Note: The nature of tongues
Main point summary
Run after love, and in love be zealous to orderly exercise spiritual gifts so as to build the church. Particularly, [a] worship with both your spirit and mind (i.e. not in uninterpreted tongues), and [b] come to gatherings ready to contribute when/if it is appropriately your turn.
1 Corinthians 14:1-40
Run after love, and be zealous for spiritual gifts like prophecy.
The person speaking in a tongue builds himself up only (with only God able to understand) whereas the one prophesying builds the church. [ground]
I value someone prophesying over speaking in tongues (without interpretation); in fact, prophesy is greater! [ground]
I cannot benefit you with a tongue alone, just as instruments which cannot hit notes are useless. [comparison]
You too—if you only speak in tongues, you will be speaking to the air. [explanation]
Languages have meaning and so it misses the point if I don't know the meaning. [Implied: therefore, I seek what is meaningful.] [comparison]
You too—seek gifts to build the church. [explanation]
Therefore, pray, sing and thank God with both with spirit and mind (i.e. not in tongues unless it is with interpretation) for your own sake and to build up others. [explanation]
I greatly appreciate speaking in tongues, but would far rather teach with my mind. [explanation]
The Law teaches us that tongues are a sign (typically of judgment) for non-believers, while prophecy is to make and build believers. Therefore, if you are all speaking in tongues and a non-believer (of simply someone who doesn't know the tongue) visits, he will think you are crazy (and stay a non-believer). Whereas if you are all prophesying, he will repent. [Tongues are a sign to get people to pay attention (think Acts 2), whereas prophecy involves teaching the gospel and actually seeing people saved.] [ground]
Therefore, each person should come to your gatherings with a way to build others up. [explanation]
For tongues this means 2-3 speakers and always with interpretation. [explanation]
For prophecy this means 2-3 speakers, deferring to one another and weighing what is said. [explanation]
Women should keep silent in church as prophecies are evaluated and different people are given permission to speak. [explanation]
The true prophets and those truly spiritual will recognized that I write Jesus' command, not my own. [parentheses]
So then, while you ought to earnestly desire to prophesy and not forbid tongues, [the main point is that] all things must be orderly. [summary]
1 Corinthians 14:1-40
Διώκετε τὴν ἀγάπην, ζηλοῦτε δὲ τὰ πνευματικά,
s Pursue love, and t earnestly desire the u spiritual gifts,
Pursue love and be jealous for that which is spiritual,
μᾶλλον δὲ ἵνα προφητεύητε.
especially that you may v prophesy.
and specifically in order to prophesy.
ὁ γὰρ λαλῶν γλώσσῃ οὐκ ἀνθρώποις λαλεῖ
For w one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men
but to God;
οὐδεὶς γὰρ ἀκούει,
for no one understands him,
πνεύματι δὲ λαλεῖ μυστήρια•
but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.
ὁ δὲ προφητεύων ἀνθρώποις λαλεῖ οἰκοδομὴν καὶ παράκλησιν καὶ παραμυθίαν.
On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.
ὁ λαλῶν γλώσσῃ ἑαυτὸν οἰκοδομεῖ•
The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself,
ὁ δὲ προφητεύων ἐκκλησίαν οἰκοδομεῖ.
but the one who prophesies builds up the church.
θέλω δὲ πάντας ὑμᾶς λαλεῖν γλώσσαις,
Now I want you all to speak in tongues,
μᾶλλον δὲ ἵνα προφητεύητε•
but x even more to prophesy.
μείζων δὲ ὁ προφητεύων ἢ ὁ λαλῶν γλώσσαις
The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues,
ἐκτὸς εἰ μὴ διερμηνεύῃ,
unless someone interprets,
ἵνα ἡ ἐκκλησία οἰκοδομὴν λάβῃ.
so that the church may be built up.
