Wednesday, 27 October 2021
And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Acts 2:6
Note: You can listen to today’s introduction courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)
The previous verses noted the sound of the rushing wind and the speaking in tongues. They also noted that there were Jews “from every nation under heaven.” The verse now begins with, “And when this sound occurred.” It is referring to the events just mentioned, probably beginning with the rushing wind followed by the speaking in tongues, and certainly with a stress on the tongues.
This is because the word translated as “sound” is different than that of verse 2:2. There, it was the word échos. That refers to a loud or confused sound (the mighty, rushing wind). Here, the word is phóné. This refers to a sound which is inclusive of a voice, language, or dialect (the utterances of the disciples). With that occurring, it says, “the multitude.”
That is a direct reference to those of the previous verse just mentioned, “Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven.” It is the pilgrims of the pilgrim feast. The law mandated that they come, and these men (certainly with their families as the law directed), in obedience to the law, had presented themselves in the temple area. In this place, they were drawn to the spot, where the disciples had gathered, to find out what was going on. It is there and while listening to the sound – that it says they “were confused.”
The word in Greek is a compound verb coming from sun (together) and cheó (to pour). If one takes two liquids and pours them together, they intermingle, and their properties become confused. This is the thought of those who heard. They were unable to properly process what was going on “because everyone heard them speak.”
The verb is imperfect, saying, “because everyone was hearing.” They heard and they kept on hearing. It is an important part of what is being conveyed. To simply say, “they heard” is not as uncommon as we might initially think, as will be explained in a minute. However, these people heard, and what they heard continued on, as Luke says, “in his own language.”
It is the same word first used in Acts 1:19 –
“And it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem; so that field is called in their own language, Akel Dama, that is, Field of Blood.)”
Translating this as “language” is incorrect. In verses 2:8-11, it will mention some of the various tongues that are heard. Understanding their origin, Vincent’s Word Studies notes, “The Phrygians and Pamphylians, for instance, both spoke Greek, but in different idioms; the Parthians, Medes, and Elamites all spoke Persian, but in different provincial forms.”
Hence, these are not only unique languages, but dialects (tongues is acceptable) within various languages are noted. The point is that what is heard is completely understandable to those who heard. The next verse will explain the confusion, noting that those who are speaking are Galileans. As such, even if they spoke the language, they would certainly not be proficient in the pronunciation nor in the dialect.
What is happening may not have been confusing if they heard someone call out an expression in his own language, or even his own dialect. This happens all the time. Someone knows a word or two of Spanish, Malay, German, or Japanese, and they call it out to a person of that nation. This might be the case if someone visited a Japanese restaurant and he said to the owners as he walked in, 私は日本食が大好きです。最も良い！(Watashi wa nipponshoku ga daisukidesu. Mottomo yoi!).
This might be impressive to some extent, but such a simple phrase can be learned quickly enough. However, if the person said it in a perfect local dialect, and the owners happened to be from that area, they may be a bit surprised. If the person continued to speak in this dialect, a state of confusion would come upon the owners. “This guy has blond hair and round eyes (nice hazel round eyes!) and he not only speaks Japanese, but he speaks it perfectly in our own dialect” – 本当にすごいです(Hontōni sugoidesu!)
Remember, what is happening here is occurring at the same time of year that the law was received by the people at Mount Sinai. The difference is quite striking. The law was received from the Lord in a state of fear, quaking, trembling, and with a voice that brought terror upon the people. It was the Lord speaking to Israel in their own language. But more, it was only spoken to Israel.
At Pentecost, the sound is familiar, and it is at a time of rejoicing (Deuteronomy 12:12). In fact, no one who was in mourning could participate in this event (Deuteronomy 26:14). And further, it came not only in the language of the people, but in the language of all people “from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5). Though these are Jews, they are Jews who came from those other nations, implying that the word is not only intended for these Jews, but for all people.
But more, what is heard is from the Lord through His people. In this, the contrast to the law is complete. The law is of fear. The giving of the Spirit is of friendliness. The law calls for works. The Spirit comes through faith. The law brings condemnation. The work of Christ brings salvation. These, and innumerable other contrasts, are seen in the law versus the gospel of grace.
Life application: There is a Jewish teaching that the Law of Moses, given at Mount Sinai, went out to all the world in the seventy known languages of the people recorded in Genesis 10. This is certainly a false teaching that began after the events at Pentecost.
This is found in a midrash, or Jewish commentary on Scripture, that was supposedly recorded by Rabbi Yohannan (30BC to AD90). If Yohannan actually said this, he certainly realized the significance of what occurred at Pentecost. He possibly made that story up in order to demonstrate that what occurred at Pentecost was not without precedent and was not something special or unique to faith in Christ Jesus. There is nothing in Scripture to justify this false teaching, and if it were so, the Bible would have recorded it.
It is just as possible that this is credited to Yohannan because he lived during the time that the events occurred, and it is a way of robbing the truth of the Pentecost experience recorded in Scripture away from its actual source.
One must be exceedingly careful when referring to Jewish commentaries. If what they state or claim is not in accord with Scripture, it is best to disregard it. There has been an agenda in Judaism to obscure the truth of Christ for two thousand years.
Likewise, it is unsound to take Jewish cultural events, such as how their wedding marriages are conducted, and to insert that into one’s New Testament theology. This is a giant problem that often confuses the truth of what is being conveyed by Jesus and the apostles, and it leads to many incorrect doctrines concerning events that have, or that will, occur.
This is especially true with modern Messianic and Hebrew Roots evaluations of things like the Leviticus 23 Feasts of the Lord, the Shemitah, the Sabbath and Jubilee cycles, and so on. These extra-biblical insertions do not help us evaluate those things. Rather, they misdirect our eyes away from what God intends for us to see, meaning Jesus Christ.
The Bible stands alone as the testament to what God is doing in Christ. If any extra-biblical teaching does not sync with what is stated in Scripture, toss it. Just because someone is Jewish and appears well-versed in the language and culture of the Jews, it does not mean he is a specialist on the Bible. It is a huge problem within the modern church, and it should not become a part of our personal theology. Stick with the Bible!
Lord God, Your word is sufficient for our knowledge, doctrine, and practice concerning our faith. May we be careful to not trust people with fine sounding arguments that do not align with Your word, even if they claim it is something that reveals secrets about You. That is what Your word is for. May we let this sink into our minds. Amen.