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1) What Power for Good!



I love the New Testament gift of tongues. How about you? Are you suspicious of it? You really shouldn’t be. Or, do you speak in tongues or have friends who do? Keep reading, because there’s a lot to know about New Testament tongues. No matter who you are or where you’re at, the more you know about New Testament tongues, the better off you’ll be.


The Bible describes tongues powerfully and richly. The gift is mentioned many times in its pages and always is honored with respect and esteem. Nobody in Scripture
ever dissed it as dangerous, or ever accused those practicing tongues of doing
anything wrong.


In fact, those Christians with the gift of tongues were exceptionally blessed because they possessed a great and superlative gift from Jesus Christ. If I had it I would use it all over the place – in evangelizing the lost, preaching to the saved, starting churches, and even in my own personal devotions. You name it, I would use it. If I had it.


Why? Because the gift of tongues described in Scripture is an amazing gift. Everyday people—just like you and me—spoke biblical truth in languages unknown to them.
It was a miracle every time it happened, and it happened a lot.


This miraculous gift from God introduced a whole new era of salvation when it gave birth to the Church in Acts 2. Later in Acts 8 it showed to who was really
saved and who was not. After that in Acts 10 and 11 it opened the doors for the
gospel to go to the Gentiles and be accepted by the Jews. In Acts 19, tongues
launched the church of Ephesus, breaking through the soil of previously impenetrable ground. Does any other spiritual gift even compare?


When I look at the gift tongues in the letter to the Corinthians, I am again astounded. It is so prominently discussed by Paul that he mentions it more than any other spiritual gift in the book. There were a lot of Christians speaking tongues in that church, and so far as we know not one felt guilty about it!


So forgive me—but the tongues written about in the New Testament is a great gift! If anyone wants to say it was something Paul or any other biblical writer was leery of, they need to look again at what is written.



Revelation


The greatest power in the gift of tongues was “revelation.” Revelation is a word often used by biblical writers to describe a miracle—a miracle of communication.
Whenever God speaks to man it’s called revelation, and as the word implies, it is a disclosing of truth that could not be understood apart from God taking the initiative to bring it to the person.


Paul says, “…brethren, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation?” (1 Cor. 14:6). In this verse, Paul anticipates a future day when he will be with the Corinthians and participate in their worship of Christ. He longs to be with them and to speak God’s very own words to them – words he calls “revelation.” When he comes to them and speaks in tongues among them, his tongues-speaking will be the miracle of revelation.


When Paul writes “these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit” in 1 Corinthians 2:10, he describes God revealing Scripture. God revealed infallible and inerrant Scripture to the apostles who wrote down what God revealed for the Church. The same infallibility and inerrancy was true of tongues, since tongues, like Scripture, was infallible revelation.



Mystery


Here’s another point like the last one. Tongues-messages contained “mysteries.” Paul says “… one who speaks in a tongue…speaks mysteries in the Spirit” (1 Cor. 14:2). At first that might sound esoteric and mystical, but it isn’t. It just means that when a person spoke tongues, they spoke truth that hadn’t been revealed previously in the Old Testament. A “mystery” was unknown truth in the Old Testament that God was revealing to the First Century Church. Many mysteries are recorded in the New Testament—here’s some of them: the church (Eph. 3:3-9); Israel’s future salvation (Romans 11:25); the indwelling of Christ in the believer (Col. 1:27); and the instantaneous catching up of believers at Christ’s return (1 Cor. 15:51).


In order for someone to speak a mystery they had to receive the miracle of revelation directly from God. Nobody could make up a mystery without being a phony! But we
never see a single tongues-phony in the New Testament, so we don’t need to start here. Once a tongues-message was received, a mystery was received. Because it came from God, it was immediately useful for the believers and instructed them on essential Christian doctrines that promoted godly living. This is, in fact what tongues-speakers always spoke, since 1 Cor. 14:2 says the “one who speaks in a tongue… speaks mysteries.” As a result their messages were quite important to their church and in the right situation, a church service would stop in order to hear the message being spoken by the tongues-speaker. He had the floor, because his message spoke revelatory mysteries that God was now revealing for the Church.



Authority


Did you know that tongues had to obeyed? The reason why is built on what we just saw. Because each tongues-messages was a spoken “revelation,” and because the
tongues-speaker spoke “mysteries,” the tongues were authoritative. In fact, not only did each individual believer have to obey a tongues-message meant for them, but even an entire church had to obey a tongues-message meant for it. Paul explains this authority in 1 Corinthians 14:8: “if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?” In this verse, Paul is comparing a tongues-message that has yet to be translated into the language the church holds its worship services in to a bugle sound nobody can understand.


