That Small-fry Herod Antipas, or When a Fox Is Not a Fox
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Date First Published: September 01, 1993
מְתֻרְגְּמָן Meturgeman is Hebrew for translator. The articles in this series illustrate how a knowledge of the Gospels’ Semitic background can provide a deeper understanding of Jesus’ words and influence the translation process.

esus called Herod Antipas a fox (Luke 13:32), and English speakers and Europeans assume the point is obvious. Foxes are proverbially associated with cleverness and craftiness. Therefore, Jesus must be calling Herod a crafty person. However, it turns out that Jesus was saying something very different to his Hebrew-speaking audience.

The metaphor “fox” has proven deceptive to speakers of European languages. Many New Testament specialists have followed the clear, widely-known sense of the Greek word and idiom without first asking an important question: “How was ‘fox’ used by Hebrew speakers?” The answer reveals a difference in Hebrew and Greek usage, and it should serve as a reminder that one must always interpret metaphors within the proper cultural setting.[1]

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  • [1] This is true for any language around the world. One should always assume that metaphors carry different connotations until proven otherwise, even in languages with tremendous cultural overlap like English and French: “cow” and “vache” carry completely different implications.
1 Comment
  1. Thank you for this. You are correct in saying, that we need to understand metaphors and put them in their historical perspective.

    In the Lions Den

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