Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing (epiphany) of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Titus 2:13
driven away from his university (Oxford) by Romanist persecution. His was not the modern English; but was the English that leaned more to the modern English than to that of the Anglo-Saxon period. To read his Bible understandingly one knowing only modern English needs a glossary of obsolete words. He was assisted in his translation by his colleague and chief scholarly supporter, Nicholas Hereford; and their joint work was revised by John Purvey, 1388; about four years after Wyclif's death, December 31, 1384. And it is in this revised form mainly that Wyclif's Bible has come down to posterity. Printing having not yet been invented for nearly a half century, his Bible was quite widely spread in hand-written copies, but was bitterly fought by the English priests and noblemen for 150 years. It was first printed in 1731.
William Tyndale was the first to translate the entire New Testament from the Greek original, as he also was the first to translate a considerable part (the Pentateuch and Joshua) of the Old Testament into English. He printed Matthew and Mark (1524 and 1525) at some unknown place on the continent, whither persecution drove him from England, because he had announced his decision to translate the Bible and scatter it broadcast there, so that every plowman might become as familiar with it as the ablest Romanist theologian. In 1526 he published his entire New Testament, partly at Cologne and partly at Worms, where Luther's heroic confession was made, persecution having driven the former from Cologne to Worms before the complete number of copies ordered was finished. It was immediately but secretly sent to England, where it arrived in March, 1526. Rome bitterly attacked and burned this Testament, and all its readers on whom it could lay hands. And it succeeded in burning its saintly translator in 1536, after strangling him. He was not only a translator, but also an able writer, efficient reformer and a great exponent of religious liberty. His Pentateuch was published in
1530, and his Joshua in 1531. The influence of Tyndale's translations on all subsequent English Protestant translations, even up to and including the A.R.V., was quite marked, and is a merited tribute to the ability in Greek, Hebrew and English of the translator. In fact all subsequent Protestant versions that did not take over his version bodily are more or less revisions of it, which goes far to prove its worth.
In 1535 appeared the first complete version in modern English, that of Miles Coverdale, who, with William Roye, George Roye (afterwards a bitter enemy), John Rogers and John Frith, had helped Tyndale from time to time in his work. He took over Tyndale's New Testament, Pentateuch and Joshua bodily, and then translated the rest of the Bible from Luther's and Zwingli's versions and Jerome's Vulgate into English, and published it at Antwerp, October 4, 1535. His Bible contained also the Apocrypha, but in an appendix by itself, with explanations on its non-canonical, i.e., uninspired and unbiblical, status. Next, in 1537, came the Bible of Thomas Matthew, a name assumed by John Rogers, who became, in 1555, the first Martyr under "bloody Mary." He took over Tyndale's and Coverdale's work made some revisions thereon and published it under the authorization of Henry VIII and patronage of Cromwell, Henry's prime minister; hence this translation was the first "Authorized Version." In 1539 appeared the "Taverner" Bible, which was a revision of Thomas Matthew's Bible made by Richard Taverner.
In the same year appeared the "Great" Bible, or as it was called, from its second edition onward, "Cranmer's Bible." It was brought out through the authorization of Henry VIII by Cromwell, Earl of Essex, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of all England [Canterbury], Thomas More and a committee of prelates and scholars. It was begun to be printed at Paris under Coverdale's supervision; but before the printing could be completed the Inquisition, Dec. 17, 1538, put a
stop to the work, which was then transferred to, and completed at London, April, 1539. Its second edition appeared in 1540, and was "apoynted to the vse of the churches," i.e., was made an A.V. Its book of Psalms is the Psaltery of the prayer-book of the Church of England, the Common Prayer. It is the first English Bible in which italics were used to indicate that there were no words in the Hebrew and Greek originals corresponding to those thus italicized. Its main patron, Thomas Cranmer, was a star-member of the Philadelphia Church, and, in 1556, the most eminent of all the martyrs who suffered death at the stake or otherwise at the hands of "bloody Mary." Next came, in 1560, the Geneva Version, which was made by Englishmen who fled from England during "bloody Mary's" persecution. It was the Bible of the Puritans, Calvinists, and was made in part under Calvin's influence. Many copies of it were brought to America by the Puritans. It is a more exact translation than any that preceded it, yea, a more exact rendering than our A.V., which followed it, but apart from that quality it is in every respect inferior to the A.V.
