual gifts still present in the church.

            My belief is that everyone who believes in a cessation of the gifts does so for some combination of of 3 reasons: 1) influence of other cessationists 2) lack of evidence or 3) charismatic error. No one would ever get cessationism from the scriptures alone.

          • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

            I apologize if my post appeared to be of lecture and condescension. That was not my intention. I assumed your points were regarding bias being written and read into church history, to which I gave names of church leaders who had specific quotes regarding the spiritual gifts.

            Also, could you please tell me which men in the list you are referring to and what their quotes were on this issue.Thank you.

          • Brett Vermillion

            Thank you Jane. Here is what I meant. Everyone who writes or reads Church history has a bias. There is no unbiased history. The trick is to figure out and consider each historians bias as we read. I agree, each person has a position about the gifts. What I was referring to was how the DOCTRINE of cessationism came into the Church, not how general cessation of the gifts came into the church. The position came in through pragmatism, not careful and prayerful study of the Bible. And I firmly believe the harder cessationist positions today have come about in much the same way, as a reaction to charismatic excess and a lack of evidence. As far as which men held what position I won’t make that so easy for you. I would respectfully warn that Church history is all contextual, a quote from 100, 500 or 1500 years ago must be put in it’s proper context to be rightly understood. So quote mining for any particular position only muddies the water. Best to you.

          • chrisleduc1

            Brett, you’ve made quite a few statements. Would you mind expounding them for those (like me) who want to understand what you are saying? All I really read were assertions but no actual arguments with premises or Scripture or citations from Church history, or anything at all really.

            Do you believe all the gifts of the Spirit have continued until today?

            Which texts would you point to that say they will all continue throughout the entire Church age? You said a strong exegetical case can be made for continuationism, so I would love to see this. I’ve read Carson, Piper, Storms,Grudem etc. on this so I’d love to see exactly what you are talking about.

            You said that the exegetical case for cessationism is very weak. Could you explain? My understanding is that it is so strong that even Grudem had to invent a completely new type of prophecy (that he admits was never known throughout all of Church history) because he confessed that the texts indicate that that gift has ceased.

            Can you cite some primary sources from Church history that demonstrate that tongues were believed to be something other than known human languages? Or than tongues as real human languages did continue throughout Church history?

            You have had a lot to say so Im really hoping you will take them time to actually substantiate your claims. I’d like to know why you believe what you believe. Thanks

          • Brett Vermillion

            If you have read Carson, Piper, Storms, Grudem, etc. you understand my general position. How could I assume to add anything to these men? However I disagree with them on prophecy and tongues. Like Prof. Busenitz, I believe “tongues” were real languages and the the standard for prophecy has not changed since it was given in Deuteronomy 13 & 18. And even though I disagree with him I can assure you that Dr. Grudem’s case for modern prophecy is not based on a reaction to the soundness of the cessation argument. I would caution against assuming anything other than honesty and integrity in his position. He is a gentleman and a scholar of the highest caliber.

          • chrisleduc1

            Well, they all approach this from a different angle and even disagree, and disagree quite a bit a times. So I am asking YOU what YOU believe since YOU are making all the assertions.

            So you are aware of Grudem’s completely novel teaching regarding why the gift of prophecy has not ceased? You don’t find it concerning that he has literally invented a novel interpretation in order to support his position? He confesses himself that apart from his novel interpretation that the secessionist position would be correct. To say that exegetical case for cecassionism is weak when in reality the only way for Grudem to argue against it is to invent a completely novel interpretation, is a little odd to say the least…

            Would you care to address any of my other questions?

            Have all the gifts continued through today?
            If so, based on which texts?
            Why is the exegetical case weak for cessationism?
            You mentioned Church history – can you cite any actual references?
            Do you believe that Apostles are still being given today?

          • Brett Vermillion

            I think your general attitude of challenging people is un-biblical and un-Christian but for charity sake I will answer your questions this time. I said I have the same general position (in the continuation of the gifts that is based on the scriptures), not that we all agree in specifics. I am aware of Dr. Grudem’s position on prophecy, and I disagree. But you are assuming too much if you think that the presence of (what he identifies as) prophecy is the reason he believes in the continuation of the gifts. He believes in the continuation from the scriptures, as I do. I have stated my position about prophecy in my last response to you and as I have most of your other questions elsewhere. Since the Holy Spirit gave the supernatural gifts and the Holy Spirit through Peter said that this would characterize the Church age (Acts 2:17-21) and also said through Paul that prophecy would continue until the return of Christ (1 Corinthians 13:8-12) it is up to the cessationist to show from the scriptures that He changed His mind. All I mentioned about Church history is that 1) people can write or read into it whatever they are looking for and 2) the cessation of the gifts became the general position of the church through pragmatism, not through careful and prayerful study.

