Archive for May, 2010


From Gordon Wenham’s commentary on Genesis:

The Structure of the Flood Story

A    Noah (6:10a)

B    Shem, Ham, and Japheth (10b)

C    Ark to be built (14-16)

D    Flood announced (17)

E    Covenant with Noah (18-20)

F    Food in the ark (21)

G    Command to enter the ark (7:1-3)

H    7 days waiting for flood (4-5)

I     7 days waiting for flood (7-10)

J     Entry to ark (11-15)

K    YHWH shuts Noah in (16)

L    40 days flood (17a)

M   Waters increase (17b-18)

N    Mountains covered (19-20)

O    150 days water prevail (21-24)

P    God remembers Noah (8:1)

O’   150 days waters abate (3)

N’   Mountain tops visible (4-5)

M’   Waters abate (5)

L’   40 days (end of) (6a)

K’   Noah opens window of ark (6b)

J’    Raven and dove leave ark (7-9)

I’    7 days waiting for waters to subside (10-11)

H’   7 days waiting for waters to subside (12-13)

G’   Command to leave ark (15-17 [22])

F’   Food outside ark (9:1-4)

E’   Covenant with all flesh (8-10)

D’   No flood in the future (11-17)

C’   Ark (18a)

B’   Shem, Ham and Japheth (18b)

A’   Noah (19)


I thought I would throw this one in just to show how some relatively famous texts are chiastic.  To tell you the truth I haven’t checked it out.  It does look pretty good though. 

The center is interesting here.  “God remembers Noah”.  It a turning point in the story.  After God ‘remembers’, the waters begin to go down.  The situation gets better. 



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A    4  “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?”

B    5  And Jesus began to say to them, “See to it that no one misleads you.  6  “Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many.

C    7  “And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end.

D    8  “For nation will arise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

E    9  “But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them.

          F    10  “And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations.

E’   11  “And when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit.

D’   12  “And brother will deliver brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.  13  “And you will be hated by all on account of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved.

C’   [70 A.D:  The War against Jerusalem] 14  “But when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.  15  “And let him who is on the housetop not go down, or enter in, to get anything out of his house;  16  and let him who is in the field not turn back to get his cloak.  17  “But woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse babes in those days!  18  “But pray that it may not happen in the winter.  19  “For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created, until now, and never shall.  20  “And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect whom He chose, He shortened the days.

B’   21  “And then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ’; or, ‘Behold, He is there’; do not believe him;  22  for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order, if possible, to lead the elect astray.

A’   23  “But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance.


The 4 verses following Mk. 13:4-23 are also written as a chiasmus.  Go here to see it:  Mark 13:24-27.

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A    10  An excellent wife, who can find?

B    For her worth is far above jewels.

C    11  The heart of her husband trusts in her, And he will have no lack of gain.  12  She does him good and not evil.  All the days of her life.

D    13  She looks for wool and flax, And works with her hands in delight.  14  She is like merchant ships; She brings her food from afar.  15  She rises also while it is still night, And gives food to her household, And portions to her maidens.  16  She considers a field and buys it; From her earnings she plants a vineyard.  17  She girds herself with strength, And makes her arms strong.  18  She senses that her gain is good; Her lamp does not go out at night.  19  She stretches out her hands to the distaff, And her hands grasp the spindle.

E    20  She extends her hand to the poor;

F    And she stretches out her hands to the needy.

G    21  She is not afraid of the snow for her household,

H    For all her household are clothed with scarlet.

I    22  She makes coverings for herself;

J   Her clothing is fine linen and purple.

K    23  Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land.

J’   24  She makes linen garments and sells them,

I’   And supplies belts to the tradesmen.

H’   25  Strength and dignity are her clothing,

G’   And she smiles at the future.

F’   26  She opens her mouth in wisdom,

E’   And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

D’   27  She looks well to the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness.

C’   28  Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:  29  “Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all.”

B’   30  Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,

A’   But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.

[Conclusion (outside of the chiasmus):]   31  Give her the product of her hands, And let her works praise her in the gates.

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A    8  Love never fails;

B    1    but if there are gifts of prophecy,    2    they will be done away;

      1′   if there are tongues,    2′     they will cease;

      1”   if there is knowledge,    2”    it will be done away.

C    a    9  For we know in part,     b    and we prophesy in part;    b’   10  but when the perfect comes,    a’    the partial will be done away.

D    11  When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child;

E    when I became a man,   [Me:  I.e., grown up, or matured.]

D’   I did away with childish things  

C’   1    12  For now we see in a mirror dimly,     2    but then face to face;

      1′    now I know in part,     2′    but then I shall know fully  –  (just as I also have been fully known).

