Figures of Speech
A figure of speech is simply a word or statement or an image or an impression that is not true to fact. To start off very simply, I would like to use the following example. Now listen to the emphasis of both statements and tell yourself which statement is more alive and more vibrant.
During a drought, it can be said that the land is very dry. It can also be said that the land is thirsty. Now you can easily see that the latter is not true to fact. However, it makes much more of an impact on a person’s mind and what they see in their mind. It is more alive – it is more vibrant. However, it is not true to fact. The second example is a very clear figure of speech. When God Almighty wants to stress something that He feels is very important in His Word, He uses figures of speech. Although the author of the book that I am studying says that there are about 8000 figures of speech. A source that I heard said that there is that there are about 240 different figures of speech in the Bible. There are sometimes 40 different variations to each figure of speech. These figures of speech can open your heart and mind to the Scriptures that you never understood before.
At the beginning of the research material, which I am studying, the author who is E. W. Bullinger makes a statement condensing Scriptures. They are unlike the both Scriptures that are mentioned in the King James Version. As I said, they are condensed. I believe that they were special in the way that they were mentioned, so I’m going to quote them to you as we begin our quest into figures of speech.
“How is it that you do not understand? . . . Then understood they.” -- Matthew 16: 11, 12
What Bullinger is trying to say is by asking a question: ‘How is it that you do not understand? Now he is making what can be referred to as an omission, which is one of the figures of speech that we will be studying. You will learn later on that those three dots after the word understand are really a figure of omission. For now, as we get back to the condensed verse of Matthew, Bullinger says, “Then understood they.” The assumption is being made that once a person understands figures of speech, then that person will understand the Bible to a great extent. Now here is what I really want you to learn and not to forget. Remember these are all advanced studies and you need to concentrate on what you are doing and push aside all distractions.
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. It lies at the very root of all translation; and it is the key to true interpretation.
It is the Holy Spirit’s own markings of the Bible and it points out the most important points, not of fleshly wisdom, but it is wisdom which the Holy Goes teaches us. The natural man who is not born again of God’s spirit cannot understand the Word of God. It is foolishness unto him.
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned. -- I Corinthians 2: 14
If you are studying these teachings and you are not born again of God’s spirit, all of this will be foolishness unto you. These teachings are for people who want to know the score and want to delve into the Word of God and get a much greater understanding of the Scriptures.
I am not going to get into anymore of the introduction of figures of speech. We are going to get right to those figures after this introduction. You should know that you can use this work for more than maybe you expect. This work may be used either for direct study of this important subject; or it may be used simply as a constant companion of the Bible, and as a work of reference.
I wanted to mention something to you at the very beginning, but this will suffice. I have had a very difficult time trying to think of new topics for general teachings. At one point in time, I was near the end of the teaching which was called: “God Does Not Kill People”. Before I even realized it, I had already done a teaching on the subject. So I modified the second teaching so that it allowed much profit to the reader since I decided to delve into different segments of the same subject. What I’m saying is I completely modified the second teaching so that I would not have to waste God’s time. This not only happened to me once, but it happened to me a second time and I discarded the second teaching. This to me, is a sign that something is not right. While watching a research video last week, I heard the teacher say and stress the importance of figures of speech. I said to myself “That’s it.” I think you should know from the teachings that God does everything at the exact right moment in time. Isn’t that something? About a year or more ago, I started to prepare teachings on figures of speech, but the time was just not right and I stopped. There will be no stopping this time. Each teaching that you will read from now on will refer to and be in the category of figures of speech. I studied the book Figures of Speech Used in the Bible for eighteen months.
The Omission of Verbs
We are first going to study figures involving OMISSION. This is the Greek word Ellipsis. This figure is so-called, because some gap is left in the sentence, which means that a word or words are left out or omitted. The English name of the figure would therefore be Omission. Now pay attention to the following. The figure is a peculiar form given to a passage when a word or words are omitted: words which are necessary for the grammar, but are not necessary for the sense. Possibly, you should read that paragraph again. I will be giving you examples of this figure which are actually very easy to understand. You will notice that the omission arises not from want of thought, or lack of care, or from accident, but from design, in order that we may stop to think of, or lay stress on, the word omitted, but may dwell on the other words which are thus emphasized by the omission. For instance, in Matthew 14:19, we read that the Lord Jesus “gave the loaves to His disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.”
