The working theory is that “tongues” involves a group effort to enclose secrets within the common man’s language (both Hebrew and Greek). This means if you didn’t know one (like Jesus) was “speaking in a tongue” you would mistake his sayings for something that seemed to apply to normal colloquialism, culture, or social constructs. When colloquialism, culture, or social constructs become the prevailing basis for the translation/interpretation process the tongue itself will inevitably be erased and no one will be able to even attempt to interpret it. Such a basis is a very sandy one anyway because who of us can really know what constituted cultural constructs and colloquialisms or not unless we were there?
I thank God, I speak more tongues than you all;
1 Cor. 14:18 YLT Literal
The literal rendering of the verse is I thank God, than all of you more tongues I speak. It wasn’t that Paul spoke in tongues more than everyone but that he spoke more tongues than everyone. The word “in” is not found in the Greek and is added by all the translations except Young’s Literal. The same applies to the other verses
and I wish you all to speak
withtongues, and more that ye may prophesy, for greater is he who is prophesying than he who is speaking withtongues, except one may interpret, that the assembly may receive edification.
1 Cor. 14:5 YLT Literal
Paul spoke more tongues than anyone because he knew the Scriptures better than anyone.
The writers of the Bible have apparently combined many symbolic themes (tongues) into categorical ways of speaking about the same truths. Consider that speaking a parable is “speaking a tongue”.
Here are some lists of such “tongues” with some of the more obvious words. They are roughly categorized, not to be taken as precise. Some tongues appear to be more like sub-languages easily confused such as the Face and the Body. Most people who have spent time in the Church will recognize the symbolic nature of many of these words. But how to interpret?
|the Plant tongue||the Animal tongue||the Building tongue||the Family tongue||the Body tongue|
fish of the Sea
man and woman (the only creatures who walk upright)
hands (and fingers, and even nails)
The Face/Head (sub-tongue)
|the Weather tongue||the Musical Instruments tongue||the Water tongue||the Ground tongue||the Numerical tongue
There are many of these tongues. And obviously it requires work to figure them out. We don’t just start babbling like a maniac. Sit down and do your homework. Don’t be lazy, be importunate. The more we learn, the more ability we have to decipher the mysteries which often appear to make use of a combination of tongues:
We hanged our harps Upon the willows…
The pictures painted by the authors of the “poetic” scriptures are especially “nonsensical”. Who the hell hangs a harp in a tree? What? The Hebrews were clearly obsessed with speaking/writing enigmatically.
Try to count how many “tongues” are packed into just this one vision:
As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming metal. And from the midst of it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had a human likeness, but each had four faces, and each of them had four wings. Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the sole of a calf’s foot. And they sparkled like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands.