Biblical Interpretation of Stylistics


All three Hasels, Gerhard, Michael and Frank, did not elaborate on this aspect of Biblical Interpretation. One can find about two/three extensive paragraphs in Gerhard Hasel’s book Understanding the Living Word of God (1980). For example, Chiasm on page 169; parallelism on pages 42-43. That is it. This is no criticism because hardly a scholar in Adventism focused on these aspects and their relationship to biblical understanding and Adventist theology. Chiasm scholars are those who mention the word in their books, articles, lectures and other presentations. In this domain there are true chiasms and self-created eye of the beholder chiasm and even not chiasms at all. There are scholars who try to see chiasms within the arrangement of the whole book or between two books like Daniel and Revelation. Some opt for theological chiasm within the whole Bible, within periods of history throughout 6000 years of history. They look impressive and cute but are not built-in mechanisms in the Bible as the subject is unfold here. That is why this topic is important, because non-semitici (non-semitic linguists) superimposed upon the biblical text niceties that are not coming from the text itself but transforms interpretation into an allegorical science. The Kabbalists in the Middle-Ages did that. The Jewish interpreters would count letters, find the middle and then branch off in divisions to create all kinds of theology based on these. A spiritualization of the form of the text. Some Adventists are doing it too. I do not want to diminish the role of the Holy Spirit in the formation of the form of the text. When that was important He as the Editor allowed it or helped it established.

Why is this important? Two reasons: our theology of the Holy Spirit that He is God, is based upon a synonymous parallelism technique used by Peter and described by dr. Luke in Acts 5. Secondly, our misunderstanding of Jesus’ use of parallelism in Matthew 24, Luke 21 and Mark 13 led to a debate by Desmond Ford since 1972 graduating from Manchester under F. F. Bruce and since the publication of his Daniel Commentary. Ford and even current Adventists all thought that Jesus was using synonymous parallelism so that the words: When you shall see the Roman soldiers at the gates of Jerusalem…. Is synonymous to When you shall see the Abomination of desolation stands where it should not. Well, what if Jesus was not using in this parallelism a synonymous kind but another one? Scholars have found at least three major kinds, synonymous, antithetical and synthetical. They also found that the parallelism can be arranged into a chiastic format or a step-format. When something appears synonymous, but in meaning is not, you can count on it that it is step-format parallelism. In Jesus’ expounding of Daniel 9 in Matthew 24, Luke 21 and Mark 13, the attempt was not synonymous parallelism in meaning although in form, but in step-format, namely answering two questions that the disciples were asking in verses 1 to 3 to these chapters: when shall the stone be removed and secondly, when shall the end of end be? In a step-format parallelism Jesus answered both questions: Daniel 9:26 provides the answer for the timing of Luke 21 and his Roman soldiers at the gate of Jerusalem in 70-73 A.D. and Daniel 9:27 provides the answer for the timing of the abomination of desolation by Justinian in 538 stretching for 1260 years to the time of the end concept in Daniel, Revelation and with Jesus since 1798. This truth was somehow hidden to the eyes of the disciples by Christ, says Ellen White, and instead they may have understood that it is just a synonymous parallelism with synonymous meanings, not a synonymous parallelism with different meanings connected to two different verses and time-zones within Daniel 9.