There is no sense in the latter sentence, which is incomplete, “the disciples to the multitude,” because there is no verb. The verb “gave” is omitted by the figure of Ellipsis for some purpose. If we read the last sentence as it stands, it reads as though Jesus gave the disciples to the multitude! Now let’s go to the Scripture itself from the King James Version.
And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed and break, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. -- Matthew 14: 19
By examining the complete verse, we can clearly see that the last phrase logically does not make any sense because the verb is missing. Why did God do this? Because he wanted to get your attention. What is the intended lesson? We are asked to dwell on the fact that the disciples gave the bread, but only instrumentally, not really. The Lord Jesus Christ himself was the alone Giver of that bread. Our thoughts are thus, at once, centered on him and not on the disciples. Are you able to see this? Some figures of omission can be difficult to understand, but if you work them and study them, you will see that they arrest your attention. You’ll be able to understand why the verb is missing at the end of the Scripture. It is because God wants you to emphasize the fact that Jesus Christ gave the bread, and not his disciples. This might be difficult for some of you to understand. If so, maybe you should go back to the general teachings that are in several different categories. There is enough of the Word of God which will take years to master. In the meantime, we are going to move on. You can always return to Figures of Speech at a later time if you’re having a difficult time.
The Omission of the Accusative
Let’s go to a more simple Omission of the Accusative. Using Bullinger’s literal translation, we read: Acts 10: 10 – “But while they made ready, he fell into a trance [vision] i.e. while they made ready [the food]. The words ‘the food’ is omitted. The context stresses the vision of Peter and not the food that was being made ready.
These omissions or Ellipsis can become very involved. What I would like you to know from these two examples, is that certain words are omitted from the Scripture with the express purpose for you to call attention to that Scripture. The words that are omitted do not pertain to the subject matter that God wants you to focus on. There are so many different kinds of omissions that I have decided to stop with one more simple example. Try to read these three examples once again and try to understand why God put in these figures of speech. I looked through many other examples of omission and decided that they were rather complicated, with the exception of this third example.
The following Scripture is from Romans 12: 11. I have always found this Scripture to be easy to memorize, but I was actually misinterpreting what the Scripture said because I did not understand the figure of speech in which it contained. Let me quote you the Scripture from the King James Version.
Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; -- Romans 12: 11
Now to understand the figure that is in verse 11, we must go back to the context of the chapter and go back to verse 10. Let’s take a look at verse 10 and remember there are three ways in which the Scriptures interpret themselves. One is right in the verse, two is in the context, and three is when it was used before. This is a perfect example of the second way in which the Bible interprets itself – in the context. Let’s go to verse 10.
Be kindly affectionate one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; -- Romans 12: 10
Now we can read verse 11 and insert the figure of speech which coincides with the context of verse 10. This way the word of God fits like a hand in glove. There is a word in verse 11 that always seemed to give me some trouble and that word is ‘business.’ It appears as if we are not to be lazy in anything that has to do with our business. But that is not really what the Word is saying. Now if you look back at verse 10, you will understand that the figure of speech is the following:
Not slothful in business [Literal “not slothful in earnest care [i.e. earnest care for others (from verse 10). Okay, let’s go over that one more time and this is a simple figure of omission. Verse 10 is part of the context of verse 11. Verse 10 exhorts us to be kindly affectionate one to another with brotherly love and honor preferring one another. The next verse which is verse 11 tells us not to be slothful in business. The word business is a figure of speech meaning to be kindly affectionate one to another with brotherly love and we are to prefer one another. In a priority sense, it should always be God first and others second and yourself last. That’s what this verse 12: 10 is really saying.
