Friday, June 25, 2010

Hendiadys and Amphibologia—A Hope-Filled Future

Jeremiah 29:11—“I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an end and expectation” (King James Version, italics mine). The marginal reading of the italicized portion says, “to give you an expected end.” The Revised Standard Version renders the phrase “to give you hope in your latter end,” and puts in the margin “Heb., a latter end and hope.” Figurative language and word order supplies the basis for a proper understanding and translation of this verse.

The figurative language involves the figure of speech called hendiadys meaning literally one idea expressed by two nouns connected by “and.” Bullinger explains Jeremiah 29:11 this way, “‘to give you the end, yes—the end you hope for’: i.e., the end which I have promised and on which I have caused you to hope and depend. All this, and more, is contained in and expressed by the figure Hendiadys” (Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible, 661). The Brown, Driver, Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon, p.876, amplifies this passage, “i.e. by hendyadis [sic], the hoped-for future.”

The New International Version (NIV) gives a translation that appears not to recognize or appreciate the language of the original Hebrew text, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (italics mine). To arrive at this two-issue focus, hope and future, the NIV translators felt the need to reverse the order of words found in the Hebrew text, a situation that should have signaled to them that something was not yet understood.

The New American Standard Bible parallels the NIV by translating a two-issue focus as well, but in this case the order of words does not reverse, “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope’” (italics mine). Again, the figurative expression is not recognized or if recognized was not translated. In the hendiadys seen in this text the main idea, future, is modified adjectively (in English) by hope. “To give you a hope-filled future” captures the force of this divine purpose statement.

There is more than hendiadys here, however. There is also amphibologia, where a word has two meanings and both are true (Bullinger, 804). In this case the Hebrew words for hope (תּקוה) and cord (תּקוה) are identical in every way. The scarlet cord was used by Rahab to signal the Israelite warriors to keep her safe when they attacked the city of Jericho (Joshua 2:18, 21). To Rahab the cord represented literally a hope-filled future. Likewise, in Jeremiah 29 the promise of Yahweh denotes a hope-filled future for the chastened people of God—a promise upon which to hang their hope as they endure their 70 years of punishment in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:10).

Hendiadys and Amphibologia—two figurative expressions used in Jeremiah 29:11 giving God’s people something positive to hang on to as they face the future.