Archive for the ‘Paul, the Apostle’ Category


Judges Gavel


The following chiasmus is from Douglas Moo’s commentary, “Romans: The NIV Application Commentary: From Biblical Text to Contemporary Life”.  The commentary can be found here at Google Books, and here at Amazon.  Douglas’ website is here.

Here’s a quote:

God Judges Every Human Being Impartially on the Same Basis (2:6-11)

This important paragraph supports a point that is implicit, but vital, to Paul’s indictment of self-righteous Jews in 2:1-5:  God assesses Jews and Gentiles on the same basis.  In effect, Paul argues, there is a level playing field when it comes to God’s ultimate verdict.  The Jew, therefore, simply by virtue of being a Jew cannot claim immunity from judgment.  The argument of these verses is clear and logical, following a pattern we label chiasm.  This word comes from the name for the Greek letter that looks much like our “X”.  It describes a structure in which the basic sequence follows an A-B-B’-A’ pattern.  Note how verses 6-11 fall into such a pattern:

A   God will judge everyone according to his works (v. 6)

B   People who do good will attain eternal life (v .7)

C   People who do evil will suffer wrath (v. 8)

C’  Wrath for those who do evil (v. 9)

B’  Glory for those who do good (v. 10)

A’  God judges impartially (v. 11)

Sometimes in a chiasm, the main point comes at the center.  In this case, however, the main point appears at the outer edges.

Moo’s last point is worth considering.  The main point is not always at the center.  In the end, it’s up to the discretion of the writer.  The chiastic writer has options.

I’ve refined Moo’s chiasmus a little bit by adding the following lower-case connections:  a bb’ a’, a bb’ a’, a bb’ a’.

I would also like to point out the phrase, “of the Jew first and also the Greek”, which occurs twice in the chiasmus.  Interestingly, the phrase appears at the end of the two matches: B/B’ (regarding good) and C/C’ (regarding evil).  Even though the two occurrences of the phrase do not appear chiastically balanced overall, they are still reasonably / logically placed within the chiasmus.


2:1  Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.  2  And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things.  3  But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?  4  Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?  5  But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment


a    5  of God,



a    7  to those who by perseverance in doing good

b    seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life;


a    8  but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness,

b    wrath and indignation.


b’   9  There will be tribulation and distress

a’   for every soul of man who does evil – of the Jew first and also the Greek,

B ‘

b’   10  but glory and honor and peace

a’   to everyone who does good – to the Jew first and also the Greek. 


b’   11  for there is no partiality

a’   with God.





Read Full Post »

Business colleagues shaking hands


This chiasmus is from Grant R. Osborne’s book, “Romans”.  The chiasmus can be found here at Google books, page 366.  The book can also be found here at Amazon.

I’ve creating a new center, F.

F focuses on peace with both God and man.  The new center reminds me of Jesus’ words in Mark 12:29-31, where the two social spheres of God and man (‘the vertical and the horizontal’) are emphasized:

28  And one of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?”  29  Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD;  30  AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’  31  “The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”



A    Judging (v. 13a)

B    Stumbling block (v.13b)

C    Clean/unclean (v.14)

D    Destroying (v. 15)

E    Peace and unity (vv 16-18)

E’   Peace and unity (v. 19)

D’   Destroying (v. 20a)

C’   Clean/unclean (v. 20b)

B’   Stumbling block (v. 21)

A’   Judging (vv. 22-23)

… Several have noted a chiastic pattern here.  Perhaps the most comprehensive is Dunn (1988b:816 …

This section addresses the strong, who should be leading the way to establishing unity in the church by opening themselves up to the “weaker” brothers and sisters.  Neither side should stand in judgment over the other, for God alone is the judge of all, and he has accepted both groups (vv. 3, 10).  In a terrific play on words, Paul tells the strong that instead of “judging” (krino) the weak, they must “decide” (krino) not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in … [the] way of the “weak” Christians.  Rather than negative judgment, they must be characterized by positive discernment.  The two words are virtually synonymous.  A stumbling block is that which causes someone to fall into sin.  Similarly,an obstacle derives from the concept of “trapping something in a snare” and therefore is used in the LXX of falling into sin.  So it came to mean “an obstacle in coming to faith and a cause of going astray,” a transgression that leads to destruction, thus something that destroys faith and causes apostasy.



A    13  Therefore let us not judge one another anymore,

B    but rather determine this– not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block  /  in a brother’s way.

C    14  I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

D    15  For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died.

E    16  Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil;  17  for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

F    18  For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.

E’   19  So then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.

D’   20  Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food.

C’   All things indeed are clean,  /  but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense.

B’   21  It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother  /  stumbles.

A’   22  The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God.  Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.  23  But he who doubts is condemned if he eats – because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.

Read Full Post »

Empty Tomb Resurrection


A   [Me: a positive beginning assertion:]    15:1  Now I make known to you, brethren,

a    the gospel  /  which I preached to you,  /  which also you received,

b    in which also you stand,

b’   2  by which also you are saved,

a’   the word  /  which I preached to you,  /  if you hold fast

B    [Me: a negative alternative:]   unless  [!!!]  in vain  [Me: Greek -‘eikay’]  you believed!

C    3  For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,

D    4  and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,  5  and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  6  After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep;  7  then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles;  8  and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.


1    9  For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.   10  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain  [Me: Greek = ‘kenos’].

2    But I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.  11  Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.


a    12  Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead,

b    how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

b’   13  But if there is no resurrection of the dead,

a’   not even Christ has been raised;


14  and if Christ has not been raised,

1′    then vain  [Me: Greek = ‘kenos’]  is    2′    our preaching

1′    and vain  [Me: Greek = ‘kenos’]  is    2′    your faith.


a    15  Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God :

b    that He raised Christ,

c    whom He did not raise,

d    if in fact the dead are not raised.

d’   16  For if the dead are not raised,

c’   not even Christ has been raised;

b’   17  and if Christ has not been raised,

a’    your faith is worthless;

C’   [Me: D’ a’ continued:]  you are still in your sins.

