Bible Translation — “Tongues Translationism” Evaluated

“That Book in Your Hand”

In my last post on Bibliology, I described the view I call “tongues translationism”, also known as “double inspiration” — that God divinely superintended Bible translation in a similar way to His original giving of Scripture.  (Dr Peter Ruckman is one advocate of a form of this view.)  In this post, I would like to evaluate this teaching Scripturally.


Sermons on the nature of the Bible (Bibliology):

  1. The inspiration of the Scriptures, their divine nature, from II Timothy 3:16.
  2. The moving of the Spirit in giving us the Scriptures, from II Peter 1:19-21.
  3. The inerrancy of God’s Word (its complete reliability).
  4. The preservation of God’s Word.
  5. The illumination of the Scriptures, the work of the Holy Spirit in helping us to understand spiritual truths.
  6. The perspicuity of Scripture — the Scriptures can be understood and rightly interpreted.
  7. The canon of Scripture — this wasn’t a sermon, but it belongs in this study on Bibliology
  8. The unity of Scripture — it is one Book by one Author with one unifying message.
  9. The sufficiency of Scripture — the Bible is complete, and provides all we need to bring us to salvation and to guide us in a God-honouring life.

Previous posts on Bible translations:

  • Scripture translation is approved by God, as we can see by the use of languages in the Bible and the use of translated Old Testament passages in the New Testament.
  • Scripture translation is a necessary part of God’s plan, continuing the pattern of taking the Gospel to people where they are, a pattern which reached its highest expression when God became man.
  • Bible translations have anchored authority — their authority should neither be minimised nor separated from the authority of the original.
  • A description of the “tongues translationism” / “double inspiration” view.

Brief Review

In the last post, the “double inspiration” view was described as the idea / teaching that the translators were “inspired” in their work of translation.  Biblically, “inspiration” (Greek theopneustos) is a quality of Scripture rather than something that happened to the human agents used to give it, but this is more a question of wording than substance.  The real question — did God superintend the translation in the same way He gave the original text?

I mentioned that the idea of divine oversight giving a perfect Bible translation is not a new one, but something that Greek users of the Septuagint used to claim for their translation.

Finally, I explained why I prefer to call the view “tongues translationism” — because the Bible DOES mention a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit whereby the very words of a translation are given by God.  It calls it “the interpretation of tongues,” so a divine work in translation is better labeled with the appropriate Biblical wording.

Variations on the Doctrine

There are two variations of “tongues translationism” worth mentioning.  People who believe that Bible translators are / were divinely superintended to produce a perfect translation may or may not believe the following:

“New Revelation Translation”

What I’ll call “New Revelation Translation” is the teaching that, not only did God assist the translators to give a perfect translation, but He also gave new revelation which may vary in meaning from the original.  Thus, it doesn’t matter if it says things that differ from the Greek and Hebrew.  God gave those English words by revelation.  Dr Ruckman (mentioned above) has at times said things similar to this, and certainly some who follow his teachings hold this view.

I include this view because it still involves divine oversight of translation, so the final product of the translation process is guaranteed by God’s miraculous intervention to be, word for word, what He intended.

“English Preservationism”

This view (the label comes from a friend), without perhaps claiming “double inspiration,” names the King James Version as the perfectly preserved Bible in English.  It also belongs under “tongues translationism” because it can only be the perfectly divinely preserved Word if it were perfectly translated, which would require divine oversight of translation.

“Double Inspiration” HAS Happened

This fact is undeniable for anyone who accepts all Scripture.  The New Testament cites the Old, using Greek to quote that which was originally in Hebrew.  The Old Testament is inspired, God’s very words.  So is the New Testament.  The New Testament quotations, then, are an inspired Greek translation of the original Hebrew.

The Scriptures support the possibility of “double inspiration” / “tongues translationism.”  God did it in the past.  The question therefore is not whether it is logically / theologically possible, but whether God has done it at any time since the giving of the New Testament.

The New Testament does NOT use “New Revelation Translation.”  When the New cites the Old, it draws on at least one aspect of the true meaning of the Old Testament text.  It tells us at least one part of the truth that David (Hebrews 4:7) or Moses (Romans 10:19) said.  If they didn’t say it, the New Testament is lying.  So we know these are inspired accurate translations (if not always complete ones), not new revelations.  There is no Biblical precedent for “New Revelation Translation.”

