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Taken from Appendix 6 of the The Companion Bible -- you can purchase a copy online.
Figures of Speech in the Bible
by E.W. Bullinger
It is most important to notice these. It is absolutely necessary for true interpretation. God's Word is made up of "words which the Holy Spirit teacheth" (1 Corinthians 2:13. 1 Thessalonians 2:13. 2 Timothy 3:16. 2 Peter 1:21, etc.).
A "Figure of speech" relates to the form in which the words are used. It consists in the fact that a word or words are used out of their ordinary sense, or place, or manner, for the purpose of attracting our attention to what is thus said. A Figure of speech is a designed and legitimate departure from the laws of language, in order to emphasise what is said. Hence in such Figures we have the Holy Spirit's own marking, so to speak, of His own words.
This peculiar form or unusal manner may not be true, or so true, to the literal meaning of the words; but it is more true to their real sense, and truer to the truth.
Figures are never used but for the sake of emphasis. They can never, therefore, be ignored. Ignorance of Figures of speech has led to the grossest errors, which have been caused either from taking literally what is figurative, or from taking figuratively what is literal.
The Greeks and Romans named some hundreds of such figures. They may be divided into three classes: Figures which involve (1) omission; (2) the addition; or (3) the alteration or change, of a word, or words, or their sense. The 181 which follow are arranged in alphabetical order for the sake of reference.
In Genesis 3:14,15 we have some of the earlist examples. By interpreting these figures literally as meaning "belly", "dust", "heel", "head", we lose the volumes of precious and mysterious truth which they convey and intensify. It is the truth whish is literal, while the words employed are figurative. (See under App. 19.)
In the marginal notes [in the Companion Bible] will be found the names of most of these figures; and we append a list with their pronunciation and English definitions (giving one or more references as examples:--
- Ac-cis'-mus ; or, Apparent Refusal
- (Matthew 15:22-26). So named because it is an apparent or assumed refusal.
- Ac-ro'-stichion; or, Acrostic
- (Psalm 119). Repetition of the same or successive letters at the beginnings of words or clauses.
- Æ-nig'-ma; or, Dark Saying
- (Genesis 49:10. Judges 14:14). A truth expressed in obscure language.
- Æ'-ti-o-log'-ia; or Cause Shown
- (Romans 1:16). Rendering a reason for what is said or done.
- Affirmatio; or, Affirmation
- (Philppians 1:18). Emphasising words to affirm what no one has disputed.
- Ag'-an-ac-te'-sis; or Indignation
- (Genesis 3:13. Acts 13:10). An expression of feeling by way of indignation.
- Al'-le-go-ry; or, Continued Comparison by Representation (Metaphor)
- (Genesis 49:9. Galatians 4:22,24), and Implication (Hypocatastasis) (Matthew 7:3-5). Teaching a truth about one thing by substituting another for it which is unlike it.
- Am-oe-bae'-on; or, Refrain
- (Psalm 136). The repetition of the same phrase at the end successive paragraphs.
- Am'-phi-di-or-tho'-sis; or, Double Correction
- (1 Corinthians 11:22). A correction setting right both hearer and speaker.
- Am'-pli-a'-tio; or, Adjournment
- (Genesis 2:23. 1 Samuel 30:5). A retaining of an old name after the reason for it has passed away.
- An-ab'-a-sis; or, Gradual Ascent
- (Psalm 18:37,38). An increase of emphasis or sense in successive sentences.
- An-acho'-re-sis; or, Regression
- (Ephesians 3:14). A return to the original subject after a
- An'-a-coe-no-sis; or, Common Cause
- (1 Corithians 4:21). An appeal to others as having interests in common.
- An'-a-co-lu'-thon; or, Non-Sequence
- (Genesis 35:3. Mark 11:32). A breaking off the sequence of thought.
- An'-a-di-plo'-sis; or, Like Sentence Endings and Beginnings
- (Genesis 1:1,2. Psalm 121:1,2). The word or words concluding one sentence are repeated at the beginning of another.
- An'-a-mne'-sis; or, Recalling
- (Romans 9:3). An expression of feeling by way of recalling to mind.
- An-a'-pho-ra; or, Like Sentence Beginnings
- (Deuteronomy 28:3-6). The repetition of the same word at the beginning of successive sentences.
- An-a'-stro-phe; or, Arraignment
- (Acts 7:48). The position of one word changed, so as to be out of its proper or usaul place in a sentence.
- An'-e-sis; or Abating
- (2 Kings 5:1). The addition of a concluding sentence which diminishes the effect of what has been said.
- Ant-eis'-a-go-ge; or, Counter Question
- (Matthew 21:23-25). The answering of one question by asking another.
