The Berean Expositor
Volume 47 - Page 5 of 185
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Antonyms, or Clarity by Contrasts
Introducing the Principle of Contrast,
as an aid to Interpretation.
pp. 17 - 20
To the average busy reader, eager as he may be for the truth, yet occupied for many
hours of the day with the exacting demands of this life, such terms as homonym,
synonym and antonym, may appear too much like a piece of pedantry, and we can
imagine a few of our readers turning the page in search of something more practical. We
ask such however, to stay a moment longer, for nothing can be more practical for the
believer than true interpretation of Holy Writ, and anything that contributes to clarity and
exactness, or preserves from error should be of supreme value.
When the Apostle wrote to the Corinthians that series of contrasts and asked what
fellowship had `righteousness with unrighteousness', `light with darkness' or `Christ with
Belial', he was using antonyms, a means of instruction that is very powerful in that it
forces the mind to perceive a truth by the strength of contrast. An antonym as the word
implies, is a term which is the opposite of another, a counter-term. It is allied with a
figure of speech called antonomasia, which is a change of name, like `The Iron Duke' for
`The Duke of Wellington'. It is the opposite of synonym, which is the name given to two
or more words in the same language, which possess the same general sense.  The
antonym is extremely useful in removing the ambiguity caused by homonyms in a
language. A homonym is the name given to words, which though they have the same
spelling, have entirely different meanings, such as LET, which means `to permit, or to
hinder, or to hire'. These words entered the language at different times, and the slight
distinctions that might have been preserved in their spelling have been ignored. The
reader may call to mind many other homonyms of everyday use: `to lie' has two
meanings, `to baste' has three, and `court' has four, while `strike' has to our knowledge at
least a dozen: it may mean a stoppage of work by employees, a half bushel basket, a
discovery of oil, or the minting of coin; beside the more common use of the verb, to
strike a match, or a clock striking the hour, of striking a circle, or of striking a sail; one
can even strike an attitude. This English word `strike'' is used in the A.V. to translate no
less than ten Hebrew words, and six Greek ones, and as this is a common feature with all
versions that do not set out to be literal, the value of some simple means that will lead to
the recognition of such homonyms, and the discovery of some means of testing them, will
be conceded by all. The antonym is exceedingly useful for this purpose. Let us illustrate
our meaning by an example. Will the reader answer the following questions? "What is
the opposite of `light' in II Cor. 4:?". Most probably the word `darkness' comes to
most of our minds, and if there were but one reference in II Cor. iv, and that the passage
which reads: "God, Who commanded the light to shine", then "darkness" would be the
antonym. But there are two references to "light" in II Cor. 4: One whose antonym is
"For God, Who commanded the light to shine out of darkness" (II Cor. 4: 6),