Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Grace Journal
Volume: GJ 013:3 (Fall 1972)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous


Book Reviews

New Testament Teaching on Tongues. By Merrill F. Unger. Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, 1971. 175 pp. $1.75, paper.

Dr. Unger’s works are well known to almost any sincere student of the Word. His insistence upon the absolute authority of the Word of God regarding this and all other issues is itself enough to make this work helpful to those who are confused concerning the legitimacy of tongues today. The outstanding contributions of the book are: (1) The emphasis, in agreement with 1 Corinthians 13, upon the temporary nature of the gift, and (2) the clear expression of the doctrinal confusion that is so characteristic of groups which teach that tongues today area modern day bestowal by the Spirit (especially chapter XVI). On these major issues Dr. Unger has much to enlighten the unenlightened.

In the reviewer’s opinion, however, the careful student of the Word should examine other alternative explanations before accepting all of Dr. Unger’s interpretations regarding the nature and purpose of this gift as it was exercised in the Apostolic Age. With regard to the purpose of the gift, he asserts that “tongues in the early church had a distinct use as a sign to Jews,” and as such they were “not meant for Gentiles.” “Tongues were a sign of that which Jews (and not Gentiles) needed to be divinely assured of; namely, that the legal or Mosaic Age had passed away forever” (pp. 113–14). The major proof-text for this is 1 Corinthians 14:20–25, but there are several problems which mitigate against such an interpretation of this passage. In the first place, Paul, though he was addressing Gentiles (12:2) and granting that they had received a genuine spiritual gift, never intimates that they should use the gift only when Jews were present. Secondly, in order to hold this view one must assume that “them that believe not” is a reference to Jews with weak faith, or at least includes them, because tongues never were used to convert Jews (or anyone else). The difficulty with this is that these “unbelievers” are those who could be led to salvation by the use of the gift of prophecy (14:24–25). Thirdly, the major problem with this view is that though Isaiah (v. 21) was addressing Jewish people, by “this people” he means “this unbelieving people,” not “this Jewish people.” That is why Paul next states, “Wherefore (based upon this illustration from Isaiah), tongues are for a sign…to them that believe not.”

He does not sa...

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