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Bible Lexicons

Bullinger's Figures of Speech Used in the Bible

Antimetathesis; or Dialogue

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A Transference of Speakers

An-ti-me-tath´-e-sis, from ἀντί (anti), against, or opposite to, and μετάθεσις (metathesis), a placing differently (and this from μετά (meta), beyond, or over, and τιθέναι (tithenai), to place or set.

So that Antimetathesis is a figure by which there is a transposition of one thing over against another, especially of one person over against another; as when the writer or speaker addresses the reader or hearer in the second person as if he were actually present.

Hence the figure is called also POLYPROSOPON, pol´-y-pros-ô´-pon, from πολύς (polus), many, and πρόσωπον (prosôpon), a person. Hence many persons, or more than one person.

Sometimes the address is simple; sometimes it is continued, in which case it is called a Dialogue.

In Romans 2:1-29 the Gentile is personified, and by Antimetathesis is addressed personally instead of being described as in chapter 1.

"Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest" (2:1, etc.).

Then, after describing and defining a true Jew, and distinguishing him from one who is not, we have apparently a dialogue in chapter 3, as Macknight has pointed out. Thus:-

Jew. "What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?"

Apostle. "Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God."

Jew. "But what if some have not believed? Will not their unbelief make void the faithfulness of God [who promised to be the God of Abrahams seed]?"

Apostle. "Far be it: No, let God prove true [to His covenant], though every man be a liar [in denying that Jesus is the Messiah]: as it is written, That thou mayest be justified in thy words [of threatening] and mayest overcome when on thy trial. "

Jew. "But if our unrighteousness [in rejecting Christ] establisheth the righteousness of God [in casting us off], what shall we say? God is not unrighteous who visiteth us with his anger, is He? (I say this in the character of an unbeliever)."

Apostle. "By no means: otherwise how shall God judge the world?"

Jew. "[This is hardly satisfactory]; for, if the truth of God [in visiting His nation with His wrath] hath redounded unto His glory through my lie [in affirming that Jesus is not the Messiah], why am I also [as an individual] still further judged as a sinner?"

Apostle. "And why not add, (as we are slanderously reported to practise, and as some affirm that we say), Let us do evil that good may come? Of these the condemnation is just."

Jew. "Well, then; Do we Jews excel the Gentiles?"

Apostle. "Not at all; for we have already proved both Jews (2:21-24) and Gentiles (1:18-32) to be all under sin. Even as it standeth written (in various Scriptures, which are selected and quoted from Psalms 53:1-3; Psalms 14:1-3, etc.)."

Thus the figure Antimetathesis, or Dialogue, helps to clear the sense and to indicate the manner in which certain words and expressions should be translated.

Romans 11:18.-"Boast not against the branches. But, if thou boastest [know thou that] thou bearest not the root, but the root [beareth] thee."

Here the apostle is addressing "you Gentiles" as such: not the saints of God.

Romans 11:19.-"Thou wilt plead then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in."

This was true as to the effect, but not as to the cause. It was what a Gentile, as such, would say, but not what the Holy Spirit said. No! On the contrary, it was "Because of unbelief they were broken off."

And so he goes on to speak of the Gentiles by Antimetathesis, greatly enhancing and intensifying the argument.

Romans 14:15.-"But, if thy brother is grieved with thy meat." Here, the change of persons emphasises the point that it is "thy brother" in Christ. Not merely a fellow-man, but thy brothers Christian conscience, which is stumbled at thy eating that which has been offered to idols.

1 Corinthians 7:16.-Here, the individual husband and wife are singled out and addressed, as though they were present.

1 Corinthians 15:35.-Here, an objector is singled out: perhaps the actual words of a known person are quoted and dealt with.


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Bibliography Information
Bullinger, E. W., D.D. Entry for 'Antimetathesis; or Dialogue'. Bullinger's Figures of Speech Used in the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/lexicons/bullinger/28.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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