October 31, 2006
Brain Scans While Speaking In Tongues

Does God take over the language area of the brain when people speak in tongues?

Glossolalia, otherwise referred to as “speaking in tongues,” has been around for thousands of years, and references to it can be found in the Old and New Testament. Speaking in tongues is an unusual mental state associated with specific religious traditions. The individual appears to be speaking in an incomprehensible language, yet perceives it to have great personal meaning. Now, in a first of its kind study, scientists are shining the light on this mysterious practice -- attempting to explain what actually happens physiologically to the brain of someone while speaking in tongues.

Would God suppress the frontal lobes while he (she?) takes over the speech areas of the brain? Or would he take over the throat and tongue while ignoring the brain?

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have discovered decreased activity in the frontal lobes, an area of the brain associated with being in control of one’s self. This pioneering study, involving functional imaging of the brain while subjects were speaking in tongues, is in the November issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, the official publication of the International Society for Neuroimaging in Psychiatry.

Radiology investigators observed increased or decreased brain activity - by measuring regional cerebral blood flow with SPECT (Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography) imaging - while the subjects were speaking in tongues. They then compared the imaging to what happened to the brain while the subjects sang gospel music.

“We noticed a number of changes that occurred functionally in the brain,” comments Principal Investigator Andrew Newberg, MD, Associate Professor of Radiology, Psychiatry, and Religious Studies, and Director for the Center for Spirituality and the Mind, at Penn. “Our finding of decreased activity in the frontal lobes during the practice of speaking in tongues is fascinating because these subjects truly believe that the spirit of God is moving through them and controlling them to speak. Our brain imaging research shows us that these subjects are not in control of the usual language centers during this activity, which is consistent with their description of a lack of intentional control while speaking in tongues.”

Newberg went on to explain, “These findings could be interpreted as the subject’s sense of self being taken over by something else. We, scientifically, assume it’s being taken over by another part of the brain, but we couldn’t see, in this imaging study, where this took place. We believe this is the first scientific imaging study evaluating changes in cerebral activity -- looking at what actually happens to the brain -- when someone is speaking in tongues. This study also showed a number of other changes in the brain, including those areas involved in emotions and establishing our sense of self.”

Newberg concludes that the changes in the brain during speaking in tongues reflect a complex pattern of brain activity. Newberg suggests that since this is the first study to explore this, future studies will be needed to confirm these findings in an attempt to demystify this fascinating religious phenomenon.

Maybe God suppresses the frontal lobes so that critical analytical thoughts do not question his message?

I'm guessing speaking in tongues occurs due to some neurological abnormality. If it becomes possible to fix the abnormality will anyone see this as an attempt to defeat the will of God?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2006 October 31 09:29 PM  Brain Spirituality

Rob said at October 31, 2006 9:45 PM:

A friend of mine took salvia, it's a drug from some plant, and she started speaking Aramaic. Which is not as odd as it sounds, because she could read it, but not write speak it. Just sorta interesting. I think her unconscious mind had worked out how to, maybe from unconscious vocalization while she read, and the drug, which people say makes them feel like they're dying is an odd one.

Do people speaking in tongues actually speak languages, or is it more like the adult version of babies babbling? God is love, which is what babies feel like when they're parents take care of them? Meh, is it testable. Do people who speak different languages speak in tongues use pretty much the syllables from they're language. Actually, is babbling the same for all people, like do Chinese children pitch it?

Tom said at November 1, 2006 4:04 AM:

Randall - My reading suggests that speaking in tounges is a voluntary act that some people can do. It may be abnormal to be able to do so (or it may be more like whistling, that almost all people can do, if they figure out how), but that doesn't suggest a defect to me. So I don't see why removing the ability would be considered to be "fixing" it.

If it's a gift from God, and it's taken away for that reason, I suppose that taking it away is an attempt to violate God's will (though if you believe in God and miracles, then God could put it back if He wanted to). If it were taken away for another reason (such as being debilitating to the individual), with no intent to irk God, then I wouldn't say that it would be an attempt to violate God's will. The word "attempt" seems to me to rest on intent - that is, what we are trying to do, as well as (to a lesser degree) the likely effects that we expect.

Edward Willett said at November 1, 2006 9:19 AM:

If I may be permitted a pedantic quibble, speaking in tongues as referred to in the Bible isn't speaking in unknown tongues. The main reference to it is in Acts 2, where it's made clear that after the apostles were baptized with the Holy Spirit that each person that heard them speaking on the Day of Pentecost heard them speaking in that particular person's language.

From Acts 2:6-13 (New International Version):

...a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans and Arabs--we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!" Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, "What does this mean?"

