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Author Topic:   Hyperbole in the Bible
NoNukes
Inactive Member


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.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 10 by purpledawn, posted 11-01-2011 3:40 PM purpledawn has responded

Replies to this message:
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NoNukes
Inactive Member


Message 27 of 124 (639844)
11-04-2011 12:48 PM
Reply to: Message 25 by GDR
11-04-2011 10:16 AM


Re: I'm Clueless
GDR writes:

quote:
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.

You used this as an example of hyperbole. It is hyperbole if Josiah really was an actual king. (I'm not disputing that by the way.) If however Josiah never existed then it isn't hyperbole but fiction.

Your example may miss the mark. We might still recognize the verse as exaggeration if within the story we can see that Josiah was not quite as committed to the Lord as the verse indicates.

On the other hand, with Noah's age, I don't see any indication in the story that Noah failed to live to 600. Unless an appropriate Noah existed and had a lengthy lifespan that was significantly less than 600 years, then I don't see any basis for calling his age hyperbole.


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NoNukes
Inactive Member


Message 36 of 124 (639912)
11-04-2011 7:59 PM
Reply to: Message 35 by purpledawn
11-04-2011 7:30 PM


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

If you don't have an opinion about this, I'm not sure there is much to discuss. I'm sure that we'd all agree that the Bible does include some hyperbole. I disagree that many of the examples you give from the Bible are clearly hyperbole.

In non-fiction, one clue is that the text may describe something that is not possible to be literally true, and those things are presumably either hyperbole or just wrong. But in some types of fiction, that reasoning is not reliable.

'Faster than a speeding bullet', and more 'powerful than a locomotive' understate the abilities that Superman is depicted as possessing in comic books. Those words are not hyperbole in that context. But a similar description applied Shaquille O'neal would be hyperbole.


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Replies to this message:
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NoNukes
Inactive Member


Message 38 of 124 (639933)
11-04-2011 11:47 PM
Reply to: Message 37 by purpledawn
11-04-2011 9:12 PM


Re: Why Hyperbole
purpledawn writes:

Why do you feel they aren't clearly hyperbole?

For the same reason that describing Superman as faster than a human bullet is not hyperbole. The authors intend for us to understand that Superman is able to travel at light speed.

I don't understand why I am required to disprove your proposition before you bother to establish it, but let me select one of your examples to beat on.

Noah was 600 years old.

If the author understood Noah to have lived for 600 years and expects us to understand the same thing, then the author was speaking literally in exactly the same way Siegel and Shuster were speaking about Superman.

It is possible of course that the author wrote a about a fictional Noah, being 600 years old as an alternative to calling Noah "as old as dirt", then perhaps the author was using hyperbole. But I don't see how you'd be able to tell.

As an aside, if Eve accused Adam of being as old as dirt, that might be so slight an exaggeration that it would be pedantic to call it hyperbole.

Any way my point is that looking at the turn of phrase in isolation is not always enough. It is not hyperbole to say that Paul Bunyan created the grand canyon with his axe. It's just fiction. We are not to understand that Bunyan made a mere deep gash in the earth.


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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NoNukes
Inactive Member


Message 42 of 124 (639975)
11-05-2011 3:19 PM
Reply to: Message 41 by purpledawn
11-05-2011 10:36 AM


Re: Why Hyperbole
The Noah story doesn't have such a setup. Now I can see why we have difficulty reading some Bible stories as we do other stories.

Why doesn't any the enumeration discussion in Gen:5 of Noah's ancestors living to be many hundreds of years old constitute setup? In my opinion it surely does.

I have shown support that hyperbole can be used in fictional works and I've shown examples of hyperbole in fictional works. Deeming a work fiction does not negate hyperbole within the story.

Yes, and I agree that there can be hyperbole in fictional works. That doesn't mean that everything extra-ordinary thing in the Bible is a mere literary device. It's certainly no evidence that you are correctly identifying when literary devices are used.

purpledawn writes:

quote:

Paul’s clothing was so large they had to use wagon
wheels for buttons.

IOW, he's a very big man. The tall tales got taller over time. The idea that Paul's dragging axe could create the Grand Canyon is another exaggeration of how big he was.

Wrong. Paul Bunyan was a fictional giant who people told whoppers about. Nobody was trying to describe a human being who was simply bigger than most people.

If you call the stories about Paul hyperbole, then your definition of the word is different than mine. Perhaps we can leave things at that.

Edited by NoNukes, : No reason given.


