Acts 2:4
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Jump to: AlfordBarnesBengelBensonBICalvinCambridgeChrysostomClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctExp GrkGaebeleinGSBGillGrayHaydockHastingsHomileticsICCJFBKellyKJTLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWMeyerParkerPNTPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBVWSWESTSK
(4) And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.—The outward portent was but the sign of a greater spiritual wonder. As yet, though they had been taught to pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13), and, we must believe, had found the answer to their prayer in secret and sacred influences and gradual growth in wisdom, they had never been conscious of its power as “filling” them—pervading the inner depths of personality, stimulating every faculty and feeling to a new intensity of life. Now they felt, in St. Peter’s words, as “borne onward” (2Peter 1:21), thinking thoughts and speaking words which were not their own, and which they could hardly even control. They had passed into a state which was one of rapturous ecstasy and joy. We must not think of the gift as confined to the Apostles. The context shows that the writer speaks of all who were assembled, not excepting the women, as sharers in it. (Comp. Acts 2:17-18.)

And began to speak with other tongues.—Two facts have to be remembered as we enter upon the discussion of a question which is, beyond all doubt, difficult and mysterious. (1) If we receive Mark 16:9-20 as a true record of our Lord’s words, the disciples had, a few days or weeks before the Day of Pentecost, heard the promise that they that believed should “speak with new tongues” (see Note on Mark 16:17), i.e., with new powers of utterance. (2) When St. Luke wrote his account of the Day of Pentecost, he must have had—partly through his companionship with St. Paul, partly from personal observation—a wide knowledge of the phenomena described as connected with the “tongues” in 1 Corinthians 14. He uses the term in the sense in which St. Paul had used it. We have to read the narrative of the Acts in the light thrown upon it by the treatment in that chapter of the phenomena described by the self-same words as the Pentecost wonder. What, then, are those phenomena? Does the narrative of this chapter bring before us any in addition? (1) The utterance of the “tongue” is presented to us as entirely unconnected with the work of teaching. It is not a means of instruction. It does not edify any beyond the man who speaks (1Corinthians 14:4). It is, in this respect, the very antithesis of “prophecy.” Men do not, as a rule, understand it, though God does (1Corinthians 14:2). Here and there, some mind with a special gift of insight may be able to interpret with clear articulate speech what had been mysterious and dark (1Corinthians 14:13). St. Paul desires to subject the exercise of the gift to the condition of the presence of such an interpreter (1Corinthians 14:5; 1Corinthians 14:27). (2) The free use of the gift makes him who uses it almost as a barbarian or foreigner to those who listen to him. He may utter prayers, or praises, or benedictions, but what he speaks is as the sound of a trumpet blown uncertainly, of flute or lyre played with unskilled hand, almost, we might say, in the words of our own poet, “like sweet bells jangled, out of tune and harsh” (1Corinthians 14:7-9). (3) Those who speak with tongues do well, for the most part, to confine their utterance to the solitude of their own chamber, or to the presence of friends who can share their rapture When they make a more public display of it, it produces results that stand in singular contrast with each other. It is a “sign to them that believe not,” i.e., it startles them, attracts their notice, impresses them with the thought that they stand face to face with a superhuman power. On the other hand, the outside world of listeners, common men, or unbelievers, are likely to look on it as indicating madness (1Corinthians 14:23). If it was not right or expedient to check the utterance of the tongues altogether, St. Paul at least thought it necessary to prescribe rules for its exercise which naturally tended to throw it into the background as compared with prophecy (1Corinthians 14:27-28). The conclusion from the whole chapter is, accordingly, that the “tongues” were not the power of speaking in a language which had not been learnt by the common ways of learning, but the ecstatic utterance of rapturous devotion. As regards the terms which are used to describe the gift, the English reader must be reminded that the word “unknown” is an interpolation which appears for the first time in the version of 1611. Wiclif, Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Rhemish give no adjective, and the Geneva inserts “strange.” It may be noted further that the Greek word for “tongue” had come to be used by Greek writers on Rhetoric for bold, poetic, unusual terms, such as belonged to epic poetry (Aristot. Rhet. iii. 3), not for those which belonged to a foreign language. If they were, as Aristotle calls them, “unknown,” it was because they were used in a startlingly figurative sense, so that men were sometimes puzzled by them (Aristot. Rhet. iii. 10). We have this sense of the old word (glossa) surviving in our glossary, a collection of such terms. It is clear (1) that such an use of the word would be natural in writers trained as St. Paul and St. Luke had been in the language of Greek schools; and (2) that it exactly falls in with the conclusion to which the phenomena of the case leads us, apart from the word.

We turn to the history that follows in this chapter, and we find almost identical phenomena. (1) The work of teaching is not done by the gift of tongues, but by the speech of Peter, and that was delivered either in the Aramaic of Palestine, or, more probably, in the Greek, which was the common medium of intercourse for all the Eastern subjects of the Roman empire. In that speech we find the exercise of the higher gift of prophecy, with precisely the same results as those described by St. Paul as following on the use of that gift. (Comp. Acts 2:37 with 1Corinthians 14:24-25.) (2) The utterances of the disciples are described in words which convey the idea of rapturous praise. They speak the “mighty works,” or better, as in Luke 1:49, the great things of God. Doxologies, benedictions, adoration, in forms that transcended the common level of speech, and rose, like the Magnificat, into the region of poetry: this is what the word suggests to us. In the wild, half dithyrambic hymn of Clement of Alexandria—the earliest extant Christian hymn outside the New Testament—in part, perhaps, in that of Acts 4:24-30, and the Apocalyptic hymns (Revelation 4:8; Revelation 4:11; Revelation 5:13; Revelation 7:10), we have the nearest approach to what then came, in the fiery glow of its first utterance, as with the tongues “of men and of angels,” from the lips of the disciples. (3) We cannot fail to be struck with the parallelism between the cry of the scoffers here, “These men are full of new wine” (Acts 2:13), and the words, “Will they not say that ye are mad?” which St. Paul puts into the mouth of those who heard the “tongues” (1Corinthians 14:23). In both cases there is an intensity of stimulated life, which finds relief in the forms of poetry and in the tones of song, and which to those who listened was as the poet’s frenzy. It is not without significance that St. Paul elsewhere contrasts the “being drunk with wine” with “being filled with the Spirit,” and immediately passes on, as though that were the natural result, to add “speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:18-19). If we find the old Jewish psalms in the first of these three words, and hymns known and remembered in the second, the natural explanation of the adjective specially alluded to in the third is that the “songs” or “odes” are such as were not merely “spiritual” in the later sense of the word, but were the immediate outflow of the Spirit’s working. Every analogy, it will be noticed, by which St. Paul illustrates his meaning in 1Corinthians 13:1; 1Corinthians 14:7-8, implies musical intonation. We have the sounding brass and the tinkling (or clanging) cymbal, the pipe, the harp, the trumpet giving an uncertain sound. It falls in with this view that our Lord Himself compares the new energy of spiritual life which He was about to impart to new wine (Matthew 9:17), and that the same comparison meets us in the Old Testament in the words in which Elihu describes his inspiration (Job 32:19). The accounts of prophecy in its wider sense, as including song and praise, as well as a direct message to the minds and hearts of men, in the life of Saul, present Phenomena that are obviously analogous (1Samuel 10:10-11; 1Samuel 19:20; 1Samuel 19:24). The brief accounts in Acts 10:46, “speaking with tongues and magnifying God,” and Acts 19:6, where tongues are distinguished from prophecy, present nothing that is not in harmony with this explanation.

