The Pagan Origins of Modern “Speaking in Tongues”


Yesterday, during our discussion of the phenomenon of speaking in tongues in my modular (intensive) course on the Holy Spirit, one of my students, a Vietnamese, related his experience as a Buddhist youth in his village. An uncle would visit their house and then start babbling unintelligible words and sounds in a trance. But when their dog started barking, he would fall asleep as his head would fall back, and then be silent. Then when the dog stopped barking, he would wake up and then point to various things in their house telling them that those things have evil spirits in them.

His story reminded me of the fact that unintelligible babbling known as “speaking in tongues” in the modern Pentecostal movement is widely practiced in cults and even in non-Christian and pagan religions. Richard Ganz, in 20 Controversies that Almost Killed a Church (p 212) says that this kind of babbling is practiced by Mormons, The Way International, Hindus, Muslims and many others.

But this practice is not only a recent phenomenon, but was common in pagan worship long before Christ came. Robert G. Gromacki, in The Modern Tongues Movement (pp 5-10), documents the history of “speaking in tongues” in antiquity. Some of these ecstatic babbling were reported in the “Report of Wenamon” (about 1100 BC), Plato’s Dialogues (5th century BC), and Virgil’s Aeneid (1st century BC). The Graeco-Roman mystery religions before and after the Christian era most probably practiced these babbling utterances.

Gromacki also documents this phenomenon in modern times among Muslims, Buddhists, and Eskimos. Worship rituals of Eskimos are an attempt to contact the spirit-world, and “are characterized by drum beating, singing, dancing, and nudity.” He cites a book by another author who observed an Eskimo ritual:

Suddenly one of the men, Krisuk, went out of his head. Unable to contain himself to the regular rhythm of the service he leapt to his feet crying like a raven and howling like a wolf. In ecstasy he and the girl, Ivaloo, began to yell in a tongue I could not understand… Certainly it was not the usual Eskimo language… and if there is such a thing as speaking in tongues I heard it then.

What well-known modern “revivals” does this account remind you of?

For an explanation of Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 14:21-22:

In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.” Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers.

read “Tongues are a sign not for…”


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

29 thoughts on “The Pagan Origins of Modern “Speaking in Tongues””

  1. Pingback: Churches that Don't Allow Tongues and Prophecy in Meetings disobey Bible - Page 34 - Christian Chat Rooms & Forums

  2. wayne weinschreider

    Briefly, I have met many “christians” that have claimed ecstatic experiences, such as babbling in tongues. My comment on any extrablblical experience is, I cannot deny your experience, but your experience can deny Scripture. ZL7F

  3. Darn PS===> After thoughts lol!!
    I think from my perspective… the church has gotten into trouble when it doesn’t discern the real from the counterfeit.
    What I mean by that is simply this… a few years back now, there was a big hoopla about an event down in Florida, people were barking like dogs, being tossed against the walls etc… and “Christians” when in droves, flocking down to this church, which moved to big tents outside.
    Now when I had a sister ask me, what do you think, would you go if you were closer to it?
    I said no and I don’t think, I know there is nothing there for me or anyone else who wants to get right with God or experience Him.  Why?
    The Red Letters… Jesus warned us that they would say “he was here or there” and not to be moved by such things, not to go running every direction lol!!
    God is NOT mocked, whatever we sow, good or bad, in Faith, we will reap a harvest and that harvest isn’t always what we “think” it is and not every “move” is a move of God.
    I will share this and then shut down for the night.  When I first got saved, I had no clue what anything was, all this tongues stuff, slain in the spirit etc… nothing.  I was reading a bible at home for the first time in my life, when the Holy Spirit opened my understanding of the Cross and my sin.  I was broken before the Lord, I was instantly healed of a disease that was crippling my body, no one laid hands on me or prayed on me, I was in my kitchen, in a bathrobe with a towel on my head.  I was transformed and everyone, starting with my husband, friends and family all commented something happened to me, I was different.
    I came from a RCC Background, I am Irish.
    I have had several experiences that I KNOW, without a shadow of a doubt, were by the Holy Spirit that changed me, set me free and delivered me of the bondage of my past and my sins.
    Lastly… I came from the counterfeit, my family embraced Occultism and thought spiritual was spiritual and that it was all from God… its a very long story but, I have experienced both sides of “spiritualism” and there is a counterfeit that is very convincing… I don’t advise people to try it to know because simply, it is the truth that sets us free.
    Night night 🙂

