Let me begin by saying this is one of the most controversial topics that I have come across so far. People are truly adamant on their position, whether they believe it is for today or it has ceased and is no longer needed for our time period. So needless to say this was a hard topic for me to write about. However, I am writing on this topic because I was asked for my opinion.
I must say that after researching this topic and trying to see what others said about it, I now understand the confusion. Everyone has taken one extreme position over another. There was no middle ground. There was no balance. So today, by beginning this series, I hope I can bring a balance to this subject. I want to start this series by talking about the unknown tongues.
Let’s begin with the definition of tongues. The Greek word used for tongues is “Glossa.” It has several meanings: “(1) the tongue, a member of the body, an organ of speech; (2) a tongue; and (3) the language or dialect used by a particular people distinct from that of other nations.” The majority of the scriptures use this term.
Actually, there is only one scripture in the New Testament that uses another Greek word for tongues and that is 1 Corinthians 14:21. The Greek word is “Heteroglossos” and it means “one who speaks a foreign language” or as it is translated “another tongue.” It was used when quoting Isaiah 28:11. I’ll come back to this later.
The Unknown Tongue
I want to talk about 1 Corinthians 14:2 because this is the first scripture everyone seems to go to when talking about tongues, whether they are for it or against it.
“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.” (KJV)
I know a lot of people read the King James Version and believe that it is the language of God. However, KJV is just a translation and it has some errors in it, just like every translation. What some people may not understand is that when a word is italicize in the KJV it means that the translator added that word for clarity according to their understanding. So if you look at 1 Corinthians 14:2 you will see that the word ‘unknown’ is italicized. That means it really doesn’t belong there. I believe this is where a lot of confusion comes from concerning speaking in tongues.
Those who believe in speaking in tongues argue that because they don’t understand what they are saying, the tongue is unknown. Those who don’t believe in speaking in tongues understand that the word “unknown” doesn’t belong in there. Therefore, all that “gibberish” that is being spoken by the believer is nonsense and of the devil. So who’s right? Neither.
According to the dictionary, unknown means “not known; not within the range of one’s knowledge, experience, or understanding; strange; unfamiliar; (2) not discovered, explored, identified, or ascertained; and (3) not widely known; not famous.”
You might say that since you don’t know what you’re saying it is unknown. But I beg the differ. The bible doesn’t say it is unknown. It says you just don’t understand it. Also, this particular scripture is speaking about talking to God himself and not man. Therefore, God, being the author understands it. It is not unknown to him.
Besides, based on the above definitions of tongues, neither tongue is unknown. Christians have built a whole doctrine off of this one little word that isn’t even in the original language. It was an addition. Thus, it is not scriptural. This could be why God is so against adding to the scriptures because error can result from it. For more information about this, see my post, “Teaching Requires Telling the Whole Truth.”
Every Tongue is Known
Like I said, every tongue is known, whether someone is speaking to God or to another human being. Just because you may not know what you are saying doesn’t mean someone else doesn’t know. And if you’re speaking to God, he knows what you are saying. Therefore, no tongue is unknown. If you do not know what is being said, all you have to do is ask God for the interpretation.
I chose to focus on this one topic of unknown tongues because speaking in tongues is a vast topic. In the next couple of posts I will focus on other areas of this subject such as the two classes of tongues, speaking in tongues in a church gathering, the gift of tongues and the purpose of Pentecost.
I would love to hear what you think about this post. Please leave your comments below.
Our Heavenly Father, who is in heaven,
Thank you for your word. Help us to rightly divide it and teach it correctly. Open up our understanding to it so that we can walk correctly in it.
In Yeshua the Messiah’s name, Amen.
“For someone speaking in a tongue is not speaking to people but to God, because no one can understand, since he is uttering mysteries in the power of the Spirit.” (1 Corinthian 14:2 CJB)