Saturday, July 12, 2008

Cloven Tongues Like as of Fire?


Does anyone know what the "cloven tongues like as of fire" represents in Acts 2:3? I understand that a similar Pentecostal experience occurred at the dedication of the Kitland Temple where similar things were "seen." However, I have never heard any interpretation of what these cloven tongues made of fire actually were. Anyone have any leads?

I understand most of the gift of tongues interpretations, but none seem to touch on the fact that something was actually seen. Something that looked like a serpent's tongue that was made of fire. I'm at a loss...and that random illustration of the experience doesn't help one bit.

29 comments:

Hans said...

I know your feelins about New Testament Apostles Testify of Christ, but I like the entry for Acts 2:3.

"Cloven tongues of fire is both a literal description and symbolic language. First, the apostles were "on fire" with language ability, able to speak in tongues--that is, in other languages--but not in meaningless gibberish. Second, the Holy Ghost is compared in the scripture to fire. Idiomatically, the apostles were "on fire."

I don't know if I necessarily agree with that, because I think that there was definitely a more physical manifestation of the HG, much like the dove to Jesus. The term "cloven" is an odd choice. To me it means that it is split like a serpent's tongue. When you watch a flame, doesn't it appear like a snake tongue?

I think that it came to them in the figure of fire, which is generally how the HG is represented. Not only was cloven fire used to described the Pentecost at Kirtland, but the temple was also described as on fire.

If the HG was literally a manifestation of fire and not only symbolic, does this give new meaning to Elijah and the priests of Baal? Or Mishach, Shadrach, and Abednigo (spelling?) in the furnace? Or even Alma and Amulek? Were they consumed by "Holy" fire so that worldly fire wouldn't hurt them?

JS taught that God lives in everlasting burnings. TPJS p. 361. One of the earlier 1st vision accounts describes the trees as on fire, but not consumed.

Thoughts?

Hans said...

Have you considered BRM's Doctrinal New Testament Commentary? I don't have a copy but he is usually pretty detailed. I would be interested to see what he thinks.

ldsanarchy said...

I suspect that cloven tongues is a manifestation of plasma discharge in which "twin Birkeland filaments rotat[e] like a corkscrew about a center. Given this symmetry, the blast effects from the twin arcs will tend to cancel at the center, leaving [the center] relatively unscathed." The person speaking in tongues, then, would be surrounded by these two whirling tongues of plasma without being harmed. To the observer, it would look just like "cloven tongues of fire" but would, in actuality be a plasma discharge (electrical display) and not your average wood-burning fire. See the plasma theology articles of my blog for more info on this topic and the gift of tongues series there, too, as the Nephites also gave a description of the gift of tongues in action.

Larry Gerndt said...

Here is my understanding of it:

Cloven means "split". The cloven tounges represented the ability to speak in more than one language at the same time.

The "like as of fire" is not meant to denote flame, it's meant to denote glowing. In those days the only thing that gave off light was fire (and the sun of course).

For more, see my web site Emerging Truths

Anonymous said...

I think everyone tries to make it too complicated.... it simply is what it is. Cloven, meaning divided between them or imparted to all present and fire in itself is consuming.

Jeremy said...

Anon, the point of the original inquiry for the post was to determine what this actually was. Simply defining an object using words that physically constitute the object does not further the inquiry.

According to Luke (the author of Acts), something was physically seen by these people. In fact, this apparition made physical contact with at least a few of the participants.

So, the question is what was this? There are clearly several figurative interpretations, however, I feel that none can satisfy the fact that something was physically present and documented by those in attendance.

With my limited imagination, I find it difficult to picture fiery split-end tongues serving any gospel-related purpose. This makes no sense to me.

Whitney said...

cleave (cloven): to adhere firmly and closely or loyally and unwaveringly

of fire: intense verbal attack or criticism

The men were speaking the same criticisms by God in different languages (if you read further Acts explains this)

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Crystal said...

Cloven just means split, so the fire was slpit among them...Do you remeber the pillar of fire in 3xodus 13 is says, and the Lord went before them as a pillar of fire.