In 1568 the Bishops'-Bible appeared. It was published by the Anglican Church in opposition to the Geneva Bible. It was based on Cranmer's Bible, and was translated by fifteen theologians, eight of whom were bishops of the Anglican Church, hence its name. It came out in three parts in 1568-1572, but it was too large and costly to become popular in use, and soon died. The Protestant versions in England stirred up the exiled English Romanist theologians to translate and publish the Douai Bible. It is based upon the Vulgate. Its New Testament was translated and first published in Rheims, France, in 1582, and its Old Testament in Douai, France, in 1609-1610. What is now called the Douai Bible is a revision of the New Testament of Rheims and of the Old Testament of Douai, by Romanist Bishop Richard Challoner. He published his revision with annotations (usually abbreviated
in modern editions of this Bible), in 1749 and 1750, in five volumes. Its English is Latinized, stiff, usually slavishly literal (to the Vulgate), therefore reproduces the Vulgate's faults and many of its virtues, is often unintelligible because of its "over-set" or "up-set" Latinity, and, of course, reads into the Bible not a few unbiblical Romanisms. It must appear with Romanist notes, for fear that even it will turn Romanists into non-Romanists. It is distinctly inferior to the A.V. As our readers are more or less familiar with the E.R.V. and the A.R.V., the latter superior to the former, and one of the best of all English translations, we will make no further comment on them than to state that 37 Old Testament and 29 New Testament eminent British scholars of five denominations made the former from 1870 onward, publishing the New Testament in 1881 and the Old Testament in 1885, and that two smaller groups of eminent Old Testament and New Testament American scholars of nine denominations made the latter during the same years; but, as required by the British revisers, they could not publish it until 1901. These two translations are fast taking the place of the A.V., vastly faster than it supplanted those of which it was the revision.
Our discussion of the generalities of the Bible should include a few facts and figures taken from The Analytical Reference Bible:
Number of Books Old Testament: 39 New Testament: 27 Bible: 66
Number of Chapters Old Testament: 929 New Testament: 260 Bible: 1,189
Number of Verses Old Testament: 23,214 New Testament: 7,959 Bible: 31,173
Number of Words Old Testament: 592,439 New Testament: 181,253 Bible: 773,692
Number of Letters Old Testament: 2,728,110 New Testament: 838,380 Bible: 3,566,490
The Middle Books Old Testament: Proverbs New Testament: 2 Thess. Bible: Mic. & Nah.
The Middle Chapters Old Testament: Job 29 New Testament Rom. 13 & 14 Bible: Psalm. 117
The Middle Verses Old Testament: 2 Chron. 20: 17 New Testament Acts 17: 17 Bible: Psa. 118; 8
Shortest Verses Old Testament: 1 Chron. 1: 25 New Testament: John 11: 35 Bible: John 11: 35
Psalm 117, the middle chapter in the Bible, is also the shortest chapter.
Ezra 7: 21 contains all the letters of the alphabet except J.
The word Jehovah or LORD is found 6,855 times in the Bible.
The word Eternity occurs only once in the Bible—Isaiah 57: 15."
The word literosity is but rarely used in English. It means the literary character of a writing. By this word we desire to convey the thought of the literary character of the Bible, as a feature of the subject of this chapter. The Scriptures are a literature, and particularly in their Old Testament part are at least as fine a literature, considered simply as literature, as any in the world; for the Bible is not simple a book; it is a library of 66 books that contain in their Old Testament parts all the extant literary remains that the Hebrew people produced until their language became dead, and was superseded by the Israelitish people using Aramaic as their spoken tongue. The religious use of the Bible as a book of texts, which it is, the translations of it being done entirely in prose, until late years witness the rendering of its poetry as poetry, and its division into chapters and verses, conspired to prevent its recognition as being very literary.