In the present case, however, there are exceptional phenomena. We cannot honestly interpret St. Luke’s record without assuming either that the disciples spoke in the languages which are named in Acts 2:9-11, or that, speaking in their own Galilean tongue, their words came to the ears of those who listened as spoken in the language with which each was familiar. The first is at once the more natural interpretation of the language used by the historian, and, if we may use such a word of what is in itself supernatural and mysterious, the more conceivable of the two. And it is clear that there was an end to be attained by such an extension of the in this case which could not be attained otherwise. The disciples had been present in Jerusalem at many feasts before, at which they had found themselves, as now, surrounded by pilgrims from many distant lands. Then they had worshipped apart by themselves, with no outward means of fellowship with these strangers, and had poured out their praises and blessings in their own Galilean speech, as each group of those pilgrims had done in theirs. Now they found themselves able to burst through the bounds that had thus divided them, and to claim a fellowship with all true worshippers from whatever lands they came. But there is no evidence that that power was permanent. It came and went with the special outpouring of the Spirit, and lasted only while that lasted in its full intensity. (Comp. Notes on Acts 10:46; Acts 19:6.) There are no traces of its exercise in any narrative of the work of apostles and evangelists. They did their work in countries where Greek was spoken, even where it was not the native speech of the inhabitants, and so would not need that special knowledge. In the history of Acts 14:11, it is at least implied that Paul and Barnabas did not understand the speech of Lycaonia.



Acts 2:1 - Acts 2:13

Only ten days elapsed between the Ascension and Pentecost. The attitude of the Church during that time should be carefully noted. They obeyed implicitly Christ’s command to wait for the ‘power from on high.’ The only act recorded is the election of Matthias to fill Judas’s place, and it is at least questionable whether that was not a mistake, and shown to be such by Christ’s subsequent choice of Paul as an Apostle. But, with the exception of that one flash of doubtful activity, prayer, supplication, patient waiting, and clinging together in harmonious expectancy, characterised the hundred and twenty brethren.

They must have been wrought to an intense pitch of anticipation, for they knew that their waiting was to be short, and they knew, at least partially, what they were to receive, namely, ‘power from on high,’ or ‘the promise of the Father.’ Probably, too, the great Feast, so near at hand, would appear to them a likely time for the fulfilment of the promise.

So, very early on that day of Pentecost, they betook themselves to their usual place of assembling, probably the ‘large upper room,’ already hallowed to their memories; and in each heart the eager question would spring, ‘Will it be to-day?’ It is as true now as it was then, that the spirits into whom the Holy Spirit breathes His power must keep themselves still, expectant, prayerful. Perpetual occupation may be more loss of time than devout waiting, with hands folded, because the heart is wide open to receive the power which will fit the hands for better work.

It was but ‘the third hour of the day’ when Peter stood up to speak; it must have been little after dawn when the brethren came together. How long they had been assembled we do not know, but we cannot doubt how they had been occupied. Many a prayer had gone up through the morning air, and, no doubt, some voice was breathing the united desires, when a deep, strange sound was heard at a distance, and rapidly gained volume, and was heard to draw near. Like the roaring of a tempest hurrying towards them, it hushed human voices, and each man would feel, ‘Surely now the Gift comes!’ Nearer and nearer it approached, and at last burst into the chamber where they sat silent and unmoving.

But if we look carefully at Luke’s words, we see that what filled the house was not agitated air, or wind, but ‘a sound as of wind.’ The language implies that there was no rush of atmosphere that lifted a hair on any cheek, or blew on any face, but only such a sound as is made by tempest. It suggested wind, but it was not wind. By that first symbolic preparation for the communication of the promised gift, the old symbolism which lies in the very word ‘Spirit,’ and had been brought anew to the disciples’ remembrance by Christ’s words to Nicodemus, and by His breathing on them when He gave them an anticipatory and partial bestowment of the Spirit, is brought to view, with its associations of life-giving power and liberty. ‘Thou hearest the sound thereof,’ could scarcely fail to be remembered by some in that chamber.

But it is not to be supposed that the audible symbol continued when the second preparatory one, addressed to the eye, appeared. As the former had been not wind, but like it, the latter was not fire, but ‘as of fire.’ The language does not answer the question whether what was seen was a mass from which the tongues detached themselves, or whether only the separate tongues were visible as they moved overhead. But the final result was that ‘it sat on each.’ The verb has no expressed subject, and ‘fire’ cannot be the subject, for it is only introduced as a comparison. Probably, therefore, we are to understand ‘a tongue’ as the unexpressed subject of the verb.

Clearly, the point of the symbol is the same as that presented in the Baptist’s promise of a baptism ‘with the Holy Ghost and fire.’ The Spirit was to be in them as a Spirit of burning, thawing natural coldness and melting hearts with a genial warmth, which should beget flaming enthusiasm, fervent love, burning zeal, and should work transformation into its own fiery substance. The rejoicing power, the quick energy, the consuming force, the assimilating action of fire, are all included in the symbol, and should all be possessed by Christ’s disciples.

But were the tongue-like shapes of the flames significant too? It is doubtful, for, natural as is the supposition that they were, it is to be remembered that ‘tongues of fire’ is a usual expression, and may mean nothing more than the flickering shoots of flame into which a fire necessarily parts.

But these two symbols are only symbols. The true fulfilment of the great promise follows. Mark the brief simplicity of the quiet words in which the greatest bestowment ever made on humanity, the beginning of an altogether new era, the equipment of the Church for her age-long conflict, is told. There was an actual impartation to men of a divine life, to dwell in them and actuate them; to bring all good to victory in them; to illuminate, sustain, direct, and elevate; to cleanse and quicken. The gift was complete. They were ‘filled.’ No doubt they had much more to receive, and they received it, as their natures became, by faithful obedience to the indwelling Spirit, capable of more. But up to the measure of their then capacities they were filled; and, since their spirits were expansible, and the gift was infinite, they were in a position to grow steadily in possession of it, till they were ‘filled with all the fulness of God.’

Further, ‘they were all filled,’-not the Apostles only, but the whole hundred and twenty. Peter’s quotation from Joel distinctly implies the universality of the gift, which the ‘servants and handmaidens,’ the brethren and the women, now received. Herein is the true democracy of Christianity. There are still diversities of operations and degrees of possession, but all Christians have the Spirit. All ‘they that believe on Him,’ and only they, have received it. Of old the light shone only on the highest peaks,-prophets, and kings, and psalmists; now the lowest depths of the valleys are flooded with it. Would that Christians generally believed more fully in, and set more store by, that great gift!

As symbols preceded, tokens followed. The essential fact of Pentecost is neither the sound and fire, nor the speaking with other tongues, but the communication of the Holy Spirit. The sign and result of that was the gift of utterance in various languages, not their own, nor learned by ordinary ways. No twisting of the narrative can weaken the plain meaning of it, that these unlearned Galileans spake in tongues which their users recognised to be their own. The significance of the fact will appear presently, but first note the attestation of it by the multitude.

Of course, the foreign-born Jews, who, from motives of piety, however mistaken, had come to dwell in Jerusalem, are said to have been ‘from every nation under heaven,’ by an obvious and ordinary license. It is enough that, as the subsequent catalogue shows, they came from all corners of the then known world, though the extremes of territory mentioned cover but a small space on a terrestrial globe.

The ‘sound’ of the rushing wind had been heard hurtling through the city in the early morning hours, and had served as guide to the spot. A curious crowd came hurrying to ascertain what this noise of tempest in a calm meant, and they were met by something more extraordinary still. Try to imagine the spectacle. As would appear from Acts 2:33, the tongues of fire remained lambently glowing on each head {‘which ye see’}, and the whole hundred and twenty, thus strangely crowned, were pouring out rapturous praises, each in some strange tongue. When the astonished ears had become accustomed to the apparent tumult, every man in the crowd heard some one or more speaking in his own tongue, language, or dialect, and all were declaring the mighty works of God; that is, probably, the story of the crucified, ascended Jesus.

