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Bible Lexicons

Bullinger's Figures of Speech Used in the Bible

Idioma; or Idiom

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The peculiar usage of Words and Phrases

Id-i-ô´-ma. Greek, ἰδίωμα, a peculiarity, from ἴδιος (idios), ones own,* [Note: Hence ἰδιώτης (idiˊtees), our English idiot: i.e., a private person, as opposite to one, engaged in public affairs. Hence, a civilian as opposed to a military man; a layman, as opposed to a cleric or lawyer; an amateur, as opposed to a professional; a prose-writer, as opposed to a poet; an ignorant person, as opposed to a learned person. Hence, again, anyone unskilled or unpractised in any particular art or science; the opposite of expert. Thus, as knowledge and learning became more common, the term idiot came to be limited to one who is ignorant and unable to understand much.] and ἰδιωτισμός (id-i-o-tisˊ-mos), the common manner of speaking. Whence the Latin name for the figure IDIOTISMUS. The English name for it is IDIOM.

The word is used in three significations:

(1) The language peculiar to the vulgar, as opposed to what is classical.

(2) The language peculiar to one nation or tribe, as opposed to other languages or dialects.

(3) The language peculiar to any particular author or speaker.

It is in the second of these senses that it becomes important as a figure of speech.

The fact must ever be remembered that, while the language of the New Testament is Greek, the agents and instruments employed by the Holy Spirit were Hebrews. God spake "by the mouth of his holy prophets." Hence, while the "mouth" and the throat and vocal-chords and breath were human, the words were Divine.

No one is able to understand the phenomenon; or explain how it comes to pass: for Inspiration is a fact to be believed and received, and not a matter to be reasoned about.

While therefore, the words are Greek, the thoughts and idioms are Hebrew.

Some, on this account, have condemned the Greek of the New Testament, because it is not classical; while others, in their anxiety to defend it, have endeavoured to find parallel usages in classical Greek authors.

Both might have spared their pains by recognising that the New Testament Greek abounds with Hebraisms: i.e., expressions conveying Hebrew usages and thoughts in Greek words.

It will be seen at once that this is a subject which has a large and important bearing on the interpretation and clear understanding of many passages in the New Testament.

Much is said in favour of a literal translation. But in many cases this makes no sense whatever, and would sometimes make nonsense. What is wanted is an idiomatic version: i.e., the exact reproduction, not of the words, but of the thought and meaning of the phrase. It is in this that the difference is seen between the Authorized Version and the Revised. The former is a Version, while the latter is a translation. Hence the A.V. [Note: The Authorized Version, or current Text of our English Bible, 1611.] is English, while the RV; often is not.

This refers to words as well as to phrases. To bring the matter home, imagine an Englishman and an American translating from the French:-Gare, the one would render "Station," and the other "Depôt": Wagon de marchandises would be in English "Goods-Truck"; and in America, "Freight Car": Bureau (de billets) would be "Booking Office" and "Ticket Office" respectively; En Voiture would be, in English, "Take your seats": and in America, "All abroad."

Fancy rendering Mont de piété, literally mountain of piety, instead of "pawn-shop"! or Commissionaire de piété, literally Commissionaire of Piety, instead of "Pawnbroker"! or Faire des chateux en Espagne, literally to make castles in Spain instead of "to build castles in the air"!

Or Tomber dans leau, literally to fall into the water, instead of "to fall to the ground," or more colloquially "to fall through"!

On the other hand, what would a Frenchman understand if "How do you do?" were rendered literally, instead of idiomatically: "How do you carry yourself,"* [Note: Or the German: How goes it? wie gehts?] or "the water of life," Eau de vie! instead of "Eau vive."

All this makes it perfectly clear that, unless the translation be idiomatic, there must be grave mistakes made; and that, if a translation be absolutely literal, it will be a fruitful source of errors.

The importance of this fact can hardly be over-rated; and, considering the way in which many talk of, and insist on, a "literal" translation, it is necessary to press the point and enforce it by examples from the Scriptures.

Idiom, however, is not generally classed among Figures in the technical sense of the word. But, as the words do not mean literally what they say, and are not used or combined according to their literal signification, they are really Figures; and we have, therefore, included them here.

We will consider them under the following divisions: giving only a few examples under each by way of illustration:-

I. Idiomatic usage of Verbs.

II. Special idiomatic usages of Nouns and Verbs.

III. Idiomatic Degrees of Comparison.

IV. Idiomatic use of Prepositions.

V. Idiomatic use of Numerals.

VI. Idiomatic forms of Quotation.

VII. Idiomatic forms of Question.

VIII. Idiomatic Phrases.

IX. Idioms arising from other Figures of Speech.

X. Changes in usage of Words in the Greek language.

XI. Changes in usage of Words in the English language.

I. Verbs in General

i. Idiomatic usages of Verbs

1. The Hebrews used active verbs to express the agents design or attempt to do anything, even though the thing was not actually done

Exodus 8:18 (14).-"And the magicians did so (i.e., attempted to do so) with their enchantments, to bring forth lice, but they could not."

Deuteronomy 28:68.-"Ye shall be sold (i.e., put up for sale) unto your enemies and no man shall buy you."

Ezekiel 24:13.-"Because I have purged thee (i.e., used the means to purge, by instructions, reproofs and ordinances, etc.), and thou wast not purged."

We have the same usage in the New Testament.

Matthew 17:11.-"Elijah truly cometh first, and restoreth all things": i.e., shall begin to restore or design or attempt to do so, for Christ will be the real Restorer of all things. The contrast here, however, is between Elijah and John, as brought out by the μὲν and the δέ. "Elijah, indeed (μὲν, in one respect) cometh, and will restore all things, but (δέ, in another respect) I say unto you that Elijah is come already," etc.

Galatians 5:4.-"Whosoever of you are justified (i.e., seek to be justified) by the law; ye are fallen from grace": for chap. 3:11 distinctly declares that "no man is justified by the law in the sight of God."

Philippians 3:15.-"As many as be (i.e., would be, or try to be) perfect."

1 John 1:10.-"We make him (i.e., we attempt so far as in us lies to make him) a liar." (See also chapter 5:10).

1 John 2:26.-"These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce (or deceive) you": i.e., that would, or that try to, deceive you.

2. Active Verbs are sometimes used to denote the effect of the action expressed

John 16:5.-"None of you asketh me whither goest thou": i.e., none of you knoweth or hath discovered; for Peter had asked that question in 13:36. Lit., None is enquiring.

3. Active Verbs are used to declare that the thing has been or shall be done, and not the actual doing of the thing said to be done

The Priest is said to cleanse or pollute according as he declares that the thing is clean or polluted. See Leviticus 13:6; Leviticus 13:8; Leviticus 13:11; Leviticus 13:13; Leviticus 13:17; Leviticus 13:20, etc., where it is actually translated "pronounce." See under Metonymy (of the subject) and Synecdoche.

Acts 10:15.-"What God hath cleansed (i.e., declared to be clean) do not thou pollute (i.e., as in A.V. [Note: The Authorized Version, or current Text of our English Bible, 1611.] "call common")."

Isaiah 6:10.-"Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy," i.e., declare, or foretell that the heart of this people will be fat, etc. (See Metonymy). In Matthew 13:15, this idiomatic use of the verb is not literally translated, but is idiomatically rendered "the heart of this people is waxed gross." So in Acts 28:27. While, in John 12:40, it is rendered literally according to the Hebrew idiom: "He hath blinded," etc.; but who hath done so is not said.

Jeremiah 1:10.-"I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down," etc.: i.e., to declare or prophesy concerning the nations that they shall be rooted out, etc.

The Anglo-Israelites, wrongly taking this literally, declare that Great Britain is now literally fulfilling this prophecy!

Ezekiel 43:3.-"According to the vision that I saw when I came to destroy the city," etc.: i.e., when I came to prophesy or declare that it should be destroyed.

Ezekiel 22:2.-"Son of man, wilt thou judge, wilt thou judge the city of bloods (i.e., of great bloodshedding)?" This is explained in the words that follow: "Yea, thou shalt shew her (Heb., make her know) all her abominations." See under Heterosis.

4. Active verbs were used by the Hebrews to express, not the doing of the thing, but the permission of the thing which the agent is said to do. Thus:

Genesis 31:7.-Jacob says to Laban: "God did not give him to do me evil": i.e., as in A.V. [Note: The Authorized Version, or current Text of our English Bible, 1611.] , God suffered him not, etc.

Exodus 4:21.-"I will harden his heart (i.e., I will permit or suffer his heart to be hardened), that he shall not let the people go." So in all the passages which speak of the hardening of Pharaohs heart. As is clear from the common use of the same Idiom in the following passages.

Exodus 5:22.-"Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people?" i.e., suffered them to be so evil entreated.

Psalms 16:10.-"Thou wilt not give thine Holy One (i.e., suffer Him) to see corruption." So the A.V. [Note: The Authorized Version, or current Text of our English Bible, 1611.]

Jeremiah 4:10.-"Lord God, surely thou hast greatly deceived this people": i.e., thou hast suffered this People to be greatly deceived, by the false prophets, saying: Ye shall have peace, etc.

Ezekiel 14:9.-"If the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet": i.e., I have permitted him to deceive himself.

Matthew 6:13.-"Lead us not (i.e., suffer us not to be led) into temptation."

Matthew 11:25.-"I thank thee, O Father because thou hast hid (i.e., not revealed) these things," etc.

Matthew 13:11.-"It is given to know unto you," etc. (i.e., ye are permitted to know but they are not permitted to know them.

Acts 13:29.-"When they (i.e., the rulers, verse 27) had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre": i.e., they permitted Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus to do so.

Romans 9:18.-"Whom he will he hardeneth": i.e., he suffereth to be hardened. Not that this in any way weakens the absolute sovereignty of God.