The bugle comparison tells us something important about tongues. Imagine an army of Paul’s day hearing a bugle sound nobody could understand. They wouldn’t know what to do. Should they move forward and engage the enemy, or should they retreat? If the bugle sound that led the army was impossible to understand, then the General’s
commands to his army, issued through the bugle, were impossible to follow.


Paul’s comparison explains the authority behind tongues. When a tongues-message was understandable—meaning it was translated for all to understand—it called the entire church to obedience, just as an army was called to obedience through a
clear bugle call. A translated tongues-message called the church to do the will of her General, Jesus Christ. Tongues had the authority of Scripture. That’s one of the reasons it was such a great gift. It provided specific instruction to Christians from the General, Jesus Christ. He is the Giver of all spiritual gifts.



Prophesy’s Twin Sister


Tongues was equal in power to the spiritual gift of prophesy. In this way they were similar, but different, too. Prophecy was a great spiritual gift that spoke revelation from God straight to the listener—in his or her own language. For example, if you speak English, a person today speaking prophecy will be speaking direct revelation from God to you in English.


But the tongues message would have been in a foreign language you don’t understand. Still, a tongues-message, when interpreted into your native English, had the exact same power as a prophesy. Paul explains this in 1 Cor. 14:5: “He who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets” (italics added for emphasis). Yes, prophecy was greater than tongues because there was no need for an interpreter. But once a translator was available in the church service, the gift of tongues
was equal in power and authority to prophecy. Because tongues were revelation from God, the apostle Paul equated it to prophecy and commanded the church “do not forbid speaking in tongues” (1 Cor. 14:39). Paul wanted the Christians speaking and hearing tongues-messages.


Tongues-message were to be listened to reverently, and with all earnestness and diligence. Church leaders wanted tongues-messages so they could get God’s revelatory word on the important matters of the day. Believers knew that tongues-messages
brought words of insight, and like prophesy, contained counsel for the future. Tongues weren’t an embarrassment! They were so powerful and so well respected that the Corinthian Christians went overboard and sometimes spoke them too often in church service. That’s why Paul took almost thirty verses in 1 Corinthians 14 to help them use tongues in a manner that most edified the church. He didn’t disdain tongues or their speakers. He loved the gift and showed his enthusiasm for it by writing in all earnestness, “I want you all to speak in tongues” (1 Cor. 14:5), even though he knew that not every Christian would be given the gift by the Lord (1 Cor. 12:30). He loved those who spoke tongues, and could wish that all Christians had their gift.


One thing you will never see in the Bible is any such thing as tongues that were wrong, incomplete, mistaken, or of questionable origin. They were clear indicators that God was miraculously speaking with clarity, precision, and authority. When tongues were spoken, people listened!


Tongues-messages never got messed up by the speaker because the speaker wasn’t in control of the tongues-message. Paul offers an interesting insight into the gift when he
writes that the mind of a tongues speaker is “unfruitful” (1 Corinthians 14:14). The believer speaking in tongues simply didn’t know what he or she was speaking, and couldn’t unless there was a Christian nearby to translate the tongue into the spoken language. That ability is called the gift of “interpretation of tongues” in 1 Corinthians 12:10 and is mentioned six times in 1 Corinthians 12-14. So, because the tongues-speaker didn’t know what the revelation he or she was speaking until the interpreter gave it, he or she couldn’t mess it up. The tongues-speaker and the tongues-interpreter had the privilege of bearing revelation. If anybody could mess up the revelation, it seems, it would have been the interpreter, not the tongues-speaker. But there is no hint that ever happened in the New Testament. The miracle of tongues then also included the interpreter, because the translator didn’t know the original message either, and yet spoke that exact tongues-message given by God to the tongues-speaker.


Often in the New Testament God gave revelation to prepare believers for the future. He once revealed to a church the details of a future famine. The church responded as believers always should to revelation. They obediently and immediately sent money to the Christians of that region so they could buy food (Acts 11:28-30). He revealed His mighty works through the tongues-message in Acts 2:11 to prepare the 3,000 men of many nations to repent of their sin and escape future judgment by believing in Jesus Christ (Acts 2:17-21, 38). God spoke through tongues, and great things happened. Through tongues, they heard God!