We need not dwell on subordinate questions, as to the number of languages represented there, or as to the catalogue in Acts 2:9 - Acts 2:10. But we would emphasise two thoughts. First, the natural result of being filled with God’s Spirit is utterance of the great truths of Christ’s Gospel. As surely as light radiates, as surely as any deep emotion demands expression, so certainly will a soul filled with the Spirit be forced to break into speech. If professing Christians have never known the impulse to tell of the Christ whom they have found, their religion must be very shallow and imperfect. If their spirits are full, they will overflow in speech.

Second, Pentecost is a prophecy of the universal proclamation of the Gospel, and of the universal praise which shall one day rise to Him that was slain. ‘This company of brethren praising God in the tongues of the whole world represented the whole world which shall one day praise God in its various tongues’ {Bengel}. Pentecost reversed Babel, not by bringing about a featureless monopoly, but by consecrating diversity, and showing that each language could be hallowed, and that each lent some new strain of music to the chorus.

It prophesied of the time when ‘men of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation’ should lift up their voices to Him who has purchased them unto God with His blood. It began a communication of the Spirit to all believers which is never to cease while the world stands. The mighty rushing sound has died into silence, the fiery tongues rest on no heads now, the miraculous results of the gifts of the Spirit have passed away also, but the gift remains, and the Spirit of God abides for ever with the Church of Christ.Acts 2:4. They were all filled with the Holy Ghost — That is, all the one hundred and twenty, as appears from Acts 2:1. At the time of this wonderful appearance, this whole company were abundantly replenished with both the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, not only in order to their own salvation, but also and especially to qualify them to be Christ’s witnesses to mankind, both Jews and Gentiles, according to his promise, Acts 1:1; Acts 1:8. They were filled with the graces of the Spirit, and were more than ever under its sanctifying influences; were now holy, and heavenly, and spiritual; more weaned from this world, and better acquainted with the other. They were more filled with the comforts of the Spirit, rejoiced more than ever in the love of Christ, and the hope of heaven, and in it all their griefs and fears were swallowed up. They were also, 2d, In proof of this, filled with the gifts of the Holy Ghost, which is especially meant here: they were endued with miraculous powers for the furtherance of the gospel. It seems evident that not the twelve apostles only, but all the one hundred and twenty disciples were endowed with the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost at this time; all the seventy disciples, who were apostolical men, and employed in the same work, and all the rest that were to preach the gospel; for it is said expressly, (Ephesians 4:8; Ephesians 4:11,) that when Christ ascended on high, (which refers to this here, Acts 2:33,) he gave gifts unto men, not only some apostles, such were the twelve; but some prophets, and some evangelists, many of the seventy disciples, itinerant preachers; and some pastors and teachers, settled in particular churches, as we may suppose some of these afterward were. And began to speak with other tongues — To speak languages of which they had before been entirely ignorant. For this miracle was not in the ears of the hearers, as some have unaccountably supposed, but in the mouths of the speakers. The meaning is not, that one was enabled to speak one language, and another another, as it was with the several families that were dispersed from Babel; but every one was enabled to speak divers languages as he should have occasion to use them. And we may suppose that they not only understood what they themselves said, but understood one another too, which the builders at Babel did not, Genesis 11:7. They did not speak now and then a word of another tongue, or stammer out some broken sentences, but spoke each language which they spoke as readily, properly, and elegantly, as if it had been their mother tongue: for whatever was produced by miracle was the best of the kind. They spake not from any previous thought, but as the Spirit gave them utterance — He furnished them with the matter, as well as the language. And this family, praising God together with the tongues of all the world, was an earnest that the whole world should, in due time, praise God in their various tongues. Now observe here, reader, 1st, This was a very great and stupendous miracle, a miracle upon men’s minds: for in the mind ideas are conceived, and words are framed: a miracle, with regard to every individual, and every language, thus communicated to that individual, equal to that of giving speech to persons born deaf and dumb, concerning which, see the note on Matthew 15:30. These disciples had not only never learned any of these languages, but had never learned any foreign tongue, which if they had done, the acquisition of these might have been thereby facilitated. Nay, for aught that appears to the contrary, most of them had never so much as heard any of these languages spoken, or had any idea of them. 2d, It was a peculiarly proper, needful, and useful miracle. The language these disciples spoke was Syriac, or rather Chaldaio-Syriac, a dialect of the Hebrew; so that their being endued with this gift was necessary, even for their understanding both the Hebrew, in which the Old Testament was originally written, and the Greek, in which the New Testament was to be written. But that was not all: they were commissioned to preach the gospel to every creature, to disciple all nations. But here an insuperable difficulty meets them at the very threshold: how shall they be made acquainted with the several languages of the nations to which they are sent, so as to speak intelligibly to them all. It would be the work of the life of any of them to learn their languages. Hence, to prove that Christ would give authority to preach to the nations, he gives ability to his servants to preach to them in their own languages. And it should seem that this was, at least in part, the accomplishment of the promise which Christ made to his disciples, John 14:12. Greater works than these shall ye do, because I go unto the Father; for this gift of tongues may well be reckoned, all things considered, a greater work than any of the miraculous cures which Christ wrought. It is observed by Dr. Lightfoot, that as the division of tongues at Babel once introduced confusion, and was the means of casting off the Gentiles from the knowledge of the true God; so now, there was a remedy provided by the gift of tongues at Zion, to bring the Gentiles out of darkness into light, and to destroy the veil which had been spread over all nations. And Archbishop Tillotson thought it probable, if the conversion of infidels to Christianity were sincerely and vigorously attempted by men of honest and disinterested minds, God would, in an extraordinary way, countenance such attempts by giving all proper assistance, as he did to the first preachers of the gospel.2:1-4 We cannot forget how often, while their Master was with them there were strifes among the disciples which should be the greatest; but now all these strifes were at an end. They had prayed more together of late. Would we have the Spirit poured out upon us from on high, let us be all of one accord. And notwithstanding differences of sentiments and interests, as there were among those disciples, let us agree to love one another; for where brethren dwell together in unity, there the Lord commands his blessing. A rushing mighty wind came with great force. This was to signify the powerful influences and working of the Spirit of God upon the minds of men, and thereby upon the world. Thus the convictions of the Spirit make way for his comforts; and the rough blasts of that blessed wind, prepare the soul for its soft and gentle gales. There was an appearance of something like flaming fire, lighting on every one of them, according to John Baptist's saying concerning Christ; He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire. The Spirit, like fire, melts the heart, burns up the dross, and kindles pious and devout affections in the soul; in which, as in the fire on the altar, the spiritual sacrifices are offered up. They were all filled with the Holy Ghost, more than before. They were filled with the graces of the Spirit, and more than ever under his sanctifying influences; more weaned from this world, and better acquainted with the other. They were more filled with the comforts of the Spirit, rejoiced more than ever in the love of Christ and the hope of heaven: in it all their griefs and fears were swallowed up. They were filled with the gifts of the Holy Ghost; they had miraculous powers for the furtherance of the gospel. They spake, not from previous though or meditation, but as the Spirit gave them utterance.Were all filled with the Holy Ghost - Were entirely under his sacred influence and power. See the notes on Luke 1:41, Luke 1:67. To be filled with anything is a phrase denoting that all the faculties are pervaded by it, engaged in it, or under its influence, Acts 3:10, "Were filled with wonder and amazement"; Acts 5:17, "Filled with indignation"; Acts 13:45, "Filled with envy"; Acts 2:4, "Filled with joy and the Holy Spirit."