- An-throp'-o-path-ei'-a; or, Condescension
- (Genesis 1:2; 8:21. Psalm 74:11. Jeremiah 2:13. Hosea 11:10). Ascribing to God what belongs to human and rational beings, irrational creatures, or inanimate things.
- Ant-i-cat'-e-gor'-ia; or, Tu Quoque
- (Ezekiel 18:25). Retorting upon another the very insinuation or accusation he has made against us.
- Ant'-i-me'-rei-a; or, Exchange of Parts of Speech.
- Of the Verb. The Verb used istead of some other part of speech (Genesis 32:24. Luke 7:21).
- Of the Adverb. The Adverb used instead of some other part of speech (Genesis 30:33. Luke 10:29).
- Of the Adjective. The Adjective used instead of some other part of speech (Genesis 1:9. Hebrews 6:17).
- Of the Noun. The Noun used instead of some other part of speech (Genesis 23:6. James 1:25).
- Ant-i-me-tab'-o-le; or, Counterchange
- (Genesis 4:4,5. Isaiah 5:20). A word or words repeated in a reverse order, with the object of opposing them to one another.
- Ant-i-met-a-the'-sis; or, Dialogue
- (1 Corinthians 7:16). A transference of speakers; as when the reader is addressed as if actually present.
- Ant-i'-phras-is; or, Permutation
- (Genesis 3:22). The use of a word or phrase in a sense opposite to its original signification.
- Ant'-i-pros-o'-po-poe-i-a; or Anti-Personification
- (2 Samuel 16:9). Persons represented as inanimate things.
- Ant'-i-ptos'-is; or, Exchange of Cases
- (Exodus 19:6, compare to 1 Peter 2:9). One Case is put for another Case, the governing Noun being used as the Adjective instead of the Noun in regimen.
- Ant-i'-stro-phe; or, Retort
- (Matthew 15:26,27). Turning the words of a speaker against himself.
- Ant-i'-thes-is; or, Contrast
- (Proverbs 15:17). A setting of one phrase in contrast with another.
- Ant'-o-no-ma'-si-a or, Name Change
- (Genesis 31:21). The putting of a proper name for a Appellative or common Noun, or the reverse.
- Aph-aer'-e-sis; or, Front Cut
- (Jeremiah 22:24). The cutting off of a letter or syllable from the beginning of a word.
- Ap'-o-di-ox'-is; or, Detestation
- (Matthew 16:23). An expression of feeling by way of destestation.
- Ap-o'-phas-is; or, Insinuation
- (Philemon 19). When, professing to suppress certain matters, the writer adds the insinuation negatively.
- A-po'-ria; or, Doubt
- (Luke 16:3). An expression of feeling by way of doubt.
- Ap-o-si-opes'-is; or, Sudden Silence
- It may be associated with:-
- Some great promise (Exodus 32:32).
- Anger and threatening (Genesis 3:22).
- Grief and complaint (Genesis 25:22. Psalm 6:3).
- Inquiry and deprecation (John 6:62).
- Ap-o'-stro-phe; or, Apostrophe
- When the speaker turns away from the real auditory whom he is addressing to speak to another, who may be:-
- God (Nehemiah 6:9).
- Men (2 Samuel 1:24,25).
- Animals (Joel 2:22).
- Inanimate things (Jeremiah 47:6).
- Association; or, Inclusion
- (Acts 17:27). When the speaker associates himself with those whom he addresses, or of whom he speaks.
- As'-ter-is'-mos; or, Indicating
- (Psalm 133:1). Employing some word which directs special attention to some paticular point or subject.
- A-syn'-de-ton; or, No-Ands
- (Mark 7:21-23. Luke 14:13). The usual conjunction is omitted, so that the point to be emphasised may be quickly reached and ended with an emphatic climax (compare to Polysyndeton, and Luke 14:21).
- Bat-to-log'-i-a; or, Vain Repetition
- (1 Kings 18:26). Not used by the Holy Spirit: only by man.
- Ben'-e-dic'-ti-o; or, Blessing
- (Genesis 1:22,28. Matthew 5:3-11). An expression of feeling by way of benediction or blessing.
- Bra-chy'-lo-gi-a; or, Brachyology
- A special form of Ellipsis (Genesis 25:32). See Ellipsis I.3.
- Cat-a'-bas-is; or, Gradual Descent
- (Philippians 2:6-8). The opposite of Anabasis. Used to emphasise humiliation, sorrow, etc.
- Cat'-a-chres-is; or, Incongruity
- One word used for another, contrary to the ordinary usage and meaning of it.
- Of two words, where the meanings are remotely akin (Leviticus 26:30).
- Of two words, where the meanings are different (Exodus 5:21).
- Of one word, where the Greek receives its real meaning by permutation from another language (Genesis 1:5. Matthew 8:6).
