Archive for June, 2010

1  The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

A    2  As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,    a    “BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER  [agellos]  BEFORE YOUR FACE,    b    WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY;


a”   4  John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness    b”    preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

C    (1)    5  And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River,    (2)    confessing their sins.

D    [Me:  John and his teaching:]    6  And John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist, and his diet was locusts and wild honey.  7  And he was preaching, and saying, “After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals.     [Me: Last line in center = important:]    8  “I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

C’   (1′)    9  And it came about in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan.    (~2′)    10  And immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him;  11  and a voice came out of the heavens: “Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well-pleased.”

B’  12  And immediately the  a  a  Spirit impelled^ Him to go out into the  b  wilderness.  13  And He was in the  b’  wilderness forty days being tempted by  a’  b  Satan; and He was with the  b’  wild beasts,

A’   and the  a’  angels  [agellos]  were ministering to Him.



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Robert L. Alden paper on chiasmi in Psalm 1-50:  Chiastic Psalms (I), Psalms 51-100:  Chiastic Psalms (II) and Psalm 101-150:  Chiastic Psalms (III) .

Numerous chiasmi are given.

E.g., here’s one from Chiastic Psalms (II):

Psalm 52:1b-5a

A    God’s grace is continual (v.1b)

    B    “Your tongue works deceitfully”

        C    “You love evil”

            D    Lying (Selah)

        C’   “You love devouring words”

    B’   “You deceitful tongue

A’   “God will destroy you forever”  (Selah)

E.g., here’s one from Chiastic Psalms (III):

Isaiah 1:18

A    If be your sins

    B1    like scarlet

    B2    like snow

        C    they shall be white;

        C    if they be red

    B1    like crimson

    B2    like wool

A    they shall be

His conclusion from Chiastic Psalms (III):

“The only point this paper seeks to make is the same point my two previous studies on the subject sought to make – namely, that consciously or unconsciously many of the Psalms were written in a chiastic pattern.  While it is commonplace to find chiasmi within individual verses, the discovery or them in larger blocks of material only augments one’s appreciation of the literary genius that produced the Hebrew Scriptures.

This is not an effort to affect the interpretation and certainly is not a device for determining glosses, rearranging verse order or emending the text.  It can, on the contrary, be a powerful argument for the integrity and unity of some of the Psalms I have treated.  Also I hope it can evoke a new appreciation for the ancient poets who gave us this body of spiritual hymns, songs, meditations and poems.”

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John W. Welch:   Criteria for Identifying and Evaluating the Presence of Chiasmus

Craig Blomberg:  Criteria for Detecting Extended Chiasmus  (Click on Section I)


John Welch lists 15 criteria, while Craig Blomberg lists 9.

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The manifestation of aesthetic phenomena in Scripture cannot be brushed aside as an unnecessary luxury.  The aesthetic exposure is broad and extensive, involving vast swaths of narratives and poetry.  God used a complex of aesthetic patterns as He revealed Himself in Scripture.  …  Encounter with and understanding of God will be unavoidably affected as theology is extensively informed with the aesthetic.

Jo Ann Davidson (1), “Toward a Theology of Beauty – A Biblical Perspective” (2)


(1) Link goes to her school

(2) Link goes to her book at Amazon.com

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A    a    17  ‘And if a man takes the life of any human being, he shall surely be put to death.

B    b    18  ‘And the one who takes the life of an animal shall make it good, life for life.

C    a’   19  ‘And if a man injures his neighbor, just as he has done, so it shall be done to him


D    a    20  fracture for fracture

       b    eye for eye,

D’   a’   tooth for tooth;


C’   a   just as he has injured a man, so it shall be inflicted on him.

B’   b   21  ‘Thus the one who kills an animal shall make it good,

A’   a’   but the one who kills a man shall be put to death.


In spite it’s rather harsh nature, this chiasmus is really quite beautiful. 

1)  Overall, it’s a 9-part chiasmus:  A, B, C, D, E, D’, C’, B’,  A’

2)  It can also be viewed as a 3-part chiasmus:  A, B, A’, where the outsides A and A’ refer to particular laws, while the inside B offers simplified illustrations (as well, I suppose, as laws).  The A/A’ lines are longer.  The B lines, shorter.

3)  Each of the A, B, A’ sections (mentioned in 2) are themselves a, b, a’ /a, b, a’ structures.   The A/A’  a, b, a’ chiasmi refer to ‘mankind’ on the outside and ‘animals’ on the inside.  (The outside is also retalitory in nature, while the center is replacement orientated.)  The central B a, b, a’ chiasmus refers to fractures (and a fracturable things: teeth) on the outside, and eyes on the inside.

In other words, we have a 9-part chiasmus that is more broadly a 3-part chiasmus.  Each of the 3 parts of the broader 3-part chiasmus are also 3-part chiasmi.  In total there are 4 a, b, a’ configurations.

