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Unknown Tongues?

The following e-mails are commenting on the Analytical-Literal Translation (ALT). The e-mailers' comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.

> Hello again Mr. Zeolla,

I just thought I'd inquire as to your brackets in 1Cor 14 in your ALT. I realize it is in Stage 1, but after reading your thoughts on tongues and your e-mail "conversation" with that UPCI church pastor, I wonder why you have the bracketed [unknown] at all. The LITV does not.<

The reason "unknown" is bracketed is because, as you say, 1Corinthians is still in stage one. I hadn't looked at the passage yet. It was Robert Young who added "unknown" in brackets. He probably did so because the KJV has "unknown" in italics, and I have noticed that many times Young simply followed the KJV.

> There are those who tell us that the tongues in First Corinthians are ecstatic utterances not known in any country on earth. They base their conclusion on the term unknown which appears in I Corinthians 14:2, 4, 13, 14, 19, and 27. But the reader of this chapter should know that the Holy Spirit did not direct Paul to write that the tongue is unknown.

I find no warrant for changing the meaning of tongues in First Corinthians. In every other place where the word is used it means languages. Why then should the meaning be changed in First Corinthians? I know of no textual license that will warrant changing the meaning of the word. All the usages of tongues in Paul's treatment of the subject refer to foreign languages. "So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into air" (I Corinthians 14:9).

There is no reason for anyone to speak except to converse intelligibly. The Greek word laleo means I speak. The word is never used for mere sound or noise. Nor is it used for a mere mumbling or muttering of unintelligible gibberish. The tongues-speaking in the New Testament was in the native languages of hearing people. The supernatural phenomenon which took place at Pentecost was the exercise of a gift whereby many people from many countries, gathered at Jerusalem, heard Gods message in their own language. This was indeed a miracle of God.

It would be an arbitrary and strange interpretation of Scripture that would make tongues-speaking in the New Testament anything other than known languages. There is no trace of Scriptural evidence that tongues were ever heard by anyone as incoherent, incomprehensible babbling. What do you think?<

First off, I will remove the bracketed "unknown" since, as you indicate, it is unwarranted. As for whether the "tongues" in 1Corinthians is the same as those in Acts, I would agree with you. In both cases, it is known (at least by somebody) foreign languages. The reason an "interpreter" (or translator) was needed in Corinth is because there was no one there who knew the particular language being spoken. This would differ from Acts where people who knew a variety of languages had gathered for Pentecost.

However, there are of course, those who would disagree. They believe the "tongues" in Corinthians are "ecstatic utterances" and differ from the known, foreign languages in Acts. But it is the same Greek word in both cases. So there is no reason to believe it has a different meaning in the two passages.

I did consider providing a "figurative" meaning in brackets for the literal translation of "tongues" as I do for other such words (e.g. heart [fig., inner self]). I would take "tongues" as figuratively meaning "foreign languages." However, since there are those who believe the figurative meaning should be "ecstatic utterances," I will be more vague and simply use "languages" or "other languages" as context warrants for the bracketed, figurative meaning. Whatever "ecstatic utterances" are, they are some kind of language, just possibly not a human language. They could be the language of angels or a special "Holy Spirit language."

>God bless you, and by the way, I'm still working on BibleVersions.com. I'll let you know as soon as I've finished it to a point where I'll register it with search engines.


The last time I checked, your site looked very good, even in an incomplete state. When you get it finished it will be an excellent site for the person simply wanting to understand and compare the differences between Bible versions without being told which version is the best.


>Subject: Tongues is a known language?

14:2 For the one speaking in a tongue does not speak to people _but_ to God, for no one understands [him], but in [his] spirit [or, by [the] Spirit] he speaks secrets [or, mysteries] (ALT).

When the Bible text says that NO ONE understands him who is speaking in a tongue, and that he is speaking TO GOD how can you say that is a known language and that it needs to be interpreted because although it was KNOWN, there was no one there who knew it?? Why would God do that?<

In context, Paul is referring to no one in the congregation, not "no one in the entire world." The subject matter is a local congregation not the world at large.

>Your comments:
"As for whether the "tongues" in 1Corinthians is the same as those in Acts, I would agree with you. In both cases, it is known (at least by somebody) foreign languages. The reason an "interpreter" (or translator) was needed in Corinth is because there was no one there who knew the particular language being spoken."

Is this the same as in Corinthians, as you say?

Acts 2:6 Now this sound having occurred, the crowd came together and was bewildered, because they were EACH one hearing THEM speaking in HIS own language. 2:7 Then they themselves were all being amazed and were marveling, saying to one another, “Listen! All these [who] are speaking are Galileans, are they not? 2:8 “And how [is it that] we EACH hear in our own language in which we were born? (ALT).

I think that this is a fair translation from the Greek, but if EACH man was hearing THEM (not some of them) in HIS OWN language, it seems to me that the miracle here was in the HEARING not in the speaking.... :-)


This does not mean as saying that everyone understood everyone that was speaking. It would be perfectly naturally for a group of people each understanding the part of another group to say, "we each understand them."

Moreover, if you go two verses up from what you quoted, it states, "And they were all filled of [or, with] [the] Holy Spirit, and they began to be speaking with different tongues [fig., foreign languages], just as the Spirit was giving them to be declaring boldly" (Acts 2:4; ALT). So the text specifically says the miracle was in the speaking. There is no mention of the miracle being in the hearing.

God bless,
Gary Z.

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