          • chrisleduc1

            I appreciate you being charitable. I will consider your comments that I am acting unbiblically and un-Chritsian, and you are of course welcome to address that to my elders at Grace Church and my supervisors at the seminary I attend. I want to be sure that I am above reproach. I do not agree that “challenging” people to actually back up their assertions is being un-Christian but again, I will consider it.

            The fact still remains that you keep asserting that “the cessation of the gifts became the general position of the church through pragmatism, not through careful and prayerful study” yet those are nothing but assertions. Can you substantiate the claim in any way? That’s quite an accusation to make against the MANY who have held that position.

          • Brett Vermillion

            I maintain that your attitude is uncharitable. And you need to repent. I didn’t say that individual people came to their individual conclusions pragmatically, although they may have. It was not an insult against anyone and I believe your accusation is trying to start a fight and feel vindicated. I think you are doing this because you feel the ground under your arguments is shakey. I said the Church came to this position pragmatically. This was a response to Jane’s comment to the contrary. The church was reacting to charismatic issues and noticing a general cessation of the gifts. Then they went to the scriptures to find support. Apparently, much like you do.

          • chrisleduc1

            Actually Brett, when I was a new believer, I was a continuations. I believed that tongues and prophecy, the true spiritual gifts of the 1st century, still were being given today. It wasn’t until deep study of Scripture that I realized that I had been taught wrong. Then seeing that the Church also held the cessationist position since the times immediately following the Apostles was also very intriguing. A study of their exegesis of the Scriptures has been very beneficial.

            So, you keep asserting, “I said the Church came to this position pragmatically” and I keep asking for any shred of evidence of that. Anything to show that the texts in questions were interpreted the way continuationists do today. Anything at all to back pu your assertion. You just keep making the assertion over and over. I guess at this point it’s clear that you are only interested in boasting about your opinion rather than actually engaging argument or citing references of substantiating claims. That’s fine. There is normally a reason why posters make their comment history as “private” and I normally dont engage with people who feel the need to hide their comments, but since you made so many bold assertions I figured I’d see if you are willing to add anything to the conversation. Anyway, all the best to you.

          • Brett Vermillion

            I don’t believe that anyone ever came to a cessationist position on their own with the scriptures. They were influenced by 1) charismatic issues, 2) pragmatism, and 3) other cessationists (maybe not in that order). In fact there is no way you could be in this culture and not exposed to all 3 of those things.

            The problem with cessationism (demonstrated aptly by you tonight) was the total lack of scriptural support. There isn’t a single passage anywhere that states or hints at the Church not needing the spiritual gifts or the Holy Spirit changing His mind about them.

            There was no cessationist position immediately following the Apostles, it was over 200 years later.

            I gave my reading of early Church history on this issue 2 or 3 times in this thread. I can’t help that you refuse to acknowledge that.

          • JB

            I think there is a tendency among some Cessationists to downplay the paucity of biblical teaching that directly supports their view. Indeed, there’s no specific statement that certain gifts will cease. Thus I think a better way to look at the issue is the following:

            1. The Bible very clearly explains the nature of spiritual
            gifts, especially the sign gifts (prophecy, tongues/languages, and healing)
            both through direct instruction and narrative example.

            2. Today, these three gifts are no longer appearing in local churches and there is significant evidence that they haven’t been since the time of the apostles.

            3. Those who claim to still have these gifts are regularly shown to be practicing things that are significantly (sometimes comically) different from what the NT describes.

            4. Our only recourse in this situation is to look to Scripture and try to understand why they are no longer appearing. The result of this work leads to the conclusion that these gifts had a particular purpose that was fulfilled (namely, authenticating the work of Jesus and the apostles). It should be acknowledged that this conclusion is based on the implications of various texts rather than by direct teaching.

            Now some might object that the process I have outlined above is simply using experience to dictate our interpretation (perhaps falling under “pragmatism” as you described), but that’s not really the case. We are taking our experience and trying to understand it through the lens of Scripture.

            Even if you reject Cessationism, you still have to explain our experience of hundreds and thousands of healthy, biblical churches all over the world that have no hint of the sign gifts. All the other attempts I’ve heard at explaining that experience from Scripture (for example, that God withholds those gifts when a church doesn’t believe that they are continuing) are much more speculative than the “fulfillment of purpose” explanation.

            In light of this, perhaps it is better for Cessationists not to say that the Bible proves THAT the gifts have ceased but rather it explains WHY they have. For some that will no doubt be begging the question, but I refer you to point #3 above and Ms.Ozman’s drawing at the top of this post.

