There and Back Again

jbj“Very much of human life is ‘there and back again,’ or chiastic. This is how God has designed human beings to live in the world. It is so obvious that we don’t notice it. But it is everywhere. This shape of human life arises ultimately from the give and take of the three Persons of God, as the Father sends the Spirit to the Son and the Son sends the Spirit back to the Father. We can see that literary chiasm is not a mere curiosity, a mere poetic device to structure the text. It arises from the very life of God, and is played out in the structure of the lives of the images of God in many ways and at many levels. It is because human beings live and move so often chiastically, that poets often find themselves drawn to chiastic writing. God creates chiasms out of His inner life, and so do the images of God.

Biblical chiasms are perfect. That is, they are perfectly matched to the human chiasms they address and transform. As we become more and more sensitive to Biblical chiasms, we will become more and more sensitive to one aspect of the true nature of human life under God. We will be transformed from bad human chiasms into good human chiasms. In this way, becoming sensitive to chiasm can be of practical transformative value to human life, though in deep ways that probably cannot be explained or preached very well.

One further thought. We saw in our previous essay that chiasms often have a double climax, one in the middle and the greatest at the end. The food we bought at market is put away in the cupboard and refrigerator when we get back home. Moving forward to a final climax is what all literature does, whether it has a middle climax or not. (Shakespeare’s five-act plays always move to a climax in the third and in the fifth acts.) This is just another way that human life matches literary production, in the Bible as well as in uninspired human literature. Becoming familiar with the shape and flow of Biblical texts will have a transforming effect on human life.”

James B. Jordan, “Chiasm and Life” in Biblical Theology Basics.

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