In other words, what we have in Acts 2 isn't babbling, but the first recorded instance of something like Star Trek's Universal Translator.

I like the final sentence of the chapter:

Some, however, made fun of them and said, "They have had too much wine."

jim said at November 1, 2006 11:56 AM:

But there's only 1 true religion, right? (Don't ask me which it is...)

So if god is taking over the minds of people of different religions, that would seem to be an argument against the spefic doctrines of any religion.

Allah would not provide the same experience to a pagan that he does to one of the faithful...

Vincent said at November 1, 2006 2:37 PM:

Allah might not, but the Judeo-Christian god might, being that he's all mysterious and stuff.

Randall Parker said at November 1, 2006 5:16 PM:


But maybe speaking in tongues amounts to having the conscious ability to shut down the frontal lobes input into the speech centers and letting them run open loop. It could be due to an error in development since the ability serves no functional purpose and is the result of a phenomenon that normally gets shut down during development. Of course, people who train on biofeed back machines can develop ways to manipulate their bodies that are not by design. Is that bad? Maybe not.

Is there a downside to having this ability? We'd need a longitudinal study of those who have this ability versus controls to find out.

Edward Willett,

Excellent. I had no idea. But it only makes sense that God would be more advanced that Star Trek. Though there was that TOS episode where the Greek Gods ceased to be powerful enough to control the Enterprise. Kirk prevailed.

Kralizec said at November 6, 2006 8:00 PM:

I understand that ADHD is associated with decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex. I wonder if people with ADHD are better glossolalists, and whether Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta, Strattera, etc., interfere with glossolalia.

Mark Robert Waldman said at November 7, 2006 12:28 PM:

Since I am one of the 4 authors of the the glossolalia paper, and the coauthor with Newberg of "Why We Believe What We Believe," let me add some notes to this intriguing discussion. First, speaking in tongues is essentially an altered state of consciousness in which the person deliberately changes the overall neural functioning of his or her brain. Chanting, drumming, and shamanic trance states probably would show similar brain states, with decreases in frontal lobes and unusual changes in other areas. Interestingly, in Newberg's other brainscan studies, nuns praying and Buddhists meditating had similar altered brain patterns to each other, but were almost the opposite of the Pentecostals, who never lost sense of themselves and thus do not feel "at one" with the universe or God. Instead they stay present, in dialogue with the Holy Spirit. Is God just an imaginative construct in the brain? Obviously yes (even if God does exist, the brain has to conceive of God to experience it). But what is most interesting about intense meditations is that they can permanently change the neural structure of the brain. All of Newberg's subjects, including the nuns, Buddhists, and one atheist who attempted to pray to God (see the book, "Why We Believe What We Believe" for a full description of all of these studies) had assymetric activity in the thalamus when they weren't even meditating. The longer you focus on any concept, other parts of the brain will respond as if that idea was objectively real. Focus on peace, you become more peaceful; focus on your anger, and your anger will feel justified and real. If you believe in God, God eventually becomes real. So be careful about what you believe!

PS: ADD is a permanent neural dysfunction where frontal lobe activity is disrupted

Mark Robert Waldman said at November 7, 2006 12:29 PM:

Since I am one of the 4 authors of the the glossolalia paper, and the coauthor with Newberg of "Why We Believe What We Believe," let me add some notes to this intriguing discussion. First, speaking in tongues is essentially an altered state of consciousness in which the person deliberately changes the overall neural functioning of his or her brain. Chanting, drumming, and shamanic trance states probably would show similar brain states, with decreases in frontal lobes and unusual changes in other areas. Interestingly, in Newberg's other brainscan studies, nuns praying and Buddhists meditating had similar altered brain patterns to each other, but were almost the opposite of the Pentecostals, who never lost sense of themselves and thus do not feel "at one" with the universe or God. Instead they stay present, in dialogue with the Holy Spirit. Is God just an imaginative construct in the brain? Obviously yes (even if God does exist, the brain has to conceive of God to experience it). But what is most interesting about intense meditations is that they can permanently change the neural structure of the brain. All of Newberg's subjects, including the nuns, Buddhists, and one atheist who attempted to pray to God (see the book, "Why We Believe What We Believe" for a full description of all of these studies) had assymetric activity in the thalamus when they weren't even meditating. The longer you focus on any concept, other parts of the brain will respond as if that idea was objectively real. Focus on peace, you become more peaceful; focus on your anger, and your anger will feel justified and real. If you believe in God, God eventually becomes real. So be careful about what you believe!

PS: ADD is a permanent neural dysfunction where frontal lobe activity is disrupted

Nathan said at November 10, 2006 11:20 PM:

Edward Willet's description of Biblical speaking in tongues is correct--the "speaking in tongues" in the Bible is much different than what some Christians practice today.

