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Author Topic:   Hyperbole in the Bible
purpledawn
Member (Idle past 1069 days)
Posts: 4453
From: Indiana
Joined: 04-25-2004


Message 1 of 124 (639453)
10-31-2011 8:08 AM


After many years of reading discussions in this forum, I find that both the religious and religion-free tend to read and understand the Bible differently than they do non-Biblical books. Even I have been lured into viewing an exaggeration as literal.

Hyperbole, or extreme exaggeration, is one of many literary devices used in the Bible to enthrall the audience. I am partial to a plain text reading of the text which does not exclude literary devices. IOW, this does not mean literal (free from exaggeration or embellishment).

The p'shat is the plain, simple meaning of the text. The understanding of scripture in its natural, normal sense using the customary meanings of the words being used, literary style, historical and cultural setting, and context. ...

Note that within the p'shat you can find several types of language, including figurative, symbolic and allegorical.

We probably use hyperbole on a daily basis and just don't realize it.

Many times we have examined the accuracy and inerrancy of Bible passages, but how many were simply exaggerations? Although I dislike apologetics, I would like to look at various passages considered by some to be contradictions or absolute statements and see if hyperbole comes into play.

Good Kings

2 Kings 18:5 - Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.

2 Kings 23:25 - Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the LORD as he did--with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.

The above verses are simply an exaggerated way to say they were good kings. We use similar exaggerations when complementing people.

Worst Year Ever

Ezekiel 5:9 - Because of all your detestable idols, I will do to you what I have never done before and will never do again.

Daniel 9:12 - You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing upon us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem.

Matthew 24:21 - For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now--and never to be equaled again.

The above verses are an exaggerated way of saying that whatever is happening or is going to happen is really bad. It is not uncommon for people today to exaggerate how bad their day was or how bad a disaster was or will be. We have no problem accepting such speech as exaggeration and not literal.

Hyperbole in the Bible
There are many more examples of hyperbole in Scripture. Look at the universal negative used in Isaiah 13:20. Speaking of Babylons judgment in the Old Testament, it says, It will never be inhabited or lived in from generation to generation; nor will the Arab pitch his tent there, nor will shepherds make their flocks lie down there. Yet we know that long since the Old Testament judgment upon Babylon, people have in fact lived there. We also see hyperbole used regarding the judgement of Tyre. Ezekiel 26:14 says, And I will make you a bare rock; you will be a place for the spreading of the nets. You will be built no more, for I the Lord have spoken. Yet long afterwards, Jesus ministered there, as did the apostles (Matt. 15:21-28, Mark 3:8, Luke 6:17, Acts 21:3). This is not error; this is hyperbolic, poetic talk regarding powerful judgment. Such language is for dramatic effect, and is not meant to be taken in a wooden, literal sense.

When we read the words all, everything, and forever; we are probably looking at hyperbole. We do the same thing today to express a large number or long period of time.

The flood story is a good example of exaggeration with the use of the words everything and all.

I don't see that the books of the Bible are that much different from other ancient Near Eastern writings that contain exaggerated speech or our writings today that contain exaggerated speech. We recognize it today, why not when we read the Bible?

Hyperbole helps apologetics in some cases, but can go against them in others; such as the flood story.

So can we look at the writings with a fresh eye and read the Bible stories like any other book or have we been to tainted by exposure?

This thread is not about what Christianity teaches. It is about what the text says with as little bias from either side as possible.

Let's debate more hyperbole in the Bible.

(Accuracy and Inerrancy please)


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Adminnemooseus
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Message 2 of 124 (639455)
10-31-2011 9:28 PM


Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum
Thread copied here from the Hyperbole in the Bible thread in the Proposed New Topics forum.
    
PaulK
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Posts: 13367
Joined: 01-10-2003
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Message 3 of 124 (639486)
11-01-2011 2:52 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by purpledawn
10-31-2011 8:08 AM


The obvious question is what makes you think that the Flood story is basically a historical story with elements of hyperbole rather than a myth ?

The creation of the rainbow (Genesis 9:13-14), for instance, is an obvious mythic element.

Indeed why should we be looking at the bible at all for that question, when the Bible story is derived from an older Mesopotamian story ? Shouldn't we go back to the oldest versions of the story we can find ?


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purpledawn
Member (Idle past 1069 days)
Posts: 4453
From: Indiana
Joined: 04-25-2004


Message 4 of 124 (639494)
11-01-2011 6:36 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by PaulK
11-01-2011 2:52 AM


If you want to debate whether the flood story is myth, historical fiction, or historical; then start your own thread.