  4. LOL I knew I should have expanded on what I meant about “history”.  History HAS its place, for example, one of the things I first mentioned was in regards to “Tongues” predating Christianity, I know this because I have studied it.  But, it is History and not the present History that we are making now… when we look back, we can see the milestones and the mistakes yes but, for what purpose?  We can look at say Luther and all he did to try to further what he saw as mistakes in the church or errors in the ways and what happened?  He was basically murdered and by who? LOL the church.
    One thing to mention, whatever God has, it is right, it is true, etc… and Satan “attempts” to counterfeit whatever and whenever he is able/allowed.  He is by no means on an equal playing field with God either, although I have witnessed churches who spend more time casting him out, than worshiping God lol!!  We know he can take on appearances, even attempting to come like an angel of light to deceive whom he is able…. the counterfeit, loud and clear.
    So for me, I can’t discount the gifts, all of them or any of them because personally, I would have to discount the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit has not departed this world yet, the gospel is still being preached and what I understand is that there will be a time where, God’s word will not be heard, the Angels will cease to proclaim it, the Holy Spirit will withdrawal from this world and it will be a very dismal existence for anyone without Jesus. (Rev 6- part 7)
    LOL nope, I am not one who believes this generation has it all together or right, there hasn’t been any who have it “right”, all we have to do is look to the Book of Revelation, the 7 churches that Jesus addressed and no matter how good or right they were (or thought they were), He had a “little something” against each and one that he was ready to vomit out.  Which brings up the once saved always saved discussion LOL!! NOT going there tonight! 🙂
    I am what I call a “realist believer”, the glass if a half a glass no matter how you look at it lol!
    I get that the PC group wants to revive Azzuza Street but, its not right.  We don’t see God repeating the Upper Room on Pentecost.  NOT that God can’t do these things, its that the need or the time is not there, so when I DO look at history, I look to understand what was happening in that day and time, like the reason some things happened.
    For example, when I look at Peter looking into the tomb, seeing the headchief neatly folded and exclaiming Jesus was alive! Why, what was it that caused Peter to react in such a manner… well, when I studied the history/culture of the times… whenever a Carpenter or Stone Mason (ALSO called a Carpenter in Jesus’ day) had finished his work, he would take off his headchief (scarf like) and neatly fold it and place it on the foundation area to let the man know who hired him, the work was finished and he would be back for his payment.
    AND… another reason that Peter might have reacted as such was due to the custom of folding ones napkin (it was a simple cloth in Jesus’ day) after having a meal and placing it beside the plate, it let the person who saw it know, “I have enjoyed myself and will return.”
    So no matter which custom or manner is applied, what Peter knew was that Jesus HAD risen and would be back.  He would see him again.
    Actually, there are more heresies than that of Tongues that I have run across… total Legalism with a touch of Cultism is far more prevalent and not just in the PC groups.  At least here in Canada were I am it is.
    And when I consider history, in the manner I do, I also look at the scriptures to see what is written, is it for today?  There are something the church still does today that is not for today. (that’s another discussion lol!!)
    I DO believe in the continuation of signs and wonders simply because Jesus said it would accompany those who Believe… he didn’t put a time limit on it, he didn’t specify it was only this group or that group and we receive the same Holy Spirit today that the Disciples did in their day.
    Well its very late here and I have to be up early with two dogs that won’t wait lol!
    Nollie, I LOVE to discuss the Bible, doctrines etc… but, know this, I NEVER push what I believe on another, I don’t say if you don’t believe what I do, you are less than or whatever.  As I said, I believe the Holy Spirit is the same today as was in Jesus’ day, so if I push or feel I have to manipulate someone for whatever reason, then I am a hypocrite because, the Bible I read, says that it is the Holy Spirit that leads us into all truth, not another person  🙂
    Sweet Sleep ♥

  5. I hate when I have an after thought and its too late LOL!!
    Nollie, I DO understand what you are saying… I have had my own experiences with some trying to “get me” or “make me believe” what they did on a particular subject and what you describe above about, being a second class Christian (paraphrased) is a form of “manipulation” and THAT is not of God.
    My discussion with you, was just that, a talk, a chat of examining what each of us believe and why.  And from this chair, I was attempting to point out that using things like church history to say why something should or should not be accepted, is at best, very flimsy.  Church history is not evidence of one thing or another, only History.
    That’s all 🙂
    <>< ♥

    1. Thanks, Char. But I don’t agree with your statement that history is only history. That speaks very loudly of what C. S. Lewis calls “chronological snobbery,” the idea that our generation is the best and the most important. Many Christians today practically think that Christianity started only during their lifetime. As the philosophers said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (Santayana), and “To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child” (Cicero), “There is nothing new under the sun” (The Preacher). In fact, if we study the Bible, there is no question that Christians today ask, there is no argument against Christianity, and there is no doctrinal controversy that have not been asked since Christ first came into the world.

      No, the only “deep wound” I have ever had with “P-C” (Pentecostals-Charismatics) is their arrogance in their “new revelations,” “Spirit baptisms,” “prophecies,” and “healings,” as if they alone can appropriate the power of God. I have been raised in a cessationist Presbyterian church (which has now embraced Pentecostalism). If you look at the heresy landscape today and throughout church history, you would find that almost all of them come from those who believe in the continuation of signs and wonders.