B’   [Me: a negative possibility:]  18  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  19  If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.

A’   [Me: a positive ending assertion:]  20  But  [!!!]  now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep !!!


Read Full Post »

Suffering Christ on the Cross, modern, bright colors


This chiasmus has a bit of complexity to it – which I like.  Clearly some effort and time has been put into it.

Here’s the basic outline:

A/A’:  The ‘wisdom of the world’ will be “destroyed” [Greek: destroyed completely], “set aside”, “nullified” [Greek: abolished].  These are strong words, indicating complete defeat or elimination.  (A/A’ use stronger terms than those found in the next sections, B/B’.)

B1/B’1:  A triple-list is used in each of these sections (a triple-list consists of a grouping of three words or phrases).  The ‘wise’ begins the triple-list in each section.  Similar words are used prior to each word or phrase in each triple-list:  ‘pou’ comes before each word/phrase in the triple-list in B1, while ‘polus’ comes before each word/phrase in the triple-list in B’1. Both words begin with ‘p’, offering a match via alliteration.

B2/B’2:  The same idea is found in each of these sections:  ‘foolishness defeats the wisdom of the world’.  In both these sections, it is God who accomplishes the act (“Has not God …? / God has …, God has …).

C/C’:  C has ‘wisdom’ before ‘foolish‘., while C’ has ‘foolish‘ before ‘wisdom’.  C and C’ are chiastically arranged.

D:  The ideas in these sections are arranged chiastically – a b c b’ a’.  The well known line, “Christ crucified:  to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness” forms the very center of the chiasmus (c).  In Paul’s mind, “Christ crucified” represents the power and wisdom of God (D, Intro (v. 18)).


In my opinion, the beginning and end of the chiasmus (the complete destruction of the world’s wisdom) should be understood in light of the center (Christ crucified).  It is “Christ crucified” – the cross – that ultimately makes the world’s wisdom (the world’s understanding of life) ‘destroyed, set aside, and nullified’.


Note:  Personally, I think this chiasmus should be read helically.  I.e., from A to A’ to B to B’ to C to C’ to D.  In other words, in the order of its matches.


18  …  the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

A    19  For it is written, ”    a    I WILL DESTROY    b    THE WISDOM OF THE WISE,    b’   AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER    a’   I WILL SET ASIDE.”


1    20  Where is  [Me: “Where ” = Greek: “pou”]  the wise man? Where is  [pou]  the scribe? Where is  [pou]  the debater of this age?

2    Has not God made foolish / the wisdom of the world?


a    [Me:  emphasis on wisdom:]  21  For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom / did not come to know God,

b    [Me: emphasis on foolishness:]  God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached / to save those who believe.


a    22  For indeed  1  Jews ask for  2  signs  [Me: “signs” = a demonstration of the power of God], and  1′  Greeks search for  2′  wisdom;

b    23  but we preach

c    Christ crucified: to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness,

b’   24  but to those who are the called,

a’   both  1  Jews and  1′  Greeks, Christ the  2  power of God and the  2′  wisdom of God.


(1)   25  Because the    b’    foolishness of God    a’    is wiser than men,

(2)    and the    b’    weakness of God    a’    is stronger than men.


1    26  For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many  [Me: “not many” = Greek: “polus”]  wise (according to the flesh),  /  not many  [= polus]  mighty,  /  not many  [= polus]  noble;


(1′)    a    27  but God has chosen    b    the foolish things of the world  /  to shame  [Me: Greek: “kataischunw”]  the wise,

(2′)   a    and God has chosen    b    the weak things of the world  /  to shame  [Me: Greek: “kataischunw”]  the things which are strong,


I    b’    28  and the base things of the world and the despised,    ii    a’   God has chosen –  

i’   the things that are not,   ii’   that He might nullify the things that are   [Me: “nullify” = “katargew” = to render inoperative / to abolish].



Read Full Post »



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.


Read Full Post »



I like this little chiasmus.  I like that B and B’ have Jesus and Christ written chiastically (reversing):   B  Jesus Christ;  B’  Christ Jesus.  The ‘center is also quite strong:   E  suffer hardship;  F  imprisonment;  F’  imprisoned;  E’  “endure all things”.  F and F’ make a fairly strong center, focusing on the specific of Paul’s suffering:  “imprisonment as a criminal”.  In contrast, God’s word (message) cannot be imprisoned.  The world of the flesh and the world of the Spirit are two different things. 

Note also how the chiasmus moves from past to present to future things. 

Overall, an enjoyable little chiasmus.



A    [Me: Looking to the Past:]  8  Remember   

B    a    Jesus    b    Christ,

C    risen from the dead,

D    descendant of David – according to my gospel

E    9  for which I suffer hardship

F    even to imprisonment as a criminal;

F’   but the word of God is not imprisoned.

E’   10  For this reason I endure all things

D’   for the sake of those who are chosen,

C’   that they also may obtain the salvation

B’   which is in    b’    Christ    a’    Jesus

A’    [Me: Looking to the Future:]  and with it eternal glory.


Read Full Post »



A    20  Let each man remain in that condition in which he was called.

B    [Me:  Freedom is better]  21  Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that.

C    a    22  For he who was called in the Lord while a slave,    b    is the Lord’s freedman;    b’    likewise he who was called while free,    a’    is Christ’s slave.

B’   [Me:  Freedom is better]  23  You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.

A’   24  Brethren, let each man remain with God in that condition in which he was called.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: