Re: Metaphors in Greek

From: james m smith (
Date: Wed Feb 24 1999 - 16:00:53 EST

On 02/23/99, "Jonathan Ryder <>" wrote:
> Oops meant to send to list (sorry James)
> > William B. Steidtmann wrote:
> > > >In "Figures of Speech Used in the Bible" by E.W. Bullinger (Baker Book
> > > >House, Grand Rapids, Michigan) a disscussion of the phrase "this is my
> > > >body" from Matthew 26:26 is taken up (pp. 738-739) as it relates to a
> > > >"simple law of figurative language". The argument is as follows: the
> > > >pronoun "this" in the Greek is TOUTO and the gender is neuter. If the
> > > >statement "this is my body" were meant to be taken in a literal sense the
> > > >pronoun would have taken the gender of the noun it replaces which in this
> > > >case is "bread", in the Greek ARTOS, and is masculine. But the pronoun
> > > >TOUTO is not masculine, rather it has taken the neuter gender of the noun
> > > >"body" (SOMA) to which the meaning is "carried across" the verb. This "at
> > > >once shows us that a figure is employed" and is not meant to be taken
> > > >literally; it is a metaphor.
> > > > Being a person who is but a "Little Greek" can anyone cite
> > > >references/examples that would confirm/deny this law?
> > >
> > Carl W. Conrad replied:
> > I'd like to see evidence for such a law, too? I really doubt seriously there is any
> > such "law" --or that the reader is given any sort of self-explanatory code to
> > determine where the sense is literal and where it is metaphorical.
> > james m smith replied:
> > Is it reasonable to assume that no such "law" exists? Would it not be more
> > profitable to exhibit obvious cases that would show its failure? Many
> > clear examples can be given to support this "law" but clear examples to
> > disprove it are elusive. Can anyone debunk this "law" citing unambiguous
> > cases? Please.
> What are your many clear examples please James (or anyone else who cares to defend
> this law)?
> Thankyou
> Jonathan Ryder

You have a good point as "clear" may be in the eye of the beholder,
however; I have gleaned a few examples directly from another source that I
believe to be "clear". They are as follows:
In Zech. 5:8, "This is wickedness." Here, "this" (fem.) does not agree with
"ephah" (to which it refers), which is neuter (LXX), but across the verb
with "wickedness," which is feminine.
In Zech. 5:3, "This is the curse." "This" (fem.) agrees with "curse," which
is feminine, and not with "flying roll," which is neuter, (to which it
refers), (LXX)
In Matt. 13:38, "The good seed are children of the kingdom." Here, "these"
(masc.) agrees with "children of the kingdom" (masc.) and not with "seed,"
which is neuter.
In Luke 8:14, "These are they which having heard," etc. Here, "these"
(masc.) agrees with the participle "they which having heard," which is
masculine and not with "seed," (to which it refers), which is neuter.

In the Parables of the Sower and of the Tares (Matt. 13:19-23 & 37-43).
"He that soweth the good seed is (i.e., represents) the Son of man."
"The field is (i.e., signifies) the world."
"The good seed are the children of the kingdom."
"But the tares are the children of the wicked one."
"The enemy that sowed them is the devil."
"The harvest is the end of the age."
"And the reapers are the angels."
>From The Revelation we have the following:
"The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches."
"And the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches."
The odours "are the prayers of the saints".
"They are the spirits of demons."
"The seven heads are seven mountains..."

In all the above and in every other metaphor(?) the verb could be rendered
"represents" or "signifies". In all these the two nouns are literal and the
figure lies only in the verb.

It is also an interesting item to note that in the majority of cases (as
far as I know) when the language is literal (no metaphor) the verb is
dropped as not being necessary for the literal sense. In our example in 1
Cor. 12:27 we have the metaphor "Ye are [the] body of Christ". In verse 29
Paul changes to a literal case and so the verb is removed as being
unnecessary, "[are] all apostles? [are] all prophets? [are] all teachers?
[are] all workers of miracles?"
I hope these examples clarify the point in question as it is not clear that
I was understood earlier.

Jamie Smith

B-Greek home page:
You are currently subscribed to b-greek as: []
To unsubscribe, forward this message to
To subscribe, send a message to

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:40:18 EDT