Metaphors Of Marriage As Expressions Of Divine-Human Relations -- By: Richard D. Patterson

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 51:4 (Dec 2008)
Article: Metaphors Of Marriage As Expressions Of Divine-Human Relations
Author: Richard D. Patterson

Metaphors Of Marriage As Expressions Of Divine-Human Relations

Richard D. Patterson*.

* Richard D. Patterson is emeritus professor of Old Testament at Liberty University, 1971 University Blvd., Lynchburg, VA 24502.

Figurative language makes up a great deal of human communication. As a general category, all figures of speech are at times classified under the term “metaphor.” Thus Williams can point out that “metaphor lies at the very root of language.”1 Some of life’s most precious relationships, activities, and institutions can appear in a figurative setting. By employing metaphoric language, an author imbues his work with a freshness and vividness that not only make his words more memorable, but invites the reader to be a participant in the interpretive process. Thus Ryken observes, “Metaphor and simile are obviously meditative forms that ask us to ponder how one thing is like another.”2

Such is the case with the institution of marriage, including the wedding ceremony. Thus two fields of research can be said to be “wedded together,” such as science and the Bible. A uniting of business firms or approaches may be termed a marriage, and an ideal marriage is sometimes called a “marriage made in heaven.”

Metaphorical language abounds in the Bible. Thus Zuck records the declaration of W. MacNeile Dixon who writes, “Remove the metaphors [i.e. figurative expressions] from the Bible and its living spirit vanishes. The prophets, the poets, the leaders of men are all of them are masters of imagery, and by imagery they capture the human soul.”3 Some of these metaphors revolve around cherished family situations. Thus a previous study in this Journal noted the scriptural importance of the metaphor of love of parents for their children.4 Another of the most striking metaphors is that of marriage. This human institution is often drawn upon by the biblical writers to express God’s relation to His people. The following study will examine marriage under the metaphors of the husband and wife, and the bridegroom and bride.

I. Metaphors Of Marriage And The Ancient Near East

When we turn to the literature of the ancient Near East, we soon learn that the Scriptures are unique in employing these metaphors for divine human relations. Perhaps it is the basic tenets of the committed polytheism of the nations of the ancient Near East which negated the use of metaphors relative to marriage to express a human...

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