Unpacking the Mystery of Acts 2: Who, What, Where, How, and Why

The debate over Acts chapter 2 is well-known and often heated. Many questions arise about the who, what, where, how, and why of the passage, leaving people with little agreement beyond the when. This passage is a strange story that includes fire, the sound of wind but no wind, tongues of fire floating around, and people speaking in foreign languages. It’s no surprise that even devout Bible-believing individuals can’t seem to agree on what it all means.

In Episode 44 of the Rethinking Scripture podcast, I attempt to clarify the events of Acts 2 and bring a greater understanding to this significant moment in history.

To begin, let’s tackle the question of who is involved in the story. While the answer may seem straightforward, it is anything but. Acts 2:1 states that “they” were all together in one place on the day of Pentecost. However, the identity of “they” is unclear. To find an answer, we must look back to the previous chapter, where “they” is also mentioned. In the last verse of chapter 1, “they” drew lots to decide who would take Judas’ apostleship. The closest antecedent to “they” on the day of Pentecost is the eleven apostles and Matthias. That’s who was together in one place.

Later on the text helps us out with this also. At the beginning of Peter’s sermon (Acts 2:14) Peter takes his stand with the eleven other apostles. Then again in Acts 2:37, when the crowd was pierced to the heart by Peter’s sermon, the crowd addressed “Peter and the rest of the apostles…” asking what they should do. It seems like Luke is inviting us, throughout the whole chapter, to see the events as happening to and being lead by the 12 apostles.

Who spoke in tongues that day… I believe it was only the 12 apostles speaking and it was the crowd who was listening.