As a Christian, I have never approached speaking in tongues from a scientific perspective. I found the changes in the different part of the brains very interesting. I would be interested in further research into brain functionality during the experience. Anybody know of more?

One other thought--speaking in tongues, ie the type that sounds like babling, is not limited to Christianity or any one time frame in history. If I'm not mistaken, many religions have practiced it going back to even before it is mentioned in the Bible. This might support the idea that glossolalia (as it is refered to here) is possible because of some type of physical/mental human attribute, and not because the person was given a spiritual gift. For example if God of Christianity is the only god, then only Christians would be able to do it. If Allah was the only god, then only Muslims would be able to do it.

Any thoughts?

Phil LaRue said at November 11, 2006 6:30 PM:

Edward Willet correctly pointed out that biblical tongues included times when a the speaker was understood by people of another language. I know people who have experienced this happening recently. However this was not always the case.

Example: (1Co 14:2) For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.

From personal experience I can tell you that when I speak with tongues I'm usually praising God. The very first time I spoke with tongues was when God filled me with His Spirit. After speaking in tongues for several minutes and enjoying the most wonderful feeling imaginable it suddenly dawned on me that although the words coming out of my mouth were strange there was a pattern. As in normal speaking the thoughts that come to mind were expressed with consistency of words. When I would think "I love you Jesus", certain sounds came from my mouth. If I had this same thought later I noticed that the exact phrase that I had used before came out.

Some speaking in tongues is given simply to build up, strengthen the faith of the speaker.

Example: (1Co 14:4) He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.

This is why the apostle Paul thanked God that he spoke with tongues more than anybody. He also cleary taught the church to "forbid not to speak with tongues".

Regis said at November 15, 2006 11:42 AM:

The distinction that is not being made is the difference between the 'Gift of tongues' and the baptism of the Holy Spirit which gifts a believer with a personal prayer language. The Gift of Tongues as described in Acts is for the purpose of having the Gospel of Jesus shared among those who do not share the same language as the believer so as to provide them with the ability to hear and understand in the immediacy of the moment the message of life and hope.

The personal prayer language is intended to bring a believer into a more intimate time of communion and relationship with God. Either in praise and worship or thru prayer and intercession. As the scriptures describe, it is a time when the Spirit of God prays thru a person...thus separating the conscious mind and engaging the realm of the supernatural.

kerry edwards said at November 18, 2006 2:57 PM:

After I read Newberg's work in 2001, I contacted him suggesting this experiment but with an addition. I was raised a Pentecostal and was baptized in the spirit and spoke in tongues beginning when I was about 12 years old. I am no longer a Pentecostal nor a theist but I can still speak in tongues. I think it might be valuable to compare the brains of people like myself, non-believers who can still speak in tongues, with believers who speak in tongues. I have some reservations about calling speaking in tongues an alternative state of consciousness. In my experience, speaking in tongues can be described in the following metaphorical way: Language is contained in a storage room in our minds. In the back of the room is a big pile of phonemes and various stacks of meaningful words towards the front of the room. In normal language, the 'self' opens the door to the language room and selects words to produce meaningful sentences that are consciously constructed more of less. In the back of the room, at the base of the pile of phonemes is a small door. Speaking in tongues is learning how to open this door and let phonemes tumble out in a random manner uncontrolled by the 'self'. It is this lack of control and spontaneous ordering of sounds that I think accounts for the believers explanation of the process as being taken over by the spirit.
This explanation accounts for my experience of speaking in tongues (more or less) but I don't think there's any guarantee that all people gain the skill, hone the skill, or use the skill in the same manner. I knew a Pentecostal who routinely cursed in tongues. The inflection of the voice was identical to the inflection of a person uttering a set of English curse words, but the sounds were meaningless. It would occur at times when a typical person would utter a curse.
The only use I have found for glossolalia as an unbeliever is as a cure for insomnia. If I am unable to sleep with continual thoughts passing thru my mind, I've discovered that speaking in tongues (inside my head) diverts the thoughts long enough for me to get to sleep. Probably safer and cheaper than sleeping pills.

Jesse La Force said at November 21, 2006 6:01 AM:

Actually the Biblical accounts of tongues are all ecstatic . . . unitelligible. Even Acts 2. When you look at the Greek the picture is of one person from a region hearing the entire group of disciples/apostles speaking in the listener's tongue while AT THE SAME TIME the person next to him/her from a different region hears the SAME GROUP OF PEOPLE AS THE FIRST LISTENER speaking in their dialect while AT THE SAME TIME the next person et al.

Luke, the author, also distinguishes between what was spoken glossolais lalien and what was heard dailektos.