B’   13  But now abide




       these three;

A’   but the greatest of these is love.

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Recommended readings:

A good overview of Chiasmus:

 Chiasmus: An Important Structural Device, by Brad McCoy

Recommended sites:

Lists of possible Biblical Chiasmi:

          – ‘In the Beginning’ website’s lists:

–  Smaller selection  –  though still substantial.

–  Larger bibliography

–  Here’s a book by John Welch, written in 1998, which lists many possible chiasmi:  Chiasmus Bibliography (link goes to Amazon.com)

–  International Society for the Study of Biblical and Semetic Rhetoric:

–  By Author

–  By Biblical Book

–  Rhetorical Criticism of the Bible: a Comprehensive Bibliography with Notes

–  Dr. Mardy.com  –  on the lighter side.




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Chiasmus Pic


Symmetry in Design

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A    Praise the LORD!

B    Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty expanse.

C    Praise Him for His mighty deeds; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.

D    Praise Him with trumpet sound;

E    Praise Him with harp and lyre.

F    Praise Him with timbrel and dancing;

E’   Praise Him with stringed instruments

D’   and pipe.

C’   Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals.

B’   Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.

A’   Praise the LORD!


A/A’:    A and A’ are identical:  “Praise the Lord!”  …  The 2 identical phrases form solid bookends for the psalm.  (Another name for this ‘bookending’ technique is ‘inclusion’, or ‘inclusio’.)

B/B’:    B tells us where to praise God.  We should praise God everywhere – not only in the sanctuary (B1), but also in His mighty expanse (B2).  B’ tells us who should praise God.  Basically everyone.  More specifically, “everything that has breath”.

C/C’:    C tells us why we should praise God.  We should praise Him for His mighty deeds.  And we should praise Him for His excellent greatness.  C’ begins to tell us how to praise God.  We should praise Him with instruments.  E.g., in C’, cymbals.  The cymbals are meant to parallel the mighty deeds and excellent greatness of God.  “Loud cymbals” (C’1) parallel God’s “mighty deeds” (C1), while “resounding cymbals” (C’2) parallel God’s “excellent greatness” (C2).  There seems to be crescendo effect here.  Loud cymbals build to RESOUNDING cymbals, while mighty deeds, I think, similarly builds to God’s excellent greatness.

D/D’:    Now the wind instruments enter in.  D with “trumpet sound” and D’ with “pipe[s]”.

E/E’:    And then the stringed instruments enter.  E, with “harp and lyre” specifically; E’, mentioning “string instruments” generally.

F:    And in the center of the chiasmus we find one additional instrument, the timbrel.   … …  Along with something new!:    DANCING!   …  That’s us!  Praising God involves our whole being. 

A helical read:

This chiasmus, in my opinion, can be read helically.  A helical read involves reading the matches together, one after another.  In other words, reading A, then its match A’, then B, then B’, then C, then C’ … until finally you arrive at the center: F.  Typically in a helical read you begin at the outside and move inward towards the center.  In a sense you’re moving around and around the chiasmus, from left to right, left to right, moving through the chiasmus, from outside inward.  Visually it reminds one (or originally someone) of the way DNA moves – around and around, moving forward.  DNA is sometimes referred to as a helix.  Hence, in the case of chiasmus, we have the term ‘helical read’.  …  I was first introduced to the idea of helical reading via the book by Fr. John Breck,  “The Shape of Biblical Language: Chiasmus in the Scriptures and Beyond”. 

The nice thing about reading Psalm 150 helically is that it seems to move from the large to the small and from the loud to the quiet.  Excluding A/A’ (the inclusion), and beginning with B/B’, you begin very large: creation.  Praise involves the mighty expanse of the world (B) and everything living within it (B’).   From there you move to C:  God’s mighty deed and excellent greatness.  In a sense this is a step down, moving from creation into creation’s history; God’s activity in the world.  …  Then the music/worship begins.  It moves from loudest to quietest:  from cymbals (C’) to wind instruments (D/D’) to string instruments (E/E’).  …  Things quiet down.  From the large to the small.  From the loud to the quiet.  …  At the very center the chiasmus, surrounded by all these ideas and sound, is found the person at worship, dancing, fully involved, participating.

I like the idea that the large becomes small, the loud becomes quiet as it approaches the center of worship.

I also like that the helical read, moving round and round, mimics the motion of dance.  Moving.  Twirling.  Worshipping.  It seems to lead us to the center.


A nicely constructed chiasmus.  Beautiful.

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