We’ve covered five rules so far in this series, and Rule Six is:

Note the presence of parallelisms in the Bible

Perhaps you have read something like this:

A wise son hears his father’s instruction,
but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.

You’ve read something called a parallelism.  A parallelism is kind of poetic, but not because it rhymes or has the same meter.  It contains, as Sproul describes, a rhythm of thought.  In the verse above, we see a wise son compared with a scoffer.  It’s not hard to do yourself if you want to (Steve is a blogger that copies everyone else; Challies is a writer that blogs occasionally).

The thing about parallelisms is that they help to clarify thoughts a bit when they seem out of whack.  For instance, you might not have really thought about it, but the Lord’s prayer contains several parallelisms.  Consider:

lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil

Now, if you read this without recognizing it as a parallelism, you might be tempted to think that you are asking God not to tempt you, which is really not ever going to happen (the explicit in James 1:13 helps us understand what is implied here).  In fact, the meaning is better defined when we understand that this is a synonymous parallelism.  In other words, we are asking God to deliver us from temptation AND evil.

It would probably be helpful if we understood Greek, but since all of that is Greek to us, we have to read the Bible as best we can.  Sproul points out that the rendering of “deliver us from evil” is in the masculine gender, where “evil” is usually neuter.  Now, I had serious problems in high school English class, so I always feel uncomfortable teaching something about tenses and adjectives, and so forth (you might say I am tense about tenses), so don’t shoot me if I’m wrong on this.  But Sproul says you might understand this to mean “deliver us from the evil one”.  I’ll take his word for it.

A ton of parallelisms are found in Proverbs, and since the next rule is about proverbs, we’ll save that discussion for next time.

If I can encourage you to get Sproul’s book for yourself, I would say it is well worth the money.  He has a revised version out (don’t know when it was revised) and I’m thinking I’ll pick one up myself.


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