That’s why there is no such thing as fallible revelation, even through a humanly exercised spiritual gift![i] That’s like having a square circle, or a holy sin. You can’t have a fallible revelation through tongues or prophecy because revelation comes from God, and He is true. In Titus 1:2, Paul ascribes only truth to God since “God never lies.” God also knows all there is to know. Job 36:4 says God is “perfect in knowledge.” Such complete knowledge is called omniscience, and God possesses it all. David writes, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it” (Psalm 139:6). “It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him” (Daniel 2:22).


Because the New Testament gift of tongues was revelation from God, it was always infallible. God never gave a believer a tongue that spoke anything less than complete truth that revealed knowledge hidden in God. Tongues asserted God’s errorless, holy, and authoritative truth to other believers.


Therefore, Paul would have been dismayed with all those who looked down on their fellow believers who possessed such a superlative gift. He would have, no doubt, rebuked their condescension and sarcasm as petty jealousy and ignorance. At the same time, he would have been grieved with any who misrepresented tongues with some shallow counterfeit. He would have had strong words for any Christian who demeaned the gift by claiming they had it, but didn’t. Because the gift of tongues was so powerful, anyone claiming to have it was granted a place of honor in the church. For someone to say they had it, but didn’t, would evidence a person who wanted power and honor before the church. But since tongues were always authoritative and brought infallible revelation, a false claim was dangerous to both the church and the person making the claim.



Questions based on this post:


Do the tongues-messages you are aware of have all the qualities of “revelation?” That is to say, are the tongues-messages you hear today absolute truth without any mixture of error, infallible, and worthy of obedience by all Christians and churches?



Do the tongues-messages you hear today reveal truth hidden for ages past in the Triune God? Are they messages that could not be derived by Christian’s exercising their own wisdom?



Do the tongues-messages you hear have the same authority as Scripture, prepare believers infallibly for the future, and reveal mysteries?






[i] Some people today claim that tongues and prophecy might be less that infallible, i.e., non-revelatory and therefore non-authoritative. This happens when the phrase “apostles and prophets” in Eph. 2:20 and Eph. 3:5 is mistranslated to mean “the apostles who are also prophets.” Supposedly, this opens the door for other kinds of prophets who can give prophecies that are fallible. However, there is a simple rule in Greek that first year students learn called “the Granville Sharp” rule. This rule requires that Eph. 2:20 and Eph. 3:5 be translated “apostles and prophets,” since the words “apostles” and “prophets” are plurals, and not singulars.



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Comment by Daniel on July 29, 2010 at 9:21pm
I don't doubt the sincerity of those that believe the the gift of tongues has continued to this day, but I don't believe it is being practiced today as it was described in the first century. Just my two cents...
Comment by Marv on July 30, 2010 at 9:08am
Ted, welcome on board the Theologica blog train. You've been kind enough to interact with Scott and me at To Be Continued.

Naturally, you wish for some commentary here too. Okay. First, I appreciate the well-written and easy-to-follow nature of your post. Clearly you have had a good deal of experience communicating in your pastoral ministry.

I think that a number of your assertions go considerably beyond the evidence, however. First, I don't think we have scriptural warrant to confuse the qualities attributed to Scripture with utterances of tongues. The Scripture is inspired, God-breathed. This extends to the writing of them. A message in tongues is not Scripture, not said in the Bible to be theopneustos. To suggest that it bears equal authority to Scripture and is to be obeyed by all is simply more than the Scriptures support.

Nor are we told that either a NT prophecy or a tongue utterance is inerrant. In the case of prophecies, we are told to evaluate them (v. 29; 1 Thes. 5:20-21). You have an interesting point when you suggest that since the mind is "unfruitful" the utterance is likely to be unmixed by the speaker's own ideas. This of course, underscores what is true of prophecy, that the speaker has the responsibility of accurately conveying the revelation, not the guarantee (as in the case of Scripture) that he/she has. In any case, your supposition that there is no way for a tongues utterance to be distorted by the human agent between revelation and utterance is also more than the Scriptures actually affirm.

Also Paul actually explains what he means here by "mysteries": "no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit." In this case, it is not a case of heretofore unrevealed truth, but something hidden, not understood, because it is communicated in a "tongue." You posit a significance well beyond what Paul is saying.