It was during the eighteenth century that especially three scholars devoted themselves, among other things, to the study of certain Old Testament books as poetry. The pioneer of these was Bishop Robert Lowth, whose epoch-making book published in 1753 and entitled, University Lectures On The Sacred Poetry Of The Hebrews, opened up a new world of thought on the Old Testament Scriptures. He found a worthy successor in 1758 for this branch of Scripture study in John David Michaelis, of Goettingen, Germany, whose vast Oriental learning supplemented many of Bishop Lowth's pertinent lacks when he published Lowth's book with copious notes in German. A number of years passed by without improvements in this branch of Biblical learning, until the great German poet and
preacher, John Godfred Herder, toward the end of the 18th Century published an extraordinary book, entitled, The Spirit Of Hebrew Poetry. These three laid the foundation of the study of the Bible as literature. The ablest modern exponent of this learning was Dr. Richard G. Moulton, of the Chicago University, whose Modern Reader's Bible is a classic in presenting the Bible as literature—a book that every Bible lover will value after using it. In it the whole Bible appears plus three of the poetic books of the Apocrypha, arranged as literature with literary notes thereon. It makes the Bible appear as a wonderful thing, literarily considered. He brings out the literary phases of the Bible; and it makes its events, personages and literary excellencies glow in warm living colors before its enraptured readers. He has shown, indeed, that as literature, which is, of course, not the main attribute of the Bible, it is, in its Old Testament part, at least equal to any other literature.
The literature of all literary nations, broadly speaking, comes to us in two forms—prose and poetry. We are all, on account of our being used to the A.V., of course, acquainted with the fact that the Bible contains prose; but many seem unaware of the fact that whole books of the Bible are poetry in Hebrew. This is the case with almost all the writings of the prophets and of Job and all the Psalms, Proverbs, Canticles and Ecclesiastes. Only the narrative parts of the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel and of Job are prose. The rest is poetry. The Bible's prose is noteworthy as existing in every form of prose composition. Here are found essays, like 1 Cor. 13: 1-13; 2 Peter and Jude. Histories abound in the Bible, as we can see in the books of Genesis, partly in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, and with slight exceptions wholly in Joshua, judges, the two Samuels, Kings and part of Chronicles in the Old Testament, and The Acts Of The Apostles in the New Testament. There is much of biography in the
Bible, as witness Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Daniel and, above all, the four Gospels. Many letters are found there, as is evident in the Pauline and General Epistles. Many are the stories with which the Bible abounds, in evidence of which we recall the story of man's creation, trial and fall, the flood and the careers of the Ancient Worthies. It even has many legal documents, as the Mosaic laws testify. Genealogical trees are found there in abundance, especially in 1 Chronicles. There are first-class treatises in the Bible, of which Romans and Hebrews are examples. It also contains philosophical writings, e.g., Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. Many are its epigrams; indeed Proverbs is full of them, while examples of them are scattered with lavish hand throughout the Bible. Many are the sermons there, of which the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5—7), the Lord's last address (John 13—16), Peter's Pentecostal and Caesarean addresses and Paul's Antiochian and Athenian addresses are fine examples. The greatest oration of all times is that of Moses in Deuteronomy, especially when its utterances are viewed in the light of the background of Israel's preceding 40 years' experiences and the near departure of Israel's beloved leader. Jesus' denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees in Matt. 23 is unequaled in all the literature of denunciation, not excepting Demosthenes' Philippics and Cicero's Catilinics. Forensic oratory finds among its brightest examples St. Paul's defense before Festus and Agrippa. Martyrs' appeals are glorified by that of Stephen in Acts 7. Humorous literature on an extended scale is the only kind of literature not found in the Bible, though here and there it contains flashes of humor, especially Samson's ways of bettering the Philistines and joking over it, and St. Paul's turning the Sadducees and the Pharisees away from pouncing upon him by inciting them to fight one another to their forgetting of their quarrel with him, when he stood before the Sanhedrin to answer for his life. There is grim humor in the ways
God foils His adversaries, e.g., Pharaoh, Sisera, Absalom, the two Herods, etc. Most Bible puns are lost in the translation, the English not having pun words corresponding to those in the Hebrew and the Greek.
