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Figures Friday

God bless you in the name of Jesus Christ which is preached throughout the world.

Acts 20:7-12 records the account of raising Eutychus from the dead.  Paul was about to leave town, but before he did, he broke bread with the disciples and preached into the wee hours of the night.  Unfortunately, his teaching was interrupted about midnight when a young man named Eutychus fell down from the third loft and died.  Of course, Paul immediately went to his aid and raised him from the dead.  The occasion was so gripping that after the recovery they continued together until the break of day breaking bread and talking.

Can you imagine yourself in that meeting that night?  What wonderful things must have transpired in the believers’ hearts.  What thankfulness and rejoicing must have echoed through the place when their beloved young Eutychus came to life again.  God ended the record of the incident with a beautiful figure of speech.

Acts 20:7-12:
And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. 8 And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together. 9 And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. 10 And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him. 11 When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed. 12 And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.

That last phrase “and were not a little comforted” is an example of the figure tapeinosis or demeaning.  Tapeinosis is a deliberate demeaning or belittling of something in order to elevate or increase it.  In tapeinosis the thing that is lessened is the same thing which is increased and intensified.  This kind of understatement is a potent way of emphasizing something.  It frequently carries an emotional element which we are guided to see.  These believers were not just greatly comforted the understatement almost gets the reader to chuckle and say, “I guess so.”  When I read this I immediately asked myself, “What do you mean, not a little comforted?”  Catching the figure drew me more intently into the account.

Here are two more examples:

Acts 21;39:
But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean [Greek, asēmos, insignificant, undistinguished, obscure, or unknown] city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people.

Tarsus was belittled as being insignificant when in truth it was a very important and significant city.  On the contrary, Tarsus was celebrated as a distinguished seat of Greek philosophy and literature.  According to Strabo it ranked with Athens and Alexandria in the number of its schools and learned men.

II Corinthians 2:11:
Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.

Our ignorance is demeaned to emphasize and intensify what we do know about Satan’s devices.  We are very well aware of them.  Perhaps we are also a little more aware of the figure of speech tapeinosis.  Have fun reading God’s Word!