Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Some notes from an online lecture series called, "Wisdom," by R.C. Sproul (

In the Wisdom literature of the Bible, particularly in the Book of Proverbs, Dr. Sproul explains three different types of a poetic device called parallelism, which the Hebrew language uses to describe and emphasize a point.

First, there is synonomous parallelism, where the author restates an idea or thought in similar terms. Example: "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the skies proclaim the work of His hands." (Psalm 19:1) The second part of the verse restates or is synomous to the first.

Second, there is antithetical parallelism, where an idea is stated in the first part of a verse, and its exact opposite is stated immediately afterward. In Proverbs 10:1, we read: "A wise son makes his father glad, but a foolish son is a grief to his mother." Contrasting wisdom with foolishness is a hallmark of Proverbs. Another one, 28:1, says, "The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion."

Finally, there is synthetic parallelism, where an idea is built up to a "crescendo." Several cases are found, for example, in Proverbs 6. Dr. Sproul uses verses 16-19 in his lecture:

"There are six things which the LORD hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers."

So you see, Hebrew parallelism is a commonly used poetic device for emphasizing Biblical truth.
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