Now how many times have you read this verse in Romans and assumed that it was talking about business as if it was a business venture. We were wrongly dividing the Word of God because we did not understand figures of speech – in this case figures of omission. I think it’s exciting and interesting. But it takes some time to study these figures. The writings of Bullinger are at the least bit quite complicated. To give you an example, but I don’t want you to get confused about it, this is an Ellipsis Of Repetition (noun from preceding clause). You can see how complicated Bullinger can become. He was a master of English and other languages. I believe he studied more than man ever studied on the face of the earth. If you ever purchase Figures of Speech Used in the Bible, you will see exactly what I mean. To find only about three figures of speech that I thought would benefit you and that I thought you would understand, it took me hours to do so. We will do one more figure of speech relating to omission. So we are going to stay with figures of omission in this part one of figures of speech. We will move on to different types of figures in the future. I thought that if I kept this first teaching focusing on one type of figures of speech, that this would benefit you the most.
Just for now and concluding this third example, remember, that the word ‘business’ in verse 11 of Romans chapter 12, literally means to be not slothful in the earnest care for others. This will also help you to understand verse 10 and to see that the word interprets itself in the second way which is in the context. That is all you need to remember. I do not want to confuse you as my reader and student. Once again, these are advanced teachings, but you can make them simple if you study them slowly and with much care. Remember, that all of these figures of speech are areas in the Word of God that God felt was most important. I think this is rather exciting to know and I would like to think that you also have the same zeal that I do.
Now let’s stay with the figure of speech that we call omission. I feel that I should give you one more example before we move on to other different figures of speech. Also, since these teachings are a bit involved, I don’t want to make them too long. My main point is that you understand what is written in these teachings and that you can apply them in your life and as you read your Bible. There are 130 pages in the book figures of speech which cover omission. By the way, the book itself is 1104 pages long. Okay let’s find another figure of omission that you can understand.
We are going to take on Romans 16: 16 which is a figure of ellipsis (relative, of a combined word). Now try not to get involved in that sentence. I am just letting you know how extensive Bullinger’s knowledge was of the English language and other languages. The Scripture is very simple, but a figure of speech needs to be inserted.
Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you. -- Romans 16: 16
Here, there is a fact that alleelous is masculine, and the undoubted and overwhelming testimony of the Primitive Church necessitate an Ellipsis…; which must certainly be understood, if not actually supplied. It was, and is, contrary to all Eastern usage for women (who were always covered – See I Corinthians 1: 5) and men to kiss each other indiscriminately. The Elilpsis understood is: - “Salute one another [men and women respectively] with a holy kiss.”
The Apostolical Constitutions [Cent. III] say: Let the men salute one another (masc.) and the women one another (fem.), with a kiss.”
You can see that the translators seem to take the easy way out when it came to the interpretation of many Scriptures. Now you should be able to understand that each person in the church did not supply a kiss to a random person. Many women if not all women covered their faces, and it was not acceptable for a man to kiss a woman at random. So the Ellipsis needs to be supplied for the verse to be understood. Above, we give two different versions of the omission. Either version is acceptable because it shows the omission being supplied. In the first example we see the words men and women respectively in brackets and this explains the verse. In the second example, a similar explanation is given which is distinguishing men from women.
It’s a little bit involved, isn’t it? I understand that it is rather involved, but remember, the deeper you dig, the more treasures you will find from God’s Word. Now it is my recommendation that you study this teaching at least three times until you begin to see why figures of speech are being used. They make the Word of God much clearer and they grab your attention as to why something was left out of the Scripture. God does this so that you will focus on a different part of the Scripture that is not something that seems trivial or not as important. As I mentioned to you, I have over 1000 pages of figures of speech to cover. We will take it slow and I will do my very best to explain to you the differences between figures of speech and why they are called by different names. The name fits the figure as you will see. Since I believe God wanted me to delve into the subject with you, I have no regrets. I just do not want you to condemn yourself if you cannot understand everything that is written. It happens to me so we simply do our best. God does the rest. God bless.