Began to speak with other tongues - In other languages than their native tongue. The languages which they spoke are specified in Acts 2:9-11.

As the Spirit gave them utterance - As the Holy Spirit gave them power to speak. This language implies plainly that they were now endued with a faculty of speaking languages which they had not before learned. Their native tongue was that of Galilee, a somewhat barbarous dialect of the common language used in Judea - the Syro-Chaldaic. It is possible that some of them might have been partially acquainted with the Greek and Latin, as each of those languages was spoken among the Jews to some extent; but there is not the slightest evidence that they were acquainted with the languages of the different nations afterward specified. Various attempts have been made to account for this remarkable phenomenon without supposing it to be a miracle. But the natural and obvious meaning of the passage is, that they were endowed by the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit with ability to speak foreign languages, and languages to them before unknown. It does not appear that each one had the power of speaking all the languages which are specified Acts 2:9-11, but that this ability was among them, and that together they could speak these languages, probably some one and some another. The following remarks may perhaps throw some light on this remarkable occurrence:

(1) It was predicted in the Old Testament that what is here stated would occur in the times of the Messiah. Thus, in Isaiah 28:11, "With ...another tongue will he speak unto this people." Compare 1 Corinthians 14:21 where this passage is expressly applied to the power of speaking foreign languages under the gospel.

(2) it was promised by the Lord Jesus that they should have this power, Mark 16:17, "These signs shall follow them that believe ...they shall speak with new tongues."

(3) the ability to do it existed extensively and long in the church, 1 Corinthians 12:10-11, "To another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit"; Acts 2:28, "God hath set in the church ...diversities of tongues." Compare also Acts 2:30, and Acts 14:2, Acts 14:4-6, Acts 14:9,Acts 14:13-14; Acts 14:18-19, Acts 14:22-23, Acts 14:27, Acts 14:39. From this it appears that the power was well known in the church, and was not confined to the apostles. This also may show that in the case in the Acts , the ability to do this was conferred on other members of the church as well as the apostles.

(4) it was very important that they should be endowed with this power in their great work. They were going forth to preach to all nation; and though the Greek and Roman tongues were extensively spoken, yet their use was not universal, nor is it known that the apostles were skilled in those languages. To preach to all nations, it was indispensable that they should be able to understand their language. And in order that the gospel might be rapidly propagated through the earth, it was necessary that they should be endowed with ability to do this without the slow process of being compelled to learn them. It will contribute to illustrate this to remark that one of the principal hindrances in the spread of the gospel now arises from the inability to speak the languages of the nations of the earth, and that among missionaries of modern times a long time is necessarily spent in acquiring the language of a people before they are prepared to preach to them.

(5) one design was to establish the gospel by means of miracles. Yet no miracle could be more impressive than the power of conveying their sentiments at once in all the languages of the earth. When it is remembered what a slow and toilsome process it is to learn a foreign tongue, this would I be regarded by the pagan as one of the most striking miracles which could be performed, 1 Corinthians 14:22, 1 Corinthians 14:24-25.

(6) the reality and certainty of this miracle is strongly attested by the early triumphs of the gospel. That the gospel was early spread over all the world, and that, too, by the apostles of Jesus Christ, is the clear testimony of all history. They preached it in Arabia, Greece, Syria, Asia, Persia, Africa, and Rome. Yet how could this have been effected without a miraculous power of speaking the languages used in all those places? Now, it requires the toil of many years to speak in foreign languages; and the recorded success of the gospel is one of the most striking attestations to the fact of the miracle that could be conceived.

(7) the corruption of language was one of the most decided effects of sin, and the source of endless embarrassments and difficulties, Genesis 11:It is not to be regarded as wonderful that one of the effects of the plan of recovering people should be to show the power of God over all evil, and thus to furnish striking evidence that the gospel could meet all the crimes and calamities of people. And we may add,

(8) That from this we see the necessity now of training people who are to be missionaries to other lands. The gift of miracles is withdrawn. The apostles, by that miracle, simply were empowered to speak other languages. That power must still be had if the gospel is to be preached. But it is now to be obtained, not by miracle, but by stow and careful study and toil. If possessed, people must be taught it. And as the church is bound Matthew 28:19 to send the gospel to all nations, so it is bound to provide that the teachers who shall be sent forth shall be qualified for their work. Hence, one of the reasons of the importance of training men for the holy ministry.

4. they … began to speak with … tongues, &c.—real, living languages, as is plain from what follows. The thing uttered, probably the same by all, was "the wonderful works of God," perhaps in the inspired words of the Old Testament evangelical hymns; though it is next to certain that the speakers themselves understood nothing of what they uttered (see on [1936]1Co 14:1-25). Filled with the Holy Ghost; those gifts and graces which proceeded from him; the apostles having them all in a more excellent manner than formerly, and the gift of tongues superadded.

With other tongues, than what were vernacular or natural to them.

As the Spirit gave them utterance; apofyeggesyai, signifies more than barely to speak, implying they speak each language in its perfection, after an excellent, eloquent, and powerful manner, as from the Holy Ghost, whose works are perfect; non vox hominem sonat. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost,.... With the gifts of the Holy Spirit; they had received the Spirit before, as a Spirit of grace, and were endowed with great gifts; but now they had great plenty of them, a large abundance; they were like vessels filled to the brim; they were as it were covered with them; there was an overflow of them upon them; and now it was, that they were baptized with him; See Gill on Acts 1:5. Not only the twelve apostles, but the seventy disciples; and it may be all the hundred and twenty, that were together, even women as well as men: Acts 2:17.

And began to speak with other tongues; besides, and different from that in which they were born and brought up, and usually spake; they spake divers languages, one spoke one language, and another, another; and the same person spoke with various tongues, sometimes one language, and sometimes another. These are the new tongues, Christ told them they should speak with, Mark 16:17 such as they had never heard, learned, nor known before:

as the Spirit gave them utterance; they did not utter anything of themselves, and what came into their minds, things of little or no importance; nor in a confused and disorderly manner; but they were wise and weighty sentences they delivered, as the word signifies; even the wonderful works of God, Acts 2:11 the great doctrines of the Gospel; and though in different languages, yet in a very orderly and distinct manner, so as to be heard and understood by the people. The Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions read, "as the Holy Spirit", &c.

And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with {c} other tongues, as the {d} Spirit gave them utterance.

(c) He calls them other tongues which were not the same as the apostles commonly used, and Mark calls them new tongues.

(d) By this we understand that the apostles were not speaking one language and then another by chance at random, or as eccentric men used to do, but that they kept in mind the languages of their hearers: and to be short, that they only spoke as the Holy Spirit directed them to speak.

Acts 2:4. After this external phenomenon, there now ensued the internal filling of all who were assembled,[114] without exception (ἘΠΛ. ἍΠΑΝΤΕς, comp. Acts 2:1), with the Holy Spirit, of which the immediate result was, that they, and, indeed, these same ἅπαντες (comp. Acts 4:31)—accordingly not excluding the apostles (in opposition to van Hengel)

ἬΡΞΑΝΤΟ ΛΑΛΕῖΝ ἙΤΈΡΑΙς ΓΛΏΣΣΑΙς. Earlier cases of being filled with the Spirit (Luke 1:41; Luke 1:47; John 20:22; comp. also Luke 9:55) are related to the present as the momentary, partial, and typical, to the permanent, complete, and antitypical, such as could only occur after the glorifying of Jesus (see Acts 2:33; John 16:7; John 7:39).