        • Wispa

          Ben, you said “I do know of at least one instance of somebody I have met personally who has given a tongue and been told afterwards by a visitor which language they were speaking”. The problem with claims like this is that they are totally anecdotal and unverifiable. Either the speaker or the visitor could have been lying (sorry to say that but such deceit is common amongst charismatics), or mistaken. They could have been told that their tongue sounded like xxx and concluded that they were speaking xxx (note the subtle shift from a possibility to a certainty – such exaggeration is also commonplace). Or the visitor could have said the tongue was xxx but they were just wrong. You can’t eliminate all these possibilities.

          100 years ago, pentecostal missionaries travelled across the world because someone told them that their tongues were chinese, bengali, or some other foreign language. This was not the case and their efforts to communicate with the locals failed miserably. The belief was genuine but it was totally wrong.

          The track record in this area is not good and I’m not going to take something at face value. There’s a saying that extraordinary claims require exceptional proof and that simply doesn’t exist.

        • E S Gonzalez

          1) I agree that speaking an intelligible language unknown to anyone in the vicinity doesn’t equate w “mysteries in the Spirit.”
          2) Ben, you said, “I can’t recall a single occurrence of someone saying ‘exegetically it’s obviously earthly languages, and therefore I’m praying for God to give me the gift in that way.’ ”
          Didn’t I say JUST that?
          If it wasn’t clear before, let me clarify: I think we can all agree that known, earthly language was used at Pentecost for the PURPOSE of proclaiming the Gospel.
          If it’s for me to have, I pray it happens just THAT way to me.
          I’m inclined to believe that it happened the same way (KNOWN, earthly language) with Gentile Cornelius and his household (Acts 10) because the Scripture reads: “And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished … because that on the Gentiles ALSO was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and MAGNIFY GOD. Then they answered Peter, … which have received the Holy Ghost AS WELL AS WE?”
          And in chapter 11, Peter says, “And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, AS ON US AT THE BEGINNING. … For as much then as God gave them the LIKE GIFT AS HE DID UNTO US, who believed …”
          What I set in all caps supports that they spoke known language because Peter and his band recognized it as such, identified it as “LIKE” What occurred with them at Pentecost. It didn’t sound unrecognizable– AND they (Peter and his group) APPARENTLY UNDERSTOOD that the Gentiles were MAGNIFYING GOD.
          In Acts 19, it’s less clear, to me anyway … and hazier still in 1 Corinthians 12-14.
          So while I don’t believe I’m a hard-n-fast cessationist, I’m not at all persuaded that the utterances I’ve witnessed to this point are even a little bit biblical.
          -First, if you’re employing it as a private, prayer language, why am I hearing it?
          -Second, how is it you can turn it off and on like the tap?
          -Third, why doesn’t a single person understand what you’re saying, and why is no interpretation is given?
          -Lastly, what purpose has it served? What revelation was given? What teaching? What knowledge? What prophecy?
          Having said all that, it seems a bit presumptuous to say, “this manifestation of the Spirit is nonexistent or unnecessary today,” but what I’ve seen/heard … I don’t believe it’s legit.

      • Josh

        If the gift was intended to benefit unbelievers, why does verse 23 immediately follow with an argument that their use will confuse unbelievers?

        • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

          Again, read it in its context; “If the whole church comes together and ‘everyone’ speaks in tongues (different languages) and some who do not understand (the languages) or some unbelievers come in (who do not understand the languages), will they not say you are out of your mind? But, if an unbeliever comes in while everyone is prophesying (in a language they can understand) he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner…and will exclaim, ‘God is really among you!”

          That is why Paul stressed in verse 9 that unless they speak intelligible (understandable) words, no one would know what they were saying. They would simply be confused.

          The purpose of tongues was no different here than in Acts 2:11 where people heard “the wonders of God in their own tongues and were amazed.”

          Also, if it were a heavenly language, why did Paul reference Isaiah 28:11,12 in verse 21 when he cited what would happen at Pentecost with the Jews subsequent refusal to listen, “Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people but even then they will not listen to me” says the Lord.

          Tongues were for unbelievers to hear the wonders of God in their own language so that the gospel would spread throughout the world. What we are seeing today is not the biblical tongues of the Bible.

    • jpoteet2

      I was raised in a pentecostal church and there’s a lot I’ve had to unlearn, but this issue remains as one that I’m unsure of. When Paul speaks of praying in the Spirit and praying with understanding, it seems clear that he DOESN’T understand what he’s praying when he’s praying in the Spirit. Is he praying in German then? Why would he be praying in another human language? What would be the point? Obviously Acts 2 was human languages, but verses like this make me believe that it is not always necessarily human languages.

      • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

        When Paul instructs the Corinthians to pray with understanding (or with their mind in the NIV), I believe he was encouraging them to learn the language, either by natural means or with the help of the Holy Spirit.

        I say that because throughout the chapter, Paul seems to be stressing the point that speaking in a language that you or your hearers don’t understand makes no sense. Therefore, he instructs them to pray to understand what they’re saying so that others will be edified. I guess my question to those who speak in tongues today is why aren’t they interpreting what they are saying and relaying that to the church so that all are edified as Paul instructed them to do?

  • tovlogos

    “They could uphold their exegetical understanding of tongues and deny their experience. Or, they could hold on to their experiential understanding of tongues and radically change their exegesis. They chose the latter. And thus, a new understanding of the nature of the gift of tongues emerged out of twentieth-century Pentecostal experience.”

    Right — Makes sense, Thanks Nathan.

  • Renton

    The thesis: ‘That Biblical tongues are normal human languages, normally learnt and normally spoken.’

    • Archepoimen follower

      This book is not based on a thorough understanding of the Greek which underlies the English translations in these passages! The authors arguments lack clarity and exhibit faulty exegesis. Therefore, it is appropriate that his work has been ignored in discussions of this issue.

      In Him whose Grace is sufficient,


  • Brett Vermillion

    This was a good article debunking a lot of the nonsense in the Charismatic movement today. Most of the “tongues” spoken originates from the flesh and some of it is literally demonic. And though I appreciate and agree generally with Nathan’s conclusions, he stops short of making a case against there being an actual heavenly language, whether continuing (in practice today) or not (passed away with the Apostles).

    • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

      Brett, “Still Waters” makes some good points regarding heavenly language about seven posts from the top.

  • Adam Bohne

    QUESTION: Why is it that everyone who is a proponent of speaking in tongues quotes 1 Corinthians 14 as a proof-text but not Acts 2? The answer is an obvious one. The text in Acts 2 confronts us with an objective, outward reality that could be verified/tested by anyone who had ears to hear. This is what took place in Acts 2: “And how hear we every man on our own tongue, wherein we were born?” (V.8) The text in 1 Corinthians 14 has no such objective accountability, being somewhat more opaque than Acts 2. Therefore it is easy to cite the Corinthian text as the basis that one has the gift of tongues rather than Acts 2. If the claim is made that “I have the gift of tongues” countered by the question, “What language is it that you are able to speak?”, the rebuttal is, “I am speaking with the tongue of angels and am speaking mysteries.” (1Cor. 13:1; 14:2) The opponent of tongues is then left wondering how they can refute this SUBJECTIVE claim. Those who claim to possess the gift know very well this is the case. Those who then join forces with them in claiming to have the gift of interpretation, also hold to a position unverifiable to the listening world. They know you cannot prove with absolute objectivity that they do not have the gift of interpretation. 1 Corinthians 14 thus becomes the preference for interpreting whether someone has the gift of tongues and interpretation rather than Acts 2 which sets the precedent, and which, by the way, was indisputably objective and therefore verifiable as the text so clearly shows. 1 Corinthians 14 becomes a subjective safeguard for those who are convinced they have the gift of tongues or interpretation, unlike Acts 2 which confronts them objectively with their claim.

    • Brett Vermillion

      I don’t have a subjective claim, I have a scriptural one that can be objectively verified. I would use Acts 2 not only as a proof text for tongues as languages but also for the continuation of the spiritual gifts as the Holy Spirit through Peter said that these things would characterize the Church age. The cessationist then needs a text that is at least as clear as Acts 2:17-21 to show the Holy Spirit changed His mind about that. Additionally there is what the Holy Spirit through Paul spoke in 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 that prophecy/tongues would continue until Christ returns.

      • chrisleduc1

        If that is the case, i.e. that Acts 2 is our control, then let’s consider a few things.

        1. Prophecy described in that text is Old Testament prophecy. It’s an Old Testament quote. That fact alone completely undermines Wayne Grudem’s entire premise for continuationism. He has to create a second type of prophecy to suggest that the gift has not ceased. His own words, not mine: “If[Ephesians 2:20 is] referring to all the prophets in all the local congregations in first century churches . . . then it would seem that they are portrayed in a unique ‘foundational’ role in the New Testament church, and we have to agree with Dr Gaffin—we would expect this gift to cease once the New Testament was complete.” The context is that cessationists argue from Ephesians 2:20 that apostles and prophets were temporary foundational gifts that ceased. Grudem realized this, admits the text means this about Apostles, but then invents a new type of prophecy in order to justify calling what exists today as “prophecy.”

