By Gary Amirault

There are many things that can cause a person to misinterpret what is written in various translations of the Bible. Many Christians do not realize that some of the most popular Bible translations do not accurately convey the true meaning of the original Hebrew and Greek scriptures. I believe one of the leading causes of stumbling is not being aware that the original language of the Bible (Hebrew) is a highly exaggerative language, sometimes even to the point of what would appear to be lying from a Western point of view. Most Bible translations and Bible teachers do not point this out clearly enough.

Bible translations that try to maintain a literal word-for-word approach are usually the most guilty for not transmitting the true meaning behind the original languages. That is because one cannot get the true meaning behind the hundreds of figures of speech in the Bible which cannot be transferred into English using a word-for-word approach and still convey the true meaning.

For example, “It is raining cats and dogs” is a figure of speech that would probably make no sense in another language if translated literally word for word. Even though the very words do not imply so, Americans know from past usage that this term means, “it is raining heavily.”

Hyperbole, one of over 200 different types of figures of speech found in the Bible, is exaggeration for effect. If these figures of speech are taken literally, one will misinterpret what the scriptures say. Word-for-word literal translations are FULL of phrases and sentences which have NOT been faithfully translated. Even though they may have translated each WORD faithfully and correctly, they have not conveyed the true meaning behind the phrase or sentence.

For example, this verse is a hyperbole, an exaggeration for effect:

“You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” (Matt. 23:24, NIV)

It is not too difficult to determine that this is a hyperbole, an exaggeration. Because the English language is full of Bible terms and phraseology, this Hebrew idiom has become part of the English language. Therefore most English speaking people know the real meaning of that phrase: “You pay close attention to little things but neglect the important things.”

However, here is a hyperbole that the average Bible reader may miss and formulate doctrine from which may end up being harmful to themselves and others.

“Everything is possible for him who believes.” (Mark 9:23b, NIV)

The Bible is full of exaggerations like the one above which are NOT to be taken literally. Careful attention, comparing scripture with scripture, knowing the Bible and its author thoroughly, making certain not to necessary apply things to ourselves which weren’t meant for us individually and some basics about the original languages are needed to prevent us from misinterpreting various scripture verses like this one. In this case, obviously, if something is against the will of God or if one asks with the wrong motive, no matter how much one believes for something, it won’t happen. (See James 4:2,3; John 5:19; John 15:5; 2 Cor.13:8, etc.) However, someone under a hyper-faith teaching ministry like the Word/faith movement, for example, may take this verse literally. Misinterpreting and misapplying this verse could cause one to do some serious damage to themselves and others due to demanding from God what He never really said He would do because they didn’t bother to find out or were never taught in their church that the Bible is FULL OF HYPERBOLE WHICH SHOULDN’T BE TAKEN LITERALLY!

A few other examples of the many hundreds of hyperboles in the Bible are:

“If they right eye offend thee, pluck it out…” Matt. 5:29 (I met a Christian who actually tried to pluck out his right eye because he had a lust problem. This is an example the kind of problems a Bible translation can cause if one if not informed of the various figures of speech found in the Bible.)

“If any man come to me and hate not his father and mother…” Luke 14:26 (The true meaning is one must put God first.)

“Behold, the world is gone after him.” John 12:19 (The whole world at that time did NOT follow after him but very large crowds in Israel did.)



  1. Whitney
    Posted December 28, 2005 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    A while back you asked if the picture by my profile was a self portrait of me. No (I wish!) but I try to draw myself but each time I get a different drawing. I wish another artist could draw me so I could see how other people see me. I know that other people don’t see me the same way I see myself. Thats true for all people.
    Usually each of my drawings of girls that have black bangs I try to make that character resemble me in a way. I’m sure many artists in history have done that.
    LOL When my parents get their tax refund back they might get a new computer and digital camera. I don’t look good on paper. I found something funny…..one mirror in my hallway makes me look bad but the other one with a smaller frame makes me look my best.
    AAAAA ha ha ha ha ha!

  2. Russell
    Posted December 29, 2005 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Good Read

  3. Whitney
    Posted December 29, 2005 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    LoL you asked if I was involved in SIM. Yes……well that was really my only involvement other than being at church every Sunday cause I love learning more about the Bible. You make it sound like you know what SIM is. It’s a teen youth group at my church. Are your from Ohio too? From your site map I would say you are. Since the red dot is the biggest probably means you work on your site alot. 🙂

    God Bless!

  4. Whitney
    Posted December 29, 2005 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Oh and by the way I did create those postcards.

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