From Little Panthertail Mountain: I have found there are various interpretations of Acts Chapter 2, which is surprising to me, for the narrative of this Chapter seems pretty plain. For that reason I am setting down what the English words as recorded in the King James version of the Bible actually say to me. And, if it counts for anything, I pursued an English major my first year in college.
For background, the first chapter of Acts tells us that after Jesus ascended to heaven there were about 120 of his followers based at an “upper room.” These people included Jesus’ disciples (except for Judas, who had betrayed Jesus and later committed suicide,) Jesus’ mother and other women, and his “brethren.” These individuals “continued” with prayer and supplication, eventually selecting Matthias as a replacement for Judas. They were all together on the day of the Jewish Pentecost (a festival that Jews from near and far attend each year,) when something supernatural happened. “…suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it (the SOUND like the wind) filled all the house…And there appeared unto them cloven (split) tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.” (Acts 2:2-3) These 120 people heard a loud sound like a fierce wind and they saw what looked like a burning flame sitting on each of their companions that were in the room with them. The next verse says “…they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues,…” They, the 120 people, were ALL (not just Peter who later preached, but ALL) filled and ALL began to speak in other tongues. That is 120 people convened in an upper room, all speaking in other languages. Some were speaking in Greek, some in Italian, some in an Egyptian tongue, as well as many other languages as indicated in Verses 9-11.
There were quite a number of Jews from out of town present in Jerusalem that day who had come to celebrate the Jewish festival of Pentecost. We will call them tourists. Many Jews were scattered far and wide then even as they are today. Verse 5 says that devout Jews from every nation under heaven were dwelling at Jerusalem. Verses 9, 10, and 11 list the nationalities of these Jews. They were: “Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians..” (Acts 2:9-11) You can imagine the uproar produced by 120 people all speaking in different languages at once. Of course that caused quite a stir and as it continued it attracted the attention of the other residents of Jerusalem. It is no wonder some folks thought these people were drunk.
Pretty soon people began coming to see what was going on. Verse 6 says the happening was “noised abroad” and “the multitude came together.” The multitude included the Jewish tourists attending the festival of Pentecost. The verse says they were confounded because “every man heard them speak in HIS OWN language.” Each of the tourists heard them speak in the language of HIS country instead of the Hebrew tongue. They were “all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, are not all these (who) speak Galileans?” Jesus was a Galilean, and his disciples were local people, at least in part, for some of them were fishermen who worked the sea of Galilee. The Galilean language was the same as the Hebrew language, which all Jews spoke and recognized, regardless of where they lived; however, the Galilean dialect was not “pure” or “strict” Hebrew. ( In similar fashion, a Southern drawl is not exactly the King’s English.) However, these 120 Galileans were NOT speaking the Jewish or Hebrew language of the Galileans. They were speaking languages from other countries.
Verse 8 asks the question posed by the Jewish tourists: ‘How hear we…in our own tongue, wherein we were born?” The tourists hailed from as many as thirteen areas or countries round about Jerusalem and Judea. To repeat the list already given, they were: Parthians, Medes, Elamites, dwellers in Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phyrgia, Pamphylia, Egypt, the Libyans about Cyrene, Romans, Cretes and Arabians. They said, “We do hear THEM (the 120) speak in OUR TONGUES the wonderful works of God.” They spoke in the tongues of the tourists. The tourists asked each other “What meaneth this?” (Verse 12) But others said they (the 120) were drunk. However, Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, rose up and began to preach, telling the crowd that those who spoke in tongues were not drunk. Rather, this phenomenon was the fulfillment of prophecy given by Joel. Peter would have spoken in Hebrew, the one language which everyone present could understand, since they all were Jews. If he had spoken in the Egyptian language, would the Greeks have been able to understand him? No. The gift of interpretation of tongues, like the gift of speaking in tongues, is given only to born again believers. The multitude (as mentioned in Verse 6) were not born again or saved when they came to find out what was going on at the upper room. Those present who got saved did so AFTER Peter preached the gospel of Christ to them. Verse 41 says “…the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”
For folks who don’t see it as I do, we must agree to disagree. Our salvation does not depend on our viewpoint on this matter, but on our relationship to Jesus.