Is Your Faith Blind? Give it some Sight (Insight)!
I believe most Christians would say, when asked, if they believed the Bible literally, “Yes., of course I do.” The fact is, it is not completely literal. There are over 212 different kinds of Figures of Speech. Here are some definitions of a figure of speech:
a word or phrase used in a nonliteral sense to add rhetorical force to a spoken or written passage.
a form of expression (as a simile or metaphor) used to convey meaning or heighten effect often by comparing or identifying one thing with another that has a meaning or connotation familiar to the reader or listener
An expression that uses language in a nonliteral way, such as a metaphor or synecdoche, or in a structured or unusual way, such as anaphora or chiasmus, or that employs sounds, such as alliteration or assonance, to achieve a rhetorical effect.
an expression in which words are used in a nonliteral sense, as in metaphor, or in an unusual construction, as in antithesis, or for their sounds, as in onomatopoeia, to suggest vivid images or to heighten effect.
E.W. Bullinger says in his Companion Bible, “Ignorance of Figures of speech has led to the grossest errors, which have been caused either from taking literally what is figurative, or from taking figuratively what is literal.”
In the Gospels, Jesus spoke in many Parables. Parables or Parabola, is one such figure, an extended simile. Look for the message beyond the nonliteral story being told. In Matthew 13:1-52 Jesus tells a lot of parables which cannot be taken literally, like that of The Sower, Tares Among Wheat, The Mustard Seed, The Leaven, Hidden Treasure, A Costly Pearl and The Kingdom of Heaven.
There are 31 usages of the word “parable” and 16 of parable(s) in the Gospels. Luke chapters 12-21 are full of parables. In addition, there are many other figures of speech within the Parables. In look 12:32, Jesus refers to Herod as a fox. This is one of my favorite figures, hypocatastasis, an implied resemblance or representation. This same figure is used in Genesis 3 where Satan is referred to as a serpent; It no more means a snake than it does in Ge. 49:17 where Dan is called the same.
My favorite Parable for the sake of this teaching is The Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19. Taking verses 19-31 literal is one of the grossest errors Bullinger referred to. Lazarus was not carried away by angels to Abraham’s bosom when he died. The rich man was not in Hades being tormented, after he died. He did not see Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom far away. Yet, I have personally been told by many brothers and sisters in Christ that this is proof that Christians go to Heaven immediately after they die and sinners go to Hell. Nothing could be further from the truth!
The point of this parable is given in the final verses:
“But Abraham said, (he didn’t really say anything, he’s dead)’They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 “But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ 31 “But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.(like me, Jesus)‘”
ARE YOU LISTENING?