T Nation

Speaking In Tongues


What's up T-Nation,

I'd like to use this thread to seek your input on something that freaked me out as a kid.

When I was about 12, I went to visit a distant relatives' church. I had previously only went to church a few times so it was all around a new experience for me. I left shocked and am yet to figure out what I saw that day.

People were dancing, shouting, and some of the strangest sounds were coming out their mouth. Definitely unlike any language I had heard or have heard since.

Can anyone give a scientific explanation for speaking in tongues? How the hell would you explain that? And also, what do Christians say?


I have experienced this on many occasions and have done a little 'investigation' into it myself but never from a scientific point of view, only a biblical/religions perspective.

I am sure that this is going to turn into an interesting thread.

I find that speaking in tongues in our current culture, or at least what I have personally expreienced, is something that many people do in church to draw attention to themselves or to make themselves feel more holy or important. The bible has some pretty detailed guidelines about speaking in tongues and how (I think, but will have to check) there should be no more than two people speaking in tongues at the same time and this should only be done if there is someone present who can interpret what is being said. If there is no interpreter then the person should be silent.

I have seem on many occasions many more than two people speaking in tongues and I have never heard any of it interpreted or even know of someone who could interpret what is being said.

I believe that there can be power for the congregation of a church from people speaking in tongues, if it is done properly. However, I feel the majority of it today is useless and self gratifying with no real purpose or benefit to anyone.


"My momma told me to buy a Honda. So, I bought a honda". - Just murmer and repeat rapidly.

Oddly, a person that attended a church where people speak in tongues relayed that a friend.

I find speaking in tongues to be just another piece of Christian mythology.

Anywho... this reminds me of the movie "SAVED!" In one scene, the "Bad girl" of began shouting in tongues:

[during the school assembly, Cassandra stands up and begins yelling in Spanish]
Tia: [thinking] Oh my god, the Jew girl's speaking in tongues!
[Cassandra rips open her shirt]
Roland: [thinking] She's going to show her boobs! Thank you Jesus!
Patrick: [thinking] She is, she's going to show her boobs!
[looking horrified, Hilary Faye stands up at the podium]
Hilary Faye: She's saying she has a hot pussy!


Wikipedia has a nice entry on this.


I have went to churches that members spoke in tongues all of my life, and one in particular that got pretty crazy. I have been in services where the tongues are interpreted and it is a somewhat different experience than everyone running around speaking in tongues. When spoken at the right time and interpreted, it is an amazing complement to a service. I believe in it with all my heart and have seen people really touched by it. However, I also believe that most churches do not understand or practice it the way that we are instructed to in scripture, and when this happens it would be better if they were just silent.


The practice of "speaking in tongues" is one of the most wacked out results of bible ignorance out there. Sadly, you find it all over in Pentacostal churches.

You have to remember, idiots come in all shapes. Some go to church. Some go to college. Some have MDs. Some get elected to powerful positions in government, etc.

In the bible, the term "tongue" ALWAYS refers to a natural language of some sort, or, of course, the organ in your mouth.

Just look at the first incidence in the New Testament in Act 2.

2:4 they began to speak with "other tongues."

2:8 In this verse, the specific languages are listed.

Since it happened when you were 12, why are you asking now?


The first mentioning of speaking in tongues is in the book of Acts, chapter 2 I believe. Jesus disciples are imbued with the ability to speak tongues through the Holy Spirit however there were certain catches to it.

The disciples were able to speak in foreign tongues, not in a way that was confusing or uncomprehendable to other people. One of the reasoning for speaking in tongues was to be able to communicate with people of other tongues (the gospel of Jesus). Meaning they normally spoke in Greek however through tongues they could speak chinese or whatever was needed. Each foreign person could hear the message and understand completely what was being said in their own dialect.

Remember many of Jesus' disciples never reached past a second grade education so they couldnt suddenly pick up a new foreign language. Outside of this context, there wouldnt be any reason for speaking in tongues. This is certainly dependent on the denomition of the christian church as many still believe in this. But I think these giftings were given to further the gospel and no longer needed in Christians today. Furthermore, to communicate in a way in which no one understands stands no purpose in furthering Gods kingdom.