The Old Testament is rich in poetry. But Hebrew poetry is quite different from modern European and American poetry, which consists of certain kinds of poetic measures in the lines and usually with rhymes at the end of lines. Rhythm of sound underlies European and American poetry, while rhythm of thought underlies Hebrew poetry: Thus in its very soul Hebrew poetry is based on a finer foundation than non-Biblical poetry. For intricacy of structure and depth of originality Hebrew poetry far transcends the poetry of the nations of Christendom. Rhythm of thought makes the heart of Hebrew poetry consist of parallel thoughts as comparatives or as contrasts. In the comparative parallels, usually called parallelisms, either the same thought is repeated in different words or very similar thoughts are expressed. As an example of the former we may suggest Ps. 25: 9—"The meek will He guide in judgment: the meek will He teach His way.'' As a double example of it we may instance Is. 62: 1—"For Zion's sake I will not hold my peace; for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, etc." Another example is Ps. 2: 1—"Why do the nations rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?" As an example of a contrasted parallelism we might quote Prov. 10: 1—"A wise son maketh a glad father; but a foolish son is the grief of his mother." Usually the Psalms have the parallelisms of comparison and the Proverbs those of contrast. Yet often the reverse is the case, e.g., Ps. 37 and Prov. 1—3. But these are only the generalities of the forms of Hebrew poetry. There are minute details therein that make the structure of Hebrew poems by far more difficult than the most intricate forms of poetry among the nations of Christendom or the heathen Greeks and Romans. A detailed description of them would be entirely too
intricate for our purpose; hence we will but briefly mention their phases without further description. Their details with copious examples can be found in Dr. Moulton's, The Modern Reader's Bible, 1517-1542. These phases are as follows: synonymous, similar and dissimilar parallelism, variation, and that, of three kinds of metrical rhythm— strain, couplet and stanzas—strophes, duplication, augmenting, diminution, introductions, conclusions, leads, refrains, antistrophic structure—alteration, interlacing, inversion (or introversion)—single, double and triple pendulum rhythm, envelope, interruption, suspension, number sonnet, alternate parallelisms, duplications, antistrophic duplication and augmenting alteration. Then there are all sorts of combinations of most of these. No other poetry in the world can exhibit such wonderful and varied poetic forms. With all there is a rhythm of sound that accompanies the rhythm of thought in much of Hebrew poetry.
As for kinds of poetic composition Hebrew has all of them. The noblest of all kinds of poetry is the epic, the finest example of which our English language offers is Milton's Paradise Lost. The Bible contains as its contents the Divine Plan of the Ages, which is an epic of the highest order and the noblest cast. Its warfare is the battle between God and Satan. Its hero and heroine are Jesus and the Church; their companions are the Ancient and Youthful Worthies and the Great Company; its villain is Satan; his companions and partisans are fallen angels and wicked men. Its stage is the heavens and earth. Its adventures are as diversified as the stories of the Bible; its time 7,000 years. Its outcome is the extirpation of evil and its servants and the triumph of right and its doers. Its ultimate object is the revelation of God to His creatures as perfect in wisdom, justice, love and power. There are sub-epics in this book. Among these we may instance the life of Joseph and of Esther. No human epic can equal the Divine Plan of the Ages—none
is worthy of mention with it in the same breath. Drama is the next highest form of poetry. The book of Job is a drama, having its prologue, its dialogues and its epilogue. In fact an epic is the basis of Job, though its bulk is drama. It has even a lyrical element, which, among others, is found in the curse (Job 3). The subjects of its dialogues are inimitable, accurately discussed and in language and thought sublime and beautiful. Literary critics are a unit in the thought that the book of Job is the supreme piece of literature in existence. As lyrical poetry the Psalms are supreme. In them all the feelings of the human heart are shown in their lengths and breadths, heights and depths. Fierce, righteous indignation stand side by side with tenderness and pathos of the finest kind. Hope and fear appear in varied forms. Worship and adoration, prayer and praise, repentance and faith, hope and courage, waiting and doing, are all present. The piety and naturalness of the Psalms make them strike a responsive chord in all pious and simple hearts. It is at once a prayer book, a hymnal and a manual of devotion. It has comforted, cheered and strengthened godly hearts as no other book in existence. Certainly its authors drank deeply of the cup of human experiences in all its general aspects; and their experiences there described reach kindred hearts with the touch of fellowship feelings as no other book has done. This puts the Psalms in the first place of the world's lyrics. As for the literature of rhapsody nothing ever written can equal the rhapsodies of Isaiah. In both of its two divisions, chapters 1—39 and 40—66, the loftiest strains of rhapsody are reached. Note its vocative descriptions of the various nations that must go down in ruin. Note its addresses to Israel, its hailing of the Kingdom of God and Messiah, its King. Note its addresses to Spiritual Israel. Here are rhapsodic beauty and sublimity unrivaled and unequaled. In Job, Psalms and Isaiah literature has reached its holiest of holies, its highest heavens and
its loftiest Paradise. Nothing in the world can compare with them, each in its sphere of poetry—in the way of drama, lyrics and rhapsody.