Νῦν δέ, ἀδελφοί, ἐὰν ἔλθω πρὸς ὑμᾶς γλώσσαις λαλῶν,
Now, brothers, 1 if I come to you speaking in tongues,
τί ὑμᾶς ὠφελήσω
how will I benefit you
ἐὰν μὴ ὑμῖν λαλήσω ἢ ἐν ἀποκαλύψει ἢ ἐν γνώσει ἢ ἐν προφητείᾳ ἢ [ἐν] διδαχῇ;
unless I bring you [ lit. speak to you with] some y revelation or knowledge or prophecy or z teaching?
ὅμως τὰ ἄψυχα φωνὴν διδόντα, εἴτε αὐλὸς εἴτε κιθάρα, ἐὰν διαστολὴν τοῖς φθόγγοις μὴ δῷ,
If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes,
πῶς γνωσθήσεται τὸ αὐλούμενον ἢ τὸ κιθαριζόμενον;
how will anyone know what is played?
καὶ γὰρ ἐὰν ἄδηλον σάλπιγξ φωνὴν δῷ,
And a if the bugle gives an indistinct sound,
τίς παρασκευάσεται εἰς πόλεμον;
who will get ready for battle?
οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς
So with yourselves,
διὰ τῆς γλώσσης ἐὰν μὴ εὔσημον λόγον δῶτε,
if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible,
πῶς γνωσθήσεται τὸ λαλούμενον;
how will anyone know what is said?
ἔσεσθε γὰρ εἰς ἀέρα λαλοῦντες.
For you will be b speaking into the air.
τοσαῦτα εἰ τύχοι γένη φωνῶν εἰσιν ἐν κόσμῳ
There are doubtless many different languages in the world,
καὶ οὐδὲν ἄφωνον•
and none is without meaning,
ἐὰν οὖν μὴ εἰδῶ τὴν δύναμιν τῆς φωνῆς,
but [ lit. therefore] if I do not know the meaning of the language,
ἔσομαι τῷ λαλοῦντι βάρβαρος
I will be c a foreigner to the speaker
καὶ ὁ λαλῶν ἐν ἐμοὶ βάρβαρος.
and the speaker a foreigner to me.
οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς,
So with yourselves,
ἐπεὶ ζηλωταί ἐστε πνευμάτων,
since you are eager for [manifestations of] the Spirit,
πρὸς τὴν οἰκοδομὴν τῆς ἐκκλησίας ζητεῖτε ἵνα περισσεύητε.
strive to excel in building up the church.
Διὸ ὁ λαλῶν γλώσσῃ προσευχέσθω ἵνα διερμηνεύῃ.
Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret.
ἐὰν [γὰρ] προσεύχωμαι γλώσσῃ,
For if I pray in a tongue,
τὸ πνεῦμά μου προσεύχεται,
my spirit prays
ὁ δὲ νοῦς μου ἄκαρπός ἐστιν.
but my mind is unfruitful.
τί οὖν ἐστιν;
[lit. therefore] What am I to do?
προσεύξομαι τῷ πνεύματι,
I will pray with my spirit,
προσεύξομαι δὲ καὶ τῷ νοΐ•
but I will pray with my mind also;
ψαλῶ τῷ πνεύματι,
d I will sing praise with my spirit,
ψαλῶ δὲ καὶ τῷ νοΐ.
but I will e sing with my mind also.
ἐπεὶ ἐὰν εὐλογῇς [ἐν] πνεύματι,
Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit,
ὁ ἀναπληρῶν τὸν τόπον τοῦ ἰδιώτου πῶς ἐρεῖ τὸ ἀμὴν ἐπὶ τῇ σῇ εὐχαριστίᾳ;
how can anyone in the position of an outsider 1 say f “Amen” to g your thanksgiving
ἐπειδὴ τί λέγεις οὐκ οἶδεν•
when he does not know what you are saying?
σὺ μὲν γὰρ καλῶς εὐχαριστεῖς
For you may be giving thanks well enough,
ἀλλʼ ὁ ἕτερος οὐκ οἰκοδομεῖται.
but the other person is not being built up.
Εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ, πάντων ὑμῶν μᾶλλον γλώσσαις λαλῶ•
I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.
ἀλλʼ ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ θέλω πέντε λόγους τῷ νοΐ μου λαλῆσαι,
Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind
ἵνα καὶ ἄλλους κατηχήσω,
in order to instruct others,
ἢ μυρίους λόγους ἐν γλώσσῃ.
than ten thousand words in a tongue.
Ἀδελφοί, μὴ παιδία γίνεσθε ταῖς φρεσὶν
Brothers, h do not be children in your thinking.
ἀλλὰ τῇ κακίᾳ νηπιάζετε,
i Be infants in evil,
ταῖς δὲ φρεσὶν τέλειοι γίνεσθε.
but in your thinking be j mature.
ἐν τῷ νόμῳ γέγραπται ὅτι
k In the Law it is written,
ἐν ἑτερογλώσσοις καὶ ἐν χείλεσιν ἑτέρων λαλήσω τῷ λαῷ τούτῳ
l “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people,
καὶ οὐδʼ οὕτως εἰσακούσονταί μου,
and even then they will not listen to me,
says the Lord.”
ὥστε αἱ γλῶσσαι εἰς σημεῖόν εἰσιν οὐ τοῖς πιστεύουσιν
Thus tongues are a sign not for believers
ἀλλὰ τοῖς ἀπίστοις,
but for unbelievers,
ἡ δὲ προφητεία οὐ τοῖς ἀπίστοις
while prophecy is [a sign 1 ] not for unbelievers
ἀλλὰ τοῖς πιστεύουσιν.
but for believers.
Ἐὰν οὖν συνέλθῃ ἡ ἐκκλησία ὅλη ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ καὶ πάντες λαλῶσιν γλώσσαις, εἰσέλθωσιν δὲ ἰδιῶται ἢ ἄπιστοι,
If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter,
οὐκ ἐροῦσιν ὅτι μαίνεσθε;
m will they not say that you are out of your minds?
ἐὰν δὲ πάντες προφητεύωσιν, εἰσέλθῃ δέ τις ἄπιστος ἢ ἰδιώτης,
But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters,
ἐλέγχεται ὑπὸ πάντων ,
he is convicted by all,
ἀνακρίνεται ὑπὸ πάντων ,
he is called to account by all,
τὰ κρυπτὰ τῆς καρδίας αὐτοῦ φανερὰ γίνεται,
n the secrets of his heart are disclosed,
καὶ οὕτως πεσὼν ἐπὶ πρόσωπον προσκυνήσει τῷ θεῷ
and so, o falling on his face, he will worship God
ἀπαγγέλλων ὅτι ὄντως ὁ θεὸς ἐν ὑμῖν ἐστιν.
and p declare that God is really among you.
Τί οὖν ἐστιν, ἀδελφοί;
What then, brothers?
When you come together,
ἕκαστος ψαλμὸν ἔχει, διδαχὴν ἔχει, ἀποκάλυψιν ἔχει, γλῶσσαν ἔχει, ἑρμηνείαν ἔχει•
each one has q a hymn, r a lesson, r a revelation, s a tongue, or t an interpretation.
πάντα πρὸς οἰκοδομὴν γινέσθω.
u Let all things be done for building up.
εἴτε γλώσσῃ τις λαλεῖ,
If any speak in s a tongue,
κατὰ δύο ἢ τὸ πλεῖστον τρεῖς
let there be only two or at most three,
καὶ ἀνὰ μέρος,
and each in turn,
καὶ εἷς διερμηνευέτω•
and let someone interpret.
ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ᾖ διερμηνευτής,
But if there is no one to interpret,
σιγάτω ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ,
let each of them keep silent in church
ἑαυτῷ δὲ λαλείτω καὶ τῷ θεῷ.
and speak to himself and to God.
