Parental Love as a Metaphor For Divine-Human Love -- By: Richard D. Patterson

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 46:2 (Jun 2003)
Article: Parental Love as a Metaphor For Divine-Human Love
Author: Richard D. Patterson


Parental Love as a Metaphor For Divine-Human Love

Richard D. Patterson

[Richard Patterson is distinguished professor emeritus at Liberty University, 1971 University Blvd., Lynchburg, VA 24502.]

Aristotle once remarked, "Everything said metaphorically is obscure."1 By this the great Greek philosopher indicated that figures of speech lack a certain degree of the clarity of a direct statement.2 Nevertheless, the use of metaphorical language forms a basic means of human communication.3 Indeed, one might say that A. T. Robertson's remark that in one sense "words are metaphors, sometimes with the pictured flower still blooming, sometimes with the blossom blurred" has distinct validity.4 Moreover, as L. Ryken demonstrates, a high degree of richness exists in metaphorical language that brings not only freshness and vividness to an expression but tends to make a statement more memorable. By their very nature metaphors "force a reader to ponder or meditate on a statement."5

Metaphorical language abounds in poetry.6 Here the need for vividness and memorable statements make metaphor a suitable vehicle for the poet's goal of creating emotional, as well as intellectual and volitional, appeal.7 The prevalence of metaphors in poetry, however, places a constraint on the interpreter if he is to avoid "interpreting statements in a 'woodenly literal' fashion."8

G. B. Caird's observation that unlike simile, where the two things to be compared are juxtaposed, in metaphor "the name of the one is substituted

for the other," is certainly correct.9 Nevertheless, in this study metaphor is not used technically but as an overarching term for both figures involving comparison (as well as hypocatastasis and metaphorical expressions). Indeed, there is good rationale for such an approach. For as H. W. Fowler points out, metaphor and simile "differ only in form."10 The inquiry undertaken here as to the use of metaphorical language will concentrate on one of the more prominent scriptural metaphors associated with familial love, the parent and the child. This image provides not...

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