Chiastic Psalms (III): A Study In The Mechanics Of Semitic Poetry In Psalms 101-150 -- By: Robert L. Alden
JETS 21:3 (September 1978) p. 199
Chiastic Psalms (III): A Study In The Mechanics Of Semitic
Poetry In Psalms 101-150
We are all familiar with chiasmus in the Hebrew Bible. Sometimes the device is called alternation or introverted parallelism. The word “chiasm” itself comes from the name of the Greek letter chi, which looks like our English letter X. An outline of a verse, a paragraph, or even a book which conforms to such a shape is called “chiastic.” The simplest outline would be A-B-B-A, but more elaborate ones are easily discovered.
In an earlier article1 I traced the history of the study of this phenomenon in the Psalms. I will omit that history here.
I also gave several illustrations of chiasmi in individual verses, and some of these I shall repeat just to get us thinking in the right channels. Amos 6:8b reads: “I abhor the excellency of Jacob, and his palaces I hate.” Notice the verbs on the outside and the objects on the inside. Or, to put it another way, the first clause is verb-object while the second clause is object-verb. Hence the term introverted parallelism. Within the material we will be examining let us select just one of scores of verses that are chiastic within themselves. Ps 145:2 reads (in Hebrew order):
A On every day
B I will bless you
B I will praise your name
A For ever and ever
One last and slightly more complex example is from Isa 1:18:
A If be your sins
B1 like scarlet,
B2 like snow
C they shall be white;
C if they be red
B1 like crimson,
B2 like wool
A they shall be
The verb “to be” is in both “A” parts. Notice the “B” elements—two red colors and two white things. Observe the “C” elements—both are denominative verbs, but antonymous.
With that introduction let us move to the last third of the Psalter and note those Psalms that are arranged chiastically as a whole, not just within individual
*Robert Alden is associate professor of Old Testament at Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary, Denver, Colorado.
JETS 21:3 (September 1978) p. 200
verses. Let me note here that others have discovered inclusios or frames in the Psalms—that is, they have noted key words in the opening and closing ...
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