Nor are the Psalms, which contain several songs of Moses, the only example of Biblical lyrics. Apart from a few scattered verses, the first examples of such lyrics are Jacob's blessings on the twelve tribes (Gen. 49) and Moses' and Miriam's songs of deliverance at the Red Sea, found in Ex. 15, during whose singing the men and women danced with answering choruses, in harmony with the music and the words. Very famous, indeed, are the lyrics of Moses given in Dent. 32 and 33. Here and there interspersed among the historical books are snatches of songs or couplets. The song of Deborah is certainly a fine specimen of a lyric in which many of the mechanisms of Hebrew poetry mentioned above appear. This was a war song of inimitable beauty, sublimity and strength, well calculated to arouse into enthusiasm the low burning fires of patriotism in a down-trodden and oppressed nation, reduced to servitude, as Israel was frequently during the periods of the judges. Here and there shorter war ballads are found in the Bible. Hannah's song is a lyric of majestic theme and well-developed execution. Here and there in Samuel and Chronicles David bursts out into wonderful lyrics, not to mention his part in the Psalms, 90 of which are expressly ascribed to him, and others of which he likely composed. Others, like Solomon, Asaph, Heman, Ethan, Moses and the unknown captive author of Ps. 137, join with David in giving us, under God, the beautiful, sublime and strong lyrics of which the Psalms consist. Hezekiah and Isaiah give us beautiful Psalms as pious lyrics; and even the New Testament, in which the poetic elements stand comparatively far in the background, contains some splendid lyrics, e.g., the odes of Zacharias and Mary. The annunciation to Mary is clothed in poetic form, as is also the angelic chorus, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to men." Even unfriendly critics
of the Bible put as poetry the Hebrew lyrics ahead of the lyrics found in any other literature.
There is another form of poetry—didactic poetry—that abounds in the Bible. This form of poetry occurs in what is called the Wisdom parts of the Bible—Proverbs and Ecclesiastes; and Job has also Wisdom elements of poetry. Such books contain Israel's philosophy, which is shown to be one of intense practicability. Unlike the impractical, speculative and abstruse philosophies of heathen India and Greece and of nominal Christian nations, the philosophy of the Hebrews was intensely practical. The Hebrews have even some uninspired Wisdom literature in didactic poetry, as can be seen in the two Apocryphal books of Ecclesiasticus and the so-called Wisdom of Solomon, neither of which exists now in Hebrew and which, while not reaching the sublimity of the inspired didactic poetry of Solomon, are fine examples of Wisdom poetry, far outstripping anything in the didactic poetry of other nations. The brief, sometimes disjointed proverbs of Solomon and of others whose proverbs appear in the Book of Proverbs, are not only wonderfully constructed as poetic productions according to Hebrew standards and forms of poetry, but are the finest philosophy for man's conduct toward God and neighbor in existence. Who will deny that in poetic diction Ecclesiastes presents the problem of man's existence amid the conditions of the curse, as it has struck the minds of various classes of more or less skeptical and worldly-minded thinkers, as well as those of believing and religiously-minded men? And who of proper ideals will not agree with the eventual solution of the riddle of human existence under the conditions of the curse as it struck the mind of the wisest of Hebrews, considering that the full solution was not yet due until the time of Jesus and the Apostles? The arrangement of the materials, as the viewpoint of such varied minds and beliefs are successively presented, and the fine poetic sense exhibited in the
thought and forms expressed prove this poem to be a work of a highest genius, even as Solomon was such.
