Mysteries of the Bible

"Unanswered Questions of the Bible"

Heavenly Tongues of Fire

Posted by foryourfaith on April 8, 2010


Seven weeks after Christ’s crucifixion his disciples were transformed by the Holy Spirit at the feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem. They felt ‘the rush of a mighty wind’ through the house where they were gathered, while a body of flame appeared and then divided to hover over each disciple’s head.

To their amazement the disciples suddenly found themselves speaking in many languages other than their own. Soon they had attracted crowds of Foreign Jews, who expressed astonishment that the Galileans spoke in tongues that everyone heard and understood as their own language.

‘Speaking in tongues’ is known to modern students of abnormal psychology as a phenomenon of patients in trances or delirium talking in languages unknown to them, often as a form of religious ecstasy. One theory is that such a speaker has somehow been exposed to the language at an earlier time – as a neighbor to a foreign family, for instance – and through some unconscious process of absorption is able to reproduce these sounds. During Pentecost, as at most of the great Jewish festivals, pilgrims from many nations filled the streets of Jerusalem speaking their native tongues. Parts of the readings in the Temple were also repeated in different languages, and the disciples of Jesus would have been continuously exposed to them. Some subconscious listening have been the basis of the Pentecost miracle? The Bible does not say that the disciples even understood what they were saying, simply that they were praising God in many languages.

The gift of tongues is found today among Pentecostal Christians, Shakers, Quakers, and members of the Church of Latter-day Saints. Some adherents maintain it is the language of angels. Others view it as closer to music than speech, but still a legitimate form of worship. According to Saint Paul, ‘one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God’.

Christians consider the miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit to be the foundation of the church. And the thousands of pilgrims in Jerusalem who heard the words of the disciples at the feast of Pentecost went on to spread the Christian message in their own lands.


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