Figures of Speech
[Part One A. – Asyndeton or No Ands]
[Part One B. -- Polysyndeton or Many Ands]
[Part One A. – Asyndeton or No Ands]
We previously covered a few examples of the figure of speech called Omission. Remember, there are many variations on that figure. We covered only a few under that category to keep it simple and understandable. I thought that teaching went well and that we should move on to a different figure of speech which appears to be most unusual, but I feel that it is one that we can understand and see exactly what the figure is trying to tell us. At first we are going to study Asyndeton or No-Ands. In addition to this, we are also going to study Polysyndeton which is the opposite of Asyndeton – many ‘ands’. These two figures are most interesting in that we get to see how meticulous God is with His Word. Even the smallest word such as “and” can make a major difference in rightly dividing the Word of God. I will say this one more time. These teachings can fall into the advanced category. If any of my readers are having a difficult time with figures of speech, they should refer back to all of the teachings that are in the general categories. There are close to 300 of those teachings.
Now first we are going to study Asyndeton which simply means without conjunctions; or it may be called in English by the term NO-ANDS. It is from the Greek word sundeton - bound together with. In our English grammar, once again, it means ‘without any conjunctions’.
Later on, we will study Polysyndeton as they form a pair, and mutually throw light upon and illustrate each other.
For those of you who are interested in more advanced teachings, the part we are studying is also called ASYNTHETON from the Greek word titheemi which means to put or place. So in our English grammar, we can say that this word means no placings or puttings of the conjunction “and”. As we proceed, you will see that the first figure does not use any “ands”. You will see this in some illustrative Scriptures that we will study. In the second figure of speech, Polysyndeton or “Many Ands” “ands” are put to good use in those Scriptures. As I said above, we are first going to study Asyndeton or No-Ands and to show you how Polysndeton or “Many Ands” brings out, by the wonderful contrast, the object and importance of both. I will try to keep this teaching as simple and understandable as possible. Once we get started, you will then begin to understand these figures of speech.
[LET’S NOT FORGET: Figures of Speech are the Holy Spirit’s markings as to what is important in God’s Word.]
When the figure Asyndeton is used, we are not detained or distracted over the separate statements. But we are asked to consider each in detail and we are hurried on over the various matters that are mentioned as though they were of no account in comparison to the great climax to which they lead up to.
Let’s go to a simple example in the gospel of Luke. Now remember, we are first studying Asyndeton or No-Ands. Each detail of this verse is sort of hurried over and we are not detained or distracted over each separate statement even though we are asked to consider each in detail.
They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. – Luke 17: 27
Actually, I think this is a really good example. After this one verse, you should begin to be able to completely understand the figure of speech “No-Ands”. There is only one ‘and’ used in the above verse. That begins the conclusion or the main point of the verse itself. This is the great climax to which the verse was leading up to. What is the climax? and the flood came, and destroyed them all. If the word ‘and’ was used after eat, drink, wives, marriage, it would detain you from the conclusion of the verse itself. Think about it for a while. This is an unusual figure of speech that has always intrigued me because it makes a lot of sense. To help you to understand Polysndeton, the word ‘and’ would have been placed in about five places in the above Scripture. This would distract you from the impact and climax at the end of the verse. That is the difference between this figure of speech and the first one that we are studying. Polysyndeton makes use of the word AND so that we would place equal emphasis upon each statement. Do you understand this? If not, you should go over the above paragraph until you do. This is not a difficult figure of speech to understand. I am going to give you at least one more example of the figure Asyndeton.
The following verse should be very familiar to you. It is in the book of Galatians and you should know it by heart.
But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. – Galatians 5: 22
Take note how ‘and’ is eliminated from the Scripture. Again, and we must learn by repetition, if there were an ‘and’ after each word such as love joy and peace, we would be distracted but more importantly, we would be detained from reaching the climax of the verse. Now you should be able to tell me what the climax is. It is mentioned in five words and it is at the end of the verse which is always the case with the figure “No-Ands”. The climax is, “against such there is no law”. And you must be able to understand other parts of the Word to completely understand the verse. Since Jesus Christ came on earth, he put an end to the Old Testament law. We are now under the Age of Grace. We are to obey what is written in the New Testament and the New Testament does not include the Gospels. It starts with part of the book of Acts. Remember, that we are to consider all that is mentioned in Galatians 5: 22 and we should learn it in detail and strive to obtain this fruit of the spirit. But it is not to override the importance of the climax. These two examples should give you a good idea of the figure Asyndeton. Let’s go over one more.
Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen. -- I Timothy 1: 17
I purposely chose this Scripture because it is short and simple. However, the figure of speech Asyndeton still stands out. Notice that there are no ‘ands’ in the verse except for the climax. The climax is “be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” If there were ‘ands’ after eternal and immortal and invisible, you would be detained from absorbing the climax or conclusion of the verse. Again, you should think about this and reread each of the three examples that we went over. You should not be having a difficult time understanding this figure of speech.
