"There is so much more in the Book of Mormon than we have yet discovered. The book's divine architecture and rich furnishings will increasingly unfold to our view, further qualifying it as 'a marvelous work and a wonder' ...The Book of Mormon is like a vast mansion with gardens, towers, courtyards, and wings. All the rooms in this mansion need to be explored..."
-Neal A Maxwell

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Chiasmus: Something I forgot to mention before...

To review, a chiasmus is a passage in (usually ancient) literature in which a series of ideas, expressions, or statements are given in a particular order, then again in reverse order, with the central component serving as its salient theme. The presence of chiasmus throughout the Book of Mormon is seen by many believers as compelling evidence of its authenticity as a work of antiquity.

There are two important characteristics of chiastic structure I failed to note in previous posts (one because I didn't know about it before): Elements in the second half of a chiasmus aren't always mere repetitions of their earlier counterparts, but may instead contrast, extend, or complete them. Second-half elements will also often be more intense, emphatic, or precise, with the passage as a whole often building to a sort of crescendo. As John Welch, the father of Book of Mormon chiastic analysis, explains: 
An emphatic focus on the center can be employed by a skillful composer to elevate the importance of a central concept or to dramatize a radical shift of events at the turning-point. Meanwhile, the remainder of the system can be used with equal effectiveness as a framework through which the author may compare, contrast, juxtapose, complement, or complete each of the flanking elements in the chiastic system. In addition, a marked degree of intensification can be introduced throughout the system both by building to a climax at the center as well as by strengthening each element individually upon its chiastic repetition.  [1]
Welch uses Psalms 3:7-9 (M. Dahood translation, 6-8 in the KJV) to illustrate:

A   I do not fear the arrows of people

      Who have set themselves against me round about.
      B   Arise
           C   O YHWH,
      B   Save me,
           C   O my God!
                D   May you smite
                     E   All my enemies
                          F   On the cheekbone!
                          F'  The teeth
                     E'  Of the wicked
                D'  May you break!
            C' O YHWH,
      B'   Salvation!
A'   Upon your people is your blessing. Selah

Welch continues:

The balance, inversion, and intensification within this passage are at the same time precise, extensive, and elegant. This portion of the psalm follows a development from reassurance in the face of encircling enemies, to a central prayer for victory over them, and lastly turns to exaltation of the power and the blessing which Yahweh provides. The chiastic features of the psalm have reached a noteworthy stage of sophistication, manifesting a sustained inversion and also climactic intensification with each of the six chiastic complements. Not only is the central prayer for relief the focus of attention, but also each term is strengthened and fulfilled by its parallel part. Observe how the "arrows of people" become the "blessing of your people;" "save me," a personal entreaty, becomes "salvation," a national triumph; "smite" becomes "break;" "my enemies" become "the wicked;" and the passive "cheekbone" becomes the aggressive "teeth." With meticulous composition, it is little wonder that this passage, and others like it, convey intense emotions and concise thoughts in a minimum number of verbal expressions. [2]

Do the proposed chiasmi in my previous posts demonstrate this intensifying/climactic characteristic?


Revisiting Ether 10:23 (original post here):


A And they did work in all manner of ore, 

B and they did make gold, and silver, and iron, and brass, and all manner of metals; 


C and they did dig it out of the earth;


C' wherefore, they did cast up mighty heaps of earth 


B' to get ore, of gold, and of silver, and of iron, and of copper. 


A' And they did work all manner of fine work.



Whether the passage as a whole builds to a crescendo is debatable, but the "C" lines absolutely demonstrate intensification; "cast up might heaps" is a far more emphatic expression than "dig." With regard to the "A" lines, "all manner of fine work" might be seen as more expansive than "all manner of ore;" it is certainly more suggestive of accomplished craftsmanship.

While line B' may not be grander than line B, those lines are particularly interesting to me. Somewhat parenthetically, the only difference between these two lists of metals is the last one in each: brass and copper. Actually, brass is copper, or rather, an alloy of copper and zinc (you probably already knew that, but I didn't). It would be correct, then, to say "they did make... brass" rather than to "get ore" of it.



Now, to Alma 46:13-16 (original post here):



A and he [Captain Moroni] prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren, 

so long as there should a band of Christians remain to possess the land—

C For thus were all the true believers of Christ, who belonged to the church of God, 

D called by those who did not belong to the church. 

E And those who did belong to the church were faithful; 

E' yea, all those who were true believers in Christ took upon them, gladly, the name of Christ,  

D' or Christians as they were called

C' because of their belief in Christ who should come. 

B' And therefore, at this time, Moroni prayed that the cause of the Christians

A' and the freedom of the land might be favored.


This one seems to pass the crescendo test, at least in view of the "A" and "B" lines; "the freedom of the land" is more expansive than the "liberty (of) his brethren," as is "the cause of the Christians" versus "a band of Christians." The "C" and "D' lines... eh. As already discussed in the previous post, line E' is certainly both more emphatic and precise than line E, as per the function of the word "yea." Indeed, perhaps the device of chiasmus itself might be seen as "yea" on a much grander scale.

If I get around to it, I'll similarly revisit my other previous chiasmus proposals in a future post. 



[1] Chiasmus in Antiquity: Structures, Analyses, Exegesis. Ed. John Welch. (Provo: Research Press, reprint 1999), Introduction; online here



[2] Ibid or whatever









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