Scripture First

Those who oppose these views often do so with appeals to logic, to the nature of languages in general, to errors (or at least perceived errors) in the work of the translators, to what the translators themselves thought, etc.  All of this misses the point.  If God gave a perfect translation by direct oversight, we know it is right, the view of the translators could be wrong but it wouldn’t invalidate God’s work, and any appeal to logic is erroneous against a work of God — a logical argument against true revelation is always flawed, even if we ourselves can’t see the flaw.  That which God says is true.  If He directly gave a translation that we think is inaccurate, it just goes to show we don’t know how to translate as well as we think.

So putting all those arguments aside, there is really only one question that matters — does the Scripture teach, or does it not, that God directly supervised the translation of His Word, so that every word of the product is exactly the way He wanted it to be, and so that the translation possesses absolute (rather than anchored) authority?  I would like to list five Scriptural problems that I see with this view.

Problems with “Tongues Translationism”

1. The Sufficiency of Scripture

II Timothy 3:16-17

16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

This passage tells us the Scriptures are sufficient to completely furnish / equip us, including in doctrine.  Every true doctrine we need is taught in Scripture.

The Bible tells of inspiration, inerrancy, the canon, its own sufficiency, preservation, and every other doctrine we need.  It tells of the translation of Scripture, as we’ve seen in this series, but never says there will be a divinely-superintended translation into English or any other language.  Nor, when discussing miraculous translation, does it ever say it will be used to give a miraculous translation of the Scriptures into any language.

God foretold the coming of a prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15), a Son of David (II Samuel 7), a forerunner of Messiah (Malachi 3:1), the coming of the Holy Spirit (repeatedly in John 14-16), the Gospel going to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15), and the return of Christ (Acts 1:11).  He didn’t beat around the bush, He didn’t leave any doubt, on vitally important matters He made it very clear what He was going to do.  But He never said He was going to provide a divinely-guided translation into English or any other language.  Where He was explicitly clear on so many other things, there is not even a hint of this.

The doctrine of “tongues translationism” / “double inspiration,”
in all its forms,
is a violation of the sufficiency of Scripture.

2. The Sign of Tongues

I Corinthians 14:21-22

21 In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.
22 Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.

The tongues gifts (speaking / translating) were given for a sign (evidence) to unbelievers.   When God gave supernatural language ability, it was done to prove something to unbelievers, to demonstrate the truth of something they didn’t previously believe.

The translation of Scripture by students of Greek and Hebrew would never convince an unbeliever that a miracle had happened.  He would say they had used naturally-obtained skills.  It simply is not a sign to unbelievers.  The unbeliever may respect the efforts of skilled men, his heart may be pierced by the translated, living Word of God — but the work of translation is not a sign of God’s power to unbelievers as tongues was at Pentecost and in Cornelius’ home.  When God works miraculously with languages, whether confusing them at Babel or giving them in Acts, no one can doubt that something amazing has happened.

The doctrine of “tongues translationism” / “double inspiration,”
in all its forms,
violates the God-stated purpose for His supernatural language intervention.

3. Validating Miracles

Hebrews 2:3-4

3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;
4 God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

God used miracles to affirm the testimony of Moses, the authority of Joshua, the work of the judges, and the words of Samuel and the prophets that followed.  Miracles accompanied the birth of John the Baptist, surrounded the birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of our Lord, and accompanied the apostles, verifying that their testimony of Christ was true.

A primary purpose (if not the only one) of miracles is to confirm a message or a messenger from God.  Every great revelatory work of God was preceded or accompanied by miracles.

The claimed revelatory translation of 1611 has no verifying miracles.  Rather, it is said the revelatory translation is itself a miracle.  But God did not proclaim it in advance or give “signs and wonders” to validate it.

The doctrine of “tongues translationism” / “double inspiration,”
in all its forms,
violates the truth that God uses obvious miracles to validate authoritative revelation.

4. Testing Spirits / Loving God With Our Minds

I John 4:1

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

Mark 12:30

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

God commands us to test the spirits, not believe every claim of supernatural power.  He expects us to be thinking people, loving Him with our mind.  To unthinkingly accept the work of translators would be disobedient when it can be tested, examined to see if they were faithful.  Not everyone knows Greek and Hebrew, but many people could learn it, and many have.

God would not tell us to test the spirits but expect us to accept, without testing, something as important as a translation of His very Word, when He gave us the ability to test it.  But He would not want us to test a translation which was divinely given to guarantee its perfection. Divine revelation is untestable, but translations are not, so divine revelation and translation are inherently in different realms.  We are to think, to examine, to test.  God gave us a mind, and He intended us to use it to love Him, and that surely means to apply it to His Word, including translation.

Furthermore, many who hold to a “tongues translationism” / “double inspiration” doctrine teach that a translation is not to be examined / tested in light of the original.  This is a particularly egregious violation of the command to test the spirits — we are to believe, without testing, in a spiritual working in translation.

