Pentecost: Christ Proclaimed in Many Tongues

The Coming of the Holy Spirit by Soichi Wantanabe

Acts 2:1-6 (NRSV)
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.

Other languages. Real languages. The disciples, who spoke Aramaic (and with an accent) suddenly were able to speak in other people’s languages. The true miracle and gift of Pentecost is not ecstatic prayer, but conveying love by bridging differences, by reaching out to the Other. Whatever separates us is the place where the miracle of Pentecost happens.
– Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light

Pentecost is thus about the reversal of Babel. For the author of Luke-Acts, the coming of Jesus and the continuation of his presence in the power of the Spirit inaugurated a new age in which the fragmentation of humanity was overcome. Or, in words attributed to Paul, through Christ and the Spirit, the breaking down of “the dividing wall of separation” and the creation of “one new humanity” had begun (Ephesians 2:14-15).
– Marcus Borg, Pentecost and Babble/Babel

Sometimes people say that at Pentecost, God reversed the Tower of Babel, but that is exactly what He didn’t do. At Pentecost, God underlined the linguistic diversity that He introduced at Babel. Everyone in the crowd was able to understand the disciples speaking in his or her own language. The first miracle that the Holy Spirit did was to make it possible for the story of Jesus to be understood in many languages all at once. The Triune relational God did nor force conformity on his followers by making them all hear his message in one language, He encouraged diversity by allowing them to hear in their own language. From even before the Christian church was called Christian, it was multi-cultural and multi-lingual.
– Eddie Arthur, Babel, Pentecost and the Blessing of Diversity

1 Corinthians 13:1 (NRSV)
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels,
but do not have love,
I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

‘disparted tongues’- that is, tongue-shaped, flame-like appearances, rising from a common center or root, and resting upon each of that large company – a beautiful visible symbol of the burning energy of the Spirit now descending in all His plenitude upon the Church, and about to pour itself through every tongue, and over every tribe of men under heaven!
– from Commentary on the Whole Bible by Jamieson, Fausset and Brown

The miracle was not in the ears of the hearers, (as some have unaccountably supposed,) but in the mouth of the speakers. And this family praising God together, with the tongues of all the world, was an earnest that the whole world should in due time praise God in their various tongues. – John Wesley

Zephaniah 3:8-9 (NRSV)
Therefore wait for me, says the Lord, for the day when I arise as a witness. For my decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out upon them my indignation, all the heat of my anger; for in the fire of my passion all the earth shall be consumed. At that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord.

Philippians 2:9-11 (NRSV)
Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

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