Did Jesus use exaggerated language?
You know when you teach, you have to always be careful on how you word things. You don’t want to word things in a way that causes difficulty. For instance, many people might have a problem with saying, “Jesus is exaggerating here,” because for many of us, exaggerating has an air of dishonesty, lack of truthfulness.
So I would say, Jesus uses overstatement or hyperbole. And I’d separate overstatement and hyperbole. Hyperbole is literally impossible. Overstatement is to exaggerate, but it can be taken literally, so hyperbole is literally impossible. Overstatement is to interpret something literally that is not meant to be interpreted literally. It is exaggerated. They are both forms of exaggeration.
But for many people, the use of exaggerated language has negative connotations. For instance, when Mary turns in her books at 5/3rd Bank, and the bank examiner comes, do they say, “Oh. Mary’s used exaggeration in the books again? She is using overstatement." No. Here it is dishonest.
How do you know the difference between when this form of exaggerated terminology is acceptable as a genre and when its not? I think it is real simple. If both parties know its exaggerated language, its perfectly legitimate. If only one knows, the one speaking, then its dishonest. Then it is deceitful. But if both know the exaggerated nature of the saying, then it becomes a very powerful form of what we call commissive language.
There really is no way of expressing love to someone without exaggerated language. If you eliminate exaggerated language, you are in trouble in any courting, romantic relationship. “My dear Joan, the last time I kissed you, the stars began to explode in the heavens and my heart skipped a beat. Can’t wait to see you Friday.”
That’s exaggerated terminology. Lets use more scientific terminology. “My dear Joan, the last time I kissed you, it was just like putting my lips on a piece of raw warm leather.”
Well. Which is more accurate? Which is the one that is going to get you into trouble? You have to be able to use language like this to express emotions. And lots of Jesus’ terminology and expressions are exaggerated terminology, but they are known and they are shared and they are powerful.
Now through the history of the Church, most people have been able to detect exaggeration on a kind of common sense intuitive way. Most people know it. There have been tragic examples, however, this has not been understood and people have plucked out an eye or cut off an arm and mutilated themselves, because they misunderstood the nature of the saying.
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