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An Index of the Mind


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If then I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be to the one who speaks a barbarian, and the one who speaks will be a barbarian to me. —1 Corinthians 14:11

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The tongue ought to be an index of the mind—not merely in the sense of the proverb, but in the sense that is explained by Aristotle in the commencement of his book—“On Interpretation.” How foolish then it is and preposterous in a man, to utter in an assembly a voice of which the hearer understands nothing—in which he perceives no token from which he may learn what the person means! It is not without good reason, therefore, that Paul views it as the height of absurdity, that a man should be a barbarian to the hearers, by chattering in an unknown tongue, and at the same time he elegantly treats with derision the foolish ambition of the Corinthians, who were eager to obtain praise and fame by this means. “This reward,” says he, “you will earn—that you will be a barbarian.” For the term barbarian, whether it be an artificial one . .  . or derived from some other origin, is taken in a bad sense. Hence the Greeks, who looked upon themselves as the only persons who were good speakers, and had a polished language, gave to all others the name of barbarians, from their rude and rustic dialect. No language, however, is so cultivated as not to be reckoned barbarous, when it is not understood. “He that heareth,” says Paul, “will be unto me a barbarian, and I will be so to him in return.” By these words he intimates, that to speak in an unknown tongue, is not to hold fellowship with the Church, but rather to keep aloof from it, and that he who will act this part, will be deservedly despised by others, because he first despises them.

Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:441–442.



Posted 2019·12·17 by David Kjos
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Posted in: 1 Corinthians · Calvin’s Commentaries: 1 Corinthians · Charismania · John Calvin

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