Clues to Chiasmus

After a few years of debating chiasmus here are some suggestions to discern a genuine  from an imagined pattern.

  • The section of scripture is defined by repetition of key words/phrases i.e. bracketed or book-ended.
  • The pattern is characterised by  repetition of keywords, and phrases or by opposites (chiasmus based only on concept rather than exact repetitions are more difficult to agree on).
  • if key phrases are inverted (“heaven and earth” v “earth and heaven”) this is strong evidence.
  • The chiasm has a balanced symmetrical shape.
  • The centre – often a regular parallelism – is highly significant.
  • the whole unit makes sense.
  • the unit respects other textual features.
  • Broken patterns may nonetheless be significant.
  • The pattern becomes clearer in the original language.

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