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Chiasm in the NT: Its Use and Abuse

Chiasm in the NT: Its Use and Abuse

The above was the title of my ISBL paper delivered last week in St. Andrews. It seemed well received by those who attended the session (NT Methods), which I felt was a nice session of papers. My paper is part of a slightly larger project on chiasm that I hope to publish in article form in due time.

In my 25 minutes, I traced ancient discussions of chiastic-like structures (n.b., there are very few of them!) and then the modern period discussion (beginning from the 18th century). I observed the necessary circularity of the inductive study of the use and  function of chiasm, and I pointed out how supposed larger chiastic structures have a particular difficulty in overcoming this circularity (whereas smaller chiasms are easier to relate to other forms of parallelism, for example). I argued that macro-chiasms should be distinguished from micro-chiasms, and the former simply need a stronger theoretical underpinning to be validated as significant features of ancient texts. In short, I was fairly hard on macro-chiasms and remain skeptical of their existence and value.

Filed Under: NT

4 Responses to Chiasm in the NT: Its Use and Abuse

  1. Off topic question for you: Can you recommend a commentary on Acts that is thorough, but not super technical. I have rusty master’s level Greek.

  2. Sure. I think Darrell Bock’s Acts commentary (2007) in the BECNT series is a good balance. The beginning of every section includes a summary that is concise and not too technical, and this is followed by verse-by-verse commentary that includes more technical discussions. It allows you to read the summaries for a nice overview, and then you can pick and choose those places you want to dig deeper.

  3. The whole New Testament is arranged chiastically around 2 Thessalonians. As proff, the second layer’s titles are both four letters long! Who could doubt that the NT is a chiasm on a grand scale?! 😉

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