Romans 11:7.-"The rest were hardened": i.e., were suffered to become blind (as in A.V. [Note: The Authorized Version, or current Text of our English Bible, 1611.] marg. [Note: arg. Margin.] ).

Romans 11:8.-"God hath given them the spirit of slumber": i.e., hath suffered them to fall asleep.

2 Thessalonians 2:11.-"For this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie": i.e., God will leave them and suffer them to be deceived by the great Lie which will come on all the world.

5. Active verbs are used to express, not the doing of a thing, but the occasion of a things being done

Genesis 42:38.-"If mischief befall him by the way then shall ye bring down (i.e., ye shall be the occasion of bringing down) my gray hairs," etc.

1 Kings 14:16.-Jeroboam "made Israel to sin": i.e., was the cause of Israels sin by setting up the two calves in Bethel and Dan.

6. Two imperatives are sometimes united, so that the first expresses a condition or limitation in regard to the second; by which the latter becomes a future

This idiom was also used by the Latins "Divide et impera," not divide and govern, but divide and thou wilt govern.

John 7:52.-"Search and look": i.e., search and thou wilt see.

1 Corinthians 15:34.-"Awake to righteousness, and sin not": i.e., and then ye will not sin.

1 Timothy 6:12.-"Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold of eternal life": i.e., thou shalt lay hold of, etc.

Sometimes the future is used literally instead of the idiomatic second imperative. See John 2:19. James 4:7. In Ephesians 5:14, we have two imperatives and then the future.

ii. Special idiomatic usages of Nouns and Verbs

(1) Noun (in regimen) for Adjective. See under Heterosis.

(2) Noun (a second) for Adjective. See Hendiadys.

(3) Plural Nouns for emphatic singular. See Heterosis.

(4) Certain Adjectives or Nouns used in the New Testament, according to Hebrew idiom, in a sense peculiar to themselves:-

"All" signifies some of every kind. Matthew 4:23. Acts 10:12. See further for the usage of the word "all," under Metonymy and Synecdoche.

"A blessing" signifies a gift.

Genesis 33:11.-Jacob says to Esau: "Take, I pray thee, my blessing (i.e., my gift and present) that is brought to thee; because God hath dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough (Heb., all things). And he urged him, and he took it": i.e., everything.

1 Samuel 25:27.-"This blessing (i.e., gift; margin, present) which thine handmaid hath brought."

Romans 15:29.-"I shall come in the fulness of the blessing (i.e., the gift) of the Gospel of Christ."

2 Corinthians 9:5.-"That they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your blessing": i.e., your gift to the saints (see A.V. [Note: The Authorized Version, or current Text of our English Bible, 1611.] marg. [Note: arg. Margin.] ).

"Doctrine" (διδαχή, didachee) means the thing taught; but it is used idiomatically and by Metonymy (q.v. [Note: Which see.] ), for the discourse in which it is taught.

Mark 4:2.-"He taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine": i.e., his teaching or discourse. So chap. 11:18; 12:38.

Acts 2:42.-"And they continued stedfastly in the apostles doctrine": i.e., they regularly attended at the teaching of the apostles: i.e., when they taught.

1 Corinthians 14:26.-"Every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, etc.": i.e., a discourse to give.

"To eat or drink."-As the Hebrews used the nouns meat and drink of knowledge (by Metonymy, q.v. [Note: Which see.] ), so they naturally used the verbs eating and drinking to denote the operation of the mind in receiving, understanding, and applying doctrine or instruction of any kind, as we speak of "digesting" what is said, or of "inwardly digesting" it.

It thus marks a very intimate and real partaking of the benefits of that which we receive through our minds.

Jeremiah 15:16.-"Thy words were found, and I did eat them." The rest of the verse explains the figure.

Ezekiel 3:1.-"Son of man eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel": i.e., consider it, and get the contents of this roll by heart, and then go and speak it to the house of Israel, as is clear from verse 4: "Speak with my words unto them."

John 6:51.-"I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever": i.e., just as the body lives temporally by eating bread, so the new life is nourished by feeding upon Christ in our hearts by faith.

So, verse 53: "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you": i.e., except you feed on Christ in your hearts and partake of His life (for the blood is the life), ye have no life in you. That this cannot refer to the Lords supper is clear from the fact that it was not then instituted, and the words could not have been understood (as they were); and, further, that it would shut out all who, from age and infirmity or other cause, had not partaken of that supper.

It cannot refer to the Mass, as there is no drinking at all in the Mass.

By comparing verses 47 and 40 with verses 53 and 54, it will be seen that believing on Christ is exactly the same thing as eating and drinking of His flesh and blood.

"Not to be" is a Hebraism for to be abject and vile, to be nothing (1 Corinthians 1:28); while on the other hand,

"To be" means to be in high esteem, or of great value (1 Corinthians 1:28). God hath chosen "things which are not, to bring to nought things that are." So also

2 Samuel 19:6 (9).-"Thou regardest neither princes nor servants." Here, the figure is translated; for the Heb. is (as in the margin: "that princes and servants are not to thee.") R.V. [Note: The Revised Version, 1881.] : "Are nought unto thee."

