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Bible Q

What does “speaking in tongues” mean?

‘Speaking in tongues’ is a term generally used today for glossalalia, a practice in Pentecostal churches. Glossalalia is not a real language but strings of broken phonemes of languages known, or at least heard by, the speaker.

In the New Testament ‘tongues’ (Greek glossai) is simply the normal Greek word for languages. In most incidents in the New Testament a ‘tongue’ is simply Hebrew, Greek or a similar local language.

However the ‘tongues’ in 1 Corinthians 14 do not seem to be normal languages but something else:

For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. (I Corinthians 14:2 NIV)

For this reason at the end of this chapter Paul counsels the Corinth church to not allow this practice unless these utterances are translated.

Otherwise in the Book of Acts ‘tongues’ means ‘speaking in another language of the world’. We can see this in Acts 2:4-11, where the disciples first started speaking in tongues:

{4} … they [the disciples] were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. {5} Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. {6} And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. {7} And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? {8} And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? {9} Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, {10} Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, {11} both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”

5 Replies to “What does “speaking in tongues” mean?”

    • In Greek, the word for tongue is the same as the word for language. So “speaking in tongues” is identical to “speaking in languages”. In the passage cited, it is clear that the apostles spoke in the languages of the Parthians, Medes, Elamites, etc.

  1. In 1 Corinthians 13:1 it speaks of speaking in the tongues of men and angels. this lets me know that there is a language that we can tap into and use. Also, the word there in the GREEK is _glossa_ which Strongs says these phrases seem to mean to speak in another kind of language referring to a state of high spiritual excitemnet or ecstasy from inspiration, unconscious of external things wholly absorbed in adoring communication with God, breaking forth into abrupt expressions of praise and devotion which are not coherent and therefore not always intelligible to others. Read chapter 14 of Corinthians.

  2. I think we read much into the bible. God stated that people with the eyes of the lord will be able to interpret the bible with common sense. God didn’t make anything in the bible complicated but men tend too just too suit their selfish needs. Speaking in tongues just simply means being able to relate to other’s with common ground. Being able to speak the same language they do in order too be able to build relationship and spread the key word which is LOVE. Look at the woman in the well. Jesus related well to her because there was a sense of understanding when the barrier and the walls were torn down due to language (Tongues) having something in common then Jesus was able to speak life into her. Don’t make things to complicated LOVE is the key. You then will understand what means TONGUES. I can tell you this!! It is diffinatley not blah blah greb greb greb alahh kkkarr brahh LOL they are not filled with the holy spirit.

  3. I speak in tongue and get a overwhelming feeling of ( for lack of a word) peace. I look up words I have said and I’m amazed at what they mean, all in Hebrew language and to see all with the Bible. Thank you Holy Spirit.