Recognizing and Interpreting Synecdoches

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Both literature and the spoken word abound with figures of speech—words or phrases that are used to mean something other than their normal or literal meanings. Figures of speech are actually a “language within a language,” and in everyday speech we do not stop to think about them, but we immediately and automatically “translate” them. The Greeks called these “tropes” (from tropos, a turn) because they represent “turns” or variations from the normal and literal meaning of words. We expect the poet’s pen to be filled with figures, but prose contains its share of them, too. Additionally, both formal orations made from the public platform and ordinary daily conversations are liberally sprinkled with such word pictures. In fact, I have already used several figures in the foregoing comments (e.g., the spoken word for millions of words, the poet’s [singular] for all poets, pen for the actual words written by poets, filled with for containing many, the platform for any place of public address, liberally sprinkled with for frequently occurring, and perhaps others that have escaped me [escaped me for my failure to see them]).

Figures of speech are common to all languages. The Greeks made a science of figurative language in which they identified and assigned names to over 200 tropes.[1] We should expect both the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament to abound with them, and they do. While most men understand that secular literature and conversation often employ figurative language, some of those same men deny or forget that the Bible likewise contains figures. It is of great importance that those who read the Bible should: (1) acknowledge that the Bible often uses figures, (2) learn to recognize when a writer/speaker is using figurative terms, and (3) learn to correctly interpret said figures.

For failure to do one or more of the above, several hurtful consequences obtain for Bible students:

  1. The reader will fail to understand (and thus will remain ignorant of) the message or meaning of the text. In Matthew 16:6–12 Jesus warned the apostles to “…beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the of the Sadducees.”[2] They did not perceive His figurative use of leaven. Taking His words literally, they wrongly concluded that they were not to eat the bread or food offered by those sectarians. He rebuked them for not recognizing that He was using leaven as a figure for doctrine. They missed His entire point until they recognized the Lord’s figure of speech. A Texan was once invited to address a Lion’s club in Tokyo. His audience did not speak English so he had to speak through a translator. He began his speech by saying, “I’m just tickled to death to be here.” The audience gasped in horror! His translator had given the following translation: “I have only scratched myself to the point of dying just to be here with you.” It is important to distinguish between literal and figurative language!
  2. The reader will reach an erroneous conclusion and will therefore believe and/or teach false doctrine (I will demonstrate this fact later in this chapter).
  3. The reader will conclude that the Bible is full of contradictions. (Many of the “contradictions” and “problems” so gleefully identified by infidels vanish immediately with the recognition and correct interpretation of various figures of speech.) These few introductory notes most certainly apply to the synecdoche, as they do to other Bible figures.

Definition of Synecdoche

The synecdoche (not to be confused with Schenectady, a city in New York!) is one of the most frequently occurring figures in the Bible. Berkhof classifies it as one of the three principal tropes.[3] Synecdoche is actually a compound Greek term transliterated into English. It means to receive jointly or in association with (from sun, together with, and ekdoche, receiving from). In this figure one word or idea receives something from and is exchanged for another associated word or idea.[4] E.W. Bullinger defines this figure as one “by which one word receives something from another which is internally associated with it by the connection of two ideas.”[5]

Perhaps the most common uses of this phenomenon in the Bible are those in which a part is made to stand for the whole or vice versa. At least, this is likely the one that readers will most easily recognize and with which readers may most easily identify. However, D.R. Dungan correctly observed that, “…while this is the main feature of this trope, it by no means exhausts it.”[6] Bullinger cataloged four major types of synecdoches with more than one hundred subtypes in his monumental work on Biblical figures![7]

We employ this figure in everyday speech without even realizing it. When you are lifting a heavy box and say to someone, “Give me a hand,” you are not asking for applause, a handshake, or for him to cut off his hand and present it to you as a gift. By synecdochism you are asking for the involvement of his entire body in helping you. The hand (a part) stands for the body (the whole). A rancher may say that he has fifty head of cattle, but he does not mean that he does not have the remainder of their bodies. The head (a part) represents the entire body. Again, one may say, “My car ran roughly all the way to San Antonio.” Actually, it may have run smoothly much of the journey, but from the time he left home, and periodically thereafter on his journey, he may have had experienced some engine sputtering. In this case, the whole (all the way) is stated when only a part is actually indicated. There is absolutely no deception or contradiction—intended or practiced—in such ordinary expressions, nor is there when the inspired writers employ such figures.

