Have you ever been reading some kind of exposition of Scripture and that author says that there is wordplay going on?

Just as Jesus was both 100% man and 100% God, so the Scriptures are both divine and familiar. Within the context of its familiarity, the Biblical authors—just like any other authors—used literary devices for rhetorical force. These devices are one of many ways in which God’s beauty and His fingerprints can be seen in the Bible. One such wordplay is in Romans 1:20, specifically the first half:

Most translations render this something like God’s unseen attributes being clearly perceived.

Rom 1:20 τὰ γὰρ ἀόρατα αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ κτίσεως κόσμου τοῖς ποιήμασιν νοούμενα καθορᾶται

Notice the words I highlighted. If you look closely, they both share the greek letters omicron (ο) and rho (ρ). At risk of being overly simplistic, I think the following explanation will help.

These two letters give the words their semantic meaning, or what the word actually means at a most basic level. The rest of the letters give the words their grammatical meaning, or how they function in the sentence. Omicron+Rho usually refers to the eyes or seeing. The first word has an alpha (α) before the two letters, meaning “not”. The second has kappa+alpha+theta (καθ), meaning “according to.” Now take a second and put two and two together…

As silly as this might seem, a quite literal translation would be: For the not to the eyes of  Him from the creation of the world are, in what he has made, perceived to the eyes.

The English words “invisible” and “visible” work, but don’t convey the force that the Greek does. For, in the English words, you are simply removing a suffix (“in”visible–>visible), whereas in the Greek, you are adding a completely new suffix that is diametrically opposite to the fist one (“not to” the eyes—> “directly to” the eyes.

Thus we might say in Romans 1:20, Paul is saying, “The attributes of God that were hidden from sight since creation are now–by what is made–perceived, directly to the sight.

In Greek, the order of words in a sentence are a bit more flexible. Paul uses this flexibility to beautifully put one extreme at the beginning of the clause, and the other extreme at the end.

Scripture is awesome!

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