ἤρξαντο] brings into prominence the primus impetus of the act as its most remarkable element.

λαλεῖν ἑτέραις γλώσσαις] For the sure determination of what Luke meant by this, it is decisive that ἙΤΈΡΑΙς ΓΛΏΣΣΑΙς on the part of the speakers was, in point of fact, the same thing which the congregated Parthians, Medes, Elamites, etc., designated as ΤΑῖς ἩΜΕΤΈΡΑΙς ΓΛΏΣΣΑΙς (comp. Acts 2:8 : Τῇ ἸΔΊᾼ ΔΙΑΛΈΚΤῼ ἩΜῶΝ). The ἝΤΕΡΑΙ ΓΛῶΣΣΑΙ therefore are, according to the text, to be considered as absolutely nothing else than languages, which were different from the native language of the speakers. They, the Galileans, spoke, one Parthian, another Median, etc., consequently languages of another sort (Luke 9:29; Mark 16:13; Galatians 1:6), i.e. foreign (1 Corinthians 14:21); and these indeed—the point wherein precisely appeared the miraculous operation of the Spirit—not acquired by study (γλώσσαις καιναῖς, Mark 16:17). Accordingly the text itself determines the meaning of ΓΛῶΣΣΑΙ as languages, not: tongues (as van Hengel again assumes on the basis of Acts 2:3, where, however, the tongues have only the symbolic destination of a divine σημεῖον[115]); and thereby excludes the various other explanations, and in particular those which start from the meaning verba obsoleta et poetica (Galen, exeg. glossar. Hippocr. Prooem.; Aristot. Ars poet. 21. 4 ff., 22. 3 f.; Quinctil. 1. 8; Pollux. 2. 4; Plut. Pyth. Orac. 24; and see Giese, Aeol. Dial. p. 42 ff.). This remark holds good (1) of the interpretation of Herder (von d. Gabe der Sprachen am ersten christl. Pfingstf., Riga, 1794), that new modes of interpreting the ancient prophets were meant; (2) against Heinrichs, who (after A. G. Meyer, de charismate τῶν γλωσσῶν, etc., Hannov. 1797) founds on that assumed meaning of γλῶσσαι his explanation of enthusiastic speaking in languages which were foreign indeed, different from the sacred language, but were the native languages of the speakers; (3) against Bleek in the Stud. u. Krit. 1829, p. 33 ff., 1830, p. 45 ff. The latter explains γλῶσσαι as glosses, i.e. unusual, antiquated poetical and provincial expressions. According to him, we are not to think of a connected speaking in foreign languages, but of a speaking in expressions which were foreign to the language of common life, and in which there was an approximation to a highly poetical phraseology, yet so that these glosses were borrowed from different dialects and languages (therefore ἑτέραις). Against this explanation of the γλῶσσαι, which is supported by Bleek with much erudition, the usus loquendi is already decisive. For γλῶσσα in that sense is a grammatico-technical expression, or at least an expression borrowed from grammarians, which is only as such philologically beyond dispute (see all the passages in Bleek, p. 33 ff., and already in A. G. Meyer, l.c.; Fritzsche, ad Marc. p. 741). But this meaning is entirely unknown to ordinary linguistic usage, and particularly to that of the O. and N. T. How should Luke have hit upon the use of such a singular expression for a thing, which he could easily designate by words universally intelligible? How could he put this expression even into the mouths of the Parthians, Medes, Elamites, etc.? For ἡμετέραις γλώσσαις, Acts 2:11, must be explained in a manner entirely corresponding to this. Further, there would result for ἡμετέραις a wholly absurd meaning. ἡμέτεραι γλώσσαι, forsooth, would be nothing else than glosses, obsolete expressions, which are peculiar only to the Parthians, or to the Medes, or to the Elamites, etc., just as the Ἀττικαὶ γλῶσσαι of Theodorus (in Athen. xiv. p. 646 c, p. 1437, ed. Dindorf) are provincialisms of Attica, which were not current among the rest of the Greeks. Finally, it is further decisive against Bleek that, according to his explanation of γλῶσσα transferred also to 1 Corinthians 12:14, no sense is left for the singular term γλώσσῃ λαλεῖν; for γλῶσσα could not denote genus locutionis glossematicum (λέξις γλωσσηματική, Dionys. Hal. de Thuc. 24), but simply a single gloss. As Bleek’s explanation falls to the ground, so must every other which takes γλῶσσαι in any other sense than languages, which it must mean according to Acts 2:6; Acts 2:8; Acts 2:11. This remark holds particularly (4) against the understanding of the matter by van Hengel, according to whom the assembled followers of Jesus spoke with other tongues than those with which they formerly spoke, namely, in the excitement of a fiery inspiration, but still all of them in Aramaic, so that each of those who came together heard the language of his own ancestral worship from the mouth of these Galileans, Acts 2:6.

[114] Chrysostom well remarks: οὐκ ἂν εἶπε πάντες, καὶ ἀποστόλων ὄντων ἐκεῖ, εἰ μὴ καὶ οἱ ἄλλοι μετέσχον. See also van Hengel, p. 54 ff.

[115] Van Hengel understands, according to ver. 3, by ἕτεραι γλ., “tongues of fire, which the believers in Jesus have obtained through their communion with the Holy Spirit.” That is, “an open-hearted and loud speaking to the glorifying of God in Christ,” such as had not been done before. Previously their tongues had been without fire.

From what has been already said, and at the same time from the express contrast in which the list of nations (Acts 2:9-11) stands with the question οὐκ ἰδοὺ πάντεςΓαλιλαῖοι (Acts 2:7), it results beyond all doubt that Luke intended to narrate nothing else than this: the persons possessed by the Spirit began to speak in languages which were foreign to their nationality instead of their mother-tongue, namely, in the languages of other nations,[116] the knowledge and use of which were previously wanting to them, and were only now communicated in and with the πνεῦμα ἅγιον. Comp. Storr, Opusc. II. p. 290 ff., III. p. 277 ff.; Milville, Obss. theol. exeg. de dono linguar. Basil. 1816. See also Schaff, Gesch. d. apost. K. p. 201 ff., ed. 2; Ch. F. Fritzsche, Nova opusc. p. 304 f. The author of Mark 16:17 has correctly understood the expression of Luke, when, in reference to our narrative, he wrote καιναῖς instead of ἙΤΈΡΑΙς. The explanation of foreign languages has been since the days of Origen that of most of the Church Fathers and expositors; but the monstrous extension of this view formerly prevalent, to the effect that the inspired received the gift of speaking all the languages of the earth (Augustin.: “coeperunt loqui linguis omnium gentium”), and that for the purpose of enabling them to proclaim the gospel to all nations, is unwarranted. “Poena linguarum dispersit homines: donum linguarum dispersos in unum populum collegit,” Grotius. Of this the text knows nothing; it leaves it, on the contrary, entirely undetermined whether, over and above the languages specially mentioned in Acts 2:9-11, any others were spoken. For the preaching of the gospel in the apostolic age this alleged gift of languages was partly unnecessary, as the preachers needed only to be able to speak Hebrew and Greek (comp. Schneckenb. neutest. Zeitgesch. p. 17 ff.), and partly too general, as among the assembled there were certainly very many who did not enter upon the vocation of teacher. And, on the other hand, such a gift would also have been premature, since Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, would, above all, have needed it; and yet in his case there is no trace of its subsequent reception, just as there is no evidence of his having preached in any other language than Hebrew and Greek.

