"Syntactical Chiasmus"

Steven Craig Miller stevencraigmiller at home.com
Sun Jan 28 15:10:58 EST 2001

To: Kevin L. Barney,

<< [If your particular interest is NT, you should also try to get the 
classic study by Nils Lund, _Chiasmus in the New Testament_ (Chapel Hill). 
Unfortunately, I believe this book has long been out of print; you might 
try E-Bay. >>

I use bookfinder.com in order to find used books. But I have a copy of 
Lund's "Chiasmus in the New Testament," mine is a reprint from Hendrickson, 
so maybe it is still in print. I don't know. Anyway, it shouldn't be too 
hard to find. Unfortunately, it doesn't really address the issue of a 
"Syntaxctical Chiasmmus." It doesn't even list the Philemon 5 example most 
likely because Philemon 5 isn't a real chiasmus. It does mention the 
Matthew 7:6 example. But it doesn't really discuss the issue of Greek 
syntax. My question is not whether or not there are examples of chiasmus in 
Greek texts, obviously there are, rather my question is whether or not a 
chiasmus can effect Greek syntax.

Can a chiasmus effect Greek Syntax?

At Philemon 5, the NRSV translates: "because I hear of your love for all 
the saints and your faith toward the Lord Jesus," whereas a more literal 
translation might be: "because I hear of your love and faith[fulness], 
which you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints."

The Greek text has:


The NRSV has taken B and joined it with F and taken C and joined it with E 
based on (what I call) a "Syntactical Chiasmus," whereas a more normal 
reading of this syntax would take B + C as dependent upon A, and E + F and 
dependent on D. What justification is there for NRSV's understanding of 
Greek syntax at Philemon 5?

Similarly, at Matthew 7:6, the CEV translates "Don't give to dogs what 
belongs to God. They will only turn and attack you. Don't throw pearls down 
in front of pigs. They will trample all over them," whereas a more literal 
translation might be: "Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw 
your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and 
maul you" (NRSV).

A more traditional understanding of this syntax would assume that both the 
dogs and the pigs might "trample them under foot and turn and maul you"; 
but the CEV has taken the phrase which comes at the end "They will only 
turn and attack you" and moved it forward so that it now ONLY applies to 
the dogs. What justification is there in GREEK SYNTAX for such a translation?

(1) Does any of the major reference grammars mention or approve of this syntax?

(2) Are there any non-biblical examples of this syntax (such as might be 
found in classical Greek)?

(3) Are there any other biblical examples (in the NT or LXX) of this syntax?

(4) Does this syntax appear legitimate to you?

(5) Has there been any articles written which attempts to justify or 
discuss this syntax?

Any help on this issue will be greatly appreciated.

-Steven Craig Miller
Alton, Illinois (USA)
stevencraigmiller at home.com

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