  6. Hi Nollie, seems I have touched a nerve?  I don’t know what you call “P-C people”… I believe in the Bible from cover to cover.
    I believe in the Godhead as outlined in Scripture.  And I am not sure what you are attempting to refute in making your comment?
    Anyone can accuse me of anything, it really wouldn’t matter to me because there is no such thing as a “second rate Christian”…. And my faith can be examined, I am an open book when it comes to such.  Opinions, like the Doctrines of Men, don’t mean anything to me.  If someone says I don’t have enough faith, what do I care lol!! Honestly?
    I would ask, please re-read what I have wrote instead of skimming it over.
    I am NOT saying, nor do I AGREE, that anyone should pick up or handle snakes, what I said to you was that there IS A GROUP and many different TV Stations have done interviews, taped services etc… while people do this, I think its stupid and a misuse of the scripture.
    AS I said, JESUS was referring to the OT when he stated this.
    As I said, if you don’t believe that the gifts are for today, that’s your choice and I am not judging you, your faith or you as a person.
    What I AM saying, is that we differ on this point and not because of a church, a denomination etc… but, when I read you, you seem to have some deep wounds that these bad PC People have done this to you.  I would only suggest that you not use such a big paint brush as to paint all people who DO believe that the Fullness of the Holy Spirit is still for today.  Which is what I believe.
    I always continue to study the entire Bible, what I tend to avoid, is the doctrines that men have set up, its one of the reasons many of my friends who ARE Pentecostal, no longer speak to me 🙂
    <>< ♥

  7. So you mean just because those who taught against the doctrine of the Trinity who were deemed as heretics for all of Christian history, that the Trinitarian doctrine is not necessarily Scriptural?

    And you have seen firsthand–not on Youtube–people bitten seriously by deadly snakes and drinking cyanide not die? And would you do that based on this spurious text, believing that you wouldn’t die? And if you don’t, would you accept then the accusation by these heretics that you don’t have enough faith, that you’re a second-rate Christian? And this is exactly what Pentecostals and Charismatics say about us who don’t believe in the existence of extraordinary gifts today.

    Please continue studying this subject. I’ve had many conversations with P-C people, even some of their pastors, who have turned from P-C’s shallow experientialism to the richness of Reformed faith.


  8. Hi Nollie, thanks for the response. I am a bit puzzled by your comments, let me explain 🙂

    You said:”For almost 2000 years of church history after the apostles, signs and wonders (tongues, healings, slaying in the spirit etc.) have never been acceptable in the church.”

    This does not support your position, just because the church of that day did not accept, or in fact denied the power of the Holy Spirit. The crux of your argument is flawed in the sense, I could use the fact that the normal average lay person was not allowed to have a Bible for the past 1600 years, the church did not allow it, does that make it Spiritually Correct? The Pharisees did not accept that Jesus was casting out Demons by the Power of the Holy Spirit. I hope you see the flaw in attempting to support such a position in such a manner.

    If there was a “discovery” say part of the wall in Jerusalem was to fall and within it, scrolls found and that there was a complete book, the time matching, the writing etc… that it was written by Jesus, do you think Cannon would still be closed? There is only one thing that is certain in this life. If we are born once, we will die twice, if we are born twice, we will die only once. And that is from the Red Letters.

    You state:”No one should base their teaching or doctrine…. I don’t know of any Christian who ingested cyanide or has been bitten by a cobra to have lived”

    This was stated in regards to what Jesus said in Mark 16:14-18. so am I to understand that you do not believe in the Words of Jesus because of your personal experiences? This is far from a questionable portion of scripture, Jesus is very clear that signs and wonders would follow those who belong to Him. I think in part that you were unable to take away from what Jesus said regarding “new tongues”. The word NEW here in the greek “Kainos” which is an adjective the tongue (Glossa in the Greek) as in dialect or language. So according to Thayer’s, which I also use often and have in this posting:

    1. new
    1. as respects form
    1. recently made, fresh, recent, unused, unworn
    2. as respects substance
    1. of a new kind, unprecedented, novel, uncommon, unheard of

    Uncommon, unheard of and unprecedented, it is a NEW kind of tongue it is not necessarily a “known language” as you have attempted to point out. That is a different greek word… Heteroglossos which is “one who speaks a foreign language” which is a “known” language in the Earth.

    Jesus said these signs and wonders would follow those who are his believers, so references to the cannon and of what the church would or would not allow…. Errors have always been a part of the church, from before its birth, all we have to do is look at Peter. The disciples walked, physically with Jesus and they got it wrong lol!! What makes us think that because we have the stories, the accounts and all in the Cannon of Scripture that WE have it all right lol! We DO see dimly as through a darkened glass in this life time, and we will not see clearly until Christ returns and we stand face to face with him. THESE, these who walked with him, THEY had unbelief and had hardness of heart! Lol!! So imagine, the church in Corinth, when people came in and said it was all a lie. THESE who walked with him did NOT believe those who saw Jesus after the resurrection! And here, clearly, we are seeing that Jesus states, these MIRACLES will accompany, those who have Believed. It is for ALL believers.