In regard to your citation of v. 5: "He who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets," there's a point I don't see you making here, but you do in the comments at our blog. You seem to argue that person X who gives a tongue utterance is not the one who is to interpret. True this is suggested by the ESV here "unless someone interprets." However, I never understood where this "someone" idea came from since there is no hint of indefinite pronoun there. There's no pronoun at all, simply the verb διερμηνεύῃ in 3rd person singular. The NET Bible would seem to be more accurate in rendering this "unless he interprets," as is justified by the text. So also the NIV, NASB and HCSB. However, the Message agrees with you.
Comment by Ted Bigelow on July 30, 2010 at 3:41pm
Thanks Marv. I appreciate the thoughtful feedback.

It appears your basic argument is that I imply more than the Scriptures teach. You make that mention several times. For instance:

“To suggest that [tongues] bears equal authority to Scripture and is to be obeyed by all is simply more than the Scriptures support”

I can’t retrace all your argument, but its pretty simple. You believe there are two kinds of revelation (inerrant and errant), and I believe there is only one (inerrant).

The reason I believe that is because God uses the exact same word to describe both (Rev. 1:1; 1 Cor. 14:6). Doesn't that give me justification to see them as the essentially the same?

In fact, nowhere does Scripture offer two differing definitions for this same word (revelation) as you would like to. In both instances “revelation” refers to communication. Further, both refer to communication from God through a frail and faulty human instrument. Yet, both are revelation. God thought it good to use the same word to describe both; therefore I do as well.

The idea of “errant revelation” is a complete newcomer to the Church. It is in fact an oxymoron. The idea that the human messenger would mess up God’s communication says more about God than the messenger. Don’t you think God is able to communicate through sinful man without compromising His revelation? I do, and Paul always assumes it. Why would you want to demean revelation by suggesting that revelation from our Glorious God is communicated with errors?

You make a point above that tongues is never called theopneustos. True, but who set up the rule that tongues has to be called “God-breathed” to claim its’ inerrancy?

God defines tongues just fine with the words He chose. That’s why my post defines tongues with the words God has given us. Words like revelation and mystery. This calls into serious question your statement, “I don't think we have scriptural warrant to confuse the qualities attributed to Scripture with utterances of tongues.” Bro, read the words in Scripture God uses to describe both. They are the same! If their qualities were different, God would plainly tell us. Even He knows the difference between those things.


“Nor are we told that either a NT prophecy or a tongue utterance is inerrant.”

Flip it around. Where are we ever told a NT prophecy or a tongue utterance is errant? Indeed, the entire corpus of Scripture testifies that prophecies and tongues are from God. The entire burden is on you to show that errant prophecies or tongues-messages come from God. I await your exegesis. Not only that, please explain why God would have to tell us that prophecies and tongues, which bear God’s revelation and mysteries to people, are inerrant when the very words he chose to define them already communicate that?


Here’s another case of claiming I overstep what the Scriptures teach:
“In any case, your supposition that there is no way for a tongues utterance to be distorted by the human agent between revelation and utterance is also more than the Scriptures actually affirm.”

Really, I thought I made that point rather clear. Check out “bugles” and “unfruitful minds” above. Again, due to human sin everything from God would be distorted if He allowed. But we are dealing with the Omnipotent Triune God and His revelation here, not a stupid angel called Moroni and some wacked out dude named Joseph Smith. I think He’s up to the challenge, don’t you?

Marv, your only real scriptural defense that tongues and prophecy could have error is the fact that they were to be tested (1 Cor. 14:v. 29; 1 Thes. 5:20-21). But you have superimposed your new theology of errant-tongues on the testing process. In reality prophecies and tongues were tested to see if they were either prophecy or not, or tongues or not. It was digital, not analog. In Scripture there is only either prophecy, or false prophecy. Sorry, we don’t get to come along 2,000 years later and impose a 3rd category on Scripture called partially errant prophecy.

Here’s a 3rd instance:
“Also Paul actually explains what he means here by "mysteries": "no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit." In this case, it is not a case of heretofore unrevealed truth, but something hidden, not understood, because it is communicated in a "tongue." You posit a significance well beyond what Paul is saying.”

“Mystery” is a term in Scripture that Jesus, Paul, and John use to describe what has hitherto been unrevealed truth. This is true in EVERY instance, all 28 times in the NT. It is an incredibly important NT word. Are you really going to come along 2,000 years later and claim this is the one instance where mystery doesn’t mean mystery? You aren’t content to invent a new definition for revelation; now you want to invent a new one for mystery too?

