One of the most important goals for Bible classes for children and teens is to encourage independent Bible reading and study. It’s the best way to keep your students close to God and protect them from false teachings. Yet often, their lack of secular education can make understanding what they read in the Bible more difficult. The Bible uses several literary devices. Schools teach about them in various grade levels, or may not really cover them at all. Not understanding these devices can leave young independent Bible readers confused and frustrated.
Taking a little of your Bible class time to explain some of these literary devices can improve your Bible students’ reading comprehension and help move their thinking from concrete to a more abstract level. So what are some of these literary devices?
- Similes. Similes involve comparing two things to make a description more vivid. They usually contain either “as a” or “like”. Example: Malachi 4:1 “…the day is coming – it will burn like a furnace.” Similes can confuse young Bible students who tend to take them literally. In this example, a concrete thinker may believe somehow an actual furnace is involved.
- Metaphors. Metaphors use a word or phrase to describe something in a way which is not literal. Example: Matthew 5:13 “you are the salt of the earth”. Metaphors also confuse concrete thinkers. In this case, they may stop listening to wonder how they are salt.
- Hyperbole. Hyperbole uses an exaggerated example to make a point more vividly. Example: Matthew 19:24 “camel through the eye of a needle”. Of course, a camel can’t go through the eye of a needle, but concrete learners can become stuck wondering what it means and why it’s there.
- Idiom. Idioms are commonly referred to as figures of speech. Example: Job 19:20 “by the skin of my teeth”. If the idiom is unfamiliar to your Bible students they may struggle to understand the passage.
- Personification. Giving human qualities to an inanimate object. Example: Genesis 4:10 “the voice of your brother’s blood”. Concrete thinkers and those new to the Bible will struggle with these – especially because in the Bible miracles like a donkey speaking actually happen. Did Abel’s blood actually speak to God or is this personification?
You don’t have to spend an entire class period on an English literature lesson. You can, however, work in an explanation of these terms as they happen in the context of your Bible lesson. Improving the Bible reading comprehension of your students will increase the likelihood they will read it independently and understand what they read.