How many languages did the Apostle Paul speak?
We know that Paul could speak Hebrew. Acts 21:40-22:2 says, “And when he had given him licence, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, HE SPAKE UNTO THEM IN THE HEBREW TONGUE, saying, Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you. (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,)”
We know that Paul could also speak Greek. Acts 21:37 says, “And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, CANST THOU SPEAK GREEK?”
The New Testament Books of the Bible were written in Greek, and seeming God used the apostle Paul to write many of the New Testament Books, then we can safely say that he had a very good understanding of the Greek language.
Through the gift of tongues (not to be confused with the gibberish of today’s tongues movement), Paul would have spoken in many people’s language. I Corinthians 14:18,19 says, “I thank my God, I SPEAK WITH TONGUES MORE THAN YE ALL: Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.” But these languages would NOT have been ones that he had learned. Those instances would have been miraculous times when the Lord helped him to give the gospel to people of other languages that he did not know. It would be like the crowd’s comments that heard Peter. Acts 2:4-12 says, “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?”
Tongues were for a sign to the Jews. You will notice that it was Jews that made up that crowd to which the apostles were speaking. “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem JEWS, devout men, OUT OF EVERY NATION under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that EVERY MAN HEARD THEM SPEAK IN HIS OWN LANGUAGE. And THEY WERE ALL AMAZED AND MARVELLED, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?”
It was a sign to them, because they knew that these men did not know their languages. The gift of tongues were meant to reach UNSAVED JEWS with the gospel. I Corinthians 1:22 says, “For THE JEWS REQUIRE A SIGN, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:” I Corinthians 14:22 says, “Wherefore TONGUES ARE FOR A SIGN, not to them that believe, but TO THEM THAT BELIEVE NOT.” When unbelieving Jews heard men speak languages that they knew those men did not know; and heard them speak about the wonderful works of God on their behalf in their own native tongue, it was a sign unto them that they better take heed to the message. It is no wonder that 3,000 people were saved that day! Acts 2:41 says, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”
So in summary, we know from Scripture that Paul knew at least two languages: Hebrew and Greek. Beyond that, we know that God used Paul to reach many people whose language he did not know, through the gift of tongues.
The question for us is, “Are we using our tongues, and the language(s) that we know, to tell forth the news that ‘Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:3,4)?