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 Did Jesus Speak in Tongues?

John Hoole March 01, 2009

I don't remember how long ago it was that I was asked the question we are now considering. Paul Kaminer, an Assemblies of God minister, called this the "ultimate Pentecostal question."


When I was first asked, I don't believe I had really ever given it consideration. After all, as God, there were no languages He didn't know. And He was sinless, which means He had perfect communication with the Father, therefore He did not need tongues.

Since that time, I have read a few articles from people on both sides of the question. Unlike the apostle Paul, who we know spoke in tongues (1 Cor. 14:18), there is no Scripture that specifically states Jesus spoke in tongues. There are, however, some on both sides who are adamant that Jesus did, or did not, speak in tongues. Let me delineate a few of the reason raised by those who believe He did speak in tongues.

1. In Luke 3:21-22, at the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, we are told that He was praying when the Holy Spirit came upon Him in the form of a dove. Could He have been praying in tongues at that moment? We do know, from the words that follow, He was baptized with the Holy Spirit at that time. And the position of classical Pentecostals is that tongues is the initial evidence of the baptism.

2. One of the uses of tongues in the New Testament is for personal prayer, praise and devotion. And we know that Jesus spent much time in prayer. Perhaps during these times of private prayer, Jesus prayed in tongues. He certainly had the opportunity to do so.

3. Jesus was certainly aware of the practice of speaking in tongues, because in Mark 16:17, He says believers "shall speak with new tongues." The fact that Jesus was aware of the practice of speaking in tongues could indicate He was aware of it from personal usage.

4. In John 14:12, Jesus said, "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also." If we are to do what Jesus did, and if we are to speak in tongues, doesn't it follow that Jesus must have spoken in tongues? Wouldn't this be true in light of the fact that immediately following this statement, Jesus begins talking about the Holy Spirit and how He will dwell in us.

Let me make a comment on this argument right now. To quote John 14:12 the way I just did, hides the complete thought Jesus gives us in that verse. He didn't just say we would do the same things He did. He said that we would do that and more - or greater things than He did.

5. There are a number of Scriptures speaking of how Jesus groaned or sighed in prayer. With that thought and the fact that some theologians link groaning in the Spirit with tongues, could these be an indication that in those moments Jesus prayed in tongues? In some cases the same Greek words used of these moments in the life of Jesus, is also used in Romans 8:26-27, telling us the Holy Spirit groans when praying through us.

Now let's look at the other side of this argument. I am sure many would like to accept the argument that Jesus spoke in tongues. It might even be comforting to many Pentecostals if some positive supportive evidence could be found.

At this juncture, let me give you where I fall in answering the question of Jesus speaking in tongues. If Jesus did speak in tongues, and the disciples were there to witness Him doing so, I believe it would have been recorded.

The Bible does draw attention on a number of occasions when Jesus spoke in Aramaic. This would have been a language Jesus would have known from his boyhood. Some of the Passages are: Matthew 27:46; Mark 5:31, 7:34, 15:34. Let's look at one of those Passages.

Matthew 27:46 NKJV

46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"

If the writers of Scripture would draw attention to the fact that Jesus spoke Aramaic, why, then, would the Bible not mention His speaking in tongues, which is something that would be important to the Church?

Earlier, I mentioned that those who think Jesus may have spoken in tongues, point to the fact that tongues is used for personal prayer, praise and devotion, and that Jesus spent much time in such prayer. It is true that tongues is for prayer and praise, but this does not necessarily apply to Jesus.

We actually have the transcript of some of the prayers of Jesus. We have the High Priestly prayer of Jesus recorded in John 17. The Gospels also record His praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. But in no case is there anything specific that can be taken as praying in tongues.

I also mentioned earlier that the advocates for Jesus speaking in tongues make reference to Mark 16:17. Their argument, again, is that Jesus knew about the practice of speaking in tongues, so why can we not assume He was aware of it from personal usage? Mark 16:17 is a prophecy. Jesus knew believers would speak in tongues. But that hardly indicates anything about His own personal usage.

And neither does John 14:12, which speaks of his followers doing greater works than He, have any relevance to this discussion. You see, speaking in tongues is a "gift" not a "work."

Dispensational Aspects

Another thing I want you to consider is this. We know that God established a covenant with Israel (through Abraham and Moses). We sometimes call this the Old Covenant. But Jeremiah 31:31 begins talking about a New Covenant to come. That new covenant began in the New Testament. And it is based upon the blood of Jesus Christ. Those who accept the sacrifice of the blood of Jesus Christ, the Savior, are made heirs of the New Covenant.

But Jesus Christ was not born under the New Covenant.

Galatians 4:4 NKJV

4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law,

Jesus was born under the law. During the Old Covenant, many people were filled with the Holy Spirit for the completion of a specific task God wanted them to do. But there is no record of those filled with the Spirit under the Law that any of them spoke in tongues.

Everything that Jesus did and experienced took place under the old dispensation. This is true even though we are told, in John 3:34, that Jesus had the Spirit without measure. Not only were some people filled with the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, but also Luke indicates John the Baptist (1:15) and both of his parents (1:41, 67) were both filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied. But there is no indication they spoke in tongues.

There is a clearly marked distinction between the filling with the Spirit prior to Pentecost and the filling with the Spirit on and after that eventful day. John the Baptist actually indicated this truth when he declared: "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and fire." (Matthew 3:11). In other words, the Lord at some future time would give to His followers an experience which was not then available.

And the Lord spoke of a future event when He said, in John 7, "He that believeth on Me as the Scripture hath said, out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water. But this spoke He of the Holy Spirit, which they that believed on Him should receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given." (John 7:37-39).

In fact, all of the 9 gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 were active in the lives of those filled with the Spirit in the Old Testament, except tongues and interpretation of tongues. Speaking in tongues was something new given to the church when it was born on the Day of Pentecost.

It seems logical to me to conclude that it was God's will that the new experience, so distinctly a part of the new dispensation, should be made manifest by a new sign. Hence, at Pentecost the 120 disciples spoke with other tongues, an unprecedented manifestation for the Church age.

While I, as a Pentecostal, would like to believe Jesus spoke in tongues, the evidence seems to me to be too weak, too full of speculation. Whether Jesus spoke in tongues does not affect the joy I have experienced as I daily speak in the utterance the Holy Spirit gives.

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