Ch. 18 from The Truth of Our Faith
by Elder Cleopa of Romania
What is glossologia
or speaking in tongues?
Glossologia, or speaking in tongues, as a gift of the Holy Spirit,
is the ability to speak a foreign language without having to be taught it or
knowing it beforehand. This is clear from the Holy Scriptures in which the events
of Pentecost are described, and at which time this divine gift first appeared.
The text is unabbreviated and unambiguous and recounts for us an actual event.
Consequently, the text itself cannot be explained with some particular mystical
or spiritual meaning alone, omitting the literal meaning.
Lets allow the passage
from the Acts of the Apostles itself to explain what the text means and what
comprises the speaking of foreign tongues by the Grace of the Holy Spirit:
And when the day of
Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And
suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it
filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them
cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were
all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as
the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews,
devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad,
the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard
them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying
one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how
hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and
Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia,
in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of
Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and
Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.
And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth
this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine (Acts 2:1-13).
From an examination of
these thirteen verses that contain the key to the solution of the problem, we
can educe the following conclusions:
- The speaking of foreign
tongues or languages, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, manifested itself,
as a miracle, for the first time in history. For this reason the reader is
provided with an extensive description, that he may be able to learn what
this miracle is and in what it consists.
- With this powerful
gift of the Holy Spirit the Apostles began to preach in other languages, even
15 different local languages of other tribes and nations that had converged
there for the feast of Pentecost.
- The Jews of other nations,
who had as their mother tongue the language of the nation in which they lived,
marvelled when they heard the Apostles preach in their own language, for the
Apostles were simple men of Galilee and it was impossible for them to know
another language except the Aramaic they had learned at home.
- The Jews of other nations
understood everything from the divine preaching of the Apostles. They spoke
to them with precision in their own language concerning the greatness of God,
without needing a translator, and it is in exactly this that the miracle rests.
The visitors to Jerusalem were unable to explain what they witnessed and were
full of wonder.
- Among the listeners
of the preaching there were also some that did not understand anything that
the Apostles said and subsequently mocked the Apostles, thinking that they
were drunk. This group can be none other than the residents of Jerusalem,
and perhaps those of nearby Palestine, who didnt know other languages except
their mother tongue, Aramaic. For these men the preaching of the Apostles
was completely unintelligible and they considered it simply sputtering.
Thus, the residents didnt
understand anything from the preaching, unless someone translated it for them.
For just as there is the gift of speaking in tongues or foreign languages, there
also exists the gift of translation. This was given, as is apparent below, when
those listening were only locals ignorant of other languages, as was, for example,
the case in Corinth (1 Cor. 14). In Jerusalem, however, during this period there
was not felt this deficiency. The gift of translation was itself also miraculous,
just as was that of glossologia, on which it was directly dependent.
Not having this gift the residents who were listening judged the work of the
Apostles according to their personal determination and perception alone.
a sign of the power of God and, as a decisive means of proselytism, was manifested
among men who ignored the Faith (1 Cor. 14:21-25). For, apart from this, what
meaning does it have for someone to speak about Christ in a foreign language
if he was taught, believed and lived his faith in Christ from his childhood
If there are those who
speak foreign languages and they are not understood by anyone, how do they build
up the Church or benefit it? For the purpose of glossologia was for the
Apostles to be able to spread, via the transmission of the kerygma (preaching)
in foreign languages, the Faith of Christians to all people and to make the
Gospel known throughout the world, as it is written: Their sound hath gone
forth into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world (Ps. 18:4).
If someone had this gift,
we must not think that it was the greatest among the gifts of God. The Apostle
Paul says that there are other, greater gifts of the Holy Spirit than that of
glossologia. I would that ye all spake with tongues but rather that
ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with
tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edification (1 Cor.
14:5). And elsewhere he also says, If therefore the whole church be come together
into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are
unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? (1 Cor. 14:23).
Consequently, the gifts
of prophecy, of preaching and of interpretation of Scripture are much higher
than the gift of glossologia, for with these the Church of Christ is
built up and benefited much more than with the gift of linguistics or speaking
different languages (1 Cor. 14: 2-4). More sublime and higher than all the gifts
is love, about which listen to what the Apostle Paul has to say: Though I speak
with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as
sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal (1 Cor. 13:1).
It is claimed by certain people that when the grace of the Holy
Spirit comes to them and they begin to speak in tongues, they find themselves
in a state of ecstasy. It is only at this time that they are able to speak certain
inarticulate and incomprehensible human sounds, to have certain internal impulses
or exclamations of joy, or to voice a certain remorse for their sins, as well
as other movements of the body which are made by the action of the grace of
the Holy Spirit. Saul had a similar spiritual manifestation when following David
and going to Ramah. He was overcome by the prophetic spirit and with a flurry
he prophesied, ripped his clothes off and went naked all day and all night (1
It is incomprehensible for a healthy, clear and well-balanced intellect to reveal
the great mysteries of God with inarticulate exclamations. Such a thing is not
at all the same, as we know from that which was revealed through glossologia
as a divine gift (1 Cor. 14: 2-4).
