Chapter 2 Review

Hon 395-40: Reading the Bible as Literature

Jeanie Crain




Title- Chapter 2: Style, Tone, and Rhetorical Strategy: A Way of Using Language

Author-Jeanie Crain

Place of publication- Cambridge, UK

Publisher- Polity Press

Date of publication- 2010

Number of pages- 22-42



The second chapter of the book Reading the Bible as Literature by Jeanie Crain includes information on the style and tone of the Bible. It also gives an explanation of many rhetorical devices used in the book including, similes, metaphors, personification, merism, allusion, irony, and many others. The chapter is concluded with many questions and exercises to help understand the content of the chapter. The purpose of the chapter is to give information on many of the different writing strategies used in the Bible, so the reader can understand not only the literal meaning of the scripture but also the figurative meaning. The audience for the book is anyone who is reading the Bible as Literature.




                The chapter begins by recognizing the fact that the Bible was written by many authors and that there are many translations. This plays a huge impact on the style of the book. According to the book, Style “refers to how something is written, to the mode of expression, or the author’s choice and arrangement of words and phrases into sentences and paragraphs.” I think it is alright that there are several different authors all with different writing styles, because it brings variety to the book. Also different stories are better written with different styles to help understand them more clearly. The tone of a book is “the manner in which the author expresses attitude.” Tone in the Bible is also important because this also helps us to know how to correctly interpret what we are reading and how to take in what is being said. Tone examples can be humorous, sarcastic, solemn, ironic, or serious. Many of these tones are used throughout the Bible. Rhetorical strategies are used throughout the Bible. These are attempts by the author to better persuade or inform the reader. They are creative ways to help the author achieve specific effects in the reading. The book states “it includes the use of cultural conventions and expectations and the manipulation of these to achieve effects.” These strategies often deviate from how words or phrase are actually used and the ordinary pattern of words and phrases to help the reader get a better understanding of what they are trying to say.

                The Bible has been translated by people who know the original Hebrew and Greek languages. We have to rely upon these people to give us an accurate translation. The translations are all slightly different. For example, the King James Version tends to translate figurative language word for word, while the NRSV tends to denote what the figurative language is referring to. The translators have to pay close attention to the style being used to try to retain in in the translation.

Many of the Rhetorical devises in the Bible are used to show comparison. Many are also used for association, which is “where one noun becomes associated with another and meaning derives from the association produced in the reader’s mind.” Appellation, which according to the book is “using quality, office, or attribute for a proper noun,” is included in association. This is when God is referred to as “the Majesty” or when Jesus is called Lord, Savior, or Christ. Circumlocution, using a phrase instead of the name to emphasis the association, is also used. Other rhetorical devises come from how the words are arranged. Variance is deviating in meaning from what is said, and irony is meaning the opposite of what is said. If it has a double meaning that means it is both literally and figuratively true. Belittlement uses a weaker tem to show a contrary fact and an incongruity is actually false when read literarily.

A simile is a comparison using like or as. A metaphor is a comparison where you say one thing is another. These are very different and it is important to understand the difference between them. Saying something is like something is not the same as saying it is something. The Bible is full of both similes and metaphors. The Bible also uses personification. Personification is giving human-like characteristics to things that are not human. Zoomorphism is giving features of an animal to a different species. Anthropomorphism is actually giving God human like characteristics. An example is Psalm 34:15 says, "The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.” This helps us fell more related to God and better understand him.

A synecdoche is where a whole is represented by naming a part. Merism is a type of synecdoche that uses “and” to join together different things to show totality. Examples are “night and day” and “heaven and hell.” An oxymoron is putting together different words or ideas to produce a self-contradicting effect. This is used to show that something foolish can actually be wise. The New Testament often uses quotes from the Old Testament. Quotations can repeat word for word or just be composites of what was said. Sometimes the quotes only make a short reference to the material, this is known as an allusion. This helps to strengthen the unity of the Bible and helps all of the books to be more interrelated. Foreshadowing is where hints are provided about something that will come later in the story.

Irony is when words are meant to mean the opposite of what they actually mean. Dramatic irony is when others know what the characters do not know. An example of irony is when God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac and God has no real intention of Isaac dying, he just wants to see if Abraham will do it. The Bible also uses rhetorical questions. Rhetorical questions are meant to make a point without expecting a reply. Many of the rhetorical questions in the Bible are meant to remind mankind that God is the creator.

                Amplification is where more words are used than required. This is used to intensify, emphasize, or enhance what has been said. Euphemism is used to make things less offensive or more delicate about sensitive subjects for human beings. God however does not use euphemisms when taking about death; he tells it how it is.

Repetition is used a lot in the Bible. It can be repetition of words, phrases, actions, images, themes, or ideas. Recursion according to the book is “the deliberate shaping of narrative events so that key elements are repeated from one narrative to another. This happens in Genesis. The topics are presented in a specific order so that each is included in the next. This helps build unity between the narratives of the Bible. Inclusio “uses repetition to mark off the beginning and ending of a section, bracketing the material it contains.” Chiasm is another form of repetition where reverses or contrasts words, dialogues, episodes, scenes or events with the most important idea in the story. A sign is something/an occurrence that has significance beyond its surface meaning. Jesus has to constantly give signs to prove that he is the messiah. A vision is “seeing beyond human sight and existence and carries symbolic meaning.”




                I think this chapter did a very good job of describing all of the rhetorical devices used in the Bible. Each one was explained very well and great examples were given to help us better understand why they are used and how to interpret them. By learning about all the devises, we can look for them in the Bible. We are now equipped with the knowledge to better understand the figurative language used in the Bible.

The chapter suggests new possibilities of understanding and getting things in the Bible that we never had before. There are thing I hadn’t got or even thought about before reading this chapter, such as the incluso framing the beginning and ending of the career of Jesus in Mark or God asking Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac to foreshadow God sacrificing his only son Jesus in the future.

                Most of the answers to the questions in the back of the chapter are found with the text and the exercises help us to extend what we have learned in the chapter. It was helpful to me to look up additional example s of some rhetorical devices to help me answer some of the questions. On Exercise 6, how does vision work in Isaiah 1? I get how the vision works; however, I had a hard time figuring out the answer when you asked when the material was written and to whom? Usually it’s not the initial question that is hard to answer, it’s when you go into more detail and then more difficult questions get built up and I sort of get lost. It requires more and more research, which is a good thing though because you can learn more.



In conclusion, Chapter 2 “Style, Tone, and Rhetorical Strategy: A Way of Using Language” gave a lot of helpful information on many rhetorical devices used in the Bible and also of the style of the Bible. Learning to understand these devices can help us to understand the Bible better and get more meaning out of it.