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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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The word לעז (rendered barbarian; LXX, βαρβαρος ,) in the Hebrew sense of it, signifies a stranger; one who knows neither the holy language nor the law. According to the notions of the Greeks, all nations who were not Greeks, or not governed by laws like the Greeks, were barbarians. The Persians, Egyptians, Hebrews, Arabians, Gauls, Germans, and even the Romans, were, in their phraseology, barbarians, however learned or polite they might be in themselves. St. Paul comprehends all mankind under the names of Greeks and barbarians: "I am a debtor both to the Greeks and to the barbarians; to the wise and to the unwise,"

Romans 1:14 . St. Luke calls the inhabitants of the island of Malta barbarians, Acts 28:2 ; Acts 28:4 . St. Paul, writing to the Colossians, uses the terms barbarian and Scythian almost in the same signification. In 1 Corinthians 14:11 , he says, that if he who speaks a foreign language in an assembly be not understood by those to whom he discourses, with respect to them he is a barbarian; and, reciprocally, if he understand not those who speak to him, they are to him barbarians. Barbarian, therefore, is used for every stranger or foreigner who does not speak our native language, and includes no implication whatever of savage nature or manners in those respecting whom it is used. It is most probably derived from berbir, "a shepherd;" whence Barbary, the country of wandering shepherds; Bedouins, Sceni, Scythei, as if, wanderers in tents; therefore barbarians.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Barbarian'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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