    Mark 16:14-18
    14 Afterward He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table; and He reproached them for their unbelief R595 and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen. 15 And He said to them, “Go R596 into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 “He R597 who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. 17 “These signs F308 will accompany those who have believed: in R598 My name they will cast out demons, they will speak R599 with new tongues; 18 they will pick R600 up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay R601 hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

    F308 Or attesting miracles

    R595 Matthew 28:17; Mark 16:11,13; Luke 24:11,41; John 20:25
    R596 Matthew 28:19; Acts 1:8
    R597 John 3:18,36; Acts 16:31
    R598 Mark 9:38; Luke 10:17; Acts 5:16; 8:7; 16:18;
    R599 Acts 2:4; 10:46; 19:6; 1 Corinthians 12:10,28,30; 13:1; 14:2
    R600 Luke 10:19; Acts 28:3-5
    R601 Mark 5:23

    I find it very sad that people do not believe that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, that if we lay hands in HIS name, we won’t see someone healed.
    And regarding Verse 18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

    I have seen people who dance around with rattle snakes, being bitten etc… and believe that this is what Jesus was referring to. Its not lol!!

    Who do you know that “Took Up A Serpent”? And what happened then? We tend to forget that much of what Jesus spoke, was from the OT. THESE believers will not be harmed, they belong to God and are under His Wings.

    You also make a comment about Paul, and “IF” he spoke in tongues, that is was questionable. And using the Greek word “Ean” in 1Cor 13:1 does not necessarily mean “IF” it is also used as “IN CASE”. In either case, the subjectiveness of the sentence is not a questionable one whether Paul did or did not speak in tongues, he was making the point that IF HE DID IT and it was not in the proper context, if it was not done in Agape Love, in the Love of the Father, then it was meaningless and nothing but noise.

    This fact (that Paul spoke in Tongues) is confirmed in 1Cor 14:18 14:18 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:
    And he is making a reference to “a new kind, unprecedented, novel, uncommon, unheard of” regarding the substance OF the tongue. Glossa And that cannot be a “known” language as it is “unheard of” according to Thayers.

    In the fullness of 1 Corinthians 14:15-20, yes the church of Corinth was confused, they were into things they should not have been doing, misguided in their new found Freedoms. There were people who were corrupting the church, leading them astray, telling them that Jesus was no the Messiah, that he had not physically resurrected that it was all a lie and there was no resurrection after death for anyone. But here, Paul is specifically dealing with the church and its MISUSE of Tongues, making it into what the Pagans had done for years before the church was ever birthed.

    He is correcting them to the proper use, time, place etc… of “Tongues” of all manners, Singing in Tongues, Speaking in Tongues and Praying in Tongues. Its there in black and white.

    Just to be clear, I do not support any movement, I don’t agree with a lot of things varying churches do OR TV evangelists either for that matter. So please do NOT misunderstand my position. I hate trying to communicate on chat boards, blogs etc… because they are void of humanness and conversation. I have had a migraine for a few days and am just coming back from it, so please do not read my writings as being “staunch or angered” they are just “matter of fact” because of time.

    So forgive me if you think or thought they were in anger or such 🙂 Not the case lol!!

    I am also NOT trying to convince you that you are in error, I just see where your position, the expression of it has some flaws in the sources you are wanting to use and ignoring the ones on the page. In this case, Red Letters.

    Take your time if you decide to respond, I have an exam to study for this Tuesday and I have to pass. LOL! I am almost 50 and back to school I went 🙂

    Be blessed!

    1. This fact (that Paul spoke in Tongues) is confirmed in 1Cor 14:18 14:18 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:
      And he is making a reference to “a new kind, unprecedented, novel, uncommon, unheard of” regarding the substance OF the tongue. Glossa And that cannot be a “known” language as it is “unheard of” according to Thayers.

      You are assuming that Paul speaks in ‘new tongues’? Paul speaks many languages. What happened to the Corinthians church is not the same with what had happened to the apostles. Should dig more brother.

  9. Why is it impossible for you to believe that these gifts that God/Jesus Christ had promised to the Apostles were not a promise made through generation after generation?

    Do you not think that it was possible for God to have this gift accessible for all believers?  Is he not God the almighty who is able to do all things and is not limited by time? 

    It grieves me to think that believers cannot accept the fact that God has given us a gift which is accessible to all those who truly believe in him and follow his teachings.  I have not been a christian long but I have personally, like many, experienced Gods hand in my life.

    Without the Holy Spirit, I guarantee and I know for a fact that I would not be standing today or living the life that God has called me to live.

    The Holy Spirit has been exactly what God has said he would be, our councellor, our helper, the one who directs and helps us to make the right decisions.

    The manifestation of the Holy Spirt comes in the form of Speaking in Tongues.  As a believer, this part of my walk was hard for me to grasp because at first I was skeptical of the whole process, I thought that it was just a bunch of people making up mumbo jumbo and I still remember the day I was baptised in the Holy Spirit.

