Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Chiasm and Inclusio, baby

A principle of spiritual warfare is there's not a demon behind every bush.

But sometimes some bushes do hide demons.

But there's not a bush behind every demon, either.

So it is with structural techniques like chiasm (definition) and inclusio (definition) Once you are attuned to seeing them in Scripture (and most ancient literature) it seems they are everywhere.

Sometimes they are.
Who can argue that "the first shall be last/
the last shall be first" is a chiasm?
A-B-B-A, X pattern.

But often the chiasm is wide enough to spotlight and intended embedded theme in between the endpoints.

And to really help us get what the Spirit is saying...structurally.

People remember how to perform a piece of music by using musical notations on scale. A similar solution to the problem of remembering how to perform a piece of dance has been solved with the use of Labonotation. In antiquity, it seems most written documents were intended to be read aloud, hence to be performed. The purpose of writing was to facilitate remembering how the document went when one read it aloud. But how did one make paragraphs or mark off units in a document read aloud? It seems that the main way to mark off a unit was to use repetition of words and/or phrases at the beginning and end of a unit, either alone (as in Matt 5:3, 10,"...for theirs is teh kingdom of heaven) or in parallel bracketing fashion (as John 1:18). The Greeks called such parallel brackets a chiasmus, after one half of the letter "chi" (our 'X"), thus ">." -Social Science Commentary on the Gospel of John, p. 295, emphasis mine.. a free read online here.

Here is just one of many charts one can find online (click it to enlarge).. This Noah one is classic; most Bible teachers know it's really there, but we fear showing you stuff like this, as soon you'll find it even where it is not! (:

The chart above is found here, and the accompanying article offers several more helpful examples.

Check out the entire gospel of John structured chiastically on p. 295ff of
this click -through to the book quoted earlier (p 295ff).


And the point being...well, between the points, the midpoint.
God remembering Noah is meant to be seen as the point of the passage.

And inclusio:
Len Sweet is on to something, suggesting a Bible-wide inclusio. How wide and big can these things get? Wouldn't this cue us and clue us in to the heart message of the whole Book?
Check it out!

Ever notice Matthew starts with "His name will be called Emmanuel, which means 'God with us.'
And ends...very last sentence...with "I will be with you."?

No accident.
And neither is the midpoint and message of the gospel: "I will be with you" (18:20).
In Jesus, God is with us.
Jesus is the With-Us God.

Inclusio with chiasm, baby.

You knew God was with us in Christ.. But now you see it as you look at Matthew structurally..

Now, go and do likewise...

but remember, once in awhile a cigar is just a cigar, a demon is not behind every bush.

But more often than not, we miss inclusio and chiasm that have been waiting for us all along.

Related: See:


  1. Thought you might be interested in my chiasmus blog. (I'm currently working on a chiasmus for Psalm 22.)

  2. Thanks, i have indeed followed your blog for some time. keep up the good work


Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!