Even love songs are found in the Bible. Ps. 45 is a splendid illustration of the chaste love songs of the Hebrews, from which obscenity and coarseness are entirely absent. But the greatest of all love songs, Biblical or extra-Biblical, is the Canticles—"The song of songs (i.e., the superlative song], which is Solomon's." Even in its literality it expresses the noblest attributes of true espoused human love between lovers of the opposite sex. Here is nothing coarse, nothing rude, nothing obscene. Here are loyalty to engagement vows, constancy in affection to the absent lover, ardent affection to the loved prospective spouses, most beautifully exemplified. All sorts of figures of speech are thickly strewn all over the surface of this poem; and it is beautiful in the best sense of that word. This magnificent love poem is all the more enhanced when we remember that it is a prophecy of the espoused love of Christ and the Church. Only when it is so considered do its noblest flights of poetic sentiment stand out in their true colors.
The great natural literatures of certain nations have all of the above forms of poetry. But the Hebrews have a form of poetry peculiarly their own-prophecy, which, accordingly, they share with no other nation. Almost all the prophetic writings of the Old Testament are in the form of poetry. There are a few exceptions to this, like Is. 36—39, and various chapters in Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. But for the most part Biblical prophecy is clothed in poetic form. And what poetry! We have already noted the Psalms, which are prophecies, as illustrations of lyrics, and Isaiah, which is mainly prophetic, as an illustration of rhapsody. But the other prophets display these characteristics. Amos and Micah almost equal Isaiah in poetic power and finish. And others of the minor prophets up to and including Malachi, who; though the last, is not the least of the prophets from the
standpoint of poetic power and finish, exhibit wonders of poetic flight. Accordingly, Hebrew poetry ranks first in the poetic literature of the world. The remark deserves emphasis here that all the poetry of the Bible has the peculiarity of being prophecy in poetic form. This is true not only of the poetry of Job, Psalms, Isaiah and all the other prophets, but it is true of the songs of Jacob, Balaam, Moses, Deborah, Hannah, Hulda, Zacharias, Mary and other snatches of song interspersed through the historical books of the Bible. And not only is this true of the abovementioned poetry, but also of the Wisdom poetry of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes; for, for the most part, Solomon's Proverbs prefigure the Millennial teachings on ethical and social principles; and his Ecclesiastes sets forth the various classes of natural troubles, as these appeared to the Ancient Worthies, in their philosophizing on the problem of existence.
Having given some generalities on the prose and poetry of the Hebrews as set forth in the Bible, we will now devote a little time to a consideration of the Bible's uses of the niceties of diction (use of words), which are among the ornaments of every great literature. Its diction, as to the Hebrew vocabulary, is rather limited, since, including its proper names, which number 2,668, according to Fuerst's Hebrew Concordance, all of which are significant, there are only about 8,674 different words in the Hebrew Bible, according to Strong's Hebrew Dictionary of the Old Testament. But this vocabulary is pure Hebrew, overlooking the comparatively few Aramaic words in the original text, found in three books: certain chapters in Ezra and Daniel and two verses in Jeremiah. Hebrew in the 1200 years from Moses to Malachi underwent very few changes, by far less than those of our modern languages, so that one familiar with the prose of Moses finds no difficulty in understanding the prose of Nehemiah, the last of the Old Testament prose writers. And one familiar with the poetic language
of Jacob, Moses and Job, the oldest examples of sustained Hebrew poetry, has no difficulty in deciphering the poetic language of Malachi, so far as diction and style are concerned. Singularly free from foreign terms and words, slang and obsolete and obsolescent words is the Hebrew of the Bible. Its diction is, accordingly, pure. It has also the quality of propriety—its words are properly used in its sentences. Here are no misplaced words, no words used in wrong connections, nor words not expressing the exact thought intended by the Bible's Author. On the contrary, each word is given its proper place; each is put into its proper connection and each expresses exactly the thought that God intends to convey. It is true that, like other developed languages, most Hebrew words have a variety of meanings, but the Lord has taken good care of it that His amanuenses used the exact words in the exact places where they would be properly used. E: g., the Bible writers never say predicate when they mean predict, nor mutual when they mean common. Thus they would never say except for unless, like for as, avocation for vocation. Nor do Bible writers ride a word to death, as the words got and get are frequently done in English. Their regarding propriety in their use of words helped them to observe precision therein, i.e., the writers of the Bible tell exactly what they mean, no more and no less. Hence they are discriminate in their use of words. They select from among synonymous words the one that conveys the precise thought that is intended to be conveyed. A study of Bible synonyms, such as Trench's Synonyms of the Greek New Testament and Griddlestone's Hebrew Synonyms of the Old Testament; furnishes splendid examples of the precision of the Bible in its use of synonymous words. Here are no uses of difficulty for obstacle, opportunity for occasion, weight for heaviness, acknowledge for confess, only for alone, etc., etc. Thus in its diction the Bible is precise, proper and pure, the attributes of good diction.