4)  There’s also a flow to this chiasmus.  Read helically (by matches, outside to inside), we seem to be moving from that which is harshest to those things which are less harsh – except perhaps the center:

A/A’  The killing of a man

B/B’  The killing of an animal

C/C’  The injuring of a man

D/D’  A type of injury which might occur to a man:  a fracture (D), as might occur to a tooth (D’) …  (e.g., in a fight)

E  Another type of injury that might occur is an injury to an eye

The helical read moves broadly from killing (A/A’, B/B’) to injury (C/C’, D/D’, E).  It also moves from generalized situations (killing/injury) to specific examples (fracture/tooth/eye). 

Here it seems like the center has been beefed up a bit, as an injury to an eye is worse than an injury to a tooth.  It’s possible that the author has chosen a fracture, e.g., a tooth, in D/D’ because it is a common injury, while an injury to the eye (E) may have been considered one of the worst possible injuries?  It’s possible an injury to an eye is considered more important and thus fitting for the center.  Or perhaps it was chosen because it would simply form a memorable center.  At any rate, the illustration of an eye for an eye offers a strong center.  Afterall, … interestingly … , it’s the center of this chiasmus that we have come to use in are illustration for the lex talionis (‘equivalency’) principle of law:  an eye for an eye.  It’s pithy and memorable (in part, memorable because it’s pithy). 

It does make a good center.

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This is Mark in chiastic overdrive:


A    20  And He came home, and the multitude gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal.

B    21  And when His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, “He has lost His senses.”

   22  And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying,

       a    “He is possessed by Beelzebul,”

       b    and “He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.”

       b’   23  And He called them to Himself and began speaking to them in parables,

              a    “How can Satan cast out Satan?

              b    i    24  “And if a kingdom is divided against itself,

                     ii    that kingdom cannot stand.

              b’   i’    25  “And if a house is divided against itself,

                     ii’    that house will not be able to stand.

              a’   26  “And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but he is finish!

[ further explanation … ]   i    27  “But no one can enter the strong man’s house  ii  and plunder his property   i’  unless he first binds the strong man,   ii’  and then he will plunder his house.

       a’   28  “Truly I say to you,

              a    all sins

              b    shall be forgiven the sons of men,

              c    and whatever blasphemies they utter; 

              c’   29  but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit

              b’   never has forgiveness,

              a’   but is guilty of an eternal sin”

[further explanation … ]  —  30  because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

B’   31  And His mother and His brothers arrived^, and standing outside they sent word to Him, and called Him.

A’   32  And a multitude was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.”  33  And  answering them, He said, “Who are My mother and My brothers?”  34  And looking about on those who were sitting around Him, He said,

       a    “Behold, My mother

       b    and My brothers

       c    35  “For whoever does the will of God,

       b’   he is My brother and sister

       a’   and mother.”


The largest chiastic structure is in red.  It works as follows:

A:  Jesus with the multitudes.

B:  Jesus’ family questions Jesus’ sanity

C:  Jesus and the scribes.

B’:  Jesus’ family comes to get Jesus.

A’:  Jesus with the multitudes.

This, I would say, is a fairly well known chiastic structure.  The B, C, B’ center of the chiasmus is all about what’s percieved to be wrong with Jesus.  His family thinks he’s lost his senses, while in C, the scribes accuse Jesus of being in league with Satan. 

A’ ends with a chiasmus (3:34b-35).  It’s a fairly obvious one:  a, b, c, b’, a’.  (It’s nice when a chiasmus ends with a chiasmus.  It’s artful.  Aesthetically pleasing.)  The main point at the center of this little chiasmus is the ‘doing of God’s will”.  Those doing God’s will are Jesus’ new family. 

The really interesting section here is the center C section where Jesus and the scribes interact.  This interaction is arranged chiastically.  The scribes accuse Jesus of 2 things (a, b) and Jesus answers those accusations in reverse order (b’, a’), creating a chiasmus.  Going even further, Jesus’ 2 answers (b’, a’) are also arranged chiastically (a, b, b’, a’  and a, b, c, c’, b’, a’).  In other words, we have chiasmi, within a chiasmus, within a chiasmus.  It’s Mark/Jesus in chiastic overdrive.


One interesting thing about Jesus’ answer to the scribes second question is His use of illustrations involving ‘kingdom’ and ‘house’ (b, b’).  It’s fitting since the overall chiasmus involves Jesus’ family (house) and the scribes (leaders within the kingdom of Israel) thinking that there’s something wrong with Jesus.  Jesus’ answer seems aimed not only at the issue of whether or not Jesus is casting out demons by the power of Satan, but also at his own family and the scribes who seem to be opposing Jesus and His ministry.  A divided house and kingdom cannot stand. 

Those who do the will of God are Jesus’ true family! 

In this chiasmus, society is being turned upside down.  Family and religious leadership takes some knocks.  Those doing the will of God (presumably Jesus’ followers) are raised up.  There’s a re-evaluation going on here.

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Chiasmus Pic


Symmetry in Life


The center is more important than what’s outside.


(Credit:  Picture by Lekanu Mickael – as far as I can tell.)

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