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Does he who speaks in tongues edifies himself also refer to repairing of the body and mind 1 Corinthians 14:4?

Some people say praying in tongues edifies your spirit but does it also repair your body and mind?

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    – agarza
    May 7, 2023 at 1:26
  • Why would one think there is such a connection with the body as you suggest? None is suggested by the verse itself.
    – Dottard
    May 9, 2023 at 21:51

2 Answers 2

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Before answering this question one has to answer another question and ascertain whether one who "prays in tongues", that is to say, prays in a foreign language, understands this language and what is said by it or not? Let us discuss both alternatives:

a) If he does not understand it, then what obtains is an unintelligent mumbling of words and sentences, that can be beautiful (there are especially beautiful languages like Latin, or French and Italian, and every language has certain charm and music that attracts a learner of it) and also in a certain sense elevative for soul, because even if one does not know language and utters sentences in it knowing that those sentences are inspired by God and addressed to Him, then a certain sublime disposition may be created in such a person, even without him understanding the meanings of the sentences he utters.

However, this is hardly so and I think it is more plausible to suppose b) that the one who prays in a foreign language has miraculously got knowledge of this language through the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 2:1-11) and while praying also understands the meaning of the prayer. Otherwise Paul would not have said that a person praying in a foreign language "edifies himself and not church" (1 Cor. 14:4), for if he does not understand what he says, then he would be in no way in a better position than church, that is to say, other members of the congregation, who do not know this language.

Now, if it is established firmly that the last is true and the man praying in a foreign tongue which he has got hold of through the Holy Spirit understands the meaning of what he says, and moreover, initiates this meaning intellectually, as any person does while praying, then of course he edifies his mind also. Thus, a person praying in a foreign language, if he understands this language, is not different from a person praying in his own language, it is just a matter of a convenience, not of a spiritual benefit. Before Luther translated Lord's prayer into German, did not he as a Catholic priest pronounce it in Latin? Was he less eagerly heard by God? Or did he suppose that he got edification through the Lord's prayer only when he started to say it in German? He would not be of a sound mind then, which will be a calumny to say about such an acute and intelligent man as Martin Luther.

As to answer the question whether a person who prays in foreign language benefits also his body, it is the same as to ask whether a person praying in any language benefits somehow his body as well alongside his invisible features which features are called differently as "soul", "spirit", "heart", "conscience" etc.? I guess, yes, but how the body is also benefited is a big question and the Byzantines dealt with it seriously, the mystics like St Symeon the New Theologian or St Gregory Palamas, but this is a big and separate issue.

Actually, it is not said by Paul why do those persons pray in foreign languages when it would be easier and more convenient for them to pray in their own languages? Were they snobbish so as to desire to show off their special gift to the other members of congregation? I doubt that. Probably they exercised themselves in the gift they received from Spirit for a practical purpose of preaching in this tongue to pagan people bearing this tongue, or to Jews who had forgotten Hebrew and spoke tongues of those countries in which they were dispersed.

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From the context itself we can see that it doesn't talk anything about body of the person or the hearer. He who speaks in tongues speaketh mysteries(1Co 14:2). Mysteries don'ts heal or edifies the body but mind. Also Paul always talks about people hear the words and understand what it is being said. Only if we understand what is being spoken we can praise God or give thanks.

1Co 14:9  So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.

1Co 14:11  Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.

1Co 14:19  Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.

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  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics.SE and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others. I also recommend going through the Help Center's sections on both asking and answering questions.
    – agarza
    May 7, 2023 at 13:11

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