"To permit." Hebrews 6:3 : "This will we do, if God permit": i.e., if God so orders it, and gives the needed grace and strength.

"To see another" is used for making war with him, or of meeting him in battle. 2 Kings 14:8; 2 Kings 14:11; 2 Kings 23:29, etc.

1 Corinthians 12:3.-"No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." Any one can utter the words; but no one can truly, with the whole heart, own Jesus as his Lord, and take Him for his Master, but by the Holy Ghost.

"To work" is used of seeking to gain salvation by human merit. Romans 4:4-5, as opposed to grace (chap. 11:6).

"To will" is used for to wish to do anything speedily and spontaneously. 2 Corinthians 8:11. The figure is well translated "to be forward" (verse 10)-as being greater even than the actual doing.

Also for eager desire (Mark 10:35; Mark 12:38), where the figure is well translated "which love to go in long clothing," etc. Galatians 4:21, where it is well rendered "desire." "Tell me, ye that desire (love) to be under the law." So it ought to be rendered in 1 Timothy 6:9 : "They that will to be rich": i.e., love to be rich.

"To look" or "to see" is often used (a) implying the delight or pleasure felt by the beholder (whether it be sinful or innocent): Psalms 22:17 (18); 35:21; 59:10 (11). (b) Sometimes also as implying sorrow and grief: Genesis 21:16; Genesis 44:34. John 19:37 (compare Zechariah 12:10-14. Revelation 1:7). (c) And sometimes implying attention and provision: 2 Kings 10:3. Matthew 7:5. 1 Corinthians 10:12 (where the figure is well translated "take heed," as it is also in Colossians 4:17).

"To live" is used not merely of being alive, or having life, but of having all that makes life worth living, flourishing and prospering. 1 Samuel 10:24, where the figure is rendered "God save," "God save the king." The Heb. is "Let the king live." So also 1 Kings 1:25. In 1 Samuel 25:6, it is rendered "That liveth in prosperity." Psalms 22:26 (27); 69:32 (33). Ecclesiastes 6:8. 1 Thessalonians 3:8. (The opposite of this is 1 Samuel 25:37 : "his heart died within him").

The word "life" has also the same usage, Psalms 34:12 (13). 1 Peter 3:10, as it has also in our English idiom.

"To hear." The verb ἀκούειν (akouein), to hear, is used idiomatically when followed by the accusative case. It then means, not only to hear the voice of the person speaking (which is indicated by the genitive case following), but to understand, to receive, to believe, etc., what is said, having regard, not to the speaker, but to the subject-matter.

The apparent discrepancy between Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:9 is explained by this idiomatic use of ἀκούειν (akouein). In the former passage it is followed by the genitive case, and means that they heard the sound of the voice; while in the latter passage, it is followed by the accusative case, and means that they did not hear the subject-matter: i.e., they heard the sound of the voice, but did not understand what was said.

John 8:43.-"Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear (i.e., receive) my word."

John 9:27.-"I have told you already, and ye did not hear (i.e., believe). Why again do ye desire to hear?" In the latter clause it is used in its ordinary sense; in the former idiomatically.

1 Corinthians 14:2.-"He that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not to men, but to God, for no one heareth (i.e., understandeth) him." The A.V. [Note: The Authorized Version, or current Text of our English Bible, 1611.] so renders it, and puts "heareth" in the margin.

Galatians 4:21.-"Ye, that desire to be under law, do ye not hear (i.e., understand) the Law?"

1 Corinthians 5:1.-"It is commonly heard (i.e., understood) that there is fornication among you." The A.V. [Note: The Authorized Version, or current Text of our English Bible, 1611.] has "reported."

"Hearing" ἀκοή (akoee) is used, not merely of the act of hearing, but of what is heard: a narration, report, fame. This is a kind of Metonymy (q.v. [Note: Which see.] ).

Matthew 14:1.-"Herod the tetrarch heard the hearing (i.e., the fame) of Jesus."

John 12:38.-"Who hath believed our hearing?" (i.e., our report).

"Called." To be called is used of being acknowledged, accounted, or simply of being.

1 John 3:1.-"That we should be called the sons of God."

"Holy" means primarily that which is ceremonially clean and free from defilement.

Deuteronomy 23:14.-"Therefore shall thy camp be holy: that he see no unclean thing."

Hence it means separated from a common to a sacred or special use. For places and inanimate things can clearly be holy only in this special sense, and not as regards intrinsic moral purity.

The word Holy in Hebrew sometimes means bountiful, merciful, beneficent. And so may have the same meaning in some passages of the New Testament. See Titus 1:8. Hebrews 7:26, etc.

"Honour" has a wide range of meaning in Hebrew, and is used of nourishment, maintenance.

Matthew 15:6.-"And shall not honour (i.e., support) his father or his mother."