    I was prayed over and I remember one of the ladies told me not to resist, not to have doubt in my heart but to believe that God would baptise me and give me the gift of speaking in tongues, for ages I resisted and I doubted and I feared it, but the moment I let my guard down, the moment I stopped denying the power of God and believed, I had a Holy Spirit experience, it was like fire burning within me and a sweet taste in my mouth and before I knew it, I uttered a language that I could not understand and I can tell you, I was not in a trance or dancing around like a lunatic.

    The feeling was overwhelming joy, peace and just a sense of power from God himself to do all things.

    I left that night ready to conquer the world but I believed I had made a holy connection with God himself.

    I am not the most intelligent but I would consider anyone a fool for denying the power of God and I would hope that you would consider really asking God to unveil your eyes to see that you are deceived in thinking that it was only available for the Apostles.

    God is not a man that he should lie.  He is not a man that he would give us some gifts and deny us the rest.  I must say I was angred to see all this rubbish your writing about the gift of tongues etc not being accessible to us now.  Without faith it is impossible to please God.

    Why do you not have Faith that God is able to do the same things he had done 2000 years ago now?

    You justify your argument with facts and scriptures from the bible yet you fail to see that God is not limited in what he can do in each generation. You limit yourself and what God is able to do in your life by failing to believe in the simplest of gifts that God has given you.

    1. Of course, we have to justify our arguments with Scriptures alone, and not from “manifestations” and feelings. The “manifestations” of the Holy Spirit today are not speaking in tongues. That was past and not repeatable. We don’t create our own Pentecosts. Pentecost Sunday was a once for all event, just as the Exodus and Christ’s death and resurrection.

      For real “manifestations,” read Galatians 5:22-24. These are not hard to understand, only hard to accept by Pentecostals like you.

      1. Greetings :o)
        Just a few thoughts… For me personally, Red Letters trump all, they stand.  So when I read all of the above, my thoughts turned to Mark 16:14-18… Jesus did not say the Apostles only or a limited time.
        I whole-heartedly agree that there were “tongues” that were prior to the out pouring in the book of Acts, pagan tongues used in pagan worship where they went into a trance etc…
        We are told there are the Tongues of Men and the Tongues of Angels, one of the first or absolute proofs of salvation or evidence of the Holy Spirit in a New Believer’s life, the Tongue is there and undeniable.  They NOW magnify God, which no one can do without the Spirit, it is not some strange babble or unintelligible language, it is the conversion of the Tongue, from that which once Cursed God to one that Magnifies God.
        But, the Tongues of Angels is NOT a common or known language to us and we tend to forget that there are “fallen angels” as well as the heavenly angels, and that language can only be discerned by one who has the gift of interpretation.  I can not be moved or persuaded regarding this matter as I have experienced a person who was possessed, speaking in an unknown tongue and being led by the Lord to a person I had never met, who had the gift of interpreting the tongue.  It was a demon cursing God through a man. And without that gift, it would appear he was “deep in worship” and just speaking in tongues to God.

        I am also aware that there are the verses that say certain gifts will cease.  Which I think needs very close examination. 1Cor 13:8-13
        Many want to say that these gifts are not for today, that they are finished and were only for the apostles of that day.
        If that is true, then I have a problem with this verse in 1Cor 13:10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

        When that which is perfect is come…. When or who might this be?
        Just so it is said, I am not Pentecostal, I am a born again believer and have a strong disposition against “labels” by man to create walls via doctrines.
        There is but One Path, One Way, One Truth and One Life, what we tend to forget as believers, is it is a journey, and even though it is on that one path, our feet or our journey is not at the exact same point as our brother or sister.  When we start the race, we do not go to the head of the race, we run between two ditches, lawlessness and lasciviousness and we follow Jesus, not another man’s footprints on that path.
        Doctrines will come and they will go, they will cease and all we will have standing is Love, because our Faith will have gotten us there through our Hope in Christ.
        Be blessed! ♥

        1. Thanks for your comment, Char. Before I briefly reply to your comment, let me offer some thoughts about the signs and wonders movement.

          For almost 2,000 years of church history after the apostles, signs and wonders (tongues, healings, slaying in the spirit, etc.) have never been acceptable in the church. Pentecostalism made a comeback only in the last 100 years or so, but before then, they were mostly ignored and even laughed at. Starting the 1960s, when the hippies and other radicals invaded the evangelical churches, this movement became more and more acceptable. While previously their worship and songs were almost anathema, they have become acceptable, even part of the evangelical scene. So today, even their shallow and confused Biblical interpretation that has led to many errors and even heresies have also become an integral part of evangelicalism.

          Mark 16:14-18: No one should base their teaching or doctrine from questionable portions of Scripture such as this, as most New Testament scholars agree. I don’t know of any Christian who ingested cyanide or has been bitten by a cobra to have lived.

          “Tongues of angels”: Paul commanded the Corinthian church that if tongues were spoken, they must be interpreted (1 Cor. 12:10; 14:26, 28). If this was so, then tongues were real spoken foreign languages, such as those the apostles spoke at Pentecost, not mindless gibberish, as done by today’s Charismatics. In the “interpretation” of tongues, the word used is hermeneuo, which simply means “to translate what has been spoken or written in a foreign language into the vernacular” (J. H. Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, p. 250).

