Saturday, April 29, 2017

Literary Devices in Scripture — Luke 10:16

(Carl Heinrich Bloch - The Sermon on the Mount)

The most emotionally and spiritually moving passages of scripture are often those that employ literary devices.  Especially effective is the layering of multiple devices within the same passage.

I am not saying that the only moving passages are those that employ literary devices.  Some passages derive their power solely from their substantive content.  The story of Joseph who was sold into Egypt, encompassing his years of struggle, his rise to power, his reconciliation with his treacherous brothers, his magnanimous gift of forgiveness, and his reunification with his sorrowing father, would be powerful with or without literary devices.

I am saying that the linguistic grace of literary devices often adds to the spiritual and emotional power of many scriptural passages.  The same can be said for passages in Shakespeare, Milton, and anywhere else that they are employed.

Consider, for example, Luke 10:16, where the effect of multiple devices is subtle, yet beautiful.  In this passage, Christ is instructing the “other seventy.”  He says to them, “He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.”

The repetition of “he that” at the beginning of three successive clauses is an example of anaphora.  The repetition of “me” at the end of these clauses is an example of epistrophe.  The combination of anaphora and epistrophe constitutes symploce.  Moreover, this verse contains a super-symploce (that’s my term), because the subtle repetition of “you” in the middle of the first two clauses is an example of mesodiplosis, and it is embedded between the uses of anaphora and epistrophe.

The repetition of three clauses of nearly identical length is an example of isocolon (tricolon, to be even more specific).  Or you could label it parison, whose definition overlaps considerably with that of isocolon.  Connecting the clauses with two and’s instead of one is a minimal but effective use of polysyndeton.

The first clause exhibits a conduplication of the word “heareth,” the next two clauses the word “despiseth” (did you catch my zeugma there?).  These conduplications also amount to the use of diacope in one of its definitions.

You could argue that the contrast between “heareth” and “despiseth” creates an antithesis.  You could also argue that the verse employs alliteration, involving both consonance and assonance, in the repeating consonant and vowel sounds of “h” and long “e.”

Finally, the first two clauses set up an expectation from which the third suddenly departs: you—me, you—me, me—him that sent me.  I do not yet know which literary device encompasses this particular tactic, but some rhetorical label probably covers it.  It is certainly an effective manipulation of reader expectations.  The phrase “him that sent me” is a use of periphrasis that further enhances the effect of the shifted expectation.

Note also the way this tactic is structured here, especially as I have abbreviated it (you—me, you—me, me—him that sent me).  It smacks of anadiplosis in the second and third clauses, though anadiplosis (if defined narrowly) is not employed in this verse.

To push our analyzing even further, we might say that the progression from “you” (the seventy) to “me” (Christ) to “him that sent me” (the Father) creates an ascending gradation—or, more specifically, an auxesis.

All of these literary devices are operating in this one short verse, yet they are used subtly, naturally, gracefully, without distracting the reader or detracting from the message, without any gaudy cluttering of words, without obscuring the idea conveyed.  They slip by the untrained eye or ear unnoticed, yet something subtle resonates in the heart of the person reading or hearing them.

The verse has meaningful substantive content without the literary devices.  It teaches a profound principle relating to missionary work and the delegation of divine authority—to reject Christ’s ministers is to reject both Christ and God the Father.

The literary devices add beautiful form to this insightful substance, thereby compounding the verse’s power.  The graceful language does draw some attention to itself, but in a good way, because its beauty amplifies rather than diminishes the edification derived from the message.

Christ used literary devices with divine mastery, creating some of the greatest literature in the world, and the King James translators rendered that mastery into sublime English.

A wonderful way to improve your language, whether spoken or written, is to immerse yourself in the language of God, especially when you study not only with your head, but with your heart open to the influence of the Spirit.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

My Quirky Congratulations to Graduates of BYU and other Lofty Learning Centers

(Graduation Day at the University of Utah, 2004)

It’s graduation week at BYU (where the academic year ends earlier than at most universities), and suddenly I am reminded of an embarrassing incident from my life that occurred almost three years ago, when I was working as a foreclosure lawyer in southwest Virginia.

As if it weren’t bad enough that I was regretting my own academic and professional shortcomings, suddenly a tooth began to ache, so I paid a visit to a local dentist, who had the nerve to tell me that in my obviously aching nerve was nothing wrong.  It also happened to be graduation week at Virginia Tech, where my wife was teaching, so my thoughts were a whirlwind of dentistry and college commencement ceremonies.

After several long, stressful days in a row, I felt exhausted when I finally clocked out on Friday evening.  I needed to unwind.  My writing juices began to bubble and froth.  I donned a false facade and postured ironically as a pompous but shallow academic know-it-all.  Suddenly from deep within the abyss of my disturbed mind erupted forth the following nearly incoherent nonsense, which I promptly posted on my personal Facebook page and which I reproduce here (slightly tweaked) for the benefit of the curious, as well as those in the psychological sciences.