1 Corinthians 12:26.-"Or one member be honoured (i.e., nourished) all the members rejoice with it."

1 Timothy 5:3.-"Honour widows that are really widows,": i.e., maintain them out of the funds of the church, as is clear from verse 4.

1 Timothy 5:17.-"Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour": i.e., of a liberal (see Metonymy) maintenance."

1 Peter 3:7.-"Giving honour unto the wife as unto the weaker vessel": i.e., nourishing and supporting her, etc.

"Hand." For various idiomatic phrases in connection with the word "hand," see under Metonymy.

"Living" was used by the Hebrews to express the excellency of the thing to which it is applied. In some cases the A.V. [Note: The Authorized Version, or current Text of our English Bible, 1611.] has "lively."

John 4:10-11.-"Living water."

Acts 7:38.-"Living oracles."

Hebrews 10:20.-"Living way."

1 Peter 2:4-5.-"Living stones."

Revelation 7:17.-"Living fountains."

"Riches" denotes not merely money, but an abundance of that to which it is applied; as our English word "wealth" is used of things other than money.

Romans 2:4.-"Or despisest thou the riches (i.e., the greatness) of his goodness?" i.e., His abounding goodness, or wealth of goodness.

Ephesians 1:7.-"According to the riches (i.e., the great abundance or wealth) of his grace."

Colossians 1:27.-"What is the riches (i.e., the great abundance) of the glory of this Mystery."

Colossians 2:2.-"All riches of the full assurance of understanding": i.e., the abundant or fullest assurance of knowledge.

"To sanctify" often means to make ceremonially clean: i.e., to cleanse a thing from those defilements which made it unfit for sacred uses. Hence, it means simply to set apart, fit, or prepare for a particular purpose.

Jeremiah 12:3.-"Sanctify (i.e., prepare) them for the day of slaughter."

1 Corinthians 7:14.-"For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband": each (though one be an unbeliever) is fitted to perform the respective duties as husband and wife. So with the children, "now are they holy": i.e., they were to be no longer reckoned as idolators, but were separated from heathen associations, and ceremonially free from such defilement. See under "holy" above.

How can we "sanctify God," as in Isaiah 8:13. Matthew 6:9. 1 Peter 3:15, except by setting Him high above and apart from every other object of respect and veneration?

"Spirit" was used in various combinations by the Hebrews to denote the greatest degree of any mental quality. As we speak of the spirit or essence of any person or thing!

Luke 10:21.-"Jesus rejoiced in spirit": i.e., exceedingly.

Acts 19:21.-"Paul purposed in spirit": i.e., firmly resolved.

Acts 20:22.-"Behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem": i.e., with a fixed determination and settled purpose.

Romans 1:9.-"Whom I serve with my spirit": i.e., with the most fervent zeal.

"Walk" is used of ones continued course of action and life: i.e., the habitual habit and manner of life.

Genesis 5:22; Genesis 5:24.-"Enoch walked with God."

Romans 8:1.-"Who walk not after the flesh," etc.

2 Corinthians 5:7.-"We walk by faith, not by sight."

"Word" (λόγος, logos) in the New Testament follows the Hebrew idiom; and signifies not merely a word, but speech, which is the outcome of words. Hence, it is used of any matter, thing, or affair of any kind.

Luke 1:2.-"Were eye witnesses and ministers of the Word": i.e., the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Acts 6:2.-"It is not reason that we should leave the word of God (i.e., the preaching and ministry of the Gospel), and serve tables."

Acts 10:44.-"The Holy Ghost fell on them that heard the word": i.e., the Gospel which Peter preached.

Matthew 21:24.-"I also shall ask you one word": i.e., one thing, or a question as to one matter.

Acts 10:29.-"I ask therefore for what word (i.e., as in A.V. [Note: The Authorized Version, or current Text of our English Bible, 1611.] , for what intent) ye have sent for me."

Acts 19:38.-"Have a word." The A.V. [Note: The Authorized Version, or current Text of our English Bible, 1611.] has a matter; but according to the Heb. idiom, an accusation.

1 Corinthians 15:2.-"If ye keep in memory by what word I preached unto you": i.e., what was the subject-matter of my preaching.

In 1 Corinthians 14:19, it means sentences.

The word "son" was used, not only by Synecdoche (q.v. [Note: Which see.] ), but idiomatically, and not according to Greek usage.

"A son of death" (1 Samuel 20:31) means devoted to death, and is rendered in A.V. [Note: The Authorized Version, or current Text of our English Bible, 1611.] : "he shall surely die." So Psalms 102:20 (21).

This idiom means that the persons thus spoken of belong very emphatically to that which they are thus said to be "sons of."

"Sons of disobedience." This is very much stronger than the mere tame expression disobedient children. It means that they pertain to and belong to Satan in a special manner; are those in whom he works (Ephesians 2:2), and on whom the wrath of God comes (Ephesians 5:6). It does not say that Gods children were such, but only that we had our conversation "among" them. We were, by nature, "sons of wrath" (Ephesians 2:3): i.e., those deserving of Gods wrath; but, through His grace another has borne that wrath, as verses 4-7 goes on to say.

