Tongues/Languages of Angels

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” 1 Cor 13:1

I have quite a few friends in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and I have been kind of torn in regards to how I should respond in regards to it. On the one hand I in no way wish to be holding myself back from receiving any gifts God wishes to give me because I will not humble myself and my need to understand, but on the other hand I believe there are some things I have a reasonable expectation to be shown.

A lot of emphasis is given in to the gift of praying in tongues and I have been diving into it trying to determine the nature of this gift, because I do not wish to be getting in the way of God from giving me a grace he wishes to give me. The Renewal seems to split tongues into two types one being speaking in tongues for edification of others, and praying in tongues for primarily our own edification. I am seeing very little scriptural, early church father, or theological basis for the idea of praying in tongues as separate from the traditional idea of speaking in tongues for the edification of others by having it translated.

One things that has come up is the idea of praying in angelic or otherwise non-human languages and the scripture verse above is pointed to in support of this. From what I have researched I have found very little to support the idea that what is considered angelic speech could be associated with what is considered praying in tongues.

I started with Aquinas in Summa Q.107
He says Angels do speak, but it is mind to mind because they are non-corporeal. So even if we can speak in the tongues of angels wouldn’t it not be in the same manner and be only within our minds and there would be no reason to presume this would have any verbal counterpart?

Secondly I considered that angels do speak to people throughout the bible.
Aquinas answers this is Q.51
He answers they that can fashion and assume bodily form for the purpose of interacting and communicating with us if God so wills but they are lifeless bodies different from our own. Every instance of this in the bible though we have no reason to presume they are speaking to people in any other language other than the native language of whomever they are speaking too.

Finally I see Jimmy Akin’s post on the subject here:
And this explanation of why St. Paul uses this phrase here in Corinthians makes a lot of sense as hyperbolic considering the following verses are very obviously hyperbolic. Speaking in the tongues of angels is compared with faith that moves mountains and knowing all mysteries and knowledge. It is clear this is hyperbolic because we will not even have knowledge of all things in Heaven as explained here by Peter Kreeft because we are still finite creatures and therefore our knowledge will be finite.

When you add to this that nearly all the early church fathers talk about the gift of tongues in the sense that it is speaking other real human foreign languages, what basis is there for believing that praying in tongues should be understood as the Charismatic Renewal understands it? I understand reason alone will not explain it and faith is required, but every Catholic belief has a fundamental reasonable basis on which faith then springs off of and I’m not seeing that fundamental basis for praying in tongues, which is troubling because it is a question of some consequence.

Saint Paul
1 Corinthians, chapters 12 and 14.

Today, the common Holy Sprit gift of praying in Tongues can be received when one actually understands it and thus seeks this gift. This, obviously, includes yielding one’s speech mechanism to the Holy Spirit.

Information link

Acts 2:11 is known as a miracle of hearing.

Each human person is worthy of profound respect.

Oddly I have never once heard this happen anywhere except in a Pentecostal church.

It is very real, I have seen people speak in tongues, it is not just babble as some think, there is a dialect there, but like anything else, it can be faked.

Hi. With all due respect, I don’t think this reference in Acts relates to the Pentecostal influence, which the OP seems to be highlighting.

  1. There are three kinds, not four as is trendy but Unscriptural to say nowadays.
  • when alone (in the 1970s writers advocated you ask the Lord for your personal “interpretation” - a good practice, since neglected)

  • in company of the church or a mixed crowd of believers/unbelievers - we should always pray for an interpretation. Many people now teach completely wrongly that several people should talk or sing in tongues simultaneously, which is completely erroneous.

  • by Providence one of the above forms is understood by a hearer as their natural language

  1. It is not compulsory for any individual to speak in tongues at all, despite what most say. If you want to leave tongues to others, you are in the right.

  2. Any fellowship should be seeking all the gifts (55 in Old and New Testaments). Each member of the fellowship should be seeking to affirm the other members in several gifts and/or ministries. One may not be a regular minister or volunteer in a particular area, to occasionally join in.

Things like “prophecies” are about seeing which Scriptures apply to the group or church at this particular time, and are often thought of in advance, and benefit from writing down and discussing.

It is always good to seek “words of knowledge” and “words of wisdom” for one’s companions at all times.

Tactile prayer is a silly fad - the Holy Spirit works through 2 ft of air.

I think the concept of “miracle” is overrated and God will lead into it if He wants.

I am glad to hear there is still interest in the genuine (not the false) Charismatic - I thought it had disappeared!