- Cat'-a-ploc'-e; or, Sudden Exclamation
- (Ezekiel 16:23). This name is given to a parenthesis when it takes the form of a sudden exclamation.
- Chleu-as'-mos; or, Mocking
- (Psalm 2:4). An expression of feeling by mocking and jeering.
- Chron'-o-graph'-i-a; or, Description of Time
- (John 10:22). The teaching of something important by mentioning the time of an occurrence.
- Climax; or, Gradation
- (2 Peter 1:5-7). Anadiplosis repeated in successive sentences (see "Anadiplosis", above).
- Coe'-no-tes; or, Combined Repetition
- (Psalm 118:8,9). The repetition of two different phrases, one at the beginning, and the other at the end of successive paragraphs.
- This term is applied to repetition of a subject or subjects, which reappear in varying order, thus determing the "Structure" of any portion of the Sacred Text. This Correspondence is found in the folowing forms:-
- Alternate. Where the subjects of the alternate members correspond with each other, either by way of similarity or contrast.
- Extended. Where there are two series, but each consisting of several members (Psalm 72:2-17. Psalm 132.).
- Repeated. Where there are more than two series of subjects, either consisting of two members each (Psalm 26. Psalm 145.), or consisting of more than two members each (Psalm 24).
- Introverted. Where the first subject of the one series of members corresponds with the last subject of the second (Genesis 43:3-5. Leviticus 14:51,52).
- Complex or Combined. Where both Alternation and Introversion are combined together in various ways (Exodus 20:8-11. Psalm 105).
- Cy-clo-id'-es; or, Circular Repetition
- (Psalm 80:3,7,19). The repetition of the same phrase at regular intervals.
- De'-i-sis; or, Adjuration
- (Deuteronomy 4:26). An expression of feeling by oath or asseveration.
- Dep-re-ca'-ti-o; or, Deprecation
- (Exodus 32:32). An expression of feeling by the way of deprecation.
- Di'-a-log-is-mos; or, Dialogue
- (Isaiah 63:1-6). When one or more persons are represented as speaking about a thing, instead of saying it oneself.
- Di'-a-syrm-os; or, Raillery
- (Matthew 26:50). Tearing away disguise, and showing up a matter as it really is.
- Di-ex'-od-os; or, Expansion
- (Jude 12,13). A lengthening out by copious exposition of facts.
- Ec'-pho-ne'-sis; or, Exclamation
- (Romans 7:24). An outburst of words, prompted by emotion.
- Ei'-ron-ei-a; or, Irony.
- The expression of thought in a form that naturally conveys its opposite.
- Divine Irony. Where the speaker is Divine (Genesis 3:22. Judges
- Human Irony. Where the speaker is a human being (Job 12:2).
- Peirastic Irony. By way of trying or testing (Genesis 22:2).
- Simulated Irony. Where the words are used by man in dissimulation (Genesis 37:19. Matthew 27:40).
- Deceptive Irony. Where words are clearly false as well as hypocritical (Genesis 3:4,5. Matthew 2:8).
- E-jac'-u-la'-ti-o; or, Ejaculation
- (Hosea 9:14). A parenthesis which consists of a short wish or prayer.
- El-eu'-ther-i'-a; or, Candour
- (Luke 13:32). The speaker, without intending offence, speaks with perfect freedom and boldness.
- El-lips'-is; or, Omission
- When a gap is purposely left in a sentence through the omission of some word or words.
- Absolute Ellipsis. Where the omitted word or words are to be supplied from the nature of the subject.
- Noun and Pronouns (Genesis 14:19,20. Psalm 21:12).
- Verbs and participles (Genesis 26:7. Psalm 4:2).
- Certain connected words in the same member of a passage (Genesis 25:32. Matthew 25:9). Called Brachyology.
- A whole clause in a connected passage (Genesis 30:27. 1 Timothy 1:3,4).
- Relative Ellipsis.
- Where the omitted word is to be supplied from a cognate word in the context (Psalm 76:11).
- Where the omitted word is to be supplied from a related or contrary word (Genesis 33:10. Psalm 7:11).
- Where the omitted word is to be supplied from analogous or related words (Genesis 50:23. Isaiah 38:12).
- Where the omitted word is contained in another word, the one word comprising the two significations (Genesis 43:33).
- Ellipsis of Repetition.
- Simple; where the Ellipsis is to be supplied from a preceding or a succeding clause (Genesis 1:30. 2 Corinthians 6:16).
- Complex; where the two clauses are mutually involed, and the Ellipsis in the former clause is to be supplied from the latter; and, at the same time, an Ellipsis in the latter clause it be supplied from the former (Hebrews 12:20).
