The Berean Expositor
Volume 25 - Page 177 of 190
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FIGURES OF SYNTAX OR GRAMMAR.--These are figures of speech
that alter the arrangement of words in a sentence, or alter the meaning of
words for emphasis or effect.
FIGURES OF RHETORIC.--These are figures that use words with an
unusual application.
This threefold division is based upon the nature of the subject, and seems the most
Dr. Bullinger arranged his treatise under the three following heads:--
Figures which depend for their peculiarity on OMISSION.
Figures which depend upon ADDITION by REPETITION.
Figures which depend upon  CHANGE,  or alteration in the usage or
application of words.
The reader who, "in all his getting", desires to "get understanding", will probably
appreciate the following remarks from Dr. Bullinger's Introductory Note to the subject:--
"How are we to know, then, when words are to be taken in their simple, original form
(i.e. literally), and when they are to be taken in some other and peculiar form (i.e. as a
figure)? The answer is, that, whenever and wherever it is possible, the words of Scripture
are to be understood literally, but when a statement appears to be contrary to our
experience, or to known fact, or revealed truth; or seems to be at variance with the
general teaching of Scriptures, then we may reasonably expect that some figure is
We shall, therefore, watch carefully for any departure from the usual in Scripture,
believing that all such departures are intentional and for a specific purpose. On the other
hand, we shall be careful to keep to the literal truth of the Scriptures. God has spoken
concerning Jew, Gentile and Church, concerning heaven, earth, and the sphere that is "far
above all heavens" (Eph. 4: 10). We are not at liberty to interpret Zion as meaning the
Church, or the 144,000 of the twelve tribes of Israel as meaning saved Gentiles. The
specific promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob concerning a land and a seed cannot
be spiritualized and made to refer to a Church consisting of saved Gentiles, with no hope
in Palestine, but a hope in heaven. With a true understanding of the significance of
figures of speech, we shall not fall into the Romish error concerning the word of Christ,
"This is My body"; neither shall we confuse symbolic titles such as the "Bride" and the
In our next article, we hope to take this study a step further, and deal with some
important examples of Figures of Speech in the Bible.