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TitleChiasmus: Inverse Repetition
Publication TypeIcon
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsPinnock, Hugh W., and Fernando Vazquez
KeywordsChiasmus; Parallelism

Perhaps the most exciting and interesting of all Hebrew writing forms is chiasmus. Chiasmus is what many look at as the classic form of parallelism, and as Wilfred G. E. Watson writes, "Parallelism is universally recognized as the characteristic feature of biblical Hebrew poetry." Named after the letter x (chi), the twenty-second letter in the Greek alphabet, chiasmus is found extensively in certain ancient writings.

Chiasmus consists of patterns of words, thoughts, or concepts that lead to a central point of emphasis and then repeat in reverse order. Perhaps the most-quoted definition of chiasmus is given by Nils Wilhelm Lund: "Chiasmus is a term based on the Greek letter chi [x] which refers to an inverted parallelism or sequence of words or ideas in a phrase, sentence, or any larger literary unit."

BYU professor John Welch, who first discovered chiasmus in the Book of Mormon while serving a mission in Germany and who later became the first to publish on that topic, writes, "Basically chiasmus is inverted parallelism." He further explains, "The word ‘chiasmus’ itself stems from the Greek word chiazein, meaning to mark with or in the shape of a cross." David Noel Freedman concurs, "The basic figure of chiasm simply involves the reverse of the order of words in balancing clauses or phrases."


An extract from Hugh W. Pinnock, Finding Biblical Hebrew and Other Ancient Literary Forms in the Book of Mormon (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1999), 100.

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Citation Key1149