Chiasmus and cultural history (was: "Luke 18:11 -- Iver Larsen's suggestion")

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Tue Sep 11 11:27:07 EDT 2001

I don't know if anyone else is paying attention to this any longer, but I
would advise Steven and George, IF they wish to continue this discussion,
they do so OFF-LIST. It's getting off into the marginal (and in my view,
fuzzy) edges of hermeneutics, and it certainly isn't a proper topic for
discussion here. Let me be clear: I'm not at all saying we have no business
discussing whether a particular GREEK Biblical text displays demonstrable
"chiasmus"; what I'm saying rather is that this isn't the proper place to
discuss hermeneutical methodology.

At 3:12 PM -0400 9/11/01, George Blaisdell wrote:
>George Blaisdell
>Roslyn, WA
>"Be not troubling of you the heart..."
>[From the Gospel of John, Chapter 14, verse 1.]
>>From: "Steven R. Lo Vullo"
>>George Blaisdell wrote:
>> >Chiastic verbal structuring of language was common and well
>> > understood in the 1st century...
>>I think we are all aware, to one degree or another, of chiastic structure.
>I sure wasn't until a British preacher on this list showed it to me in John
>1 a few years back.  We all know the palindromic words [Otto], of course,
>and the cute sayings like: "Never suffer yourself to be kissed by a fool,
>nor to ever be fooled by a kiss."  So at that level, the level of
>kindergarden novelty, I was aware, as we all probably are, of chiastic
>structuring in oral language.  But I can tell you I had no clue of its
>pervasiveness in ancient Greek and Semitic oral cultures, and how it works
>in even the syntax of sentences.
>>But I fail to see what chiasm has to do with a prepositional phrase

>modifying two different verbs at the same time! Don't get me wrong, if you
>can show me some clear examples, I would be more than willing to consider
>them. Judging from your comments above, they should be ubiquitous. But just
>because it may be unclear which verb a prepositional phrase is modifying
>doesn't warrant saying "both."
>Indeed not.  The argument was NOT from the idea of anything being unclear,
>so therefore it must be both, but from the chiastic and linear structuring,
>each having its own attribution, in a sentence that is Semitic.  When strong
>evidence supports both attributions, then perhaps we can objectively say
>that both attributions are indicated???  We should find this fairly
>frequently when Semitic understanding gets translated into Greek, and I am
>only penny-ante on the scholastic side of this, so all I've got for you is,
>as I said, my 2 cents worth...
>>A couple more comments on "Western ________ " (fill in the blank). First,
>>these appeals to "Western vs. Eastern" are so tired, worn out, and cliched
>>as to be utterly irrelevant. They should be unceremoniously buried in a
>>shallow grave along with the expression "don't go there."
>Sorry to have stumbled into tired and irrelevant cliches where I shouldn't
>have gone.  The only way in this sentence that I can see that includes all
>the evidence is to see it through what I call an eastern syntactical
>perspective. [A Semiticism]  There seems to be strong resistance to this
>notion.  I mentioned it.  Sorry to have offended.
>>They have simply become a prejudicial appeal that impresses only those who
>>ride the same hobbyhorse. They really express a thinly veiled (though
>>perhaps not always deliberate) ad hominem argument that says, "You just
>>haven't been able to get beyond your cultural prejudices."
>Well, we are a western culture approaching an eastern text, and we are
>insisting that the attribution be singular.  Chiastic structuring indicates
>both the chiasm and the linear understanding, without contradiction.  So
>when I suggest that we move past our insistence that it be either-or, I am
>in a way, I suppose, being rude to our insistence on it being our [what I
>call western] way.  I am suggesting that in translation of, and indeed in
>our cognitive approach to, these texts that we develop a sensitivity to
>their wording that is not limited to our either-or thinking.  That we be
>objective to the facts of the wording... The prejudices I am addressing are
>cognitive, not cultural, and hopefully will be understood as such.
>Either-or and both-and are cognitive categories, and these texts, when
>Semitic chiasms are involved, do not reduce to either-or alone as I see
>them, and this one is an example.
>>What needs to be dealt with is not whether someone has an underlying
>>prejudice (who doesn't?) but what the evidence is in the Greek for what is
>>being defended or denied.
>Utterly agreed...
>>Why don't we give one another the benefit of the doubt that we are all at
>>least trying to keep our presuppositions and biases in check?
>This one is pretty basic, for it is an epistemological bias, and I would
>hope that by bringing it forth as I have that it can be looked at.  I just
>do not know how to bring it up in a way that will not trigger the trip wires
>that will accuse me of failing to give others the benefit of the doubt
>regarding their presuppositions and biases.
>>Second, I think many have overlooked the fact that trying to find relevance
>>in more than one perspective at the same time, whatever its status in the
>What does ANE stand for?
>>is itself a thoroughly modern idea, very popular in "Western" nations
>right now. People who eschew "either/or" thinking are praised as
>"enlightened" and are celebrated as "open minded." So let's not think that
>such a perspective when applied to the Greek text may not itself express a
>modern cultural bias.
>Yes, there is a whole reactive bias here to the either-or mind that extolls
>the virtues of all-inclusive both-and thinking, and suffers the same generic
>blindness that plagues its opponent.  Objectivity is the key, perhaps...
>I first learned this bi-sociative approach some 30-35 years ago in Greek 101
>at SDSU under Dr. Warren.  It involves reading the text as word groupings,
>each grouping being a whole, having a central word that the grouping is
>about, and moving from center to center in understanding the text.  So a
>word in a sentence can associate with the word before it and the word after
>it, and usually does, even if not grammatically connected, say, by case.
>Greek has case markers to keep that fairly straight, whereas in English we
>rely on word order.
>Gotta run...
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Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
Most months: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at OR cwconrad at

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