Have you ever read a section of Scripture and asked yourself, “What did that say?” Does it sometimes appear that the author is going in circles and repeating himself? Believe it or not, it appears that way because that is exactly what is happening!

My training in writing and public speaking has taught me (1) to always go in a straight line with my logic, and (2) to never repeat myself (except in my conclusion). This is the standard way of doing things in our culture; however, it has not always been that way. Numerous examples from antiquity demonstrate that they utilized different techniques both in writing and in public speaking. Once we become familiar with their techniques their use of them becomes much more obvious and, hopefully, a lot less confusing or irritating.

Take the chiasmus, for example. This literary device gets its name from the Greek letter “X” (Greek chi – sounds like sky without the “s”). The flow of the logic in a chiasmus stair-steps down to the central or main point, inverts itself, and then stair-steps back up to its conclusion. The steps on each side of the journey correspond to one another and often mirror one another. The logical shape of this rhetorical device resembles the left side of an “X”, hence the name. Here is an example of a chiasmus from 2 Corinthians 5:11 – 6:2:

A.  Paul Persuades Others, 5:11-12.

B.  Paul’s Summary of His Ministry: Selfless, 5:13

C.  Paul’s (Selfless) Ministry: Founded on the Story of the Cross, 5:14-15.

D.  Paul’s World: New, 5:16.

D’  Everyone’s World: New, 5:17.

C’  Paul’s (Reconciling) Ministry: Founded on the Story of the Cross, 5:18-19.

B’  Paul’s Summary of His Ministry: Persuasive, 5:20a.

A’  Paul Persuades the Corinthians, 5:20b – 6:2.

The focus of the passage is the new world created by the cross (the center). The purpose of the passage is to persuade the readers to embrace that world and to reject the world in which they now live and value so highly (the final step). Once we understand the shape of the text the repetition makes sense and the message becomes obvious.