          But what about the passages which seem to teach that there is a private prayer use for tongues for private edification, as in Romans 8:26 and 1 Corinthians 13:1; 14:2-4. Romans 8:26 says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” It is beyond common sense to interpret “groanings too deep for words” as tongues. Likewise, it is also a mistake to use the three Corinthian passages to say that Paul was teaching that there is such a thing as “tongues of angels.” It is clear from the Greek grammar (ean, “if”) and the context that Paul is speaking hypothetically to make the point that no matter how great your gift is, it must be accompanied by love.

          In 1 Corinthians 13:8-12, Paul compares knowledge that is partial, “childish” and temporary, with knowledge that is “full,” “mature” and “perfect.” So clearly, Paul here is talking about our knowledge of God before the completion of the Canon of Scripture, which he describes as seeing “in a mirror dimly,” compared with seeing “face to face.” Note that the adverb “face to face” has no object, so seeing Christ face to face when he returns is unconvincing. When the Canon was completed, it was sufficient for the salvation and sanctification of all who believe. And even if “face to face” means the day when Christ returns, it doesn’t mean that speaking in tongues will continue until that day. Paul here is comparing our incomplete knowledge to complete knowledge, not the duration of speaking in tongues in church history. Richard Gaffin writes,

          “A sounder reading of both passages is to recognize that whether prophecy or tongues (or any other gift) will cease before the Parousia is not addressed by them but left an open question, to be settled from other passages.

          “A dilemma confronts noncessationists. If prophecy and tongues, as they function in the New Testament, continue today, then the noncessationist is faced with the quite practical and troublesome implication that Scripture alone is not a sufficient verbal revelation from God; the canon is at best relatively closed. Alternatively, if, as most noncessationists insist, “prophecy” and “tongues” today are nonrevelatory or less than fully revelatory, then these contemporary phenomena are misnamed and are something other than the New Testament gifts. Noncessationists are caught in a redemptive-historical anachronism, seeking within the superstructure of the Church’s history what belonged to its foundational era. They are involved in the contradictory effort of trying to maintain along with a closed New Testament canon the presence of those revelatory gifts that were for the open canon period when the New Testament documents were in the process of being written.”

          One last note: Speaking in tongues, the focus of present-day Pentecostals and Charismatics, is one of the least important gifts in the New Testament. Prophecy, the declaration of God’s word, is the most important, as Pauls emphasized in 1 Corinthians 14:1-5. It is not even listed in the list of gifts in Romans 12:6-8 or Ephesians 4:11. Other than three events in Acts, speaking in tongues is only mentioned in his letter to the church in Corinth, a church plagued by division, scandals, and disorder. And the disorderly “worship” we find in Pentecostal-Charismatic churches flies in the face of Paul’s command, “But all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Cor 14:40).

          And I’m not writing all of these things to cause division or because “I don’t like Pentecostalism,” but to expose heresy and error.

          For more scholarly treatment of this subject, please refer to these articles:

          “Where Have All the Spiritual Gifts Gone? A Defense of Cessationism” by Richard B. Gaffin Jr.
          “The Charismatic Movement: A Biblical Critique” by Brian Schwertley
          “The Miraculous Gifts of the Spirit—Continuation, Restoration or Cessation?” by Andrew J. Webb

          1. I did leave a very long message, I hope it went through, I got a message about “cheating” or something when I posted it.
            Thx 🙂

    2. What you have experienced is similar to what you will experience if you are in a pagan worship. The overwhelming feelings cannot be the ‘sign’ of being field or baptised by/in/with the Holy Spirit. It is ‘feelings’…chemical reaction in your body. The Bible never teach us to go by feelings/emotions, but by faith. God’s presence cannot depends on human feelings because He is everywhere.

      I’ve been too many of this things. I have lots of questions about this genre. I have traveled to many places, and found no answers until I read the Bible for all its worth (by Gordon Fee).

      We cannot use personal experience to understand the Bible. We must understand what the Bible is teaching us and define our mistakes. Any experiences in life that going against Biblical context should be taken down or managed or even denied. This is how we love God. We should follow what He wants.

      We cannot bring pagans practices in worship. We worship the Lord not by feeling Him, but by believing Him. Love is not just feeling good, but more to a sacrifice for the one we love.

      Pagans use ‘babbling’  to communicate with other spirits. Even if there is no contact with other spirits, they will keep babbling so that those around them will believe that he or she is already in communication with other spirits. 

      Salvation is not based on just believe, but being faithful to live holy an acceptable to the Lord. When you read John 3:16, keep read all the way to verse 21. Find Greek Bible and read John 3:36, and you will find the second word ‘believe’ in KJV supposed to be ‘obedience’. Believe and being disobedient is not worthy to salvation. So, if anybody think that they are saved, better read the gospel and follow God’s commandment!

