Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Was the Apostle Paul a Pentecostal?

In I Corinthians 14:18, the Apostle Paul makes a simple statement: "I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you." Pentecostals love to quote this verse to prove that their theology has an apostolic origin. But does it?

Another thing that Paul says of himself, in Acts 21:39, is, "I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia." As a native of that mostly-Gentile city, he would have grown up as a native speaker of Greek. He repeats that information in Acts 22:3, and adds, "[I] was educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers." This refers to his training as a Pharisee (cf. Acts 23:6, 26:5, and Philippians 3:5). Both as a Jew by birth and as a Pharisee by training, he would have been intimately familiar with Hebrew. And the accounts of his defense before Roman authorities (e. g., Felix in Acts 24, Festus in ch. 25, and Agrippa in ch. 26) strongly imply a fluency in Latin.

In other words, the historical account describes Paul speaking at least three tongues, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Nowhere does Scripture describe Paul sing-songing "la-la-linga-dinga," or any such gibberish.

So, does Scripture give us an Apostle Paul who spoke in tongues? Absolutely! Do we find anywhere a Paul who could be compared to modern Pentecostals? Only in the imaginations of those who claim that name for themselves.

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