.El-lip’-sis. This is the Greek word ἔλλειψις, a leaving in, from ἐν (en) in, and λείπειν (leipein) to leave.

The figure is so called, because some gap is left in the sentence, which means that a word or words are left out or omitted. The English name of the figure would therefore be Omission.

The figure is a peculiar form given to a passage when a word or words are omitted; words which are necessary for the grammar, but are not necessary for the sense.

The laws of geometry declare that there must be at least three straight lines to enclose a space. So the laws of syntax declare that there must be at least three words to make complete sense, or the simplest complete sentence. These three words are variously named by grammarians. In the sentence “Thy word is truth,” “Thy word” is the subject spoken of, “truth” is what is said of it (the predicate), and the verb “is” (the copula) connects it.

But any of these three may be dispensed with; and this law of syntax may be legitimately broken by Ellipsis.

The omission arises not from want of thought, or lack of care, or from accident,
but from design, in order that we may not stop to think of, or lay stress on, the word omitted, but may dwell on the other words which are thus emphasised by the omission. For instance, in Matt. 14:19, we read that the Lord Jesus “gave the loaves
to His disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.”

There is no sense in the latter sentence, which is incomplete, “the disciples to the multitude,” because there is no verb. The verb “gave” is omitted by the figure of Ellipsis for some purpose. If we read the last sentence as it stands, it reads as though Jesus gave the disciples to the multitude!

This at once serves to arrest our attention; it causes us to note the figure employed;
we observe the emphasis; we learn the intended lesson. What is it? Why, this; we are asked to dwell on the fact that the disciples gave the bread, but only instrumentally, not really. The Lord Jesus Himself was the alone Giver of that bread. Our thoughts
are thus, at once, centered on Him and not on the disciples.

These Ellipses are variously dealt with in the English Versions,
(both Authorized and Revised). In many cases they are correctly supplied by italics.
In some cases the sentences are very erroneously completed. Sometimes an Ellipsis
in the Text is not seen, and therefore is not taken into account in the Translation. Sometimes an Ellipsis is imagined and supplied where none really exists in the original. Where an Ellipsis is wrongly supplied, or not supplied at all, the words of the Text have to be very freely translated in order to make sense, and their literal meaning is sometimes widely departed from.

But on the other hand, where we correctly supply the Ellipsis (one word, it may be)
it at once enables us to take all the other words of the passage in their literal signification. This is in itself an enormous gain, to say nothing of the wonderful light that may be thus thrown upon the Scripture.

These Ellipses must not be arbitrarily supplied according to our own individual views; we are not at liberty to insert any words, according to our own fancies: but they are all scientifically arranged and classified, and each must therefore be filled up, according
to definite principles which are well ascertained, and in obedience to laws which are carefully laid down.

Ellipsis is of three kinds:

Absolute Ellipsis,

Relative Ellipsis, and the

Ellipsis of Repetition:

…..A. Absolute, where the omitted word or words are to be supplied from 
the nature of the subject alone.

…..B. Relative, where the omitted word or words are to be supplied from,
………  and are suggested by the context.
…. .C. The Ellipsis of Repetition, where the omitted word or words are to be
……….supplied by repeating them from a clause which precedes or follows.
These three great divisions may be further set forth as follows—

..A. Absolute Ellipsis, where the omitted word or words are to be supplied
.       from the nature of the subject.

. .I. Nouns and Pronouns.

. ….1. The Nominative.

. ….2. The Accusative.

. ….3. Pronouns.

….. 4. Other connected words.

II. Verbs and Participles:

…… 1. When the verb finite is wanting:

………. (a) especially the verb to say,

…… 2. When the verb infinitive is wanting:

………. (a) after יָכֹל (H3201); to be able (H2999),

………. (b) after the verb to finish.

………. (c) after another verb, personal or impersonal.

…… 3. When the verb substantive is wanting.

…… 4. When the participle is wanting.

.III. Certain Connected Words in the same member of a passage.

.IV. A Whole Clause in a connected passage:

……. 1. The first clause.
…… .2. The latter clause or Apodosis (Anantapodoton).
…….   3. A Comparison.
..B. Relative Ellipsis:

.. I. Where the omitted word is to be supplied from a Cognate Word in the context.

……..1. The noun from the verb.

……..2. The verb from the noun.

. II. Where the omitted word is to be supplied from a Contrary Word.

.III. Where the omitted word is to be supplied from Analogous or Related Words.

.IV. Where the omitted word is Contained in Another Word:
……..the one word comprising the two significations —
………(Concisa Locutio, Syntheton or Compositio, Constructio Prægnans).

..C. Ellipsis of Repetition:
..I. Simple: where the Ellipsis is to be supplied from a preceding or succeeding clause.

……..1. From a preceding clause.
…………   (a) Nouns and Pronouns.

……….. (b) Verbs.

……….. (c) Particles.

……………. (i.) Negatives.

. ……………(ii.) Interrogatives.

……….. (d) Preceding Connected Words.

……..2. From a Succeeding Clause.
..II. Complex: where the two clauses are mutually involved, and the Ellipsis in the former clause is to be supplied from the latter, and at the same time an Ellipsis in the latter clause is to be supplied from the former.
(Called also Semiduplex Oratio).

……. 1. Single words.

……. 2. Sentences.

..A. Absolute Ellipsis:

.That is, the omission of words or terms which must be supplied only from the nature of the subject. The omitted word may be a noun, adjective, pronoun, verb, participle, adverb, preposition.

. I. The Omission of Nouns and Pronouns.

……. 1. The Omission of the Nominative.  

Gen. 14:19, 20 —Melchizedek said to Abram, “Blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thine hand. And he [Abram] gave him tithes of all.”
From the context, as well as from Heb. 7:4 , it is clear that it was Abram who gave the tithes to Melchizedek, and not Melchizedek to Abram.
Gen. 39:6 —“And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured.”
Here it is not at all clear which it was of the two who “knew not ought he had.”
If we understand Potiphar, it is difficult to see how he only knew the bread he ate:
or if Joseph, it is difficult to understand how he knew not ought he had.
If the Ellipsis, however, is rightly supplied, it makes it all clear.



From “Figures Of Speech Used In The Bible” by E. W. Bullinger,
(Public Domain) beginning at page 1. Adapted for website compatibility.
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