Saturday, April 21, 2018

More Progress with Pattern Analysis

I have now analyzed 40% of the Bible using the Pattern Analysis methodology. Here is my progress over the last two years:
0% — April 6, 2016
26% — May 6, 2017
30% — August 31, 2017
35% — January 21, 2018
40% — April 20, 2018

A sample of one of the more recent analyses may be seen at 2 Samuel 7:1-17.

In addition to the Pattern Analysis Handbook that was last updated in September 2017, I recently started a scholarly paper, Pattern Analysis Findings. While the Handbook targets those in the church body who are interested in gleaning more from the Bible, the Findings manuscript targets those of academic persuasion. It assumes that the reader is very familiar with literary analysis of the Bible, not just chiasms but a more comprehensive understanding of the topic.

My hope is that if I can get some good scholarly feedback on this methodology, then I can more confidently update and complete the Handbook. The Preface of the Findings book currently reads:
Pattern Analysis is a methodology to help us know the Holy Spirit’s emphasis within any literary unit (pericope) in the Bible. It uses established literary structure techniques, yet it also extends those techniques as well. It is intended for use by both scholars and non-scholars. A core element of this method is the belief that “All Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16).

Study of the Bible’s literary structure has received increased attention in recent years from both scholars and the worldwide church. For example, many have read and/or analyzed structures using macro-level chiasms and similar approaches. This proposed method takes us from identification of structures to hearing the Holy Spirit’s emphatic voice within structures.

In April 2016, I began to prepare a database of literary structures by sampling each book of the Bible. I had read Jerome Walsh’s Style and Structure in Biblical Hebrew Narrative several years earlier—I wondered if Walsh’s methodology could be used or modified to apply to the entire Bible. In particular, I was most curious to see if Walsh’s rules for emphasis could be applied throughout the Bible, or possibly modified. 1

My approach was to select at least three contiguous chapters from each book. Using the NASB as a source, the verses were not to be paraphrased, modified, or rearranged in any way. Every verse was to be included; that is, no words were to be skipped between literary units.

In April 2018 I completed that assignment by analyzing 12,400 (forty percent) of the 31,100 verses in the Bible: twenty-four books in entirety and fifteen to eighty percent of the remaining books. This paper is a presentation of the findings of that investigation.

Pattern Analysis is the name that I selected for this methodology. There are forty tools which comprise this toolbox of techniques. Many of those tools have been established by Walsh and many others over the last three centuries. I modified some of these tools based on where the emphasis was found. Some tools are new, or at least new to me. The combination and presentation of these tools is unique. When these tools were put together, the emphasis was dependably found in the expected locations.

This paper presents the results of this study with details on how these techniques appear. The purpose of this paper then is to describe this pattern analysis toolbox, how these tools appear, and the frequency of their appearance.

1.  Jerome T. Walsh, Style and Structure in Biblical Hebrew Narrative, (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2001).
That is the Preface—the remainder is still to be written and may some day be published as a book. As with other scholarly papers such as a thesis or dissertation, this will take some time. If you are interested in being notified when the Handbook or the Findings is available to the general public, please contact me:

Oh to enjoy the refreshing Word of God, Tom

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

How to Find Where Literary Units Begin and End Within the Bible

If you are one to either identify or read about chiasms in the Bible, I have a question: are there clearly identified boundary markers that indicate where the structure begins and ends? I have just completed that task for myself, approximately 1,000 literary units which include 10,800 of the 31,100 verses in the Bible. In the process, I had to make some modifications and I'm glad I did—the resulting changes were often much more profound. In essence, I believe this exercise corrected some mistakes that I made.

Now that is a mouthful so I need to explain. In the Bible, literary units are similar to a paragraph. In the English language, well-designed paragraphs identify a logical block of text with each paragraph presenting a common topic. In the Bible, each literary unit contains one or more literary devices such as a chiasm, a list, an alternation, etc. Therefore, I am recommending that every chiasm, list, alternation, etc., should be identified with its boundary markers.

In the ancient languages of the Bible, paragraph marks did not exist. Instead, boundaries were placed in the text to mark off where the common topic began and ended. In that way, the discussion started, the topic was discussed, and then the discussion ended. There are three types of boundaries: frames, beginning markers, and ending markers.

I suspect that the frame is the most easily understood of the three types of boundaries. You may have sometimes heard of them as bookends for they act like a structure that holds a series of books in place. Frames are sometimes the exact words in both the first and last appearance. More often they are the same theme which are expressed using similar words. Sometimes the two themes are opposites.

Two examples may help clarify the frame. In Leviticus 18:1-5, the words, ‘I am the Lord your God.’ appear as a frame in verses 2 and 4; the literary structure between those is an alternation. Note also that the words in verse 5 are a concluding summary, an integral part of the literary unit but not part of the frame.

As another example, please look with me at the literary unit for Luke 10:27-37. After the introductory summary in verses 27 and 28, the man asked Jesus “And who is my neighbor?” in verse 29. Then in verse 36, Jesus asked “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor?” Both parts of the frame are essentially the same question. In this way, the boundary of the literary structure is identified.

Beginning Markers
The most common way that boundaries appear is by the use of beginning markers. Imagine writing a 20-page paper without paragraphs. Instead of paragraphs, suppose you wrote the words “Next topic:” whenever a new topic was discussed. In the same way, beginning markers clearly identify a literary unit.

I first read about beginning markers in Dr. David Dorsey’s book, The Literary Structure of the Old Testament, 1999. In the illustration at the right, the boundaries of the first literary unit are identified by the two beginning markers.

For example, if the literary structure is a chiasm about Jesus speaking at the Sea of Galilee, a beginning marker might first identify that Jesus crossed over to the other side of the lake, and a second beginning marker might be a change of speaker because the Pharisees challenged Him. I am calling His crossing the lake a change of location and the challenge by the Pharisees a change of speaker. There are twenty types of beginning markers in my database—change of location and change of speaker are two of the more common ones.

Ending Markers
The least common type of boundary marker that I've seen is the ending marker. These also are identified in Dr. David Dorsey’s book, The Literary Structure of the Old Testament. My analysis to date is 35% of the entire Bible whereas Dr. Dorsey's analysis is limited to the Old Testament. There are some small differences between our two approaches.

In the illustration on the right entitled Three Literary Units, the middle literary unit does not have either a beginning or an ending marker. Instead, the ending marker of the previous structure along with the beginning marker of the subsequent marker are used to identify the boundaries of that middle structure.

An example of an ending marker occurs in Mark 1:38 where Jesus stated, “Let us go somewhere else …” to the disciples. In the Old Testament, it is stated that, Thus Moses finished the work in Exodus 40:33. I have identified both of these ending markers as a concluding marker.

I strongly encourage those of us that perform literary analysis of biblical structures to identify the boundary markers. If you would be interested in my list of beginning and ending markers, please email me at I will then send you an excerpt from my forthcoming book entitled Pattern Analysis Handbook as well as a notification when the book is available for purchase.