“We all say “all” all of the time when we don’t mean it. No we don’t! Some people never say “all.” They speak Chinese. You don’t say “all” all of the time. Either when you mean it or when you don’t mean it. There are sometimes that you sleep. There are sometimes that you eat. There are sometimes when you say other things. You really don’t say “all” all of the time. Do you? And so, therefore, these people don’t understand the figurative use of language. There are almost over six hundred different species of figures of speech found in the Bible. And they are found in most any large novel, or even in a big newspaper you will find them. They are everywhere! No they’re not. They’re not everywhere. They’re here and there and the other place. You see we do that all the time and we don’t even realize that we are doing it. No we don’t do it all the time. You see if I called you every time you used a universal word and you didn’t mean it universally, I would be having to stop you all the time. No I wouldn’t!
The fact is that we all use this type of hyperbole, well, “all” the time. Newscasters refer to “the whole city” turning out to greet a World Championship team when what they technically mean is a very large crowd. We talk about the entire world being fixated upon the news of Princess Diana’s death. On and on it goes.
Well, if that’s true for us, might not the same principle apply when we find similar expressions used in Scripture? The simple fact is that most scholars would suggest that it’s even more true — that hyperbolic speech was very common within the Hebrew culture.
This is not to say that the words “all,” “world,” and “whole world” in the Bible can never be taken to mean every single person or thing. In some cases they can. But how we understand these words — like virtually every other word in the Bible — is based upon the context, when and to whom they were written, and then compared to other Scriptures.” - D. James Kennedy
As quoted in: The Amazing Grace: The History & Theology of Calvinism Study Guide and Workbook is the sole property of Reel to Real Ministries, Inc./The Apologetics Group. (© 2009, The Apologetics Group, All Rights Reserved), pp. 159-160.