Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Chiasm with an Ellipsis: John 16:16-19

You ask, "What is an ellipsis? I have learned about chiasms, what is an ellipsis?" According to E. W. Bullinger, ellipsis appears in the Bible when "a word or words are omitted … in order that we may not stop to think of, or lay stress on, the word omitted, but may dwell on the other words which are thus emphasized by the omission."

When the ellipsis appears within a literary structure such as a chiasm, it behaves as if it were there. This literary device is best seen by illustration. Below is John 16:16-19. The phrase
A little while, and you will no longer see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me.
appears three times. The fourth time, the one with the ellipsis, is shown in violet. The ellipsis makes it appear that the entire phrase was stated even though it was omitted.

A    “A little while, and you will no longer see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me.”  (v16)
B    Some of His disciples then said to one another, “What is this thing He is telling us, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’  (v17A)
X    and, ‘because I go to the Father’?“  (v17B)
B′ So they were saying, “What is this that He says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what He is talking about.”  (v18)
A′ Jesus knew that they wished to question Him, and He said to them, “Are you deliberating together about this, that I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me, and again a little while, and you will see Me’?”  (v19)

Once I learned from Bullinger how to recognize the ellipsis, my understanding of chiastic and other structures became even more clear. I hope it helps your analysis, too.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Enemy's Attack on the Bible

In my soon to be published book Discovering Emphasis in the Bible: Hearing God's Voice through Literary Structure, I present three steps to better hear God's voice. The process is deemed DIG:
  1. Discern the literary structure of a passage
  2. Identify the emphasis within that literary structure
  3. Glean God's personal message for you based on that emphasis
This study will teach you how to recognize the 14 most common types of literary structure in the Bible. Each type has its own method for detecting the emphasis. Where a structure exists, this process works for Genesis through Revelation.

The book targets two groups of born-again believers: those that are having a difficult time hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit and those that want to dig deeper into the Bible.

Hallucinogenic Drugs
While I would hope that everyone would benefit from my manuscript, there is one group that I specifically cannot target: those involved in illicit drugs. These drugs, such as marijuana, ketamine, cocaine, and heroine, distort a person's ability to think and react in both the short-term and the long-term.

Confusion is a significant tool of the enemy to distract us from understanding the biblical text. Not only does the drug's high prevent good comprehension, so there is a long-term effect that impedes wisdom in pattern recognition. The good news is that over time, continued abstinence restores this processing power that God gave us.

In our United States and throughout the world, drug abuse has become a very significant problem. So has Bible illiteracy. Is there a correlation? I suspect so.

I am not an expert on the effects of these drugs on our minds, but it makes sense to me. In my own experimentation with marijuana about 45 years ago, my ability to think through problems diminished quickly. I thought there was no difference in my cognitive skills while I was not high; once I stepped away from all substance abuse, I saw differently.

Here is some research that supports my understanding: National Institute on Drug Abuse: What are marijuana's long-term effects on the brain?. For example it states, "As people age, they lose neurons in the hippocampus, which decreases their ability to learn new information."

The enemy is continually attempting to separate us from pursuing our God. His tactic of confusion through drugs seems to have worked for many people. If your state is looking to legalize marijuana, consider getting involved in defeating that effort. And if your child suddenly comes home with poor grades in a subject, be aware–there may be more to it than the pretty girl nearby.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Is Your Chiasm Meaningful?

The book of Proverbs has many great aphorisms (brief sayings) that are full of wisdom. Some of these have a chiastic A-B-B′-A′ shape but the center point is often not particularly meaningful. That is, there does not seem to be an emphatic center in these chiasms. Consider this example from Proverbs 22:22,23 (NET Bible):
A  Do not exploit a poor person because he is poor
    B  and do not crush the needy in court,
    B′ for the Lord will plead their case
A′ and will rob those who are robbing them.
In both B and B′ the setting is a court scene; the A and A′ versets are pictures of one triumphing over another. The shape is chiastic but the emphasis is not the court scene.

Instead the emphasis should be the contrast between verses 22 and 23. Simplified, these two verses could be stated as:
A  Do not abuse a poor person,
    A′ Else the Lord will abuse you.
The problem is not limited to Proverbs, where chiasms do not seem to have a strong center point. Consider Genesis 1:27 (NASB) for example. The structure is clearly chiastic and has been referenced by many as an example of a chiasm. However, to me it does not demonstrate the emphatic value of chiastic structures:
A  God created man
    B  in His own image,
    B′ in the image of God
A′  He created him.
I believe this value statement is individual and should be inspired to each person. To a certain extent, whether a center point is meaningful or not is subjective. To me, God's creation is more important than the image He created. It may be emphatic to you but not so much to me. I grant that some will see things differently than others.

SO, when you believe you have located a chiasm, go beyond the beauty of your finding. Ask yourself, "Is this chiasm meaningful to me?" Then ask, "Why?"