Tuesday, September 13, 2011


The first problem concerning the speaking in tongues is the result of misinterpreting the only passage in the Gospels that mentions it. The final six verses of Mark's Gospel have been debated among Christians, probably more than any other passage, much to the delight of Satan. Mark wrote in 16:17: "And these signs shall follow them that believe; in My name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues."

The first word of the Lord's last instructions to the eleven (v.14), is the subject of the sentence, "You" (v. 15). In Greek, as in English, the subject of a command, order, or suggestion, "you," that is the person or persons being directed, is usually left out of the sentence and is said to be the "understood subject." They were to go proclaim the Gospel to "every creature," including Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles. And, they would observe the evidence of salvation. As I mentioned in an earlier part of this series, they obviously failed to listen carefully.

Jesus listed five signs that converts would exhibit as evidence of a genuine conversion (Mk. 16:17-18), but our focus here is that they would speak in new tongues; (the other signs may be topics for a future study). Just as an aside, it amazes me that so few insist that the other signs be required to verify the salvation of a believer.

The word, "tongues," is translated from the Greek γλῶσσα (glōssa), a feminine noun, meaning "the language or dialect used by a particular people distinct from that of other nations" in this context. The word, "new" (Mk. 16:15), when describing tongues in Acts (2:4, 11; 10:46; 19:6), means "new to the speaker." It could not be referring to the hearers, because they obviously heard what was being said in their native language. In their effort to "clarify," English translators inserted the word "unknown" as an adjective describing tongues in one of Paul's epistles (1 Cor. 14:2, 4, 13, 14, 19, 27). Paul knew and used the Greek word for "unknown" in 2 Corinthians 6:9 and Galatians 1:22, so if he thought it was necessary to use it, he would have. And, if they were going to "help Paul in his writing," a much more descriptive word would have been "unlearned."

As I wrote earlier in this series, the signs were for the Jews (1 Cor. 1:22). In Acts, the Apostles Peter and Paul were the Jews observing the sign of speaking in tongues by Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles. However, by the time Paul wrote his corrective first epistle to the Corinthians, he had quit his focus on converting Jews to Christ, and had moved on to focusing upon the Gentiles (Acts 13:46). It appears that the main problem lies in the exercising of speaking in tongues by Gentile believers in a congregation composed of other Gentiles.

To be continued, God permitting.

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