By Cordell and Janice Vail

10 Aug 2003

Copyright 2003 by Cordell Vail, all rights reserved

A weekly email gospel message for the descendents of Ammon and Winona Vail

Chiasmus - Chiasmic Writing In Scriptures

What is Chiasmic writing or speaking? What is a Chiasmus? It is a style of writing or speaking used through out all the scriptures and in many modern day talks by prophets. It is when the person writing or speaking starts at a point, leads up to a main point, restates that main point and then goes back to where you started from. The word comes from the 22nd letter of the Greek alphabet CHI which is X. This use of the X in the word signifies the connection of the first to the last and the two middle parts connected. You might characterize it with these alphabetical letters:


Nephi said in the Book of Mormon, "I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father" (1 Nephi 1:1). His saying that is more than just a reference to knowing Hebrew or Egyptian languages. He was alos taught in the Jewish customs, traditions and writing style. One of those unique writing styles is called writing in a Chiasmus.

It also says In 2 Nephi 31:13, "then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels". To be able to give a talk or write in Chiasmic style requires more than just normal human ability. If you will look at many of the General Conference talks you will see this speaking style. You may have experienced it yourself when you were teaching someone, giving an extemporaneous talk or bearing your testimony. As you finish you noticed that when you were done you had come back to the same point you began.

Here are some examples in the scriptures that will help you see the concept.

Genesis 49:17

(A) a serpent
.....(B) by the way
.....(B) in the path
(A) an adder

Here you start with a snake, have a way then a path then a snake again.

Psalms 60:2

Thou hast made the.....................thou hast
earth to tremble.......................broken it
heal the breaches thereof..............for it is shaken

Here again we see the pattern of tremble and shaken and breaches and broken

Look at Matthew 5:23-24 now:

(A) Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the alter,
.....(B) and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee
........(C) Leave there thy gift before the alter.
........(C) and go thy way
.....(B) first be reconciled to thy brother
(A) and then come and offer thy gift

Much of the Saviors teaching is in Chiasmic format. Speaking with the tongue of angels.

David in the 59th Psalm used this style of writing. Ezekiel 34:5-6 uses a very complex version of it (double chiasmic form)

There are many styles of it. Another style is found in Isaiah 55:8 where he used it as a way to present more than one facet of the concept. Genesis 7:21-23 is clearly written in Chiasmic style:

(A) There died on the earth
...(B) all birds,
.....(C) Cattle
.......(D) beasts and creeping things
.........(E) man;
...........(F) all life
.............(G) died
.............(G) and was destroyed
...........(F) every living thing
.........(E) both man
.......(D) creeping things
.....(C) Cattle
...(B) birds
(A) were destroyed from the earth.

When you read this last time you just thought they were being poetic didnt you?

In the Pearl of Great Price we see it Moses 7:48 Abraham 1:3 Abraham 1:5-7 It is all through the Book of Mormon: Mosiah 3:18-19, Mosiah 4:10-12, Mosiah 5:10 Alma 36:1-30, Alma 41:13-15

Most of the overall story of 1st Nephi is in this format if you look at the whole book as a whole.Have you ever noticed that when Lehi recorded his dream that Nephi wrote it in Chiasmic form (starts at end and goes back to beginning)? You find it all through the D&C. Here are just a few of the very obvious ones:
D&C 18:35-36
D&C 50:10-12
D&C 63:16-18
D&C 76:9
D&C 76:51-70 (verse 61 is the center part)
D&C 88:21-24
D&C 88:36-38
D&C 88:118
D&C 132:18-19
Did the order of things in D&C 76:81-113 ever seem a little confusing to you when you read it? Now maybe it will make more sense:
Telestial (beginning of vision (81-88)
..Telestial (89-90)
....Terrestrial (91)
......Celestial (92-95)
......Celestial (96)
....Terrestrial (97)
..Telestial (98-108)
Telestial (End of Vision) (109-113)

You can see this pattern every where. Just look at the plan of salvation

(A) Spirit world
....(B) Creation of Garden of Eden (terrestrial)
......(C) Creation of the world (fall of Adam)
.........(D) Atonement
......(C) Destruction of the wicked(destroy wicked)
....(B) Millennium (world is terrestrial)
(A) Spirit Paradise

I guess I will not belabor the point but if you will watch for it you will see it everywhere. In the temple, in the scriptures, in talks by general authorities, even in your own speaking and writing (which brings me back to the point where I began)

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NOTE: Nothing in any of these Sunday Sermons is intended to represent the official doctrines of the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are strictly instructions and teachings from Cordell and Janice Vail to their family.