The miracle of Pentecost wasn't necessarily the manifestation of tongues . . . that was done elsewhere too . . . but the miracle of all the hearers hearing in their own language while the disciples spoke ecstatically.

As for the function of tongues . . . in pagan and Christian circles tongues has been practiced . . . the differnce being the aspect of control . . . the Christians were always able to control themselves while the pagans entered into a trace like state. The mantenoi, the tongue speaker, entered into a state of trance, and delivered a message from the supernatural (seen as divine communicae) but had no control. This is where we derive the term for our lovely insect the "Praying Mantis." The speaker would weave and bob, much like the insect when hunting, in a trance state and deliver the message and then someone would interpret.

The Church, however was marked by the aspect of control . . . Paul even suggested that the inkling by the Spirit could be stemmed if two or three had already moved in tongues while gathered for worship.

I think tongues is a gift that represents something that is accessible by all religious groups who seek to open themselves to the supernatural in that it aids in positioning one to be more influenced by the unseen realm. A removal of the overtly cognitive to the particularily subjective. For us Christians, however, the influence should be the Spirit of God alone. This also brings up the topic of possible demonic influence of tongues (obviously in the pagan religions) . . . but that is getting off topic.


kerry edwards said at November 21, 2006 2:38 PM:

Whether tongues come from Yahweh, Allah, or Satan and his demons is simply unknowable. But a scientific study of how it functions in the brain is very interesting. It needs to be combined with some good sociological analysis. Tongues is modern times began at some of the lowest levels of the social hierarchy in the working classes of the US and Britain. It has migrated into the middle classes only since the late 50's I believe. Some analysis of the brain studies that attempts to correlate the physical experience with the social pattern might be very useful. For instance, is it a confirmation of Marx's thesis that religion is the opiate of the people?

anonymous said at February 28, 2007 1:09 PM:

Hey, how about letting God be God?

Keith said at March 9, 2007 7:27 PM:

I was driving one day and praying in my car, I doubted that tongues were real, but was curious about it.. So I decided to give it a try, I thought what the heck..

I didn't know how to go about it, so I thought well I'd better ask God first to give it to me if it is real.. I wouldn't want to be speaking something that wasn't of God..

After praying and asking God for the ability to speak in tongues.. I tried it and only spoke like two or three words that I felt wasn't coming from my own head.. I tried it again the next day, still driving and about the same thing happened.. but what was interesting is that it sounded like the same words. That keep my curiosity up so I keep trying for awhile, although I still doubted it was real. I felt that it was just a trick of the mind or something.

I got to were I could speak in tongues for several minutes.. but still doubted it.. So one day I simply told God that I needed some kind of proof that this was real or I wasn't going to do it anymore. I began speaking in tongues again and some how my mind started drifting and I starting thinking about something else at the same time that I was speaking in tongues and before I knew it the words that were coming out of my mouth were in English. Yet it was not I that was speaking them (I know that doesn't make sense but I don't know how to explain it).

It was a beautiful prayer like I had never prayed before. After that I knew that it was real. I have never done that again since that day, and I don't speak in tongues every day like some people do.

I really don't know exactly what tongues are, but I have my own wierd little theory. When God created Adam, he created him with the ability to speak in a language that he hadn't learned. He had a built in language, a vocabulary used specifically for communicating with God (Just like a computer processor has a built in language, and we never see it but only the languages and programming that we add to it). After Adam sinned, he lost his walk with God in the garden. So the language became forgotten and suppressed over time as mankind learned new languages.

Every person born since Adam, inherits everything that Adam had.. Even the sins of Adam are upon us when we are born. So therefore since Adam was created with a language built in, everyone would also have that God given ability. Here's the kicker, it has to be activated. I warned you that is was a weird theory didn't I? Smiles..

Elizabeth Hensley <>< 8-) said at February 3, 2008 4:01 PM:

I knew of a Christian who held a church service at a Science fiction convention. (Yup, we're everywhere :). He had a lot of fringe Christians come who don't come to church services much. When the time came to sing the hymns he had a room full of people who did not know them very well, or at all. But most people tried, and here is the amazing thing, they all were able to sing fluently, right along with those who knew them as if they sang them every Sunday or Saturday of their lives! When my friends who were fringe Christians told me about this. (I was not there but they were). I told them. How 'bout that! You were singing in tongues, in English! :)

I heard missionary testify who had to speak a foreign language to witness, a language he barely knew a word of, but he did, fluently. It came to him when he needed it to witness, but not later for his own use.

