1. Precedence For Alliteration

(Biblical examples of alliteration)

It may surprise some that the Bible does have some good illustrations of alliteration and other literary devices which give a preacher a good precedence for alliterating his sermon. These Biblical illustrations of alliteration are, however, often lost in our English translations; for what alliterates in one language will not always alliterate in another language.

The best illustration of alliteration found in the Bible is Psalm 119. This Psalm is a literary masterpiece second to none. Psalm 119 is composed of 176 verses divided into 22 sections. These 22 sections of eight verses corresponded to the Hebrew alphabet which has 22 letters (our English alphabet has 26 letters the last time I checked). At the top of each section is a word which is a letter of the Hebrew alphabet (such as Aleph, Beth, Gimel, Daleth, etc.

In the Hebrew text, each section of Psalm 119 has 8 stanzas. Those who numbered the verses in the Scripture wisely kept the number of the verses in accordance with the stanzas. The fact that each section has 8 stanzas is a musical characteristic, for there are 8 keys in an octave of music. David was really clever in organizing this Psalm. It is not only alliterated but it was set up musically. This is a good illustration of the literary excellence of the Scriptures and a good precedence for preachers to put good organization into their sermons.

The alliteration of the Psalm is found in the fact that each of the eight verses in each section begins with the Hebrew letter which is given in the heading of that section. Thus all the verses in the first section entitled Aleph begin with a word that starts with the letter Aleph. In each section, all the verses begin with a word that starts with the letter which printed at the top of the section in your Bible.

The amazing thing about the alliteration of this Psalm is that David used every letter of the Hebrew alphabet. As will be noted later in this brochure, there are some letters in the alphabet which are nigh impossible to use in alliteration. David was a genius, however, and was able to use every letter of the Hebrew alphabet at least eight times in alliterating Psalm 119. Therefore, we unhesitantly say that the original and champion alliterater concerning the Biblical text was David. The prophet Jeremiah runs a close second, for he used every letter at least three times in alliterating Lamentations 3, which is another illustration of an alliterated text in Scripture.

2. Purpose of Alliteration

(Reasons for and value of alliterating)

There are at least three important reasons for alliterating which gives alliteration of sermons a significant value. They are as follows:

A Listening Ear

Alliteration of the sermon will help the listener to tune in to your sermon much better than to a rambling bunch of words that requires the listener to do extra work to know what you are talking about. We preachers should do the work, not the listener.

A listener of your sermon is much more likely to have a listening ear when you announce that you are going to speak about (1) the age of John the Baptist, (2) the appetites of John the Baptist, and (3) the apparel of John the Baptist rather than announce that you are going to speak on (1) the various thoughts and ideas about when John was born, (2) the nutritional habits of John which are very different from our day, and (3) the garments worn by John during his wilderness appearances. Don't force your listeners to try to digest long and complicated point titles, or their ears will soon turn you off.

A Learning Mind

Learning requires an assimilation of facts. If you cloak the facts in long, complicated sentences at the very beginning, you will impede the learning of your audience. Your sermons are to be instructive. Too many think their preaching is to be entertainment. Preaching is not to entertain but to educate and exhort. To do that you must have substance and you must have it well organized in delivery or you will lose your audience quickly. People do not take to spiritual instruction well; and when you give them a rambling, unorganized sermon with points difficult to remember, your audience will be turned off quickly and learn little from your sermon.

A Lasting Effect

For a sermon to produce good results, it must have a lasting effect. To have a lasting effect, the person hearing your sermon must be able to remember your sermon. Obviously they will not be able to remember every word you spoke; but if you have given the main points of your sermon in a simple alliterated way, your audience will be better able to remember them (even if he or she does not take notes) than if you gave your main points in long and complicated sentences.

—Alliterated Sermon Outlines