Languages (G)

8. “Interpretation”: Some have misunderstood the meaning of the gift of interpretation. It has been claimed that Paul meant that one is to “decipher” an ecstatic utterance or gibberish, not interpret a foreign language. However, the Greek word diermaneutas (interpretation) is used in thirteen different places in the New Testament in one form or another. It is almost always used in reference to translating the words of one known language into another known language (See Jn 1:38,41; 9:7; At 13:8; Hb 7:2).
An exception to this would be Luke 24:27 where Jesus interpreted the Scrip­tures for the disciples. But even in this case it was the interpretation of thought from one known language into another that was under consideration.

In the context of 1 Corinthians 14, therefore, we must understand that the word diermaneutas was used in its most common manner. It was not used to refer to the translation of gibberish sounds into a language of man. The word was never used to refer to the translation of some unheard of gibberish into a language that is known by man. It was used in the sense that the interpreter translated a spoken language that was known by mankind into the language of others who were present.

There is no justification to read ecstatic utterances into the context of 1 Corinthians. Fudge rightly concluded,

“The idea of some ecstatic language, some unintelligible gibberish, or a mystical prayer-language finds absolutely no support in the text of First Corinthians. Any teaching growing out of that notion is based entirely on supposition and assumption, and finds no ground in the Scriptures – here or elsewhere” (Speaking in Tongues).

There are no unknown languages discussed in the context of 1 Corinthians 12 – 14. There was no ecstatic gibberish in the assembly of the Corinthian church. When Paul discussed the subject of tongues, Bible students must understand that he was referring to the languages of men. In fact, his instructions concerning tongues throughout the context of 1 Corinthians 12 – 14 can be understood only if we understand that he was speaking of known languages of men in the context of his instructions. This is the only consistent manner by which 1 Corinthians 12 – 14 can be understood.

[End of series: The forthcoming book, of which this material is one of the chapters, will be out as an ebook November.]

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