Types of Synecdoches in the Bible

I have already mentioned the numerous types of synecdoches Bullinger classifies. Several of these differ so minutely that they are scarcely distinguishable. For the most part, authors who have written on Biblical figures of speech list some four to eight types of synecdochic occurrences. The four major classes Bullinger listed are: (1) the genus is put for the species, (2) the species is put for the genus, (3) the whole is put for the part, and (4) the part is put for the whole.[8] Milton S. Terry adds two others: (1) the singular is put for the plural and (2) the plural is put for the singular.[9] Ronald Leigh lists some additional classifications that are helpful: (1) an individual is put for a class, (2) a class is put for an individual, (3) the abstract is put for the concrete, and (4) the concrete is put for the abstract.[10] T. Norton Sterrett incorporates all of these types in a helpful summary statement: “Synecdoche is a figure of speech by which a more inclusive term is used for a less inclusive term or vice versa.”[11]

Some General Rules for Recognizing Figures of Speech

Some general rules apply to recognition of all figures of speech in the Bible (or, indeed, elsewhere). I will briefly review some of these before looking at more specific clues that may help one recognize synecdoches. Consider the following:

  1. Certain types of material demand the use of terminology in its literal sense alone. These include laws, commandments, legal instruments, and historical information. “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38) is manifestly literal language. One must assume that statements of this character will be/are be stated in literal, straightforward terms.
  2. Certain types of material employ figures of speech in uncommon quantities. These especially include “wisdom” or poetic literature (e.g., Job, Psalms, et al.) and apocalyptic literature (e.g., Daniel, Zechariah, Revelation, et al.). One should expect figures as the norm in such sections.
  3. Generally, we should accept words in their literal sense unless doing so involves an obvious absurdity, incongruity, impossibility, wrong behavior, or a contradiction with some other clear Bible teaching. The Lord commanded the cutting off of a hand or foot and the plucking out of an eye if these body parts caused one to sin (Mat. 18:8–9). However, such self-mutilation is contrary to other clear Biblical teaching, and we must therefore understand that the Lord is speaking figuratively. When Abraham told the rich man in Hades that his brother had “Moses and the prophets” (Luke 16:29), we understand that this involves an absurd impossibility if taken literally (the Old Testament authors had been in their graves for centuries). The perceptive reader understands that Abraham used the men themselves as a figurative reference to their writings—the Old Testament itself. (Actually, we have here a figure within a figure. Moses and the prophets stands for the writing of those men and the writings of those men is a figurative expression embracing all of the Old Testament.)
  4. The immediate context will often indicate the use of a figure of speech. The previous clue includes this indicator in part, in that absurdities in the immediate context will not admit a literal understanding of its terms in some cases. However, there are other immediate contextual pointers to figures. When Luke wrote, “And he spake a parable unto them, saying…” (Luke 12:16), he gave an unmistakable contextual clue that the words of Jesus which followed would be a figure—a parable. Likewise, when the Lord said, “The kingdom of heaven is likened unto…” (Mat. 13:24, et al.), He was making it plain that He was about to speak in a figure (in this case, a simile) concerning the kingdom.

Not all contextual indicators are so obvious. Sometimes words or thoughts in the same verse or in the contextual discussion of the same subject will provide a signal. In Revelation 5:8 we read that the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders in Heaven had “…every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.” Aside from the fact that it is incongruous that literal physical harps or bowls of incense will be in the utterly spiritual realm of Heaven (see no. 3 above), when we are told that the bowls of incense (ASV) “…are [i.e., represent, by the figure of metaphor] the prayers of the saints,” the indication is irresistibly strong (except for those seeking to “prove a point”) that the harps are also a figure.

