Dr. Forbes On Rom. 5:12-21 -- By: Daniel T. Fiske

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 027:108 (Oct 1870)
Article: Dr. Forbes On Rom. 5:12-21
Author: Daniel T. Fiske


Dr. Forbes On Rom. 5:12-21

Daniel T. Fiske

Several years ago Rev. John Forbes, LL.D., of Edinburgh, a distinguished minister of the Established Church of Scotland, published a work on “The Symmetrical Structure of Scripture.” In that volume he appeared as an advocate of a theory, advanced by Bishop Jebb, that “Parallelism” is not simply a characteristic of Hebrew Poetry, but extends to prose also, and, “being perfectly independent of any peculiarities of the Hebrew language, is by no means confined to the Old Testament, but pervades a great part of the New.”

In his recently published Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, the same learned divine has applied the principles of “Parallelism” to the interpretation of that difficult portion of the Scriptures. He arranges the text in parallel lines, grouped in sentences and paragraphs, according to a careful analysis of the contents of the Epistle. This arrangement, as a “mere tabulated form,” is certainly convenient, enabling the eye more readily to mark the progress of the apostle’s reasonings, his transitions, and the mutual relations of the different parts of the argument. We very much doubt, however, whether Paul in writing this friendly letter to the “saints “at Rome, was consciously governed by the rules of any such elaborate and artificial system of composition as Dr. Forbes finds in it; and we should be very slow to accept an exegesis of any passage which rested solely on the demands of such a supposed system.

Dr. Forbes does not aim “to furnish an exhaustive Commentary, but to illustrate those passages alone which parallelism seems to place in a new light.” For proof of the utility of parallelism he refers especially to chap. 5:12–21; and he asks particular attention to “the perfect order and perspicuity which it introduces into what has generally been

considered a very intricate and perplexed passage.” No better test, surely, could be appealed to. All commentaries on Romans stand or fall by this passage. We propose to review the results of the examination of it which Dr. Forbes has made by the aid of parallelism.

The parallelistic arrangement presents the passage in this form; the parenthesis in vs. 15-16, and 17, being omitted.

The passage thus arranged, forms what Dr. Forbes calls an Epanodos, or “Introverted Parallelism,” in which the first member, A, corresponds to th...

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