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Author Topic:   Hyperbole in the Bible
purpledawn
Member (Idle past 2393 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 word’s 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 Babylon’s 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)


Replies to this message:
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 Message 5 by ICANT, posted 11-01-2011 11:10 AM purpledawn has responded
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purpledawn
Member (Idle past 2393 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


This message is a reply to:
 Message 3 by PaulK, posted 11-01-2011 2:52 AM PaulK has responded

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 Message 9 by PaulK, posted 11-01-2011 3:24 PM purpledawn has responded

  
purpledawn
Member (Idle past 2393 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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 Message 5 by ICANT, posted 11-01-2011 11:10 AM ICANT has responded

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purpledawn
Member (Idle past 2393 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.


This message is a reply to:
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purpledawn
Member (Idle past 2393 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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purpledawn
Member (Idle past 2393 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.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 9 by PaulK, posted 11-01-2011 3:24 PM PaulK has responded

Replies to this message:
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purpledawn
Member (Idle past 2393 days)
Posts: 4453
From: Indiana
Joined: 04-25-2004


Message 16 of 124 (639767)
11-03-2011 6:13 PM
Reply to: Message 15 by PaulK
11-03-2011 2:09 PM


Re: Hyperbole in the Bible
quote:
Rather YOU should support your claim that the flood story is hyperbolic.

Noah was 600 years old.
All mankind's thoughts were only evil continually.


This message is a reply to:
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purpledawn
Member (Idle past 2393 days)
Posts: 4453
From: Indiana
Joined: 04-25-2004


Message 18 of 124 (639773)
11-03-2011 6:58 PM
Reply to: Message 17 by PaulK
11-03-2011 6:27 PM


Re: Hyperbole in the Bible
quote:
On what basis do you conclude that that is hyperbole ? Given the number of differing implausible ages in the pre-Flood patriarchs is it not likely that this is a mythic/legendary element ?
Per Friedman's Documentary Hypothesis, the Redactor put in the exaggerated ages. If you feel that it is not hyperbole, then make your case.

Exaggerated Ages
Professor Bruce Vawtner in A Path Through Genesis, suggests that "Both the Hebrews and Sumerians/Babylonians knew that many more than ten generations had elapsed during these periods. To bridge over the enormous gaps in time, therefore, both of them assigned tremendous ages to the few names that they possessed. While the Babylonians simply set down astronomical figures, none of them under twenty thousand years, the Hebrew author has been comparatively moderate, and above all, he made his ten generations serve a religious purpose."

quote:
So, it seems that you can only come up with two incidental details - and one of them requires the very consideration of genre that you want to rule out as irrelevant (and with that consideration it is likely that your assessment is wrong !).

I think that my point is made.


I have no idea what your point is concerning hyperbole. You haven't made any argument or presented any position concerning hyperbole in the Bible. I'm not going to comb the story for you. Absolutes tend to be exaggerations. If you disagree, then present your argument. If you disagree that a verse presented is hyperbole, then present your argument.

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purpledawn
Member (Idle past 2393 days)
Posts: 4453
From: Indiana
Joined: 04-25-2004


Message 20 of 124 (639783)
11-03-2011 8:18 PM
Reply to: Message 19 by PaulK
11-03-2011 7:12 PM


Re: Hyperbole in the Bible
You seem to be creating an absolute position for me that I didn't present. I didn't insist the ages were hyperbole. I presented what I would consider to be hyperbole. People do not live to be 600 years old. It is an exaggeration to fill in a gap. If the redactor added the ages, they weren't part of the older story and looking at the legends of the same story, the ages didn't continue. He exaggerated the ages for a reason or affect. Why woulldn't that be a hyperbole.

quote:
My point is simple. Simply assuming that the Bible is basically an accurate historical text and that anything that seems obviously exaggerated is hyperbole is a crude approach, which seems driven by apologetic considerations rather than any serious attempt to understand the text.
That's why I'm confused. I haven't assumed any of the stories are basically accurate historical texts.

Hyperbole is commonly used in fiction, drama, poetry, and common speech.


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purpledawn
Member (Idle past 2393 days)
Posts: 4453
From: Indiana
Joined: 04-25-2004


Message 22 of 124 (639815)
11-04-2011 7:24 AM
Reply to: Message 21 by PaulK
11-04-2011 3:03 AM


Re: Hyperbole in the Bible
quote:
I've already presented one alternative. But filling a gap is not the same as hyperbole, and even that is only a suggestion. We can say that the ages are not a standard figure used as an exaggeration (e.g. "He's, like, a hundred years old!") or even schematic ages like the 40 year periods in Moses' life, so simple hyperbole is not the explanation. We can see that we are dealing with mythical or legendary figures so that we cannot trust the constraints of reality to apply. We can see that the age is not unique to Noah and applies to many patriarchs before and after the Flood - admittedly diminishing after the Flood, but still continuing. The "filling in gaps" explanation has more merit than simply assuming hyperbole, but it still seems to be a strange thing to do.
Was that so difficult? You present why you disagree and I can decide whether to rethink my position. I can agree that even though the ages are exaggerated for whatever purpose, they aren't written in a distinctive hyperbolic fashion. So they probably aren't truly hyperbole. I'm not using the ages to explain anything. I'm looking at possible hyperbole in the Bible.

quote:
You don't want to consider the possibility that the stories are myth or legend or even fiction.
Again you are incorrect. I don't want this thread to be about proving (notice the word proving) that the stories are fact or fiction. Do you understand yet? IMO, it doesn't matter when it comes to hyperbole. If you disagree that a given verse is hyperbole, then present your counter argument based on whatever reason you have. If it is because of genre, then present your reasoning.

If we read the Bible stories just like any other writing, can we see hyperbole?


