Interpreting Biblical Metaphors: Introducing the Invariance Principle

In: Vetus Testamentum
Kevin Chau Department of Hebrew, University of the Free State Bloemfontein South Africa

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The scholarship concerning biblical metaphor has profited widely from the conceptual (cognitive) approach to metaphor, but a key principle from this approach, the Invariance Principle, has been widely overlooked as a valuable tool for the interpretation of biblical metaphors. The Invariance Principle allows biblical scholars to evaluate logically and with consistency the many varied interpretations that are often generated from exegetically difficult metaphors. This principle stipulates that the logical relationships of a metaphor’s source domain (the metaphorical elements) must correspond to the structure of logical relationships in the target domain (the literal elements). An extended analysis of the partridge metaphor in the riddle-based proverb of Jer 17:11 demonstrates how the Invariance Principle can be used to evaluate previous interpretations and to provide logical structure for generating a fresh interpretation to this proverb.

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