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The following excerpt is from James L. Resseguie‘s book, “Narrative Criticism of the New Testament”, p. 58-60.  The excerpt is part of the book’s explanation for  “Chiasm (Chiasmus)”.

The book can be found here at Google Books, and here at Amazon.

The examples are short, but I enjoyed them.  I particularly liked his treatment of Luke 22:42 and Ephesians 1:2; 6:23-24.  Hopefully you’ll enjoy them as well.  🙂

The word chiasm is derived from the Greek letter chi (written X), which symbolizes the crossover pattern of words, phrases, clauses, or ideas that are repeated in reverse order.  The simplest type of chiasm is A B B’ A’ – a structure that comes full circle by highlighting key concepts in reverse order.  A chiastic pattern in Mark 2:27, for instance, keeps the reader’s or hearer’s attention focused on the main concepts.

A  The sabbath was made

B  for humankind

B’  not humankind

A’  for the sabbath.

Chiasms may draw attention to a theological or ideological perspective.  Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane is an example of literary artistry at its best.  The literary form reinforces the theological perspective.  In Luke 22:42, for example:

A  Father, if you are willing.

B  remove this cup from me;

B’  yet not my will

A’  but yours be done.

The first person singular (me, my) is placed within the second person singular (you, yours), which visually underscores that Jesus’ will is completely enclosed within the will of the Father.  This becomes a model prayer for all: our will needs to be conformed to God’s will, not the other way around.

Paul uses chiasms to wrap together an entire book with key theological concepts.  In the Letter to the Ephesians he brackets his correspondence with the words “grace” and “peace” (also in 2 Thess. 1:2 and 3:16, 18).

A    Grace to you

B  and peace

B’  Peace be to the whole community. …

A’  Grace be with all who have an undying love for our Lord Jesus Christ

(Eph. 1:2; 6:23, 24)

Paul comes full circle, underscoring an important theological perspective: where there is grace, there is peace, and where there is peace, there is evidence of God’s grace.  Paul also uses interlocking chiasms to highlight the mystery of the Christian faith.  In 1 Tim. 3:16, for example, an interlocking pattern  explains “the mystery of our religion.”

[Jesus] was revealed in flesh,

vindicated in spirit,

seen by angels,

proclaimed among Gentiles,

believed in throughout the world,

taken up in glory.

Two sets of overlapping chiasms bring two separate worlds together – this world and the world above.  One set – flesh (A), spirit (B), angels (B’), Gentiles (A’) – is joined by a second set – angels (A) Gentiles (B), world (B’), glory (A’).  The interlocking pattern suggests that Jesus brings together in balanced harmony two worlds that were separated or at odds with each other.

Nice!

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