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NoNukes
Inactive Member


Message 48 of 124 (640013)
11-06-2011 7:10 PM
Reply to: Message 47 by Bailey
11-06-2011 2:52 PM


Re: Hyperbole's Impotence Regarding the Limitations of Excess
I agree with most of your analysis. In rethinking things, I can agree that there certainly is hyperbole in the Paul Bunyan tales, but certainly not all of the extraordinary descriptions of Paul's height, weight and strength are hyperbole. The key in my opinion, is whether the seemingly exaggerated scale is intended to be taken literally or as a mere indication of bigness.

quote:

You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

Is this really hyperbole? I'd suggest not. Certainly a literary device is in use, but nobody is really claiming that any animals are being eaten or swallowed. Instead the comparison between gnat and camel is supposed to indicate how badly the Pharisees and teachers of the law had missed the mark by concentrating on relative minutia. I'd suggest that we are looking at a metaphor rather than hyperbole.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 47 by Bailey, posted 11-06-2011 2:52 PM Bailey has responded

Replies to this message:
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 Message 65 by purpledawn, posted 11-10-2011 7:47 AM NoNukes has responded

  
NoNukes
Inactive Member


Message 50 of 124 (640093)
11-07-2011 9:41 AM
Reply to: Message 49 by Bailey
11-07-2011 2:10 AM


Re: Hyperbole's Impotence Regarding the Limitations of Excess
Other than the fact that the thread is strictly about hyperbole, there may not be real reason (other than academic) in separating out the metaphors, hyperbole, and simile. In each case, it is clear that the words in question are not to be taken literally. Identifying the different literary devices may require different techniques, but in the end, we may be able to decide from the text what is literal and what is device.

On the other hand, if the entire story is allegorical, then the fact that metaphors and hyperbole are used is secondary to the fact that we aren't intended to believe that what is being described happened at all. The whole thing would instead be a like a parable.

In the case we are discussing, any fool can tell from the context that Jesus isn't particularly interested in the dangers of ingesting gnats and camels. But nobody seems to be arguing so far that Jesus didn't chew out the Pharisees.

In the case of Noah, it simply isn't clear that the 600+ years given for his age was not intended to be literal. Purple claims there is no setup of the type that is given for Superman, but I think she's wrong. Just as Superman has been described not to be like ordinary men, the Bible describes Noah also as not being like ordinary men. Noah is described as being from a line of men all of whom where just a few generations away from Adam who was created from dirt in God's image and lived 930 years. In my view that's plenty of setup for Noah's own age.

I don't have a huge problem with purpledawn believing that hyperbole was being used for Noah's age, but I think she is loathe to admit that she has decided a priori that the authors could not have intended the ages of Noah, Adam, Seth, Noah, et. al. to have exceeded 600 years despite any possible clues to the contrary in the text.

And of course mere hyperbole can't address many of the other seemingly impossible and contrary to known science events that are described in Genesis up to chapter 5. PD seems to be straining out the gnats while ignoring the camels.

Edited by NoNukes, : No reason given.

Edited by NoNukes, : Fix the worst of the bad grammar


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Replies to this message:
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NoNukes
Inactive Member


Message 54 of 124 (640298)
11-08-2011 11:25 AM
Reply to: Message 52 by purpledawn
11-08-2011 8:47 AM


Re: Identifying Hyperbole
purpledawn writes:

Hyperbole is a type of figurative language. This is a way to use words to enable the audience to create an image in their mind. To do this the storyteller has to keep to what his audience will understand. For an audience to understand an exaggeration, it has to be exaggerating the reality that they know.

Thanks for posting this. Perhaps it will give me a chance to clarify our disagreement.

But aspects of what you posted are clearly wrong.

An important aspect of hyperbole is that it is not intended to be taken literally. Since we both seem to agree that expressions of Superman's speed are not hyperbole, then we should also agree that exaggeration need not be an overstatement of reality, at least when the work is fiction. In reality, there are no Kryptonians and if even if there were, no beings from any planet are able to travel unaided at the speed of light or to violate conservation of momentum the way Supes does while flying.

Further, I think it is pointless to argue about whether things like "a land flowing with milk and honey" are mere hyperbole unless there are some people who believe such expressions are literal. Why don't we pick out some verses where you would suggest that some people are missing the mark by not recognizing the hyperbole? Preferably not Flood examples, but I'll take what I can get.


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NoNukes
Inactive Member


Message 71 of 124 (640512)
11-10-2011 11:11 AM
Reply to: Message 69 by purpledawn
11-10-2011 9:37 AM


Re: Identifying Hyperbole
Since the flood didn't cover the planet, there were plenty of places for people to go. Notice the Nephilum were still around after the flood. Genesis 6:4.

I'd agree that there is some hyperbole associated with 6:4, but I don't know how you tell what is literal and what is not. Were the Nephilum really demigods? Were the later tales of giant people actually related to these same folk? Or were these guys just a bunch of well fed, fit, fierce, street-fighting men that nobody was really inclined to take on.

If they weren't really weren't some kind of pre-flood superfolk, then they aren't much evidence at all about whether the flood was global.


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NoNukes
Inactive Member


Message 82 of 124 (640600)
11-10-2011 9:33 PM
Reply to: Message 65 by purpledawn
11-10-2011 7:47 AM


Re: Hyperbole's Impotence Regarding the Limitations of Excess
purpledawn writes:

The camel and gnat are not being compared to each other. Straining out gnats or their larvae from one's drinking water was common. The camel is an exaggeration of what can be swallowed, let alone be found in one's water.

That's a very simplistic analysis in my opinion. Clearly Jesus was using a literary device, but he was not condemning anyone for swallowing anything. In my opinion the above is clearly a metaphor rather than hyperbole. The metaphor would have worked just as well if Jesus had spoken of a large throat sized chunk of something distasteful. Using a camel made the point impossible to miss.