May 23, 2014

A Time for Reflection upon Robes, Ribbons, and Self-Congratulating Intellectual Windbags

During this special season of commencement ceremonies and politically correct platitudes and persecutions, I would like to take this opportunity to bestow upon myself yet another academic title.  Therefore, by these various and sundry presents, and without omitting the requisite excessive prolix legalisms and other verbiage—(pleonastic and bombastic, I always say!)—I hereby give, enfeoff, bargain and sell, lease and release, surrender, remise, bequeath, devise, yield up, alienate, confirm, assign, covenant to stand seised, quitclaim, grant, convey, and with all other conceivable and inconceivable banal and bogus blather confer upon myself the most exalted degree of Honorary Doctor of Hypochondria.  (What would a little lawyer be if he could not plaster the printed page with a pleasing plethora of platitudinous pleonasms?)

Thank you, thank you.  Oh, you’re too kind.  Stop, really—the applause is embarrassing!  Please, I beg you, all of you.  And I thank you all again with gushing gratitude for being here on this delightful day when everything is exclusively about me.  From now on, you beloved bootlicking lackeys may refer most obsequiously to yours truly as Herr Doktor A. J. Extraordinaire.

Two years ago my distinguished colleagues honored me as the grand pooh-bah valedictorian of valetudinarians for my groundbreaking and seminal master’s thesis entitled “Suicide by Sucrose Saturation of the Overloaded Liver, Pancreas, and Kidneys of the Aging and Soon-to-Be-Crepitating American Alpha Male: A Delicate Disquisition on Gluttony-Induced Diabetes for Practitioners of Post-Gestational Geriatric Gerontology.”

Flattered though I was back then, now I can strut my freshly unfurled feathers as a hyperbolic hypochondriac of the highest rank.  Move over, Mr. Peabody—the prancing peacock is on parade!

And just what exactly, you may ask, has prompted this great achievement?

A visit to the dentist’s office.

I lay supine, comfortably reclined and fully self-satisfied upon the examination chair, and tried my best to convince that dentist and his hygienist that I had tooth decay and cavities and all kinds of chronic calamities of the oral extraction, but they would not believe it.  Just as I had desperately attempted to convince a medical doctor prior to my master’s thesis two years ago that I teetered on the brink of death as a hopelessly sick man.  But he would have none of it either.

I went to law school for four years and achieved an astounding mediocrity in the one-part science, nine-parts art, and ninety-parts chutzpah of jurisprudence.  My broad spread of grades proves it.  That simple fact makes me an expert on absolutely everything, both within and outside of my specialty, including the mercurial medical sciences—physical, mental, dental, and parental.

What is with these ignoramus healthcare people?  I sashayed on into that shiny-tooled office and poured forth my vast knowledge of endodontics, Hooked-on-Phonics, and highfalutin histrionics, trying to help this so-called doctor to understand how to do his job, but in the end, all that he and his pleasant assistant could do was to tell me that I brush my teeth too much.  Then they quietly and politely, but also most impatiently, ushered me out the door.

“Hacks!  Charlatans!” I yelled over my shoulder as I stomped off in a huff.  Nobody ever listens to me.  It was just like the time I was lecturing an engineer about how to build a supersonic airplane, like the time I was explaining to a nuclear physicist how to improve H-bomb design, or the time I was explicating the intricacies of heart surgery to a cardiologist friend of mine.  Here I am trying to make the world a better place, and no one will listen to me.

Sometimes I feel that I am the only person in the whole world who knows anything about medicine, health, and nutrition.  I was really hoping that they would pull out the jackhammer and the dynamite and take care of that tooth.

After I got home, my thoughts turned toward Naaman the Syrian, so I swallowed my considerable pride and sloshed around that fluoride rinse that the hygienist had recommended.  Man oh man, that stuff was nasty!  Only something really healthy and good for you could possibly be so utterly repugnant.  Forget about teeth—that concoction could blast the enamel off a freshly painted model car.

But I suppose I should not be too offended at the Lilliputians with their X-rays, chisels, water guns, and mini-spears.  In fact, it felt good to have other people paying attention (albeit brief) to my imaginary concerns and fussing over my tartar buildup and receding gum lines.  It was nice.  It makes me want to do postdoctoral work in Munchausen Syndrome.

But that sabbatical will have to wait a couple of years more, until I garner the necessary resources for yet another academic degree.

In the meantime, I will have to satisfy myself with the curious sounds of southwest Virginia—the quiet breeze laced with the chirping of a cricket in a swamp at night, suddenly interrupted by the risible ribaldry of a man-eating bullfrog’s rip-roarious ribbitting.  Shuh-ZA-yum!  I can just picture that bubbly throat bulging to the popping point while enormous, glossy eyeballs gaze upward into nothing.  Now that’s my kind of conversationalist.

By the way, speaking of intellectuals, when the angels were building my brain before I was born, back when they had my skull splayed wide open before them under the bright operating-room lights of the everlasting supernovas, not only did they leave a few screws unfirmly fastened, but one of them dropped his plumber’s wrench.

