Friday, July 16, 2010

Figures of Speech 1

I mentioned yesterday that I think we can often miss or misinterpret the figures of speech in the Bible. Over several days, Lord willing, I am going to post The Top 20 Figures of Speech from about.grammar. Today is 1 through 4 (in alphabetical order) from their list. Please interact with these series of posts. Present uses of the different kinds of figures of speech in the Bible. Point out where missing the figure of speech sets one up for misinterpretation. Agree or disagree with my examples. Here goes.

1. Alliteration -- Repetition of an initial consonant sound.
Probably the best illustration of alliteration found in the Bible is Psalm 119. This alliteration cannot be seen in our English Bibles, though. This points up that this kind of figure of speech, at least, does not translate well. Psalm 119 is a song composed of 176 verses divided into 22 sections. Each of these 22 sections contains verses that correspond to the Hebrew alphabet. So the first section always starts with Aleph, the second Beth, and so forth through the Hebrew alphabet. Jeremiah uses a kindred structure in Lamentations chapter 3.

There is use of alliteration in the Greek of Hebrews 1:1. I transliterate it here:
polumeros kai polutropos palai ho theos lalesas tois patrasin en tois prophetais

(Lots of "p" sound.) Literal translations focus on maintaining the integrity of the meaning, so this type of figure is seldom seen outside the original autographs. The International Standard Version worked toward it a bit in Heb. 1:1, giving "God, having spoken in former times in fragmentary and varied fashion to our forefathers by the prophets,"

2. Anaphora -- Repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses or verses.
Matthew 5:3-11 and Isaiah 14:13-14 are examples of this.
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth...

For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

(I think I have heard this style a good bit in preaching.)

3. Antithesis -- The juxtaposition of contrasting ideas in balanced phrases.
I believe Romans 5:15 can be considered an example of this.
But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

Compare also Isaiah 59:9 as an example.

4. Apostrophe -- Breaking off discourse to address some absent person or thing, some abstract quality, an inanimate object, or a nonexistent character.
In Matthew 23, Jesus speaks to the crowd of scribes and Pharisees, then breaks off to address Jerusalem in verse 37.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

I believe these are some legitimate examples of these figures of speech. I am not sure that missing the figure in these cases are as integral to missing the meaning as some other figures of speech.

No comments: