Today I read a cessationist’s post about the evil and error of continuationism (the view that the miraculous gifts have not ceased to be given to the church), and about how it is contrary to historical-grammatical exegesis, context, and so on (as internet Calvinists hopped up on a heavy dose of fear mongering and eisegesis about “strange fire” are wont to do):
Glossa means tongue, language, a known human language. Dialektos means dialect, a known human dialect from a known human language. The historical truth fact of “tongues” is that every instance of it, was used by the pagan cultists of the day to worship the false gods. What Paul used, spoke was known human languages with varying dialects so as to reach, speak to, and share the Gospel with the many different peoples in that area.
This has only to do with what glossa is in the context of the New Testament. Regardless of what we understand glossa to be, the question of continuation or cessation of this and like gifts is a different question.
However, to vindicate continuationist interpretation of Paul here, the problem with the above exclusive view of glossa is that you run into problems with Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 14. Firstly, the fundamental presupposition of Paul here is that “no one understands [him who speaks in tongues]” (v2) . In v23, Paul says that if people come in from the outside and see the church speaking in tongues, that they would think them crazy. Why would he say this if tongues is the speaking of “known human language,” of “varying dialects so as to reach, speak to, and share the Gospel with the many different peoples in that area”? Won’t some who come in understand some of the language and hear the gospel? Corinth was a major center of commerce and culture, with people speaking all sorts of languages passing through and living there. It’s the perfect location to find an interpreter of human languages. Indeed, the tongues of Acts 2 are said to have been understood by each one in his own language (Acts 2:6). This doesn’t fit with what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 14 unless he is talking about a different manifestation of the Spirit.
Additionally, Paul says that they should only speak in glossa if they have someone there with the gift of interpretation (v5; cf 12:30, which shows he has the gift of interpretation in view). But if it’s a human language, why doesn’t he first tell them to see if anyone in the congregation speaks the language or understands it first before praying for interpretation as in v13? Again, it’s because the fundamental presupposition is that “no one understands him” (v2), the glossa is not a known human language.
Also, note that when Paul is clearly referring to human languages in 14:10,11, he calls them phonon, not glossa or dialektos. Paul is giving examples to prove a point, and he brings up phonon to say that as it’s not profitable if you don’t have a means to understand a human language (phonon), so with this spiritual language (glossa). This is the same point he makes in verse 7-9 about musical instruments. The conclusion in verse 13 is that the Corinthians should pray for interpretation. What needs to be recognized here is that Paul is making a distinction between phonon and glossa; it’s the whole reason he brings up phonon as an example. Dialektos isn’t in 1 Corinthians 14 (though it occurs in Acts 2:6, in reference to what was being heard by the multitudes, the glossa of 2:4).
The best fit for Paul’s understanding of glossa in 1 Corinthians 14 is that of utterances of non-human language, unintelligible apart from the gift of interpretation (though likely not exclusively as that).