[116] Comp., besides 1 Corinthians 14:21, Ecclus. praef.: ὅταν μεταχθῆ (the Hebrew) εἰς ἑτέραν γλῶσσαν (Leo, Tact. 4. 49: γλώσσαις διαφόροις λαλεῖν); also Aesch. Sept. 171: πόλιν δορίπονον μὴ προδῶθʼ ἑτεροφώνῳ στρατῷ. Not different is Pind. Pyth. xi. 43: ἀλλοτρίαισι γλώσσαις.

But how is the occurrence to be judged of historically? On this the following points are to be observed:—(1) Since the sudden communication of a facility of speaking foreign languages is neither logically possible nor psychologically and morally conceivable, and since in the case of the apostles not the slightest indication of it is perceptible in their letters or otherwise (comp., on the contrary, Acts 14:11); since further, if it is to be assumed as having been only momentary, the impossibility is even increased, and since Peter himself in his address makes not even the slightest allusion to the foreign languages,—the event, as Luke narrates it, cannot be presented in the actual form of its historical occurrence, whether we regard that Pentecostal assembly (without any indication to that effect in the text) as a representation of the entire future Christian body (Baumgarten) or not. (2) The analogy of magnetism (adduced especially by Olshausen, and by Baeumlein in the Würtemb. Stud. VI. 2, p. 118) is entirely foreign to the point, especially as those possessed by the Spirit were already speaking in foreign languages, when the Parthians, Medes, etc., came up, so that anything corresponding to the magnetic “rapport” is not conceivable. (3) If the event is alleged to have taken place, as it is narrated, with a view to the representation of an idea,[117] and that, indeed, only at the time and without leaving behind a permanent facility of speaking languages (Rossteuscher, Gabe der Sprachen, Marb. 1850, p. 97: “in order to represent and to attest, in germ and symbol, the future gathering of the elect out of all nations, the consecration of their languages in the church, and again the holiness of the church in the use of these profane idioms, as also of what is natural generally”), such a view is nothing else than a gratuitously-imported subjective abstraction of fancy, which leaves the point of the impossibility and the non-historical character of the occurrence entirely unsettled, although it arbitrarily falls back upon the Babylonian confusion of tongues as its corresponding historical type. This remark also applies against Lange, Apost. Zeitalt. II. p. 22 ff., according to whose fanciful notion the original language of the inner life by which men’s minds are united has here reached its fairest manifestation. This Pentecostal language, he holds, still pervades the church as the language of the inmost life in God, as the language of the Bible, glorified by the gospel, and as the leaven of all languages, which effects their regeneration into the language of the Spirit. (4) Nevertheless, the state of the fact can in nowise be reduced to a speaking of the persons assembled in their mother—tongues, so that the speakers would have been no native Galileans (Paulus, Eichhorn, Schulthess, de charismatib. sp. s., Lips. 1818, Kuinoel, Heinrichs, Fritzsche, Schrader, and others); along with which David Schulz (d. Geistesgaben d. ersten Christen, Breslau, 1836) explains ἑτέραις γλώσσαις even of other kinds of singing praise, which found utterance in the provincial dialects contrary to their custom and ability at other times. Thus the very essence of the narrative, the miraculous nature of the phenomenon, is swept away, and there is not even left matter of surprise fitted to give sufficient occasion for the astonishment and its expressions, if we do not, with Thiess, resort even to the hypothesis that the speakers had only used the Aramaic dialects instead of the Galilean. Every resolution of the matter into a speaking of native languages is directly against the nature and the words of the narrative, and therefore unwarranted. (5) Equally unwarranted, moreover, is the conversion, utterly in the face of the narrative, of the miracle of tongues into a miracle of hearing, so that those assembled did not, indeed, speak in any foreign tongue, but the foreigners listening believed that they heard their own native languages. See against this view, Castalio in loc., and Beza on x. 46. This opinion (which Billroth on 1 Cor. strangely outbids by his fancy of a primeval language which had been spoken) is already represented by Gregory of Nazianzus, Orat. 41, as allowable by the punctuation of Acts 2:6; is found thereafter in the Pseudo-Cyprian (Arnold), in the appendix to the Opp. Cypr. p. 60, ed. Brem. (p. 475, ed. Basil. 1530), in Beda, Erasmus, and others; and has recently been advocated especially by Schnecken-burger, Beitr. p. 84; comp. üb. den Zweck d. Apostelgesch. p. 202 ff.:[118] legend also presents later analogous phenomena (in the life of Francis Xavier and others). (6) The miraculous gift of languages remains the centre of the entire narrative (see Ch. F. Fritzsche, nova opusc. p. 309 ff.; Zeller, p. 104 ff.; Hilgenf. d. Glossolalie, p. 87 ff.), and may in nowise be put aside or placed in the background, if the state of the fact is to be derived entirely from this narrative. If we further compare Acts 10:46-47, the καθὼς καὶ ἡμεῖς in that passage shows that the ΛΑΛΕῖΝ ΓΛΏΣΣΑΙς, which there occurred at the descent of the Spirit on those assembled, cannot have been anything essentially different from the event in Acts 2. A corresponding judgment must in that case be formed as to Acts 19:6. But we have to take our views of what the ΓΛΏΣΣΑΙς ΛΑΛΕῖΝ really was, not from our passage, but from the older and absolutely authentic account of Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:14; according to which it (see comm. on 1 Corinthians 12:10) was a speaking in the form of prayer—which took place in the highest ecstasy, and required an interpretation for its understanding—and not a speaking in foreign languages. The occurrence in Acts 2. is therefore to be recognised, according to its historical import, as the phenomenon of the glossolalia (not as a higher stage of it, in which the foreign languages supervened, Olshausen), which emerged for the first time in the Christian church, and that immediately on the effusion of the Spirit at Pentecost,—a phenomenon which, in the sphere of the marvellous to which it belongs, was elaborated and embellished by legend into a speaking in foreign languages, and accordingly into an occurrence quite unique, not indeed as to substance, but as to mode (comp. Hilgenfeld, p. 146), and far surpassing the subsequently frequent and well-known glossolalia, having in fact no parallel in the further history of the church.[119] How this transformation—the supposition of which is by no means to be treated with suspicion as the dogmatic caprice of unbelief (in opposition to Rossteuscher, p. 125)—took place, cannot be ascertained. But the supposition very naturally suggests itself, that among the persons possessed by the Spirit, who were for the most part Galileans (in the elaborated legend; all of them Galileans), there were also some foreigners, and that among these very naturally the utterances of the Spirit in the glossolalia found vent in expressions of their different national languages, and not in the Aramaic dialect, which was to them by nature a foreign language, and therefore not natural or suitable for the outburst of inspired ecstasy. If this first glossolalia actually took place in different languages, we can explain how the legend gradually gave to the occurrence the form which it has in Luke, even with the list of nations, which specifies more particularly the languages spoken. That a symbolical view of the phenomenon has occasioned the formation of the legend, namely, the idea of doing away with the diversity of languages which arose, Genesis 11, by way of punishment, according to which idea there was to be again in the Messianic time εἷς λαὸς κυρίου καὶ γλῶσσα μία (Test. XII. Patr. p. 618), is not to be assumed (Schneckenburger, Rossteuscher, de Wette), since this idea as respects the γλῶσσα μία is not a N. T. one, and it would suit not the miracle of speaking, such as the matter appears in our narrative, but a miracle of hearing, such as it has been interpreted to mean. The general idea of the universal destination of Christianity (comp. Zeller, Hilgenfeld) cannot but have been favourable to the shaping of the occurrence in the form in which it appears in our passage.

[117] Comp. Augustine, serm. 9 : Loquebatur enim tunc unus homo omnibus linguis, quia locutura erat unitas ecclesiae in omnibus linguis.

