by John W. Welch
Strong interest in the study of chiasmus, especially in biblical texts and in the Book of Mormon, continues to abound. Indeed, so much is being regularly published on this subject that it takes a very watchful eye and lots of effort just to keep tabs on all that is coming out.
Of special interest is a book written by Dr. Joshua a Berman of Bar Ilan University in Israel and published by Oxford University Press in 2017. Entitled Inconsistency in the Torah: Ancient Literary Convention and the Limits of Source Criticism, this study reports results that emerged from a year of study by a group “composed of eight of the most distinguished names in Pentateuch criticism.” The book challenges theories about the composition of biblical texts, and Berman’s lucid and detailed investigations cannot be ignored.
One of Berman’s major challenges asks how typical source critics, who pursue the multiple authorship of biblical passages, will be able to account for the presence of extended chiastic structures in those passages, when “the structure emerges only when the two hypothesized sources are read in the form of the received [Heberw] text” (262). Berman insists that “the question of chiasmus” could and should “reshape thinking about the compositional growth of texts of the Torah,” and this is because, “All agree today that chiasm is a feature of ancient Near Eastern literature and of the Hebrew Bible” (276), citing the book I edited and contributed substantially to, Chiasmus in Antiquity (1981). Berman thus recommends that “A thoroughgoing survey of chiasmus in the cognate literature of the ancient Near East could offer us stronger comparative controls through which we could better determine the employ of chiasmus within biblical narrative” (277). Pretty amazing!
Another release, just off the press, is the volume of papers presented in 2017 at the Chiasmus Jubilee, marking the fiftieth anniversary of the discovery of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon. Copies of this book will be available through Book of Mormon Central and the FAIR bookstore.
This volume includes fifteen major studies by such authors as Gary A. Rendsburg, Bernard M. Levinson, Jonathan Burnside, David Rolph Seely, Noel B. Reynolds, Kerry Hull, and others. The contents include studies of Genesis, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, the New Testament Gospels, and the epistle to the Hebrews, as well as structures in 1 Nephi, 2 Nephi, and several Mayan texts.
Concurrently, a reprint of Chiasmus in Antiquity makes this classic readily available again, through Wipf & Stock publishers, in Eugene, Oregon. Here is the link where it can be obtained. In addition, these last two books will be available online, although having a printed copy is often preferred.
For further updates and information, feel free to visit https://chiasmusresources.org/ for exhaustive indices, extensive bibliographies, criteria, and further readings.
These books should be arriving in the FairMormon Bookstore soon – watch the newsletter for their arrival!