It is my understanding that the fire in Acts is representative of the Lord, the symbolism is that now that the Holy Ghost has been given every man now has the Lord with them.

Well that is if they have received the Holy Ghost unto themselves. Which is evidence by the speaking of an unknown language to the person.

Read Acts 2:38 it is a powerful straight forward verse that explains salvation in a nutshell.

flor_davis said...

On the day of Pentecost, the Twelve were assembled in a house:

“Suddenly there came a sound … of a rushing mighty wind, …

“And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.

“And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” 13

With that the Twelve were fully empowered.

When they spoke that day, the people marveled for each heard it in their own language—18 different languages. 14

The Apostles set out to baptize all who would believe on their words. But baptism unto repentance was not enough. 15

Paul found 12 men who had already been baptized by John the Baptist and asked, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost … ? [They replied], We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.” 16

“They were [then] baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus,” 17 and “Paul … laid his hands upon them, [and] the Holy Ghost came on them.” 18

The pattern was set, as it had been from the beginning. 19 Entrance into the Church of Jesus Christ is through “baptism by immersion for the remission of sins.” 20 Then, in a separate ordinance, the priceless gift of the Holy Ghost is conferred “by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances.” 21

Read the whole article on lds.org






Boyd K. Packer, “The Cloven Tongues of Fire,” Ensign, May 2000,

BOBBYD said...

I don't know about all of the other people whom have made comments. But as for me. I was Baptized by water about 3 years ago. Shortly after that Baptism, a Presence came upon me, which has been on me ever since. Up until a few months ago, I thought it was an evil presence. I was depressed about it for years because I didn't know what it was. I went to my family doctor for testing, and he said all of the testings showed that I was physically fine, but I knew something was on me physically that was abnormal.

Finally, in dealing with this for over 3 years, I got depressed. But God opened my eyes, showed me and let me know that it was His Cloven Tongues of Fire resting on me and that it was a symbol of me being filled with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God also let me know to no longer be worried about it because it is His Gift to me from Him. I repented to God and asked for forgiveness in thinking it was something evil.

God let me know at that time, not to grieve the Holy Spirit on me by following after the things of the world (lust of the flesh, jealousy, ungodly anger, selfishness, pride, manipulation, etc.). The Spirit of God, which is His Holy Spirit also let me know that anything I do to feed the flesh, that His Spirit is on me while I'm doing it!! That made me think a whole lot about the presence of the Lord God in my life!! As a single man knowing this, with God's help, I no longer go after the things of the flesh (as a matter of fact, I ask God everyday to increase my hatred towards the gifts of Satan.

I can only tell you about my life and how God has touched me. I pray that God shows things that he only means for you to know in you relationship with Him.

Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

One night I was praying to see the Holy Ghost and an image of a heart came to my mind. The sacred image of the heart as representing love was derived from the description of a cloven tongue of fire. That's what is.

Anonymous said...

One night I was praying to see the Holy Ghost and an image of the heart came to me. The sacred symbol of the heart was drawn from the apostles' description of cloven tonges of fire. That's what it is, Love!

A.H.Izarh said...

Cloven tongues, or divided tongues, is a direct reference to the Tower of Babel and how the earth was divided in those days, as it says at Babel "the people is one, and they have one language", and as it says at Pentecost, "they were all with one accord in one place". The rushing mighty wind and fire of Pentecost maybe the same thing that divided them at Babel, returning this time to unify their tongues in spirit and in truth.

This one still makes me wonder, I mean why the covert correlation to Babel, and today speaking in tongues is a complete mockery, its unfortunate. Sometimes I think Paul has cryptic messages, which why I don't always completely trust him, but then I think that he's only human, that he suffered his share of suspicion and furthermore he's not Jesus and just focus entirely on Jesus and his commandments.

