Hyperbole Any one who carefully examines the Bible must be surprised at the very few hyperbolic expressions, which it contains, considering that it is an Oriental book. In Eastern Asia the tone of composition is pitched so high as to be scarcely intelligible to the sober intellect of Europe, while in Western Asia a medium seems, to have been struck between the ultra extravagance of the far East and the frigid exactness of the far West. But, even regarded as a book of Western Asia, the Bible is, as compared with almost any other Western Asiatic book, so singularly free from hyperbolic expressions as might well excite our surprise, did not our knowledge of its divine origin permit us to suppose that even the style and mode of expression of the writers were so far controlled as to exclude from their writings what, in other ages and countries, might excite pain and offence, and prove an obstacle to the reception of divine truth. SEE INSPIRATION. Nor is it to be said that the usage of hyperbole is of modern growth. We find it in the oldest Eastern writings which now exist; and the earlier Rabbinical writings attest that in times approaching near to those in which the writers of the New Testament flourished, the Jewish imagination had run riot in this direction, and has left hyperboles as frequent and outrageous as any which Persia or India can produce. SEE TALMUD.
The strongest hyperbole in all Scripture is that with which the Gospel of John concludes: "There are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that the world itself could not contain all the books that should be written." This has so much pained many commentators that they have been disposed to regard it as an unauthorized addition to the sacred text, and to reject it accordingly a process always dangerous, and not to be adopted but on such overwhelming authority of collated manuscripts as does not exist in the present case. Nor is it necessary, for as a hyperbole it may be illustrated by many examples in sacred and profane authors. In Nu 13:33, the spies who had returned from searching the land of Canaan say that they saw giants there of such a prodigious size that they were in their own a sight but as grasshoppers. In De 1:28, cities with high walls about them are said to be "walled up to heaven." In Da 4:7, mention is made of a tree whereof "the height reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof unto the end of all the earth" and the author of Ecclesiasticus (47:15), speaking of Solomon's wisdom, says, "Thy soul covered the whole earth, and thou filledst it with parables." In Josephus (Ant. 14:22) God is mentioned as promising to Jacob that he would give the land of Canaan to him and his seed; and then it is added, "they shall fill the whole sea and land which the sun shines upon." Wetstein, in his note on the text in John, and Basnage, in his Histoire des Juifs (3, 1-9; 5, 7), have cited from the ancient Rabbinical writers such passages as the following: "If all the seas were ink, and every reed was a pen, and the whole heaven and earth were parchment, and all the sons of men were writers, they would not be sufficient to write all the lessons which Jochanan composed'" and concerning one Eliezer, it is said that "if the heavens were parchment, and all the sons of men writers, and all the trees of the forest pens, they would not be sufficient for writing all the wisdom which he was possessed of." Homer, who, if not born in Asia Minor, had undoubtedly lived there, has sometimes followed the hyperbolic manner of speaking which prevailed so much in the East: thus, in the Iliad (20, 246,247), he makes AEneas say to Achilles, "Let us have done with reproaching one another, for we may throw out so many reproachful words on one another that a ship of a hundred oars would not be able to carry the load." Few instances of this are to be found in Occidental writers; yet it is observed that Cicero (Philippians 2:44) has "Praesertim quum illi eam gloriam consecuti sint, quae vix caelo capi posse videatur," and that Livy (7, 25) says, "Hae vires populi Romani, quas vix terrarum capit orbis." See bishop Pearce's Commentary on the four Evangelists, 1777, etc. Modern examples of equal hyperbole may be found cited in almost any work on rhetoric.