You should have seen this Marv, for you really have some wonderful exegetical skills. Look again at the phrase, “mysteries in the Spirit.” Is the Holy Spirit such a bonehead that He goes to all the work of giving holy information to a sinful child of God and then allows that frail speck of dust the overriding power to mess it up? No, these are “mysteries in the Spirit,” whom Jesus called, the “Spirit of truth (John 16:13).

Marv, i believe with Jesus everything from the OT got better. Do you want to claim that prophecy and revelation got worse with the coming of Christ? In the OT, prophecy was inerrant. The exact same word is used by the biblical writers for NT prophecy, and they never redefine it, but rather entirely rely on its OT definition (2 Peter 1:20-21). Why is it then, with the coming of Christ, now prophecy is less than it was in the OT?

Everything is better in the NT, no? A better mediator, better promises, better covenant... but now, we are to learn that is all true, except for prophecy? It used to be inerrant and binding, now it's erring and trivial? Again, my brother, why do you think so lowly of tongues and prophecy?

Why would you demean the gift of tongues, and its Giver, so much? Again, we ask for biblical proof of even one instance of teaching that a single tongues message was ever delivered with error.


Marv, I love what you wrote on the verb “pauomia” in your blog. I really benefited from that. But you don’t love the gift of tongues that’s revealed in Scripture. You want it to be marked by human sin. Why?
Comment by Marv on August 2, 2010 at 4:22pm
Ted, you're making me break out the numbers. And I'll put these in separate comments, because each response is longer than what it is responding to... alas.

Ted,
1. I never say there are two kinds of revelation. I never said there is errant revelation. I said that the Scriptures are in a different category than either oral prophecy or tongues utterances. Primarily this is because these are written, and the written Scriptures are explicitly said to be inspired (theopneustos). A guarantee extends to their written form. This is God’s Word to His people. This is a means of revelation to us. This (in its original text) is inerrant.
In the case of a prophet, the word of the Lord comes to Him/her. This is revelation—to the prophet. He/she shares the content of the revelation, and so in a secondary sense, to the extent that he/she conveys it accurately, the revelation comes also to the hearer, but via a human agent who is capable of mixing in error.
If prophecy were inerrant, the Scriptures would not say things like: Jer 14:14: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name.” Or 1 Kings 22:22 about a “lying spirit.” Nor would you have instructions such as Deut 18:22. The information given in accurate prophecy is inerrant. But prophecy is not always accurate, thus we cannot say it is inerrant.
We never have cautions like this concerning the Scriptures. For these “it is written.” OT prophecy was not inerrant because the prophet could speak presumptuously. Prophecy OF SCRIPTURE (2 Pet 1:20) is certified by being inscripturated.
Moreover, in the NT, we are told in 1 Cor 14:29; 1 Thes. 5:20-21, to evaluate prophecies given. All revelation is true, but not all prophecy conveys the revelation accurately.
In the case of tongues, I said that you make a good point that to the degree the person is unable to mix in error from his/her mind, the revelation is coming forth in pure form. However, I think it is saying more than the Scripture says to say that it is not capable of being distorted by the speaker. I’m not sure the utterance cannot be accidentally distorted (spoonerized, perhaps). Nor am I sure it cannot be mixed with (unintended) efforts from the person. It neither claims inspiration nor inerrancy for the gift, and thus I think, yes, it is inferring (you say implying) more about it than the Scripture does.
In the first place since prophecy can be mixed by the prophet after God’s revelation to him/her, it would be reasonable to suppose tongues could be likewise. Second, a tongue utterance needs either to be understood by a person’s natural language or through a gift of interpretation. Either of these cases can be a source of misunderstanding or error. Again, the revelation is inerrant. What happens after that is the person is RESPONSIBLE for accurate transmission, not GUARANTEED to give accurate transmission.
Comment by Marv on August 2, 2010 at 4:46pm
2. I think you are incorrect in your reading of v. 6:

Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching?

This may be a problem of the translation. The Greek says:

6Νῦν δέ, ἀδελφοί, ἐὰν ἔλθω πρὸς ὑμᾶς γλώσσαις λαλῶν, τί ὑμᾶς ὠφελήσω, ἐὰν μὴ ὑμῖν λαλήσω ἢ ἐν ἀποκαλύψει ἢ ἐν γνώσει ἢ ἐν προφητείᾳ ἢ [ἐν] διδαχῇ;

The ESV interprets the phrase ἐὰν μὴ as “unless,” and does sound as if the tongues utterance can be that “revelation,” or “knowledge,” etc. But it is really a second ‘if”. So the condition is:

a. If I come to you speaking in a tongue
b. If I do not speak to you in revelation, in knowledge, in prophecy, in teaching.