        2. Since you assert that “the Holy Spirit through Peter said that these things would characterize the Church age” then the problem is that you have to explain why you arbitrarily determine that the first half of Joel’s prophecy is “characterize the Church age” and yet the second half of the prophecy does not. That quite a problem you have there because there is absolutely no exegetical case for saying one characterizes the whole age, and the other does not. That pure eisegesis, plain and simple.

        Another way to understand it, which I believe best fits reality and the text, is that the first half of the prophecy book-ends the beginning of the Church age, and the second half of the prophecy book ends the end of the Church age. Any other position is literally just an arbitrary exercise in eisegesis.

        • Brett Vermillion

          I didn’t say that the second half does not characterize the Church age. Even if I had, that wouldn’t be an example of eisegesis, it would be an example of selecting passages that help my argument and ignoring those that don’t. Eisegesis is reading your idea into the text. That is what hard cessationists do.

          If you say Last Days does not equal the Church age, you are the one the scriptural problem. Are you a preterist? Again you have to deny the plain reading of the text and try to muddy the waters. You can distort these passages all day long and it will never make a case for cessation.

          You didn’t prove anything about 1 Cor. 13 itself. You disproved your own argument that the Church has spoken universally by quote mining 6 different commentator who all disagree. And you showed that you are very religious about this but not very rational.

          • chrisleduc1

            Sorry that you feel the need to misrepresent my statements. They are pretty clear. I cannot continue with someone who is dishonest (yes I said that because I know very well that you understood what I said and are simply choosing to misrepresent it) and so I am done with the this exchange and I wish you all the best. Feel free to have the last word.

          • Brett Vermillion

            You see, this is a clear demonstration of your uncharitable attitude. You accuse me of dishonesty and misrepresenting? If you are in seminary to become a pastor, please take my advice and work out this bad attitude first. You are going to have many people who disagree with you and you have to be able to patiently correct. You really seem to be trying to throw a lot of stuff out there to draw attention away from your lack of biblical support. I can honestly say that your arguments are not at all clear and I have no idea what you believe except that you are a hard cessationist and you believe I am a really bad person.

          • Brett Vermillion

            I hope it didn’t escape anyone’s attention that Chris provided NO interpretation for any part the Acts 2 passage and even refused to answer questions about his position, but kept demanding the interpretation for the one part of the passage.

          • Robert Sakovich

            Sorry, but I must say that you only seem to be in here to staunchly defend your position and not deal seriously with what is said that goes against it. And this comment comes off as you just wanting to be declared winner of a debate instead of engaging in serious dialogue. I thought I would share this since you brought up the fact that this person needs to learn to patiently correct those he disagrees with. It might not have been your intention, but that is certainly how you come off in the comments.

          • Brett Vermillion

            Actually that wasn’t my iintention at all. Paul kept accusing and demanding and even though it look from the start as if he was just trying to pick a fight, I tried to be patient and answer. Late last night I just lost patience. I should have allowed others to see his double standard if they had ears to hear. The reason I pointed that out to him is that he said he wanted to know if he was being uncharitable and he also said he was in seminary. I can’t imagine a shepherd treating his sheep this way or even treatimg others this way who are not clearly his sheep. But you are right, I should not have been staunch or defensive. Touché.

          • chrisleduc1

            Here is just a short catalog of your false and untrue
            statements Brett. Yes, as you said “You see, this is a clear
            demonstration of your uncharitable attitude. You accuse me of dishonesty and misrepresenting” and Brett as can be seen below, my accusations are absolutely not unfounded.

            Brett: “I agree Paul said that tongues
            would cease BUT HE ACTUALLY DID SAY (emphasis mine) when, “when the perfect arrives” and we “see face to face”, and we “know fully”.

            But then you changed your story::

            Brett : “I didn’t say it”said” that, I said it was my interpretation. You have a strong and uncharitable tendency for exaggeration that adds to muddying the waters and your passion to insultingly disagree.”

            Well Brett it’s pretty clear that you asserted: “BUT HE ACTUALLY DID SAY” and it was not that you simply “said it
            was my interpretation.” No quite the contrary, you said “he actually did say.” Your changing your story.


            Brett: “I hope it didn’t escape anyone’s
            attention that Chris provided NO interpretation for any part the Acts 2 passage and even refused to answer questions about his position, but kept demanding the interpretation for the one part of the passage.”

            Brett in the very thread you are replying to I said:

            “Another way to understand it, which I believe best fits reality and the text, is that the first half of the prophecy book-ends the beginning of the Church age, and the second half of the prophecy book ends the end of the Church age.”

