Figures of Speech

Literal interpretation recognizes that a word or phrase can be used either plainly (denotative) or figuratively (connotative). As in our own conversations today, the Bible may use plain speech, such as “He died yesterday” (denotative use of language). Or the same thing may be said in a more colorful way, “He kicked the bucket yesterday” (connotative use of language). An important point to be noted is that even though we may use a figure of speech to refer to someone’s death, we are using that figure to refer to an event that literally happened. Some interpreters are mistaken to think that just because a figure of speech may be used to describe an event (i.e., Jonah’s experience in the belly of the great fish in Jonah 2), that the event was not literal. Such is not the case. A “Golden Rule of Interpretation” has been developed to help us discern whether or not a figure of speech was intended by an author:

When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.8

Literalists understand that a figure of speech is employed by Isaiah teaching that the Adamic curse upon nature will be reversed in the millennium when he says, “And all the trees of the field will clap their hands” (Isa. 55:12d). This figure is discerned by specific factors in the context in which it was written, all dealing with the removal of the curse upon nature at this future time.

 Ref: Dr T Ice