Edited by purpledawn, : Typo


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ICANT
Member
Posts: 5627
From: SSC
Joined: 03-12-2007


Message 5 of 124 (639514)
11-01-2011 11:10 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by purpledawn
10-31-2011 8:08 AM


Hyperbole
Hi PD,

purpledawn writes:

Good Kings

2 Kings 18:5 - Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.

2 Kings 23:25 - Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the LORD as he did--with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.

The above verses are simply an exaggerated way to say they were good kings. We use similar exaggerations when complementing people.

Why did you choose to cherry pick those two verses and proclaim them to be an exaggeration?

The story in 2 Kings 18:5 begins:

quote:
2 Kings 18:1 Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign.
18:2 Twenty and five years old was he when he began to reign; and he reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. His mother's name also was Abi, the daughter of Zachariah.
18:3 And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father did.
18:4 He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.
18:5 He trusted in the LORD God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him.
18:6 For he clave to the LORD, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses.

He accomplished a lot of things starting at the age of 25 so where is the hyperbole?

The second story in 2 Kings 23:25 starts in 22:1:

quote:
22:1 Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty and one years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Boscath.
22:2 And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.
22:3 And it came to pass in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, that the king sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, the scribe, to the house of the LORD, saying,
22:4 Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may sum the silver which is brought into the house of the LORD, which the keepers of the door have gathered of the people:
22:5 And let them deliver it into the hand of the doers of the work, that have the oversight of the house of the LORD: and let them give it to the doers of the work which is in the house of the LORD, to repair the breaches of the house,
22:6 Unto carpenters, and builders, and masons, and to buy timber and hewn stone to repair the house.
22:7 Howbeit there was no reckoning made with them of the money that was delivered into their hand, because they dealt faithfully.
22:8 And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it.
22:9 And Shaphan the scribe came to the king, and brought the king word again, and said, Thy servants have gathered the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of them that do the work, that have the oversight of the house of the LORD.
22:10 And Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath delivered me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king.
22:11 And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes.
22:12 And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Michaiah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asahiah a servant of the king's, saying,
22:13 Go ye, enquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us.
22:14 So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asahiah, went unto Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; (now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college and they communed with her.
22:15 And she said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Tell the man that sent you to me,
22:16 Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read:
22:17 Because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched.
22:18 But to the king of Judah which sent you to enquire of the LORD, thus shall ye say to him, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, As touching the words which thou hast heard;
22:19 Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the LORD, when thou heardest what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me; I also have heard thee, saith the LORD.
22:20 Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace; and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place. And they brought the king word again.

23:1 And the king sent, and they gathered unto him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem.
23:2 And the king went up into the house of the LORD, and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, both small and great: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the LORD.
23:3 And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant.
23:4 And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Bethel.
23:5 And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven.
23:6 And he brought out the grove from the house of the LORD, without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and stamped it small to powder, and cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people.
23:7 And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the grove.
23:8 And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense, from Geba to Beersheba, and brake down the high places of the gates that were in the entering in of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on a man's left hand at the gate of the city.
23:9 Nevertheless the priests of the high places came not up to the altar of the LORD in Jerusalem, but they did eat of the unleavened bread among their brethren.
23:10 And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech.
23:11 And he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entering in of the house of the LORD, by the chamber of Nathanmelech the chamberlain, which was in the suburbs, and burned the chariots of the sun with fire.
23:12 And the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars which Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the LORD, did the king beat down, and brake them down from thence, and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron.
23:13 And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had builded for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king defile.
23:14 And he brake in pieces the images, and cut down the groves, and filled their places with the bones of men.
23:15 Moreover the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he brake down, and burned the high place, and stamped it small to powder, and burned the grove.
23:16 And as Josiah turned himself, he spied the sepulchres that were there in the mount, and sent, and took the bones out of the sepulchres, and burned them upon the altar, and polluted it, according to the word of the LORD which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words.
23:17 Then he said, What title is that that I see? And the men of the city told him, It is the sepulchre of the man of God, which came from Judah, and proclaimed these things that thou hast done against the altar of Bethel.
23:18 And he said, Let him alone; let no man move his bones. So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet that came out of Samaria.
23:19 And all the houses also of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, which the kings of Israel had made to provoke the Lord to anger, Josiah took away, and did to them according to all the acts that he had done in Bethel.
23:20 And he slew all the priests of the high places that were there upon the altars, and burned men's bones upon them, and returned to Jerusalem.
23:21 And the king commanded all the people, saying, Keep the passover unto the LORD your God, as it is written in the book of this covenant.
23:22 Surely there was not holden such a passover from the days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah;
23:23 But in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, wherein this passover was holden to the LORD in Jerusalem.
23:24 Moreover the workers with familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the images, and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, did Josiah put away, that he might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the LORD.
23:25 And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him.


