Biblical ‘Tongues’ – Glṓssa: ‘Tongue Used Of Flowing Speech’

Xenoglossia -“Knowledge of a language one has never learned – or “speaking a foreign language.”

The discussion around Biblical speaking in tongues, basically involves a difference of opinion as to whether ‘tongues’ is speaking a known foreign language, not known to the speaker, supernaturally as the Holy Spirit enables.

An interesting point is that glṓssa only means –”tongue, used of flowing speech”- Strongs #1100. The Greek word for foreign languages is Xenoglossia -“knowledge of a language one has never learned – or foreign language.”

The whole concept of tongues being “an unlearned language spoken”, is derived from the Acts 2:1-11 account, and even there it is stated, —we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues! The phenomena could very well have been in the hearing, not in the speaking.

If the 120 were all speaking the various languages of the people present, all at the same time, I would imagine it would be very raucous and indiscernible. It is far more reasonable, that the 120 were speaking a spiritual language, “as the Spirit enabled them,” Acts 2:4, as Paul expressed in 1 Cor. 14:15, “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays.,” and that God caused the onlookers to hear their language being spoken.

Xenoglossia is not used in reference to speaking in tongues in Scripture. It is more likely that the miracle was in the hearing of the tongues transformed into each person’s language, giving a perspective to tongues that makes more sense than speaking an unlearned language.

Many of the references to tongues are difficult to understand, if made to say ‘speaking a foreign language.’ Why would tongues be speaking in a foreign language if it ‘s speaking to God? 1 Cor. 14:2 Why would Paul wish that all spoken in tongues, if it’s speaking foreign languages? 14:5 If tongues is speaking a foreign language, what’s the point of interpretation. What is to be interpreted? 14:13 If tongues is speaking foreign languages, why does Paul say; “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. vs.14,15 If tongues is foreign speech, why does Paul say, “ I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you?” v.18

The whole function of tongues and interpretation is redundant, if tongues is a foreign language. If tongues was foreign languages, wouldn’t it be for the benefit of those who spoke that language? That being so, there would be no need for interpretation. This becomes a conflated situation to comprehend.

Paul’s instructions in 1 Cor. 14 makes sense if tongues are understood to simply be unknown speech, accompanied by interpretation, for the edifying of the Body, not exercising tongues in public meetings without interpretation.

So the bottom line is – glṓssa only means – “tongue, used of flowing speech,” not speaking unlearned foreign languages, which is xenoglossia.

Speaking in Tongues and Xenoglossia


(Read Marg’s story about Chinese lady giving tongue & only Marg heard her switched to perfectly English interpretation. Lady only spoke broken English)

FB Discussion-Leaving ‘Pentecost’ & H.S. Baptism

Bad practice has definitely transpired in many ‘pentecostal’ churches. There are numerous ‘pentecostal’ denominations. Some believe ‘tongues’ are evidence of salvation, so of course very wrong impressions will be given in those churches, about tongues. Of the many pentecostal denominations, there will be varying beliefs and practices, so a broad brush cannot be used to paint a single picture of pentecostal churches as a whole.

Of course the topic of ‘tongues’ is the general issue in referring to pentecostal churches, with the topic split between tongues as evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and tongues having ceased altogether.

Regarding the 2nd issue, various explanations are given for the belief that tongues have ceased. A long standing text used for years has been 1 Cor. 13:8-12. But clearly a few flaws are obvious here.

8 “Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.”

Knowledge has not passed away, and via v.10, “the perfect” has not yet come, which is when “the partial will pass away.”

V. 12 tells us, “12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

The ‘then’ spoken of is when Christ returns, seeing Him ‘face to face’, knowing Him fully, even as He fully knows us.

Establishing this fact, then allows us to proceed, regarding the reference to tongues specifically in the text. If tongues was only exhibited for the purposes of establishing, confirming, and validating the initial birthing of the Church, why is it specifically mentioned as something that will pass away at Christ’s return?