  1. The remote context may also provide important indications of the use of figurative language in a given passage. For example, when we read in Revelation 1:1 that God “signified” (i.e., “sign-i-fied,” delivered through signs, symbols, or figures) the material that John was about to write in his book, we have an announcement that the book is filled with signs or figures. We therefore correctly discern that figures are the norm and the literal use of language is the exception. The reader of Revelation will be hopelessly beyond understanding its message if he ignores John’s warning that he wrote in the “code” of figurative language.

Another way in which a remote context may indicate figurative language in a given passage is by comparison of parallel passages. These parallels will in some cases involve matching the words and in other cases matching the ideas or topics in different passages. When two or more passages on the same subject appear to be in conflict, one should seek to determine if the paradox may be resolved by recognizing the presence of a figure in one or more of them (see no. 3 above). John wrote of “the first resurrection” (Rev. 20:5). However, speaking in literal terms, Jesus and other inspired writers taught only one universal simultaneous bodily resurrection of good and evil (John 5:28-29; cf. 1 Cor. 15:22, 52; et al.). The statement from the Lord on the same topic (the resurrection) gives us a mandate to recognize “the first resurrection” as figurative language, referring to something other than the literal resurrection of dead bodies. Further, when the meaning of a word or a passage is difficult to ascertain, comparison with a remote parallel passage will often reveal the use of a figure of some sort, thus unlocking the meaning.

 Leland Ryken gives a good summary of the principal idea behind each one of the aforementioned clues, which he calls his “common-sense” rule: “Interpret as figurative any statement that does not make sense at a literal level in the context in which it appears.”[12] If the reader will watch for these indicators as he reads the Bible he will soon learn to recognize figurative language as it appears in the text.

Some Rules for Recognizing and Interpreting Synecdoches

Now that we have briefly reviewed the major clues for recognition of figures in general, after one has determined that some type of figure has been employed, how does one determine whether or not it is a synecdoche? Admittedly, this is not as easy as determining some figures (e.g., the simile, which uses like, as, likened unto, and kindred terms in its very wording). However, there are some clues that will be helpful in identifying synecdochic language.

  1. Bear in mind the definition of synecdoche—a less inclusive term is used for the more inclusive or vice versa, or a part is put for the whole or vice versa. Does the figure that you have encountered possibly qualify as a synecdoche by this definition?
  2. Look for definite factors in the context that might exclude the figure from being a synecdoche. Some figures of speech are plainly identified by textual statements or “signal” words (e.g., parable, allegory, simile, et al.). In Galatians 4:21–31, Paul used Sarah and Hagar and their respective sons to teach a spiritual truth, obviously using a figure of some kind. Is it a synecdoche? It is not, and one need never have even heard of a synecdoche to exclude it, because Paul identified his figure as an allegory (v. 24). In such cases one can both know what the figure is, but can also know that it is not a synecdoche. This practice will help one determine when a synecdoche is not being used.
  3. By definition, synecdoches will often involve numbers (e.g., a larger number may be put for a smaller one and vice versa, an indefinite number may be put for a definite one and vice versa). Dungan reminded us, “Numbers, among the ancients, were very loosely kept.”[13] Psalms 1:10 says, “For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.” All the cattle (and all else on earth) belong to God, yet there are more than one thousand hills on earth. One thousand is therefore to be recognized and understood as a numerical synecdoche that stands for a much larger, indefinite number. If a number in a given context does not make sense or appears to be impossibly large or small when taken literally, it is quite possibly a synecdoche
  4. Often synecdoches involve such words as hour, day, month, or year. Just as those of ancient times generally handled numbers loosely, so they did with periods and designations of time. Remember, this was not done with intent to deceive, nor did it deceive the original hearers or readers. It was a convention that was understood by all, and we will do well to do our best to learn to recognize and understand this phenomenon in the Bible. Luke’s record of Paul’s sojourn in Ephesus placed him there only two years and three months (Acts 19:8–10). However, when Paul addressed the Ephesian elders he stated that he had been with them three years (Acts 20:31). The longer period was used by Paul to refer to the shorter, and only a part of the third year was counted a full year. Such is the nature of the synecdoche.
  5. Also, by definition, synecdoches will often involve terms that seem to express universality (e.g., all, every, none, not any, the whole, et al.), when actually (and sometimes obviously) such is not intended. In Exodus 9:6 Moses said, “And all the cattle of Egypt died” from the plague of murrain. However, the Egyptians still had beasts afterward that were afflicted with boils (vv. 9–10), and they still had cattle that were destroyed by hail (v. 19). Either Moses grievously (and foolishly) contradicted himself in the space of a few verses (as the infidels would have it), or he used all in a figurative sense. Verse 3 gives the list of the particular animals the murrain was to affect. Obviously, all does not mean every individual, but all kinds of cattle. Thus, we have a synecdoche in which a universal term is used to refer to various particulars.[14]

