Scripture “Verse”

The preceding post entitled “Citing Sources” serves as a prologue to this post. While it is not necessary to read the previous, I still encourage you to do so. Here is a brief summary, whether you have read Steven Faulkner’s article or not:

Poetry is one way of ordering our souls.  It brings tremendous satisfaction to our lives by evoking a sense of wonder.  Wonder leads to love and, likewise, wonder leads to worship.

So how much do you engage the imagination or rouse your sense of wonder? How much poetry do you get in your life?  Perhaps you encounter more poetic verse than you might think.

The Bible contains numerous passages of poetry.  Arranged topically, the Old Testament has the books of Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon.  You can then find other snippets of poetry in Exodus 15, 1 Samuel 2, Luke 1, Revelation 4, and everywhere in between.   But then this literary gopher pops up in places where you would not expect it.  Like a sun hidden behind the clouds, the gigantic gaseous sphere illuminates the sky while we are so accustomed to the façade of clouds that we only see a few rays peeking through.  That is because our 21st century translations appeal to prose.  Print the text however you wish, the bias of the original inspired authors is unavoidable.  The Bible was written by Hebrew people and poetry characterizes how the Hebrews wrote almost anything.

I was reminded of this last night while revisiting John 5:16-30, the selection from scripture which my small group studied this past week.  I was immediately struck by the first few lines which revealed a most intentional parallel structure:

16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him.  17 Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”  18 For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

It follows an A – B – A pattern.

(A) Verse 16: Jesus works on the Sabbath; Jews wish to persecute Jesus

(B) Verse 17: Jesus affirms his work

(A) Verse 18: Jews wish to kill Jesus; Jesus works on the Sabbath

Maybe a coincidence or maybe such a brief passage that parallelism is found by accident.  Or maybe what I am reading is not merely a scripture verse, but an instance of scripture’s poetic verse.

How, then,  do I ever make the excuse that reading the Bible is a bore?  Or that I have read a passage before so I am familiar with what it says?  Why do I neglect memorizing scripture when it is already organized according to a mnemonic pattern?  Short answer: my wonder is too small.

Still not convinced?  Want to see more? Anticipate more illustrations of parallelism in Biblical texts as I publish future blog entries.  And be ready to engage the workshop of worship.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Chiasm in John 15 | The Workshop of Worship

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