The Greek idol-worshipers
of antiquity had similar exhibitions when they prayed to their gods Dionysus,
Zeus and the others. When they were found before a diabolic idol they would
fall into ecstasy or a trance, shaking and making rhythmic movements with their
body, and tumble on the ground, with a few even foaming at the mouth like the
demon-possessed of olden times. Next they would get up and sing rhapsodic melodies
and make exclamations with demonic delight. The same happened with the Montanists,
heretics of the first and second centuries after Christ, the Gnostics, and later
the Methodists, the Quakers, the Pentecostals and others. These groups took
to making uncanny and strange turns and movements of the body, had hallucinations
and were in delusion, and thought that all of this came from God, when in actuality
it comes from theologians of darkness who are familiar with Holy Scripture and
who lead into delusion the unsuspecting, cheating them with words taken even
from Holy Scripture.
These people also say that with the charisma of glossologia
that they possess, they maintain unbroken the work of the Holy Spirit among
men and within the Church of Christ as it existed in the beginning of Christianity.
For, they claim, today, as also in the beginning, with this perceptible sign
of the gift of grace, the Holy Spirit stirs wonder and amazement in those who
as yet are not Christians. Furthermore, with this visible sign of the gift of
speaking in tongues, it becomes known to the faithful that there still exists
a work of the Holy Spirit in the Church as in the first period of Christians
The gift of speaking in foreign tongues or glossologia
was not given by God for all time, until the end of the world. It was a sign
given to the Church only for a time, with the aim of making it easier for those
of other religions to convert to Christianity. We see, in this respect, that
the Jews of Jerusalem, who did not understand the preaching of the Apostles
- kerygma given by divine grace - did not, in fact, believe but rather
said that the Apostles were drunk. The Prophet Isaiah prophesied concerning
their disbelief before this great gift of grace, saying, For with stammering
lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. To whom he said, This
is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing:
yet they would not hear (Isa. 28: 11-12). Indeed, in Jerusalem they spoke to
them with lips of strangers, for the foreign Jews, or Jews of the Diaspora,
heard about the wondrous works of God in their own languages and believed (Acts
2:11). And thus it is that the Apostle Paul prophesied that the gift of speaking
in foreign tongues would cease (1 Cor. 13:8 , 1 Cor. 14:22-28).
The people of that time
were spiritually in the age of infancy, for only just before had they left the
worship of idols and their intellects were blurred, confused and insensible.
They were still captives to the enjoyment of the fleshly pleasures and did not
have knowledge of the divine gifts that one enjoys only on account of faith.
It is for this reason that signs and wonders were then showered upon them.
Some spiritual gifts are
invisible and become accessible to man via faith. Others, however, are visible
on account of the unbelief of men. Here is an example: The forgiveness of sins
is an invisible spiritual work. We do not see with our sensible eyes how we
are purified of our sins. Why? Because neither is the soul that is purified
visible to the eyes of our body. Speaking in different tongues or languages
is also a work of the Holy Spirit, but it is a visible sign and more easily
persuades those of other religions. Hence, the reason Saint Paul says the following:
Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that
believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for
them which believe (1 Cor. 14:22). He who believes doesnt have need of guarantees
and signs. The first Christians would not have believed if they had not received
From those who I spoke to I learned that besides the gift of
speaking in tongues, they have also the gift of the baptism of the Holy Spirit
and fire (Lk. 3:16) which is totally different from baptism with water. This
baptism showers upon them various miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially
that of glossologia and the interpretation of Scripture, as happened
also at Pentecost with the Apostles.
Is it possible that there are two Christian baptisms? Doesnt it say in Holy
Scripture that there is one and only one? St. Paul tells us there is but one
Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all ... (Eph. 4:5; See
also:1 Cor. 12:13). The baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire (Lk. 3:16) of
Pentecost is none other than the Christian baptism which was pre-announced by
both Saint John the Baptist and the Saviour Himself (Mt. 3:11, Acts 1:5) and
which He said would happen by water and the Spirit - baptism neither by water
alone, as with the baptism of John, nor only by the Spirit (Jn. 3:5). These
two elements, the one visible and the other invisible, constitute the two most
necessary prerequisites for the one and only Christian baptism. If, with respect
to the practice of this mystery, some still speak only of water or only of the
Spirit as constituting the main element of this Mystery, let them know that
the Mystery is one and only one and its two elements are inseparable.