I also know a lady who belongs to a yahoo group I also belong to. She watched, "The Passion" which is in Aramaic with English subtitles. She claims she understood every word of it without having to look at the sub tittles. Paul speaks of another spiritual gift that is supposed to go along with speaking in tongues, the ability to interpret them. This lady may have had THAT gift. Now a lot of the Passion came right out of the Gospels, but not EVERY word, and every scene so if she understood all of it, it wasn't just from having read the Gospels a lot.

I also know glossolalia feels GOOD! That's reason enough to do it. I also know, unlike the nonbeliever above who practices it merely to fight insomnia, that does not work for me. I have to take medicine to sleep, but then I have two kinds of sleep apnea. But it does feel GOOD!!!!!

Shane Jardine said at June 19, 2008 9:40 PM:

I have something to ask about this thread...I noticed that when I took salvia myself I too was speaking in tongue and I video taped it...(not for the same reasons as everybody else on you tube though) when I reviewed the tape I noticed there was certain parts where when I was trying to resist the trip and would shout louder and sort of ALMOST get a actual word out that I was trying to really say in the "other world" while my body was trying to do and say otherwise.. but when I wasnt able to communicate with the outside world my body kept talking in some form of what I belived was a demonic language..I know this sounds rediculous but correct me if Im wrong, people who took salvia back in the day for spiritual journeys also belived that salvia was the "drug of the devil".. Im wondering if this has any connection with the words I was speaking? just throwing it out there in hopes to get some honest and open answers.

stanley said at August 26, 2008 9:26 AM:

Let's look at the Gospel of Mark & see what Jesus says about speaking in tongues:

Mar 16:15 And He said to them, Go into all the world, proclaim the gospel to all the creation.
Mar 16:16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned.
Mar 16:17 And miraculous signs will follow to those believing these things: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak new tongues;
Mar 16:18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will be well.
Mar 16:19 Then indeed, after speaking to them, the Lord was taken up into Heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.
Mar 16:20 And going out, they proclaimed everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the Word by miraculous signs following. Amen.

(It is a sign from God that one has received the Holy Spirit)

Let's also look at what Paul (the apostle) says about speaking in tongues in the Book of Romans & 1st Corinthians:

Rom 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
Rom 8:27 And He searching the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

1Co 14:14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.
1Co 14:15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the mind; I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the mind.

(Praying in tongues = Praying in the spirit)

Speaking in the tongues is a sign that one has received the mosty precious gift from God - the Holy Spirt as Jesus has said in Mark 16.
After one get baptised by full water emersion & receive the Holy Spirit (born again of water & of the spirit), one will receive the Holy Spirt & be convinced that the Bible is a real & all things spoken by Jesus Christ is real.

John 3:5 Jesus answered, Truly, truly, I say to you, Unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
John 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
John 3:7 Do not marvel that I said to you, You must be born again.

All the people in my church globally who repented & got baptised by full water emersion have receive the precious gift of the Holy Spirit & are able to speak in tongues. There are also numerous wonderful testimonies & miracles that show the the Living God & Jesus is alive & there is a wonderful hope - eternal life!


God Bless!

thenonconformer said at September 29, 2008 3:30 PM:

we have to listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, to hear. Where is the basic Problem in doing so now? In seeking God directly? for I too after sitting under the mostly bad evangelical pastors, hirelings, for 3 decades, the next 3 decades I had seen that almost all of of my beliefs were false, unbiblical, the mere teachings of man, unsubstantiated by the Bible itself. http://postedat.wordpress.com/2008/09/28/dispensationalist-plymouth-brethren/

Kenneth Turner said at October 18, 2008 6:36 AM:

Glossolalia may also be observed in the practice of Subud, a religious movement originating in Indonesia, with a somewhat Muslim flavor. There it is frequently accompanied by what might be described as "Free Movement" where the body is also released (in theory) from conscious control. A useful reference is "Liberating the Body" by Tony Cirisp, (Aquarian Press, 1992). Information on Subud may be found on the web by googling "subud"

Thomas said at October 30, 2008 8:24 AM:

speaking and singing use different parts of the brain. That's why they saw a difference between speaking in tongues and singing gospel music. Did they test normal speaking, or reading out loud? Seems like they need to do more research.

Harold Murphy said at February 12, 2009 6:55 AM:

While having a stroke (tia) and being unable to speak, I started speaking in my prayer language(tongues). I was able to nod to those attending to me, but I couldn't verbally communicate in english. I was very able to pray in tongues for my edification, and before exiting the ambulance 5 miles away I was talking again in english with full bodily function.

Andreas said at March 8, 2009 11:30 AM:

Many true Christians have been misled in this subject. In order to ensure that your question is answered correctly you must first understand the following:

"What the action of speaking in tongues really is"

We will use a few verses from the King James Bible to explain the above, as ONLY the King James Bible can be used to explain this in all truth and honesty. However, as the King James bible is a translation from original Ancient Greek, there are still misinterpretations.

