Wrapping Your Mind Around the Bible

From Issue: Discovery 5/2/2011

A figure of speech is a special way that words are used to mean something. We use figures of speech all the time. For instance, the title of this article contains the phrase “wrapping your mind around the Bible.” What does that mean? Does it mean you are taking your brain out of your head and wrapping it around the Bible? Of course not. It is a figure of speech that means “understanding the Bible.”

While most people understand figures of speech, some are surprised to learn that the Bible is filled with figures of speech. In one verse, Jesus calls King Herod a “fox” (Luke 13:32). Did Jesus really mean Herod was a small, dog-like animal with a bushy tail that eats rabbits and birds? No. He meant Herod was sly and cunning. If we don’t understand the figures of speech in the Bible, we may miss the real meaning.

For example, one figure of speech is called hyperbole (high-PER-bow-lee). Hyperbole is the intentional exaggeration of something to make a point. An example would be if a person said, “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.” Could one person really ever eat an entire horse in one meal? No way. (And I don’t know a whole lot of people who would even eat one bite). But the point is that the person is very hungry. Another example of hyperbole is when a child says, “Mom, can I go to the party? Everyone is going to be there.” Is it true that “everyone” is going to be there? Surely not. There are almost seven billion people in the world. They can’t all make it to the party. All the child means is that lots of people who the parents know will be there.

The Bible often uses hyperbole. For instance, Matthew 3:5 says that “all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan” went out to John the Baptizer and were baptized by him. Does that mean that every person in Judea was baptized by John, even the tiny babies, children, the Roman soldiers, and Jewish rulers? No. It is a hyperbole that means lots of people from those areas. In fact, later we read that some of the Jewish leaders did not believe John (Mark 11:27-33).

Remember, it is not always easy as pie to make heads or tails of what the Bible is saying. Sometimes it is hard as nails, but if you keep your nose to the grindstone, you will be able to put the pieces together and wrap your mind around the figures of speech in the Bible.


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