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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

'Other Tongues' vs. 'Unknown Tongue'

17And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18They 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. (Mark 16:17-18, King James Version)

In reference to the the above scripture, it is obvious that all believers do not start speaking different languages once they come to believe. Since there is much confusion regarding the topic of TONGUES, I have pasted below an e-mail comment I sent to a radio show host that was doing a talk on this very topic. I hope it clarifies the confusion for readers in regards to this important subject.

Dear Kelly:

I heard your programs on TONGUES done by a guest host – I believe Pastor Reed was his name. Whilst I agreed with most of the things he said I don’t think the subject of ‘Tongues’ as taught in I Cor. 14 simply means other human languages. The confusion I think results from confusing the ‘Other Tongues’ that are mentioned in Acts 2 with An Unknown Tongue described in I Cor. 14. While ‘other tongues’ can definitely mean other languages ‘unknown tongue’ I believe is a specific reference to one language (?) only not many. I have done a brief comparison here that should clear up some of this confusion.

Acts 2: 4: And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

This event that occurred on the day of Pentecost tells us that the disciples who native language was Galilean suddenly began speaking in other tongues or other languages that all those present at that place could understand. Note here that the expression used is other (meaning different) tongues, plural, whereas in I Corinthians 14 the expression used is an unknown tongue, singular. Furthermore take note that though there were about 16 different ethnicities present on that day there was no need of an INTERPRETER. So it seems strange to me that these two phenomenons mentioned in Acts 2 and I Cor. 14 would be the same and to prove this point I have noted below some of the differences (not all) between the Other Tongues of Acts 2 and The Unknown Tongue of I Corinthians 14:

  • In Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost some 16 different languages were represented yet there was no need of an interpreter, they understood everything that was being said in their native language.
  • In Corinth where in all likelihood everyone spoke the same language an interpreter was needed. Why if everyone spoke Greek in Corinth was there a need for God to speak to them in a language that was unknown to them? Secondly if he did speak to them in an unknown tongue why was there a need for an interpreter? Why did the believers in Corinth not understand everything that was being said without interpretation as the group in Jerusalem that included many non–believers did?
  • Does it not seem strange that even non believers can understand ‘tongues’ perfectly in one instance whereas believers cannot understand them in the church without interpretation?
  • If the purpose of tongues is strictly evangelization so that we can speak to people of other languages in their own tongue, why is interpretation needed when they can understand us in their own language? The people in the Corinthian church did not need evangelization they needed edification. So the purpose of tongues in Jerusalem was quite different from the purpose in Corinth.
  • In Jerusalem the people heard the disciples and there were 120 of them not just the 12 apostles speaking of the wonderful works of God. The disciples were not speaking mysteries and these tongues were not directed towards God as mentioned in I Cor. 14:2: For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.
  • The other tongues in Jerusalem edified the listeners whereas the unknown tongue in Corinth edified the speaker.
  • It is clear that the ‘other tongues’ of Jerusalem were meant for others whereas the unknown tongue of Corinth was meant for the believer alone unless it could be interpreted.

I can go on and on but I suppose you get the point that at the least a possibility exists that the ‘other tongues’ mentioned in Acts 2 and the ‘unknown tongue’ mentioned in I Cor. are not the same. While the word Tongue in both instances means LANGUAGE, in the one instance it means human languages whereas in the other it means A SPIRITUAL LANGUAGE. So what if false prophets like Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland promote the doctrine of tongues? The devil himself quotes scripture frequently; this does not make scripture false, does it? So just because false prophets are promoting doctrines, it does not necessarily make the doctrines false!

This subject needs more careful study. I do not speak in other tongues, as in different languages, but I do speak in an unknown tongue because I know it is biblical and it edifies the believer. God willing and time permitting I will continue this study and present my conclusions in much greater detail.


  1. Just read your post brother Paul, (You are not the one from Tarsus, right? - smile, just kidding). I think your position is RIGHT ON TARGET...!!!


  2. Corinth was a fishing port where people of many languages interact. They did not all speak the same language. In the book of Corinthians, the unknown tongue meant a different earthly language. Like an English speaker speaking to a group of Chinese. With interpretation the English speaker is speaking in the air and needs to sit and be quiet.

  3. Waoh!!! Benny hinn, kenneth copeland, false prophets??? On what basis???