Blomberg's Criteria for Detecting an Extended Chiasmus
In his article in Biblica on The Chiastic Structure and Meaning of Paul’s Letter to Philemon, John Paul Heil recognized that his argument would have no validity unless he first demonstrated that his methodology was sound. Heil said: “To be truly convincing a chiastic structure must adhere to rigorous criteria and methodology. It must be evident that the chiasm has not been imposed upon the text but actually subsists and operates within the text.” Heil is just one of a number of scholars who have utilized the list of nine criteria set forth by Blomberg for detecting an extended chiasmus. This list states “(1) there must be a problem in perceiving the structure of the text in question, which more conventional outlines fail to resolve; (2) there must be clear examples of parallelism between the two ‘halves’ of the hypothesized chiasmus, to which commentators call attention even when they propose quite different outlines for the text overall; (3) verbal (or grammatical) parallelism as well as conceptual (or structural) parallelism should characterize most if not all of the corresponding pairs of subdivisions; (4) the verbal parallelism should involve central or dominant imagery or terminology, not peripheral or trivial language; (5) both verbal and conceptual parallelism should involve words and ideas not regularly found elsewhere within the proposed chiasmus; (6) multiple sets of correspondences between passages opposite each other in the chiasmus as well as multiple members of the chiasmus itself are desirable; (7) the outline should divide the text at natural breaks which would be agreed upon even by those proposing very different structures to account for the whole; (8) the center of the chiasmus, which forms its climax, should be a passage worthy of that position in light of its theological or ethical significance; (9) ruptures in the outline should be avoided if at all possible.”
Blomberg is not the first to create a criteria for detecting an extended chiasmus. Nils Lund in his classic study, Chiasmus in the New Testament (1942) proposed seven laws of chiastic structures. These laws for some represent a good beginning while others view them as a foundation. As noted, a number of scholars have attempted to provide an adequate outline of the central travel section of Luke using chiastic analysis. It appears to be a hit or miss project. The most common criticism of these attempts to provide a criteria for detecting an extended chiasmus has been the uncertainty about the beginning and ending of a particular chiastic structure. Perhaps using Blomberg’s criteria may be a means of both testing the criteria and Talbert’s list. This criteria was selected primarily because it recognizes that the center of the chiasmus must be worthy of that position. This particular criterion was separately addressed in my blog earlier this year.