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Pronouns Metaphors Errors Pt 12


Pronouns Metaphors Errors Pt 12


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Pronouns, Metaphors, Errors

January 4, 2015
Part 12

Today we will look at:
-a brief history of figures.
-why figures are difficult to grasp immediately.
-what is God’s purpose in using figures in Scripture.

God is pleased to give us the revelation of His mind and will in words.

As we have been searching the Scriptures together for many years now, we have discovered that it is a good thing for us not only to understand the meanings of the words themselves, but also the laws of grammar and syntax which govern their usage and combinations.

All language is governed by these laws; but, in order to increase the power of a word, or the force of an expression in the Scriptures, it is a clear matter of fact that the Holy Spirit occasionally departed from the laws of grammar by design, and cast the use of
words and sentences into new forms, or into figures of speech.

Colored stone bback ground with the scripture of Mark 4:33 written on it

Water background with the scripture John 7:38 written on it

Picture of several points in the development of a bulbed seed plant with the scripture John 7:42 written on it

Picture of the development of seed into a plant with the same scripture as the above picture.

Picture of the arm of a farmer who has a healed hole on his wrist,  casting seed into a field with the scripture Luke 8:11 written on it


(Q) How can we know for certain when new forms or figures of speech are being used in Scripture?

(A) To properly answer that we need to start by looking at a brief history of the description and use of figures of speech.


Concerning the history and the beginning of the science of the use of figures of speech, we know that it was the ancient Greeks who developed the first science of figures of speech.

They did this by collecting together all the peculiar forms of figurative speech known to be used by man, and reduced them to a framework, classifying them under distinctive types. Then they gave unique and descriptive names to each of more than 200 figures of speech.

The old saying that the Greeks had a name for everything certainly holds true in this case.

Most Bible scholars today can only think of a few of the most recognizable ones!

(Q) What has happened since then that has brought us to this low level of comprehension of the science of figures of speech?

(A) After the Greeks got the ball rolling, the Romans carried the science of figures forward; but by the Middle Ages when the decline of learning had reached such an all time low, it practically died out.

Since then only a few writers have on occasion briefly touched upon the subject (with exception to E.W. Bullinger), producing a mere handful of trivial examples.

In 1898, E.W. Bullinger wrote, “Today the knowledge of this ancient science is so completely forgotten, that its very name is used in a different sense and with almost an opposite meaning.”

So, what does Bullinger mean by saying,“opposite meaning”?

He explains, “Many misunderstood and perverted passages are difficult, only because we have not known the Lord's design in the difficulty.”

Then he quotes from Thomas Boys commentary on 1 Peter 3; “There is much in the Holy Scriptures, which we find it hard to understand: nay, much that we seem to understand so fully as to imagine that we have discovered in it some difficulty or inconsistency.”

“Yet the truth is, that passages of this kind are often the very parts of the Bible in which the greatest instruction is to be found: and, more than this, the instruction is to be obtained in the contemplation of the very difficulties by which at first we are startled.”



“This is the intention of these apparent inconsistencies. The expressions are used, in order that we may mark them, dwell upon them, and draw instruction out of them. Things are put to us in a strange way, because, if they were put in a more ordinary way, we should not notice them."

Bullinger says,
“A figure is a departure from the natural and fixed laws of Grammar or Syntax; but it is a departure not arising from ignorance or accident.”


Figures are not mere mistakes of Grammar; on the contrary, they are legitimate departures from law, for a special purpose. They are permitted variations with a particular object.”

“Therefore they are limited as to their number, and can be ascertained, named, and described.”

So, do you see what has happened?

The understanding of ancient forms used by man to communicate important information, was also used by God the Holy Spirit to communicate important truth through the writers of Scripture, but general comprehension of how that process should work has largely “lost its way.”

Because the process of reading the Word while engaged in a vital understanding of the use of figures of speech has generally become separated from the thought processes of the modern reader, the key to understanding the messages of much of the text as originally intended by the Spirit has become obscured.

The result of this departure has over the centuries conditioned believers to become progressively desensitized, and lose proper perspective when interpreting legitimate figures of speech.

So, now, in order to properly engage with some of the figures, we not only have to overcome our own personal biases against dealing with the difficulty of interpretation imposed by the figures themselves, we also have to accept the possibility that in some cases we will have to abandon our previous interpretations once we discover through the revelation of the Spirit that they are erroneous.

What we have to come to grips with is the fact that the Holy Spirit expects us to have retained a comprehension of the use of figures of speech so that we might understand how the Spirit has marked our Bibles for us and indicated what is important to God, pointing out what should be important to us as well.

Bullinger puts it this way:

“It is clear, therefore, that no branch of Bible-study can be more important: and yet we may truly say that there is no branch of it which has been so utterly neglected.”

As for the idea that the tendency today is to have an opposite than intended view of the use of figurative speech, Bullinger says-

“Applied to words, a figure denotes some form which a word or sentence takes, different from its ordinary and natural form. This is always for the purpose of giving additional force, more life, intensified feeling, and greater emphasis.”


“To-day “Figurative language” is ignorantly spoken of as though it made less of the meaning, and deprived the words of their power and force.”


“A passage of God’s Word is quoted; and it is met with the cry, “Oh, that is figurative”­ implying that its meaning is weakened, or that it has quite a different meaning, or that it has no meaning at all.”

“But the very opposite is the case. For an unusual form (figura) is never used except to add force to the truth conveyed, emphasis to the statement of it, and depth to the meaning of it.”

