The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: J

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John's figurative language

With great regularity, those around Jesus understood his figurative language as literal: John 2:19,20; 3:3,4; 4:10,11,32,33; 6:41,42, etc; John 7:34,35; 8:56,57; 9:39,40; 10:30-33; 11:11-13.

Tying these thoughts together is a Greek word used three times in John's Gospel: "paroimia", which is a different way of saying "parable" or "proverb" than the Greek word "parabole" used 48 times in the other three gospels. Consider how John uses this word: (1) "Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them" (John 10:6); (2,3) "Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father... Then Jesus' disciples said, 'Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech' " (John 16:25,29).

And, of course, even today there are those who misunderstand or even wrest Jesus' words to "prove" their own false doctrines, chief of which is the Trinity. So these regular occurrences of misunderstanding in the Gospel of John indicate plainly when a literal interpretation is "out of order". To recognize this pattern is very useful in counteracting several false teachings that derive their support primarily from John's Gospel.
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