Monday, September 09, 2013

Limited Negatives

‘Limited Negatives’ as Conversation Starters

A "limited negative" is a statement, usually (though not always) constructed as follows:

“Not A…but B

But which actually means:

“Not only A…but also B” or, perhaps, “Not merely A…but primarily B

Such an idiom becomes recognizable when it would be absurd or contradictory to take an absolute-sounding statement absolutely.

Obvious Examples (to prove the literary device exists)

Matthew 10:20
For it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

John 12:44
Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me.

John 6:27
Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life.

1 John 3:18
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Obvious Counter-Examples (to provoke caution)

Romans 12:19
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath.

3 John 1:11
Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good.

Colossians 3:19
Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

Ephesians 5:18
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

12 Potential ‘Limited Negative’ Passages for our Consideration

Matthew 9:13
But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Matthew 6:13
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Matthew 6:19-20
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.

Matthew 10:34
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword

Luke 12:4
I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.

Luke 14:12-13
When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.

John 1:13
Children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

John 7:24
Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”

John 15:15
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends

Romans 12:2
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Philippians 2:4
Not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

1 Peter 3:3-4
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self