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Literary structure (chiasm, chiasmus) of the Bible


How to analyze Literary Structure?

Is this strcture intentional or accidental?

Although there are many repetitions and correspondences of some specific word patterns, most of those are just coincidences. Regarding to small structure which is composed of one or two corresponding word pairs, we can find many of those candidates here and there in documents because of those accidental appearance of word pairs. Therefore, it is very difficult to judge the validity of literary structures which is composed of frequently appeared words such as name of people and places or generic objects. In order to examine the validity of candidate of literary structure, we must think comprehensively from various view points.

Components of corresponding pairs

There are many types of corresponding pairs within the literary structures in the Bible. For instances, those are words, phrases, synonyms, antonyms, aliases, themes, sentence structures or text styles. Regarding to words and phrases, it is especially necessary to check original language (Hebrew and Biblical Greek). Since one word was translated into several diffferent words in many cases. Moreover, in some text, translators omitted original words, and in other text they attached a word which doesn't exist in the original text. Text styles and sentence structures also depend on the languages. Themes, antonyms and synomyms are based on theological knowledge. Therefore, study of fundamental theology is necessary. For instances, "pharaoh" was used as an antonym of the "LORD" in some structures within Exodus, although "pharaoh" is not the antonym of the "LORD" in general meaning.

Deciding the text segmentation

There are many types of literary structures in the Bible. Some structures are made of the whole one book, and some structures are made of one "pericope". "Pericope" is a unit of small stories in Bible studies. Roughly speaking, the each subheading in most of English translations indicate "pericopes". However, there is no unified standard of "pericope" division. Therefore, translators and Bible scholars divide the Bible in different way each other. It is very difficult to divide texts in pericopes.
In Hebrew Bible, it sometimes includes ending marks in the end of verses. Those marks would be a help to think about how to divide pericopes. Those ending mark indicates some type of semantic gap between two verses. In some case, it is a separation mark of pericopes, in other case, it's only segmentation of verses. The usage of ending marks are a bit different in each text of the Bible. However, the ending mark shows the possibility of the division of pericopes in many cases.
It is also useful to refer divisions of some major translations of English Bible. If some of those translations divide in some specific position, the possibility of the pericope division would be high.
We can examine about pericope division from the viewpoint of narratology and text styles also. If text style changes to poetry, that part is one candidate for pericope division. If place or character of the story changed, that part is also one candidate for pericope division. Those changes indicate narratological scene division.
In order to divide texts, the overall integrity is also important. It is better to divide on the same standard consistently through the one text.

Considering about the structure

In many cases, literary structure indicates some theological messages within it. Therefore, we must investigate the candidate structures from the viewpoint of theological meaning and surrounding contexts. On the other hand, in some case, literary structure only indicates the beginning and ending of pericopes (such as "inclusio"). The overall integrity is also important when considering about structures. It is better to evaluate the candidate structures on the same standard consistently through the one text.