So a person who takes the throne at 8 years old and accomplishes what he did in 31 years is an amazing accomplishment.

So where is the hyperbole?

God Bless,


"John 5:39 (KJS) Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me."

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by purpledawn, posted 10-31-2011 8:08 AM purpledawn has responded

Replies to this message:
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purpledawn
Member (Idle past 1069 days)
Posts: 4453
From: Indiana
Joined: 04-25-2004


Message 6 of 124 (639517)
11-01-2011 11:37 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by ICANT
11-01-2011 11:10 AM


Re: Hyperbole
quote:
Why did you choose to cherry pick those two verses and proclaim them to be an exaggeration?
I stated in the OP: Many times we have examined the accuracy and inerrancy of Bible passages, but how many were simply exaggerations? Although I dislike apologetics, I would like to look at various passages considered by some to be contradictions or absolute statements and see if hyperbole comes into play.

Alleged Contradictions
It is argued that mutually exclusive statements are made, therefore, both statements cannot be true. Both kings cannot "be like no other king before or after" in the same respect.

It was just a way of saying they were very good kings. Using the same type of phrasing doesn't make them untrue. IOW, it isn't a contradiction or inaccuracy.


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Coragyps
Member
Posts: 5299
From: Snyder, Texas, USA
Joined: 11-12-2002


Message 7 of 124 (639518)
11-01-2011 12:12 PM


50,070 men?
One of my favorite Bible tales that never seems to make it into Bible Stories for Dear Little Children is the story of the kidnapping of the Ark of the Covenant in I Samuel. I recommend a read of the KJV very highly.

The hyperbole there that is most noticeable is I Samuel 6:19: And he smote the men of Bethshemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the LORD, even he smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men: and the people lamented, because the LORD had smitten many of the people with a great slaughter.

How long would it have taken 50,070 men to look into an ark? How many villages had 50,070 men to smite back in Samuel's time? That number is there to make a better story.


"The Christian church, in its attitude toward science, shows the mind of a more or less enlightened man of the Thirteenth Century. It no longer believes that the earth is flat, but it is still convinced that prayer can cure after medicine fails." H L Mencken

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ICANT
Member
Posts: 5627
From: SSC
Joined: 03-12-2007


Message 8 of 124 (639530)
11-01-2011 2:25 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by purpledawn
11-01-2011 11:37 AM


Re: Hyperbole
Hi PD,

purpledawn writes:

It was just a way of saying they were very good kings. Using the same type of phrasing doesn't make them untrue. IOW, it isn't a contradiction or inaccuracy.

The two passages you presented when taken in context is not an exaggeration either.

These two kings were not just good Kings, they were exceptionally good Kings, from God's viewpoint.

God Bless,


"John 5:39 (KJS) Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me."

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PaulK
Member
Posts: 13367
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 1.8


Message 9 of 124 (639533)
11-01-2011 3:24 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by purpledawn
11-01-2011 6:36 AM


According to the OP:


So can we look at the writings with a fresh eye and read the Bible stories like any other book or have we been to tainted by exposure?

This thread is not about what Christianity teaches. It is about what the text says with as little bias from either side as possible.

Why should the flood story be excluded from that simply because you decide that it is a hyperbolic description of a real event ? How we interpret it does depend on the nature of the story.


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purpledawn
Member (Idle past 1069 days)
Posts: 4453
From: Indiana
Joined: 04-25-2004


Message 10 of 124 (639535)
11-01-2011 3:40 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by Coragyps
11-01-2011 12:12 PM


Tens of Thousands
I noticed the NIV took the number to 70 and noted that most Hebrew manuscripts and the LXX have the 50,070.

I think the extreme ages in the earlier stories would count as hyperbole.

In 1 Samuel 18:7 we have the song about Saul and David. The song made Saul jealous.

As they danced, they sang: "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands."

So exaggeration can be used to honor and anger.


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NoNukes
Member
Posts: 10115
From: Central NC USA
Joined: 08-13-2010
Member Rating: 1.7


Message 11 of 124 (639567)
11-02-2011 12:27 AM
Reply to: Message 10 by purpledawn
11-01-2011 3:40 PM


Re: Tens of Thousands
purpledawn writes:

quote:
As they danced, they sang: "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands."

So exaggeration can be used to honor and anger.

So you don't believe that the people sang about David's tens of thousands? This appears to be a meta example. Yes we know that people do exaggerate, but a story about the people's exaggeration might not be exaggerated

I agree with PaulK that it is impossible to say that a story in the Bible is exaggeration or hyperbole unless the story is based on a true story whose actual dimensions are less than those described in the Bible.