“When we apply this science then to God’s words and to Divine truths, we see at once that no branch of Bible study can be more important, or offer greater promise of substantial reward.”

Still having a problem, thinking that figures of speech cannot really be all that important to God?

Try this...

Try to imagine for a moment, that the Bible consisted of a listing of fact statements presented in an impersonal, somewhat clinical form, flowing along like a steady and calm stream of words.

What if it was like the flow of a stream of water completely void of disturbances by ripples and waves, violent turbulences or whirlpools which tend to draw floating objects into its center.

Actually, it would probably be kind of boring!

Humans are predicable.

If we were inclined to read this kind of Scripture at all, there is no doubt that after repeatedly reading, we would eventually start applying our own marks and highlights to the text at places which seem outstanding to us for one reason or another--an underline here, a circle there, a well placed arrow, a slash mark, or a box, etc.

We use the word figure now in various senses, but the primitive meaning of the word figure applies to any marks, lines, or outlines, which make a form or shape.

All secondary and derived meanings of the word“figure” retain this primitive meaning.

The use of figures lies at the root of all translation.

Bullinger tells us that figures are the key to true interpretation of language:

“As the course of language moves smoothly along, according to the laws which govern it, there is nothing by which it can awaken or attract our attention.”


“It is as when we are traveling by rail­way. As long as everything proceeds according to the regulations we notice nothing; we sleep, or we read, or meditate as the case may be.”

“But, let the train slacken its speed, or make an unexpected stop; -- we immediately hear the question asked, “What is the matter?” “What are we stopping for?” We hear one window go down and then another: attention is thoroughly aroused, and interest excited.”


“So it is exactly with our reading. As long as all proceeds smoothly and according to law we notice nothing.”

“But suddenly there is a departure from some law, a deviation from the even course-- an unlooked for change-- our attention is attracted, and we at once give our mind to discover why the words have been used in a new form, what the particular force of the passage is, and why we are to put special emphasis on the fact stated or on the truth conveyed.”


“In fact, it is not too much to say that, in the use of these figures, we have, as it were, the Holy Spirit’s own markings of our Bibles.”

“This is the most important point of all. For it is not by fleshly wisdom-- that the “words which the Holy Ghost teaches” are to be understood. The natural man cannot understand the Word of God. It is foolishness unto him.”



Picture of a sundial


“A man may admire a sun-dial, he may marvel at its use, and appreciate the cleverness of its design; he may be interested in its carved-work, or wonder at the mosaics or other beauties which adorn its structure: but, if he holds a lamp in his hand or any other light emanating from himself or from’ this world, he can make it any hour he pleases, and he will never be able to tell the time of day.”

“Nothing but the light from God’s sun in the Heavens can tell him that.”closeup look at a sundial's face



“So it is with the Word of God. The natural man may admire its structure, or be interested in its statements; he may study its geography, its history, yea, even its prophecy; but none of these, things will reveal to him his relation to time and eternity.”

“Nothing but the light that comes from Heaven, nothing but the Sun of Righteousness can tell him that. It may be said of the Bible, therefore, as it is of the New Jerusalem-" The Lamb is the light thereof."

“The Holy Spirit's work in this world is to lead to Christ, to glorify Christ. The Scriptures are inspired by the Holy Spirit; and the same Spirit that inspired the words in the Book must inspire its truths in our hearts, for they can and must be "Spiritually discerned“ (1 Cor. 2.1-16).”

Many will be surprised on the Day of Judgment when they discover that it was just as the Word of God says; only the righteousness of Christ is able to save you.All men are sinners and no one can save himself. God is just, so He must punish sin; but He is also merciful, moreover gracious, and offers His Son as the perfect sacrifice in order to purchase a place for you in heaven, which He offers to you as the free gift of eternal life.Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, He is God Incarnate. In order to pay the debt of our sins, He came from Heaven, having been sent by the Father, where He lived a life of perfect obedience to the Father even unto the shameful death upon the cross in order to pay the debt of your sins.This gift must be received by faith, believing that Jesus’ perfect life and Cross Work was His complete and necessary Atonement for your sins, in your behalf. Faith is a gift that comes by the Power of God the Holy Spirit working in a person’s innermost being. Only the power of God can open your heart to the willingness to have the void within it filled with the presence of Christ by His Spirit.The Holy Spirit has the authority and power to quicken your dead spirit, to make it come to life.
Only the life of His Spirit’s quickening of your heart will allow the Gospel message of salvation to even make sense to you, to truly “hear” the message and give you the ability, as the Holy Spirit bears witness to Jesus, to recognize your need for forgiveness and restoration, and gain the desire of your heart to be favorably inclined to want to receive Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.If you have not done so before this moment, ask Jesus to forgive you your sins, tell Him you’ve stop trying to be your own savior, and ask Him to come into your life right now, and to give you eternal life. Then, in faith believing, thank Him for the gift that He is giving you, the one He paid for in full in your place, in Jesus’ name,


Copyright January, 2015
Rev. Jim Craig
All Rights Reserved


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Aland, Kurt, Matthew Black, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger, and Allen Wikgren (eds.). The Greek New Testament, 4th rev. ed. Germany: Biblica-Druck, 1994.
Benner, Jeff A. The Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible. College Station, Texas: Publishing Inc., 2005
Bullinger, E. W. Figures of Speech Used in the Bible; Explained an Illustrated. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 2007.
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