            I am not sure how you can, with a clear conscience, reply to what I wrote above by saying “Chris provided NO interpretation for any part the Acts 2 passage”

            You also said:

            Brett: “You didn’t prove anything
            about 1 Cor. 13 itself. You disproved your own argument that the Church has spoken universally by quote mining 6 different commentator who all disagree”

            This is just one example where you are totally misrepresenting my argument. I never said anything about the church universally agreeing about the definition of “perfect” which what I gave 6 interpretations for: “There are at least 6 different positions as to what ‘the perfect’ is.”

            I simply stated that based on your own argument that tongues
            will cease with the “perfect” we have major problems because there are highly respected theologians who disagree about what the term means, and several of them would lead to the conclusion that it has come already. You can’t simply say tongues cease with the perfect, when there are more than 6 different opinions on that, and then never actually develop what the “perfect” means. Thats a cop out.

            Furthermore, I also made it clear that this is not the real problem with your stated position. First, I showed that you took the text and twisted it because Paul wasn’t even talking about tongues in the texts your quoted. But most importantly, I said “but the biggest problem is yet to come and then I cited Dr. Thomas Edgar who refuted your usage of 1 Cor 13. I think
            that statement alone shows that the part about 6 interpretations is not the most important point, even though you continue to keep repeating it and you have never once engaged with the actual “biggest problem.” Edgar says “The
            prophecies and knowledge in this passage are not the gifts themselves, as most interpreters seem to assume, but the content associated with the gifts.” That is a clear statement that exegetically, strictly from the Scripture itself, your argument from 1 Cor 13 is wrong. He lays the case out. You’ve completely ignored it.

            Brett: “I wasn’t dogmatic about my

            Well, you’ve offered no alternatives, and stated your ‘interpretations’ as fact and continually refused to give any supporting evidence. You’ve not explained why one interpretation is better than another, or even pointed to various interpretations. You are clearly being dogmatic, and denying it won’t make negate the reality of it.

            Brett: “I don’t believe that anyone ever came to a cessationist position on their own with the scriptures.”

            You are directly replying to my comment where I said “It wasn’t until deep study of Scripture that I realized that I had been taught wrong and believed wrong.”

            You’re essentially calling me a liar and saying that since I did not come to my conclusion in a vacuum (which
            is not how the Church operates) then my position is not because of the Scriptures. That’s a pretty shameless accusation to make. The fact is, nobody operates in a vacuum. What you are trying to do is say that positions are not held because of exegesis of Scripture because they are not formed in a vacuum and that’s just utter nonsense.

            The Scriptures clearly indicate that certain gifts were
            temporary and that’s why I am a cessationist. Ive never attempted to make a case for the position from Scripture, not have you asked me to. Ive simply shown you the problems with using the texts that you have to support your
            position, and Ive given abundant explanations for the problems as well as what I think are the correct interpretations of the those texts. But then you flat out accuse me, in the very same thread, of never having given an interpretation and you ignore my main point and misrepresent my other points, and then denying saying the very things you have already said.

            This type of stuff is exactly why some posters make their post history private, as you have done. Nobody wants to try and have a discussion with someone who contradicts themselves and misrepresents others and ignores the real arguments and makes false accusations.

          • Brett Vermillion

            I apologize for my unclear communication. I believe that Paul says in the passage in 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 when tongues will cease. I do not think tongues needs to be repeated in verse 9 to be included in the “when the perfect arrives”. It is possibly significant but not necessarily. So what I meant was that I am not dogmatic about that belief. But I think there is sufficient evidence there to doubt my position.

            I stand corrected: you did provide an interpretation for the Acts 2 passage. Honestly your posts are so long with so much extraneous material just pasted in from other sources I can’t follow you. But I retract that comment and will delete it. My attitude was wrong anyway.

            I said: “I don’t believe that anyone ever came to a cessationist position on their own with the scriptures.”
            This had nothing to do with you. It is a general statement that I made in at least 2 other places in responses to this blog article and have made many times over the years of dealing with cessationist issues. It’s not about you. And I firmly believe it is true.

            I never called you a liar. I do not say things like that. You are the one who called names.

            I maintain that your uncharitable attitude is very prominent and you need to really consider whether you are just stuck in a serious sin and need to repent or maybe consider whether you are qualified to shepherd Jesus’s flock.

          • chrisleduc1

            “Honestly your posts are so long with so much extraneous material just pasted in from other sources I can’t
            follow you.”

            3 points:
            citing references and actual arguments and exegesis of particular Scriptures is hardly “extraneous material.” You might actually try doing it some time. Im not the only one asking you to substantiate your claims. Its getting rather silly at this point.

