[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—Chiastic Reading Basics, Using 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
In Part 2 we saw the parallel form of word trails in a single verse (Proverbs 9:10). Here in Part 3 the reader will see the parallel word trail applied over many verses.
More importantly, we will see the two possible meanings that parallel structures tell us. Each parallel structure, which contains one text parallel to another text, tells us one or the other. Whether one meaning or the other, in either case the two texts of a parallel structure tell us only with both texts together, telling us more than what the two texts can tell us separately.
The First Meaning
The first meaning that two texts exhibiting parallel word trails can tell us is the two texts are two entirely different accounts of something happening, but the two accounts are related to each other somehow, either thematically, or spiritually, and together they are attempting to teach us more than either single text can teach.
Shown below is a parallel chiastic structure exhibited in Daniel 3 and Daniel 6 together, shown in Figure 13 from chapter 12 of Chronicles.
Two parallel panels are shown: major panel B (Dan. 3) of Aramaic Daniel, and major panel Bʹ (Dan. 6) of Aramaic Daniel. There are nine echoed markers shown (but there are a total of eighteen if you count breaking out all ten markers separately in the third marker set). (Also, as explained in Chronicles, our “den” is not a den, it is a “pit” in the original language.)
As an example of how to read Figure 13, note that for marker set one (the markers that have a “1” in a box at the top of the figure and in the middle of the figure), satraps, administrators and officials are the words that are echoed. Note the echoed words and phrases all the way to the ninth set. (Note, too, that marker set 5 is in reverse order with 4; one or two markers out of place in a string of many markers is acceptable. The word trails are meant to catch the reader’s attention.)
What does this parallel structure tell us? We already know the account in Daniel 3 and the one in Daniel 6 are two separate accounts, with different kings, at different times. However, the two accounts are strangely parallel. The parallel structure tells us Daniel 3 and Daniel 6 are presenting two separate accounts, but they are related to each other somehow. Their relation becomes evident later in Section II of Chronicles, and not just because the stories are similar, but it is all the ways they are similar mechanically and spiritually that tell us much more.
There are many examples in Chronicles of two parallel texts being separate accounts, and related to one another.
The Second Meaning
The second possible meaning that two texts exhibiting parallel word trails can tell us is the two texts are two narrations of the same account, the same set of events. Note in Figure 70, from chapter 31 of Chronicles, showing the chiastic structure of Daniel 8, that panels B and Bʹ are parallel to one another. Eight echoed markers (2 to 9) show us that Daniel 8:3–14 and Daniel 8:20–26 are telling us of the same event in two ways—a telling of the vision itself, and a telling of what it means. As I repeat in Chronicles, I encourage the reader to take time to examine the markers.
(Incidentally, the markers in the A:Aʹ panels tell us Daniel 8 is complete, forming the outer boundaries of Daniel 8. Chapter boundaries cannot be assumed to be solid, and there are several cases where a chapter boundary may need to be moved by a verse or two. Remember, chapters and verses were assigned more than 1,000 years after the age of scrolls had passed.)
This may seem obvious, and doesn’t tell us anything new about those two parallel texts, but watch what two parallel texts in a passage that you haven’t a clue how they relate, tells you. We must use the texts that we know, to learn chiastics’ behavior, so it can tell us of the passages we don’t know, and that’s where things get really interesting.
Yet, there is still something most people can learn from this structure shown in Figure 70. Note Panel C. It is a convergent structure, showing in bold text the central message of all Daniel 8 (these verses, 16 to 19, are on the front cover of Chronicles). The chiastic structure of all of Daniel 8 is telling us right here and right now that the vision refers to the time of the end in no uncertain terms.
The chiastic structure of Daniel 8 has told us that verse 17 must be highlighted and must be the main thought of the whole chapter. Without chiastics, any reader could just brush right past verse 17. Remember from Part 1 what Breck wrote, “Written chiastically, biblical works must be read chiastically if they are to reveal the primary message the author wanted to convey.”
Applicable to Daniel 8, Breck also wrote,
The ultimate meaning of a chiastically structured passage is expressed not at the end, in what we understand to be the “conclusion.” The real meaning or essential message of the text is found rather at its center.
There is no more room for Alexander the Great or the ancient Persian Empire in Daniel 8. Here is a case where a theologian with a preterist view would not know what to do with a chiastic analysis of Daniel 8, except put it on the shelf.
These two chiasmi in the two figures above were constructed by the author using guidelines spelled out in Chronicles Section I. The reader can do the same in passages he or she would want to study chiastically. Section I also shows pitfalls to avoid.
Markers, panels, and central messages are indeed highlighters God has placed in the Bible, pointing to and highlighting passages and verses He wants us to understand. It’s all in his Word! The words of the text are there. This is a truly exciting prospect. By reading linearly as we have done all our lives, we have passed up, and been ignorant of, God’s highlighter.
In the case of Daniel 8, God’s highlighter is telling us the most important thought of Daniel 8. This also confirms the interpretation of Daniel 8 as written about in Daniel Revisited.
Also, as the reader can see, chiastic structures not only give us a beautiful and elegant organization of the text, but also gives us heightened sensitivity to the words in the text.