For those who believe that the gifts are still in operation today, that would include the gifts of tongues and interpretation. So tongues would still exist along with interpretation, as two gifts of the Spirit in operation together.

Those who believe tongues independent of interpretation is out of order, as Paul does explain in 1 Cor. 14, and do not accept tongues as a’prayer language,’ do not distinguish the two when considering 1 Cor. 12:30 “Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?” and often leave out 12:30 b – “Do all interpret” Clearly the gifts of the Spirit are referenced here.

In 1 Cor. 14 Paul is explaining that in public meetings tongues should only be exhibited with interpretation, other wise, without interpretation the Body is not edified. In v. 28 he says if there is no interpreter, one should speak to themselves and God. V. 14 says, “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.” Then vs 16-17 “Otherwise, if you speak a blessing in spirit, how can someone who is uninstructed say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? 17 You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other one is not edified.

1 Cor. 14:4 The one who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but the one who prophesies edifies the church.“, along with the texts here clearly speak of edifying oneself when speaking in tongues, and Paul was explaining to the Corinthians that speaking in tongues edifies the individual, but in public meetings the edification of the Body thro’ the proper use of the gifts was the proper order and goal.

The whole purpose of 1 Cor. 14 was explaining the importance of keeping prayer in tongues in public beneficial to the Body by keeping tongues and interpretation together, other wise they should pray quietly to the Lord, and Paul clearly stated several times that prayer in tongues was his spirit praying and blessing the Lord, edifying himself.

More FB Discussion On Biblical Tongues

1 Cor.14:19-20 Paul says he’d “rather speak five words with the understanding than ten thousand words in a tongue.”  

In quoting the text leaving out the 1st part of v. 19, then gives the wrong impression. V. 19 starts with, “In the church I would rather speak 5 words with my mind to instruct others.

Paul’s point here is that in public, speaking in tongues is not beneficial without interpretation. v.5 The whole verse is important to keep Paul’s words in context. He’s putting tongues speaking in the context of church order.

This statement also made seems, subjective. “When Paul stated that he thanked God that he spoke in tongues more than all of you (14:18) it is related to his calling as an apostle that he had special signs distinguishing himself from other believers, otherwise there would be no difference from the apostles and the other believers.”

*It was also posited that Paul’s speaking in tongues more than everyone else, was because of his many missionary journeys, in which he needed to be able to speak many different languages. Again, pure speculation, with no hint of Biblical validity. Arguments such as these, actually weaken their argument, revealing the desperate ‘grasping at straws’ to silence the voice of Scripture.

Again in v. 5 Paul told the Cor.’s he wanted them all to speak in tongues. In saying he spoke in tongues more than them all, he was expressing the validity of speaking in tongues, and thro’ out chpt. 14 he was explaining the proper order and purpose of tongues, specifically in the church setting.

In vs. 13-16 Paul gives further instructions in using the gift of tongues, that all could participate in, explaining proper orderly use of them in the church. In v.14 it is clear that; If I pray in tongues, my spirit prays” This fact cannot be overlooked.

Paul’s statement in v.15 b “I will sing with my spirit but also sing with my understanding/mind,” is also reiterated in Eph. 5:19 “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord,” and Col.3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing each other in all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with grace in your hearts to God.” This aspect of praying and singing in the spirit and with the mind must be considered as well, and not overlooked.

The Biblical place and function of tongues in the church and life of the believer, is underestimated and misunderstood.

(Me) The point of some believing that tongues is necessary evidence of salvation. This is a belief held by some Pentecostal sects, not the large majority of mainstream Pentecostals, and shouldn’t be portrayed as common amongst Pentecostals, in discussing speaking in tongues.

(To me) There is absolutely no scriptural basis or any purpose for any type of speaking in tongues that does not edify or benefit the body of Christ. The Bible does not teach a secret prayer language of tongues. 

