Note: This teaching was originally in the Advanced category, but now we have a Figures of Speech category so I moved it. It allows you to get a more detailed and advanced understanding of both of these Figures combined into one teaching. It appears complicated in some sections and may challenge you. You should read it more than once.
Part One: CONSESCENSION
This is a figure of speech that is used quite often throughout the Bible. The Latin name, which is what we will be calling this Figure in this teaching, is Condescensio.
To completely understand the meaning of this figure of speech first we’ll use this definition: "The Ascribing of Human Attributes, etc. to God." To get into more detail about this figure, it can also be described as the ascription of human passions, actions, or attributes to God. Hence the English version of the figure is condescension. God, by using this figure condescends to the level of man. I do not believe that God condescends to the level of man because He feels that man is ignorant or infirm. He condescends to man so that man will be able to easily understand God's purpose and wisdom.
We need to understand one very major point to understand Condescensio. God is Spirit, so He does not have arms, He does not have legs, He does not have any of the attributes that man has because He is Spirit. You cannot see, taste, smell, or touch God. The Holy Spirit is invisible and does not have a body of any sort. So again, as you must remember and never forget, God marks important points in His Bible by using figures of speech. A figure of speech used in the Bible makes you stop and think about the verse. Let's use a very simple example before we get into actual examples from the Bible. If God said to you, I will protect you with my arm and no harm shall come to you. We'll, God is Spirit and He does not have an arm. He’s using a figure to comfort you. Could it be any simpler than this? You need to understand the basics of what I am trying to teach you here or you will never understand any of the teachings regarding figures of speech. I have no doubt in my heart that you will be able to easily understand the meaning and purpose and importance of these figures of speech that are used throughout the Bible. The last statistic that I remember about figures is that there are about 212 figures of speech and possibly 40 varieties of each one. So we have our work cut out for us. One at a time.
To give you an example of how many varieties of one figure of speech that there are, we’ll use condescensio as our first example. This figure of speech can be used to represent: 1. Human and rational beings such as parts and members of man. The figure can represent the feelings of man or the actions of man or of the different circumstances surrounding man. 2. It can be used to represent other parts of God’s creation such as animals or plants. 3. It can be used in reference to inanimate things such as the elements or the earth.
God can appear to represent any of these examples, however, He is Spirit and cannot literally represent any of the above examples. But He will make use of the figure of speech Condescensio so that He can get His point across to a believer in a way that that believer can easily and clearly understand Him. Let’s try to find some simple examples from the Bible to begin with.
Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance. – Psalm 89: 15
The word ‘countenance’ often is interpreted in Biblical texts as ‘FACE’. Can you see the importance of such a verse? Those who know the joyful sound and walk by the Word of God, they will walk in the light of God’s face. Even if you were to use the word ‘countenance’, God is Spirit and does not have a countenance. The word ‘face’ seems to have more impact. The Figure is emphasizing the fact that the believers will walk in the light of God’s presence enjoying His favor and blessing. That’s what the Word says and that’s what it means.
By the way, the word ‘face’ is used in place of presence in Psalm 17: 2, 31: 20 and others. The New English Bible has even contributed its own figure of speech in verse 17: 2.
Let judgement in my cause issue from thy lips, let thine eyes be fixed on justice. --Psalm 17: 2 [New English Bible]
How can judgement issue from God’s lips?!! God has no lips. Obviously, you know the answer. This is obviously the Figure of Speech condescensio. It should grab your attention and make you stop and think.
This figure is very easy to understand. That’s why I chose it as our first example. Let’s go through a few more examples from the New Testament.
Condescensio can be used in reference to inanimate things as we mentioned previously, such as the elements.
And the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame: and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day; -- Isaiah 10: 17
God is spoken of as fire. The smoke of God’s fire denotes His anger. You see God condescends to our level so that we get a vivid illustration of what He is teaching us – one that we can understand. That is one of the purposes of the Figure of Speech. As we already covered, the Figure is the Holy Spirit’s markings as to what is important in His Word. This is a whole different world as far as studying God’s Word is concerned. These teachings are in the Intermediate to Advanced level and will get rid of the unbelievers and unbelieving believers. Only the strong believers will stay with the teachings. I often wondered what happened to the school teacher that tried to tear apart the teaching on alcoholism and wrote to me with insults. I figured it out. She was an alcoholic. Satan is the originator of trickery. Don’t let him get to you. He is defeated and having constant panic attacks about the return of Jesus Christ.