I mean what purpose would God be serving in giving the ability to speak a language in which no one could understand? And even if another christian supposedly could understand, why would they need to do so? I cannot think of any except to keep the gospel in the company of Christians and that doesnt make a lick of sense. Christians are always told to further the gospel of Christ, not to swander it and to keep it to themselves.


Not exactly to your point here, but I was watching a show the other night and the were talking about the Pentacostal/Charismatic movement within American Christianity and were speaking to a number of religious scholars and clergy about it. Apparently speaking in tongues is common, if not encouraged, in such congregations, as is dancing, shouting, hand waving, etc. One of the scholars was speaking about how it served a very in his words "democratizing" function in that a mechanic and a Ph.D. are both able to speak in tongues when they feel/are so posessed and are held in equal respect within the community for such behavior. This, he theorized, was one of the reasons for the growth of the movement in the last century.


I Corinthians 13:1-3: Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity [love], I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, l am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.


Yes, Big Paul, I think describing the practice with the word "possessed" makes a lot of sense.


THis is a bit long but it confirms what I and others have said about speaking in tongues.

I have never seen a situation where the guidance from the bible below regarding speaking in tongues was actually followed.

1 Corinthians 14 2-28

2For anyone who speaks in a tongue[a] does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.[b] 3But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. 4He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. 5I would like every one of you to speak in tongues,[c] but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues,[d] unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.

6Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? 7Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? 8Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? 9So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. 10Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. 11If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me. 12So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.

13For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says. 14For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind. 16If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand[e] say "Amen" to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? 17You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.

18I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

20Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. 21In the Law it is written:
"Through men of strange tongues
and through the lips of foreigners
I will speak to this people,
but even then they will not listen to me,"[f] says the Lord.

22Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers. 23So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand[g] or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand[h]comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, 25and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, "God is really among you!"

26What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. 27If anyone speaks in a tongue, two?or at the most three?should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.


In my experience it's mostly just a way for people to draw attention to themselves, and is detrimental to the church body for this reason. I mean yes, the ways of god are mysterious and so on and so forth, but the scriptural support for it is sketchy at best, and it doesn't really make sense for God to communicate in this way.

As a personal method of communication between God and a person it makes sense, because words can get in the way of what you are feeling, and thinking while praying gets in the way of the proper flow of emotion and breaks one's concentration. I think for praying over someone it could be useful for the same reason.

However there's no real reason to just shout nonsense.

My two cents as a former Christian (pentecostal).


I'm very worried about pookie..I hope he's okay. It seems that he should be weighing in with a tirade of insults levelled at Christians. He rarely misses such an opportunity.

Oh well, the thread is young.


they could also be possesed by demons.

please don't pick out Holy Bible versus without having the knowledge and history to know what they mean.


My wife loves it when I speak in tongues... :wink:


I speak to my girlfriend with my tongue.

edit: didnt see the comment previously made.


i've yet to see any real proof from the Bible that what is being said today in any way represents the biblical notion of speaking in tongues. while there are many guidelines laid in the Bible for speaking in tongues, it seems they are for the most part ignored. i've rarely seen interpreters and i don't understand why they claim to speak some sort of "heavenly" language. those in the Bible spoke earthly languages that others could interpret and understand.

didn't Paul say he'd rather they prophesied than speak in tongues? or that it was more important? i don't understand why tongues became such a staple in those churches.


Interesting. So you guys are saying that speaking in tongues is voluntary? I assumed that it was just something that happened and not something the people were trying to do.

Also, to the guy who asked why I am wondering about it when it happened around age 12: I've always wondered about it since and haven't really came away with an understanding.

When others have tried to explain it, they would say that it was God speaking through them and the people weren't doing it on purpose. I assumed it was like being "possessed by an evil spirit", only the exact opposite.

If there was choice then I can see how it'd be used just for attention.


I grew up Pentecostal. Just curious who else did?


I mentioned earlier that I have not set foot in a church for a number of years now, and I am in no way claiming to be an expert on this matter in either the theology or the practice of speaking in tongues.

What I have seen in my personal experience is many people 'speaking in tongues' (I am using the term very loosely) from a very voluntary decision to portray an image which makes them feel to themselves, or appear to to others, as more religious or holy or whatever it is they are personally seeking.

I can accept that this will be taken as a very braod generalisation, and I sincerely hope that others can prove me wrong and provide some better examples, but this is just to share what I have seen and experienced.