An expression that has a meaning different from the sense conveyed by the individual words or by the elements that make up the expression.
Like other languages, Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek contain many idiomatic expressions. A reader must understand idioms used in the Bible if he is to comprehend its message correctly. And translators must understand them if they are to translate them accurately. Depending on a Bible reader’s language, culture, or background, some idioms can easily be understood, even if translated literally. (See study notes on Mt 5:2; 10:27; 24:31.) Other idioms may need to be explained in order to be fully understood by those not familiar with the Bible’s original languages. (See study notes on Mt 26:23; Mr 5:34; 14:40.) And still other idioms may need to be translated according to their meaning, with the literal meaning being given in footnotes or study notes.—See study notes on Mt 9:15; Lu 10:6; 12:35.
Examples of idiomatic expressions found in the Bible are: “To walk in” or “to walk according to” means “to live according to; to follow.” (Ps 1:1; 25:5; 89:30) The phrase “to go in the way of all the earth” is a Hebrew idiom for “to die.” (Jos 23:14; ftn.) The Greek expression “to have in the belly” means “to be pregnant.” (Mt 1:18, 23) The expression “to break bread” used at Ac 20:7 means “to have a meal,” bread being a staple in Bible lands.—For the examples taken from the Christian Greek Scriptures, see The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures.