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Are the Tongues Spoken Today Ever Known Languages like They Were at Pentecost?



A N INDIAN STUDENT in Washington D.C. shared with me this interesting story. A minister who opposed the work of Pentecostal missionaries in India wrote a pamphlet denouncing the experience of speaking in tongues, and in it quoted a single phrase he had heard as “meaningless gibberish.” Disciples of the writer took copies of the pamphlet to distribute them in various villages where the Pentecostal missionaries were at work. Standing in the center of a particular village, one pamphleteer began denouncing the Pentecostal experience. He read aloud the example of “gibberish” included in the pamphlet only to have a native push his way excitedly through the crowd and ask him to repeat the phrase. Examination proved the “gibberish” was actually a quote from Scripture, spoken in the peculiar dialect of this native who lived many miles away. The phrase being shouted in derision was “You have been purchased,” A REFERENCE TO 1ST COR. 6:20.

While still in seminary, I heard the story of an American minister praying in tongues, which visiting worshippers recognized as their own language: Chinese. But while the minister was using Chinese syllables, he was stringing them together in ways of unique beauty and originality, forming complex sentences of praise to God which the Chinese Christians themselves had never thought of using.

Episcopalian minister Dennis Bennett has a man in his church in Seattle, Washington, whose prayer language has been identified as Mandarin Chinese, described, in his parish newsletter of April 12, 1967, as a most striking example of tongues proving to be a known language. He writes:

A pastor in Oregon tells me of a young Japanese woman married to a young American in his congregation. The Japanese girl had never accepted Christ, but came to the altar of the church with her husband, he to worship God, she to pray to Buddha! Just recently, my friend tells me, as the couple knelt at the altar in his church, a woman next to them began to speak in tongues. The Japanese girl clutched her husband’s arm: “Listen,” she said. The woman next to them was speaking Japanese, and through her God said: “You have tried Buddha and he has not helped you; why don’t you try Jesus Christ?” God addressed this Japanese girl by her full name, known to no one in this country, and certainly not to the woman speaking, who had no idea how she was being used. Not only that, but the Japanese girl told my pastor friend: “She was speaking high Japanese, the very formal language which we only use in our temples, and places like that.”

Many, many other illustrations of a like nature could be included here, but these should be sufficient for us to see that yes, speaking in tongues today can be in a known language. But again, let us stress that this fact in no way verifies the authenticity of speaking in tongues. It is still a MIRACULOUS GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, even in the majority of cases where no one is present who can identify the language.

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