If they seem unbalanced, pray for them - but don’t get too sucked in. Balanced ones will know how to affirm each other’s gifts and nurture each other in them by sound teaching e.g the Feeding of the 5,000 and 4,000, parable of Talents, the spinning woman in Proverbs ch 21, etc etc etc.

Not meant to be “snarky” and this probably doesn’t answer your lengthy question, but I suggest you always seek to speak in one tongue. That is, the truth. Forget the rest.

Where to find that tongue? A fella I admire once said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Speak always what He has taught you (us) and your “tongue” will gain for you, “stored up treasure in heaven” as that fella also once said.


The main thing to remember is that the Charismatic is supposed to be in support of the the whole Church.

It is not meant to be hysterical or sentimental at all.

Above all, participants should be interceding for the success of the parish and diocesan ministries, the protection of clergy and parishioners, just government in their country.

Hi, Nate!

The Holy Spirit Act on any Believer and even a non-Believer to bring about God’s Purpose. But man cannot command the Holy Spirit to bestow upon him any Gift!

Since I am not God I do not know what is in the mind/heart of any man… but consider what is said by St. Paul when the issue of “speaking in tongues” comes up in the early Church:

[FONT=“Garamond”][size=]16 Any uninitiated person will never be able to say Amen to your thanksgiving, if you only bless God with the spirit, for he will have no idea what you are saying. 17 However well you make your thanksgiving, the other gets no benefit from it. 18 I thank God that I have a greater gift of tongues than all of you, 19 but when I am in the presence of the community I would rather say five words that mean something than ten thousand words in a tongue. 20 Brothers, you are not to be childish in your outlook. You can be babies as far as wickedness is concerned, but mentally you must be adult. 21 In the written Law it says: Through men speaking strange languages and through the lips of foreigners, I shall talk to the nation, and still they will not listen to me, says the Lord. 22 You see then, that the strange languages are meant to be a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while on the other hand, prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 So that any uninitiated people or unbelievers, coming into a meeting of the whole church where everybody was speaking in tongues, would say you were all mad; 24 but if you were all prophesying and an unbeliever or uninitiated person came in, he would find himself analysed and judged by everyone speaking; 25 he would find his secret thoughts laid bare, and then fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is among you indeed.

(1 Corinthians 14:16-25)
I find that too many times “tongues” and other “spiritual” Gifts are the only signs that “Believers” want to have or control… the Call is to Unify and Edify the Body of Christ not to exalt the individual or his/her attributes!

Maran atha!



Praying in the common Holy Spirit Gift of Praying in Tongues is simply one form of praying to God. The word common simply means that it is common, that is, available to all.

There is St. Paul’s classical list of nine Gifts from the Holy Spirit. These gifts, considered ministries, require intense preparation including discernment.

In addition, there are ministries, talents, gifts available to us. These are manifestations of God’s power and presence given freely for God’s honor and glory and for the service of others.

Source of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal information.

Yes but, many contest that speaking in tongues, in Scripture, meant something different to that which charismatic groups purport to be the same thing.

Saint Paul taught that to be prophetic was normal. And that all the promises of god were yes and amen.

Finding a prophetic fellowship can be difficult. Finding mature Christians that function as in numbers 11 29 as Moses said god wanted all his people to be prophetic.

There are at least four possible meanings of “speaking in tongues,” given Scriptural, historical, and present phenomena.

  1. Speaking a human language one does not know… This could possibly include speaking multiple languages at once, as the Apostles seemed to do.

  2. Speaking an angelic language. As you’ve noted, this is not possible. Angels don’t have bodies so they don’t have a spoken language.

  3. Speaking a language that is unintelligible without the help of an interpreter. This was St. Paul’s concern with the Corinthians. He cautions them to do this only with interpretation (which is its own gift, and should not be presumed upon!) and without scandal to unbelievers.

  4. Speaking an unintelligible language without an interpreter, either privately or in community. St. Paul was concerned about this as a communal event, as noted. It is possible that one’s speech becomes mysteriously influenced by the Holy Spirit for no other reason than one’s own edification (through increasing humility before the mystery of God, for example, as a little child babbles in love towards its parents). As St. Paul says elsewhere, the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with unintelligible groans… This could be a participation in that intercession. THIS SHOULD NOT BE PRESUMED UPON, nor should it be “sought,” as St. Paul says - we should seek the higher gifts, like prophecy, which edify the whole Church much more directly and broadly and without scandal.

#3 and #4 are what we are dealing with in the Renewal. And there seems to be frequent presumption to the point of pressuring others to “grasp” for the gift… Gifts do not determine nor cause holiness. The gift of tongues is real, but so is self-deception.


