Cataloging the Gospels’ Hebraisms: Part Six (Parallelism)

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In this article, we will discuss the second type of parallelism: Antithetical Parallelism.

A cat at a library in the Armenian Quarters of Jerusalem’s Old City. Photographed by Lantuszka. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Revised: 21-Dec-2012

Parallelism is a beautiful and central feature of Hebrew poetry. Scholars have identified three types of Hebrew parallelism. In the previous article of this series, we discussed the first of these types: Synonymous Parallelism. In this article, we will discuss the second type: Antithetical Parallelism.

An antithetical parallelism is composed of balancing couplets, each of which is the antithesis of the other. This type of parallelism is distinguished by the contrast between the construction’s ribs, or sides. The elements of an antithetical parallelism express opposite sides of the same idea.

Before looking at possible examples of antithetical parallelism in the New Testament, let’s get a feel for it by examining instances of it in the Hebrew Scriptures:

The integrity of the upright guides them,

but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them. (Prov. 11:3; RSV)

The parallels are “integrity,” “the upright” and “guides them” and their antitheses, “crookedness,” “the treacherous” and “destroys them,” that is:

integrity | the upright | guides them
crookedness | the treacherous | destroys them

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  • David N. Bivin

    David N. Bivin
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    David N. Bivin is founder and editor of Jerusalem Perspective. A native of Cleveland, Oklahoma, U.S.A., Bivin has lived in Israel since 1963, when he came to Jerusalem on a Rotary Foundation Fellowship to do postgraduate work at the Hebrew University. He studied at the Hebrew…
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