This misunderstanding was that of Desmond Ford and F. F. Bruce et al. and all Reformers, Luther, Calvin, etc. and Reformed Theologians, Bavinck, Berkhof, Berkhouwer, by Adventist scholars and a long list can be provided, by Sabbath School Quarterlies on this topic. All made the same mistake: Jesus meant to say that the Roman army in 70 A.D. is the abomination of desolation that Daniel 9 is talking about. Why, because that is how Luke understood it in Luke 21 and it is using the same words as in Matthew 24 and Mark 13. That is how Ford reasoned in the middle of his commentary on Daniel and this provided him with the apotelesmatic principle: if the abomination of desolation can be the Roman army in 70 A.D. and 538 A.D. with Justinian, then it can also be applicable to the previous times. If one form has two applications, then Little Horn as form can have two or three or multiple time applications: Little Horn is Antiochus Epiphanes, Little Horn is Romans in 70 A.D. Luke 21 and Little Horn is Justinian in 538 A.D. Catholics agrees with this principle and made it in the Jesuit book on the Antichrist published in the 1970’s multiple antichrists so that any system, idea, person, kind, power, country that is against the Vatican church is considered a Little Horn or Antichrist. But there Desmond Ford had his ratio dicidendi cut out for his apotelesmatic principle and he could convince all with just running always in his arguments to the analogy of Jesus in Matthew 24, Luke 21 and Mark 13. Heresy roamed and bloomed full fletched and ran across the World creating a havoc between 1974 and 1980 when Ford appeared before the 300+ scholars about his views and he was exposed on many aspects. But, nearly all those scholars attending missed the error thinking all have in the understanding of Matthew 24, Luke 21 and Mark 13 regarding the one prophecy two applications theory. So the church, depending which country it is, rejects Ford’s ideas but cling still to the ratio dicidendi mentioned above. Recent scholars talked about the exegesis of Daniel 11:36-45 in the same way. When one points out that they are ignoring the literal aspects in these verses, like Egypt who is symbolically interpreted by them, or Ammon, Moab and Edom which they have nothing to say about, or Ethiopia and Libya of verse 43 which they are silent about, then what do they do? They insist that because by analogy Jesus connected the Romans and 538 for the Abomination of Desolation, therefore one should also connect the symbolic understanding of Daniel 11 ignoring the literal geographical references by Daniel, as a “come again situation”. Ford lost his ministerial credentials for this ratio dicidenci but they passed the modern test. It is quite ironical. Louis Were who invented this symbolical application with the help of Raymond Cottrell who was to reject the Investigative Judgment in Heaven theology in the mid-seventies did an enormous dis-service to the church.

There are certain ratio dicidendi cases that harms Adventist theology and makes scholars speaks out of two tongues: Daniel 11:36-45 understood as symbolically; using the Ford principle of synonymous parallelism as synonymous meaning in Matthew 24, Luke 21 and Mark 13 mentioned above, and thirdly, the nature of Christ and clinging or not so of original sin in Adventist theology. On the last matter even H. Larondelle said in the footnote of his dissertation on Perfection that he endorses the idea of Luther of simul iustus et peccator, meaning: at the same time a saint as well as a sinner. It sounds so right especially if one reads Romans 7 quickly. Emphasis quickly. Adventists should listen to the sermons of Denis Priebe on this matter and the book by Jean Zurcher, Touched with our Feelings.

What is stylistics?

Stylistics of literature theories is the study of the application and use of words, expressions, phrases, sentence constructions and rhythm in a presentation or writing in such a way that you as the audience are somehow touched by it. Some wants to see it as some form of an art and piece of elevated literature, but in reality it is more than that, it is actually an attempt to communicate on a fuller level. It wants to add to understanding more than just a simple straight sentence. These elements that are utilized in order to achieve this special task of communication, are called tools or instruments. These tools are related to the way sound, form and content are used and are interrelated. Wrongly in the past, scholars thought that a literary piece can only be prose or poetry. These instruments for elevated or emphasized communication are also used in prophesy. This is one reason why some grammars in Hebrew are very limited: they threw prose into a tank, analyzed it and then constructed a grammar for the interpretation of the Bible. In such a lopsided case, their analysis of prophetic perfect does not exist because prose does not work with prophetic perfects. A grammar that is composed from sources of the genres poetry and prose has the same deficit. One cannot superimpose the grammatical elements of prose and poetry over the genre of prophecy and in the area of TENSE boast of having a full understanding. Any grammar of Hebrew, should be constructed from all three genres: prose, poetry and prophesy giving each one their own domain yet interacting each other so that prophecy can be found in prose and poetry and poetry in prose and prophecy and prose in prophecy and poetry. Therefore Walther Eichrodt in his volumes on Theology of the Old Testament is not correct in his analysis of eschatology, namely that it is a “later invention due to Zoroastrianism”. Thus, Persian Period 539 BCE and beyond dating.

