Monday, May 13, 2024

Untying Two "Nots"

Greek has two words for "not." Interestingly, both are used in Heb. 4:15.

I noticed this as I was doing a deep dive in Hebrews 4 this morning.

This literary device is known as a litotes. Essentially, a litotes is a double negative. It emphasizes something by negating its opposite. Thus "God is just" becomes "God is not unjust" in Heb. 6:10. When we say "I don't hate it," we are actually affirming "I like it." But the litotes downplays the difference. For some reason, we don't want to affirm the positive. Here are some English examples:

That concert wasn't bad.

He's not unattractive.

My car wasn't cheap.

The weather isn't unpleasant.

The results aren't inaccurate. 

The example I began this blog post with from Heb. 4:15 means "This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses" (NLT) or "We have a chief priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses" (GW). But the NIV is better: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses."

Which is a reminder that we should always consult more than one English version when we do Bible study! 

Have a fantastic week!