Parallelism in John 5

Last entry I broached the subject of poetic verse in scripture.  Even passages which are printed in prose have a certain majesty to them, concealing the Hebrew parallelism that is more commonly recognized in the Psalms.  Here’s a continuation of that thought for the skeptic and the curious alike.

John 5:16-18 suggests that John was speaking out of his Jewish culture.  The A – B – A pattern is a very brief instance of this parallelism.

Continue reading that passage to verses 24-30 – in some Bibles the last two paragraphs under that subheading – and you encounter another example of Hebrew parallelism.  Here’s the section in prose form:

24“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. 25I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. 27And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
28“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. 30By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

Then here it is in poetic form.  (Click on the link below to expand the image.)

Ok, my analysis is certain to have some flaws or you might disagree with the labels I have given each section.  I do not claim to be a Bible commentator nor do I pretend to know everything about this passage.

Here’s what I do know, and I share this abstract idea for a purpose.  Dissect the passage and you will be amazed by the delicacy in its craftsmanship.  Jesus – that is, God speaking through the author John – declares in a neat poem who he is and what work he is doing (namely judgment and salvation). Take a step back from the microscope and look at the bigger picture; now with more pieces to the puzzle, with a greater vocabulary, you engage in the act of wonder and worship!

The power in these words is not only what they say but also how they say it! God addresses people of all cultures, from the Jews in the 1st century to average Americans in the 21st century.  We all have the opportunity to hear His voice, and, much like stacking a printed book side-by-side with a movie adaptation, we might even choose whether we want to hear it in poetry or in prose.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

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

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