      Seriously, speaking in tongues is not a sign of true believers. If we have the Holy Spirit in us, why are we not living in holiness? Through my journey, I find too many people living in terrible sin while busy ‘speaking in tongues’, prophesying and perform healing ministry. Jesus warned us about all of this in Mathew 7:13-23.

      If anyone judge by personal opinion, that will be judging according to their own book of law. Anyone examine and teach based on the Bible, that shows the gift of the Holy Spirit!

      Shalom from Malaysia

  10. The gift of tongues, like other word gifts in the NT (such as interpretation of tongues, prophecy, word of knowledge, see 1 Cor. 12) is a special gift unique only to the apostolic age. If you notice how the history of revelation has progressed, the gifts of tongues, interpretation of tongues, prophecy, etc. were common at the early or infant stage of the New Covenant church and there was no written collection or canon of the New Testament Scriptures that reveals to early believers the significant work of salvation in Christ. God, by His Spirit,  spoke to the church through the apostles and prophets the wonders of His saving work in Christ.

    However, the history of revelation and salvation has progressed. In God’s providence, the saving work of Christ was written in the gospels and the letters of NT writers so that the church would depend more on the apostolic writings and teachings regarding salvation in Jesus Christ. When the apostles and prophets died, the church was left with pastors, teachers and elders to faithfully teach the doctrines of the apostles which centers on our Lord Jesus, His person and work, written in the New Testament Scriptures. We heard less of the gifts of tongues, interpretation of tongues, prophecy, word of knowledge, etc. by the end of the apostolic age. Isn’t this a sign that God brings His church to progression FROM the word gifts, which were common at the early and foundational stage of the NT church TO the written Word? Isn’t it also a regress for the church to return to her infancy when a certain point of maturity, in God’s providence, has already been reached by the body of Christ?

    Besides, Paul, in 1 Corinthians 14 tells us that the gifts of tongues and interpretation of tongues are comparable to the gift of prophecy, but Paul encourages the Corinthian believers to pursue prophecy because it edifies the body of Christ and is intelligible to the body than tongue which only edifies the one who speaks (1 Cor. 14:3-5). Again, this was an issue to them because they did not have the written New Testament. The church was edified at that time through this gifts. But now that the same words, the same teachings, are available to us in the New Testament, it seems redundant for us to still have the same gift.

    Now if you read the whole context of 1 Corinthians 14 you will notice the rebuke of Paul of the Corinthians for seeking more the gift of tongues which is, he says, only edifies self, unintelligible, and of lesser value compared with the gift of prophecy. In fact, though Paul had spoken in tongues, he adds this note, “But in church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Cor. 14:18-19). The point is, Paul wants the Corinthians to seek to edify the whole church than themselves and to use the gift of God to instruct others the word of God than to think only of themselves only. Again, if they have the written New Testament, this could not have been an issue.

    As per experience, I notice that those who allegedly speak in tongues or have the gifts of interpretation of tongues are not passionate learners or students of and not that knowledgeable of the whole Scripture. They do not devote long hours of reading the Scripture and studying it as they ‘wait’ in the Lord in silence or in ‘praying in tongues.’ They also do not study church history, the history of salvation, the history of revelation, or other doctrines of the church for they value less the classic doctrines of the church compared with their fresh ‘revelation’ or ‘direct words’ from the Lord. This is an observation, not an indictment. I might be wrong with some.

    I suspect that when faithful believers are filled by the Spirit as they immerse in the Scriptures, singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, devoting themselves to the apostles teachings, in the prayers, Bible study and other means available for us, they would leave the ‘childish ways’ behind (1 Cor. 13:11). The childish ways are those ways intended by God at the infant stage of the church, which I believe the gift of tongues is included, and now have ceased (1 Cor. 13:8).

    In other words, I am for careful, diligent and devoted study and preaching and teaching of the Scripture for the edification of the whole church than for speaking in tongues, which as Paul says, edifies only the one who speaks such (1 Cor. 14:4).

  11. The last sentence on my last post should read  ((    Would they preach the message of “grace through faith in Christ alone”?  ))

    My apologies, God bless

  12. Nollie, You still haven’t answered my question.  The event that my father described had nothing to do with new revelation.  I understand, and agree that the canon of scripture is closed.  My maternal grandmother “expounded” on what has already been revealed in Holy Scripture.  The only thing is, how did she do this?

    She spoke perfect English, which my father understood, so it wasn’t “babble”.  If this event wasn’t biblical, then are you saying that demons manifested and expounded the way of salvation to my father?  Would that preach the message of “Grace, through faith in Crist alone”?  What is your take on this?

    1. Walter, this is God’s providence. And you should be very thankful to the Lord that your father understood the gospel through this special circumstance. This is not the same speaking in tongues in the Scripture, though, as those tongues have revelatory purpose. What your grandmother said is not a new revelation for what she said have been revealed/written in the Holy Scripture, as you said. I would say that it was a providence of God. Praise the Lord that your father got saved!