I have also had the appropriate passages translated from the original Ancient Greek text to modern English by an Ancient Greek lecturer. Even though I am of Greek origin and a fluent Greek speaker, the task of translating Ancient Greek to English should not be attempted by a lay person. Errors will undoubtedly be made due to the fact that many Ancient Greek words can only be explained using modern Greek sentences which can then be translated into modern English.

The instruction of Deuteronomy 4:2 is a key teaching to heed when searching for answers in the word. Many misconceptions and wrong teachings have prevailed in regards to the subject of speaking in tongues. Many beliefs and long held opinions surrounding this 'Gift of The Holy Spirit' are in fact mere supposition and not biblically based. We are warned that...

"Ye shall NOT ADD unto the word which I command you, NEITHER SHALL YE DIMINISH ought from it" (Deuteronomy 4:2). Of course this only stands for the original Ancient Greek text or the CORRECTLY translated English text.

Firstly we will examine the verses in the bible which explain the purpose of this gift:

Acts 2
(2) And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
(3) And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
(4) And they were all filled with the holy ghost, and began to speak with OTHER TONGUES, as the spirit gave them utterance.
(5) And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of EVERY NATION under heaven.
(6) Now when this was noised abroad the multitude came together, and were confounded because that every man heard them SPEAK IN HIS OWN LANGUAGE.
(7) And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?
(9) Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia.
(10) Phrygia and Pamphylia, in Egypt and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,
(11) Cretes and Arabians, WE DO HEAR THEM SPEAK IN OUR TONGUES the wonderful works of God.

This is the first time in the 'NEW TESTAMENT' that the gift of speaking in tongues is actually mentioned. However, if you read the above carefully (the main points to consider have been highlighted) you will notice that the gift of speaking in tongues in this first instance had a distinct purpose to ENABLE the Apostles to COMMUNICATE with ALL OTHER NATIONS in THEIR OWN LANGUAGE in order to spread the Gospel, which Jesus instructed all Christians/believers to do.

Now, let us look at the second instance where the gift of speaking in tongues is again mentioned in scripture:

Acts 10
(44) While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.
(45) And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles ALSO was poured out the GIFT of the Holy Ghost.
(46) For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,
(47) Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptised, which have received the Holy Ghost AS WELL AS WE?

So in this second instance as Peter spoke to the Gentiles about Jesus, the Gift of the Holy Ghost fell on all them that were listening and Peter and all those that came with him were astonished because the Gentiles also spoke in tongues. However, we are told in verse 47 listed above:

"...which have received the Holy Ghost AS WELL AS WE?"

We are clearly told that the Gentiles received the SAME Gift from the Holy Ghost as the Apostles did in Acts 2. So clearly they were given the gift to speak in tongues (foreign KNOWN languages) in order to spread the Gospel.

Now, in Romans when Paul speaks about the Gift of tongues in various different verses we must understand that there have been many mistranslations. We will talk about one of these below:

Romans 8 - King James Version
(26) Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

Romans 8 - Original Ancient Greek
(26) καὶ ἐπλήσθησαν πάντες πνεύματος ἁγίου, καὶ ἤρξαντο λαλεῖν ἑτέραις γλώσσαις καθὼς τὸ πνεῦμα ἐδίδου ἀποφθέγγεσθαι αὐτοῖς.

Now let us translate this in the correct terms in modern English

Romans 8 - Ancient Greek to English translation

(26)And this in turn the Holy Spirit, helps us in all our weaknesses and eases our pains and sorrows. As we do not know how we should pray and how we should ask in prayer the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf and puts in OUR HEARTS things which cannot be spoken with words and things that elevate us to God almighty.

Please note that it is impossible to translate a lot of verses from Ancient Greek to Modern English word for word whilst keeping the same meaning. The above has been translated in a manner where the original meaning is explained thoroughly and in a correct manner. As you notice from the above the whole true meaning of this verse comes across in a completely different manner then the verse in the King James Bible.

We are told that the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf and puts things in our hearts so that when we pray even though there are many things we should be praying for which we do not know about the Holy Spirit will put these things in our hearts as the Holy Spirit knows what we need pray about. Again this is clearly indicated and proven when Jesus taught us how to pray (Model Prayer)and told us that the Holy Spirit knows of all things we need to pray for even though we do not.

If you want this further explained a good explanation can be found here:


where the relevant ministry goes even further to prove how the modern day understanding of speaking in tongues (which may I add takes place throughout our churches today) is based on pagan beliefs and practices. Even more mistranslations in 'ROMANS' are explained.

