A Discourse Analysis of First CorinthiansRalph Bruce Terry
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Particle and wave perspectives provide two different viewpoints which compliment one another in analyzing the constituent structures of a text. But there is a third perspective which provides additional insight. That is the field perspective, the viewpoint which sees a text from the standpoint of patterns and their relationships.

Even linear discourse shows a pattern, although that pattern is often quite easy to discern and adequately described in a particle approach. But non-linear discourse can be better described from a field perspective. Even though some of these patterns, such as inclusio and chiasmus, can be viewed as structures and treated under a particle perspective, they are more clearly seen as patterns in a field perspective. Just as transitions are better suited to be described from a wave perspective, patterned text, such as that found in chiasmus, is better suited to be described from a field perspective. And when there are multiple patterns overlaid on one another in a given unit of text, the field perspective is not only desirable, but necessary.

This section will begin with an overview of different types of patterns utilized in I Corinthians which a field perspective will uncover. Then it will illustrate a technique of field perspective by looking at one of those patterns, chiasmus, in greater detail.

Types of Grammatical and Conceptual Patterns

Where a paragraph structure is made up of two elements, there are two possible patterns: AA' and AB. The AA' pattern is a parallelism structure. The two elements, whether sentences or paragraphs, are either conceptually or grammatically parallel to one another or parallel in both ways. I Corinthians contains numerous examples of this pattern on a microparagraph level, including pairings in 6:7, 12; 7:12-13, 16, 22, 28; 9:1ab, 1d-2b, 5-6, 7; 10:16, 21, 23; 11:4-5, 22; 12:15-16, 17, 26, 28-29; 13:11, 12; 14:4, 15, 23-24; 15:21-22, 55; and 16:23-24. On a slightly higher paragraph level, the microparagraph in 15:13-14 is parallel to the microparagraph in 15:16-17.

The AB pattern contains two paired elements which are connected to one another in some fashion but also are quite different in form. A good example of this pattern is a question-answer paragraph, such as is found in 11:22 and 14:15. A similar structure is a question-command paragraph. Examples of this are found in 7:18, 21, 27. This structure is the functional equivalent of a conditional command. If the question is answered positively, the command applies. The example in 7:27 is a case of two question-command microparagraphs with a parallel pattern, as shown in (40).

have you been boundto a wife?
notseeka loosing.
have you been loosedfroma wife?
notseeka wife.

The resulting structure from combining two AB patterns inside an AA' pattern is a cyclical ABA'B' pattern. It also contains a conceptual ABB'A' chiasm: bound to a wife, loosed from a wife, loosed from a wife, bound to a wife. While this passage can be viewed as a combination of embedded units as shown above in (30), only a field perspective allows these multiple patterns to come into focus.

There are also several possible patterns for paragraphs when they are made up of more than two elements. First of all, there is a parallel structure AA'A", such as those found in 4:8, 12:4-6, 22-24, 29, 30, 13:1-3, 15:42-44, and 16:19-20. Second, there is a linear structure ABC, where different items follow in some sort of logical order on one another. This structure follows a common Western way of thinking and writing and is not difficult to analyze; it is easily seen even in a particle perspective, as discussed above. Third, there is a cyclical pattern ABA'B' with four elements, as shown in (40) above for 7:27, or ABCA'B'C' with six. Other four element cycles are found in 7:32-34 and 14:6-11. In the latter passage, the A elements ask questions about tongues versus clear speech while the B elements give illustrations from various kinds of voices. This also functions as the inner two elements of a chiasmus; see (59) below for the layout. Fourth, there is a chiastic pattern ABB'A' with four elements or ABCC'B'A' with six. It is possible to combine the central elements into one in order to have an odd number of elements. Chiasmus is so common in I Corinthians that the next section is devoted to a discussion of it. Finally, there is inclusio, an ABCA pattern that repeats the first element.

Now the simple pattern ABA' can be either a reduced form of chiasmus, a defective cycle, or a simple case of inclusio. The exact rhetorical scheme is impossible to tell since all three of these cases show the same pattern. In this study, however, such a pattern is analyzed as chiasmus since it is so pervasive throughout I Corinthians.

Chiasmus on the Paragraph Level

As noted in chapter III of this study, several of the discourses show a form of ABA' chiasmus. But chiasmus is present, not only on the macroparagraph level, but also on the microparagraph and intermediate levels. The major studies of chiasmus in I Corinthians have been by Lund (1942; reprinted 1992) and Bailey (1983). If there is a fault in their work, it is that they tend to find chiasmus throughout the book, even in locations where other rhetorical strategies seem to be used. Lund is better than Bailey about identifying alternate rhetorical schemes, but even he takes the use of chiasmus to an extreme. But there are many clear cases of chiasmus in this letter, and several of these are discussed below.