(Me) 1 Cor. 14:14 “If I pray in tongues, my spirit prays...” “For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men, but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries in the Spirit.” 1 Cor. 14:2 These facts cannot be overlooked. If tongues were only to be used in part with the gift of interpretation, why does Paul say,? “he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men, but to God.” And why would he exclaim that he speaks in tongues more than everyone, if it was only used in conjunction with interpretation? Illogical!

Your explanation for Paul saying, “I pray in tongues more than you all,” is simply an opinion lacking any Biblical credence.

(To me) No one is overlooking any detail. Because perhaps God understands all languages without an interpreter….Now of course with the ad hominem attacks. Seriously you’re stubbornness is sad to see. If you won’t be corrected by sound biblical exegesis then certainly please refrain from teaching experience as doctrine and from trying to take one verse and make a doctrine out of it.Paul states the fact that if the tongue is unknown to the speaker and to those who hear it; is a mystery.

(Meinterjecting here) This is a very strange rationale for explaining that text.

(To me) Remember when we interpret Scripture we always interpret scripture with scripture. No verse can or will contradict, as truth cannot contradict. So whatever verse 2 is saying it will not contradict the other verses with instructions on tongues. Second, we have to always define doctrine using the clear simple meaning verse first and then examine the more ambiguous verse. In other words we don’t define doctrines using the ambiguous verses without considering first the clear verses on a topic. Lastly there are many mysteries in the Bible. I would encourage you to do a study of those and the Greek meaning of mystery. It has more to do with a thing kept secret but now being revealed.

(My summary here on this discussion)

1 Cor. 14 following thro’ on the gifts of the Spirit from chpt. 12, is explaining that the gift of tongues should be used in conjunction with the gift of interpretation in public meetings, so that all can be edified. The chpt. starts off stating; “For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men, but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries in the Spirit.” 1 Cor. 14:2 Then Paul continues in v. 4; “The one who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but the one who prophesies edifies the church.This is the whole context and purpose of chapt. 14.

Personal speaking in tongues edifies the individual as they speak to God. vs. 2,4

Vs. 4b-5 explains that just as prophecy edifies the Body, so tongues with interpretation edifies the Body. Again this is the whole point of the chpt. Those who deny tongues is a ‘prayer language’, claim no where does it say it is, yet it’s right here. Paul says in v. 5; “Now I desire you all to speak in tongues, but rather (in public gatherings) that you should prophesy. Now the one  prophesying is greater than the one speaking in tongues, unless he should interpret, so that the church might receive edification.

Paul continues to reiterate this focus thro’ out the chpt. Private tongues is “My spirit praying, (v.14), giving thanks to God well enough.” (v. 17)

V. 18-19 “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. BUT IN THE CHURCH, I would rather speak five coherent words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.”

Paul desired that they all speak in tongues, but in the church, they should rather, prophecy or include interpretation with tongues, that all would be edified. This simple instruction is turned into a debacle by those who insist that tongues is speaking a foreign language, only, and private tongues are unBiblical, completely missing the point of 1 Cor. 14. If tongues were only speaking unlearned foreign languages, why does Paul say “For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men, but to God. v. 2 and “The one who speaks in a tongue edifies himself? v. 4. How could a person edify them self, praying in tongues, if tongues is speaking foreign languages that are supposedly to edify the church?

1 Cor.14 Summarized in vs. 2-5

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. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

v.2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God…

v.4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself.

v. I want you all to speak in tongues, but rather in the church to prophesy…

v.5b ..unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

1 Cor.14:39-40

The Church was birthed on the day of Pentecost, as all those gathered were filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues as the Spirit enabled them. This was the norm, to which the book of Acts continues to verify, as they all understood the place that tongues was to play in their lives. Paul was instructing the Corinthians on the place of tongues, that all exp.’d, as it related to the gifts of the Spirit operating in the public assembly.

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Acts 2:4

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