One of the cooler, and somewhat less frequently talked about features of Biblical text is the frequent occurrence of chiastic structure throughout the Bible. Chiastic structure isn’t by any means unique to the Bible, as it occurs in a variety of literatures – but it is definitely a very popular feature in the Biblical text. In case you haven’t heard of chiastic structure, it is a form of reverse parallism – and it’s easier to show it to you than to try to explain it. So to demonstrate it, I’ll reference just one of many excellent blog posts on chiasms in the Bible from https://biblicalchiasmus.wordpress.com, in this case somewhat randomly choosing the blog entry where Jeremiah 5 is analyzed for its chiastic form. Chiastic form is where the flow of ideas builds to a certain idea and then reverses order and goes back over similar ideas again in reverse. It is common to use letters next to each section of text to mark out main ideas, and then use the same letters with or without the prime mark (‘) to show where that same idea reappears in the text. See the example below from the BiblicalChiasmus blog below:
A (5:1-2) They swear falsely (5:2)
B (5:3-9) Shall I not punish them? (5:9)
C (5:10-13) Destroy them not wholly (5:10)
D (5:14-17) I bring a nation against you 5:15
C’ (5:18-19) I will not wholly destroy you (5:18)
B’ (5:20-29) Shall I not punish these things? (5:29)
A’ (5:30-31) The prophets prophesy falsely (5:31)
Note how there is a theme in letter A that corresponds to A’, a theme in B that corresponds to B’, etc. This structure is known as a Chiasm. Chiasms turn up basically everywhere in the Bible. Here’s another great article by biblicalchiasmus that demonstrates, for instance, how the entire book of James is a giant chiasm.
Now, how do I relate that to the title of my post? Well, one thing I hear a lot is about God the Father in the Old Testament and how different some people think He is than Jesus. The classical response to this is to go ahead and demonstrate how kind and forgiving and loving God the Father actually is in all sorts of instances in the Old Testament, and how Jesus in the New Testament is not always as soft and fuzzy as the popular perception of Him at a cursory glance at His character seems to be. But without delving into that too deeply for the moment, I want to consider things from the perspective of chiasmus, and wonder aloud in this post: Does Jesus represent the second side of a chiasm?
Chiasm is a literary form, and Jesus of course is known in some places in the New Testament as “the Word made flesh.” So is it perhaps reasonable then to consider that Jesus might have some similar characteristics to literary forms – and in particular, a literary form that is seen all over the entire Bible – the Chiasm?
There is a well known verse, Colossians 2:9, that says of Jesus: “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form…” Jesus also said, “If you see Me, You see the Father.” (John 12:45, 14:9) So, in Jesus, we’re supposed to see all of God as He would be expressed as a human. But the problem for some is that He seems somewhat different.
My contention, at least as a thought experiment at the moment, is that God is sort of inside-out in Jesus. In the Old Testament, no one could see God’s face and live – but in the New Testament, we “see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)
There’s another backwards couplet like this about God the Father and Jesus the Son in one of Jesus’s own statements, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Dissecting that statement into its two parts, part A is “no one comes to the Father” and part B would be “except through me.” In other words, what was not possible in relating to God alone (part A) is instead absolutely available through Jesus in part B.
So if the fulness of God is stuffed into the person of Jesus (and that’s what Colossians tells us) then is it possible that in some four or five or 50 dimensional way, God was stuffed in there in a sort of inside-out way, so that the formerly inaccessible parts of Him are now the leading edge and completely accessible in Christ, and the formerly prickly parts are now more hidden deep within the core of all the warm fuzzy available parts? Or in other words, is Jesus actually the Father in some sort of flesh-and-blood, rubber meets the road chiastic manifestation of His person, specifically so that access and availability would be made possible to us?
Just….thinking out loud.
January 28, 2016 at 2:00 pm
Reblogged this on The Smallest Peace.