Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Practical Theology

First Advisor

Glenn A. Nielsen

Scripture References in this Resource

Philippians 3:20; Philippians 3:17-4:1


Rossow, Justin P. “Preaching the Story behind the Image: A Narrative Approach to Metaphor for Preaching.” Ph.D. diss., Concordia Seminary,2008.296pp.

In response to an increasingly image-driven culture, preachers have focused more and more attention on the use of imagery and metaphor in the sermon. The homiletics of metaphor, however, currently lacks a sufficient hermeneutical foundation. This dissertation lays the groundwork for a fuller understanding of how interpreters fill in the blanks left by metaphors in the biblical text and in the sermon. While the appendix describes a range of different theories on what metaphor is and how it works, the dissertation itself presents a uniquely narrative approach to metaphor for preaching.

With some modification, A.J.Greimas’“actantial model” of narrative relationships provides a method for analyzing how the structured relationships in the “source domain” of a metaphor relate to structured relationships in the “target domain.” The narrative structure implicit in the relationship of a shepherd and a lamb, for example, is strikingly different than the narrative structure of a lamb in a sacrificial system. A lamb metaphor will highlight different characters, attributes, roles, and expected outcomes in Jesus’ relationship to his followers depending on which of these narrative structures is in view.

The actantial model depicts stable narrative relationships that can be instantiated by a wide variety of specific actors or features. Applying the actantial model to metaphor theory, a narrative approach to metaphor is able to describe important dynamics of metaphor interpretation. The complexities of “cross-domain mapping,” the role culturally shaped “conceptual metaphors” play in interpretation, and the motivations and results of “blending” multiple metaphors together all directly affect how preachers interpret the biblical text and how hearers interpret sermons.

Textual and homiletic examples throughout the dissertation demonstrate how a narrative approach to metaphor helps preachers slow down the often-automatic process of filling in the blanks left by metaphor. More aware of which interpretive decisions are being made and how, preachers are better equipped to approach the biblical text, individual sermons, and their preaching ministry over time.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.