Now here he is speaking of different gifts, not tongues, not even interpreted tongues. Interpreted tongues are better than uninterpreted (in the assembly), being edifying, but they are not actually said to be tantamount to teaching or prophecy, etc.

That these are separate gifts, not (interpreted) tongues is clear from v. 26, where a “revelation” is different from a tongue. (This tongue, we understand from v. 13, ought to be interpreted). Thus, I don’t think he explicitly calls tongues a “revelation” here anyway, not in this chapter. I’m not saying it isn’t, but the reference to “revelation” in this chapter is to a different thing than tongues. It relates more to prophecy (v. 30). So while you and I may conclude that a tongues utterance is “revelation,” I think it is more than the Scriptures say to refer to it as revelation.

Also v. 2 says that the one speaking in a tongue is speaking not to men but to God. This is consistent with Acts 2:11 that tongues are telling the mighty works of God. They are praise to God in these instances. Interpreting them is edifying, but I think it is more than the Scripture tells us that interpretation turns them into either prophecy or teaching.
Comment by Marv on August 2, 2010 at 5:07pm
3. Revelation and mystery.

The passage refers to “revelation,” and it is likely true that it represents revelation somewhere in the process, but first the explicit reference to “revelation” is something other than tongues, not tongues itself. V. 6 is not saying that tongues is a revelation, but that communicating a revelation is more useful than speaking in tongues in the church assembly.

The revelation “comes to” an individual (v. 30), who then conveys it to the rest.
Mystery, in v. 2 is reference to the content being unknown to the speaker (and others), this is clear from it being paired with “for no one understands him” as well as v. 14: “my mind is unfruitful.” Also v. 9: “speaking in the air,” and v. 11: “I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me.” Paul, in the text, at least these 4 times, explains what is meant here by “mysteries.”

μυστήριον,n \{moos-tay'-ree-on}
1) hidden thing, secret, mystery 1a) generally mysteries, religious secrets, confided only to the initiated and not to ordinary mortals 1b) a hidden or secret thing, not obvious to the understanding 1c) a hidden purpose or counsel 1c1) secret will 1c1a) of men 1c1b) of God: the secret counsels which govern God in dealing with the righteous, which are hidden from ungodly and wicked men but plain to the godly 2) in rabbinic writings, it denotes the mystic or hidden sense 2a) of an OT saying 2b) of an image or form seen in a vision 2c) of a dream

That Paul’s meaning here is simply as 1b above is clear from his quadruple explanation. To bring in another meaning, as if the word always meant exactly the same thing, i.e. that of something never previously revealed but now revealed (through the tongue utterance…) is unwarranted, adding an additional entity, not in evidence n the text (i.e. against Ockham), and ignoring the context, which as I say, explains the meaning of mystery quite decisively. It is simply reading into the text an extraneous idea to interpret it as you do.
Comment by Marv on August 2, 2010 at 5:34pm
4. You say "I thought I made this clear..." No, I think you did not.

Actually, your bugle reference was not concerning the inerrancy of the tongue but about its authority. Again, I disagree with you here (i.e. I think you are wrong) for a number of reasons:

a. First tongues utterances are explicitly said to be spoken to God not to men (v. 2) So they are hardly imperative form instructions from God to man, which may bear authority.

b. I am unaware of anywhere a tongues utterance is said--in the Bible--to be obeyed by anyone. Indeed what we do have said about it suggests it is more of a praise. So this is why I say you go beyond the Scriptural evidence in what you are saying.

It certainly never says that the whole church has to obey it. You seem to be referring to a local assembly. If a revelation has to be obeyed and that means the whole church, why would not that also apply to ALL the church, and even you and me. But these utterances were not recorded (not enscripturated, for sure). Why--indeed--HOW could they be authoritative for a wider scope?

c. Furthermore, who says a revelation had to be "obeyed" in the first place? Paul was told "in the Spirit" multiple times not to go to Jerusalem. That is either faulty communication of a real revelation, or else revelation that was not such as it needed to be obeyed. Or else Paul was simply disobedient.

d. Your citation of Paul's bugle image is erroneous in its application. You suggest that Paul thereby teaches that tongues utterances are authoritative, since in the army bugle calls are authoritative.