I caution, however, that the Scriptures often use universal terms in their literal sense and we dare not misconstrue these for synecdochisms. When Paul wrote that God wills that “all men be saved” and that Christ “gave himself a ransom for all men” (1 Tim. 2:4–6), the universal terms are certainly literal. Given their bias of a “limited atonement,” Calvinists must consider these universals as synecdoches in which all (the whole of mankind) stands for only some (those arbitrarily elected by God), an error of grievous and fatal consequences. Both the immediate and the remote context must be used to determine whether universal terminology is literal or figurative (cf. the aforementioned general clues for recognizing figurative language).

  1. Terms that seem to refer to eternal duration are often synecdoches (e.g., forever, eternity, eternal, everlasting, et al.). When Moses gave instruction to the Hebrews concerning their slaves, included was the piercing of the ear of the slave, thus binding him to his master’s service forever (Exo. 21:6). Here an expression of unending time is used for a shorter period, obviously lasting throughout the life of the slave, but only as long as he lived. God promised Abram to give Canaan to his seed “forever” (Gen. 13:15). For failure to recognize the synecdoche here, dispensationalists argue that God still owes that land to the Jews and they have the right to take it and hold it by force. However, forever in this passage was conditioned upon the faithfulness of Israel and their duration as God’s people (cf. Deu. 4:25ff; Jos. 23:14ff; et al.) and must be understood figuratively.

Sabbatarians make the same crucial blunder in their interpretation of Exodus 31:16–17: “Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever” (cf. Gen. 17:13; Psa. 111:9; et al.)[15] These are but a few of many examples in which a greater portion of time is put for a lesser—a synecdoche of time. As before, it is appropriate to caution the reader of Scripture that terms indicating eternal duration are sometimes used in their literal and absolute sense, as determined by context.

  1. The reader is urged to read the other chapters in this volume that deal with identifying various other figures of speech. By keeping nearby this volume and other helpful books (e.g., those cited throughout this book) on the subjects of hermeneutics and exegesis during one’s study of the Bible, he will soon become proficient in recognizing the synecdoche as well as other figures.

By the time a figure has been identified as a synecdoche most of the work of interpreting it will likely have already been accomplished. In other words, generally, the very clues that will enable one to recognize a synecdoche will also provide clues to its interpretation. Beyond this, it is always helpful to strive to state in literal terms the thought conveyed by the figure. Finally, the cardinal rule for interpreting any and all figurative language is that passages stated in literal terms must always govern those stated in figures. In other words, no interpretation of figurative language can be correct if it contradicts passages stated literally.

Some Significant Synecdoches

Perhaps by presenting a more detailed discussion of a few synecdoches I shall be able to illustrate the importance of recognizing this figure of speech.

How Long Was Jesus in His Tomb?

