Intersubjectivity versus private languages in 1 Corinthians

14 Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 2 For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. 3 But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. 4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification. (1 Corinthians 14)

Paul’s saying that the private, mystical language of the gnostic is inferior to “prophecy”, the intersubjective language shared between humans to communicate. The former kind of language is personal, between the self and god only, not understandable by anyone else. The latter is between multiple human subjects, and is the basis of the church as a language game: a regime of socio-religious communication acts that operate over bodies to engender a valuative habitus.


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