προφῆται δὲ δύο ἢ τρεῖς λαλείτωσαν
Let two or three prophets speak,
καὶ οἱ ἄλλοι διακρινέτωσαν•
and let the others v weigh what is said.
ἐὰν δὲ ἄλλῳ ἀποκαλυφθῇ καθημένῳ,
If a revelation is made to another sitting there,
ὁ πρῶτος σιγάτω.
w let the first be silent.
δύνασθε γὰρ καθʼ ἕνα πάντες προφητεύειν,
For you can all prophesy one by one,
ἵνα πάντες μανθάνωσιν καὶ πάντες παρακαλῶνται.
so that all may learn and all be encouraged,
καὶ πνεύματα προφητῶν προφήταις ὑποτάσσεται,
and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.
οὐ γάρ ἐστιν ἀκαταστασίας ὁ θεὸς ἀλλʼ εἰρήνης.
For God is not a God of x confusion but of peace.
Ὡς ἐν πάσαις ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῶν ἁγίων
As in y all the churches of the saints,
αἱ γυναῖκες ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις σιγάτωσαν•
z the women should keep silent in the churches.
οὐ γὰρ ἐπιτρέπεται αὐταῖς λαλεῖν,
For they are not permitted to speak,
but a should be in submission,
καθὼς καὶ ὁ νόμος λέγει.
as b the Law also says.
εἰ δέ τι μαθεῖν θέλουσιν,
If there is anything they desire to learn,
ἐν οἴκῳ τοὺς ἰδίους ἄνδρας ἐπερωτάτωσαν•
let them ask their husbands at home.
αἰσχρὸν γάρ ἐστιν γυναικὶ λαλεῖν ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ.
For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
ἢ ἀφʼ ὑμῶν ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ ἐξῆλθεν,
Or was it from you that the word of God came?
ἢ εἰς ὑμᾶς μόνους κατήντησεν;
Or are you the only ones it has reached?
Εἴ τις δοκεῖ προφήτης εἶναι ἢ πνευματικός,
c If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual,
ἐπιγινωσκέτω ἃ γράφω ὑμῖν ὅτι κυρίου ἐστὶν ἐντολή•
he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord.
εἰ δέ τις ἀγνοεῖ,
If anyone does not recognize this,
he is not recognized.
Ὥστε, ἀδελφοί [μου], ζηλοῦτε τὸ προφητεύειν
So, my brothers, d earnestly desire to prophesy,
καὶ τὸ λαλεῖν μὴ κωλύετε γλώσσαις•
and do not forbid speaking in tongues.
πάντα δὲ εὐσχημόνως καὶ κατὰ τάξιν γινέσθω.
e But all things should be done decently and f in order.
Likely, he means someone who does not understand that tongue.
I do not know why he says this. My best guess is that he is being cutting or even sarcastic. Or perhaps he means, "Sure, I thank God (more than any of you!) that I speak in tongues, and yet..." (i.e. "I appreciate speaking in tongues more than any of you do.")
Given the purpose expressed in 31b, it seems clear that all the next section is unpacking "building up." This brings to light a key connection between building up and orderliness .
Why is women asking questions in church not being in submission? (Women are to submit to their husbands, but can ask them questions at home.) After further reflection, it seems that it makes most sense to understand Paul as referring to verbally weighing the prophecies shared.
What does the Law say about this?? (No one seems to know.)
Note: The nature of tongues
1Cor 14:15-16 makes me wonder if the gift of tongues was ever (or normally) like prophecy. It is directly compared to prophecy throughout this chapter, but that does not necessitate that they are the same thing, only tongues involved a different language as well. Instead, perhaps tongues was simply a word of thanks (vs16) or praising God for his wonders, or a prayer (vs15). When vs2 describes it as uttering mysteries, it might be calling it such because the meaning of the words is mysterious/unknown to those who do not know that tongue. I believe the only places we read of the content of tongues is here, and Acts 2 ("telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God").