The Bible's sentences conform, as a rule, to the rules of style as to sentences. These are found in all kinds in the Bible—simple, complex and compound. Some are periodic, some are loose, most of them are balanced (all are so in poetry), some are long, some are short and some are medium. Unless the Lord purposely designed to use dark speech, as He does in type, parable and mystery, He employs the clearest of thought and language, and even His dark speech is clear when the thought is due to he understood. He uses emphasis wherever it is desired, resorting to the various devices whereby it is secured. Unity of thought in its sentences is in the Bible almost always used; and apart from St. Paul, who in the profusion of his quick, deep and broad thinking powers is often hurried from one thought to another before finishing a sentence, thus at times falling out of his construction, and leaving sentences incomplete, there are remarkably few cases of Biblical writers' falling out of the construction of their sentences, i.e., beginning to express a thought and leaving it incomplete because of taking up another thought. The sentences of the Bible are full of strength. Never in any other book are the same thoughts expressed with such force as those of the Bible. Such strength is secured negatively by its avoiding redundant words, extravagant expletives, carelessness in its use of words of connection, transition and conclusion. It is positively secured by the use of fitting and precise words, by observing care in its use of words of connection, transition and conclusion, by a frequent use of contrast and climax, especially in its parallelisms. So, too, does it use harmony in the construction of its sentences. This it secures by using words so that they will have a pleasing effect on the ear, as is seen in a happy selection of words, a natural arrangement of words and an alternation of soft and harsh sounds and thoughts. The Hebrew system of accentuation greatly assists to harmony in its sentence construction; so, too, does the
cadence between the parts of the sentences. Sound is especially adapted to the sense of the words. Thus does the Hebrew make its sentences sententious, strong, clear, various, emphatic, united. Herein the structure of its sentences stands out as worthy of being the parts of a great literature.
Every great literature is embellished with figures of speech, which add to the literary beauty, and often to the sublimity of a writing or discourse. Accordingly, we find figures of speech richly strewn throughout the Bible. Dr. Bullinger has written a large quarto on the Bible figures, wherein he sets forth very many figures that ordinary text-books on Rhetoric leave unmentioned. Indeed, among the Biblical figures that he enumerates and describes, and that number 181 in all, are some found in no other literature. By a figure of speech is meant such use of a word or words as, departs from their ordinary meaning, place or manner in order to clarify, beautify or emphasize the thought intended to be conveyed. The thought intended to be conveyed thereby is literal, but the words used thereto are not literal. It is because the words are not used therein literally that we call them figurative. The Bible, particularly the Old Testament, is probably the most figurative book ever written; and the failure to distinguish between its literal and figurative language has resulted in false interpretations, e.g., the failure to note that the language as to the elements in the Lord's Supper is such as gives the interpretation of a figurative institution has resulted in the doctrine of transubstantiation and that of instrumentalization—both very gross errors. No one can be a trustworthy interpreter of Holy Writ who confounds its figures into literalities and its literalities into figures; and it takes, at times, considerable knowledge of the Truth as due to be able to detect whether the pertinent language is literal or figurative. The following are the main figures of Biblical speech on which we desire to make some remarks and quote some examples: simile, metaphor,
parable, type, allegory, vision, antithesis, epigram, metonymy, synecdoche, interrogation, exclamation, apostrophe, personification, hyperbole, irony, climax, anticlimax, enigma and apodioxis. Our explanations must be brief and our examples few.
