The Figurative Language dataset in Logos marks the word “dine” in Luke 14:1 as a metaphor. Why?
Can you figure it out? I’ll give you ten Logos Pro points if you get the right answer.
One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully.
In a previous post, I showed Logos users how to automatically mark all figurative language in the New Testament with blue text. I’ve kept that visual filter on for my own Bible study, and that’s why I myself recently ran across this little puzzle.
What in the world is figurative about dining? Is “dine” etymologically related to some other concept? Yes, in fact: dine appears to have come from an Old French word meaning “breakfast”—in other words, to break one’s nightly fast. That is, arguably, metaphorical. At some point, the word shifted a few hours (maybe when it crossed the Atlantic?) and began to refer to the evening meal rather than the morning one.
If that’s the answer you came up with, too, then enjoy your zero Logos Pro points (they’re worth the same as ten Logos Pro points, however; so be comforted). None of this etymology stuff has anything to do with why dine is marked as figurative language in Logos.
The tagging for the figurative language dataset is done at the original language level. In Greek, “he went to dine” is, literally, “he went to eat bread.” “Eating bread” is here, clearly metonymy for eating a meal. Jesus didn’t go to eat only bread but also whatever else was being served.
Sure enough, “metonymy” is just how dine is tagged in the figurative language dataset. Right-click dine and you get this:
From here you can find out where else “bread” has been used figuratively in the New Testament—and where else there are “food” metaphors. Just click one of the options and then “Search this resource”:
You’ll find straightforward passages similar to this one in Luke 14, and you’ll also find richer metaphors like “tasting the goodness of the word of God” (Heb 6:5).
Language is absolutely full of metaphors. Like that one, “full,” which leading cognitive linguist George Lakoff would parse as LANGUAGE AS CONTAINER. “Metaphor” grew out of a metaphor: meta + phero, to carry between or to transfer. Human beings apparently like to understand things in terms of other things; we learn by connecting something new to what we already know. We often create concepts based on a substratum of tangible realities. (As poet Richard Wilbur wrote, “Odd that a thing is most itself when likened.”)
Tools Make the Man
It’s only been a few weeks since I posted on this topic, but I’m still amazed at the possibilities here. Is it possible that the limitations of our exegetical tools, tools that for quite some time could search only form (like dative singulars or particular lemmas) and not meaning, have shaped us into exegetes who don’t look for parallel metaphors?
Now, I’m not suggesting that we should go looking for more meaning than is there, as if Luke said Jesus went “to dine/eat bread” with a Pharisee because he was foreshadowing the Last Supper or alluding to the showbread in the Temple. But if he was, and my translation says “dine,” I’m missing it.
If you set up a visual filter showing off all the figurative language in the New Testament, you’ll see things you would otherwise miss. At least I do. Here’s an example:
Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. (1 Tim 6:11)
My first thought when I saw this marked in blue was, “What’s figurative about righteousness, godliness, and faith?” So I right-clicked on the sentence and saw the tagging: “Movement Along a Path as Christian Life.” That in itself was helpful; it clarified for me a metaphor that I think I might otherwise have read right past. It helped me assign a label to what I was seeing so I could explain it to others.
But what I still love most about this Figurative Language Dataset is the ability to search for parallel examples. So I did. I looked for all the other places where the Christian life is metaphorically pictured as movement along a path. They were truly enlightening, especially (I thought) the ones that showed a contrast with “Pursue righteousness.”
In other words, it’s one thing to say,
Paul implies here that you ought not pursue unrighteousness, ungodliness, unbelief, selfishness, changeableness, and harshness.
That’s all true. But using the figurative language tagging to find a cross reference allows me to say this instead:
When you pursue the virtue Paul lists here, you will be on the right path. Though we all stumble in many ways, we must not be carried away with the error of lawless people, we must not wander from the truth.
Each of those bolded phrases comes straight from Bible passages found for me by my search for the “Movement Along a Path as Christian Life” metaphor. I was able to extend the metaphor using biblical phrases, thereby reinforcing biblical terminology, grounding even more of my sermon on the Bible, and enriching (I pray!) my hearers’ understanding of the particular biblical metaphor we’re focusing on. Instead of making up my own contrasts to “Pursue righteousness” (which is not wrong!), I was able to use the Bible’s own.
A Thought Experiment
Now indulge me in a tiny little thought experiment here: it was a genuine help to me to have this word “dine” highlighted. It alerted me to something going on beneath the English, a nuance that might or might not be significant for interpretation. So why don’t we produce printed, physical “figurative language dataset” Bibles? We’ve got red-letter Bibles showing off the words of Jesus; why not blue-letter Bibles showing off figurative language? Why not add different shades of green for various verb tenses (sea green for aorist, forest green for perfect, lime green for future)? And then pink for grammatically feminine words and blue for masculine ones—except blue’s already being used for figurative language. . . So we’ll use baby blue. And gray for neuter.
To those in the know, all this extra information could be helpful. Spontaneous interpretive ideas pop up during sermons sometimes that the preacher doesn’t have time to check out. Perhaps knowing that he’s looking at an aorist (thank you, sea green) will confirm his interpretive idea and he can go with it.
But I think it will be obvious to most people that this approach would tend to clutter up the page with more levels of meaning than most readers can handle. It would be more appropriate in a study environment like Logos, but even there you want to be careful how many visual filters you have going. Humans have limits. Choose the filters that are genuinely helpful to you. For me that’s Corresponding Words, rhetorical questions, and Figurative Language.
Mark L. Ward, Jr. received his PhD from Bob Jones University in 2012; he now serves the church as a Logos Pro. He is the author of multiple high school Bible textbooks, including Biblical Worldview: Creation, Fall, Redemption.
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