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Author Topic:   Hyperbole in the Bible
Member (Idle past 3569 days)
Posts: 4453
From: Indiana
Joined: 04-25-2004

Message 1 of 2 (639392)
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)

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Message 2 of 2 (639454)
10-31-2011 9:28 PM

Thread Copied to The Bible: Accuracy and Inerrancy Forum
Thread copied to the Hyperbole in the Bible thread in the The Bible: Accuracy and Inerrancy forum, this copy of the thread has been closed.

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