Each Christian should have within him the Holy Spirit. The members
of a certain Christian brotherhood say that while they can give evidence of
the presence of the Holy Spirit within them through the practice of speaking
in foreign speech, the Orthodox are not able to show this by any means. Consequently,
they say that the Orthodox are not true Christians due to the absence of this
work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
It is true that each Christian should have consciously within himself the Holy
Spirit. Yet, the presence of the Holy Spirit is not only made manifest via glossologia.
The Apostle Paul tells us that But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance ... (Gal.
5: 22-23). Do you see, therefore, that among the fruits of the Holy Spirit the
practice of speaking in foreign languages is not referred to anywhere? This
is the case because it is a gift of the Holy Spirit that was given for a certain
period of time in the Church, while the gifts referred to here by the Apostle,
all Christians, of every epoch, must have throughout their life. Whoever has
the fruits of the Spirit has also the Holy Spirit within him. The gift of glossologia
is not a common gift of grace but something special and not given to everyone
(1 Cor. 12:10). How, then, can we consider it a precondition of salvation and
a prerequisite for the presence of the Holy Spirit in our life when it is not
given to everyone? The Apostle Paul says, Do all speak in tongues? (1 Cor.
12:30). Consequently, then, those who do not speak in tongues can also be good
Christians. In the community of true Christians everyone does not have the same
gifts. The Apostles did not require this gift from all the Christians, and indeed,
in quite a few it was revealed that this talent was profitless. The Apostles
themselves did not use this gift, apart from exceptional cases when they had
a certain aim, as on the day of Pentecost. So, therefore, it should be clear
that they did not call upon every Christian to have this gift as a means of
I would like, after all that we have said concerning glossologia,
for you to summarize exactly the main points of our discussion.
Listen, brother, and guard well within your mind: True glossologia as
a gift of the Holy Spirit can be recognized only when it is combined with the
1) If someone, by inspiration
[of the Holy Spirit], speaks a language, it should be understood by all those
who stand nearby, as happened in the case that we cited from the Acts of the
Apostles (Acts 2:1-13).
2) When someone speaks
a language among the residents [of Jerusalem, Corinth etc.] that they do not
understand, then another gift, the gift of translation of this language into
the language of the people is necessary. Without this translation the foreign
language is babbling and lunacy (1 Cor. 14:23).
3) Glossologia was
not given to the Church forever, but only in the beginning of Christianity
in order to awaken the idol-worshippers and Jews to belief in Christ. This
is why the Apostle Paul said that the gift of glossologia would at
some point cease to exist in the Church (1 Cor. 13:8).
4) Since we believe that
Christ is our true God we no longer have need of glossologia, given
the fact that the knowledge of foreign languages by inspiration [of the Holy
Spirit] is a sign (miracle) necessary only for the unbelieving and not for
the faithful (1 Cor. 14:22).
5) From the beginning
of Christianity the gift of glossologia was one among the lesser in
the Church of Christ, while the others, such as that of prophecy, interpretation
of Scripture, of love and the rest, were much greater.
6) It is totally out
of the question for speaking in tongues, as a gift of the Holy Spirit, to
mean a delirium in a non-existent and incomprehensible language, for then
it wouldnt be speaking in languages, but our own [exclusive] language (Mk.
16:17). Moreover, it comes into clear contradiction with chapter two of the
Acts of the Apostles.
7) The inarticulate voices,
lunacies and incoherent utterances which we often hear from the self-proclaimed
speakers of tongues very much resembles the scenes the idol-worshippers would
make before their idols of Dionysus, as well as with quite a few of the Montanists,
Gnostics, Quakers, and later Pentecostals, all of whom the true Church of
Christ anathematizes (See the first and second Canons of the Sixth Oecumenical
Thus, brother, foreign
to the Spirit of God is the speaking in tongues of those who think they are
grace-bearers and make bold to misconstrue the true glossologia, a gift
of the Holy Spirit which existed at the outset of Christianity.
* Translators note: Literally, the Greek word translates as linguistics.
Due to a popular misconception among English speaking people, the translation
of ’947;’955;’969;’963;’963;’959;’955;’959;’947;’943;’945; is troublesome.
In this chapter the word has been rendered variously as glossologia,
speaking a foreign language, speaking a foreign tongue, linguistics, and
speaking in tongues. The English dictionary gives for glossology: The science
of language; linguistics.
Ch. 18. from The Truth of Our Faith: A Discourse from Holy Scripture on the
Teachings of True Christianity, By Elder Cleopa of Romania (Greece: Uncut Mountain Press, 2000). Order from Uncut Mountain Supply.