Thursday, April 08, 2010


Metaphors! Metaphors! Get your red-hot biblical metaphors here!

Actually, I wan't y'all to tell me parts of the Bible you consider to be metaphor. An example would be Zion as cheating wife who reconciles with God.

What else ya got?


God sheltering us under his wing. Gathering his chicks, etc. Lots of poultry metaphors for the Almighty.
I loves me some livestock metaphors!
Lamb of God -- total metaphor.

I hope this thread takes off. I want to get somewhere with it, but I want to take some time to do it! :-)
Isn't the Trinity itself a metaphor (and that's not where I want to go, but it's gettin' warm.)
"In the beginning..."

"And God said..."

"Tell them I am has sent you..."

"I am the way..."

"I am the truth..."

"I am the light of the world..."

"I am the vine..."

"I am the door..."

"I am the living bread..."

"I am from above..."

"It is finished..."

"God the Father"

"God the Son"

"God the Holy Spirit"

[but the Trinity is not a metaphor]
Uh ... why not?
It's a supra-linguistic claim about the nature of God: a com-union of being.

The metaphors are "Father," "Son," "Holy Spirit." But the concept of The Trinity is a direct truth claim, not an argument from analogy.
"I pray to you, O Lord, my rock..."

I would say that any anthropomorphic language of God is metaphorical.

Hyperbolic language would be metaphoric.(a thousand days is as one, and one day is as a thousand). Time and space terms related to God would metaphorical. (i.e. the sky as the abode for God)

God's overcoming the chaos monster (leviathan) giving him the right to be king and Creator may be metaphorical. However, I'm of the opinion that may have actually (literally) taken place. But I could be persuaded to believe it is metaphorical too.
Lots of Bride/Bridegroom metaphors for the Church and Christ.
Oooh, hyperbole! I see hyperbole in Paul's reference to meeting the Lord in the air. Anybody with me on that one? Is that literal?
I've never known whether to think the scales on Paul's eyes were meant to be metaphorical.

Eye scales? Really? Eeew. Perhaps some Visine would have helped that condition?

On meeting Jesus in the air, I for one hope to meet flying Jesus. In the air. I'll be the one doing barrel rolls and loop-the-loops.
all we have is metaphor. we also have some truth claims as Feodor pointed out. I like the claim that God is Love and is 3 persons in 1. God is one.

now God is also like a rock, Father, lamb, etc. etc. etc.

good considerations. we need to have a discerning eye between doctrine (truth claims) and metaphor. most Christians don't.
Good time to advance the thread!

Do we have truth claims that can best, or only, be expressed and seen as metaphor?

Are there Christian metaphors that also are truth claims?

Are there truth claims that would be better off seen as metaphor?

John 1:1 -- metaphor or truth claim? I think it's both, and I think most people who've thought about probably don't have a problem with that.
Genesis 1? Metaphor and truth claim.
OK, here's THE question:

God Incarnate in Jesus Christ.

Truth claim. But not metaphorical, not by a longshot, by any orthodox view.

But is it a metaphor? It's heretical to claim it's not "factual," but then, I'm not claiming it; I *am" asking what "factual" can possibly mean when it comes to the Incarnation. And, I think I'm suggesting that treating it as metaphorical would not be a bad thing.
"God Incarnate in Jesus Christ.
Truth claim. But not metaphorical, not by a longshot, by any orthodox view."

Borg and Crossan would be helpful here. Their claim is that the communities of Jesus retrojected the incarnation back onto the life of Jesus as they didn't know it while they were with him. Reading through Mark, this sounds very plausible. so indeed it is both a metaphor as well as truth claim. the incarnation can be either existent from the beginning (i.e. virgin birth stories) and ppl didn't get it until the resurrection or that Jesus was adopted (adoptionist view held by Mark) of which John gets the best of both worlds and holds an adoptionist/eternal view. largely John is all metaphor and little history, so thus the claim that the Gospels are both historical memory and metaphoric testimony holds true.
To muddy ER's point a bit, the longer tradition (from from the mature history of the ancient and medieval Church) understands things like the Incarnation as always and ever an experienced truth and a rational puzzle.

In other words, the Incarnation is a mystery of God.

A mystery which, nonetheless -- rather, precisely because it is a mystery and therefore indeterminate -- a mystery can be spiritually experienced and lived into... with all kinds of expanding creativity.

From this view, the Incarnation as a mystery of God has more power for human reflection than a linguistic game no matter how serious (metaphor) and more power than logical/scientific data (isolating notions like "person/nature" "being/substance" etc. etc.).
Metaphors, mysteries, and myths...
Ah yes and symbolism....

The serpent

The fruit of knowledge

Original sin

Seven days

The tree of life

Going down to Egypt

The Star of Bethlehem

Birth in a cave

Death in a cave

Resurrection from a cave

The three wise men

The Coat of many colors

Three fishes/ three loaves

Three hours of darkness

Three days in the tomb


The number of fish in the net

The fisherman's net

Jesus at 12 in the temple

The brass serpent lifted up in the wilderness

40 days---40 years---

The chariot of Ezekiel




Water into Wine

Woman at the well

Peter the stone


Rose of Sharon

Washed in the blood

Son of man

Son of God

God the father

Rent in the curtain of the temple

after life

Plus consider all those metaphors we have ignore or rejected
Seeing is a metaphor for "the reaction of the bundle of highly sensitive nerve endings in the eyeball to stimuli." All we have are metaphors.
"Ceci n'est pas une pipe"
Do what?

I keep thinkin' that Dr. ER pee aytch dwee in psychology would be great groundwork for theological education.
I know I've argued before that all God-speech is metaphoric speech, but that's not saying that ALL language is metaphor.

Seeing is simply language for our experience, not a "comparison between things that have something figural in common."

Language has limit, but that does not make "toe" [one of the terminal members of the vertebrate foot] a metaphor.

This smells to me like a theological point made inappropriately universal.
Maybe. Blogging, to me, as I've tried to make clear, is me thinking out loud, even when it appears I'm making clear, declarative statements. I reserve the right to revise and extend my remarks.

BUT, the "seeing" is not a theological point per se, but one about perception versus reality, whether physical or metaphysical, since all perception, unless, I'm mistaken, requires stimuli, which are different from the things perceived themselves. Even revelation.
"... one about perception versus reality."

Experiential vs. physiological. Which is the real?

As it is, it seems like you're privileging the physiological over the experiential. While I'm fine privileging the physiological when I have my annual physical, or with my optometrist, I'd rather privilege the psychological when walking around Rome, or Mt. Washington, or kneeling in vigil before the sacrament from Maundy Thursday to the Easter Vigil... or watching playoff hockey.

Without the "thing" itself what stimuli would there be?

By the way, there are always thousands of discrete "things" that stimulate the senses but which we do not "see" or "hear" or "feel" because they were filtered or overpowered by something else.

So, if they were not brought to consciousness - if they were not "sensed" - in what way were they "real"?
meaningfully real, I mean.
Sorry. Just saw this.

I said: " ... reality, whether physical or metaphysical, since all perception, unless, I'm mistaken, requires stimuli, which are different from the things perceived themselves. Even revelation."

You said: "Experiential vs. physiological. Which is the real?
As it is, it seems like yoube 're privileging the physiological over the experiential."

Didn't mean to. I mean, at that fine point, to be distinguishing between physical and metaphysical "things" "out there," not our experiential of physiologial perception of them.
dang it: OR, not of.


There are many "real" things which we can not and have not sensed even with all of our expand schemes and devices to do so.

For God any thought of Him at all is a metaphor.

It is always about the frequency of the vibes.
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