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Parallelism in the Bible

by Bobby Bruno  
5/19/2014 / Bible Studies

What are the three primary type of parallelism found in the Bible?

Synonymous parallelism
A repetition of the same thought or a similar thought; that is, the parallel lines basically reflect the same idea. Sometimes the second line will not totally parallel the first line.

Antithetic parallelism
The two lines stand in sharp contrast to each other; usually the conjuinction"but" provides a clue.

Synthetic parallelism
The second line normally completes a thought the first line left complete. The two liens stand in relationship to each other, but that relationship is not a clearly defined as in the other parallelisms.

Parallelism writing makes understand the writing much easier without any lengthy explanation needed. In just a few words great meaning is established and can be applied to the life of the reader or student quickly. Parallelism writing also makes it easier to memorize the writing so that it can be there for instant recall in the future, because each short line is concise and carries the same idea of wisdom.

Examples are:

Synonymous Parallelism: Job 39:11 (AMP), "Will you trust him because his strength is great, or to him will you leave your labor? " In this verse we see that the carry the same idea where both speak of trusting in the wild ox's strength. The first line tells of his strength, while the second line tells of trusting his great strength mentioned in the first.

Antithetic Parallelism: Proverbs 18:23 (AMP), "The poor man uses entreaties, but the rich answers roughly." In this verse we see a sharp contrast between the two lines. In the first, it speaks of the poor man using humble pleas to speak his case, while, in the second, the rich man is shown as answering his case with pride, anger, and rough speech.

Synthetic Parallelism: Job 39:13 (AMP), "The wings of the ostrich wave proudly, [but] are they the pinions and plumage of love?" In this verse we see the synthetic parallel between the ostrich's wings, and what they represent to the speaker. The two verses complete a single thought in that it extrapolates meaning in the first in the explanation found in the second line. In this verse, the ostrich's proud wings are represented as the beauty of love.

Comment: "You stated that parallelisms make understanding easier, and I agree, I would also add that they add more depth to what is already fathoms deep. Does that make sense?"

Author Response: It certainly does. I like that God doesn't hide His word from anybody. You just have to look beyond the words to see the true meaning of the message. The Holy Spirit will never hold the meaning back from those who truly want to see, and hear, what God wants to say to them. Like Jesus said, "Let those who have "ears" hear." God also said that, if you truly wanted wisdom, then you would have to open those spiritual ears and He would fill them with wisdom that goes beyond anything we could ever hear from anyone on this earth. Man's wisdom is very distorted, unless his wisdom comes only from God.

Comment: "Amen and Amen. I haven't said anything up to this point, but I would like to thank you for your courage and your transparency. I can see in the spirit the many yokes that are being broken because of your deliverance and your willingness to share what God continues to do for you."

Author Response: Thank you. It took years to get completely free and delivered. I am glad God was not in a hurry to "cure" me. Because of His taking His time to show me Himself in small increments has helped me to see Him in a larger way. Hearing and knowing the basics of Christianity is fine, but they are only words if you do not have the experience of God to go along with the basics. The basics are okay for a time, but somewhere along the way hunger for God and His healing powers must take over your spiritual being or else a person gets stuck at a certain plateau and stays there because it is comfortable. Comfort should never be a excuse not to let God take you through the hard things you need to know and learn, for it is there you will find true freedom. That is the beauty of God's love: He will not let you falter and stumble if you let Him take you through however many deep valleys He has to take to through to. For me, the deeper the valley, the better, for then true healing comes and freedom will finally win the day and your life will change dramatically from the fleeting darkness of suffering into the forever-lasting light of freedom in Jesus Christ.

To me, transparency is a must if you are a child of God. If you are not being transparent with others, then that means you are not only hiding things you must deal with from yourself, but you are also (you may believe) hiding them from God. But really God already knows everything about you, and if that is so, and God has already brought you out of whatever valley you were in and you have found freedom from His love and help, then why hide it from others. I know what happened to me in the past was horrible, but it was the testimony that God allowed me to live through to show others just how He can bring us out of unimaginable circumstances and bring us into the freedom that He needs us to be in so He can use us in a mighty way for His kingdom. I'm not afraid of my past because I have no reason to be because God has set me free from it and has been using it to show others His great love and care for His people. God delivers...every time.

Comment: "Since the Psalms were presented orally, these parallelisms were probably given in such a way that they helped to create a different way to keep the attention of the listeners as well helping them to understand what was being said."

Author Response: It would be nice if more people spoke this way than to place a lot of goobledy-goop in what they say. I believe that a lot of people leave church is because they are bored by the teacher because he speaks in riddles. To me, these parallelisms help to keep the interest high in what the teacher is saying because the language of parallelisms is so clear. I can't stand poetry just because it is usually written in a language that only the poet can understand. But the poetry of the Bible I can read all day and understand all of it because it is so clear for even the most illiterate to understand. It is great that we have a God that wants to be understood.

Comment: "The contrast found in Proverbs 10:1, "A wise son brings joy to his father, / but a foolish son grief to his mother" is typical of antithetical parallelism."

Author Response: Whenever we are talking to someone about something important that could affect us dramatically, it is not until the word "but" is said that we know that something that might not be good for us is on its way out of the mouth of the speaker. But isn't is wonderful that hearing the word "but" within a proverb, we can rely on the fact that that "but" just might be good for us for once. Also, isn't it a wonderful and glorious thing that God never says, "I love you, but..."? If only humans would be as unconditional as God is in dealing with us.

Bobby Bruno was saved 15 years ago in a way that left him no doubt that Jesus wanted him to reach others with His great and abounding love. He started writing at the age of 12 and hasn't stopped since. He achieved Associates Degree in Biblical Studies from Ohio Christian University in early 2014.

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