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St. Vladimir's Seminary Press

Breck, John: The Shape of Biblical Language

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We read Scripture as we read any literary work, to understand its meaning. Meaning is usually expressed through narrative development, that is, through the unfolding of a story. Meaning, however, can also be expressed by "parallelism:" the juxtaposition of ideas and images typical of poetry or musical compositions. A complex yet beautiful example of such parallelism is known as chiasmus. This is a literary form that has seldom been studies in depth, although it appears with great frequency throughout the Old and New Testaments, as it does in other ancient and many modern literary works.

The Shape of Biblical Language is the most complete and detailed introduction to chiasmus yet published. It also serves as a highly useful reference work that identifies and analyzes a large number of individual passages, as well as entire compositions (gospels, letters, hymns, etc.), which appear throughout the canonical Scriptures and beyond. This is a groundbreaking study that will fascinate and inform anyone who is interested in the dynamics of literary composition. Its special appeal will be to students, scholars, pastors, and others who seek to understand more fully the message of the Bible and the way that message is conveyed.

Perhaps more than any other literary structures, chiastic patterns reveal the "literal sense" of the text. Their detection and analysis, therefore, is essential for accurate biblical interpretation. Written chiastically, the Bible should be read chiastically. This book guides the reader systematically and effectively toward just such a reading.