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As a parent, I’ve been frustrated with my kids when they don’t clean up after dinner, or they forget their chores and therefore, have uttered the common phrase, “I’ve told you a million times …” before further explaining their mistake. If I’m particularly frustrated, I might say I told them “a billion times.”
Or perhaps after skipping a meal and having a late dinner, I’ve sat down at the table and said, “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.”
These are cliché expressions many use but don’t mean literally. I haven’t counted, but I can say with some confidence I hadn’t told my kids “A million times.”
I’m simply expressing how I’ve told them enough they should definitely know better. I’ve never been hungry enough to actually eat a horse. I’m sure eating a horse in one sitting is impossible, even if I were hungry.
Hyperbole is a common device in everyday conversation used to create emphasis, evoke strong emotion, and make a point. We exaggerate to emphasize a concept; not meant to be taken literally. Hyperbole adds color, humor, and drama to their speech.
The Bible is a holy book, sacred in its inspiration and use, but it also uses literary devices and genres such as poetry, narrative, metaphor, and even hyperbole.
Jesus especially used hyperbole during his teachings to express the extreme and absolute truth of his doctrine. However, he never meant for us to take certain phrases and ideas literally.
Proper reading of the scripture means realizing when Christ was using hyperbole to make a point. Here are some important examples.
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