Some of the most profound, direct, and sobering passages in all of Scripture are structured chiastically. I dare say the authors did such not only for the sake of emphasizing their points, but also to help their audience’s memorization of them.
1 Corinthians 3.16-17 – a text that arguably serves as a summary of all of Paul’s thought expressed in 1 Corinthians – is a case in point. Imagine the possible effects of every church member memorizing this passage and meditating on it regularly, not only in Corinth of old, but in every congregation today.
Source: The Shape of Biblical Language – John Breck (SVS Press, 1994); p.213.
Just because a book has a linear, chronological narrative does not mean it cannot also make use of chiasm on a macro scale. The book of Judges furnishes a fine example.
Source: The Literary Structure of the Old Testament (Baker Academic, 1999), p.30
In an earlier post (Oct. 28) we laid out the case for viewing the book of Revelation as a macro-chiasm with the focal point being on the work of Jesus, the Lamb, as God’s answer to the problem of evil (Rev. 12.1-14.20).
It is interesting to note also that the agents of evil in the book of Revelation make their appearance, and receive their defeat, in chiastic order, with the focal point being the destruction of evil’s stronghold, Babylon.
Credit: Chiasmus in the New Testament by Nils W. Lund (Hendrickson, 1992); p.354
On occasion in chiastic passages, an author will repeat their primary focal point (which appears in the center of a chiasm) and will state the matter again at the end of the text for the sake of double emphasis.
Think of it as something like the ancient equivalent of putting something in bold print or like when a speaker says, “If you don’t remember anything else I said, remember this …”
Romans 10.9-10 is a well-known example of such.
It is well known that the substance of Matthew’s Gospel alternates between two types of material: narrative and discourse. What often goes unnoticed (due to modern, Western, linear thinking) is the relationships all of these narrative and sermon sections share with each other. However, when these relationships are noted, our eyes are opened and it becomes apparent that what Matthew is emphasizing (by means of chiasm), in this, his handbook/manual on discipleship, is what King Jesus says his kingdom is like and how it is received/rejected.
Read Matthew 13.1-53 and envision it as the summit of thought in Matthew’s Gospel … and that we shouldn’t be surprised that many reject the King and his kingdom (Matthew 13.54-58).
Credit: I failed to note the source in my notes, and so I will have to look, but I’m thinking perhaps I got this from Larry Chouinard’s helpful Amazon link on Matthew’s Gospel. I’ll check and update this post sometime this week.
My favorite book of the Old Testament is the book of Jonah 1-4 (all of the book, not just ch. 1). The fact that Jonah contains several instances of chiasm doesn’t hurt, either. Here’s one example: Jonah 3.3-10.
Credit: The Literary Structure of the Old Testament by David Dorsey (Baker Academic, 1999), p.294