Previously, we have published papers on the Church and contemporary doctrines. For example, a careful study of Jesus Christ would bring one to the conclusion that Jesus of the Bible is different from Jesus of the Church. Today, let us talk about speaking in tongues, Glossolalia or Xenolalia?


In general coming from the Greek, “glossolalia” can refer to 1) speaking in either a variety of different languages or 2) speaking in incomprehensible sounds/gibberish/non-real languages.
Specifically, “glossolalia” in common English properly refers to 1) making noises, including bodily noises, sighs, moans, etc., or 2) speaking in gibberish/non-real languages


“Xenolalia” refers to speaking in many real languages. In apostolic times, this would refer to having an infused gift/learning of a language/number of languages (see Acts 2). In current times, “xenolalia” refers to the ability to learn foreign languages; some individuals learn non-native languages with ease while others struggle/find it impossible. Those who find it relatively easy/accessible are said to have the gift of “xenolalia.” It can be considered a subcategory of the general term “glossolalia,” but for specific usage, “glossolalia” and “xenolalia” denote two different things.

Gingrich, F. Wilbur. Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983
“Glossolalia” and “Tongues, Gift of” in Catholic Biblical Encyclopedia: Old and New Testaments, John E. Steinmueller and Kathryn Sullivan, (New York: Joseph Wagner, 1956), 258-9 & 635-6. (Credit:

In this paper, we are comparing the Biblical concept of speaking in tongues with that of the church today. Felicitas Goodman studied a number of Pentecostal communities in the United States, the Caribbean, and Mexico; these included English, Spanish and Mayan-speaking groups. She compared what she found with recordings of non-Christian rituals from Africa, Borneo, Indonesia and Japan. She took into account both the segmental structure (such as sounds, syllables, phrases) and the supra-segmental elements (rhythm, accent, intonation) and concluded that there was no distinction between what was practised by the Pentecostal Protestants and the followers of other religions. (

In the new testament, the first account of speaking in tongue was recorded in the book of Acts. We read from Acts 2:5-12

5 At that time devout Jews from every nation under heaven were staying in Jerusalem. 6 So when this sound occurred, a crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.

Here, the disciples were speaking in tongues “being filled with the holy spirit”, they were speaking in different languages they never used to know. We read further,

7 Indeed, they were utterly amazed and said: “See here, all these who are speaking are Gal·i·leʹans, are they not? 8 How is it, then, that each one of us is hearing his own native language? 9 Parʹthi·ans, Medes, and Eʹlam·ites, the inhabitants of Mes·o·po·taʹmi·a, Ju·deʹa and Cap·pa·doʹci·a, Ponʹtus and the province of Asia,10 Phrygʹi·a and Pam·phylʹi·a, Egypt and the regions of Libʹy·a near Cy·reʹne, sojourners from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Creʹtans, and Arabians—we hear them speaking in our languages about the magnificent things of God.” 12 Yes, they were all astonished and perplexed, saying to one another: “What does this mean?”

This is Xenolalia. The disciples spoke different languages but not gibberish, not what no one on earth can understand. We will focus on the fourteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians as Paul tells us what speaking in tongue is and how it should be. We read,

5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.

6 Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? 7 Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the pipe or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? 8 Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?

If the one speaking in tongues speaks jargon and gibberish, of what use is it?

9 So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. 10 Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. 11 If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me.

Look at Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches today, which people in the world speak languages they speak when they speak in tongues?

18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

Stop some pastors today, what they do first is speak in tongues, ask them to interpret, they say you don’t have the holy spirit.

20 Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. 21 In the Law it is written:

“With other tongues
and through the lips of foreigners
I will speak to this people,
but even then they will not listen to me,
says the Lord.

Here, Paul was quoting from the book of Isaiah 28:11-12. A foreign tongue, not what no one in the world understands.

22 Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?

27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret.28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God

Meanwhile, the verse below should be noted by Christians,

34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

In conclusion, speaking in tongues in the Bible was more of Xenolalia than Glossolalia. Today in the church, speaking in tongue is not different from Charlie Charplin’s (as Adenoid Hynkel) rubbish speech in The great dictator or his rubbish song,

Se bella giu satore Je notre so cafore Je notre si cavore Je la tu la ti la twah. La spinash o la bouchon Cigaretto Portabello Si rakish spaghaletto Ti la tu la ti la twah (In Modern Times)

Bashir Lucas Samson Lukman


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