[This is a brief teaching series to point to the breakthrough shown us in Chronicles. The book itself is much more detailed.]
- Part 1—Introduction: What Is Chiastics and What It Can Do
- Part 2—How to Read a Chiastic Passage, in Both Its Forms
- Part 3—What Parallel Form Tells Us
- Part 4—What Convergent Form Tells Us
- Part 5—How These Forms Change the Prophecy Landscape
How do we read a text passage chiastically? We begin by watching for repeated and echoed words, and watch the trail of echoed words form a “structure” in the text. Word trails will either echo in parallel fashion or convergent fashion, typically about the center of a text.
Both forms, whether parallel or convergent, divide the text. These two forms have been written about extensively in the academic literature of chiastics. These two forms, existing in verses, chapters, and books across the Bible, are the building blocks to show us a new way of looking at Bible prophecy.
Rightly Dividing (excerpt from Chronicles, Chapter 1)
This method involves, literally, rightly dividing the Word of God. Paul exhorts us in this:
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Tim. 2:15 NKJV, emphasis added)
Prior to my research for this book, I did not understand how the Greek word behind “rightly dividing” (orthotomeo, Strong’s #3718, which means literally “to correctly cut or rightly divide”) had anything to do with Bible interpretation. At one time I thought perhaps the translators got it wrong and it’s rightly divining, which to me would have made more sense. But no, it is dividing.
Tomeo means “to cut,” and ortho means to be straight or correct. Some translations such as the NIV and NASB use the phrase “correctly handling.” Though this phrase seems like a good translation, it doesn’t fully capture what “rightly dividing” means. It includes “correctly handling” but involves more.
As incredible as it may sound, the concentric method of reading presented in this book involves literally dividing the text into two proper and correct halves, thus focusing the reader’s attention where needed to obtain a fuller meaning. Paul wrote on, and read from, scrolls. This verse in 2 Timothy gives us a hint that Paul and all the first century Christians knew how to read in a way that we do not.
Was Paul describing chiastic reading? Maybe. We won’t know for sure until after Christ returns. On the other hand, rightly dividing Scripture seems to have opened up prophecy.
(Also, I didn’t know this until after the book went to print, but the letter of 2 Timothy itself is a convergent chiasmus with the phrase “rightly dividing” smack in the center. I will post about this soon.)
The Two Forms (excerpt from Chronicles, Chapter 4)
Diving right in, then, the first form is called “parallel.” The second is called “convergent.” We begin with two single verses as examples.
An example of a parallel text is Proverbs 9:10 (NASB), shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1 shows the verse has two halves. The first line of the verse is one half and the second line is the other half. Both halves have the same literary structure. In this verse, “fear of the Lord” is understood to be a modifier of “knowledge of the Holy One,” and vice versa. Likewise, “beginning of wisdom” is understood to be a modifier of “understanding,” and vice versa. Each phrase in one half modifies its corresponding phrase in the other half, using the same word order. As you can see in Figure 1, a line connects each phrase of the two sets of repeated ideas. These two lines are parallel to each other, hence, the use of the term “parallel” to describe this verse’s structure.
An inverted parallel text—also known as a convergent text—is different. An example of an inverted parallel verse is 1 John 3:9 (NIV 1984) as shown in three lines of text in Figure 2.
You may already see from Figure 2 why the verse has an “inverted” parallel, or “convergent,” structure. The repeated words and phrases are not in the same order as we saw with the parallel passage of Proverbs 9:10, but in opposite order. The third line of 1 John 3:9 has phrases that are in reverse order relative to the phrases in the first line. Note the two gray lines connecting the common, and echoed, sets of phrases. Instead of being parallel, they are crossed like an “x.”
This x seen overlaying the passage gives the chiasmus its name (the discoverer of the chiasmus named it after the Greek “x,” or, chi.)
The Written Notation of a Chiasmus
We now take those two verses, Proverbs 9:10 and 1 John 3:9, with their chiastic structure and write them out. This is necessary of course to have the ability to write about the chiastic things we see.
Proverbs 9:10 is written below:
- A—The fear of the Lord
- B—is the beginning of wisdom,
- Aʹ—and knowledge of the Holy One,
- Bʹ—is understanding.
The italicized words and phrases are being echoed. They are called markers. All words and phrases that echo in a text or between two texts are called markers.
The bold capital letters denote panels. All panels are collections of one or more markers that have a common theme. The little ʹ is called “prime.” Therefore the marker in the A panel echoes the marker in the Aʹ (A-prime) panel, and the marker in the B panel echoes the marker in the Bʹ panel.
Markers and panels are part of the language describing the word trails. The markers in the A:B panels form one word, or marker, trail, and the markers in the Aʹ:Bʹ panels form the second marker trail.
Now, in 1 John 3:9 we have a convergent form. The markers still echo between the A:Aʹ panels and between the B:Bʹ panels, but the trails converge on the center:
- A—No one who is born of God
- B—will continue to sin,
- C—because God’s seed remains in him;
- Bʹ—he cannot go on sinning,
- Aʹ—because he has been born of God.
Note the indentation for the panels is different for this verse than for Proverbs 9:10. All paired panels that echo have the same indentation. 1 John 3:9, having a convergent structure, has its middle with the greatest indentation. Note Proverbs 9:10 has a “zig-zag” looking indentation because it has a parallel structure.
Note, too, the bold text in the C panel of 1 John 3:9. This is the central message of the entire verse. This is the thought that is central to the text, and must be kept in mind when reading the rest of the verse.
As Breck simply states regarding a convergent A:B:Aʹ chiasmus, “Panel A intensifies the meaning of Aʹ, and vice versa, and the primary meaning is B.” In the case above, the primary meaning is C.
Parallel texts like Proverbs 9:10 can also have a central message, it’s just that Proverbs 9:10 does not have one.
So in addition to markers and panels, the term “central messages” is added to the lexicon. These three terms are used in the chiastic literature, and in Chronicles. These three terms are part of the language of chiastic reading.
We saw two forms: parallel and convergent. It is shown in Chronicles of the End Times that these two forms applied across Daniel, Zechariah, Matthew and Revelation actually answer many age-old questions.
How is that? Read on in Part 3.