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1 Corinthians 14:2 (ESV) says:

2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.

However, later verses say:

5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

13 Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret.

26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God.

Are the "mysteries in the Spirit that no one understands" still interpretable provided that someone with the gift of interpretation of tongues hears the utterances and interprets them?

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  • Given that the interpretation is done by someone’s spirit, which is required to agree and receive from the Spirit the interpretation, unless the Spirit in real-time gives the interpretation there is no possible way to override the Spirit and arrive at the interpretation without the active involvement of the Spirit. This goes for every gift, the possessor of the gift can choose not to engage their gift or can choose to stop the engagement of the gift but the possessor cannot of their own, do anything without the Spirit. Jan 15 at 16:27
  • The answer here depends on one's preconceived ideas about whether these "tongues" are ecstatic or real languages. Both interpretations are possible and held by large groups.
    – Dottard
    Jan 15 at 19:38
  • @Dottard - under the 'ecstatic language' view, how can a ecstatic language be interpretable? What do you mean by 'ecststic language'? Jan 15 at 20:09
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator - see my answer below.
    – Dottard
    Jan 15 at 20:12
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There are many tongues and they can be classed in two main categories languages of men and languages of the elohim/aggelos/“angels”.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:1‬ ‭

Tongues of men

Speaking in tongues of men by the Spirit can take place in several combinations.

Speaker in tongues of men

  • the speaker utters the words and understands the new language
  • The speaker utters the words and does not understand the new language
  • The speaker utters the words and does not understand the words he utters but prays for the interpretation

Hearer of the tongues of men

  • The listener hears the language and understands the language
  • The listener hears the language and does not understand the language
  • The listener hears the language, doesn’t understand it but through the gift of interpretation can interpret the language

As such with languages of men it is possible that someone will understand the language. Unless it is an ancient language or a language no longer in circulation.

Tongues of angels

Speaking in tongues of angels by the Spirit can take place in several combinations.

Speaker in tongues of angels

  • The speaker utters the words and does not understand the new language
  • The speaker utters the words and does not understand the words he utters but prays for the interpretation

Hearer of the tongues of angels

  • The listener hears the language and does not understand the language
  • The listener hears the language, doesn’t understand it but through the gift of interpretation can interpret the language

Language

Can changes in two ways, sound and meaning. You can have the same sounding word mean different things in different languages. Or you can change the sound but keep the meaning. Or you can change the sound and meaning

Examples

A chair sounds different in different languages but it means the same thing. Unless you understand to decipher the sound you could be talking about the same object but with different sounds/languages.

  • Basque aulkia - chair

  • Spanish silla - chair

  • Bengali ceyar (চেয়ার) - chair

The sound is the same but the meaning is different.

  • Basque come - how

  • Spanish come - to eat

  • Bengali come (কমে) - decreased

Answering the question

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Are the mysteries in the spirit that no one understands uttered in a language that can be interpreted via the gift of interpretation of tongues?

Yes provided the message is intended to be divulged to the listeners. If God intends for the message to be between the person speaking in tongues and God alone and God chooses not to relate to the speaker the message (so the mind can understand) but only allow the spirit of the man to be built up then, no the message will not be interpreted even by someone with the gift of interpretation.

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Are the "mysteries in the Spirit that no one understands" still interpretable provided that someone with the gift of interpretation of tongues hears the utterances and interprets them?

Assuming that it’s not a human language that someone in the room can understand, assuming that the Spirit wants to divulge the mysteries, then yes someone with the gift of interpretation can interpret the message.

Does someone speaking in tongues automatically understand what they are saying?

No

“Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭14:13‬ ‭

If they already understand then this verse would have no place.

Babel like tongue

There are some speaking in tongues that are like the Tower of Babel, the speaker has a new language downloaded into their mind and they can now speak a language they have not previously known. As such they can translate what they have uttered but this isn’t usually how the mysteries in tongues is given, because at this point the mysteries could just be given directly in the language understood by all. This may or may not be the case for some or all those in Acts 2, namely that they now knew another foreign language. But it’s a possibility.