But:

(i) Paul is using this illustration in reference to clarity being necessary to communication. It is explicitly stated to be an issue of COMPREHENSION, (v. 9) not in any way intended to draw in authoritativeness to the subject of tongues. His other illustration, simply music, being able to "name that tune" as it were, has nothing to do with giving orders.

(ii) While we're at it, another reason why, even if it is authoritative for someone, it isn't for the whole church--even given the idea you make of the bugle call... Company B on the flanks does not charge just because it hears the bugle of Company A. If an order is given, it is given to specific individuals or groups. If a "revelation" contains imperative material, that is only authoritiative for those to whom it is given.

(iii) Most importantly, and "besides" the bugle illustration is not even describing what tongues is, but WHAT TONGUES IS NOT!!

Paul uses it not to describe tongues but one or more of "revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching." THESE are communicative, intelligible, coveying information, not a "mystery," not in the air, not like a barbarian speaking. Tongues is NOT like a clear bugle call, in Paul's illustration. teaching and prophecy are.

So, yes, again, you are going beyond the text, and misinterpreting it, to say that tongues utterances, because of the bugle reference, are authoritative.
Comment by Marv on August 2, 2010 at 6:21pm
5. Let's take your statement that mystery, "describes what has hitherto been unrevealed truth." In "EVERY" instance, you state.

a. Well, first this is circular reasoning. I count 28 instances. These are NOT by any means all the same sense. Even if you actually mean that all the OTHER instances, 27 of them, are the meaning you state, it still remains to be seen whether the 28th is the same. It seems to me it 1 Cor. 14:2 indicates the clear meaning of mystery in its context. It is here something STILL unrevealed. This is a meaning of the Greek word, and it seems so defined, as I say, by four different ways to describe it. UNTIL it is interpreted it is "unreveled"---revelation, if it is revelation.

b. Besides, you make a statement of more than just "hitherto unrevealed truth." You say:

"...they spoke truth that hadn’t been revealed previously in the Old Testament. A “mystery” was unknown truth in the Old Testament that God was revealing to the First Century Church."

This may be the meaning of mystery in Ephes. 1:9 and several others, but this isn't what it means in 2 Thes 2:7. There it is something as yet UNrevealed. We know this since v. 8 says it WILL be revealed later. And this man of lawlessness, though unrevealed, WAS spoken of in the OT.

c. Furthermore, it doesn't mean this at all in Rev. 1:20. It just means a "secret." Here's the secret of the 7 stars. It wasn't a deep secret unrevealed in the OT. It was an image, something seen in a vision, which had a meaning, but the meaning was not readily understood.

This is the same sense in Rev. 17:7. It's just a secret. The images carry a meaning, but John does not understand, until it is interpreted.

THIS is the meaning of mystery in 1 Cor. 14:2. The meaning of the tongues utterances are unknown, secret, until someone interprets. Again, this is made perfectly clear by Paul himself, who explains his meaning (no mystery here, in other words), to reiterate:

(i) v. 2 "no one understands him" i.e. the meaning is secret, unrevealed.
(ii) v. 9 "speech that is not intelligible"
(iii) v. 9b "speaking into the air."
(iv) v. 11 "don't know the meaning...foreigner..."
(v) v. 14. needing to be interpreted, i.e. not understandable,
(vi) v. 15 "mind is unfruitful" again unknown meaning
(vii) v. 17 "does not know what you are saying"

So not just 4 but at least 7 times Paul restates his point, clarifies what he means by mystery. YOU should have seen this, Ted... "for you really have some wonderful exegetical skills." Would to God that every passage explained itself as clearly as this one explains the use of the word "mystery." When the immediate context covers it, and covers it completey, it is extraneous to bring in things from an entirely different context.
Comment by Ted Bigelow on August 3, 2010 at 8:25am
Marv,

Once you say that oral prophecy (including tongues) is different than written prophecy – i.e., the written is “guaranteed,” you’ve made a distinction in quality, b/c you imply the oral is not guaranteed, but liable to error. But since all prophecy comes come from God (written and oral) and no false prophecy comes from God, you are seeking a 3rd category that combines both elements. As my post makes clear, the fact that God calls both oral and written forms “revelation” and the conveyance of “mysteries,” (which you dispute) I have established that they are the same in quality. Thus both forms are theopneustos.

“Moreover, in the NT, we are told in 1 Cor 14:29; 1 Thes. 5:20-21, to evaluate prophecies given. All revelation is true, but not all prophecy conveys the revelation accurately.”