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purpledawn
Member (Idle past 2393 days)
Posts: 4453
From: Indiana
Joined: 04-25-2004


Message 24 of 124 (639820)
11-04-2011 9:58 AM
Reply to: Message 23 by PaulK
11-04-2011 8:50 AM


I'm Clueless
I really have no clue what you want, so I'm going to stop trying.
We are obviously looking at this issue differently.

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Replies to this message:
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purpledawn
Member (Idle past 2393 days)
Posts: 4453
From: Indiana
Joined: 04-25-2004


(1)
Message 26 of 124 (639842)
11-04-2011 12:39 PM
Reply to: Message 25 by GDR
11-04-2011 10:16 AM


Re: I'm Clueless
Hyperbole is used in drama, fiction, poetry, and common speech.

Hyperbole in Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
“Next morning the not-yet-subsided sea rolled in long slow billows of mighty bulk, and striving in the Pequod’s gurgling track, pushed her on like giants’ palms outspread. The strong unstaggering breeze abounded so, that sky and air seemed vast outbellying sails; the whole world boomed before the wind.”

Hyperbole in To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
“A day was twenty-four hours long but seemed longer. There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with, nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb County.”

I don't see that fiction negates the use of hyperbole.

So these are non-Biblical examples.

It is all about exaggeration! I can give you a trillion examples...
It is going to take a b'zillion years to get through Medical School.
I ate the whole cow.
He's 900 years old.
I'm as hungry as a horse.
I'm so hungry, I can eat a horse.

My backpack weighs a ton.
It took forever to get to the beach.
That dog is so ugly, it fell off the ugly tree and hit every branch.

Literary Terms
Genes: a literary species or form, e.g., tragedy, epic, comedy, novel, essay, biography, lyric poem.

Literal language means exactly what it says; a rose is the physical flower. Figurative language changes the literal meaning, to make a meaning fresh or clearer, to express complexity, to capture a physical or sensory effect, or to extend meaning. Figurative language is also called figures of speech. The most common figures of speech are these:
...
hyperbole: exaggeration, often extravagant; it may be used for serious or for comic effect.
...

So I'm still clueless as to why hyperbole supposedly can't be in a fictional story if that is the point.


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purpledawn
Member (Idle past 2393 days)
Posts: 4453
From: Indiana
Joined: 04-25-2004


(1)
Message 32 of 124 (639899)
11-04-2011 5:51 PM
Reply to: Message 29 by GDR
11-04-2011 2:34 PM


Hyperbole in Fiction
quote:
I don't understand how you can exaggerate fiction. In all of your examples you have taken a truth and exaggerated them.

For example when you say your backpack weighs a ton you are taken a non-fictional situation, which is that the back pack is heavy and exaggerating it.

Fiction is just what it is; it can't be exaggerated or minimized.


The top examples were the examples in fiction. The bottom examples were just examples of hyperbole.

If I'm writing a fictional story and the main character says, "My backpack weighs a ton."; that is hyperbole within a fictional writing.

I've shown that hyperbole can be used within fictional writings.

ABC's of Fiction Writing: Hyperbole
Hiding hyperbole, like in the second example, is usually the best way to incorporate it into your writing. Always stick true to the characterizations you need, and to your audience. If the story is being told by (or to) a child, they may not grasp the meaning of a hidden hyperbole. If in doubt, have someone you trust read over it for you and give their opinion.

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purpledawn
Member (Idle past 2393 days)
Posts: 4453
From: Indiana
Joined: 04-25-2004


(1)
Message 33 of 124 (639900)
11-04-2011 6:14 PM
Reply to: Message 31 by PaulK
11-04-2011 2:58 PM


Why Hyperbole
quote:
I'd like you to explain WHY you feel that your examples of hyperbole really are hyperbole.
Message 1: 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.

Message 12: 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.

Message 18: Absolutes tend to be exaggerations.

Message 20: I presented what I would consider to be hyperbole. People do not live to be 600 years old. It is an exaggeration to fill in a gap. If the redactor added the ages, they weren't part of the older story and looking at the legends of the same story, the ages didn't continue. He exaggerated the ages for a reason or affect. Why woulldn't that be a hyperbole.

Hyperbole is commonly used in fiction, drama, poetry, and common speech.

Message 22: IMO, it (genre) doesn't matter when it comes to hyperbole.

If we read the Bible stories just like any other writing, can we see hyperbole?

Message 26: Hyperbole is used in drama, fiction, poetry, and common speech. (Post contains examples of hyperbole in fiction and non-Biblical examples of hyperbole.)

So when I read Genesis 6:5, I see hyperbole, an exaggeration.

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

It is exaggerated to think that absolutely no person in the land ever had a good intention. The absolutes, IMO, signal hyperbole.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 31 by PaulK, posted 11-04-2011 2:58 PM PaulK has responded

Replies to this message:
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purpledawn
Member (Idle past 2393 days)
Posts: 4453
From: Indiana
Joined: 04-25-2004


(1)
Message 35 of 124 (639906)
11-04-2011 7:30 PM
Reply to: Message 34 by PaulK
11-04-2011 6:36 PM


Re: Why Hyperbole
quote:
Or we could be looking at a myth, where some or all of those statements are intended to be accepted as literal within the context of the story.
Myths can also contain hyperbole.

Hyperbole in English, Cambridge University Press
It is found used in diverse sources; the Encyclopædia Britannica mentions love poetry, sagas, tall tales, classical mythology, political rhetoric and advertising as texts containing hyperbole, illustrating the great range of the phenomenon regarding both time and genre.

Classifying a story as a myth doesn't automatically mean the storyteller didn't use any literary devices.

So what tells us to take something at face value or to understand it as a literary device?


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 Message 34 by PaulK, posted 11-04-2011 6:36 PM PaulK has responded

Replies to this message:
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