First off; I am very uncomfortable having to question a person of seemingly excellent integrity. In this modern age, I have found John MacArthur’s ministry to be a bulwark of excellent Biblical scholarship. He actually reverences the written Word of God, and for the most part does a great service for the Body of Christ in these last days.
Keep in mind the fact that John MacArthur is merely mortal man, and does indeed possess the same attributes of flesh as do you and me. This, in spite of the high level of reverence placed upon him by some of his followers.
In preparation of teaching through 1 Corinthians 14, I referenced the MacArthur Study Bible, in both the NASB and NKJV format, along with the online version of his ESV Study Bible, which I also access via my Kindle. I looked up what he thought about verse 2. Here is what he says:
1 Cor. 14:2 one who speaks in a tongue.This is singular (see previous note; cf. vv. 4, 13, 14, 19, 27), indicating that it refers to the false gibberish of the counterfeit pagan ecstatic speech. The singular is used because gibberish can’t be plural; there are not various kinds of non-language. There are, however, various languages; hence when speaking of the true gift of language, Paul uses the plural to make the distinction (vv. 6, 18, 22, 23, 29). The only exception is in vv.13, 27, 28 (see notes there), where it refers to a single person speaking a single genuine language. speaks not to men but to God. This is better translated, “to a god.” The Greek text has no definite article (see similar translation in Acts 17:23, “the unknown god”). Their gibberish was worship of pagan deities. The Bible records no incident of any believer ever speaking to God in any other than normal human language. – MacArthur Stud Bible / ESV / Online version. (Emphasis in red, mine)
First of all (though this is not the primary purpose of this writing): Whether the word tongue is singular or plural, the definition is the same. The term for tongue or tongues is “glossa.” In English it means language, plain and simple.
Now, we get to the crux of the matter. Is MacArthur correct when he states that, “This is better translated, “to a god.” The Greek text has no definite article.” The answer is an unequivocal NO! His reasoning bears no weight whatsoever. Let’s look at the Greek text. The following is taken from the Interlinear Scripture Analyzer, with Scrivener’s Textus Receptus as it’s base Greek manuscript:
Mr. MacArthur claims in his notes on 1 Corinthians 14:2 that there is no definite article that describes God, yet we can see that there is indeed the article that is Greek for “the.” In Greek, the article does indeed point to the fact they are speaking to God, or as in the Greek text, “THE GOD.”
He is correct, however, regarding Acts 17;23. There is no article for the word “theos,” but “unknown” describes “theos” as being unknown:
I do not know what Dr. John MacArthur could have been thinking when he wrote this commentary, but this one thing I do know is this. It smacks of Charles Taze Russell’s treatment of John 1:1, where the New World Translation claims that Jesus Christ is simply “a” God,
and not “the God,’ as Biblical Christianity has always claimed.
There is no way I would consider John MacArthur to be a heretic, but this subtraction from the Word of God is disheartening at best, evil at the worst. Perhaps he was trying to justify his cessationist position, which I also hold to, but I believe he went too far to prove his point. A simple reading of the rest of 1 Corinthians 14 will cause one to reach that same conclusion, especially comparing what Pentecostals practice compared to what the Bible says.
Has John MacArthur actually now abandoned, or compromised his cessationist viewpoint? You may want to check out the following article by Matt Costella of the Fundamental Evangelical Association (FEA):
Oh, yes. Dr. MacArthur, please be sure to bring the correct articles with you next time…