Figures of Speech in the Bible

Where to learn the meaning of all the figures of speech in the Bible.


  1. The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge Figure of Speech Index lists all the figures of speech in the Bible. In this index the figures are listed alphabetically. The Ultimate Cross Reference Treasury is even more complete.


  1. At each verse in the Bible where a figure of speech occurs, the figure is identified, and a reference to the main entry verse is given where the figure is named, defined, and all places where the figure occurs are listed.


  1. I believe that the New Treasury is the most complete listing of figures of speech in the Bible ever compiled in English. Depending how you “count” the figures, there are well over 200 figures identified in the New Treasury.


  1. Figures of speech are used for emphasis, and are important to accurate understanding and interpretation of the Bible.

(1)        There are degrees of emphasis in the figures of speech:

(a) Simile;  or, Resemblance.  FS160A.  Psalm 1:3.  A declaration that one thing resembles another.  “He shall be like a tree.”  Psalm 1:4.  “The ungodly…are like the chaff.”

(b) Metaphor;  or, Representation.  FS119.  A declaration that one thing is (or represents) another.  Ge 49:9.  “Judah is a lion’s whelp.”  Psalm 84:11.  “The Lord God is a sun and shield.”  Mark 14:22n.  “this is (or represents) my body.”  John 10:9.  “I am the door.”  Allegory is continued or extended metaphor, FS7, +Ge 4:24.

(c) Hypocatastasis; or, Implication.  FS103.  Ge 3:13.  Serpent.  John 2:19.  Temple.  Luke 13:32.  “that fox.”  Note that this figure as used in John 2:19 is important to the defense of the doctrine of the bodily resurrection of Christ.

(2)        A figure of speech may be a powerful aid to defending a doctrine.

(a)  Hendiadys;  or, Two for One.  Two words used, but one thing meant, involving nouns.  FS93A.  Genesis 1:26.  “image and likeness” means “in the likeness of our image.”

John 3:5.  “born of water and of the Spirit.”  Meaning:  born of water, even the Spirit.  May also mean “born of spiritual water,” where spiritual water by the figure Metonymy is put for the Holy Spirit himself (see John 7:38, 39).

Titus 2:13 n.  “the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” or “our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”  The reference is to one person, not two.

See also 2 Peter 1:1 for the same construction.  “God and our Savior Jesus Christ” or “our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

(b)  Hendiadys;  or, Two for One.  FS93B.  Involving verbs.  Isaiah 66:11.  “may suck…and be satisfied” means “suck to satiety.”  Matthew 13:23, “heareth…and understandeth” means “hears with understanding,” two words but one act.

(c)  Hendiatris; or, Three for One.  FS94.  Jeremiah 4:2.  “The Lord liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness” means “lives truly, justly, and righteously.”  Matthew 6:13.  “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory”  means “powerful, glorious, kingdom.”  John 14:6.  “the way, the truth, and the life” means “the true and living way.”

(3)        A figure of speech may be a powerful aid to understanding the meaning of the author correctly.

(a)  Litotes, or Meiosis;  A Belittling.  A belittling of one thing to magnify another.  FS111, Ge 18:27.  Luke 11:4 n.  “And lead us not into temptation;  but deliver us from evil.”  [Jesus is not affirming that God will lead us into temptation unless we pray to ask him to do otherwise;  the emphasis is upon prayer for deliverance from evil, or the evil one.]  Ephesians 5:18.  “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess;  but be filled with the Spirit.”  [Paul is not accusing the Ephesians of having a drinking problem, but emphasizing by contrast the importance of being filled with the Spirit.]

Mat 24:35  Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

shall pass away, but. FS111, Gen 18:27, This is most assuredly the Figure Meiosis, also known as Litotes (Luk 11:4 note), involving a Balanced Sentence where the first statement is contrary to fact or reality, and is used in a contrast to most strongly emphasize what is affirmed in the last statement.

In this form of statement the last statement is frequently introduced by the word but, which helps to mark this figure (see Isa 51:6; Isa 54:10, +Luk 11:4).

Scholars can wrangle with my assertion all they please; their contrary opinion only demonstrates they have not studied the Scriptures carefully enough. I have.

Jesus does not, and absolutely could not, affirm that heaven and earth will pass away. The expressions used here are frequently reflected elsewhere in Scripture (see the preceding Parallel Passages). Surely our Lord Jesus Christ and His Jewish hearers, intimately acquainted with the Hebrew Scriptures (T1122, +**Joh 6:14), were aware of the context, for example, of **Psa 102:26 note as seen in Psa 102:28, something apparently missed by some modern scholars.

God’s Covenant Promises are absolutely guaranteed as being more sure than the promise that the earth abides forever and shall never perish, so sure are the sure mercies of David, mercies above and greater than the heavens (Psa 108:4); note carefully in the context of Psa 102:26 the statement of Psa 102:28 that the generations of “thy servants shall continue” (+**Psa 72:5) and be “established before thee”—surely the Bible writers who cite or allude to Psa 102:26 were most aware of its context and the assurance of Psa 102:28, so when Jesus states “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away,” His words are the guaranteed words of the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants, which are more sure than the heavens and will certainly come to pass.

God Himself appeals to the promised eternal constancy of the universe (Jer 31:35, 36, 37) to affirm the absolute certainty of the “Sure mercies of David” (+**Isa 55:3).

To suggest the heavens or the earth shall literally pass away would violate the provisions of the Abrahamic Covenant (+**Gen 12:2 note) and the Davidic Covenant (+**2Sa 7:10 note), which would contradict the very character of God Himself (+*Mal 3:6), which is utterly impossible (+**Gen 18:25 note. +*Tit 1:2).

If our Lord Jesus Christ is to rule eternally here upon this earth in Jerusalem on the Throne of David forever over the whole earth (+**Isa 24:23, Dan 7:13, 14, +*Zec 14:9, +*Mat 5:5, **Luk 1:32; **Luk 1:33, Rev 11:15), then the earth as we know it will stand forever (**1Ch 16:30, **Psa 148:5; **Psa 148:6). Psa 58:8; +**Psa 108:4, +**Luk 1:32; +**Luk 1:33.




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