God is also referred to as having to do with place and time as men do.
But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: -- Matthew 5: 34
This is referring to God sitting on a throne. I picked this example because you may not have recognized this verse as having the Figure of Speech Condescensio. But stop and think. God doesn’t sit down so He doesn’t need a throne, neither can He use one. If you look at the context, it mentions swearing. If you’ve studied James, you will know that we are never to swear or make an oath, lest we make a fool out of ourselves. Can people swear by the heavens? Sure they can. But God says not to do that because He is the number one power in the universe and over all of creation. Satan has temporary power and he knows it. God is comforting us in the verse by assuring us that He is watching over and protecting us because the heavens are His throne (He is the one with the ultimate power over everything.) He only asks us to obey and apply His Word which is perfect guidance – a perfect blueprint for living the more than abundant life.
Part Two: OMISSION
Figures involving Omission are so-called because some gap is left in the sentence – in this case, in the Scripture. Leave it up to God to incorporate such an unusual figure, but it makes us stop and gets our attention. A more clearer definition or explanation is that a word or words are left out or omitted. Are you getting the gist of this thing? Maybe not, but you will when we study some Scriptures that have Figures of Omission. I don’t want to tell you how many variations there are of this Figure, so let’s begin with a simple category: Affecting Words. That’s our overall category.
Let me go over this point. The figure of Omission is a peculiar form given to a passage [now get this] when a word or words are omitted; words which are necessary for the grammar, but are not necessary for the sense. Just remember what I said in the blue color and the following examples will begin to open up to you. Trust me. When you study an area somewhat advanced, you are digging deeper in the Word for the really valuable treasures!
I thought we were ready to go, but not quite. I must mention that there are 3 kinds of Omission or Ellipsis:
Absolute is where the omitted word or words are to be supplied from the nature of the subject alone.
Relative is where the omitted word or words are to be supplied from, and are suggested by the context.
The Ellipsis of Repetition, is where the omitted word or words are to be supplied by repeating them from a clause which precedes or follows.
The following figure of Omission falls in a specific category called ‘The Omission of Nouns and Pronouns’. In this case we are dealing with the Omission of the NOMINATIVE.
[The nominative case is one of the grammatical cases of a noun or other part of speech, which generally marks the subject of a verb or the predicate noun or predicate adjective, as opposed to its object or other verb arguments. Generally, the noun "that is doing something" is in the nominative, and the nominative is the dictionary form of the noun. [Try to stay with the last sentence which is easy to understand.] The following is an ABSOLUTE ELLIPSIS. Bullinger abbreviates many verses in order to get his point across quickly and emphatically. The following exemplifies this.
-- Melchizedek said to Abram ”Blessed be the most high God which hath delievered thine enemies into thine hand. And he (i.e., Abram) gave him tithes of all.” -- Genesis 14: 19, 20 condensed according to E. W. Bullinger for the sake of brevity.
The fact that God left out Abram’s name is a Figure of Omission hopefully assuring you that these Figures are not so difficult, after all.
This verse can easily be wrongly divided if you believe the tithes were given by Melchizedek to Abram. However, it was Abram who gave the tithes to Melchizedek which can be seen from the context of the verse or the nature of the subject alone. That is the definition of an Absolute Ellipsis.
Let’s also go to the King James Version and not to Bullinger’s abbreviated verses to make it even clearer that it was Abram who gave the tithes to Melchizadek.
Now consider how great this man [priest] was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils. – Hebrews 7: 4
Now read Hebrews 7: 1 (context, remember?) and you will clearly see that the context is talking about Melchizadek, the priest of the most high God. Verses 1 – 4 gives you proof beyond a shadow of doubt of our conclusion. Do you see how the Word of God interprets itself? That’s why we should never guess at what the Word says. That’s private interpretation (idios – one’s own).
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. – II Peter 1: 20
The word ‘private’ in the Greek is the word ‘idios’ and it means ‘one’s own’. We’ve gotten the English word ‘idiot’ from that derivative.
The question resounds: Why didn’t God put Abram’s name in verse 20 of Genesis? Because he wanted us to stop and think and get our attention. He wanted us to work the verse and in turn, rightly divide His Word. We did work it, didn’t we? And we have the correct understanding of the subject matter of the verse. To me, it’s exciting. Figures make you work the Word and the surprising truth we uncover is comforting and rewarding.
Let us move on to our next Figure of Omission and to one maybe a little more simpler than our first one – maybe.