The simile consists of a comparison of one thing with another, the following being several examples of the Bible's use of this figure: My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender grass and as showers upon the grass (Deut. 32: 2). Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that reverence Him (Ps. 103: 13). Be ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding, that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately (Luke 12: 36). The Bible similes are frequent and beautiful. The poet, Markham, the author of the poem, The Man With A Hoe, comparing and contrasting Jesus' use of figures with that of Shakespeare, who is generally recognized as the greatest of human poets, and yielding the palm to Jesus, cited, among others, as an illustration of an unrivaled set of similes Jesus' words to the Twelve: Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves. In the metaphor the likeness of one thing is put more directly than in a simile; in fact, it directly substitutes one thing for another. The following are some Bible examples of metaphor: Jesus sets off Herod's craftiness in these words: Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected (Luke 13: 32). Another from Jesus' lips: I am the true vine, and My Father is the Husbandman. Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit He purgeth, that it may bring forth more fruit … ye are the branches. He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; if one abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch,
and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned (John 15: 1-6). In Cant. 2: 1 the espoused one says: I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys. These are a few among perhaps 500,000 metaphors in the Bible, which literally abounds with them, e.g., Ps. 91: 1-13.
The Bible's parables, particularly those of the New Testament, are simply incomparable, especially for fine art, apt illustration and pithy truth. Jesus particularly is the Master of masters in the art of parabolic illustration. Matt. 13 contains a number of these, e.g., the four kinds of soil that are sown with seed, illustrative of four kinds of hearers of the Word of God; and the parable of wheat and tares, illustrative of the products of Truth and error. Luke 15 contains three fine parables, e.g., the woman and her ten coins with one lost and found, illustrative of the Church with its ten great truths, one of which is restitution, which was lost for centuries and then recovered; the shepherd and his hundred sheep, one of which was lost, illustrative of Christ, the keeper of all of Jehovah's classes of free-moral agents, with the lost one representing mankind, lost and Millennially recovered by Christ, the great Shepherd of the sheep. Who will ever forget the parable of the prodigal son, who illustrates covenant breakers, who during their unfaithfulness taste the bitter fruits of sin, and, repentant, return to God and home, forgiven sinners and welcomed and feted sons, the elder brother, throwing a wet blanket over the festive scene, fittingly picturing the merely external covenant keepers? Who will ever forget the parable of the Good Samaritan, illustrating mankind fallen into the curse, unhelped by nominal Judaism and Churchianity, but rescued and nursed back into health by the ministry and at the cost of The Christ, Head and Body? The Old Testament also contains some parables, e.g., that of the vineyard (Is. 5: 1-6); Samson's riddle (Judg. 14: 14); the poor
man's ewe, told by Nathan to David (2 Sam. 12: 112); the eagle and the vine (Ezek. 17: 3-10), etc.
Next to metaphors types are perhaps the most frequent of all Biblical figures; for we have learned that not only everything in the Pentateuch is typical, but also that everything in the next seven books of the Bible, called in the Hebrew Bible, the earlier prophets, is typical. We have learned that every occurrence in the Gospels beginning with Jesus' arrival at Bethany six days before His death until into the night of His resurrection day is typical. Every historic event, every place, person and thing mentioned in the Bible is typical. Thus Adam and Eve in the state of innocence are typical of Christ and the Church (Eph. 5: 31, 32). Noah's Ark is typical of the Christ (1 Pet. 3: 20, 21). Abraham, his wives and children type God, His covenants and their class products (Gal. 4: 21-31). Moses types Christ, Divine justice or the Law, the Head and Body as Mediator, etc. Aaron types our Lord, the Church as God's Parousia and Epiphany mouthpiece, the Head as the Church's High Priest, the Head and Body as the World's High Priest, etc. The tabernacle types the Christ, in its court, as justified, its holy, as Spirit-begotten and its most holy, as Spirit-born. The tents near about it type the antitypical Priesthood and Levites, while those far about it type the denominational divisions of the Gospel Age and the 12 classes of restitutionists of the Millennial Age. Every feature of the tabernacle structure and service was typical of better things. Time and space fail us to go further into this matter, but the typical feature of the Bible is a matter of stupendous literary art; for the stories of the Bible in themselves are marvels of literary composition, put when we realize that they are perfect pictures of future things, we can readily see that their literary art is very greatly enhanced.
The Bible contains some allegories. An allegory is a sustained elaborated parable. The best example of uninspired allegory is Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.