In this post, I wish to start to look at the chiastic structure of Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth in Matt.1:18-25.
This is a total of 167 words in the Textus Receptus. (Nestle-Aland has 161 words). I will be working with the TR in what follows.
Here is the text we will be looking at:
Even looking superficially, we can see that there is a possible “overall” chiastic-type structure—the name Jesus appears at the beginning of v. 18 and at the end of v. 25. If we follow up this idea, we find that the passage divides into two sections of 83 and 84 words. However, I think there are many more structures operating simultaneously in this passage, and I’ve tried to give an indication of this complexity in the diagram below. I will be looking at just one of these structures in this post, and I hope to explore some of the other structures in future posts.
1) In the central section, the connection between child-bearing and salvation is well-known in Scripture—for example, Gen. 3:15 relates the seed of the woman and the bruising of the head of the serpent. In 1 Tim. 3:14-15 we read that “. . . woman being deceived has come to be in transgression, but she will be saved through the childbearing.”)
2) The number 74 appears in the above diagram. This is 37×2, and I have noted in previous posts the fact that this number (i.e. 37) has occurred several times in the analysis of Matthew Ch. 1. In fact, in the lower half of the diagram, the “74 words” divides neatly into verses 22 and 23 – which total 37 words, and verses 24 and 25 which also total 37 words. I suggest that the people who did the verse divisions may have been “structurally correct” on this occasion!
However, in this post, I wish briefly to demonstrate just one of the linkages that Matthew seems to have built into this very structural dense passage. If we think of the passage as being divided into four parts, then we will be comparing the second and fourth parts. I have illustrated this by means of pale shading in the diagram below.
Here is the proposed analysis – the two sections are essentially parallel (panel) structures rather than chiastic structures – although there is a chiastic element in A and A`.
I think the connections between the corresponding sections are clear, and illustrate the tight structuring that Matthew has employed in this superbly constructed passage.
(To be continued)