Figures of Speech Used in the Bible .... is that Greek to many ??

After the discussion about learning Greek in order to be able to read NT in Greek, I thought about a different topic that relates to reading and properly understanding the Scriptures (independent of whether one reads texts in a biblical language or in a modern day language translation: That topic is the matter of understanding the Scriptures correctly in connection with recognizing and understanding figures of speech used in the Bible texts.

It should be obvious that not understanding the use of figures of speech correctly will result in a false understanding of what the author actually intended to communicate and thus a false interpretation. Consider the following simple illustration from a sample in modern day English: When you read a statement in a story that reads ".... so and so was pulling someone's leg", what do you understand?? What is meant? Is this expression part of a figure of speech or is it an expression that is meant literally?

Also note carefully: Whether a text involves a figure of speech or is meant literally is determined by the author, NOT by the reader!! The true meaning of the expression in the statement is NOT up to the reader! But, if the reader wants to correctly understand the author's statement, the reader must correctly identify a figure of speech if an author used one,, else he would produce a false understanding; same holds true the other way around, if figurative use is interpreted into the statement when the author meant it literally.

Same need to carefully observe figures of speech, etc. exists when reading the Biblical texts, where quite many different types of figures of speech are used.


  • WolfgangWolfgang Posts: 2,745

    1Cor 5:6-8 (NASB)

    6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that ca little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?

    7 Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.

     8 Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

    To what was Paul referring? How do expressions like "clean out the old leaven" (v 7) , "for Christ our passover" (v7) and "therefore let us celebrate the feast" (v8), "with unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (v8) relate to each other and provide the key to understanding whether Paul was speaking in a literal sense or using a figure of speech to emphatically reprove and correct wrong behavior within the Corinthian church?

  • WolfgangWolfgang Posts: 2,745

    Phil 3:2 (NASB)

    2 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision;

    How should this statement be understood? Literally as referring to furry animals, evil working people, and a false circumcision method? If not literally, then how and on what basis?

  • WolfgangWolfgang Posts: 2,745

    John 10:9,11 (AV)

    9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

    11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

    Here are some statements by Jesus which often -- and correctly so -- are understood as words which involve a figure of speech and which are not meant in their literal sense => as it should be obvious that Jesus was not literally "a door" (the gate to an enclosure for sheep), nor was he literally "a shepherd" (shepherd was not his profession or job)

    It is also obvious that his words "I am ... [the door, the good shepherd]" literally mean "I" and "am", and have nothing whatever to do with being a name or title of God.

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