The controversy has raged for centuries over the exact day of the crucifixion of the Lord. The statements that indicate that this terrible event occurred on Friday are unmistakable (Mark 15:42–43; Luke 23:50–54; John 19:31). The Scriptures also plainly teach that His resurrection occurred early on the first day of the week following His death (Mat. 28:1ff; Mark 16:2ff; Luke 24:1ff; John 20:1ff).

In spite of the clarity of these statements, it is argued by some that the Lord’s own words cannot be harmonized with a Friday crucifixion and a Sunday resurrection. The words of the Lord to which they refer are His prophecy that He would be in the tomb “three days and three nights” (Mat. 12:40). They point out that part of Friday, Friday night, all day Saturday, Saturday night, and a small part of Sunday equals only parts of three days and only two nights. Infidels make this argument in an attempt to discredit the Lord and His Word. However, at times brethren are bothered by what they perceive to be an incongruity in these matters. This has led even some good and earnest brethren to engage in all sorts of elaborate attempts to move the crucifixion to sometime before Friday to “help” the Lord out of this difficulty!

However, if we demand that the Lord’s language must literally require three days and three nights, then not only did these words of His contradict what happened; they also contradicted His words spoken at other times! On one occasion He said He would be raised on “the third day” (Mat. 16:21; Luke 9:22), at another time He said He would be raised “in three days” (John 2:19), and in yet another setting, stated that His resurrection would be “after three days” (Mark 8:31).

One would not expect infidels to admit that the Lord did not contradict Himself in these several descriptions. However, I am amazed that some who believe in the Lord cannot make a simple induction of all of these statements and deduce that they are in perfect harmony. It seems obvious that they were thus construed when first uttered, both in the mind of the Lord and in the minds of His hearers. Indeed, even His enemies thus used in three days, after three days, and until the third day in reference to Jesus’ prediction that He would be in the tomb “three days and three nights” and thus unquestionably considered them to be in perfect agreement (Mat. 26:61; 27:63–64).

All of the apparent difficulties are removed by simply recognizing the three days and three nights statement as a synecdoche of time in which that phrase actually referred to only a part of that time thus referenced.[16] This type of synecdoche had so long been in use by the Jews that it was ingrained in their thought processes. Indeed, a thousand years before the Lord used three days and the third day interchangeably, Rehoboam had done the very same thing in speaking to Jeroboam. He first told Jeroboam: “Depart yet for three days, then come again to me” (1 Kin. 12:5, emph. DM). The description of Jeroboam’s return to Rehoboam is as follows: “Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king bade, saying Come to me again the third day” (v. 12, emph. DM). The synecdoche used by the Lord in Matthew 12:40 is similar to that used by Paul in Acts 20:31, as already cited.

To What Does the “Breaking of Bread” Refer in Acts 2:42, 20:7?

In two contexts Luke referred to the “breaking of bread.” In the first one he wrote:

And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers…. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart (Acts 2:42, 46).

This is the earliest description inspiration gives of the activity that characterized the fledgling church in Jerusalem (Acts 2:42). In the second passage, Luke wrote:

And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight…. When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed (Acts 20:7, 11).

 Are we to understand this expression in Acts 2:42 and 20:7 to refer to partaking of a meal of literal bread or food? If so, many questions occur to the incisive student:

  1. Why did Luke include a common meal in a list of other activities with decidedly spiritual implications (in both passages, no less)?
  2. Why (in Acts 2) did Luke again refer to eating a common meal (this time “breaking bread at home”) within only four verses (v. 46)?
  3. Why did Luke say (Acts 20:7) that “upon the first day of the week” was “when” the saints in Troas “gathered together to break bread” as if that were the particular day reserved for that activity and implying that this was the very purpose of their assembly?
  4. Why did they not eat this meal before the first day of the week so Paul could hasten on to Jerusalem a week sooner than he did? (He was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem by Pentecost [Acts 20:16], yet he stayed a week in Troas [v. 6], departing on the day after their meeting [i.e., Monday, vv. 7, 11]. Had this been a mere “fellowship dinner” it could have been held the previous Monday [Paul’s day of arrival] or Tuesday at the latest and Paul could have avoided an entire week of lost travel time.)
  5. Why did Luke again make apparent reference to Paul’s eating a common meal only four verses later (v. 11)?[17]