I’ll repeat what I wrote to you earlier. The evaluation was not about accuracy, but about validity. Was the oral prophecy false, or true. That’s it. Evaluation had nothing to do with measuring degrees of accuracy.


Your translation on v. 6 is unsatisfying if for no other reason it leaves your sentence “a” quite incomplete. The 2nd "if, 'ean'" shows a continuative, not disjunctive sense to Paul’s sentence. I would stick with the way most folks read it, that Paul is defining what benefits tongues would brings them if he came. Otherwise, you have to claim tongues brings none of these things: “revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching.” That’s too much to bear. If that’s the case, you just stripped them of any value. In fact, later in your post, you clearly implied tongues brought teaching.

“tongues utterances are explicitly said to be spoken to God not to men (v. 2) So they are hardly imperative form instructions from God to man, which may bear authority.”

Paul speaks of uninterpreted tongues here in the church only. This is why Paul labors in this chapter to demand interpretation, so that they do edify the church. Further, what do you think about Pentecost? Were the tongues only to God? No, for the men claimed to hear the mighty deeds of God in their own languages.

“Tongues is NOT like a clear bugle call, in Paul's illustration. teaching and prophecy are.”

Tongues that have been translated for the church are indeed like a clear bugle call.

“This may be the meaning of mystery in Ephes. 1:9 and several others, but this isn't what it means in 2 Thes 2:7. There it is something as yet UNrevealed. ”

2 Thes 2:7 claims the mystery is already at work – “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work.” It isn't all future, but is already at work. The mystery is “of lawlessness,” not that there would be an antichrist, as we see in Daniel 8-11.

“THIS is the meaning of mystery in 1 Cor. 14:2. The meaning of the tongues utterances are unknown, secret, until someone interprets.”

We are in general agreement here. But Paul has already established the meaning of “mystery” in Corinthians as new, hitherto, unrevealed impartation of revelation – see 2:1, 2:7, 4:1, and 13:2. It is you who want to change the meaning of mystery in 1 Corinthians 14 so that you can remove its authoritative and revelatory sense. Sorry, I can’t go there with you. As if to seal the point, look at the same word in 15:51. In other words, the meaning of mystery in 14:2 is exactly what I have claimed.

You are just freaked out by its connection with tongues. I’m not.
Comment by Marv on August 3, 2010 at 9:57am
Ted, I am happy to discuss the various exegetical decisions that are to be made in the text. I gave you reasoned explanations for why I think you opt, in multiple places, for incorrect ones. Generally speaking, you appear simply to dismiss the arguments. I understand you are invested in your interpretation of these passages, and have probably taught this to others.

I make no claim to being always correct, but I try to call them as I see them. And I try to see them as accurately as I am able. Whether I succeed is not something I cannot say from my own viewpoint. But my points are made on grammatical and logical grounds. I have no particular personal attachment to any view on tongues. I don't claim to speak in tongues myself, and I am certainly aware of the weakness of the 20th century movements, Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement in regard to their theory and practice of tongues. In my opinion there is certainly widespread practice of something other than the authentic gift of tongues. This is far from an argument that GOD has discontinued it.

However, I am much more personally motivated to interacting over exegetical matters, and in my opinion, you are repeatedly drawing unwarranted conclusions, stating things that are neither explicitly nor implicitly in the Biblical text. In that you continuously speak of the gift of tongues in the past tense, you do seem to be of the opinion that these have already ceased.

But, in my opinion, you are painting a picture of something that NEVER existed, the way you describe it, anyway.

As I said in one post, you can PROVE that the horse is extinct, if you describe the horse as a large hoofed mammal with a mane and a single two-foot horn coming from its forehead. You describe a "unicorn" version of tongues, and since you can't find any unicorns now, voila, they have ceased.

At any rate, Ted, agree or disagree (well, we know which), two thing are unneccessary:

1. This business of "You are just freaked out by its connection with tongues..."

No, I am not in any way "freaked out." I have given you sober and reasoned interaction. I am not sure why you wish to ascribe affective motivation to it, except that you don't really, actually interact with my points, just write 'em off. Easier just to say I'm "freaked out."

2. Just a wee bit o' condescension, wouldn't ya say, Ted?

A la: "You should have seen this Marv, for you really have some wonderful exegetical skills." Okay, granted, I turned this around back on you in one comment, but really...

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