Please can you clarify about speaking in tongues. Some say it is just fake and is not inspired by the Holy Spirit or by God. If the speaking in tongues is genuine, why do only certain people seem to have this and in most cases there is no interpretation of what is being said, and therefore no benefit to other Christians. Thanks for your help.


First of all, we need to look at what speaking of tongues actually involved in the first century church.  If we read Acts 2:1-12 we will find that the tongues spoken by the apostles were languages spoken by apostles who did not know these languages, but which were understood by the Jews in Jerusalem.  They spoke in the languages of Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Egyptians, Libyans and more. The natural conclusion is that miraculous tongues were actual human languages, known to the hearers, but not known to the ones speaking. This explains why those present understood these tongues to in fact be miraculous!  Paul commanded in 1 Corinthians 14 that when tongues were spoken in the church, they must be translated by someone who knew the language (or who was miraculously inspired to understand a language they also did not know?).  Again, these tongues were, apparently, actual human languages.
The fact, though, is that, as far as I know, no one who claims to speak in tongues today also claims to speak in an actual language.  They are speaking gibberish.  They may be experiencing a cathartic emotional release upon speaking in “tongues,” but they are not doing what was done by the apostles and those they placed their hands on in the first century.  That these tongues are gibberish is a plain truth.  Recordings have been made, and analyzed.  These tongues are not actual languages (which is what the Greek word means).  I know of no bona fide example of actual miraculous tongues in the early church NOT being a real human language.  In the very early history of the Pentecostal movement in the first decades of the nineteenth century, many sincere and enthusiastic Pentecostals went out to start missions i foreign countries, believing that those of other cultures would be able to understand the tongues they spoke.  This expectation failed utterly, of course.  We NEVER hear of claims of tongue-speaking being actual languages today, of if we do, there is no recording which can be used to verify the claim.  Tongue-speakers almost never have interpreters in today’s Charismatic or Pentecostal worship, despite the biblical command, but when they do, the interpreters are simply making something up.  I challenge any tongue-speaking interpreter to have another miraculous interpreter also interpret and compare the interpretation.  All of us, including those who say they believe in miraculous tongues and interpretation know full well that this will never work, as the clear fact–the undeniable fact–is that these are not actual languages, and the “interpretations” have no connection to the gibberish being spoken.
Now, I am making a very broad generalization here, and I am prepared to immediately retract what I am saying if anyone can produce evidence to the contrary.  Besides, I cannot prove that there are no exceptions.  I want to be careful and to be humble here.  What I am saying is based on biblical teaching and on my personal experience and the experiences of others I have spoken with or read from, but it is possible that I may simply be wrong, and I want to be careful not to claim that this has never happened at all.  Perhaps there are cases I am not aware of, and I want to say that it is possible that there are cases of actual languages being spoken miraculously.  What I am saying is that the best I know, there is no example.
Let me add, that there is solid biblical reason to believe that we should not expect miraculous speaking in tongues today.  First of all, in Hebrews 2:3-4, the Hebrew writer tells us that the purpose of the miraculous gifts was to confirm the initial message delivered by the apostles.  Once the message has been delivered in the form of the New Testament, the reason for them in the first place has disappeared and, presumably, the tongues and other miracles also would disappear.  I want to be careful here. This is not a super strong argument, but it is the most reasonable inference.
But there is more.  Every bona fide example of a person receiving miraculous gifts in which we know who passed along those gifts involved an apostle.  When Philip  arrived in Samaria, he was able to work miracles, but had to call for apostles to come from Jerusalem on order to pass on the miraculous gifts (Acts 8:14-17).  Again, this is not drop-dead concrete proof, but the biblical examples imply that these gifts were only given by apostles.  If true, and it is a good inference, then the gifts will have ceased by the early second century.  Well, the fact is that by the early second century, there is virtually no evidence of miraculous gifts continuing in the church.  The writings of the church fathers confirms this claim.
My conclusion is that it is likely that all those who are claiming to biblically speak in tongues today are simply not correct.  They are experiencing an emotional and cathartic release when they open themselves to this psychological phenomenon of speaking gibberish, but these are not miraculous events. I am even prepared to believe that some people find themselves more open to God due to experiencing this non-miraculous phenomenon.  I definitely am NOT claiming that it is Satanic or even bad, but I believe it is not biblical or miraculous.  I want to close by saying that I am not absolutely certain of my conclusion, but I believe it is true, because of biblical, historical and empirical evidence.  I do not want to limit what God can or might do.  Who knows?  Perhaps for reasons of his own, God may choose to give a particular individual some sort of temporary ability to miraculously speak in what, for them, is an unknown language.  I do not want to prejudge such a thing.  However, I am convinced that the vast majority of what is practiced today is not miraculous Holy-Spirit-inspired speaking in tongues.
Let me make one more comment and a request.  I understand that some will take offense at this article. I do not want to impute the motives or the sincerity of anyone who practices tongue-speaking. Please understand this.  Also, if anyone is aware of actual empirical evidence (not merely anecdotal evidence) that supports a different conclusion, please send me such evidence.
John Oakes

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