What does the Bible say about speaking in tongues?

Speaking in tongues means speaking in a way or in a language that is not normally understood by the speaker or the listeners. The bible mentions two types of speaking in tongues:

On the day of Pentecost Jesus' apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other tongues. Those who heard this speech each heard it in his own language, even though they were from many different countries (Acts 2:1-13). Even though the apostles were speaking in an unknown language, the listeners were able to understand, each in his own language.

Speaking in an ecstatic language was common among members of the early Christian churches, but no one could understand this form of speaking in tongues (1 Cor. 14:2). Sometimes the speaker or another person would interpret the meaning.

Both cases were the work of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul classified speaking in tongues as just one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:6-11). Paul was thankful for his own gift of speaking in tongues (1 Cor. 14:18-19). But Paul told his churches that it was better practiced in private than in church, unless someone could interpret the ecstatic speech (1 Cor. 14:23, 27-28). The gift of speaking in tongues was less important than the gifts of prophecy (1 Cor. 14:2-5) and love (1 Cor. 13:1). Nevertheless, speaking in tongues should not be forbidden (1 Cor. 14:39).

Several other New Testament passages point to speaking in tongues as evidence of the working of the Holy Spirit (Mark 16:17, Acts 10:44-46, Acts 19:4-6).

Speaking in tongues is an important part of worship in a number of Pentecostal and charismatic churches. Some Pentecostal churches, including Assemblies of God, teach that speaking in tongues is evidence of baptism in the Holy Spirit, but it is not essential for salvation and eternal life. Some other Pentecostal denominations teach that speaking in tongues is experienced by everyone who has truly been saved.

The Pentecostal movement began in the United States at the beginning of the the twentieth century. In the space of 100 years, it has become a major sector of worldwide Christianity, along with the Catholic, Orthodox and traditional Protestant churches. In addition to the Pentecostal churches, there are charismatic parishes within the Roman Catholic Church, and many traditional Protestants have experienced speaking in tongues.

Many traditional Christians, however, believe that the gift of speaking in tongues was no longer given after the apostolic age in the first century (1 Cor. 13:8), or consider the gift to be of minor importance.