…this is the problem I have with “prophetic” and “tongues” and Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Where in Scriptures do we find the Teaching of the Apostles sending Believers to “specially gifted ministries?”

Where in Scriptures do we find ‘man can call on the Holy Spirit and He will lavish Gifts according to man’s heart?’

Here’s what Scriptures say on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit:

[FONT=“Garamond”][size=]4 There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; 5 there are all sorts of service to be done

, but always to the same Lord; 6 working in all sorts of different ways in different people, it is the same God who is working in all of them. 7 The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose. 8 One may have the gift of preaching with wisdom given him by the Spirit; another may have the gift of preaching instruction given him by the same Spirit; 9 and another the gift of faith given by the same Spirit; another again the gift of healing, through this one Spirit; 10 one, the power of miracles; another, prophecy; another the gift of recognising spirits; another the gift of tongues and another the ability to interpret them. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, who distributes different gifts to different people just as he chooses. (1 Corinthians 12:4-11)

5 so all of us, in union with Christ, form one body, and as parts of it we belong to each other. 6 Our gifts differ according to the grace given us. If your gift is prophecy, then use it as your faith suggests; 7 if administration, then use it for administration; if teaching, then use it for teaching. 8 Let the preachers deliver sermons, the almsgivers give freely, the officials be diligent, and those who do works of mercy do them cheerfully. 9 Do not let your love be a pretence, but sincerely prefer good to evil. (Romans 12:5-9)
Is the Call that all shall be “prophets” or all “speak in strange tongues?” No!

The Call is to Complement and Edify the Body of Christ–that’s the true reason why the Holy Spirit Offers His Gifts to man:

27 Now you together are Christ’s body; but each of you is a different part of it. 28 In the Church, God has given the first place to apostles, the second to prophets, the third to teachers; after them, miracles, and after them the gift of healing; helpers, good leaders, those with many languages. 29 Are all of them apostles, or all of them prophets, or all of them teachers? Do they all have the gift of miracles, 30 or all have the gift of healing? Do all speak strange languages, and all interpret them? 31 Be ambitious for the higher gifts

. And I am going to show you a way that is better than any of them.

13:1 If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything, and if I have faith in all its fulness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all. 3 If I give away all that I possess, piece by piece, and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but am without love, it will do me no good whatever. 4 Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; 5 it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offence, and is not resentful. 6 Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; 7 it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes. 8 Love does not come to an end. But if there are gifts of prophecy, the time will come when they must fail; or the gift of languages, it will not continue for ever; and knowledge – for this, too, the time will come when it must fail. 9 For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying is imperfect; 10 but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will disappear. 11 When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and think like a child, and argue like a child, but now I am a man, all childish ways are put behind me. 12 Now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror; but then we shall be seeing face to face. The knowledge that I have now is imperfect; but then I shall know as fully as I am known. 13 In short, there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.(1 Corinthians 12:27 thru 13:13)
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are not about self empowerment or self-fulfillment–they are meant to Edify the Church: the Body of Christ!

Maran atha!



I generally go with No. 1 but also I believe that God speaks in the silence making a lot of the other options here harder to understand as being consistent with Scripture. And I wonder whether prophesying has rather a lot to do with St. Paul’s words. I don’t know but am guessing.

Hi, E!

…I think that it is possible that the Apostles did not speak, simultaneously, in multiple different languages, but, rather, that the audience ‘heard them speaking in those multiple languages’ (something like the sci-fi’s universal translator, in reverse).

Maran atha!


Yes, it is difficult to say whether the speakers were exclusively graced with this one-time gift or whether there were many instances of prophesy on the part of the listeners. To me it seems to be a combination of some sort.

Hi, E!

I believe that what is important to understand is that it is God’s Determinate Will that produces the Gifts of the Holy Spirit… and that it is for His Purpose; so there’s no need to seek out things that are beyond our capacity to forge and comprehend–if He needs it, nothing is impossible for God!

Maran atha!


An easy way to keep track of tongues used in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal is to separate the two related gifts.

Gift 1. We speak to God.
Gift 2. God speaks to us.

**And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak. Acts 2:4 (DRA)

The apostles spoke in tongue when they were filled with the Holy Spirit, a gift that anyone can have as the Spirit gives.

Hi, Reuben!


…a function of the Holy Spirit, for God’s Purpose; it is not a *commandeered *Gift which is behooved of the Holy Spirit.

…and neither is it a “measure” of anyone’s “spiritual level.”

Maran atha!


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