January 17, 2012

Apocalypse Prophecy III: Hebrew Poetry and Scripture's Structure

Studying Daniel and Revelation will require us to engage poetry. Hebrew poetry is different than English poetry. In Hebrew poetry there is a focused, figurative, and generally beautiful or powerful use of language. In English poetry there is often a pattern of sound within the lyrical rhyme – not so with Hebrew. Hebrew poetry is characterized by a balanced pattern of thought not sound so much but primarily in a literary parallelism. It is a beautiful medium. In the case of chiastic Hebrew poetry the main idea resides in the middle of the poem as opposed to the end in English, hence the word "Chi" or the letter "X" in the Greek alphabet (Χχ / Chi). The main idea in Hebrew poetry resides dead center or "X" marks the spot. That is why we often see "chi"astic structure broken down like this in biblical commentaries..."D C B A B C D" or "A B C D C B A" or something similar to this. As stated, it is a balanced pattern of thought. It is balanced around the center of thought or "A" and "D" above which is the center of the pattern. Note the chiasmus and main idea in "D" below and note the balance of ideas.

Psalm 52:1-5

A-The steadfast love of God endures all the day.
     B-Your tongue plots destruction...
          C-You love evil more than good,
               D-and lying more than speaking what is right.
          C-You love all words that devour,
     B-O' deceitful tongue.
A-But God will break you down forever...

We also see parallelism which is self-explanatory below, which also focuses on balance of thought:

Matthew 19:30

A. But many that are first
     B. shall be last;
     B1. and the last;
A1. Shall be first.

If we look really closely we can even see parallels we can draw from Scripture into the Creation outside the text and examples from the Creation that we can compare to the Scripture as all are part of God's grand design.

"For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." Romans 1:20

We will also see that just as Jesus and the Bible itself says, God's word imparts life.

"It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life." John 6:63

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