Friday, February 12, 2010

"Chiasm led me to Christ"

The chiasm card has been overplayed.

But mostly, in American church, it is unplayed.

We miss a lot of what the biblical writers intended when we neglect the structural and literary devices that were so common in the ancient world and literature.

For those of you scratching your head, here is my primary post introducing chiasm and inclusio, with biblical examples:

Chiasm and Inclusio

For those of you who love the literary analysis of some of my favorite bands, do you recognize some classic chiasms in U2?

"The rich stay healthy, and the sick stay poor" (God, Part II)

and The Violet Burning:

"Right from wrong, and bad from good."

They sometimes ARE everywhere...especially in Scripture.

Everyone has heard "the last shall be first,
and the          first shall be last," and will recognize that as a chiasm...but they get much bigger and broader that that in Scripture. That's when they really become helpful in suggesting themes...and help us "get the (center)point."

An example I just found on House Church Central:

Eccl. 11:3AClouds and Rain
Eccl. 11:7BLight and Sun
Eccl. 11:8aCConsider the days of darkness
Eccl. 11:8bDAll that comes is breath
Eccl. 11:9aEEnjoy your Youth
Eccl. 11:9bFBut know ... God will bring you to judgment
Eccl. 11:10aE'Enjoy your Youth
Eccl. 11:10bD'All of youth is breath
Eccl. 12:1C'Consider God before the days of darkness
Eccl. 12:2aB'Sun and Light
Eccl. 12:2bA'Clouds and Rain

(Here and here are several more. The second link notes, to the delight of fellow INFPs that chiasm is also called "introverted parallelism.")

I also highly recommend my professor David Bauer's book, "The structure of Matthew's gospel: a study in literary design,"most of it free online here.

They get bigger. Bruno Barnhart (an early adopter of new monasticism, by the way, podcasts here):

Peter Ellis, following the doctoral dissertation of John Gerhard, S.J., has presented the structure of John's completely determined by the laws of chiastic parallelism
"The Good Wine: Reading John from the Center" p. 30,
...emphasis mine

Checking out Barnhart's charts causes one to

temple tantrum (a passage loaded with structural devices) early in Jesus ministry in John's (but no other) gospel, etc..

And check out Len Sweet's proposed chiasm that sweeps in the whole Bible..

But here's today's story:

Mike "Dissonance is Bliss" Rinaldi, a local filmmaker (and Fresno Pacific grad) told this at the first "Gathering to Bless Christians in the Arts.: Blake Snyder, the screenwriter behind the classic "Save The Cat" book (which Mike also introduced us to) became a Christian not long before he died.

Often at this point in such a story, folks ask "Who led him to Christ?"

Go ahead and ask.

The answer is:


It happened in large part because Mike, not even knowing if such a well-known and busy writer would respond to his email, asked him if he had heard about chiasm.

Turns out Snyder was fascinated with it all, and Mike was able to point out chiastic structure and shape in scriptwriting....and one thing led to another...and then in Scripture.

All roads, and all chiasms, lead to the Center and Source.


PS: "Chiasm" may not really be a person, but he (she?) has his own website.

Oh, and I see "Chiasm" is also a recording artist:

a female solo dark electro project from Detroit created by Emileigh Rohn..for fans of: Bjork, The Prodigy, Kate Bush, Kraftwerk, Project Pitchfork, Skinny Puppy, Tom Waits, Public Enemy ..

Why the name?

I wanted to choose a name that represented my personal experiences, which at the time highly involved current studies in human neuropsychology. The optic chiasm, a structure in the brain credited with the ability for continuous and peripheral vision, seemed a worthy name on several levels, especially since the name "chiasm" is also a literary and biblical term that dates back for centuries, representing both a point of crossing over, a greek symbol of X, or chi, as well as a need in my own life to move past the boundaries I had previously set for myself and progress forward in a new path.


  1. Yes indeed..ALSO:loved your book list on the "5 books not in seminary"


Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!