The doctrine of “tongues translationism” / “double inspiration,”
in all its forms,
violates the command to test the spirits and use our minds to love God.

5. Diligence

II Timothy 2:15

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

God tells us to be diligent, studious, faithful.  He wants His people to work, to carry out the tasks He has given the ability to do.  God does not foster laziness by using miraculous intervention for things we could accomplish by diligence, study, and hard work.

God did not give a complete annotated commentary on every Bible verse — He expects us to learn and study.  He did not provide a systematic theology textbook with carefully defined doctrines — He expects us to labour, drawing truths from all of His Word and comparing Scripture with Scripture.  We don’t need these things, because He gave us the Scriptures and the mental ability to accomplish these tasks ourselves.  In general, He doesn’t give us money, He gives us the ability to work to earn a living.  He doesn’t usually give us a church building with utilities paid, He usually gives us the ability to give to meet the needs of our church out of the money we have earned.  He doesn’t give us a perfect marriage, He equips us to learn to be godly spouses — to work at it.

Bible translation is a need which requires no miracle, or supernatural divine guidance.  He has given us the Scriptures in the original languages, and the mental ability to accomplish the task.  To hand us a divinely orchestrated translation, when He has given the ability to do the task, is inconsistent with God’s expectation that we will work in His service.

The doctrine of “tongues translationism” / “double inspiration,”
in all its forms,
violates the Biblical pattern that God expects us to work at the things we can work at.

There is much more that could be said, but these five areas should be sufficient.  This teaching falls short of Biblical doctrine.  It is the tradition of man, not the teaching of Scripture, and it has no authority for us.

We live in a time when there are many assaults on the authority of “That Book in Your Hand.”  I appreciate the desire to affirm its authority, and give believers the certainty of God’s truth which He wanted us to have.  But we must do so with the doctrines that He teaches in His Word, and with those doctrines alone.  They are sufficient.

About Jon Gleason

Former Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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11 Responses to Bible Translation — “Tongues Translationism” Evaluated

  1. Chip Van Emmerik says:

    Can’t beat the sufficiency of scripture drum loud enough or long enough in these post-modern times.

  2. MackQuigley says:

    You are so wrong, so very wrong.

    Is the Authorized Version Holy Scriptures, yes or no?

    If the AV is scripture then either it is given by inspiration of God or Paul lied to Timothy when said ALL SCRIPTURE was given by inspiration of God.
    If the AV isn’t scripture then you can delete all your posts because every time you quoted the AV you said that’s what the “scriptures” say.
    People as confused as you are shouldn’t be attempting to teach others.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Hello, Mack. Since your three comments were related, I combined them into one.

      Yes, the AV is Scripture, translated Scripture, and is inspired by God.

      Paul did not say all Scripture “was” given by inspiration of God, he said it “is” given by inspiration of God. You said “was”. Warfield (and most modern scholars) fell into the “was” error. They make it about a historical action and only apply it to the giving of the original manuscripts. Most tongues translationists also think “was” and make it about the translation process. Same error, different manifestation.

      This is an “is” verse, not a history lesson, but teaching Timothy the nature of the words of the Book he held in his hand (and the nature of the Scriptures we hold in ours). Scripture is inspired / breathed into, having His very breath, and thus living and life-giving (I Peter 1:23, etc). This God-given Divine nature lives in any faithful translation, and thus the Scriptures can give life to people of all tongues and nations.

      This does not warrant the bizarre idea that a tongues gift made a cameo in 1611 and then disappeared, and God forgot to tell us about it clearly.

      By making this a verse about history, many scholars, following Warfield’s lead, have turned “inspired” into “expired.”. You can read more here if you are interested:

      Confused? 🙂 No, I’m just looking at what the Scriptures actually say. People and processes are not, and were not, inspired. Scripture itself, God’s Word, is inspired. That is true of translated Scriptures as well (or they could not fulfil I Peter 1:23). But that does not tell us anything about the translational process, it only tells us about the result of faithful translation. Any theological speculation about the translational process is not based on Scripture, and has no authority.

      We’ll always come back to this. The Scripture tells us (II Peter 1) about the giving of Scripture to Old Testament prophets. Where does it tell us that God moved translators in the same way? If you don’t have Scripture to back your view, you don’t have anything.