Speaking in tongues has something to do with Babel, maybe Babel is still dividing the churches today. I don't think speaking in tongues is incoherent babble (Babel), everyone understands everyone when you speak in tongues, and I think the language is not a alien (ET) language but a foreign tongue, if people started speaking English or French in Jerusalem 2000yrs ago, it may sound crazy, but I don't think it would sound insane or demonic as many who speak in tongues the churches sound and feel today.

Anyhow Cloven tongues and Babel have a definite connection, whether symbolic, literal or just incidental, yet nothing in the scriptures are incidental, but investigate it.

poetryizme said...

wouldn't cloven tongue be something that were spoke..and wouldnt there be a difference between clovem tongues which I believe to be an heavenly language that cannot be interpreted by man but is used to fill believers with the Holy Ghost..bc it shows that cloven tongues came first and after this they were filled with the Holy Ghost and THEN began to speak with other tongues which are different (earthly) languages that can be intrepreted...lets say that u spoke in cloven tngues than was filled with the Holy Ghost..who would intrpret that u have received it without u first testifying that u have received it? Cloven tongue is that Heavenly tongue and other tongues are earthly languages..I dont believe that God would fill someone with an Heavenly gift (Holy Ghost) using anything earthly. People tend to say that Cloven tongues and other tongues are the same..but they are not.

Anonymous said...

Acts 2;3-4 states, there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Cloven means split (it sat upon each one of them). The fire represents the power of the Holy Ghost. They were all speaking the same language in one place on one accord, but the people on the outside heard various interpretations of languages to display God's power. The spiritual language of other tongues in that text represented God's power through the fulfillment of his Spirit, but the meaningless gibberish earlier stated is not meaningless at all. In Corinthians 14;2 states, he that speaks in an unknown tongue speaks not to men, but to God for no man understands him because in the spirit he speaks mysteries. And also in verse 14-15, clearly lets you know that there are two types of prayer; in understanding and in unknown tongue which is also called praying in the spirit. People can possibly understand you when you pray in your native language, but in the spirit your understanding is unfruitful and so is theirs, because that gibberish is your spirit communing with God and know man understands unless God gives them the interpretation. I hope this helps and didn't offend anyone. I speak/pray to God in that same spiritual language, and most times I don't have a glue as to what I am saying, but my spirit man is being edified and set free because I am now out of the natural realm and into the spiritual realm. It's beautiful, trust me Saints!

Anonymous said...

The Cloven tongues (a split/divided language) came first - before they were FILLED with the Holy Ghost (also symbolized by the Dove or by Fire). As referenced, that the fire rested upon them, meaning that the Holy Ghost rested upon them - someone saw with spiritual eyes or insight that the Holy Ghost was upon them and ready to enter them. Their hearts and minds were ready for God/the Holy Spirit and was on one accord with God's will to be filled. When the Spirit rested upon them, they spoke partially - divided (perhaps split between normal, human language being converted to the supernatural, spiritual language - tongues) because...be reminded, the Holy Ghost was not inside of them yet. They spoke the FULL tongues - language (can sometimes be earthly language - but one that you never learned or spoke before a day in your life or can be completely spiritual, heavenly - unknown by man language), when the Holy Ghost went into them. At that time, God & the Holy Spirit are inside of you. The fire is symbolic of the heat that is usually felt when God/the Holy Ghost comes to you... it is significant of purification, cleansing, purging, burning away impurity & evil, etc. The dove is symbolic of love, peace, joy, purity, holiness, righteousness... and we as humans are not there yet, which is why (to my knowledge - I could be wrong, I'm not all knowing) that this symbol was mentioned only when Jesus was baptised. Also remember that baptism is a form of cleansing as well - by water, so the Holy Ghost cleanses through fire. Either way, you must be cleansed before the indwelling/Filling of the Holy Ghost. I hope this is understandable. Don't try to understand too hard or too literally, as many times, A LOT of the new testament can have symbolic - literal AND physical meanings. Investigate and notate all of the meanings and then ask God/the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the true meaning, and trust me he will. Believe me, our adversary - the enemy will not tell you because he doesn't want you to know. Love you all to life!

Anonymous said...

