If “Tongues” Have Ceased, Why Hasn’t “Knowledge”?
“In several of your articles you have stated that the ‘tongues,’ as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:8ff, ceased when the New Testament canon was completed. You overlook the fact that the same passage says that ‘knowledge’ will cease at the same time. Since ‘knowledge’ has not ceased, it should be apparent that the gift of ‘tongues’ has not ceased. How do you answer this problem?”
Let me respond to this sincere question in the following way.
First, if there is a “problem,” in this matter, it is as much a problem for our respondent as for anyone else. Elsewhere in his note to us, he alleged that the “coming” of “that which is perfect” will not be fulfilled until the event of the Lord’s return at the end of time. Tongues, therefore, will continue until then; only at that time will such be terminated, so he alleges.
Very well then, if our friend’s reasoning is valid, he must also argue that since “knowledge” and “tongues” are to cease simultaneously, when the Lord returns, “knowledge” will “cease,” as well. This implies that heaven will be a place void of all knowledge. This is the undeniable consequence of the gentleman’s logic.
Further, if “tongues” simply means the ability to communicate verbally, since tongues likewise are to vanish at the time of the second coming, the conclusion would be, there will be no communication in heaven. There is an old saying, “That which proves too much, proves nothing.” There is no better example of that maxim than in the argument constructed by our friend.
On the other hand, if one pursues a consistent interpretation of the Corinthian context, the problem vanishes. One must understand that the gift of “tongues” is the miraculous ability to speak in a foreign language, and similarly the “knowledge” of the same context is supernatural knowledge (cf. 1 Cor. 12:8b). The three “gifts” mentioned in 13:8-10 (prophecy, tongues, and knowledge) are but representative of the more complete list in 12:7-10. None of these supernatural gifts will abide after “that which is perfect” arrives.
Finally, as we have shown in other articles (see: “Miracles”) the expression, “that which is perfect,” literally means “the complete thing” (neuter gender) —in contrast to “that which is in part” (or incomplete). If it is the case, then, that “the perfect” is a reference to Christ, and further, that the term, “coming,” is an allusion to his final return, one would be forced to conclude that Christ himself was “incomplete” or “partial” in the era prior to the event of his second coming. This presents a huge problem for the modern charismatic.
We would urge our Pentecostal friends to restudy this matter in the light of the fuller New Testament context dealing with miraculous gifts.
About the Author
Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.