Jesus’ Use of Figures of Speech
Bible scholars have accurately translated the words of the Bible, yet, it still reflects its language and idioms. Like us, they had their favourite expressions, illustrations and sayings. They don’t always convert well into English. The Bible is a translation and, in this regard, we are no different from the early Christians and even Jesus, who read a Greek translation of the Hebrew.
Let’s look at some of Jesus’ expressions: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3). It wasn’t until I watched the Visual Bible recording of The Gospel According to Matthew, and saw the actor, Bruce Marchiano, who played Jesus, hold a long plank of wood against his face that I realized that Jesus was using absurdity to make a point.
Likewise, Jesus spoke about the difficulties of someone who was rich entering the kingdom of God and he again used a picture of absurdity to make his point: “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24).
Another time, when Jesus was teaching his disciples he said, “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6). He then had to explain to them that the “yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” was their teaching (verse 12). Teaching is like yeast that slowly works its way through the dough. When you first mix the yeast into the dough it doesn’t look any different but given time, it significantly increases the size of the dough and changes its character. Likewise, when we apply ourselves to any kind of teaching, initially there won’t be an obvious difference in our lives, but over time our lives will reflect the teaching that we have received. Jesus warns us to guard against wrong teaching. However, the upside is if we absorb the “yeast” of God’s teaching it will work in us and purify our character.
These are just a few of many examples. When you are reading the Bible look out for figures of speech.