I advise all of you to read this as the relevant ministry which was one of the few google listings that appeared when I searched around to see if any one else had noticed what I had noticed when reading the Bible, actually explain this in greater detail then I have and have done a fantastic job in regards to notifying all believers about this false widely believed doctrine.

In response to the question above the answer is a plain 'NO'. Not once did the Bible state that Jesus spoke in tongues.

We are told in the Bible to always test the waters for yourself. Always read the word and don't accept anyone's answer as the truth. Study it for yourself.


Heather W said at April 6, 2009 11:23 AM:

Someone said higher up on this thread that if the christian God were the only true God, then only christians could pray in tongues. I would like to put forth an alternative explanation for how speaking in tongues actually "works" and I am a tongue speaker myself.

Many different faith practices, of many different religions, practice speaking in tongues. Speaking in tongues does not necessarily have to come from God. I personally believe that speaking in tongues is a function of the human spirit, and that any human could hypothetically choose to engage in this activity, and express themselves using this "emotional/spiritual language."

The reason that christians put so much emphasis on it as coming from God is that believers during the born-again experience believe that the spirit of God has entered their own spirit (ie, Jesus came into my heart.) Therefore, when they practice the language of their own spirit, it is infused with a cooperative power coming from God Himself who now lives within them. If someone has invited demons to live in their spirit, one could concievably speak with demonically expressive tongues, etc etc.

So, speaking in tongues is a combination of a natural physiological ability and a spiritual experience - whichever spiritual experience one chooses to engage in (ie, which "god" one chooses to host.)

I definitely recommend Yahweh and His Son Jesus as being the best Spirit to invite into one's tongues. :)

Alistair Duff said at August 8, 2009 12:29 PM:

I was fascinated by Kerry Edwards's point about SIT being a cure for insomnia. I am finding a similar link. Are you still posting, Kerry?
Alistair Duff

sean said at September 19, 2009 10:54 PM:

wow you are very wrong, christians dont believe they speak in toungs because it says God came into my heart it was the gift of the spirit, that allows it to be done and when Christians say its God and its Christianity thats because its the only speaking in tounges that is prophetic speaking. One that he does not just manifest but also translate please do not refer to a religion you do not and cannot begin to comprehend. thank you

sean said at September 19, 2009 11:00 PM:

to heather

but it does say in the bible that david said he spoke more tounges than the whole church, this was before Jesus so my responce is that adam and eve could speak in tounges also, and the reason we give emphasis on it is because we speak it propheticly and its not just spoken but translated as well according to his will.

Pat said at October 1, 2009 10:08 PM:

patsy says 1 October 2009. I am glad that this study has been done.the body chemistry is affected by many other things e.g.lack of sleep,food,drugs,emotional connections / disconnections / music /subconscious etc .To be able to change the brain patterns and become accepting to the point something becomes very real to those experiencing it reminded me of a book I read years ago which tested my faith called 'Battle for the MInd' by who I cant remember.
But I found the 'the Holy Spirit testified Jesus is the Son of God'and Has always revealed what I am questioning and the place to go for answers. In other words if you truly seek the truth you will find it.
What people hear are describing is summed up by Elisabeth who says it feels soo good a possible repressed sexual / emotionally deprived vulnerable person. A spiritual high fix.
The biblical account is not presant today for several reasons .The story of the Tower of Babel (babbelling) is when God gave man 'other tongues'i.e languages to separate the nations.I believe the ancient Hebrew was the original language of man .I was just reading in O.T. how the jews of the dispersion intermarried and how the children could no longer speak it.etc. and the consequences .
Stanley I know you are a sincere believer but 'speaking in tongues is not a sign for the individual that He has the Spirit of God within. It was a sign for the nation of Israel ' an opportunity for them to repent I.e. to change their mind about the messiah Jesus who would come back to them.Many of Jesus followers and those who were healed were not saved for they turned away / left him.
Andreas is excellent in his answer we cant trust our modern use of language because it is subtley being changed to prevent true discernment and understanding.
Poor language and comprehension skills makes people very stubborn and open to emotional / psychological deception.Those christians who I know 'who think they speak in tongues etc once experiencing it become very divisive and they are usually,vulnerable,sensitve, intense,seeking more spiritual experiences subconsciously and consciously.Sadly they eventually become intolerrant of each other ,fearful ,sensitive and out of fellowship.Their gift? is absolute evidence (based on physical evidence) not "the fruit 'love ,joy ,peace ,self control ,longsuffering -the whole word of God.
In the same book and chapter 1 Corinthians Chapter 14 v22 tongues was a sign 'to non believers' ! Cor,14:22 the good news was firstly to all the Jews who could not speak Hebrew and were present. (Jesus came to save "the lost sheep of Israel' and did not speak in tongues.There is no record of women being given that gift'very different to today.
1Cor:13v8 says 'tongues will cease'. and later "these three gifts remain 'faith ,hope Charity '
The bible clearly says "God knows our thoughts and intentions' He can understand our prayers because he made all the languages, 'He formed us in the womb' and if I hear them say again about the need for a "special Prayer language' The O.T> records God and angels spoke the language of the interpretor i.e the recipitant and understood their replys.
Does / Can God work miracles today..yes.. because He is sovereign..."because he so loved the world that who ever believe on Him ( Jesus) will be saved' The true miracle is salvation.

