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The Powerful Gift of Interpretation of Tongues

A study of the gift of interpretation of tongues in the Bible. We will look at what interpreting tongues means and how the gift works.

interpretation of tongues

Interpreting tongues is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that actually works hand in hand with another gift. That gift is speaking in tongues. 

It’s a gift that goes beyond our human intellect and brings forth the word of the Lord. It’s pretty amazing! We will be going through an overview of the gift and I hope it bring clarity and understanding. 

Want to learn about all the gifts? Don’t forget to check out the links below!

To make things easier you can use the table of contents below to jump to certain topics or you can scroll through like usual. If you are new the gifts I encourage you to read through it. 

The Gift of Interpretation of Tongues

interpreting speaking in tongues

7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 8 for to one is given the word of wisdomthrough the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 9 to anotherfaith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to anotherdiscerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. – 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 NKJV (emphasis added in bold)

When writing on the gifts I thought it might be easier to break up information by answering the 5 W’s. If you are not familiar with the 5 W’s it basically means, who, what, when, where, and why.

Just a note for now I have skipped out on “when.” If in the future I come up for a when question or a helpful reading has some suggestions…I’ll add it to the post. But I sure hope this structure helps to make things clear and easy to digest.

What Is the Gift of Interpretation of Tongues?

The interpretation of tongues is the supernatural ability to interpret the gift of speaking in tongues into a language we can understand. This gift works with the gift of diverse tongues. It does not work on its own. 

It’s important to note that the gift of tongues is not always interpreted. Paul makes mentions of this as he says to pray in tongues between you and God. (1 Corinthians 14:2) and that interpretation is not always word by word interpretation. We see this in the book of Daniel when Daniel interprets “Mene, mane, tekel, upharsin…” (Daniel 5:13-29)

This is a transliteration of the Greek word glōssa meaning tongue or a language and interpretation in Greek is hermēneía and means to interpret or translate. 

Because it is an interpretation this means it’s done orally. This gift is vocal gift, just like speaking in tongues. 

λῶσσα glōssa, gloce-sah’; of uncertain affinity; the tongue; by implication, a language (specially, one naturally unacquired):—tongue.

ἑρμηνεία hermēneía, her-may-ni’-ah; from the same as G2059; translation:—interpretation.

What the Interpretation of Tongues is NOT?

Being A Polyglot 

A polyglot is someone who knows multiple languages. This ability is usually learned even though some pick up languages easily. 

If someone is speaking in tongues and you hear them and it’s in a language you know naturally and you are able to understand it. That is not the gift of interpretation of tongues. 

For example I know Italian. If I’m at church and someone starts praying in tongues, and God uses the Italian language. I will understand it. We see this happening in Acts 2 when the 120 left the upper room speaking in tongues. People heard their languages being spoken by people who would never know the language.

It’s not part of the gift of interpretation, but if it happens it’s really cool! You get to witness and understand what God is saying through someone. And God can and will use that! But that falls more into the gift of speaking in tongues. 

Jackie Pullinger a missionary to Hong Kong has some amazing testimonies in Chasing the Dragon of Chinese Christians praying and they start speaking in tongues and it’s perfect English! Talk about awesome!

What Is the Purpose of the Gift of Interpretation of Tongues?

The interpretation of tongues is equal to prophesy because it reveals the heart and will of the Lord. Therefore it is for the edification, exhortation, and comfort of the church.

What Are Some Examples of Interpretation of Tongues in the Bible?

We don’t see a lot of examples of the gift of interpretation and this could be because people didn’t write down the interpretations or they used to word prophecy instead to describe the utterance. 

Either way we can learn a lot about the gift in 1 Corinthians 12-14. I encourage you to read all 3 chapters. 

There is one instance in scripture we see a unknown tongue being interpreted spiritually and that is in the book of Daniel. 

Daniel 5:13-29 – Paul – Daniel interprets the writing on the wall 

“And this is the inscription that was written:

MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.

26 This is the interpretation of each word. MENE: God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it; 27 TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting; 28 PERES: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.”29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and they clothed Daniel with purple and put a chain of gold around his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.

Who Is the Gift of Interpreting Tongues For?

Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. – 1 corinthians 14:1 

I mention this in all my posts on the gifts, but it’s important! Paul the apostle clearly states that we should pursue love (very important) and desire spiritual gifts. That word desire actually means to be zealous or passionate. 

As Christians, we can ask for any of the gifts. Because interpretation of tongues is like the prophetic (it builds up the church) it’s a gift we should desire and ask the Lord for. 

Why Is This Gift of Necessary for Today?

I mention this with all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. But if it was necessary for the church in the past, it’s necessary for us today!

It can almost seem like there is no need for the interpretation of tongues for today, and sadly some churches don’t make any room for it. But we couldn’t be more wrong! This gift goes beyond our natural thinking and brings forth a prophetic word that encourages and build up the body of Christ.

And let me tell you…the church can use all the edification it can get! We are at the cusp of so many changes in the world that we need to be united and strengthen in the Lord. The gift of interpting tongues can help us do that! 

Where Can I Find It in the Bible?

Interpretation of tongues is one of those gifts that is heavily mentioned in 1 Corinthians but no where else. Thankfully Paul wrote a lot about it so we can get a good idea what the gift is all about. Below are the some key verses. I encourage you to read 1 Corinthians 12-14! 

Interpretation of Tongues Scriptures

1Co 12:10, 30 NKJV – 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another [different] kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. … 30 Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 

1Co 14:26-28 NKJV – 26 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, [let there be] two or at the most three, [each] in turn, and let one interpret. 28 But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God.

My Conclusion and Summarization about the Gift of Interpretation of Tongues

The gift of interpreting tongues is known as one of the revelatory gifts. It gets this name because it’s a gift that reveals. Much like the prophetic or discernment.

The Bible indicated that when the gift of tongues are in use for prayer and worship, they are not always interpreted, but on some occasions, they can. And it’s only when it’s been interpreted that it’s beneficial for the church.

I do encourage you if you already speak in tongues to also pray for the gift of interpretation!

Feel free to leave me a comment below! I would love to hear from you and what God is doing in your life.