No, there was no pain—there are no sensory nerve endings in the brain, silly!  But it bounced off the gray matter of my thin cerebral cortex and lodged itself deep in the crevice between the two hemispheres, where it plopped smack down on my tiny little underdeveloped corpus callosum.  Ooh!  It has been impinging on my amygdala ever since.  Just thinking about it ratchets up the old limbic system and makes me emotional.

Anyway, congrats to the grads, and don’t forget us little people as you move on to bigger things.


Three years later, as I look back on this mishmash of mush, I have to wonder just how much damage that plumber’s wrench did.  Certainly a considerable amount.

At least I can assure the public that unlike my mental health, my dental health is holding up—in fact, just recently my dentist said to me, “Whatever you’re smoking, keep smoking it.”

But enough about brain surgery and dentistry.

To all those graduating from BYU this week, and to all those who will be graduating soon from other institutions of higher learning, I wish you the very best.  In all your ladder-climbing, remember to pause once in a while to smile and to laugh and to reflect upon the good things in life, because in spite of life's inevitable challenges, it has its positive aspects as well.

At times it can be very good indeed.

(After a graduation ceremony at the University of Virginia in 2014)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Маршрутка—Ты не Шутка!

Моя единственная (пока) попытка сочинять шекспировский сонет по-русски.  Написан в честь российского транспорта.

3 июля 2016 - г. Челябинск

Маршрутка—Ты не Шутка!

Хотя люблю я транспортные шутки—
Автобусы, троллейбусы, трамваи—
Меня быстрее довезут маршрутки,
Одно лишь нужно мне на них—вай-фай.
Такие симпатичные они,
И возят пассажиров тут и там.
Ну что ж, подумал я, поехали!
Так на маршруточку и сел я сам.
Мы сдвинулись.  Я понял, что попался.
Маршрутка чуть не сбила всех толчком.
Водитель сумасшедшим оказался:
На тормоз и на газ—нога свинцом!
Маршрутке шутки плохи, дорогой,
Везет она тебя в дорожный бой!

04 июля 2016 © Эрон Джордан

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Redefining Tall, Dark, and Handsome

July 11, 2016—Chelyabinsk, Russia

The American government has the gall to call my Russian wife an “alien” (no, that is NOT her in the photo).  My wife’s only green is her American green card and her green American currency.  We Russians know real aliens.  This not-so-hard-bodied hunky stallion hitched his ride to Russia aboard the mighty meteor that streaked across the chilly Chely sky on February 15, 2013.  The local government locked his rocky rocket ship inside a museum downtown and refuses to return it, forcing this cute cosmic rustic to reconcile himself to a far-flung interstellar fate caused by this most shameless and politically motivated forceful requisitioning.  (He thinks the Russians want his starlike rock for geopolitical bargaining purposes, and I can’t convince him otherwise).  Though he gives the Russians credit—they definitely treated him more kindly than the Americans treated E.T., his seventh cousin a dozen times removed.

Though green with envy that family members flew back home without him, he shows no broccoli bitterness about this unexpected vicissitude.  On the contrary, his green Jell-O sweetness in the sour face of adversity should inspire all of us to see the glossy glass of green veggie smoothie half full.  Instead of hosing down his Russian hosts with acid wash from cosmic tear ducts (he could do it, too), he decided to settle here in the southern Urals and raise a family.  A fine, upstanding, responsible young man, he landed a job as a grocery bagger/greeter in this Russian shopping mall.  He keeps his antennae neatly parted down the middle, his eyeball eightballs properly polished, and I can attest from personal experience that his store-side manner is impeccably courteous, friendly, and pleasant.  If I owned a store, I’d hire him.  Wouldn’t you?  Honestly, he’s not a bad guy for a foreigner (which, incidentally, I suddenly realize some Russians might have been saying about me during my summer adventures among them).

Despite lacking eyelids, this toothless but toothsome green galactic guru goes by the name Blinky and has asked me to pass along the word that he is in the digital supermarket for long-lasting laser-hot love and is oh so available!


(Call 1-900-555-MILKYWAYMARRIAGESTOGOGOGO.  Intergalactic long-distance charges apply.  All proceeds benefit the AJ Fun Foundation.  Marital satisfaction is 110% guaranteed.)

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Devil's Deadly Reasoning

The Devil's Deadly Reasoning

The demons told the truth when they cried out,
“We know thee, who thou art, thou Christ of God!”
Yet Christ Himself His Sonship would not flout,
But kept His words with wings of angels shod.
For angels by the power of the Spirit
Speak truth divine by God’s voice, still and small,
And only those with faithful hearts can hear it,
While faithless minds miss reason’s loudest call.
So oft we hear, “To see is to believe.”
Yet ears to hear hear not without the Lord,
And eyes to see see not.  Believe—then see
The truth unseen, sealed up within God’s Word.
The devils know but fear—their truth doth lie.
Pure intellect?  Pure devil!  Think, and die.

April 6, 2017 © Aaron Jordan