[118] Svenson also, in the Zeitschr. f. Luth. Th. u. K. 1859, p. 1 ff., arrives at the result of a miracle of hearing.

[119] The conclusion of Wieseler (Stud. u. Krit. 1869, p. 118), that Luke, who, as a companion of Paul, must have been well acquainted with the glossolalia, could not have represented it as a speaking in foreign languages, is incorrect. Luke, in fact, conceives and describes the Pentecostal miracle not as the glossolalia, which was certainly well known to him, as it was a frequent gift in the apostolic age, but as a quite extraordinary occurrence, such as it had been presented to him by tradition; and in doing so, he is perfectly conscious of the distinction between it and the speaking with tongues, which he knew by experience. With justice Holtzmann also (in Herzog’s Encykl. XVIII. p. 689) sees in our narrative a later legendary formation, but from a time which was no longer familiar with the nature of the glossolalia. This latter statement is not to be conceded, partly because Luke wrote soon after the destruction of Jerusalem, and the source which he here made use of must have been still older; and partly because he was a friend of Paul, and as such could not have been otherwise than familiar with the nature of that χάρισμα, which the apostle himself richly possessed.

The view which regards our event as essentially identical with the glossolalia, but does not conceive the latter as a speaking in foreign languages, has been adopted by Bleek in the Stud. u. Krit. 1829, p. 50 ff., whose explanation, however, of highly poetical discourse, combined with foreign expressions, agrees neither with the ἑτέρ. γλ. generally nor with Acts 2:8; Acts 2:11; by Baur in the Tüb. Zeitschr. 1830, 2, p. 101 ff., who, however, explains on this account ἑτέρ. γλ. as new spirit-tongues,[120] and regarded this expression as the original one, but subsequently in the Stud. u. Krit. 1838, p. 618 ff., amidst a mixing up of different opinions, has acceded to the view of Bleek; by Steudel in the Tüb. Zeitschr. 1830, 2, p. 133 ff., 1831, 2, p. 128 ff., who explains the Pentecostal event from the corresponding tone of feeling which the inspired address encountered in others,—a view which does not at all suit the concourse of foreign unbelievers in our passage; by Neander, who, however (4th edition, p. 28), idealizes the speaking of inspiration in our passage too indefinitely and indistinctly; by Wieseler in the Stud. u. Krit. 1838, p. 743 ff., 1860, p. 117, who makes the ἑρμηνεία γλωσσῶν be described according to the impression made upon the assembled Jews,—an idea irreconcilable with our text (Acts 2:6-12); by de Wette, who ascribes the transformation of the glossolalia in our passage to a reporter, who, from want of knowledge, imported into the traditional facts a symbolical meaning; by Hilgenfeld, according to whom the author conceived the gift of languages as a special γένος of speaking with tongues; by van Hengel, who sees in the Corinthian glossolalia a degenerating of the original fact in our passage; and by Ewald (Gesch. d. apost. Zeitalt. p. 123 ff., comp. Jahrb. III. p. 269 ff.), who represents the matter as the first outburst of the infinite vigour of life and pleasure in life of the new-born Christianity, which took place not in words, songs, and prayers previously used, nor generally in previous human speech and language, but, as it were, in a sudden conflux and moulding-anew of all previous languages, amidst which the synonymous expressions of different languages were, in the surging of excitement, crowded and conglomerated, etc.,—a view in which the appeal to the ἀββὰ ὁ πατήρ and μαρὰν ἀθά is much too weak to do justice to the ἑτέραις γλώσσαις as the proper point of the narrative. On the other hand, the view of the Pentecostal miracle as an actual though only temporary speaking in unacquired foreign languages, such as Luke represents it, has been maintained down to the most recent times (Baeumlein in the Würtemb. Stud. 1834, 2, p. 40 ff.; Bauer in the Stud. u. Krit. 1843, p. 658 ff., 1844, p. 708 ff.; Zinsler, de charism. τοῦ γλ. λαλ. 1847; Englmann, v. d. Charismen, 1850; Maier, d. Glossalie d. apost. Zeitalt. 1855; Thiersch, Kirche im apost. Zeitalt. p. 67; Rossteuscher, Baumgarten, Lechler; comp. also Kahnis, vom heil. Geiste, p. 61 ff., Dogmat. I. p. 517, Schaff, and others), a conception which Hofmann, Weissag. u. Erf. II. p. 206 ff., supports by the significance of Pentecost as the feast of the first fruits, and Baumgarten, at the same time, by its reference to the giving of the law. But by its side the procedure of the other extreme, by which the Pentecostal occurrence is entirely banished from history,[121] has been carried out in the boldest and most decided manner by Zeller (p. 104 ff.), to whom the origin of the narrative appears quite capable of explanation from dogmatic motives (according to the idea of the destination of Christianity for all nations) and typical views.[122]

καθώς, as, in which manner, i.e. according to the context: in which foreign language.

ἀποφθέγγεσθαι] eloqui (Lucian. Zeux. 1, Paras. 4, Plut. Mor. p. 405 E, Diog. L. i. 63), a purposely chosen word (comp. Acts 2:14, Acts 26:25) for loud utterance in the elevated state of spiritual gifts (1 Chronicles 25:1Acts 2:4. ἀποφθέγγεσθαι—a word peculiar to Acts, cf. Acts 5:14 and Acts 26:25; in the LXX used not of ordinary conversation, but of the utterances of prophets; cf. Ezekiel 13:9, Micah 5:12, 1 Chronicles 25:1, so fitly here: (cf. ἀποφθέγματα, used by the Greeks of the sayings of the wise and philosophers, and see also references in Wendt).—ἐτέραις γλώσσαις, see additional note.4. This verse describes a great miracle, and its simplicity of statement marks it as the record of one who felt that no additional words could make the matter other than one which passed the human understanding.

they began to speak with other tongues] Spoken of as new tongues (Mark 16:17). It means languages which they had not known before, and from the history it would appear that some of the company spake in one and some in another language, for the crowd of foreigners, when they come together, all find somebody among the speakers whom they are able to understand.Acts 2:4. Καὶ, and) The internal operations are here described, along with their effect, as in Acts 2:3 the external symbol is described.—ἅπαντες, they all) all those of whom Acts 2:1; Acts 2:14-15, ch. Acts 1:14, etc. treat, of various age, sex, and condition; see below, Acts 2:17-18.—ἤρξαντο, they began) This was a thing which never before had occurred.—λαλεῖν, to speak) without difficulty, with readiness.—γλώσσαις, with tongues) The miraculous variety was not in the ears of the hearers, but in the mouth of the speakers: ch. Acts 10:46, Acts 19:6; Mark 16:17; 1 Corinthians 12:10. This family, which was thus celebrating the praises of God in the tongues of the whole world, was an equivalent representative of the whole world, which is about to praise God with the tongues of its inhabitants.—καθὼς, even as) 1 Corinthians 12:11, “All these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will.”—ἐδίδου) was giving, gave, so as that they might speak without difficulty, and yet freely.[8]—ἀποφθέγγεσθαι) the power to speak forth, with soberness, and at the same time power; Acts 2:14, “Peter lifted up his voice;” ch. Acts 26:25, Paul, “I am not mad, but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.” Justus Jonas observes, “Moses, who is the typical representative of the law, had a ‘tongue slow of speech’ (Exodus 4:10):—but the Gospel speaks with a tongue set on fire and flaming with ardour”.

