Biblical Chiasmus: Exploring Structure for Meaning

TitleBiblical Chiasmus: Exploring Structure for Meaning
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1987
AuthorsBreck, John
JournalBiblical Theology Bulletin
Date PublishedMay 1987

In studies of the rhetorical forms present in biblical writings there exists today a certain confusion regarding the way various patterns are identified. Chiasmus should be clearly distinguished from direct, inverted and antithetical parallelism, in order to stress its characteristic focus upon a thematic center or "pivot" about which other elements of the literary unit are developed. Several key passages, from the psalms, epistles, and gospels, are shown to be structured according to the chiastic patterns A B A'or A B C B' A'. By revealing the conceptual center of the passage in question, these examples demonstrate that recognition and analysis of chiasmus is indispensable for a proper understanding of the theological message the biblical writer intended to communicate.