Finding symbols using Logos

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Dennis Davis | Forum Activity | Posted: Wed, Jun 26 2019 5:14 PM

Two related questions concerning symbols in the Bible: 

1. How can we locate a resource that defines symbolism?  For example, if I want to know the symbolic meaning(s) of "water" is there a tool in Logos for this? 

2. How would we find verses of a word that is used symbolically from the same word that is not used as a symbol in other passages?  For example, the word, "wind" is used throughout the Bible but in many passages it simply refers to the natural wind whereas in other passages it is symbolic of the Holy Spirit.  How could I ferret out the verses that are symbolic vs. natural? 

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JT (alabama24) | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jun 26 2019 5:23 PM

There isn't (that I know of) a tool within Logos to accomplish this... and if there were, it would be of limited benefit. How does one determine if an object is being used symbolically? Some are more clear cut, but many are not. 

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Beloved | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jun 26 2019 5:34 PM

Dennis Davis:

1. How can we locate a resource that defines symbolism?  For example, if I want to know the symbolic meaning(s) of "water" is there a tool in Logos for this? 

A very helpful resource is found here https://www.logos.com/product/30241/dictionary-of-biblical-imagery

Meanwhile, Jesus kept on growing wiser and more mature, and in favor with God and his fellow man.

International Standard Version. (2011). (Lk 2:52). Yorba Linda, CA: ISV Foundation.

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Beloved | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jun 26 2019 5:40 PM

Here is its entry on wind:

Wind

Wind in Scripture can picture lack of substance and meaning, adversity or changeableness. Only when the pictures of wind connect to the person of God do we find more positive meanings: winds can picture God’s supremacy, his authority over his creation, his judgment on that creation, and the very Spirit that breathes new life into a human soul.

Wind as Nothingness. Ecclesiastes offers one of the most memorable series of wind images, as the Preacher pronounces one after another sphere of human activity meaningless, a mere “chasing after the wind.” The image, used repeatedly in a kind of refrain (Eccles 1:14, 17 NIV, etc.), expresses the monotonous futility of going after something and finding it to be nothing after all—like trying to capture the wind in one’s hands. What does any human being gain, the Preacher asks, “since he toils for the wind?” (Eccles 5:16 NIV).

Wind in other biblical passages pictures the nothingness at the end of an effort or a life. Those who bring trouble on their families, for example, will “inherit only wind”: nothing, that is, rather than the expected substantial inheritance (Prov 11:29 NIV). Isaiah compares the sufferings and punishments of God’s people to the labor pains of a woman who gives birth only to wind (Is 26:18). In their disobedience they brought no life, no salvation to the earth, Isaiah says.

The book of Job offers several pictures of the wind, pictures that suggest meaninglessness specifically in relation to words. The wind from human lungs can be as meaningless—or as hurtful—as the wind in the sky. Arguing with “empty notions” and useless words, Eliphaz suggests, is like filling one’s belly with the hot east wind: there is sound there, but no substance—in fact, only the destructiveness of a scorching desert wind (Job 15:2). Bildad as well calls Job’s words “a blustering wind” (Job 8:2 NIV). Job marvels that his friends would “treat the words of a despairing man as wind” (Job 6:26 NIV). When God speaks, in the end, all the previous speeches seem by contrast a kind of desert wind, and finally Job must put his hand over his mouth and simply bow in hushed repentance before his Creator God (Job 40:1–5; 42:1–6).

Jeremiah calls the false prophets “but wind”: “the word is not in them” (Jer 5:13 NIV). Their breath which comes out in words is indeed but a little bit of air, with no true meaning.

Wind as Adversary. Wind can picture adverse forces of many kinds. Job, trying to articulate his sense of the disaster that has so quickly overtaken him, describes a storm suddenly arising in the night, an east wind that snatches up and sweeps off a man who had gone to bed wealthy and happy. Anyone who has struggles against literal storm winds knows this malicious wind that “hurls itself against him without mercy … claps its hands in derision … hisses him out of his place” (see Job 27:19–23 NIV). The wind becomes personified here as a cruel enemy intent on destruction.

Winds can picture many kinds of adversity: an army of horsemen that advances “like a desert wind” (Hab 1:9, 11 NIV); sins, which sweep us away like the wind (Is 64:6); any kind of adversity tempting us to disobedience and disbelief, as in Jesus’ story of the wise and foolish builders who build their houses on the rock and on the sand. The storm, with its winds that blow and beat against those houses, symbolizes adversity that would spiritually uproot the foolish person who does not hear and obey the Word of God (Mt 7:24–27).

Sometimes a house does not fall with a great crash; sometimes it just shifts with the wind. The wind by nature comes and goes, first from one direction and then from another. Its variability suggests the changeableness of ideas and people not rooted in the Word of God. Paul longs for the Ephesian Christians to be no longer infants “blown here and there by every wind of teaching” (Eph 4:14 NIV). James compares the one who doubts to “a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (Jas 1:6 NIV). According to Jude, false teachers in the church are “clouds without rain, blown along by the wind” (Jude 12): unstable and unsatisfying, they will bring no good. Back in the OT, the prophet Hosea describes changeable Israel as feeding on the wind (Hos 12:1): first it tried to please Assyria, and then Egypt, instead of staying true to its God.