[8] i.e. Though they were dependent on the Spirit, they were not divested of their individual freedom.—E. and T.Verse 4. - Spirit for Ghost, A.V. Other tongues (1 Corinthians 14:21; Isaiah 28:11); the same as the "new tongues" of Mark 16:17. St. Paul speaks of them as "the tongues of men and of angels" (1 Corinthians 13:1), and as "kinds of tongues" (1 Corinthians 12:10). His habitual phrase is "speaking in [or with] a tongue [or tongues]" (1 Corinthians 14:2, 4-6, etc.), and the verb is always λαλεῖν, as here. What these tongues were on this occasion we are explicitly informed in vers. 6, 8, and 11. They were the tongues of the various nationalities present at the feast - Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Phrygians, Arabians, etc. This is so clearly and so distinctly stated that it is astonishing that any one should deny it who accepts St. Luke's account as historical. The only room for doubt is whether the speakers spoke in these divers languages, or the hearers heard in them though the speakers spoke in only one tongue. But not to mention that this is far more difficult to imagine, and transfers the miracle from those who had the Holy Spirit to those who had it not, it is against the plain language of the text, which tells us that "they began to speak with other tongues," and that "every man heard them speaking in his own language." "Speaking," said they, "in our own tongues the mighty works of God." There may, indeed, have been something ecstatic besides in these utterances, but there is no reference to such made either by St. Luke or by the audience whose words he reports. The narrative before us does not hint at any after use of the gift of tongues for missionary purposes. In Acts 10:46; Acts 11:15-17; Acts 19:6, as well as in the passages above referred to in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, the speaking with tongues is always spoken of - often in connection with prophecy - simply as a gift and a manifestation (1 Corinthians 12:7) of the power of the Holy Spirit. In this case and in Acts 10:46 the subject-matter of the utterance is the greatness of God's works; τὰ μεγαλεῖα τοῦ Θεοῦ μεγαλυνόντων τὸν Θεὸν. In 1 Corinthians 14:2 it is" mysteries;" in ver. 15, "prayers and psalms;" in ver. 16 it is "blessing" and "thanksgiving" (εὐλογία and εὐχαριστία). But nowhere, either in Holy Scripture or in the Fathers of the three first centuries, is the gift of tongues spoken of in connection with preaching to foreign nations (see Alford's just remarks). Farrar ('Life of St. Paul,' vol. 1. pp. 98-101) takes the same view, but is much less distinct in his conception of what is meant here by speaking with tongues. He adheres to the view of Schneckenburger, that "the tongue was, from its own force and significance, intelligible equally to all who heard it;" he agrees with the dictum of Neander that "any foreign languages which were spoken on this occasion were only something accidental, and not the essential element of the language of the Spirit." He says, "The voice they uttered was awful in its range, in its tones, in its modulations, in its startling, penetrating, almost appalling power; the words they spoke were exalted, intense, passionate, full of mystic significance; the language they used was not their ordinary and familiar tongue, but was Hebrew, or Greek, or Latin, or Aramaic, or Persian, or Arabic, as some overpowering and unconscious impulse of the moment might direct... and among these strange sounds... there were some which none could interpret, which rang on the air like the voice of barbarous languages, and which ... conveyed no definite significance beyond the fact that they were reverberations of one and the same ecstasy." The writer seems to suggest that when any real language was spoken it was one more or less known previously by the speaker, and that in other cases it was no language at all, only thrilling emotional sounds. Renan's view of the day of Pentecost is a carious specimen of rationalistic interpretation. "One day when the brethren were come together there was a tempest. A violent wind burst open the windows, and the sky was one sheet of fire. In that climate tempests are often accompanied by an extraordinary amount of electric light. The atmosphere is on all sides furrowed with jets of flame. On this occasion, whether the electric fluid actually passed through the room, or whether the faces of all present were suddenly lit up by an extremely bright flash of lightning, all were convinced that the Holy Spirit had entered their assembly, and had sat upon the head of each in the shape of a tongue of fire... In these moments of ecstasy, the disciple possessed by the Spirit uttered sounds 'inarticulate and incoherent, which the hearers fancied were the words of a strange language, and in their simplicity tried to interpret They listened eagerly to the medley of sounds, and explained them by their own extemporaneous thoughts. Each of them had recourse to his own native patois to supply some meaning to the unintelligible accents, and generally succeeded in affixing to them the thoughts that were uppermost in his own mind" ('Les Apotres,' pp. 66-68). Elsewhere (pp. 64, 65) he suggests that the whole conception of speaking with tongues arose from the anticipation on the part of the apostles that great difficulty would arise in propagating the gospel from the impossibility of learning to speak the necessary languages. The solution with some was that, under the ecstasy caused by the Holy Spirit, the hearers would be able to translate what they heard into their own tongue; others rather thought that by the same power the apostles would be able to speak any dialect they pleased at the moment. Hence the conception of the day of Pentecost as described by St. Luke! Meyer, again, fully admits, as "beyond all doubt," that St. Luke intended to narrate that the persons possessed by the Spirit spoke in foreign languages previously unknown by them; but adds that "the sudden communication of a facility of speaking foreign languages is neither logically possible nor psychologically and morally conceivable" (a pretty bold assertion); and therefore he sets down St. Luke's account of what occurred as "a later legendary formation," based upon the existing γλωσσολαλία. Zeller, traveling a little further on the same road, comes to the conclusion that "the narrative before us is not based on any definite fact" (p. 205). Leaving, however, these fanciful varieties of incredulous criticism, and interpreting the statements of this chapter by the later spiritual gifts as seen in the Church of Corinth, we conclude that the" tongues" were sometimes "tongues of men," foreign languages unknown to the speakers, and of course unintelligible to the hearers unless any were present, as was the case on the day of Pentecost, who knew the language; and sometimes languages not of earth but of heaven, "tongues of angels." But there is no evidence whatever of their being mere gibberish as distinct from language, or being language coined at the moment by the Holy Ghost. All that St. Paul says to the Corinthians is fully applicable to any language spoken when there were none present who understood it. The significance of the miracle seems to be that it points to the time when all shall be one in Christ, and shall all speak and understand the same speech; and not only all men, but men and angels, "the whole family in heaven and earth," "things in the heavens and things upon the earth" all gathered together in one in Christ. It may also not improbably have been used occasionally, as it was on the day of Pentecost, to convey doctrine, knowledge, or exhortation, to foreign people; but there is no distinct evidence that this was the case. Began

Bringing into prominence the first impulse of the act. See on began, Acts 1:1.

With other tongues (ἑτέραις γλώσσαις)

Strictly different, from their native tongues, and also different tongues spoken by the different apostles. See on Matthew 6:24.

Gave (ἐδίδου)

A graphic imperfect; kept giving them the language and the appropriate words as the case required from time to time. It would seem that each apostle was speaking to a group, or to individuals. The general address to the multitude followed from the lips of Peter.

Utterance (ἀποφθέγγεσθαι)

Used only by Luke and in the Acts. Lit., to utter. A peculiar word, and purposely chosen to denote the clear, loud utterance under the miraculous impulse. It is used by later Greek writers of the utterances of oracles or seers. So in the Septuagint, of prophesying. See 1 Chronicles 25:1; Deuteronomy 32:2; Zechariah 10:2; Ezekiel 13:19.

Acts 2:4 Interlinear
Acts 2:4 Parallel Texts

Acts 2:4 NIV
Acts 2:4 NLT
Acts 2:4 ESV
Acts 2:4 NASB
Acts 2:4 KJV

Acts 2:4 Bible Apps
Acts 2:4 Parallel
Acts 2:4 Biblia Paralela
Acts 2:4 Chinese Bible
Acts 2:4 French Bible
Acts 2:4 German Bible

Bible Hub

Acts 2:3
Top of Page
Top of Page