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Bible Lexicons

Bullinger's Figures of Speech Used in the Bible

Hysteron-Proteron; or Last-First

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The Second of two things put First

Hys´-te-ron - Prot´-e-ron, from ὕστερος (hysteros), the latter, and πρότερος (proteros), the former.

A figure in which the word that should be the latter of two words comes first.

It is, therefore, a kind of Hyperbaton: where the cart is put before the horse. It occurs in most languages; but it is a question whether in this sense it occurs in the Bible, as the figure is considered rather a blemish than an ornament. If it is used, it is certainly for unusual emphasis.

Philippians 3:19 has been cited: "Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things."

Here, the "end" is put first: in order that the mind may dwell with the greater horror on the things which lead to it.

The structure of these verses (18, 19) throws more light on them, and shows that after the words "many walk" there is a parenthetical break, which is resumed at the end of verse 19, to show who these "walkers" are, viz., "the earthly minded."

a "For many are walking

b Whom I often told you, and do tell you now-even weeping, calling them the enemies of the cross of Christ,

b Whose end-destruction; whose god-the belly; and their glory-in shame.

a Such [namely] as are minding earthly things."

Here, in "a" and "a" we have the walkers; while in "b" we have their walk, and in "b" their end. Hence their walk ends in destruction, their worship ends in their belly, and their glory ends in shame.

Hebrews 3:8.-"Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness."

The provocation of God followed the temptation in the wilderness; but is here put first to mark out the special temptation referred to.

Hebrews 4:2.-"For unto us was the Gospel preached, as well as unto them." Here, the order of time is inverted, to agree with the order of thought, and for emphasis.

But, as we have said, it is a question whether we have any real examples of this figure in the Bible.

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Bibliography Information
Bullinger, E. W., D.D. Entry for 'Hysteron-Proteron; or Last-First'. Bullinger's Figures of Speech Used in the Bible.

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