There are no satisfying answers to these questions if the “breaking of bread” in Acts 2:42 and 20:7 refers to a common meal. However, if these phrases do not refer to a common meal, they must refer to the Supper of our Lord. Granting that this is Luke’s meaning, how then do we explain his omission of the fruit of the vine in referring to the Lord’s Supper? The answer is found in recognition of Luke’s use of a synecdoche in both passages. In this case the part is allowed to stand for the whole: The breaking of bread stands not only for that activity itself, but for the “drinking of the cup” as well (1 Cor. 11:24-26).[18]

The significance of recognizing this synecdoche (particularly in Acts 20:7) as a reference to the Lord’s Supper lies in the fact that it proves that the day upon which the Lord authorized His church to observe His sacred memorial was (and is) the first day of the week. Moreover, the larger context also proves that this was the only day on which the supper could be observed with apostolic sanction. If they could have done this “breaking of bread” on any other day of the week besides the first day, they would surely have done so, as already emphasized, to expedite Paul’s travel plans. Moreover, the implication is irresistible that this was not a common meal by the very fact that they waited a week after Paul arrived to observe it. Such would not have been necessary for an ordinary meal. Once more we see the practical value of recognizing and correctly applying synecdocic language.

What Acts Are Necessary for Salvation?

The “believing world” is hopelessly divided and confused on what the Bible teaches about when or at what point in ones progression toward God one is saved. (Although Protestantism generally professes the doctrine of “salvation by faith only” [i. e., one is saved at the moment he believes in his heart that Jesus is the Christ], it is not as “cut and dried” among them as they would have us believe. I doubt that any faith-only advocate would say that either grace, repentance, or confession of one’s faith is unnecessary.) The only point on which there seems to be almost fanatical and universal agreement among them is that baptism is not necessary to salvation. They incessantly point to such passages as John 3:16, 8:24, Acts 16:31, Romans 5:1, and similar statements which declare that men are saved by faith in Christ, saying, “See there, faith is all that is mentioned, therefore faith is all that is necessary.” It is nothing short of astounding that denominational exegetes and hermeneuticists can do such an outstanding job of defining, recognizing, and interpreting synecdoches until they face the teaching of the New Testament on the conditions of pardon, but this is the fact of the matter.

Each of the aforementioned passages and others that teach that salvation by faith is a synecdoche in which belief or faith in Christ (i.e., a part) is put for all of man’s necessary response to the sacrifice and Gospel of Christ. If this is not the case, there is no possible way to harmonize the many passages that mention various other conditions of pardon. It is worthy of note that some other condition (besides faith) is sometimes stated—without the mention of others—as the act on the sinner’s part that brings salvation. For example, in Acts 17:31, Paul said, God “…now commandeth all men every where to repent.” If one took this statement as literal, absolute, and exclusive (as the faith-only advocates do the salvation-by-faith passages) he would mistake Paul as teaching that the only thing necessary in order to be saved is to repent. However, understanding Paul’s statement as a synecdoche, it is clear that Paul made repentance (a part) to stand for all that God requires men to do to be saved by Christ through the Gospel.

The same thing is true of baptism. It was not Peter’s intent to teach that all one must do to be saved is to be baptized when he wrote, “…even baptism doth also now save us” (2 Pet. 3:21). However, by the same blind “reasoning” employed by the faith-only errorists concerning Acts 16:31, one could teach “salvation by baptism only” from these words of the apostle.[19]

 What we have here is another synecdoche in which baptism (a part) is made to stand for its Scriptural precedents (the whole of what the Lord requires of us in order to be forgiven of our sins). Since every case of conversion of which we have a detailed account in the New Testament, beginning with Acts 2, indicates that baptism is the culminating act of conversion and the act in which sins are at last forgiven or washed away (Acts 2:38; 22:16), it is particularly appropriate that it be depicted in a synecdoche as the whole which stands for several parts. When we recognize and understand the numerous synecdoches relating to the terms of our pardon there is beautiful harmony in the plan of salvation. However, when men do not recognize them (whether through ignorance or biased intentional disregard) it is not possible to understand what God requires of us to be saved.