The Cloven tongues (a split/divided language) came first - before they were FILLED with the Holy Ghost (also symbolized by the Dove or by Fire). As referenced, that the fire rested upon them, meaning that the Holy Ghost rested upon them - someone saw with spiritual eyes or insight that the Holy Ghost was upon them and ready to enter them. Their hearts and minds were ready for God/the Holy Spirit and was on one accord with God's will to be filled. When the Spirit rested upon them, they spoke partially - divided (perhaps split between normal, human language being converted to the supernatural, spiritual language - tongues) because...be reminded, the Holy Ghost was not inside of them yet. They spoke the FULL tongues - language (can sometimes be earthly language - but one that you never learned or spoke before a day in your life or can be completely spiritual, heavenly - unknown by man language), when the Holy Ghost went into them. At that time, God & the Holy Spirit are inside of you. The fire is symbolic of the heat that is usually felt when God/the Holy Ghost comes to you... it is significant of purification, cleansing, purging, burning away impurity & evil, etc. The dove is symbolic of love, peace, joy, purity, holiness, righteousness... and we as humans are not there yet, which is why (to my knowledge - I could be wrong, I'm not all knowing) that this symbol was mentioned only when Jesus was baptised. Also remember that baptism is a form of cleansing as well - by water, so the Holy Ghost cleanses through fire. Either way, you must be cleansed before the indwelling/Filling of the Holy Ghost. I hope this is understandable. Don't try to understand too hard or too literally, as many times, A LOT of the new testament can have symbolic - literal AND physical meanings. Investigate and notate all of the meanings and then ask God/the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the true meaning, and trust me he will. Believe me, our adversary - the enemy will not tell you because he doesn't want you to know. Love you all to life!

Twitabeat TV said...

"Cloven" means divided or dividing - It symbolizes:
1. Purity (Clean animals had cloven hoofs)
2. Unity (clean animals have 2 stomachs - 1 animal with 2 stomachs - the cloven hoof is 1 hoof with 2 toes)
3. Its a Revelation of Jesus (the God/Man)
4. The serpent's tongue - Moses lifted up a brazen serpent in the wilderness - symbolizing Jesus becoming sin - died - so sin died
5. As fire it purifies like fire in Isaiah 6
6. Ordination - They were officially ordained to be witnesses -Acts 1: 8 -"U shall be witnesses" -Before this Israel was the only witness Is 43:10 - but now 2 made into 1 - israel & the church

ade0184 said...

Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. (Malachi 3:1-3 KJV)

John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: (Luke 3:16 KJV)

For our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:29 KJV)

It was a fulfillment of prophesy

Anonymous said...

let the church say Amen

Anonymous said...

I believe that in acts we find the blueprint for what is meant to be heard & seen when Full baptism with the Holy Ghost & with Fire is being received by an individual, rushing wind being the sound & cloven tongues of fire being the visual evidence. I believe that these are the signs that prove authenticity of process. I also believe that when these gifts are received, the holder of them becomes a member of the apostolic nature, one who is so pure & endowed with Gods power that when they speak things, they become, or are done accordingly via the power of the Holy Ghost & Glory is attached to this pure power from God , his son & the Holy Ghost.

Anonymous said...

I also believe that many have been deceived into thinking they possess this pure baptism of Holy Ghost & Fire, because they do not hold or cannot display the apostolic power that comes with that Great baptism when they minister or pray for the sick, possessed or broken. These things should not be. Read your bibles carefully.....something is not quite right with what we call baptism nowadays.

Avocadess said...

I got woken at the crack of dawn by the sound like someone knocked on the wall a few feet above the headboard of my bed. I opened my eyes and looked toward the knock I had just heard -- and there it was: a silver cross just hanging there in midair above my head, maybe two and a half feet above me and to the side.

And I looked at it and it was kind of pulsating and although very CLEARLY there, there was a sort of pulsating blurriness to it. (Later reading in the Bible I decided it was because what the Bible refers to as "Glory" was encompassing that cross.) And I was thinking, "Can this be a hallucination? If it is then when I stare at it, it will disappear!" (I have never been prone to hallucination.)

