Friday, November 23, 2007

On the Use of Metaphor in Religion: "God may be like a mother hen but it doesn't mean God has feathers"

"Metaphor is the foundation of all learning: we understand new things in terms of things we already know."Uploaded on November 14, 2007 by jm3 on flickr, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

"I never met-a-phor I didn't like." OK, I like puns, and this is a pun I've been using for years. The use of metaphors is essential in religious scripture. Religious truths cannot be conveyed any other way than metaphorically.

Here is a discussion in the comments section of a year-and-a-half old post that addresses the significance of metaphor.

Go to the web and you get these definitions for metaphor.

A figure of speech in which an expression is used to refer to something that it does not literally denote in order to suggest a similarity.

A figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness between them. Example: He was drowning in money.

A figure of speech in which one thing is described as if it were another, as in "Life is just a bowl of cherries."

A figure of speech in which two things that seem to have little in common are compared, usually in an arresting or memorable way. For instance, the song "You Are My Sunshine" compares the singer’s beloved to the center of our solar system as a way of expressing her importance in his life.

Jn.6:48 I am the bread of life or eat my body and drink my blood- a figure of speech in which one object is liked to another by speaking of it as if it were the other but in fact is not.

A figure of speech that makes a comparison between two things that are basically different but have something in common; unlike a simile, a metaphor does not contain the words like or as (ie, in the evening of life)

Figurative language in which something unknown or imperfectly known is described in terms of something known. Frequently used biblical metaphors for God include father, king, rock, bridegroom; others are midwife and mother hen. God has some attributes of each of these figures, but is not limited to them. They are not intended literally: God may be nurturing like a mother hen, but that doesn't mean God has feathers.

in metaphorical usage, expressions are used in a way that appears literally false. For example, using the word boiling to describe water which is simply too hot for comfort.

Here is more on metaphors by Baha'is. -gw

"Baha'i Inspired Photography and Metaphors" by Jim Styan
"Metaphorical Certitude" by Ron Stevens
"Five Metaphors for Educators," by Rodney H. Clarken

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