Home > Hermeneutics > Words are used in a literal sense when given their plain and natural meaning; figuratively, when a term is diverted to an object to which it does not naturally or normally belong

Words are used in a literal sense when given their plain and natural meaning; figuratively, when a term is diverted to an object to which it does not naturally or normally belong

Arthur PinkWords are used in a literal sense when given their plain and natural meaning; figuratively, when a term is diverted to an object to which it does not naturally or normally belong. Thus “hard” is the quality of a stone, but when predicated of the heart it is employed figuratively. A figure of speech consists in the fact of a word or words being used out of their ordinary sense and manner, for the sake of emphasis, by attracting our attention to what is said. Not that a different meaning is given to the word, but a new application of it is made. The meaning of the word is always the same when rightly used, and thus figures carry their own light and explain themselves. In the great majority of instances there is no difficulty in distinguishing between the literal and the non-literal. Here too there is a close resemblance between the Word of God and His works in creation. For the most part objects in the natural world are plain and simple, easily distinguished; yet some are obscure and mysterious. There are certain “laws” perceptible which regulate the actions of nature; nevertheless, there are notable exceptions to most of them. Thus we may be sure that God has not employed language which could only confuse and confound the unlearned, yet the meaning of many things in His Word can be ascertained only by hard labor.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

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