Inverted Quotes

  1. In a small number of posts we have noted that there appears to be an inversion in the word order when an earlier scripture is quoted. Here is an example, two chiasms that bookend the parable of the labourers are themselves inversions of each other;

Matt 19:30 But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.

Matt 20:16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.

2. John Adey many years ago pointed out that in Eph. 4:13

“the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ”

is an inversion of the description of King Saul in 1 Sam 28:20 (AV margin) when Saul

“fell with the fulness of his stature”.

The complete contrast between the physical and the spiritual is captured by the inversion.

3. Primed with this thought and studying Ephesians I came across another inversion.

Ephesians 4:24 “And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness (holiness of truth)

appears to be a reference to Zechariah 8:5

And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness”.

[The link with Zech 8 is established by the clear quotation of verse 16 –

speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour”].

I also came across inversion in the words of Eph 1:18 – “the riches of the glory” which is the reverse of Haman’s “glory of his riches” (Est 5:11).

4. I have found only two references in the academic literature to inverted quotations. In Biblica, vol 63, no 4, 1982 entitled “Inverted quotations in the Bible, A Neglected Stylistic Pattern”, the author, P.C. Beentjes credits an earlier writer, Moshe Seidel (the observation is sometimes known as Seidel’s Law). In an article on the links between Philemon and Colossians, “Phlm 5: Col 1.4, Colossians and the Pauline School”. New Testament Studies, 2004, 50, pp 572-593, the author points out that “all the names of the greeting list in Philemon are repeated without exception in Colossians. The author goes on to say regarding the greetings; “The same technique of citation can be seen here. The sentence structure is retained but the order of objects is reversed. Instead of ‘love and faith’, Colossians has ‘faith . . . and love’ … It is important to note that Colossians consistently employs reversal when using literal quotations. This can also be seen in its citation of itself from the hymn of Col 1.15–20 in Col 2.9–10.10 This specific technique of reversed citation differentiates Colossians’ use of Philemon from its use of other Pauline letters – presumed by some scholars”.

5. I found this article some time ago but there was no reference to other literature on reverse quotes and I took the impression that she thought it was unique to Colossians. However, a “google” search of of Seidel’s Law today makes clear reverse quotation has been well recognised by Hebrew scholars for many years. Kalimi in his book “The Reshaping of Ancient Israelite History in Chronicles” (2005, Eisenbrauns) gives numerous examples just from 1 and 2 Chronicles. He states that Seidel found 110 examples of chiasmus between parallel texts between Isaiah and Psalms and between Isaiah and Proverbs and between Micah and the Pentateuch. Unfortunately I do not have access to the original writings of Seidel.

6. Latest collection of inverted quotes – Inverted quotes paper (Jan 2020)

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