Acts 2 is taken to be clearly referring to normal human languages being spoken – which were spoken directly to the hearers without interpretation/translation required.
The question is; were these normal human languages normally spoken – that is having been learnt through normal means and thus already known to the speakers before the events described in Acts 2, – or supernaturally spoken – that is unlearnt and unknown to the speakers prior to that time, but spoken as a result of a language miracle occurring – the speakers having received a supernatural ability to immediately speak languages they had not learnt?
It is assumed by virtually everyone that whatever languages the disciples spoke, they spoke without having learnt them. The only way this could have occurred is for the ability to have been acquired through supernatural means. However, the text does not say this anywhere – though it has been assumed by virtually everyone that it does.
I propose that the disciples already knew the languages they spoke that day and had acquired them through the normal means of language learning.
I propose also that the languages spoken by the disciples on the Day of Pentecost numbered at a minimum two, and at a maximum about 10. It is geographical regions encompassing both the Eastern and Western Diaspora of the Jews, and ethnic groups, that are listed, not languages.
It is known that the Western Diaspora, which incorporated over half of the list in verses 9-11, spoke Greek, and Eastern Diaspora spoke Aramaic or dialects of Aramaic. I propose that among the 120 disciples gathered on the Day of Pentecost, were Diaspora Jews which Jesus had drawn to himself during his ministry. Proselytes there that day would also most likely be drawn from the Greek and Aramaic speaking communities many of the Jews were part of. Even those disciples who were from Galilee, could easily have been fluent in up to about four languages.
Further, I propose that a little known cultural/linguistic factor called a ‘diglossia‘ was at work in the situation. The diglossia concept can account for some of what is recorded in Acts 2.
In brief, the term diglossia refers to the situation that prevails in many cultures where at least two languages are used in the culture, but are reserved within the culture for distinctly different roles. One language will most likely be the language of ceremony and learning – known as the ‘high’ language. The other language (perhaps ‘languages‘ if there is an international aspect to the culture) being the everyday vernacular – known as the ‘low’ language. William Tyndale was burnt at the stake for violating a diglossia of his time, by translating the Bible from Latin (high language) into English (low language).
Research has shown that a diglossia prevailed in 1st Century Israel with Hebrew as the high language – the ‘Holy Tongue’, and Aramaic and Greek being the ‘low’ languages – Aramaic being at that time the primary language of Israel and the Eastern Diaspora, and Greek being the language of the Western Diaspora…though Greek was also very widely used in Israel.
Therefore I propose Acts 2 is to be understood with a Hebrew-Aramaic/Greek diglossia functioning in the background.
Described in Acts 10 is another meeting of people in a multilingual situation. There was a shared language, presumably Aramaic, but also a non-shared language, presumably Latin. What Peter heard was some speech he understood (Aramaic) and some speech he did not understand (Latin). From the speech that he understood, he deduced that Cornelius and friends (non-Jews) had become believers, and if this was so they had received the Holy Spirit. This culturally was a severe challenge to Jews such as Peter and the other believers in Jerusalem, and is why the Lord prepared Peter in they way he had, through giving him a vision. It was in fact such a momentous challenge to the cultural expectations of the church that Peter had to defend what he had done before a church council, and describe what had occurred. The speech that Peter did not understand was some of the Roman group talking among themselves in Latin.
1 Corinthians 12-14
I propose that the situation being being addressed in 1 Corinthians 12-14 (in particular chapter 14), was simply how to edify the multilingual Corinthian church. I also propose there was underlying ethnic tension in this church (thus the need for chapter 13) which expressed itself in the way various languages were viewed or used in their meetings.
In the book I discuss almost every verse in 1 Cor 12-14 and identify clues which indicate both that the languages being spoken were normal human languages, and that the speakers knew what they were saying. If both of these propositions are correct, as I argue, then they exclude from the chapter, the current phenomenon which today bears the name ‘tongues’. (Actually, it is either excluded from, or unsupported by, every passage in the New Testament that has the word ‘glossa = language’ in it. Thus is not in the Bible at all.)
The approach taken enables several of the perennial problem texts in 1 Corinthians 14 to be resolved in very straight forward ways, ways that I am not aware have been published anywhere before.
The word ‘glossa’ is also used eight times in the book of Revelation. On seven of those occasions it clearly refers to normal human languages, normally learnt and normally spoken. ‘Tongues Revisited: A Third Way’ applies that same idea consistently to every other usage of the term in the New Testament.
Twenty one objections to the thesis are dealt with in detail in a “Question and Answer’ format – every objection the author came across over the fourteen years the book was in writing.
Regarding the two questions put up top on the home page:
‘Are ‘tongues’ for today?’ Of course! If Biblical tongues are simply normal human languages, normally learnt and normally spoken, then every time we speak we are using ‘tongues’.
‘Have ‘tongues’ ceased?’ The answer to this one is an extremely simply solution to what has been a perennial problem …You’ll have to read the book to get the answer!
The book is unique. It is a step sideways out of the debate as it has been framed for the last 100 years, and also out of the way the issue has been framed for perhaps the last 1800 years.