Did the disciples speak different languages at Pentecost?


So I read this:

Acts 2:

And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.d*

5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. 6At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?e 8Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language? 9We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, 11both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”f 12They were all astounded and bewildered, and said to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others said, scoffing, “They have had too much new wine.”g

This is the commentary from the The New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE):

d* [2:4] To speak in different tongues: ecstatic prayer in praise of God, **interpreted **in Acts 2:6, 11 as speaking in foreign languages, **symbolizing **the worldwide mission of the church.

Is this what the Catholic Church in the United States believes???

I always took this portion of Acts literally! i.e. the disciple spoke different languages.

What gives? This is the bible endorsed by American Bishops today??


I look on this in a similar way to a United Nations Conference, you have one speaker, and a load of translators, this means every foreign delegate hears the translated message in their own language.

The Apostles speak, God translates the message to all the foreigners so they may understand.

If God can create the universe and raise the dead, this should be easy by comparison.


Agreed, but what’s with the NAB commentary that it was symbolic?

What’s with that???


Im reading some of the other footnotes in the revised NAB.

Are you kidding me? It’s some frighteningly wrong stuff.



I don’t think you are reading the commentary correctly. I think what it is saying is the reality of the disciples speaking in different tongues/languages symbolizes that their mission is to the whole world. It’s not saying that the event of Pentecost was symbolic.


I don’t think I have it wrong, but you see the word “interpreted” - that word implies that the Apostles were speaking “ecstatic prayer” that had no understanding, and that Luke interpreted that as speaking in foreign languages.


Are we so modern and liberal today to accept this?


What about the preceding note:

  • [2:3] Tongues as of fire: see Ex 19:18 where fire symbolizes the presence of God to initiate the covenant on Sinai. Here the holy Spirit acts upon the apostles, preparing them to proclaim the new covenant with its unique gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:38).


I get it, but still, read the note on how Luke cobbles together indefinite happenings and historicizes them into Pentacost.

The footnotes are misleading and just terrible. They can’t be Catholic footnotes.


I agree that there are a few in the NAB NT that are problematic and not very clear. I wouldn’t go as far as to say they aren’t Catholic though. They have just initiated the process of revising the NAB NT and notes.


I did some research on this site and elsewhere.

My suspicions were well founded. The footnotes leave a lot to be desired and WERE NOT updated since the NAB, they were simply brought forward.

They are not good in any sense of the word. And the whole gender neutrality and “booty” thing, well… yeah.

I can’t believe the state of those footnotes.


The Revised version has the exact same footnotes.

Problematic is a very nice way of putting it, but I’ll give you that.


yes, the notes in the NABRE are not good. That’s why I use the Ignatius Bible for Catholic notes (RSV-2CE)


You and me both! :slight_smile:


The footnote in the New American Bible is likely very correct. Unfortunately it may need to be revised in that “ecstatic prayer” is often confused by some modern readers to be limited to the type of prayer in Pentecostal services. The type of prayer meant here is that experienced by the great Catholic mystics, namely the ecstatics. The similarity in the words used (“ecstatic prayer” and “ecstatics”) is unfortunate in American English as today’s readers tend to be familiar with only one, glossolalia, and not the other which is well-founded in our Catholic tradition.

The “ecstatic prayer” being spoken of here in the footnotes is the same St. Paul mentions two other times. In one place he makes mention of speaking in “angelic tongues” at 1 Corinthians 13:1.

In the next chapter of the same epistle he makes note of how such ecstatic prayer can interrupt the propriety of worship and should thus be controlled and limited to use only under certain circumstances, even though the mystical event be genuine.

If you, because of speaking in tongues, do not utter intelligible speech, how will anyone know what is being said?..Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray to be able to interpret.

… if the whole church meets in one place and everyone speaks in tongues, and then uninstructed people or unbelievers should come in, will they not say that you are out of your minds?

When you assemble, one has a psalm, another an instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Everything should be done for building up. If anyone speaks in a tongue, let it be two or at most three, and each in turn, and one should interpret. But if there is no interpreter, the person should keep silent in the church and speak to himself and to God.

…Indeed, the spirits of prophets are under the prophets’ control, since he is not the God of disorder but of peace.–1 Corinthians 14:9-40.

Thus according to Scripture testimony, the genuine gift of tongues, while indeed being another language, was some sort of ecstatic event that required control by the one who received the gift, as well as interpretation to keep “unbelievers” from thinking “that you are out of your minds.”


The footnote is not correct. The text says that they were understood as speaking in different languages. The footnote uses the term “interpreted”.

The footnote is wrong.

so you believe that the apostles were not speaking different languages then? What say you to that?


Thanks, DelsonJacobs. I too was thinking of 1 Corinthians where Paul indicates that the tongues have meaning which can be interpreted.

I do not see a problem with the bible footnotes in question. As we study the Bible, we should not be so quick to dismiss the work of scholars, who usually choose their words with precision and care. There may be a better understanding of the footnotes. Many bibles also have cross-references (references to related Bible verses), which may help.


No. This is not what is meant here. They spoke in different touches as in languages. The foot note implies the event is not historical.

so you believe as well the apostles didn’t speak in different world languages?


So you believe the event in acts is undistorted? the disciples didn’t speak different world languages to actual people.

is this what you believe?

The NAB RE is wrong.


The text says “OTHER Tounges”. NOT SPEAKING IN BABBLING TOUNGES like in Paul.

Do you follow? The NAB RE is wrong and misleading to the Nth degree.


You are reading the footnote incorrectly.

It states:

To speak in different tongues: ecstatic prayer in praise of God, interpreted in Acts 2:6, 11 as speaking in foreign languages.

In other words the “ecstatic prayer” of Acts 2, 6, 11, is interpreted AS speaking in foreign tongues. It does not say that it required interpretation to be understood.

The word “interpreted” in this footnote means “explained” or “described” and thus could be read equally as:

“Ecstatic prayer in praise of God, explained in Acts 2:6, 11 as speaking in foreign languages.”


“Ecstatic prayer in praise of God, described in Acts 2:6, 11 as speaking in foreign languages.”

or simply

“Ecstatic prayer in praise of God, IS interpreted in Acts 2:6, 11 as MEANING speaking in foreign languages.”

In other words the footnote is saying that this is definitely NOT a case of glossolalia because Acts 2:6 says that the “large crowd” from different countries could, as verse 11 states “hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”

This is why Acts 2:6 and 11 are cited in this footnote. These two verses “interpret” the expression of verse 4, “to speak in different tongues,” as speaking in languages that were foreign and could be understood by those who natively understood them.

You, on the other hand, are reading the footnote to verse 4 as saying

“Ecstatic prayer in praise of God, required interpreting in Acts 2:6, 11 as speaking in foreign languages.”

That wouldn’t make sense if that is what the footnote was claiming. Why mention Acts 2:6 and 11? In those verses it is clear the NO interpretation is needed to understand the tongues.

The footnote is merely stating that one can interpret “verse 4,” of which this is the footnote, by reading verses 6 and 11–and NOT claiming that the tongues required an interpreter to be understood.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.