"The son of perdition" (2 Thessalonians 2:3. John 17:12) is one who is lost in a very emphatic and terrible sense.

See under Synecdoche.

iii. Idiomatic Degrees of Comparison

In the Hebrew there are several idiomatic ways of emphasizing adjectives, and making them superlative.

1. Preposition after Adjective

By the use of the preposition "in" or "among" after a simple adjective, as Proverbs 30:30, "a lion, strong among beasts": i.e., the strongest of beasts.

The New Testament has the same Idiom.

Luke 1:42.-"Blessed art thou among women": i.e., the most blessed of women.

2. Noun (in regimen) for Adjective

By using a noun (by Enallage) instead of an adjective, and putting it in regimen: as "angels of might," which is stronger than simply using the ordinary adjective "mighty." "Kingdom of Heaven": i.e., Gods kingdom, as greater and better than all kingdoms which are "of" (εκ) this world. See for examples under Enallage.

3. Noun repeated in Genitive Plural

By repeating the same noun in the genitive plural, as "Heaven of heavens": i.e., the highest heaven. See under Polyptoton.

4. "Of God" as Adjective

By using the words "of God" instead of an adjective, e.g.,

1 Samuel 14:15.-"Tremblings of God": i.e., great or very mighty tremblings, meaning an earthquake.

Psalms 36:6 (7)-"Mountains of God": i.e., the loftiest or grandest mountains. See under Enallage.

5. Duplication of Noun as Adjective

By the repetition of the same word, as "peace, peace": i.e., perfect peace. So

Matthew 23:7 : "Rabbi, Rabbi": i.e., most excellent Rabbi.

Matthew 7:21.-"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord": i.e., most gracious Lord.

Mark 14:45.-"Master, master": i.e., most excellent Master. See further under Epizeuxis.

6. Two Nouns conjoined

By using a noun instead of an adjective, not in regimen, but (by Hendiadys) in the same case and number, and joined to the other noun by a conjunction.

2 Samuel 20:19.-"A city and a mother": i.e., a metropolitan city.

Acts 14:13.-"Oxen and garlands": i.e., oxen-yes, and garlanded oxen too. See under Hendiadys.

7. Plural Noun for Singular Adjective

By using the plural instead of the singular.

Psalms 51:17 (19).-"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit," etc.: i.e., the great sacrifice which God requires is a broken spirit and a contrite heart. See under Heterosis.

8. Verb and Cognate Noun

Even a verb can be exalted to a superlative degree, as well as an adjective, by using with it a cognate noun: e.g.,

Luke 22:15.-"With desire I have desired": i.e., I have greatly desired.

Acts 4:17.-"Let us threaten them with a threat": i.e., let us threaten them very severely.

Acts 5:28.-"Did we not charge you with a charge": i.e., did we not straitly charge you. See under Polyptoton.

9. Verb and its Participle

A verb can also be emphasized superlatively by combining with it its participle: e.g., "Seeing I have seen": i.e., I have surely seen. "Dying thou wilt die": i.e., thou wilt surely die. See under Polyptoton.

iv. Idiomatic Use of Prepositions

Prepositions are used in the New Testament not according to the Greek idiom, but to the Hebrew. The Greeks had many prepositions, but the Hebrews had very few. Consequently, used according to the Hebrew Idiom, the manifold relations cannot be expressed with great definiteness.

The few Hebrew prepositions are used in the Old Testament with various meanings which can be easily gathered from the context. For example, the Hebrew ב (beth) means primarily in; but it also frequently means by (with reference to the instrument used), or among; or at, or near; also upon, and with. Now the Greeks have, and would have used, a different preposition for each of these.

It is a great mistake, therefore, always to translate ἐν (en), in, as is too frequently done in the New Testament. It must be taken with all the shades and breadth of meaning which the Hebrew beth (ב) has. When the Greek of the New Testament is put into Hebrew, this fact is at once clearly seen.

For example:-

Matthew 3:11.-John said, "I indeed baptize you with water."

Matthew 7:2.-"With what judgment ye judge with what measure ye meet."

Matthew 7:6.-"Lest they trample them with (A.V. [Note: The Authorized Version, or current Text of our English Bible, 1611.] , under) their feet."

Mark 3:22.-"By the prince of the devils."

Luke 11:20.-"With the finger of God."

Luke 22:49.-"Shall we smite with the sword."

Revelation 1:5.-"Washed us from our sins by (or through) his own blood," not "in," as A.V. [Note: The Authorized Version, or current Text of our English Bible, 1611.] The R.V. [Note: The Revised Version, 1881.] renders this "by," and puts in the margin, "Greek, in."