Those who read and study the Bible must remember that it is rich in figures of speech. The synecdoche is one of the most common figures used by the inspired writers. Learning to recognize and correctly interpret synecdochisms is therefore necessary if we would be faithful and accurate in our conclusions on numerous passages and subjects.


[1]  Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Toward an Exegetical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1981), p. 121.



[2]  All Scripture quotations are from the American Standard Version unless otherwise indicated.



[3]  Louis Berkhof, Principles of Biblical Interpretation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1950), p. 83.



[4]  There is often such a fine line between the synecdoche and other figures (especially metonymy and hyperbole, discussed elsewhere in this book) that they somewhat overlap and can hardly be distinguished.



[5]  E.W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, rep. 1968), p. 613.



[6]  D.R. Dungan, Hermeneutics (Delight, AR: Gospel Light Pub. Co., n. d.), p. 300.



[7]  Bullinger, pp. 613–14.



[8]  Bullinger, p. 613.



[9]  Milton S. Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, n.d.), p. 250.



[10] Ronald W. Leigh, Direct Bible Discovery (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1982), p. 101.



[11] T. Norton Sterrett, How to Understand Your Bible (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1974 rev.), p. 97.



[12] Leland Ryken, How to Read the Bible as Literature (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1984), p. 103.



[13] Dungan, p. 311.



[14] This type of synecdoche in which the greater number or quantity is put for the lesser is often difficult to distinguish from hyperbole. For example, when John said, “Behold, the world is gone after him” (John 12:19), was he intentionally exaggerating by a hyperbole or was he letting the whole world stand for many people of every kind in a synecdoche? It really is not necessary to draw such a fine line as long as one recognizes that a figure is being used whereby great numbers of people are meant.



[15] See author’s discussion of forever in The Book of Psalms, 2 vols., ed. Bill Jackson (Austin, TX: Southwest Publications, 1990), 2:267–68.



[16] It is thus identified by several hermeneuticists, including Dungan (p. 311), Sterrett (p. 97), Terry (p. 250), and Merrill F. Unger, Principles of Expository Preaching (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1955), p. 183.



[17] The definite article appears in the Greek text before “bread” (v. 11), as indicated in the ASV. This all but demands that the phrase, had broken the bread (ASV), refers to the “bread breaking” mentioned in verse 7. However, after Paul “had broken the bread” (a figure which means to eat) the text then says he ate. I understand Luke to be saying that the breaking of the bread and the eating of verse 11 are two separate activities. The first refers to what they came to together to do (i. e., “to break bread,” v. 7) and the second refers to the eating of food for physical nourishment.



[18] Guy N. Woods understands breaking of bread in Acts 2:42 and 20:7 to be a synecdoche not only for the Lord’s Supper, but for all of the activities of congregational worship: Questions and Answers Open Forum (Henderson, TN: Freed-Hardeman College, 1976), p. 67.



[19] Whatever else Peter taught in this passage, he most certainly taught that baptism is related to salvation as cause to effect.

[Note: I wrote this MS for and presented a digest of it orally at the Fifth Annual Shenandoah Lectures, hosted by the Shenandoah Church of Christ, San Antonio, TX, February 15–18, 1990. It was published in the book of the lectures, Rightly Dividing the Word: Volume II—Special Hermeneutics, ed. Terry Hightower (San Antonio, TX: Shenandoah Church of Christ, 1991).]

Attribution: From, owned and administered by Dub McClish.





Author: Dub McClish

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