(to be continued next post)

Avocadess said...

I kept staring at it, and it did not even begin to disappear. It just stayed suspended up in the air -- but then suddenly, at the foot of the cross (which was perhaps 2 inches tall and suspended in the air), appeared what is described in the Bible as "a cloven tongue of fire." And that is EXACTLY what it looked like -- a cloven tongue of fire!

And that beautiful (fire yellow) sight began to move sideways and down in my direction, in the MOST GRACEFUL MOVEMENT I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE...! I have heard about people experiencing colors we do not see here on Earth and they cannot explain the other colors. That is how I feel about trying to explain the GRACEFULNESS of that cloven tongue of fire (aka Holy Spirit aka Comforter) moving toward me. It was neither fast nor slow, and it was moving in a straight line -- yet I cannot seem to put into words the incredible BEAUTY of its movement...!!!

(continued next post)

Avocadess said...

And when it got, oh, about one foot from me, it just -- *blink!* -- vanished visually! At that same moment that it vanished, I FELT this incredible vibration fill my entire body, from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet. And that was the moment that I realized that this was the Holy Spirit...and that I was being filled with it!

I had certainly heard of the Pentecost before but never paid much attention and just didn't really have a strong frame of reference until after this experience and reviewing the Pentecost in my Bible.

I felt the Holy Ghost in all of my body for what was probably some minutes, and most of the sensory element then left me -- except for my feet and ankles.

My feet and ankles continued for MANY HOURS to vibrate with that beautiful vibration -- and also (in my feet and ankles only) there was a burning sensation. It burned, but at the same time it was not painful in the same way as if my feet had really been on fire -- it was painful, but a pain I could endure.

I experienced a "knowing" that this was the Holy Spirit cleansing me, and that this was the reason for the burning sensation. That very palpable burning sensation continued for 12 or 14 hours!

Later I read about the Pentecost and was SO excited to realize I had had a Pentecostal experience.

This all happened a little over 30 years ago, when I was a new Christian and 29 years of age.

When I told other Christians about this it did not seem to inspire them. I was in a town I had not lived for long and perhaps they did not feel they knew me well or long enough to believe that I was telling them the truth. I did meet one other young lady I believe experienced similar to me, but she and I never really had a conversation that made it clear to me. But I really think she did.

At the time I told an older Christian lady, who was a Sunday School teacher for many years and a friend of my grandmother's, about this. She said, "I have been a Christian all my life and have been active in the church and nothing like what you are telling me ever happened to me," and asked me to explain why that would be so. I do not know. My answer to her was, "Maybe it was because I needed it."

Since then I have told very few people about this experience. I am not sure that they want to know. But then I wonder if I should tell people about it more.

I pretty much stayed away from churches for the past 30 years because I was not able to find a church I was comfortable in, (although I did find one recently and have joined it, much to my joy!)

Avocadess said...

P.S. The sound of the wind was not a part of my experience. (For me the sound was a knock, as a knock on a door.)

I did not speak in tongues on that day; however, perhaps a week later after a minister of a Pentecostal church accused me of being possessed by demons before about 30 members of that church at a prayer meeting, I went home feeling very sad and humiliated. I knew I was NOT possessed by demons and could not understand why I had been treated that way.

I knelt to pray to God and all I could say to Him was, "I feel to downtrodden I don't know what to pray!" And God answered me by the rumblings that suddenly came up through my lungs like a fountain -- and I found myself praying in tongues!

After this prayer, I thought to myself, "I have no idea what it was I just prayed, but I am so grateful that the Holy Spirit has prayed for me, because this lets me know that the prayer was perfect!"

(I have not spoken in tongues since that happened.)

Avocadess said...

P.P.S. A few weeks after that minister accused me of being possessed by demons I learned that he and his father, a deacon in that church, had been caught stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the church.

He had turned me down when I had asked to be baptized. Now I was glad that he was not the one who baptized me (in water).