Revelation 5:9.-Here the A.V. [Note: The Authorized Version, or current Text of our English Bible, 1611.] renders it properly "by."

v. Idiomatic Use of Numerals

1. According to the Hebrew idiom, the numeral εἷς (heis), one, is used instead of the ordinary pronoun

Matthew 8:19.-"One scribe said to him": i.e., one of the scribes, or a certain particular scribe.

See also 9:18; 16:14; 18:24, 28; 21:19; 26:69. Mark 10:17; Mark 12:42. Luke 5:12; Luke 5:17. John 6:9; John 7:21; John 20:7. Revelation 8:13, etc.

2. Sometimes, following the Hebrew idiom, the negative is joined with the verb instead of with the predicate: e.g.

3. The adjective πᾶς (pas), every or all is frequently so used

The Hebrews would say everything is not, and this is put instead of the ordinary Greek idiom, nothing is.

Psalms 103:2.-"Forget not all his benefits": i.e., forget not any.

Luke 1:37.-"Every thing will not be impossible with God": i.e., nothing is impossible.

4. In Hebrew the numeral is doubled to express distribution

This idiom is not confined to numerals, for we find it with other nouns: e.g.,

Mark 6:39, by companies (so Exodus 8:14 (10), LXX [Note: XX The Septuagint Version (325 b.c.).] ).

vi. Idiomatic forms of Quotations

In quotations the Hebrews generally omitted the word "saying," whenever the words of another speaker were quoted. They very frequently stand alone without the verb "saying." Hence it is often supplied by italics. See Psalms 2:2, but sometimes even italics are omitted, and the passage is most obscure.

Psalms 109:1-31 -"Saying" should be added in italics at the end of verse 5; all the words down to the end of verse 19 being the words of Davids adversaries which they spake against David. See this passage under Ellipsis (page 33).

Psalms 144:12 should begin with the word "saying"; verses 12 to the middle of verse 15 being the "vanity" and the "falsehood" which the "strange children" spake (verses 8, 11).

See this passage also under Ellipsis (page 33).

From this usage another idiom followed, in the asking of a question.

vii. Idiomatic Forms of Question

In Hebrew a question often begins with "if": i.e., "if this be done" means "tell me whether this is done." But the Greeks never used the "if" in this sense in order to ask a question. In Greek it always expresses a condition. Yet, following the Hebrew idiom, we have:

Luke 22:49.-"If we shall smite with sword": i.e., shall we smite, etc.

viii. Idiomatic Phrases

1. "Answered and said" was used by Hebrew idiom of whatever kind of speech is in question

It should therefore not be rendered literally, "Answered and said," but translated so as to express whatever may be the particular kind of speech referred to in the verb "said"; e.g.:

Matthew 11:25.-"At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father," etc.

This should be, "At that time Jesus prayed and said," etc.

Mark 12:25.-"At that time Jesus answered and said, while he taught in the temple, How say the scribes that Christ, etc."

Here it should be "Asked and said." So Mark 13:2, etc.

Mark 11:14.-"And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever."

It is clear that this cannot be literally meant, for the tree had said nothing. It should be "Jesus addressed the tree, and said to it."

2. My soul, your soul, their souls, is the Hebrew idiom for myself, yourself, yourselves, etc.

See Numbers 23:10. Judges 16:30. Psalms 59:3 (4); 35:13; 103:1; 121:7, Jeremiah 18:20 (cf. [Note: f. Compare (for Latin, confer).] 38:16).

Psalms 16:10.-"Thou wilt not leave my soul (i.e., me) in Sheol (or Hades, the grave). This is explained in the next line as meaning "thou wilt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption."

It is resurrection from the grave which is taught and referred to here, as is clear from Psalms 49:15 (16), where Sheol is properly translated "grave." See under Synecdoche.

3. "Out of the Way."

ἐκ μέσου (2 Thessalonians 2:7) must not be translated literally, arise or become developed "out of the midst," as is done by a certain school of prophetic students; because it is a Greek idiom for being out of the way, and always implies decisive action, either of the persons own will or of force on the part of others.

Plutarch (Timol. 238. 3) says: "He determined to live by himself, having got himself out of the way" (i.e., from the public).

Herodotus (3. 83 and 8. 22). The speaker (in 8. 22) exhorts some, and says: "Be on our side, but if this is impossible, then sit down out of the way," or as we should say in our idiom "stand aside" (not "arise out of the midst"!)

The same idiom is found in Latin. Terence (Phorm. v. 8. 3) says: "She is dead, she is gone from among us" (i.e., forced or torn away by the cruel hand of death, "e medio abiit").

The opposite expression shows the same thing.

In Xenophon (Cyr. v. 2. 26), some one asks: "What stands in the way of your joining us?" (ἐν μέσῳ ἐστί): i.e., your standing in with us.

The same idiom is found in the Scriptures.

Matthew 13:49.-The wicked are "severed from among the just": (i.e., taken away by force).

Acts 17:33.-"Paul departed from among them."

Acts 23:10.-Paul was taken "by force from among them."

1 Corinthians 5:2 is very clear: where the complaint is made that they had not mourned that "he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you."

