I used to believe that the Corinthian experience was a combination of human languages and ecstatic utterances as well . Though I always believed that Paul was gently rebuking them for abnormal behavior. That the whole thing was just pagan baggage (as i said before). This is because of the uncanny similarities to the explanations of the oracles by the ancient greeks.
I stopped believing that this was ecstatitc utterances after i started looking at the passages closer. What you are implying (if i'm not mistaken) is that Paul is refering to three types of languages. First is that of foreign human languages, secondly angelic languages which can be interpreted and thirdly another form of angelic language which cannot be interpreted into human understanding.
He mentions the languages of humans and of angels. I suppose the angels' languages could all be interpreted, but it would take a special, maybe miraculous understanding. Presumably the angels' "language" has a sound, because he said that if he talks in the angels' language and humans' language without love he is like a clanking bell.
It is interesting that Paul doesn't specify whether the "unknown" language of the Corinthians is of angels or humans. He simply says that it is an "unknown tongue", that is, an unrecognized pattern of speech. Persian, Ethiopian, Scythians, northern Indian, Celtic were all known languages in the Roman world. But in this case the tongues of the Corinthians were unknown.
This is what I think the best interpretation is. Despite discussing the topic at length, Paul never says that this is a real human language for anybody, but always denies it. It is simply a pattern of speech that God knows but we - at least Paul in the Corinthians - could not identify as any real human language. They simply did not know what kind of language it was.
Long ago after I took a closer look at what was being said in the 1 Corinthian epistle, I rejected the non-human angelic tongue interpretation. It is said, "No one understands him" because no one present was comprehending the language. In fact i do not find the word 'understanding' in the koine at all! It says 'No one hears him" just bad translation./(gr: akou)
Sure, "no one" was comprehending the "language", even though there were people from across the Roman empire in Corinth. This is why Lopukhin believed that it was not talking about real human languages.Besides, Paul wrote 1 Corinthians with a general broad style of reference or as general principles when it came to the discussion on the gifts. In that case, it suggests that he was not just talking about whatever language they spoke on a certain date in tongues, but that as a general phenomena, "no one" understands such unknown tongues in general.
I understand you prefer "No one hears him" as more literal, (and I usually prefer the plain meaning too) however that does not really make sense, because the people around the speaker of tongues would naturally all hear him.
In verse 5 Paul says these 'mysteries in the Spirit' are less in value than prophecy UNLESS one can interpret it so the entire church can be edified. In other words the mysteries in the spirit are only mysteries because no one is there to interpret them but once they are interpreted the mystery is converted to a knowledge, or a psalm or a revelation or a teaching (verses 6 & 26)
This leads to a good point - if it can be interpreted, then it must have meaning. However, in this case Paul writes that this unknown tongue is used to talk to God, not to men. So this must have a meaning, but only for God. as for the interpretation, interpretation is
also a gift from God requested in prayer.
Verse 11 is certainly speaking of human languages, "But if I do not know the meaning of the language, I shall be a barbarian (foreigner) to the speaker and the speaker a barbarian (foreigner) to me. This is no different that the complaints of converts to Orthodoxy in America. Converts find certain parishes to ethnic. An all greek speaking parish will look at the native as a foreigner and the native will feel like a foreigner. Refering to foreigner as 'barbaroi' would be nonsensical if he had in mind angelic utterance..
It can just be straightforward reasoning as follows: People who speak unknown tongues are to others a barbarian(foreigner). It doesn't actually matter if the person's language is a human one, an angelic one, or one known "only to God". In any of those cases, the person making incomprehensible speech patterns will still come across as a foreigner. If the people who speak Charismatic tongues today go to you and try to speak in their unknown tongues, it's as if they are a foreigner. You don't now if they are speaking an African language or what, but it doesn't sound like a language of which you know.
In verse 13 Paul also says the one that speaks in a tongue should be the very same person who should strive to receive to interpret his own message. Otherwise if there is no interpretor and no one understands this language; he should just use the gift of tongues in private prayer and not publicly in church, hence back to 'no one understands (or hears) him'.
This is further advanced when Paul says in verse 16 "Otherwise if you bless with the Spirit, how can anyone in the position of unlearned (idiot) say the 'Amen' to your Eucharist . This can only make sense if the speaker is using a human language, the foreign christian will be able to answer with AMEN, and the unlearned (inquirier or catecumen) should be able to also when its interpreted as well.
I don't know why this shows that they were talking about a real human language, Kosta. It only means that the tongue had some meaning, eg. of thanksgiving, such that the Amen could be stated at the end. Even if it was an angelic tongue or a speech pattern known only to God (what Paul says), it would still have enough meaning to be answered with Amen and to be interpreted if the divine ability to do so was instilled on the interpreter.
He then brings this point home by quoting a prophecy from the OT, "In the Law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people, and yet they will not hear me(v.21). Obviously men of other tongues can only refer to the languages of the gentiles.
In the OT (Isaiah 28), yes, this was a statement made about God trying to educate Ephraim, who it says have God's instrutions "line by line". Strictly speaking, I am not sure if this would not be a case of gentiles speaking their own languages to Ephraim, which is what Isaiah 28 would imply if it meant "With 'gentiles' will I speak unto this people (Ephraim)".
In the KVJ it says not "other lips", but "stammering lips" and "another tongue". With this reference to "stammering lips", could it be a reference to glossolalia? Maybe that was what Paul was thinking of. However, I think that these are all bad translations of the Hebrew (at least in the Masoretic). The Hebrew says not "stammering" or "other" lips, but rather "mocking" lips: http://biblehub.com/hebrew/3932.htm
This meant that the foreigners were mocking Ephraim and God used these mocking lips to talk to Ephraim.
In any case, Paul nowhere says that these "other tongues" are real human tongues of the gentiles in verse 21. "Men of other tongues" could, in Paul's use of it mean people who speak glossolalia.
So: You are proposing "With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people (Ephraim)" means God using gentiles (people of other languages) to speak to the Jews." And from this you conclude that the gentiles were speaking gentile languages.
However, this verse in Isaiah does not specify if the speakers use:
(A) Their own languages
(B) Real human languages unknown to the Corinthians like an African tribal one.
(C.) Speech patterns that literally "only God knows" (ie. someone from India doesn't), which is what Paul labels the Corinthians' speech.
Presumably, reading Isaiah 28 by itself, we would think that it meant (A). On the face of it, Paul is using Isaiah 28 as a reference to C from the Corinthians, but I suppose that it can theoretically mean (B), even though that is not what Isaiah or Paul specify.
Edited by H. Smith, 21 November 2015 - 12:42 AM.