When you come together, each one has a song, has a lesson, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all these things be done for the strengthening of the church. 14:27 If someone speaks in a tongue, it should be two, or at the most three, one after the other, and someone must interpret. 14:28 But if there is no interpreter, he should be silent in the church. Let him speak to himself and to God. 14:29 Two or three prophets should speak and the others should evaluate what is said. 14:30 And if someone sitting down receives a revelation, the person who is speaking should conclude. 14:31 For you can all prophesy one after another, so all can learn and be encouraged. (1 Corinthians 14:26-31, NET Bible)

As a matter of practice, I have never heard more than three tongues and interpretations in the course of a service. This passage is usually cited to explain why. But does a proper interpretation of this passage limit the number of tongues-interpretations in a service, or does it merely limit the number of tongues-interpretations that can be given prior to an evaluation (judgment) of what was said by the body? The latter seems more probable given the context, and given common sense.

While Paul does not specifically mention a time for judging the interpreted tongues, he does mention a time for judging prophecies. Since Paul equated prophecy and interpreted tongues (1 Cor 14:1-5), and since both are revelatory speeches from God, and since Paul spoke of both in the same context, it stands to reason that the body must judge the content of both. Once the body has judged the content of the interpretations, however, why couldn’t more be given?

Logically speaking I don’t see why interpretations would be limited to a particular service. It seems rather arbitrary. If God provided us three tongues-interpretations, and we break for ½ lunch, and then return for more church, does the clock start over? Given the traditional interpretation of this verse, the answer would be yes. But that seems silly. Paul’s emphasis is not on how many interpretations can be given per se, but how many interpretations can be given before somebody evaluates their revelatory worth. After such an evaluation has been made, more could follow.

If you disagree with me, I’d be interested to hear your reasoning.