Positive Images. Winds in Scripture are more positively portrayed in pictures relating to God, the One who made and rules the winds. The power and supremacy of God emerge in the picture of him soaring on the wings of the wind (2 Sam 22:11; Ps 18:10; 104:3). The wind here appears as one of God’s creatures, perhaps a great bird with wings that can reach across the sky, but in any case one made to serve at the command of its Creator. The Bible pictures God as the Master of the winds: he keeps them in his “storehouse,” and only by his authority do they emerge and blow where he sends them (Ps 135:7; Jer 10:13; 51:16). The winds again take living shape and become “messengers” sent out by God to “do his bidding” (Ps 104:4; 148:8).

God’s bidding is often punishment and destruction. Jeremiah prophesies the coming judgment for Jerusalem as “a scorching wind from the barren heights in the desert” sent from God, who now pronounces his judgment against them (Jer 4:11–12 NIV). In fact, Jeremiah looks up and catches a vision of God himself advancing like the clouds: “his chariots come like a whirlwind” (Jer 4:13 NIV). In many passages the wind becomes a vivid image of God’s wrath (Ps 11:6; Jer 18:17; 30:22; Ezek 13:13).

Winds also picture the comprehensiveness of God’s judgment and supremacy. The Bible contains references to four different winds: north, south, east and west. Each has certain distinct characteristics. The east wind, for example, as we have seen, most often blows a dry, scorching wind from the desert. But to picture all the winds together emphasizes the totality of God’s sovereign dominion. When God announces through Jeremiah, “I will bring against Elam the four winds from the four quarters of the heavens,” he is announcing the comprehensiveness of his power and of the punishment he is delivering (Jer 49:36 NIV). When God promises to scatter his enemies “to the winds,” he means to show the wideness and completeness of that scattering (Jer 49:36; Ezek 5:12; Zech 2:6). When Jesus speaks of gathering his elect “from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens” (Mk 13:27 NIV), we can be certain that in his comprehensive wisdom and power he will not overlook one of his own, in all the realm of the living and the dead. When Ezekiel prophetically announces the word of the “Sovereign Lord” in the valley of dry bones, he announces God’s comprehensive power over death and life, the very breath (the Hebrew word can also mean wind) of life: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live” (Ezek 37:9 NIV).

Jesus taught that the Spirit of God gives life, spiritual life. “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (Jn 3:6 NIV). Using a metaphor full of beauty and mystery, Jesus went on to picture this Spirit in terms of the wind, which blows where it pleases, unpredictably, according to the hidden plan of God. He comprehensively controls the four winds, even bringing through them the breath of life. He comprehensively controls the wind of his Spirit as well, bringing new life to “everyone born of the Spirit” (Jn 3:8).

See also Breath; Cloud; Holy Spirit; Storm; Weather; Whirlwind.

 Ryken, L., Wilhoit, J., Longman, T., Duriez, C., Penney, D., & Reid, D. G. (2000). In Dictionary of biblical imagery (electronic ed., pp. 951–952). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Meanwhile, Jesus kept on growing wiser and more mature, and in favor with God and his fellow man.

International Standard Version. (2011). (Lk 2:52). Yorba Linda, CA: ISV Foundation.

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David Thomas | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 27 2019 6:42 AM

Dennis Davis:
2. How would we find verses of a word that is used symbolically from the same word that is not used as a symbol in other passages?

One could open a BWS (Bible Word Study) to the Hebrew word ruach, then open up the "senses" section

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SineNomine | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 27 2019 6:55 AM

Dennis Davis:
1. How can we locate a resource that defines symbolism?  For example, if I want to know the symbolic meaning(s) of "water" is there a tool in Logos for this? 

This might not be quite what you're looking for, but one of our fellow forum users wrote a heavily-cross-referenced built-for-FL book that deals with a lot of biblical symbols and related imagery: https://www.logos.com/product/37960/fulfilled-in-christ-the-sacraments-a-guide-to-symbols-and-types-in-the-bible-and-tradition. Having used it myself, I would expect it to also be of real use even to people whose theology is far from the author's.

Posts 155
Dennis Davis | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 27 2019 2:45 PM

JT, you hit the tack on the head.  Oh wait, how do we know "tack" isn't symbolic of "nail?" lol 

Posts 155
Dennis Davis | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 27 2019 2:48 PM

This looks like a great resource.  I picked up the A to Z Guide to Bible Signs but I'm not finding as useful as this looks so I'll probably return it and pick up this one.  Thanks.! 

Posts 155
Dennis Davis | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 27 2019 2:49 PM

Thanks SineNomine.  I will look into this one as well. 

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Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jul 18 2019 9:51 AM

Hi Dennis:

Depending on the tradition / denomination, symbols can be very important.  Have you looked at:

https://ebooks.faithlife.com/search?query=symbols&sortBy=Relevance&limit=60&page=1&filters=status-live_Status&ownership=all

and also:

https://www.logos.com/search?query=symbols&sortBy=Relevance&limit=60&page=1&ownership=all

Just to give an idea of how important symbols can be to doctrine and orthopraxis for some groups:

Is the oil in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, a symbol of an entity?

Charismatic and Pentecostals think that the oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and that groups that do not deliberately seek the baptism and filling of the Holy Spirit in their lives will have a destiny similar to the foolish virgins.

Then we have the Tares and the Wheats:

Jesus explains that there are Tares and there are wheats on Earth. Is that an actual biological situation?

Curious enough some brain and mind scientists are finding out that certain persons lack something in their anterior part of the brain, that prevents them from having a religious experience.

Could they be biological tares? I know this is speculative, and probably will start polemics.

The undeniable fact is that if Jesus used symbols to explain the reality of our contextual situation, there must be something to some of them symbols.

Hope this helps.

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