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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

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PARONOMASIA (Gr. παρονομασία, Lat. annominatio).* [Note: Winer in his NT Grammar (tr. Moulton, 1882, pp. 793–796) distinguishes between paronomasia and annominatio, defining the former as ‘a combination of like-sounding words’ (e.g. Luke 21:11, Matthew 21:41), and the latter as ‘having respect to the meaning of the words as well as to their similarity in sound’ (e.g. Matthew 16:18). See also Blass, NT Grammar, tr. Thackeray, 1898, p. 298.] —A play on words of similar sound. This linguistic use, which in the present day is usually confined to humorous writing, is found in ancient, and especially Oriental, works in the most serious passages. In Hebrew it is frequent, largely with proper names. There are many examples in the OT, e.g. Genesis 9:27; Genesis 25:26; Genesis 48:22, Exodus 2:10, Ruth 1:20, Isaiah 63:1, Micah 1:10-15. [Note: also Ecclesiastes 7:1 a שֵׁם, שֶׁמֶן.] In the New Testament the writings of St. Paul, whose early training had been Jewish, furnish some instances of paronomasia (e.g. Philemon 1:11, Ὀνήσιμονἄχρηστονεὔχρηστον), but in the Gospels it is rare, being found chiefly, if not wholly, in the Hebraistic Gospel according to St. Matthew. The best known and most certain example is Matthew 16:18 σὐ εἶ Πέτρος (a rock), καὶ ἐπὶ ταύτῃ τῇ πέτρᾳ (? fragment of rock) οἰκοδομήσω μου τὴν ἐκκλησίαν. If, as seems probable, our Lord spoke in Aramaic, the word used would be Kepha (בֵּיפָא, cf. Heb. בֵּפִים Jeremiah 4:29, Job 30:6 =‘rocks’). The paronomasia makes the reference to St. Peter certain, although there may still be room for doubt whether Christ meant that St. Peter, as the leader of the Apostolic band, should be the human founder of the new Church, or that it should be built on the foundation of the confession, Σὺ εἷ ὁ Χριστὸς ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ζῶντος. The former of these views is the more reasonable, and would probably have been almost universally accepted had it not been for the extravagance of some Roman Catholic commentators.

There are also possible examples of paronomasia in Matthew 2:23; Matthew 3:9. In the former of these passages the words Ναζωραῖος (=an inhabitant of Nazareth) κληθήσεται are not found in any prophet, but it seems not unlikely that they contain an allusion to the language of Isaiah 11:1 where Messiah is called נֵצֶר (= a branch), and possibly also to the word נָצַר (to preserve); cf. Isaiah 49:6. In Matthew 3:9 (cf. Luke 3:8) the Baptist says δύναται ὁ θεὸς ἐκ τῶν λίθων τούτων ἐγεῖραι τέκνα τῷ Ἀβραάμ. The Hebrew words for λίθοι and τέκνα are similar in sound. There may therefore be a, paronomasia here: ‘God can from these stones (אֲבָנִים ’ăbânîm) raise up children (בָּנִים bânîm) to Abraham.’ These passages have been used to support the view, which is as old as Papias, that parts at least of Mt. had a Hebrew or Aramaic original.* [Note: It is, of course, possible that in our Lord’s discourses, spoken originally in Aramaic, there were examples of paronomasia which have been lost in the Greek version. Eichhorn (Einl. in d. NT, i. 504) and others have made conjectural attempts to restore some of these, but they are not convincing. Matthew 10:25 may contain a paronomasia if Βεελζεβούλ Is to be connected with וְבוּל and made = ‘lord of the dwelling’ (οἰκοδεσπότης).]

Literature.—C. B. Michaelis, de paronomasia sacra (Hal. 1737); J. F. Boettcher, de paronomasia finitimisque ei figuris Paulo Apostolo frequentatis (Lips. 1823); Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible , Extra Vol., p. 165 (by König).

H. W. Fulford.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Paronomasia'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​p/paronomasia.html. 1906-1918.
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