Chiasmus in scripture recognised by the German scholar Bengel in 1742.

The recognition of chiasmus in scripture is often attributed to John Jebb in Sacred Literature, 1820. However, a German Bible scholar called Johann Albrecht Bengel (24 June 1687 – 2 November 1752), also known as Bengelius published a commentary on the Bible in which he drew attention to the importance of chiasmus. Jebb in  Sacred Scripture acknowledges his indebtedness to Bengel. Bengel’s five volume work is available in English translation on Google Books. – Gnomon Novi Testamenti Vol 1-5 (1742).

Two authors ,Dennis Chadwick and Marlin Schaich, October 4, 2013, have drawn attention to these volumes in a paper entitled, “JOHN ALBERT BENGEL’S CHIASMUS ADVOCACY IN ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS OF HIS GNOMON”


Bengel’s own comment on Chiasmus in 1742 is of significance.

“Chiasmus is altogether worthy of being observed diligently, and is such that we hope by the knowledge of it hermeneutical studies will be still further assisted. This hope truly can hardly be snatched from us by those who so despise the name and province of Chiasmus, both direct and inverted, as to deny that it has any weight in investigations of the text: nor even by those who endeavour to accuse of strange novelty the doctrine concerning this class of Figures“.

Bengel argued, (against the sort of opposition that many of us have encountered today),  the importance of recognising chiasmus since

“Often there is the greatest use in the employment of this figure, and it is never without some use, viz., in perceiving the ornament, in observing the force of the language; in understanding the true and full sense; in making clear the sound Exegesis; in demonstrating the true and neat Analysis of the sacred text…”

We are indebted to Chadwick and Schaich who have put together a list of regular and inverted parallelisms from Bengel (although he seems to have preferred to indicate the concept rather than try to exhaustively document them), and the following is extracted from appendix 4 of their paper.

Matt. 5:44 ABA’B’
Matt. 12:22 ABB’A’
John 1:14 ABB’A’
John 5:21 ABA’B’
John 8:25 ABA’B’
John 10:3 ABB’A’
Acts 2:19 ABA’B’
Acts 2:46 ABB’A’
Acts 20:21 ABB’A’
Rom. 2:14 ABB’A’
Rom. 2:17-20 ABCDEE’D’C’B’A’
Rom. 6:12 ABB’A’
Rom. 8:32 ABA’B’
Rom. 8:34-39 ABCDA’B’C’D’
Rom. 11:33,34 ABA’B’
Rom. 13:13 ABB’A’
1 Cor. 9:1 ABB’A’
1 Cor. 13:14 ABA’B’
1 Cor. 13:5 ABCC’B’A’
2 Cor. 2:15-16 ABB’A’
2 Cor. 4:1 ABB’A’
Gal. 4:4,5 ABB’A’
Gal. 4:25,26 ABA’B’
Eph. 3:16 ABB’A’
Eph. 3:18 ABA’B’
Phil. 4:8 ABCDA’B’C’D’
Phil. 4:11 ABA’B’
Col. 2:18 ABA’B’
2 Tim. 2:24,25 ABB’A’
Philem. 5 ABB’A’
Heb. 1:4 ABA’B’
Heb. 1:9 ABA’B’
Heb. 2:9 ABA’B’
Heb. 2:10-13 ABCC’B’A’
Heb. 2:17 ABA’B’
Heb. 3:1 ABA’B’
Heb. 3:8,9 ABA’B’
Heb. 3:12-18 ABCC’B’A’
Heb. 4:14 ABA’B’
Heb. 4:15 ABA’B’
Heb. 4:16 ABA’B’
Heb. 5:7 ABA’B’
Heb. 6:7 ABB’A’
Heb. 8:3,4 ABA’B’
Heb. 8:10 ABA’B’
Heb. 9:1-5 ABB’A’
Heb. 10:19-21 ABB’A’
Heb 10:22-24 ABA’B’
Heb. 10:33-34 ABB’A’
Heb. 10:38,39 ABB’A’
Heb. 11:1ff ABB’A’
Heb. 11:32,33 ABCDEFGG’F’E’D’C’B’A’
Heb. 12:18-24 ABCDEFGA’B’C’D’E’F’G’
Heb. 12:22-24 ABA’B’
Heb. 13:10-16 ABB’A’

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