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Noah and the Vineyard
Video 20 of 21
When we talked about the purpose of chiasms before, why is that we have chiasms? The Torah doesn't tell us why it is that it uses chiasms, it's kind of one, big question mark and we kind of had to fill that in. Until now I had suggested to you that there are a few things that we learn from chiasms, that it might be that it's a very elegant way that the Torah has of conveying meaning. We talked about chiastic pairs sort of playing off of each other; A plays off of A', B plays off of B' and that by comparing the pairs sometimes we can get sort of what we called a binocular vision view. If you want to understand what element A really means, you have to understand it with reference to A'. A' can act as a commentary, kind of counterpart, to [A 1:10]. So one kind of level of meaning in chiasms is the level of meaning which is revealed to us by examining what we might call chiastic pairing.
All right that's one possible level of meaning. Another possible level of meaning is that it defines a center of the text for us. That a chiasm can take a text and look at its center - in this case the center would be element E. That suggests that all of these themes over here are going to be revolving around E. That E is kind of the eye of the hurricane - to use that analogy we talked about before.
So these are two kinds of ways that a chiasm can give us meaning. We can look at the chiastic pairing and understand each pair with reference to each other. Or we can also understand the center of a text.
But I want to argue there are other ways in which chiasms can be helpful to us, there's at least one other way - a third way - that is really very cool and a little bit more subtle. What other things can chiasms teach us? So let me give you one last suggestion. I want to argue to you that chiasms can actually be a kind of outlining tool. You know when you write an outline, there's like Roman Numeral Is and then there's IIs and then there's IIIs. I want to suggest that the Torah can actually use a chiasm as way of outlining a text, giving us a sense of what subcategories are - major categories and subcategories and sub-subcategories. How would a chiasm do something like that?
Well remember in the Torah there's no actual kind of punctuation, there's nothing like paragraphs or subparagraphs, or anything like that. The Torah might be able to use a chiasm to convey that level of substructure within a text. Here's how.
Okay so here's the deal. There is a sort of classic sort of chiasm, which you might call a perfect chiasm, a chiasm where everything fits. That's a chiasm where A, the first element over here, gets reflected in A'. B, the second element gets reflected in B'. C in C'. D in D'. Then E is at the center. Everything is fine, nothing is out of order. Every once in a while though you come across a chiasm which is not a perfect chiasm. It still seems like a chiasm because there's so many elements that are chiastic, but it seems to be imperfect. Here's an example of an apparently imperfect chiasm. A, B, C, D, E going in, but going out instead of A, B, C, D, E, if you notice, C and D are kind of flipped. It should be A, B, C, D; instead it's A, B, D, C. In other words, C and D are appearing in the same order as in which they're appearing up here. So - and every chiasm usually gets flipped going out, that's the way the eye works, after the eye everything is reversed going out. Except there are two elements that reappear in the other side, except they reappear in the same order they appeared at the top of chiasm. They don't reappear in the flipped order, which makes them strangely enough, kind of ironically, out of order.
So why does that happen? I don't know, but one possibility is, maybe the Torah didn't know how to do chiasms that well and just sort of accidentally did this, overlooked it. But of course the Torah might just be more sophisticated than that, it might be that it's actually done on purpose and it means to tell us something. What could the implications of that be?
Okay, so here's what I think the out of order pair might suggest, it might be that an apparently imperfect chiasm actually is perfect after all. You just have to know how to read it. For example, right now the way we've written it, C and D are an imperfect part of this chiasm. C and D appear as C and D going in, but they also appear as C' and D' going out instead of D' and C'. So they should have been reversed in order. Okay so this pair over here seems out of order. But in fact it might be that the elements are very much in order but we're the ones reading them wrong. In other words, it could be that what the Torah is really saying is that C and D over here are so closely related that you aren't supposed to view these two things as two elements at all. Actually, what these two elements are is they're really just one big element. In other words, look at them as CD, one big element, and read it this way, and the chiasm is actually perfect again. Read it as A, B, then let's say CD, and E, and then CD, B and A, and we have another perfect chiasm.
In other words, the Torah might be telling us that C and D are so closely related, they're really just one element. One composite idea. In fact, what you could really say is that CD is just one long idea, we can actually describe it as the new C. There's A, B, the new C - which is really CD. Then there's D and then there's the new C, and then B and A. now it's actually a perfect chiasm, jut looks like this.
So what's really happening is that the Torah is actually teaching you how to break up the phrases. In other words if we're right, one of the things the Torah is doing in a chiasm is not just finding the center for you, not just playing off of each side, but it's actually giving you subcategories. It's telling you when ideas are so closely related that they really need to be considered one idea. C and D are really just one indivisible new C.
Now what does that actually mean? This is a very nice abstract idea, do we have any examples of it? Turns out that we have an example of it right in the garden chiasm. If you go back to the earlier videos where I went through the garden chiasm you see I sort of smoothed it over - I didn't kind of let you on that there's something like this going on. But if you go back to the way we talked about it, you do find one of these C and Ds that are becoming a new C. Can you find it? Where are these elements C and D that seem to be out of order, except that maybe they're not out of order, really they're just an indivisible new C?
So go back to the garden chiasm, see if you can find these elements that seem to be kind of out of order, the C and D that get replayed in order instead of reversed, that sort of forms one big, new C. Okay, I'll meet you in the next video and I'll share with you my thoughts on this.
1. The Generations of Heaven and Earth
2. Before the Rain and After the Flood
3. Splitting the Garden
4. Generations of What?
5. Of Rivers and Nations
6. The Vineyard, Introduced
7. God Begins; Noah Begins
8. The Vineyard and the Garden
9. Conflict of Interest
10. Two Hands at the Piano
11. What Cham Did
12. Why Cham Did It
13. The Vineyard's Center
14. What You Know Might Hurt You
15. Why the Drunk Walks the Line
16. The Big Picture
17. Chiasm in the Garden?
18. Chiasm in the Garden II
19. The Center of the Garden
20. The Mysteries of Imperfect Chiasms
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