      • MackQuigley says:

        No, I wrote “is given by inspiration” and “was given” because both are true exactly as I wrote them. The AV prior to this moment “was” given by inspiration countless times; and at this very moment “is” given by inspiration to those who will hear it; and hereafter “will be” given by inspiration to those who receive its words in the future.
        You confused by that? You bet you are because you wrote “inspired” – a word that isn’t in the Bible at all. If you think ink on paper is “inspired” you’re a pagan, like the priest sprinkling “holy water” to scare the devil away. Neither are words “inspired” in the empty air. The Bible word is “inspiration” and the cross reference is Job 32:8 – read it. It has to do with the process of God’s Spirit acting upon a man’s spirit – and God uses his words to accomplish that – see John 6:63 and 1 Cor 2:13.

        2 Timothy 3:15 is a “history lesson” about the scriptures Timothy grew up reading – or do you think Timothy was 6 years old when Paul wrote to 2 Timothy to him?!?

        All Spiritual gifts in the body of Christ are not universally given, thus Paul writes, “do all interpret?” (1 Corinthians 12:30). No. And “let one interpret.” (1 Cor 14:27).
        You think you’ve come to a clever little place where you can retain your own seat of judgment over the English words in the AV text, yet call it “inspired” and “scripture” because you played word-games with those terms.
        Jesus said, “the scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35) and Peter wrote that “no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” (2 Peter 1:20) – yet you think you can piously call the AV scripture and simultaneously allege that it’s just the work of human interpretation.
        You are (redacted by Jon). You need to repent of your infidelity.

      • Jon Gleason says:

        Mack, if you post again, read the comment policy and abide by it. That means using respectful language. I removed your disrespectful language this time but if you repeat it I’ll delete your entire comment next time.

        The comment policy also says you should understand something before disagreeing with it. Ink on paper is not inspired, and I never said it was. Either you answered a matter before you heard it or you bore false witness, and neither is God-honouring.

        The words God gave, the Scriptures, are God-inspired, “given by inspiration of God.” Do you really disagree? It’s talking about the Scriptures, the words God gave. Not people, not the spirit of man, not pieces of paper, not actions, not writing, but the Scriptures themselves, the words. It’s right there in II Timothy 3:16. Those words are given by inspiration whether in a Bible, a tract, or a blog, but that doesn’t mean a person who writes them on a blog post is inspired when he writes them, because it isn’t the person, it is the words. The inspiration, authority, life-giving and life-changing power, is in God’s words. That’s what I believe, that’s what I’ve said. That is what the Scriptures you yourself cited teach, such as John 6:63.

        “Inspired by God” and “given by inspiration of God” are logically equivalent. Most people understand them to mean the same thing. If that is not acceptable terminology, in what universe is it acceptable to say “The AV prior to this moment ‘was’ given by inspiration countless times”? The Scripture doesn’t say that at all. Scripture has been given once, and since then it stands as given.

        But beyond all that, we come back to this. The Scripture says nothing about the Bible translation process. II Peter 1:21 tells us about the giving of prophecy. Where is the verse that tells about the translation?

        Scripture talks of tongues, but says nothing about Bible translation being the work of the gift of tongues. It says nothing about tongues reappearing in 1611. I Corinthians 12-14 talk about tongues, but they never mention this. The AV doesn’t claim it was supernaturally translated, but you tell us to believe it. Chapter and verse, where is that? I don’t believe you, you don’t believe me, but we should both believe the Scriptures. Where do they tell us about this supernatural translation?

        There are no confirming miracles recorded in Scripture to tell us that this work of revelation in 1611 was truly of God. Chapter and verse, where does it talk about the miracles confirming that work of 1611? Hebrews 2:4 tells of the miracles confirming the apostolic message. The Old and New Testaments are full of miracles which confirm God’s revelation. Where are we told of the miracles confirming this translational revelation?

        It’s all been made up without Scripture. There is no Scripture that tells me to believe what you want me to believe about the translation process. There are no recorded miracles to confirm it. There is nothing. If I’m wrong, actually show me in Scripture. I’m not talking about the Greek or Hebrew, where does the AV say these things? If it is sufficient for doctrine so that the man of God may be perfect, then we should draw our doctrine from it. You are defending a doctrine about the translation of the AV that the AV itself doesn’t teach. The Scriptures are sufficient. If we needed the doctrine you propose, the Scriptures would teach them.

  3. MackQuigley says:

    You redact words you don’t like. I think that says it all. Good bye.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      I redacted only words that violate the clearly stated comment policy.

      I visited Mack’s website, and have now removed the links from his name and blocked further comments from him. I apologise to anyone who clicked through on his name and read his site. This is not because of his views on translation, but because of other things which are totally contrary to Scripture.

  4. MackQuigley says:

    Acts 19:20

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