I am also not prepared to say that the scale of missing things (found gnat but missed camel) is an exaggeration of the scale of mistake the Pharisees were making. I find the comparison apt. I disgree that Jesus did not intend to invoke irony by comparing a gnat to a camel. I think the comparison was very much intended.

But in either event I don't see much point in arguing about whether the words were metaphor or hyperbole. Nobody thinks the Pharisees were eating camels, so nobody is misreading the Bible by thinking that people were eating camels.


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
 Message 85 by purpledawn, posted 11-11-2011 7:51 AM NoNukes has responded

  
NoNukes
Inactive Member


Message 87 of 124 (640641)
11-11-2011 9:13 AM
Reply to: Message 85 by purpledawn
11-11-2011 7:51 AM


Re: Gnats and Camels
purpledawn writes:

In a metaphor the objects are being compared without the use of like or as. The gnat and camel are not being compared in that manner. Example: Love is a rose.

Purpledawn, you seem to be trying hard to miss my point. Hopefully the following details my reasoning well enough that we can move on. I know fully well what metaphor and a simile are, but thanks for providing the gnat.

Matthew 23:24 invokes two comparisons.

First, the gnat is being compared to the minute details that the Pharisees apply, while the camel is being compared to the truths that the Pharisees miss.

Jesus said that behaving as do the Pharisees is the same as making the gnat/camel mistake. The reader can understand the depth of the Pharisees hypocrisy by making the gnat camel comparison. Surely this analysis is not controversial.

The metaphor is Gnat/Camel compared to Tiny Details/Justice-Law-faithfulness. The comparison is of course made without the use of like or as.

Using a mathematical example

Take the statement 1 is to 6 as 3 is to 18. The statement invokes a comparison between the ratio 1/6 and the ratio 3/18. But the ratio 1/6 is also a comparison of 1 to 6. The text in Matthew 23:23-29 invites us to make similar sets of comparisons.

Metaphors can also contain hyperbole. Example: My work place is a Nazi death camp.

Looks like a (tasteless) metaphor to me, unless we are reading the trial transcript of John Demjanjuk. I might make a different call if I read more of the work. But again, we're emphasizing the gnats (nits) while not discussing the camels (the real point). Being able to distinguish between metaphor and hyperbole is not all that important. We both see that the statement re: your job is not to be taken literally.

Few people would read the above an expect a description of a job site with disease, starvation, and execution. Similarly, calling hyperbole metaphor won't cause me to misinterpret the Bible (although, strangely enough, your explanation makes me puzzled about how you read in Mathew 23:24). I'd like to explore examples where people make mistakes reading the Bible by not seeing any devices at all.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 85 by purpledawn, posted 11-11-2011 7:51 AM purpledawn has responded

Replies to this message:
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NoNukes
Inactive Member


(1)
Message 91 of 124 (640661)
11-11-2011 1:22 PM
Reply to: Message 90 by Jon
11-11-2011 12:59 PM


Re: Still Clueless
No methods are 100% reliable. But when it comes to recognizing figurative language, "I'll know it when I see it" is the only method we have.

"Know it when I see it," is possible the only method you have. I think it is possible to do much better than that, and to do so fairly reliably. I would also agree that no method is 100% objective, but you propose a method that is 0% objective.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 90 by Jon, posted 11-11-2011 12:59 PM Jon has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 98 by Jon, posted 11-12-2011 12:43 AM NoNukes has responded

  
NoNukes
Inactive Member


Message 92 of 124 (640662)
11-11-2011 1:28 PM
Reply to: Message 89 by purpledawn
11-11-2011 10:16 AM


Re: Gnats and Camels
I assumed you understood I'm talking about the sentence, not the paragraph.

What sentence? Maybe I did miss something because I have no idea what you are talking about.

ABE:

I think you are saying that I applied my argument to more context than you intended.

Edited by NoNukes, : ABE


This message is a reply to:
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NoNukes
Inactive Member


Message 100 of 124 (640740)
11-12-2011 12:01 PM
Reply to: Message 98 by Jon
11-12-2011 12:43 AM


Re: Still Clueless
Then I suppose you can lay out a method?

I think I can. I believe we can easily spot most of the literary devices in the Bible by determining which descriptions are meant not to be taken literally base on context. If we know more about the idioms and means of expression that were commonly used by Biblical authors, we should be able to identify almost every such instance.

Of course, there will be some things that cannot be clearly classify, and we may never know the scope of exaggeration present in some of those descriptions that we correctly identify as not literal. But those things we cannot identify are likely only a tiny portion of the entire text.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 98 by Jon, posted 11-12-2011 12:43 AM Jon has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 105 by Jon, posted 11-13-2011 2:30 AM NoNukes has responded

  
NoNukes
Inactive Member


Message 106 of 124 (640778)
11-13-2011 4:50 AM
Reply to: Message 105 by Jon
11-13-2011 2:30 AM


Re: Still Clueless
I just gave you the method.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 105 by Jon, posted 11-13-2011 2:30 AM Jon has responded

Replies to this message:
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