Thinking Cap #11 - The Question: Does the Holy Spirit Need a Grammar Lesson?

Let's think "polysyndeton" for a while. Read Luke 14:12-14 and then compare it to the list in Luke 14:21. Notice all the "and" conjunctions in the sentence. A general rule of English grammar is that we normally use only one conjunction in a sentence. What gives here? Does the Holy Spirit need a basic grammar lesson? Your thoughts please by Friday, April 21.

I heard from three of you. Each had very insightful and good thoughts (Bob Finnie, Martin Olson and Ruth Klema).

Here are some thoughts for your gray matter concerning this topic that can liven up your Bible reading. A polysyndeton is one of nearly 200 figures of speech that God uses in His Word to add force to what He is trying to tell us. The polysyndeton is used to slow us down and draw particular attention to each item in a sequence. The opposite of a polysyndeton is an asyndeton, where a succession of clauses is found, each important but coming one after the other to hurry the reader to the climax at the end.

Now, read Luke 14:12-14. The list ("the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind") uses the asyndeton figure of speech and is thus hurried over to focus attention on the blessing promised at the end of the sentence.

The Lord then told the story of the man who made a great supper and invited many. All made their excuses. The man, infuriated by the cavalier way his invitation was treated, sent his servants to fill his banqueting hall with more responsive guests. Note what Jesus said. We have the same listing but this time with the polysyndeton: "Go quickly ... the poor, AND the maimed, AND the halt, AND the blind."

The Holy Spirit in using this figure of speech (polysyndeton) is saying to us: "Slow down. Think of this, now think of this, now think of this." Consider the list in verse 21 again:

  • the poor (unable to make the excuse of verses 18-19),
  • AND the maimed (least likely to make the excuse of verse 20),
  • AND the halt (unable to make the excuse of verse 19),
  • AND the blind (unable to make the excuse of verse 18).
  • With this in mind, look at Genesis 22 and Luke 15. Observe how lavishly the Holy Spirit uses this word "and." We hardly notice it in ordinary reading because of the beauty and majesty of the language in which the surrounding text is couched.

    A word of caution. You will need to use the King James Version, as most "modern" translations eliminate this figure of speech and thus do a disservice to us by robbing us of a Holy-Spirit-designed emphasis.

    Pleasant Reading and Thinking.
    Kent Haralson


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