Grammar of Hebrew problems

Most scholars and pastors using grammars in a prescriptive manner instead of descriptive. That is what Transformational Linguistics want to teach us, and that is thanks to Noam Chomsky 1957 they said. But actually it is both. It is a case by case situation. Sometimes they can be prescriptive and sometimes they are only descriptive. Apparently before 1957 the grammars were used prescriptively. Now see the problem. If the construction of the grammar is based only on a corpus of prose genre, then narrative styles in day to day life will be the norm to judge the whole Bible. What about prophecies? Oh, they are just referring to some things in their near future. This is how they then deal with Perfect and Imperfect forms in their Hebrew grammars. One can see it in the grammars of Ewald 1831; S. Driver 1881; Gesenius and Kautzsch 1907 (considered a classic); Cohen 1924; Hollenberg-Budde 1957. All prose and poetry source designed Hebrew grammars. Using them prescriptively or normatively can create a large chaos especially if one interprets the prophetic genre. This is why eschatology were silenced starting with the Hebrew Grammars in the Victorian age. Since prose was the way in which they designed the grammars, the grammatical observations of P. Kustár 1972 on time relationships in Tempus as just narrator time really, and Bo-Johnson with the same view in 1979 as well as Rabin in 1970, their analysis of Tempus, Aspect and Action within the frame of Prose or with Bo-Johnson extended to include prose and poetry in his work on the Nun-Paragogicum and the Imperfectum, one can say that unless the prophetic genre is given its adequate role in Grammar Research and Design, the grammar cannot be used prescriptively on every genre. It may be right for prose, it may be right for poetry but with prophecy there will be many hick-ups. The philosophical base of whether grammars are dealing with stative verbs or active verbs makes a great difference as well. Which came first: state or action? One must admit that what came first in Creation was the action and that by God. State was the result of God’s action. That settles it for philosophical base of whether a grammar is designed with verbal concepts as a state to action order or the opposite namely verbal actions to state order. The chicken or the egg question, which came first: noun or verb? Those who are familiar with Classical Greek grammars and Latin will know what I am talking about.

See for example the strange definitions in the grammatical discussions of Rundgren 1959, 1961, 1963 and 1966, Viewing the verb as action and the perspective of action used to analyze he would say that a perfect verb is ingressive, momentary, punctual, once occurrence, “semelfaktive” and definite. Notice the Tense as Time is not mentioned at all. The word “past” is not used. The closest he comes to it is to say it is “complete”. The imperfect as action for Rundgren is iterative and durative and thus incomplete. Tense discussion is totally absent from their grammatical analysis and that includes Bo-Johnson 1979. For Bo-Johnson tense is not the present of the narrator nor the state ended or incomplete but simply to state the action (Perfect) or painting it in its progress (Bo-Johnson 1979: 17 where he cited Brockelman with acceptance, K. Aartum as well and also A. Meyer 1972).

This absent Tense-View of the Hebrew Grammar R&D with scholars can only be highly criticized as not fully explaining the verb-system in other genres not utilized for their purpose, the prophetic genre. Only when Tempus, Aspect and Action will be viewed as simultaneous, concurrent but with different quantities of function and importance in the different genre, will the verbal view do justice to all genres of the Bible.

For example:

Prose will utilize much aspect, much action but less tempus focuses.

Poetry will utilize also much aspect, much action but also less tempus focuses.

Prophecy will utilize less aspect/equal aspect, less action or equal action than the other genres, much Tempus/ equal Tempus than the other genres.


How important is it for the Biblical reader? Due to these differences and lopsided approaches to the analysis of the original Hebrew, these problems show up in the lexical and syntactical expressions of translations of the Bible.

What is the difference between Prose, Poetry and Prophetic literature?

Maybe we have to admit that it is an impressionistic observation. Anyone who tries to explain these differences seems to just echo a mere gut-feeling. There is no biblical text that will tell you what these differences are. You cannot run to Judaism and ask them to analyze with their rabbinical fathers what it is. You cannot let the Victorian Age Semitic Grammar R&D scholars prescribe to you what it is. You can hardly allow modern grammars to do so because many before 1957 designed from prose and or poetry their grammars and is called classical approach scholars or after 1957 denying the correctness of the classical views of grammar and substituting it with the transformational paradigm shift to cognitive linguistics of Noam Chomsky: basically allowing Hinduism to prescribe how we should design a grammar. See my article on Academia on the Hindu Influence on Noam Chomsky and his Transformational Grammar Design.

Scholars want to say that prose is just normal speech. Poetry is cryptic expressions, comparisons, metaphors used more. It is change of word-order. It is more focused on sound. It uses meter to attain rhythm. This is not true really. All these aspects are found in modern communication in newsreading, sermons, blog writing, prophetic genre and even in prose. It almost seems that Isaiah had no other way to speak than with this method. You cannot say he designed poetry all the way through. The song of the vineyard in Isaiah 5:1-12 is well known to be elevated poetry and Gerhard Hasel also discussed it in this Understanding the Living Word of God 1980: 161-174. One should not miss the Investigative Judgement before the Executive Judgment in this Poem.

Unique aspect of Hebrew Expression

I do not want to use the word poetry here because it also appears in prose and in prophecy. The balancing of the parts of a verse sometimes with an echo in the second part with similar balancing techniques are common in the Old Testament text. Scholars want to reserve it for poetry. They are used by every single African American speaker that I have listened to, whether it is Martin Luther King, whether it is Charles Bradford or C. F. Brooks, Benjamin Reeves, Earl Cleveland, the list can go on. It is good rhetorical device applications that lead to good speakers and good listening by the audience. It is helpful, educational, driving the nail of the message deeper and deeper by repetition and small substitutions with the help of a Thesaurus and Synonym Dictionaries. The writers of the Hebrew Bible were what you would call today excellent African American preachers.

Parallelismus membrorum is what scholar call it. This balancing act in the speech or expression of language. With repetition and rhyme and rhythm and calculated emphasis fully in control of the content and knowing what the ear of the audience like and what not. Robinson in 1952:21 said that “Every verse must consist of at least two members, the second of which must, more or less complete, satisfy the expectation raised by the first”.

This technique is good human rhetoric. They can be found in Akkadian, Ugaritic, and other Semitic languages and I already said they are commonly employed by African American preachers. They are used in news-composing. It is good communicative style to write like this.

Rhythm plays a large part in Hebrew writing whether it is prose, poetry or prophetic writings. Again in African American preaching rhythm is a must for both the audience and the speaker. It is no different in news-composition. Good communication requires it.

Jewish Scholarship on Poetical Devices in the Old Testament

In his book Live of Moses (I, 5) Philo claimed that the Egyptians taught Moses the technique of meter, rhythm and harmony. According to Josephus, Moses wrote Exodus 15 and Deuteronomy 32 in hexameter. This is strange by Josephus because it means that one has to utilize the principles of Greek metrum and apply it to the work of Moses. It is a fallacy. Origin in 240 A.D. agreed with Josephus that Deuteronomy 32 is written in hexameter but he pointed out that the Hebrew is different than the Greek. The Rabbis Ibn Ezra, Kimchi, Levi ben Gershom saw the repetition in the verses but did not expand on the stylistics. In 1574 the Rabbi Asarya de Rossi (1513-1578) paid attention to poetry styles in Hebrew. He wrote the book Me’or cenajim that the holy poems did have weight but not in the number of vowels or reduced vowels but rather in the verse lines and then accent is placed in the total of thoughts with subject and predicate connected to it. There are normally two accents in one verse and if another is added it becomes four. There are also three part verse sections and when they are put together with another verse section then there are six. He insisted that the syllables and words must not be counted but it is the thoughts (the content and meaningful complete words that plays a syntactical function). This view of De Rossi that the word carries the meter is accepted in modern times by scholars like Julius Ley and Th. H. Robinson. It is said that with the publication of Robert Lowth in 1753 of his De Sacra Poesie Hebraeorum the modern study of stylistics was born. Lowth so-called discovered the parallelismus membrorum which he divided into three parts. His discovery does not make it. It is a lost reality that is picked up by Lowth. Lowth felt that in poetry the most important is meaning rather than sound or form. The balancing of thoughts is more important than meter. He felt that the original meter was lost.

To be continued…….