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Question about tongues and interpretation?

Submitted: 1/6/2011
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Question: I just read the article by David Huston entitled 'Speaking in Tongues in the Church A Look at the Purpose of Spiritual Utterances.' Very good article, well written. I do have a question regarding this subject. The scripture in Acts and I Corinthians tells us that when a person speaks in a tongue they are not speaking to man but to God. Actually it's more inferred in Acts 2 then addressed. Here's my question having to do with the interpretation of tongues. When a person interprets a language they endeavor to translation word for word what the speaker is saying. I believe that the interpretation of tongues should be the same and therefore should be a prayer to God and not a prophesy from God as is often the case. Prophesy is of course God speak to us. Tongues can prompt or lead to prophesy but the interpretation of a tongue is not the same thing as a prophetic utterance. Can you share your thoughts on this issue. I have pastored for over 30 years and have held this view for many years but have never heard anyone address interpretation in this way. Thanks!

Answer: There is a significant difference between translating what someone is saying and interpreting it. To translate is to bring a message from one language to another, the translation being as close as possible to word-for-word. We must recognize, however, that no language translates perfectly into another. This is why there are so many different translations of the Bible. Every language works in its own way. Also, all languages are full of idioms that don't translate word-for-word at all. So there really is no such thing as a word-for-word translation. All translations require the translater to make some judgments.

To interpret what someone is saying is entirely different. An interpretation is an explanation of what has been said. The purpose of an interpreter is to make a message understandable, whereas a translater is only responsible for passing along the words in another language. The hearer is then responsible for striving to understand the meaning of them. The gift of interpretation of tongues is given by the Holy Spirit so that utterances in tongues can be understood by those who are hearing them. This is why we believe that an interpretation of tongues is very similar to a prophecy.