            B. Saying “just pasted in from other sources” surely looks like an attempt to marginalize the content of the posts. Everything I’ve posted had been directly related to my posts. If I’ve made a point, and then backed it up from primary sources and Scriptures, and explained interpretations of Scriptures, how is that “extraneous”? Why does it matter if I copied it out my the notes from my study rather than re-typing it all out? The real question is, why do you refuse to engage with any of the arguments. And note again, I am not the only one accusing you of this.

            C. Because I cite Scripture and sources, you saying “I can’t follow you” really says more about either your ability, or your desire to actually discuss this, than it does my posts. I am surely not the best writer but to say you cant understand what I am saying because of the length, really is a considerable jab at yourself, as I write a lot and really don’t get that complaint. I have no problem saying that you are just choosing to ignore what I am saying. Actually this is demonstrated by the fact you really don’t engage what I say. And ultimately since you note that I “paste in from other souces” you should at least be able to follow their arguments!

            You noted finally that I did give my explanation to Acts 2, and I also pointed out
            the problems with what I perceive to be your understanding. You’ve still
            refused to address any of that, much less any of the other points Ive made
            anywhere else.

            Brett you repIied to me and said: “I don’t believe that anyone ever came to a cessationist position on their own with the scriptures.This had nothing to do with you.”

            Well, here’s the problem.
            You can try to justify what you said and when you said it, but when someone
            says “It wasn’t until deep study of Scripture that I realized that I had been taught wrong and believed wrong” and then literally, your very next reply to them, your opening sentence is: “I don’t believe that anyone ever came to a cessationist position on their own with the scriptures ” – you are going to have a hard time convincing anyone that you weren’t addressing the comment that was just made and that you are replying to. Fact is you are directly contradicting my statement, whether you want to admit it or not.

            I do find it interesting that I have a stack of books from various Th.D and Ph.D professors who make the case for cessationism strictly from Scripture, and yet you have the audacity to claim to know their beliefs and how they are formed better than they do! And even my own testimony, that you feel you can tell me its not true… Wow… If I say I came to my conclusion from a serious study of Scripture and you reply that you don’t believe that that happens, what are you saying? Stop playing dumb here everyone can read it clear as day.

            “I maintain that your uncharitable attitude is very prominent”

            Brett, stop being a hypocrite. Being a hypocrite is when you accuse and condemn someone for something you yourself are guilty of. You have already been shown that your accusation actually describes what has been seen it you. And you’ve continued by never actually engaging any arguments, bur rather trying to say “your posts are so long with so much extraneous material just pasted in from other sources I can’t follow you.” Furthermore, your accusation is just a sustained ad-hominem attack. Ive give you point after point after point. Ive cited reference and reference and given various interpretations to various Scriptures. You just ignore them all. Trying to attack my attitude is nothing more than a way to divert attention away from the fact that you are either unwilling or unable to actually engage with the arguments you have been presented.

            Simply asking you to substantiate your claims is not uncharitable. Showing your own contradictions is not either.

            Why don’t you follow Matthew 18 and specifically show me my sin. Let’s depart from vague-ville and fuzzy-town and be very specific. If I am in sin, I do not wish to remain there, so please, show me specifically.

            “maybe consider whether you are qualified to shepherd Jesus’s flock.”

            I consider that regularly.
            Who is sufficient? Maybe you should take that issue up with my elders and
            pastors who said I was qualified to go to seminary, or with those who current
            have watch over my soul. You are more than welcome. I am not a rogue or an island to myself. I am willing to listen to any genuine criticism. So I hope you will at least specifically show me my sin if you are going to condemn me for it.

      • Adam

        Brett, the cessation of tongues is another issue. My primary argument is that anyone who claims to have the gift of tongues cannot objectively prove it if it is not of the nature displayed in Acts 2; i.e., known languages. The apostles could have claimed they were speaking in tongues on that day of Pentecost and their claim could have been, and indeed was, verified by those who heard them speak in their native tongue. Those who do not display the gift of tongues in the same manner, and instead claim to be speaking with some form of angelic tongue unknown to human beings, have no objective proof they are really speaking in tongues. What they claim to be so, is unprovable and therefore remains a claim on their part, but objectively unverifiable both to themselves and the rest of the world; hence it remains subjective. In other words, they feel they have the gift and may indeed sense some form of feeling within themselves when supposedly exercising the gift, but they cannot prove it to the rest of the world nor themselves that what they are displaying is the gift of tongues as established by the Holy Spirit of the day of Pentecost through the 120 in the upper room. They indeed could lay claim to the gift in irrefutable and indisputable fashion.

        • Brett Vermillion

          So you agree with me that there is an objective test. Great.

  • Jason

    This article is great for both the church history and the history of modern glossolalia. However, there are plenty of comments that justifiably are claiming they’d like to see Biblical proof.