      1. I will not discount this possibility because, as Vic says, it is God’s providence to save anyone He wants to at anytime. Nothing is impossible to Him. However, the doubt I have is related to God’s use of extraordinary means, e.g., miraculous speaking in another language like your grandmother did, when ordinary means is readily available, e.g., an English Bible, preaching, or witness through an ordinary English-speaking relative or friend.

        We should not mix the extraordinary gifts with the ordinary gifts, which was the norm when the church was in infancy, as Vic already explained. The extraordinary offices (apostles, prophets) and gifts (instant healings, speaking in tongues, raising the dead!, etc.) have ceased because they were established by God to affirm these men that they had authority from God, “It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Heb 2:3-4). Thus, only the ordinary offices (pastors, teachers, etc.) with their ordinary gifts (preaching, teaching, etc.) remain this day.

  13. Hi I just wanted to relate an event that happened to my father.  He told me when my maternal grandmother was being rushed to the hospital, just before she died, she began to glorify God and expound the gospel to him in English.  The thing was, she was not a christian from what I know, and she couldn’t speak a word of English.

    To this day my father believes that she was saved by God and that she spoke in “tongues”.  This is a first hand account from a man that has a tremendous reputation as being upright and honest in his conduct.

  14. Ronnie Alexander

    I grew up in a Hindu home and practice Hinduism and there is a difference from what this article states. Those who speak in the spirit know their identity unlike those who go into a trance, if you ask those who are in a trance they would not know their name or identity. I converted at the age of 12yrs to Christianity and have been speaking in the spirit and I am 57yrs now.

    1. Walter, Ronnie: Again, speaking in tongues in the NT is not babbling. And if these events you’re referring to are true, they can’t be Biblical since the canon of Scripture is closed. No new revelations are needed today for any person to be saved; the Bible is sufficient.

      1. Nollie – we’re not talking about salvation but a gift of the Spirit that the” closed canon of the scripture” says builds up the one speaking or praying in tongues. Its contradictory for those with your position say the scripture is closed to tongues yet those very scriptures have more reference to praying in the spirit than not. You say tongues have ceased yet that gift is included with the other gifts, have those ceased also? This is not about salvation but edifying gifts.

        1. Dan, there was a context when Paul said those gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14 and other passages. It would be helpful if you cite particular verse or verses from the Scripture to understand the context.
          Besides, there’s a history of God’s revelation and redemptive history. When those parts of the New Testament were being written, there was no collection or canon of New Testament yet, obviously.

          Nollie and I do not deny that there are spiritual gifts that still exist today (like pastoring, teaching, leading, encouragement,etc.). What we deny is that, those spectacular gifts (miracles, speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues, word of faith, etc.) given to the apostles and prophets to authenticate their office and their claims and proclamation  (Mark 16:20; Hebrews 2:3b-4) are still present today. Those spectacular gifts by design and purpose were only unique to the apostolic age. As Nollie has argued, Christ by His Spirit gifted His apostles with those gifts to authenticate their office and word proclamation. When the apostles died and their foundational work was fulfilled – which includes the proclamation of the saving work of Christ and the writing of the Gospels and New Testament letters as eye- and earwitnesses of the risen Christ (Luke 1:2; 1 John 1:1-3a), those gifts have ceased also because those were unique only to them and to the foundational nature of their office (Ephesians 2:20).

          In the providence of God, the way He edifies the church today is by the faithful preaching and teaching of the apostolic doctrines written in the pages of the New Testament, which centers on the person and work of Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is not inconsistent with the testimony of the Bible. In fact, this is very consistent with its claims when read those passages in context and with the history of Biblical revelation.

          I hope this helps.

        2. “Praying in the spirit” is not the babbling nonsense that we see practiced by Pentecostals today. It means that when Christians pray, they pray in accordance with the Spirit of God who indwells them.

          Vic mentioned redemptive history. There are milestones in redemptive history that cannot be repeated by man, such as the great flood, the exodus from Egypt, the Babylonian captivity and return, the death and resurrection of Christ. Just as these milestones cannot be repeated, the pouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday is unrepeatable in the life of the church or an individual believer.

  15. There can be imitations but I have heard and seen too many miracles associated with this gift to doubt it and this agrees with the book of Acts. I’ve heard of stories where one man from Russia visited a church in the States and could not speak a word of English or understand any English. He was not a Christian and didn’t know one church from another. He sat next to an American who knew no Russian. The pastor asked the congregation to quietly pray in tongues or as it’s often called – in the spirit. The American began praying and the Russian man got up walked down to the front and gave his life to the Lord. Later when they found someone who could understand him they asked him what happened?  The Russian man said the American sitting next to him spoke perfect Russsian and was telling him his whole life’s story and telling him to give his heart to Jesus before it was too late !! That’s when he got up and gave his life to Christ. The devil is not in the business of saving anyone through any gift so your assumption that this gift is not valid or for today is totally unscriptural and seems to be mixed with fear or the unknown.

    1. All second- , third-hand hearsay. Even the early church fathers wrote about these accounts, but like you, they say, “I’ve heard…”

Comments are closed.

Related Posts