Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon | Truth Revealed |
In the late 1960s, a young Latter-day Saint discovered that an ancient form of Middle Eastern poetry was found throughout the Book of Mormon, suggestive of its ancient Semitic origins. This poetical form, chiasmus, a type of inverted parallelism, reaches highly artistic heights in the Book of Mormon and is difficult to ascribe to chance. Yet the information available to Joseph Smith when the Book of Mormon was translated provided nothing to guide him in crafting such structures. Could this be part of a growing body of evidence for ancient Semitic origins for the text? This page is one of several pages in a suite of “Frequently Asked Questions about Latter-day Saint Beliefs” maintained by Jeff Lindsay, a Book of Mormon aficionado who takes full responsibility for this work, which is neither sponsored nor endorsed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


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Chiasmus is a form of parallelism used as a poetical structure in some ancient writings from the Middle East and Greece [note 1]. The word chiasmus derives from the Greek letter chi (X) which symbolizes the top-to-bottom mirror image reflection achieved by elements of text. An example of a very simple chiasmus is found in Psalms 124:7:


We have escaped as a bird
From the snare of the fowlers
The snare is broken
And we have escaped.
Here are two examples from Isaiah, as presented by Victor L. Ludlow in Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet [note 2] (one of my favorite books):

(a) Make the heart of this people fat,
(b) and make their ears heavy,
(c) and shut their eyes;
(c’) lest they see with their eyes,
(b’) and hear with their ears,
(a’) and understand with their heart,
and convert [return], and be healed. (Is. 6:10)
(abc) Come … to the house of the God of Jacob; and … and we will walk in his paths…
(d) And he shall judge among the nations…
(e) they shall beat their swords into plowshares
(e’) and their spears into pruninghooks
(d’) nation shall not lift up sword against nation…
(a’b'c’) O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the LORD. (Isaiah 2:3-5)