Sunday, August 6, 2017

Antithetical parallelism

I am excited to be attending an event The Psalms in the Christian Life as presented by Moore Theological College's Centre for Christian Living.  The goal of the event "is to deepen our appreciation of the Psalms—as poetry, as a book, as a part of Christian Scripture—in order to deepen our experience of the Psalms as a crucial resource for Christian living." (source:

The Psalms have always been fascinating to me theologically and as literature.  Many literary devices are used in the Psalms.  Four literary devices are found in Psalm 1 alone.
Image credit:, The tree of Jesse, a painting by Geertgen tot Sint Jans. c1500,  Jesse is asleep at the base of the tree.  David holds the lyre in the top left hand corner and Christ Jesus is in Mary's lap.  David wrote many Psalms including Psalm 64.   The artwork is inspired by Isaiah 11:1

Psalm 64 is worthy of mention in terms of literary devices.  In one verse Psalm 64 has an example of synthetic parallelism.   Psalm 64, in its whole, is a form of antithetical parallelism

Firstly, the synthetic parallelism:

Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked,
from the plots of evildoers

A synthetic parallelism develops the subject of the first line in line(s) that follow.  So, the "conspiracy of the wicked" in the first line is developed as "plots of evildoers" in the second.

Secondly, the antithetical parallelism.  The Psalm begins with a request: "Hear me, O God... " Psalm 64:1a NIV.  The request continues through to end of verse 6.  A conjunction in verse 7; "But God..." then turns the Psalm to attend to the request of verse 1 to 6.  This is an antithetical parallelism - the contrast of two opposing elements (firstly, the Psalmist suffering at the hand of his enemies, and then God's restoration from that suffering.  Specifically, the Psalmist indicates that God will turn the weapons of his enemy against his enemy.  The weapons of the enemy are schemes and evil plans to which "God will turn their own tongues against them" (Verse 7b).

It is in the antithetical parallelism that the presenter of the event The Psalms in the Christian Life may develop a deepening of experience "of the Psalms as a crucial resource for Christian living".  Many of the Psalms have a pattern where the Psalmist first expresses their despair (low) to then be elevated as they reach for God's love (high).  And, this pattern reveals something of the pattern life.

Life has its lows and highs.  It is a natural cycle.  To try to always stay on a high has a name: addiction.  To stay on a low has a name: depression.  Reality has it that each person will oscillate between high and low, low and high.  The beauty of the Psalms is in how they illustrate this pattern (the pairing of Psalm 64 1 to 6; low - with Psalm 64:7 to 10; high) and give people hope in reaching out to God.  


Note: all links good as at 6 August 2017

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