All Greek and Aramaic manuscripts have Paul saying in verse 22 that:
- Speaking in tongues is a sign for unbelievers,
- While prophesying is a sign for the benefit of believers.
Yet our translation puts this the opposite way around! Why?
We strongly suspect a manuscript corruption, because having it the ‘correct’ way around causes direct contradictions with the words immediately before and after!
Before this verse, in verse 21, Paul mentions how the ‘Law’ (shorthand for the Law and the Prophets, in this case, Isaiah) predicted that Jehovah will speak to his people (believers) in other languages.
Afterwards, in verse 23, Paul remarks how unbelievers will just think Christians are crazy if they see Christians speaking in other languages; and then in verses 24 and 25, he says than if an unbeliever should hear congregation members prophesy, then the unbeliever will benefit. In other words, prophesying is for unbelievers, while speaking in tongues is for believers. Yes, exactly the opposite of what was stated in verse 22.
For this reason we strongly suspect that 14:22 suffered some early corruption in copying, that someone accidentally switched the statement around. Remember that it took some time for Paul’s writings to be accepted as inspired scripture, and very few copies circulated for many years, allowing corruptions to be overlooked more easily.
So, either there was a corruption, or Paul contradicted himself. We’re assuming there’s a corruption.
Let’s not be too harsh on the scribal copyists. Remember, coffee was not yet known in the ancient world!
Our Bible uses older manuscripts than most Bibles do. Check us out!