2 Corinthians 6:17.-"Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate."

Colossians 2:14.-We read of the handwriting of ordinances which was against us. Christ "took it out of the way."

We have the same idiom in the Septuagint.

Isaiah 52:11.-"Depart ye go ye out of the midst of her," and

Isaiah 57:1 (lxx. 2).-"The righteous is taken away from the evil to come."

It is thus perfectly clear that, in 2 Thessalonians 2:7, where it says that he who now holds fast [to his position] will continue to do so until he is cast out, the "he" is Satan, who is holding on to his position in the heavenlies, until the great war shall take place (Revelation 12:1-17), and he be cast out into the earth.

Then it is that (Revelation 13:1) "he stands (R.V. [Note: The Revised Version, 1881.] ) on the sand of the sea," and as the result of this the two beasts rise up. They cannot, therefore, "arise" till Satan is cast out. This is the teaching of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17 See further under Ellipsis.

4. "Breaking of Bread."

"To break bread," κλάσαι ἄρτον (klasai arton), is the literal rendering of the Hebrew idiom פָּרַס לֶחֶם (paras lechem), and it means to partake of food, and is used of eating as in a meal.* [Note: Just as among the Arabs to-day, the Idiom, to eat salt, means partaking of a meal.] The figure (or idiom) arose from the fact that among the Hebrews bread was made, not in loaves as with us, but in round cakes about as thick as the thumb. These were always broken, and not cut. Hence the origin of the phrase to break bread. Indeed so close is the connection that we sometimes have the word "break" without "bread." So clear is the meaning that there may be the Ellipsis of the latter word.

Isaiah 58:7.-"Is it not to break thy bread to the hungry?"

Lamentations 4:4.-"The young children ask bread, and no man breaketh it unto them."

Ezekiel 18:7.-"Hath broken (A.V. [Note: The Authorized Version, or current Text of our English Bible, 1611.] given) bread to the hungry."

Luke 24:30.-"And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them."

In verse 35, they speak of how Christ "was known of them in breaking of bread," i.e., as He sat at meat with them.

Acts 27:33-36.-"This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting,* [Note: See under Synecdoche.] having taken nothing. Wherefore I pray you take some meat: for this is for your health: And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all; and when he had broken it, he began to eat. Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took some meat."

It is perfectly clear that in all these cases the "breaking of bread" is the ordinary Hebrew idiom for eating as in a meal. The bread could not be eaten till it was broken, hence the idiom which is used by Hebrews down to the present day.

In Acts 2:46, their breaking bread at home (margin) is mentioned to emphasise the fact that they no longer offered sacrifices, and therefore could not eat of them in the Temple. So that though they went to the Temple to worship, they ate their meat at home in their private houses.

It is incredible, therefore, that in Acts 20:7, the idiomatic expression can mean in any sense the Lords supper, as is clear also from verse 11.

The one solitary passage left is 1 Corinthians 10:16, "The bread which we break." This is referred by some to the Lords supper in ignorance of the prevailing custom of the early Christians when meeting together on the first day of the week. Assemblies were few, and the members were scattered. Many came from long distances, and food had to be brought for the days sustenance. The early fathers tell us that the people brought from their own homes hampers filled with cooked fowls, and geese, etc., meat, loaves of bread, with skin-bottles of wine, etc. The rich brought of their abundance, and the poor of their poverty. These Sunday feasts acquired the ecclesiastical name, agapai or "love-feasts" (from ἀγάπη, brotherly love, see Judges 1:12), because the richer brethren made them for the benefit of the poor.

It is easy to see how this would in time become a feast; and how, though all partook of the common food, some would have too much, and some too little; and, as it is written, some would be hungry, and others drunken (1 Corinthians 11:21).

This looks as though the feast or meal itself came to be spoken of as "the Lords supper," from the fact that each received an equal portion, as on that night when the Lord Himself presided, and received it as from Himself and not merely from one another.

But in process of time, a special ordinance was added at the close of these feasts, at the end of the assembly, and at the end of the day. to which the name, "the Lords supper," was afterwards confined, Up to the time of Chrysostom it followed the feast; but, as superstition increased, it preceded the feast; but for 700 years after Christ they accompanied each other: and the Lords supper was unknown as a separate ordinance!

As late as a.d. 692 the close of the Lenten fast was celebrated by an agapee, or feast, as the anniversary of the institution of the Lords supper; and in England the day was called Maunday Thursday, from the maunds, i.e., the baskets or hampers in which the provisions were brought. No one but Royalty now keeps up this ancient custom. It fell into desuetude from the superstition of "fasting communion;" which had been brought in (though Chrysostom wished himself anathema if he had been guilty of it!).

The "breaking of bread" therefore was used of the love-feast, and never, unt


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Bibliography Information
Bullinger, E. W., D.D. Entry for 'Idioma; or Idiom'. Bullinger's Figures of Speech Used in the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/lexicons/bullinger/122.

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