Edited by NoNukes, : No reason given.


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purpledawn
Member (Idle past 1069 days)
Posts: 4453
From: Indiana
Joined: 04-25-2004


Message 12 of 124 (639576)
11-02-2011 5:30 AM
Reply to: Message 11 by NoNukes
11-02-2011 12:27 AM


Re: Tens of Thousands
quote:
So you don't believe that the people sang about David's tens of thousands?
Didn't say that at all.

quote:
Yes we know that people do exaggerate, but a story about the people's exaggeration might not be exaggerated
I didn't say the whole story was exaggerated. I pointed out the hyperbole in the song.

quote:
I agree with PaulK that it is impossible to say that a story in the Bible is exaggeration or hyperbole unless the story is based on a true story whose actual dimensions are less than those described in the Bible.
Hyperbole is commonly used in fiction, drama, poetry, and common speech.

The whole story doesn't have to be considered an exaggeration just because there is hyperbole within the story.

Genesis 13:16
I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted.

Matthew 24:2 and Luke 19:44
"Do you see all these things?" he asked. "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."

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Adminnemooseus
Director
Posts: 3830
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Message 13 of 124 (639678)
11-02-2011 10:35 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by PaulK
11-01-2011 3:24 PM


Let us keep the flood out of this topic
Content withdrawn

[withdrawn]
Why should the flood story be excluded from that simply because you decide that it is a hyperbolic description of a real event ? How we interpret it does depend on the nature of the story.

There have been and will be more flood topics. While the flood may technically qualify to be in this topic, I think it should be excluded, for it would probably crowd out other considerations.

Certainly, you're welcome to start the "Hyperbolic Description of the Flood" topic.

No replies to this message, in this topic.

Adminnemooseus[/withdrawn]

Per PaulK's quoted and his follow up complaint and per the here below discussion, I've withdrawn my previous opinion and that message content has been tagged as such.

I still think it would be good to exclude the flood from this topic, as "hyperbole considerations" are and have been covered in flood specific topics.

We shall now see if this turns into a flood topic.

Adminnemooseus

Edited by Adminnemooseus, : See above.


Please be familiar with the various topics and other links in the "Essential Links", found in the top of the page menu. Amongst other things, this is where to find where to report various forum problems.

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purpledawn
Member (Idle past 1069 days)
Posts: 4453
From: Indiana
Joined: 04-25-2004


Message 14 of 124 (639703)
11-03-2011 4:06 AM
Reply to: Message 9 by PaulK
11-01-2011 3:24 PM


Hyperbole in the Bible
quote:
Why should the flood story be excluded from that simply because you decide that it is a hyperbolic description of a real event ? How we interpret it does depend on the nature of the story.
Debating hyperbole within the flood story hasn't been excluded.

Debating whether the flood story as a whole is a myth or real event is excluded, which is the point of Message 4. Hyperbole within a story doesn't automatically make it fiction. Read Message 12.

Show the hyperbole in the flood story or if you don't believe there is hyperbole in the flood story, explain why you don't feel the story contains hyperbole. If you need to know whether the story is actually fact or fiction before discussing hyperbole, then you're out of luck in this thread.


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PaulK
Member
Posts: 13367
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 1.8


Message 15 of 124 (639749)
11-03-2011 2:09 PM
Reply to: Message 14 by purpledawn
11-03-2011 4:06 AM


Re: Hyperbole in the Bible
quote:

Debating hyperbole within the flood story hasn't been excluded.

Moose seems to think otherwise.

quote:

Debating whether the flood story as a whole is a myth or real event is excluded, which is the point of Message 4.

It shouldn't be, because if we want to do any sort of literary analysis, genre has to be considered.

quote:

Hyperbole within a story doesn't automatically make it fiction. Read Message 12.

Of course, I never said that it did, so this is just a strawman,

quote:

Show the hyperbole in the flood story or if you don't believe there is hyperbole in the flood story, explain why you don't feel the story contains hyperbole.

Rather YOU should support your claim that the flood story is hyperbolic.

quote:

If you need to know whether the story is actually fact or fiction before discussing hyperbole, then you're out of luck in this thread.

Of course it is the question of genre, not a fact/fiction divide that is relevant. But if you think that you can show that it contains hyperbole without taking that consideration into account, go ahead.

{"Flood" opinion withdrawn if not changed. See here. - Adminnemooseus}

Edited by Adminnemooseus, : See red above.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 14 by purpledawn, posted 11-03-2011 4:06 AM purpledawn has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 16 by purpledawn, posted 11-03-2011 6:13 PM PaulK has responded

    
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