    I spent a great deal of time digging into this when I was pushed by friends to “learn” to speak in tongues because I’ve never had my conscious more assailed than when I was being preasured to be “more holy” by gaining gifts through trial and error (and from people I generally trust).

    The part of 1 Corinthians 14 that really put the nail in the coffin of this topic for me was verses 13-19. Paul says unknown language is unfruitful for those around him but more he says it would even be unfruitful to his own mind to pray in such a language. Finally, he says he will pray in spirit and mind (context translation: not in a language he doesn’t know).

    Therefore, the discussion of whether glossolalia is actually a valid expression of the gift of tongues is pointless. Since no man can understand it: it is unprofitable to unbelievers (which is what Paul says it’s for [1 Cor 14:22]), it is unprofitable to fellow believers, and it is even unprofitable to your own mind.

    We should be praying in languages that are profitable to our mind as well as our spirit, and corperately, in a language that can be understood by those around us (and if not remain silent or find someone who can interpret your language before speaking [1 Cor 14:28]). Glossolalia dies of atrophy because a “more perfect” (1 Cor 13:10) was available from the start (any language people understand).

    The discussion of cessationism is much larger than this and the Bible focuses on qualifications that determine the end of gifts more than the times. The Bible makes it clear that gifts are given as the Spirit wills for the building up of the church and will be available only as long as needed. Whether it is needed at any particular time turns into a very experiencial descussion for both sides.

    Bottom line: If someone’s claiming to have a “gift” that isn’t leading the church to increased maturity (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control [Galatians 5:22-23]) than you can be sure it’s not from God. It’s not as clean as saying “under no circumstances should this gift ever be considered valid” or “just trust it” which is where most people feel comfortable, but it’s Biblical.

    • Brett Vermillion

      Quick points from 1 Corinthians 14
      1) Verse 4: Paul says that the gift of tongues edifies the one who practices it
      2) Verse 5: Paul says that he wishes they all had this gift
      3) Verse 18: Paul says he is thankful that he uses this gift more than them all

      RE: Your Bottom Line: I would argue that their misuse of the gift was the reason for the apostolic correction. So to say if someone is misusing it then it is not from God is going too far.

      • Jason

        1) It’s clear through the text in various places that a person could grow spiritually performing the gift of tongues even if it didn’t personally affect them in any other way. However, verse 14 clearly teaches that speaking an unknown language is always subpar (for your own edification) to speaking in a language you can understand because then you can build up both your spirit and mind.

        2) He’d be crazy not to! The trade city of Corinth was extremely multilingual. Not only would witnessing require people to speak language they may have never learned but even within a gathering of believers multiple languages may have been necessary.

        If someone who had something to edify the group didn’t know the primary language of the gathering the gift would have been an immense blessing. An interpreter could alternatively be useful in such a situation (1 Cor 14:13).

        That’s different from saying that he wished they all would be using their gift to speak languages at times when nobody hearing it would understand or (if such is the case) that he wished they would use it to speak a language that nobody would ever find useful. In fact, the entire chapter is railing against such usage in both corperate and personal worship.

        3) Being “Apostle to the Gentiles” I’d be more surprised if that wasn’t true. Such a gift would have been invaluable. However, he also says he will pray in a language he can understand to edify his mind as well as his spirit and admonishes them repeated to use it to speak languages that someone can understand so that it can be beneficial.

        Bottom Line Correction)
        I wasn’t talking about a gift that, through misuse, failed to edify the church in a particular instance. I could see how it could be read that way, so sorry for the instance-specific slant of my wording.

        I meant a more general context. If a supposed “gift” is incapable of adding to the total edification potential a person has to offer to the body it isn’t from God. For instance, you can be sure that someone conjuring gold dust to fall from the ceiling isn’t working from God because it doesn’t promote any fruit of the spirit (someone could argue joy if they needed more self-control in the materialism department I suppose… :-P)

        If the gift provides a language you don’t understand, speaking it could build up your spirit but not your mind (making it less beneficial to you personally than prayer in your common tongue). If nobody else understands it than it doesn’t build them up either. A “gift” of a language that no man can understand (indeed, could not hope to) will always reduces edification and isn’t from God.

        I don’t mean to imply that if it’s not from God than it must be from evil supernatural sources. It’s immaturity, not demonic forces, that have people chasing after signs as a show of their holiness. This is why I felt the need to point out the fruit of the Spirit which is the only true sign of a believer.

        Unfortunately, plenty of immaturity shows not only among the charismatic circles (where adultry, theft, etc… are nearly daily headlines) but among the wider church. We’re all failing to disciple people well and a proper understanding of what is edifying is lost (probably to some extent to all of us).

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