Interpretation

Interpreting is not the same as translating. Interpreting can convey the main message and idea of the message without translating word for word what was said. This needs to be understood because two people with the gift of interpretation can use two different interpretations but the same conclusion to convey the same message spoken in an unknown tongue.

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  • Very comprehensive answer, addressing all the nuances of this controversial subject matter, +1 Jan 16 at 5:16
  • 1
    I didn’t want to add personal experience in the body of my answer but “angelic” languages spoken in an unknown tongue can be confusing when they are what I call “active languages”. The same “combination” of sounds have entirely different meaning. This is still a new language and it requires the Spirit to make known what is being said because the language/meaning changes even if the sounds appear to be similar. It’s possibly the best way to keep something a secret. It’s unhackable and it’s at the discretion of the Spirit. Jan 16 at 5:29
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Are the "mysteries in the Spirit that no one understands" still interpretable provided that someone with the gift of interpretation of tongues hears the utterances and interprets them?

Yes, but only if an interpreter is enabled by the Holy Spirit to do so.

John 14:26

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Speaking and interpretation of tongues are often mentioned one after the other.

1 Corinthians 12:10

to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in various tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.

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  • This is not an automatic yes. The interpretation is still done by the Spirit and if the Spirit chooses not to disclose the mystery, a gift of interpretation cannot override the Spirit’s withholding of the mystery. Jan 15 at 16:22
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There are two possibilities here - each with a great body of vehement adherents:

A "Tongues" in 1 Cor 14 are "heavenly" languages

In this case, the person does not know what he/she is saying but simply "communing" with God in some sense. According to Paul's instruction here, this must not be done aloud in church meetings unless someone miraculously interprets the language, presumably by the same power of the Holy Spirit that gave the utterance in the first place.

B "Tongues in 1 Cor 14 are "earthly/human" languages as per Acts 2

In this case, we understand that if a person is speaking or praying in a human language unknown to the rest of the congregation, then that person is clearly not speaking to men (who do not understand) but to God (who understands all languages) and to himself who also understands. Paul's instruction here is simply that the gift of tongues should not be exercised in the church unless someone is there to interpret - either the person themself or someone else.

Both positions can be made compatible with the text as shown here. i believe the deciding verse in 1 Cor 14 is V22:

Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers, but for unbelievers. Prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers.

Since tongues are for the conversion, teaching and reaching of unbelievers, it is apparent that tongues are human languages both in 1 Cor 14 and Acts 2.

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    I don't understand the point of the distinction, how is an unknown heavenly language any different to an unknown earthly language? They are both unknown languages, aren't they? It's like making distinctions between unknown Asian languages and unknown European languages, one can make many such arbitrary distinctions Jan 15 at 20:17
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    But position "A" can be extended to unknown earthly languages as well, can't it? All what you said about unknown heavenly languages can also be said about unknown earthly languages Jan 15 at 20:22
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    But again, that also applies to unknown earthly languages. If I'm fluent in English but suddenly start speaking in Sanskrit, I won't understand what I'm saying even though Sanskrit is an earthly language. The same applies to Chinese, Latin, Arabic, etc. It doesn't matter if the language is earthly or heavenly, if it's unknown, it's unknown. Jan 15 at 20:31
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    From Acts 2 we know that the listeners could understand, but there is no evidence that the speakers themselves understood what they said. Jan 15 at 20:36
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    “And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭2:7-8‬ it is clear that they received that earthly tongue in those moments and prior to the Holy Spirit coming over them, they had no knowledge of how to speak in these other tongues, BUT as to whether they understood what they themselves were saying is speculation, what is clear, is that the natives of those parts did understand. If they understood what they were saying, NO ONE would need the gift of interpretation. Jan 15 at 21:48

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