- E-nan-ti-o'-sis; or, Contraries
- (Luke 7:44-46). Affirmatation or negation by contraries.
- En'-thy-me-ma; or, Omission of Premiss
- (Matthew 27:19). Where the conclusion is stated, and one or both of the premisses are omitted.
- Ep-a-dip'-lo-sis; or, Double Encircling
- (Psalm 47:6). Repeated Epanadiplosis (see below).
- Ep'-an-a-di-plo'-sis; or, Encircling
- (Genesis 9:3. Psalm 27:14). The repetition of the same word or words at the beginning and end of a sentence.
- Ep'-an-a-leps'is; or, Resumption
- (1 Corinthians 10:29. Philippians 1:24). The repetition of the same word after a break or parenthesis.
- Ep-an'-od-os; or, Inversion
- (Genesis 10:1-31. Isaiah 6:10). The repetition of the same word or words in an inverse order, the sense being unchanged.
- Ep'-an-or-tho-sis; or, Correction
- (John 16:32). A recalling of what has been said in order to substitute something stronger in its place.
- Ep-i'-bo-le; or, Overlaid Repetition
- (Psalm 29:3,4,5,7,8,9). The repetition of the same phrase at irregular intervals.
- Ep'-i-cri'-sis; or, Judgement
- (John 12:33). A short sentence added at the end by way of an additional conclusion.
- Ep'-i-mo-ne; or, Lingering
- (John 21:15-17). Repetition in order to dwell upon, for the sake of impressing.
- Ep'-i-pho-ne'-ma; or, Exclamation
- (Psalm 135:21). An exclamation at the conclusion of a sentence.
- Ep-i'-pho-za; or, Epistrophe in Argument
- (2 Corinthians 11:22). The repetition of the same word or words at the end of successive sentences used in argument.
- Ep-i-stro-phe; or, Like Sentence-Endings
- (Genesis 13:6. Psalm 24:10). The repetition of the same word or words at the end of successive sentences.
- Ep-i'-ta-sis; or, Amplification
- (Exodus 3:19). Where a concluding sentence is added by way of increasing the emphasis.
- Ep'-i-ther-a-pei'-a; or, Qualification
- (Philippians 4:10). A sentence added at the end to heal, soften, mitigate, or modify what has been before said.
- Ep-i'-the-ton; or, Epithet
- (Genesis 21:16. Luke 22:41). The naming of a thing by describing it.
- Ep'-i-ti-me'-sis; or, Reprimand
- (Luke 24:25). An expression of feeling by way of censure, reproof, or reproach.
- Ep'i-tre-chon; or, Running Along
- (Genesis 15:13. John 2:9). A sentence, not complete in itself, thrown in as an explanatory remark. A form of Parenthesis (see below).
- Ep'-i-troch-as'-mos; or Summarising
- (Hebrews 11:32). A running lightly over by way of summary.
- Ep-i'-trop-e; or, Admission
- (Ecclesiastes 11:9). Admission of wrong, in order to gain what is right.
- Ep'-i-zeux'-is; or, Duplication
- (Genesis 22:11. Psalm 77:16). The repetition of the same word in the same sense.
- Er'-o-te-sis; or, Interrogating
- (Genesis 13:9. Psalm 35:10). The asking of questions, not for information, or for an answer. Such questions may be asked (1) in positive affirmation, (2) in negative affirmation, (3) in afffirmative negation, (4) in demonstration, (5) in wonder and admiration, (6) in rapture, (7) in wishes, (8) in refusals and denials, (9) in doubts, (10) in admonition, (11), in expostulation, (12) in prohibition or dissuasion, (13) in pity and commiseration, (14) in disparagement, (15) in reproaches, (16) in lamentation, (17) in indignation, (18) in absurdities and impossibilities, (19) double questions.
- Eth'-o-poe'-i-a; or, Description of Manners
- (Isaiah 3:16). A description of a person's peculiarities as to manners, caprices, habits, etc..
- Eu'-che; or, Prayer
- (Isaih 64:1,2). An expression of feeling by way of prayer, curse, or imprecation.
- Eu'-phem-is'-mos; or, Euphemy
- (Genesis 15:15). Where a pleasing expression is used for one that is unpleasant.
- Exemplum ; or, Example
- (Luke 17:32). Concluding a sentence by employing an example.
- Ex-er-gas'-i-a; or Working Out
- (Zechariah 6:12,13). A repetition so as to work out or illustrate what has already been said.
- Ex'-ou-then-is'-mos; or, Contempt
- (2 Samuel 6:20). An expression of feeling by way of contempt.
This page Copyright © 2002 Peter Wade. The Bible text in this publication, except where otherwise indicated, is from the King James Version. This article appears on the site: http://www.peterwade.org/.
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