Sunday, June 24, 2012

Leviticus 10:10 - Parallelism or Chiasm?

The Common?

The Bible-study class that I've been attending has just finished analyzing the book of Hebrews, and we'll be taking a two-month break before starting up again on some new topic. I've suggested that we study the impurity system of the Old Testament because it stands in the background of the New Testament and needs to be thoroughly understood.

I believe I've previously called attention to verse 10 of Leviticus 10, but let's start here anyway, for it 'explains' why the Mosaic Covenant sets forth all sorts of rules, namely:
so as to make a separation
between the holy (qodesh) and the common (chol), and
between the unclean (tame') and the pure (tahowr);
I've borrowed this verse from Young's Literal Translation (YLT), available at the Blue Letter Bible site.

One question that arises is how to understand the structure of this verse: does the structure exhibit parallelism or chiasm?

Normally, the arrangement of a verse this way in the Hebrew Bible manifests parallelism, and this sort of structure is so common, it's called "Hebrew Parallelism." That would therefore be a good first guess.

Against parallelism, however, would be the fact that "the holy" (qodesh) and "the unclean" (tame') are opposites. That might seem the case with "the common" (chol) and "the pure" (tahowr) as well. And since the holy and the pure seem linked conceptually, and the unclean and the common also, then we might want to read this structure as a chiasm.

But not so fast!

If we know a bit more about these categories, then we realize that the holy and the unclean are both dynamic forces in the Hebrew Bible and that the common in its fundamental state is pure, so there seems to be some parallelism after all.

I therefore suggest that this verse is intended to be read as exhibiting both parallelism and chiasm, but we'll need to look into this issue some more another time, so let's just keep it in mind for now.

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At 2:23 PM, Blogger dhr said...

a VERY interesting post.

in line with Primo Levi, who in fact saw the "unclean" as the origin of anything living (and lively). while "noble gases do not react," he used to say, being a chemist.

At 2:29 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

It promises to get even more interesting.

Jeffery Hodges

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