chiasm: 1 Corinthians 11.17-34

Throwdown. When you hear the words “do this in remembrance of me” spoken around the communion table, it is frequently spoken out-of-context.

Substantiation. Paul spoke of remembering Christ’s death not as being the end-point of the Supper, but as a means to an end.

Explanation. Some Corinthian Christians were being exceedingly selfish in the way they shared, and did not share, the Supper. Paul intervenes and says, in effect: “The solution to this horror in relationships among you is to – as always and in all things – remember the words and ways of our Lord and Savior Jesus. Jesus died to himself and others and you must do the same! Remember him in this way and you’ll repent.”

Paul’s use of chiasm makes that clear.


Source: reworded [DPS] from Seven Pauline Letters by Peter F. Ellis (The Liturgical Press, 1982); pp.88-89.

chiasm: 1 Corinthians 1.10-4.21

On the opening of 1 Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1.10-4.21) by Paul Ellis …

“Paul’s argumentation in [1 Cor.] 1.10-4.21 is arranged in chiastic form, i.e., he begins with a general treatment of his problem; … then he moves on to what appears to be a digression; … and he concludes by returning to the themes of 1.10-2.5, giving practical solutions and advice … It is the same A-B-A format Paul used in 1 Thessalonians. He will use it regularly throughout 1 Corinthians …”


“… the parallel structure of 1.10-4.21 … is perhaps the most elaborate use of parallelism in all of the Pauline epistles.”

Source: Seven Pauline Letters by Peter F. Ellis (The Liturgical Press, 1982); pp.47-48.

chiasm: Matthew 27.57-28.20

R.T. France detects chiasm in the closing scenes of Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 27.57-28.20).*


This could very well be what Matthew had in mind. However, I see the emphasis of these same scenes surrounding Christ’s resurrection as being not so much on the events that play out, but on the actions and reactions of different kinds of beings (i.e. – angel, Jesus, people) to what happened. The expression and emphasis of the chiasm changes if we see these scenes not just as a chain of events, but as a chain of events in which numerous, and various, characters are engaged.

Chiasm-Matt-27-28 * Source: R.T. France via The College Press NIV Commentary: Matthew by Larry Chouinard (College Press, 1997); p.499.

chiasm: Psalm 1.6

The appearance of chiasm brings to light words, phrases, or subjects that are either synynomous or antonymous in meaning. As is the case in Psalm 1.6:  just as the godly and the wicked are antonyms, to say that there is a way that leads to destruction is the opposite of being on the way the Lord watches over. Which is to say that without the Lord watching over someone/something there is destruction. And so, the godly are dependent on the Lord.


Source: How to Read the Psalms by Tremper Longman (IVP Academic, 1988), p.102




chiasm: Luke 9.48

In the Gospels, Jesus’ self-awareness and self-claims saturate everything he says. Sometimes his claims are grand and “in your face” (e.g. – “I am the resurrection and the life”). And sometimes they are much more subtle and glow, such as in this instance.

Recognizing the chiastic structure of this tender, well-known text helps us grasp more of what Jesus is saying and doing (i.e. – he is the greatest among them).


chiasm: Luke 15.11-32

Sometimes chiasm hides right out in the open, in texts most familiar to us, in passages we love much. “If it had been a snake, it would have bit us.” All because we modern Westerners think and hear a story only in linear, not in cyclical, fashion, with the climax and emphasis in a story being found in its center, not at its conclusion.

Now who doesn’t love the story of “the prodigal son (Luke 15.11-32)? But, if ever a story had a misnomer, this is it for the emphasis in the story is not about the son and his actions, but about how that son’s father treats his prodigal. For what the father does in this story would have been unthinkable and profoundly shameful in an ancient honor-shame based, Middle Eastern society.

As good as it is that the prodigal comes home, what is truly good is that the father is merciful when his son returns home, for everything rides on that.

“The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him …” (Daniel 9.9)

Chiasm makes it all clear and emphatic.