[Part One B. -- Polysyndeton or Many Ands]
Now we are going to deal with Polysyndeton or Many Ands. This could be referred to as a complementary figure of speech to Asyndeton, but appears to be opposite in function. As with the previous figure of speech, you will begin to clearly understand the intricacies of this new figure as we study some Scriptures. In Greek, it is from the word polus - many and bound together. In grammar, it means a conjunction and to bind. The word, therefore, means much bound together or many conjunctions.
The English name for the Figure will, therefore, be MANY-ANDS. To understand the full significance and use of Polysyndeton, the student must consider the opposite Figure Asyndeton where the ‘A’ prefixed means no, instead of “poly” which means many. Is this beginning to become clear to you? We are simply studying the history and grammar regarding both figures of speech. You can see from the structure that A (in Asyndeton) means “no” in reference to ‘ands’, and Poly which means “many” in reference to “ands”. In a nutshell, Asyndeton means “NO ANDS” and Polysyndeton means “MANY ANDS”. And of course this is in reference to the Scriptures. Now, we are going to turn to the Word of God and present to you actual examples of Polysyndeton. Keep in mind that when the Word of God uses “many-ands,” there is never any climax at the end of the verse.
Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright. – Genesis 25: 34
In this verse, our attention is drawn to the deliberateness of Esau’s action. There is no haste or hurrying in the words, as there was none in Esau’s deed. Each part of the verse is minutely pointed out, and dwelt upon, as showing that Esau did not fall under such sudden temptation, but that he deliberately and willfully “despised his birthright.” There is more information about this verse in Hebrews 12: 16, 17. I am trying to get you to look up some of these verses on your own. Take notice that in the verse above, in Genesis, there are three “ands”, so that the verse takes into account each action mentioned. There is no true climax to this verse. The end of the verse is not a climax, but just a statement of fact pertaining to Esau. Each part of the verse is dwelt upon. This is the difference between the figure of speech Asyndeton and Polysyndeton. Let us look at some more examples.
** I need to point out that a conjunction is not always ‘and’. It can sometimes be ‘also’. We will see this in the next verse.
And Judah said unto Israel his father, Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go; that we may live, and not die, both we, and thou, and also our little ones. – Genesis 43: 8
Here, the figure Polysyndeton is used to heighten the effect of Judah’s appeal to his father to let them all depart and procure the food they so greatly needed. He tells his father that they need the food to live and not to die, both for himself and his people and also all of the children. There are five “ands” in this verse, hence, to repeat, Polysyndeton is the figure of speech that refers to “many ands.” Let’s get to another example of this figure of speech.
The following is a most interesting example because you cannot miss the figure of speech that we are studying. The following covers three verses in the Old Testament.
And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defiled the armies of the living God. -- I Samuel 17: 34 – 36
Here David enhances the importance of what he tells King Saul, by bringing out graphically each detail of that which makes him a type of the Good Shepherd.
There are 12 “ands” in these three verses. David goes over each detail to King Saul so that he could show him that he is obedient and a good person and that he is more than willing to show King Saul his deeds. He even mentions his attitude toward the Philistine who apparently has defiled the armies of the living God.
At this point, you should be able to understand the difference between the two figures of speech that we are studying. If not, you should review the teaching at least once. In fact, let’s pick one more example pertaining to “Many Ands”.
Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises. – Romans 9: 4
The previous verse and figure of speech is used to impress us with the wonderful possessions and privileges of Israel. There are 5 “ands” in this one verse.
OK, let’s mix it up and go back to Asyndeton which is “no ands”. You should be able to see a startling contrast as compared to “many ands”. Also, the verse I have chosen for you is one of my favorites and I have gone over it in my mind maybe thousands of times. It’s a verse that we need to renew our minds to, and think and speak as God says we should.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. -- Philippians 4: 8
I have learned to pay strict attention to whatever is written in this verse. However, it does not detain me from putting emphasis on the climax. Now you should be able to tell me what is the climax of this verse. If there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think or speak on these things. With the exception of one ‘and’ in the climax, you can easily see that there are no ands in the rest of the verse. This is how you recognize the figure of speech Asyndeton. It’s that simple. How do you recognize the figure of speech Polysyndeton? When there are many “ands” separating each phrase or individual statement made in the Scripture. I believe you should be able to understand both of these figures of speech by now. I cannot see going over the same subject time and time again. There is a time for repetition and there is a time to stop. Although I thought this teaching might be very long, I have decided to reach a conclusion and keep the teaching rather short as compared to many other teachings.
I will say this one more time and that’s it. If some of you believers are really dedicated and committed and you want to learn more of the Word of God than you have never learned before, then purchase the following research book:
Figures of Speech Used in the Bible by E. W. Bullinger.
Yes, you will spend about $40 or $50. How much is God’s Word worth to you? I am not trying to pressure anybody into doing something that maybe they cannot afford. But if you really have a desire in your heart to learn figures of speech on your own, then God will make it available and He will make sure that you have the money you need to purchase this magnificent work.
God bless. You’re God’s best.