I would like to make you aware that all of these figures are not exactly easy to understand. This category of teachings, again, falls in the Intermediate to Advanced categories. If you like to work the Word and study it deeply for the greatest treasures, you will enjoy these teachings. If you are having a difficult time understanding these figures of speech, perhaps you should turn to the many other categories and teachings covered in this website. These teachings are not made for everyone, but only for the really dedicated believer who likes to search out the treasures in the Word. I am making every effort to present this teaching so that you can understand it. You may have to read it more than one time. So let us now go to a Scripture in Psalms that contains the figure Omission and is not difficult to understand by any means. In fact, it's a good example of seeing something that is missing in the verse and that makes it difficult to completely understand what the verse is saying. So let's go to that verse.
He that chastiteth the heathen, shall not he correct you among the heathen? he that teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know? -- Psalm 94: 10
Now look at the phrase in the first part of the verse, which is where the verse stops, that says ‘shall not he correct?’ Doesn't this seem like an incompletion of the sense? If you were to read this sentence by itself, isn't there room for some confusion? Are we sure that the pronoun He is referring to the lower case he? The completion of the sense is not evident unless we supply the omission. That omission in this case, repeated again, should read as follows and as seen above in the verse: “He that chastiteth the heathen, shall not he correct you among the heathen? “ Now the sense of the verse is completed. We now know that the correction is referring to you among or apart from the heathen. Notice how the second part of the verse backs up the Omission and strengthens the first part of the verse where we supplied the Omission.
As I said before, some of these Figures of Speech are difficult to recognize. But when we come across a Scripture that doesn't seem right such as the one above, we may stop and think as that Scripture captures our attention. Most of the time, this type of Scripture contains a Figure of Speech. Let’s move on to a different Scripture, perhaps our final example in the Omission category. The above examples should present you with enough instruction on Figures so as not to confuse you, but to whet your interest to study and learn even more. Let’s move on.
I am going to conclude this Part Two and the entire teaching with a verse(s) where there is an obvious Omission and a rather simple one. Without understanding this Omission, I wrongly divided this one verse for many years based on what I was sure was a teaching from my Branch leader many years ago. Figures of Speech is not a science, but can be difficult – but always exciting and interesting and very worthwhile to learn.
We are going to the New Testament to Ephesians, one of the Church Epistles written to the Church of the Body of Christ – us. I’m going to first quote 3: 17 mainly because the context gives us what the “missing word” in verse 18 should be, however it is rather easy to overlook as I did for many years.
That Christ may dwell [saturate] in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, -- Ephesians 3: 17
May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; -- Ephesians 3: 18
Can you see the Omission in verse 18? My point is the breadth of what?!………. the length, depth, and height of WHAT? If you don’t see the Figure of Omission in verse 18, you can easily be confused and wrongly divide the Word of God. For years, I thought verse 18 was referring to being ‘spiritually sharp’. Sounds good, doesn’t it?????? WRONG. It’s so simple, to this day, it kind of gets on my nerves a bit. Now I am going to give you a literal translation of Ephesians 3: 17, 18. Before that I am going to review for you How The Bible Interprets Itself. Do you remember the teaching? The Bible interprets itself in 3 ways: 1) Right in the verse 2) In the context 3) Where it was used before. Keep that in mind. Now we will learn exactly what breadth, length, depth, and height is referring to by supplying the Omission.
Literal translation of Ephesians 3: 17, 18:
That Christ may dwell [saturate] in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May know what is the breadth [of it] , and the length [of it] , and the depth [of it] , and the height [of it] ;
If you look at the context of the two verses and the Omission which is clearly [of it] used three times, it now becomes clear that breadth, length, depth, and height is referring simply to LOVE. Love is possessive of our four (4) descriptive nouns used in verse 18. This is all stemming from the last word at the very end of verse 17. It’s the word LOVE. Context, context, context. It was right there in front of me and I missed it for years. Thank God it’s not a sin to make a mistake – it’s a sin to be afraid to make a mistake.
When I studied Figures of Speech Used In The Bible by Bullinger, this allowed me to rightly divide Ephesians 3: 18 for the first time. And that’s important.
I hope you enjoyed this teaching and I know one thing – it made you think. On a long mountain walk, I belive God put a subject on my heart that is really going to bless and set free many believers. It’s simple, but it’s a principle that will do wonders for your walk with God and for your more than abundant life. Guaranteed.
So study these Figures of Speech. We will come back to them. God bless.