Archives for April 2007

What are “tongues” in Acts 2? (Part 3)

We’ve been examining the question of “tongues” in Acts 2. In part 1 we addressed the question: Are tongues in Acts 2 a gift of hearing, rather than speaking? Then, in the second part, we addressed two questions: Are tongues in Acts 2 unintelligible, ecstatic speech? and Are tongues in Acts 2 a “heavenly language” understood only by interpretation?

Today I want to deal with a much bigger question: Are tongues in Acts 2 the non-miraculous speaking of a human language?

I’m going to do so at some length, and in much more detail than most of my posts, partly because most people dismiss this suggestion very quickly without thinking through the arguments (which are actually quite persuasive). If you’ve not read Bob Zerhusen’s A New Look at Tongues, you might find that interesting reading before you proceed.

Are tongues in Acts 2 the non-miraculous speaking of a human language?

The option that tongues in Acts 2 is the non-miraculous (learned) speaking of a human language immediately runs into the difficulty of understanding how uneducated men (cf 4:13) could speak in the native languages of all those listed in 2:9-11.12 Bob Zerhusen is probably the only modern scholar to mount a credible case for the position [Read more…]

What are “tongues” in Acts 2? (Part 2)

We’re currently examining tongues in Acts 2, and the previous post considered the question Are tongues in Acts 2 a gift of hearing, rather than speaking? Today I want to deal with two more questions.

Are tongues in Acts 2 a “heavenly language” understood only by interpretation?

Whilst this suggestion has been made for glossolalia in Corinthians, it is not even remotely credible in Acts, as there is no suggestion that any interpreters were present.

Are tongues in Acts 2 unintelligible, ecstatic speech?

If the tongues are not a miracle of hearing then it follows that they cannot be unintelligible speech. There is simply too much emphasis on the intelligibility of the speech for it to be ecstatic. The only “evidence” from Acts that it was ecstatic is that the disciples were accused of drunkenness (Acts 2:13). If the only reaction was a belief that the disciples were drunk, this would be evidence for ecstasy. However, according to Luke, the accusation of drunkenness is only one reaction. Many others affirm the intelligibility of the speech, both in the language (“in our own tongues”), and in the content (“we hear them telling… the mighty works of God”). Moreover, this partial accusation of drunkenness would more easily follow if the speech was the ability to speak in many human languages (see a future post). Therefore in Acts 2, Luke cannot be referring to ecstatic, unintelligible utterances.

Next time we’ll deal (in much more detail) with the question: Are tongues in Acts 2 the non-miraculous speaking of a human language?

What are “tongues” in Acts 2? (Part 1)

We’ve been having quite a discussion on tongues recently, so I thought it would be good to take a little break, and examine tongues in Acts 2.

Tongues are usually seen as referring to one of five main possibilities:1 (1) A miraculous gift of hearing that allows listeners to hear in their native language what a speaker is speaking in a different language. (2) The non-miraculous (learned) speaking of a human language. (3) Unintelligible, ecstatic speech. (4) Ecstatic speech in a “heavenly language” which cannot be widely understood, but is comprehensible by someone exercising the gift of interpretation. (5) The miraculous speaking of a human language.
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Why charismatic speaking in tongues should only be practiced by Catholics

Three weeks ago I posted a slightly provocative post entitled Why Charismatics are not New Testament Christians. That post focussed largely on prophecy, today I want to look at the gift of tongues.

The Gift of Tongues

Of all the so-called charismatic gifts, tongues-speaking is the one that non-charismatics have the most trouble in understanding and accepting. Most Charismatics believe that “speaking in tongues is prayer or praise spoken in syllables not understood by the speaker”.1 Tongues, in other words, are understandable only with interpretation. Frankly, this turns the clock back on the reformation. Charismatics who practice tongues-speaking in public worship have given up the hard-won victory that the word of God should be in the language of the hearer.

[Read more…]

Good Friday Meditation

Can anyone be found who would prefer wasting away in pain dying limb by limb, or letting out his life drop by drop, rather than expiring once for all? Can any man be found willing to be fastened to the accursed tree, long sickly, already deformed, swelling with ugly weals on shoulders and chest, and drawing the breath of life amid long-drawn-out agony? He would have many excuses for dying even before mounting the cross.

Seneca, Epistle to Lucius

[T]he executioner, the veiling of the head and the very word “cross” should be far removed not only from the person of a Roman citizen but his thoughts, his eyes and his ears. For it is not only the actual occurrence of these things but the very mention of them, that is unworthy of a Roman citizen and a free man.

Cicero, Pro Rabirio Perduellionis Reo

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God… For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:22-24, 18

Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:6-8

Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2