Dexter said at January 2, 2010 10:54 PM:

I have ADD and everytime I expeirence salvia,and I break through I Speak tongues also I go into a trance when I'm falling asleep if I start talking when I'm sleepy I fall asleep but I'm still talking my friend wrote down a few summaries is this normal I feel that when I go into either trance that a spiritual being of great authority is speaking through me. Is this a language recognizable by others in simalr trances?

Paul said at January 31, 2010 8:31 AM:

I have a close relative who has just started speaking in tongues - no trances involved, she can start to issue language-like sounds at will. She sees this as a gift from God and as a message. My question is whether anyone has done a study to see if the sounds being produced by folks speaking in Tongues is actually a language carrying meaning. I would think that an experiment might be structured as such: 1) Have person with ability to speak in Tongues translate from an agreed-upon text and record. 2) After some time (weeks) have them repeat the exercise and compare the recordings for consistency in vocabulary, structure, etc..

My thinking is that if this is truly a language, it has to convey meaning and thus to have some internal consistency.

Your thoughts appreciated.

thenonconformer said at February 1, 2010 4:49 AM:

(1 Cor 14:1 KJV) Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.

2 For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.
3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.
4 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.
5 I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.
6 Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?
7 And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?
8 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?
9 So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.
10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.
11 Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.
12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.
13 Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.
14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.
15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
16 Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?
17 For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.
18 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:
19 Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.
20 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.
21 In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.
22 Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.
23 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?
24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:
25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.
26 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.
27 If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.
28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.
29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
30 If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.
31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.
32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.
35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
36 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?
37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.
38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.

If one is truly is honest once can clearly note that many different Christian churches, different denominations rather, are not biblical, for they deviate from the clear written word of God, the New Testament even with their false justifications, traditions. They even add, or take away from the word of God.

Apostle Paul Says we all should pray for the gift of interpretation of tongues and how many do that now too? Apostle Paul gives guidelines for the public use of tongues.. It would be absurd for the Apostle Paul if he knew that tongues would cease that he would not specially say they would next cease now as well, and to have not included this in the passage for their proper usage.

PS I really get a big chuckle in hearing from all those portend, rather hot air speaking in tongues experts who themselves admit they cannot speak in tongues.


Steven Davies said at March 30, 2010 8:36 AM:

I feel privileged to be able to speak in tongues. What I have found interesting in this study is something I am conscious of when praying in tongues, that my mind is not active (not switched off) but able to continue to think many other things whilst I am praying in another tongue. Its not my brain that it formulating this, so unsurprising they do not find brain activity in theses areas during this time. The Bible is very clear how it is operating.
Read 1Corinthians 14:14 "For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful."

When I pray in "the understanding" i.e. normally in English I am consciously thinking about what I am praying or I am going to say. During that time I am unable to think about other matters. I feel that when I speak in tongues, I am "freed u"p from thinking about what I am saying and "know" that I am praying freely "uncluttered " or "not limited" by thinking and speaking with my brain and tongue.

This study study proves the truth of this verse as well as my testimony to this reality in my life.

Which language:
I was watching a news clip on Al Jahzeera TV the other day and I was astonished to hear their language which is strikingly similar to the one I speak when praying in tongues.
I am grew up in Southern Africa so I would never have been influenced or would have even come across people speaking such a language, which makes this all so remarkable.

Jman said at April 28, 2010 9:17 AM:

Speaking in tongues is NOT god taking over your mind. it is the holy spirit coming THROUGH you

Chris B said at May 27, 2010 3:56 PM:

Speaking in tongues is just babble that a person generates. It is easier to produce more convincing babble (faster and with less repetition) if you can relax and let other parts of the brain take over making the noise, rather than have the conscious part intervene and slow things up. Given that these noises contain no semantic content, it is clear why front cortex activity decreases. Brain scans of atheists replicating this activity would show exactly the same result. Bottom line: it is just babble/noise.

Anonymous said at June 4, 2012 7:30 AM:

speaking in tongues is not an abnormality. everyone can do it. there is not a scientific explanation for everything. you have and will continue to encounter experiences in life that you will not understand. even what you think you understand, you often don't.

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