It is important to note that three kinds of chiasmus exist in I Corinthians: lexical, in which words are repeated in a chiastic pattern; grammatical, in which grammatical structures are repeated in a chiastic manner; and conceptual, in which concepts are repeated chiastically. Some patterns have only a single one of these types, but others show a combination of them.

Now Bailey (1983, 177) identifies 3:1-23 as showing an ABB'A'' scheme found in (41).

(41)  A   Paul and Apollos (3:1-4) 
         B   The illustration of the field (3:5-9b) 
         B'  The illustration of the building (3:9c-15) 
      A'  Paul, Apollos, and Cephas (3:21-23) 

Certainly this pattern exists, but the problem with it is that it omits the passages about the Corinthians being God's temple (3:16-17) and about the wisdom of men (3:18-20). A pattern without such breaks can be found in 3:21-4:7 as shown in (42).

(42)   A   Boasting (3:21) 
          B   Paul and Apollos (3:22-23) 
             C   Servants of Christ (4:1-5) 
          B'  Paul and Apollos (4:6) 
       A'  Boasting (4:7) 

But this pattern as well as Bailey's suggested pattern has a difficulty. They both cut across the chiastic macroparagraph structure of the first discourse as given in (43) and shown also in Table 4.

 (43)  A   Division (1:10-17) 
          B   Wisdom (1:18-2:16) 
       A'  Division (3:1-4) 
       C   Servanthood (3:5-15) 
          D   Wisdom and Division (3:16-23) 
       C'  Servanthood (4:1-17) 

This major structure also exists. Bailey's pattern shown in (41) has taken the elements of A'CD in this analysis and made them ABA'. The problem is that his analysis here is too small. But the analysis in (42) also is legitimate, and it too cuts across the boundary lines of the analysis given in (43). This tells us that the rhetorical structure of the first discourse is quite complex and is probably composed of several patterns interwoven together (cf. Longacre 1979a on both an episodic and a chiastic structure in the Genesis flood narrative and Pike 1987 on the multi-dimensional patterns of the Sermon on the Mount). Certainly the C section of (43) in 3:5-15 on servanthood is composed of two major paragraphs, as Bailey notes, which form an AA' parallelism. This multiple relationship patterning cannot be seen from a purely particle perspective; while a single pattern can be viewed as a type of particle structure, it takes a field perspective to view multiple patterns.

Within the first discourse another chiasm can be noted in the paragraph (3:16-17) about the Corinthians being the temple of God as shown in (44).

notdo you knowthattempleof Godyou are
Bκαὶτὸπνευ̑ματου̑θεου̑ οἰκει̑ἐνὑμι̑ν
IfanyonethetempleofGod destroys
will destroythisone [O]God [S]

The A, B, and C elements are all conceptually and lexically connected.

The second discourse also shows evidence of chiasmus on a smaller scale. The passage in 6:13-14 (noted by Fee 1987, 253-254) shows a complex pattern of two lexical chiasms embedded within a cyclical XYX'Y' pattern as shown in (45).

(45)XAτὰβρώματα (6:13)
for thestomach
A'τοι̑ςβρώμασιν .
for thefoods
Yὁ δὲθεὸςκαὶταύτηνκαὶταυ̑τακαταργήσει.
andGodboththisandthesewill destroy
thebutbodynotfor thefornication
butfor theLord,
A'τω̨̑σώματι .
forthe body.
anduswill raise upthroughthepowerof him

This multiple patterning is best seen from the perspective of a field. Fee (1987, 257) also notes that the next verses contain a lexical and conceptual chiasmus as shown in (46).

(46)  A   members of Christ(6:15)
         B   members of a prostitute
         B'  the one joined to a prostitute(6:16)
      A'  the one joined to the Lord(6:17)

The third discourse begins with several examples of lexical chiasmus as noted by Lund (1942; reprinted 1992, 151-152), who has noted that 7:2-5 form a chiasmus as shown in (47).

because ofbutthefornication
each [man]hisownwifelet him have
andeach [woman]herownhusbandlet her have.
Tothe wifethehusbandthedueshould give
likewiseandalsothewifeto thehusband.
notrule overbutthehusband [does];
notrule overbutthewife [does].
B'μὴἀποστερει̑τεἀλλήλους,εἰ μήτιἂν(7:5)
notdefraudone another,exceptmaybe
ἐκσυμφώνουπρὸςκαιπόν,ἵνασχολάσητετη̨̑ προσευχη̨̑
byagreementfora seasonthatyou may sayprayers
καὶπάλινἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸη̑̓τε,
because oftheThe chiasmus is conceptual, with fornication equaling a lack of self-control, having a person being the same as not defrauding and being together, and giving due equaling not having authority over one's own body. There is also a lexical chiasmus in verse 4 using the words ἀνήρ 'husband' and γυνή 'wife'. At the same time, the grammatical structure of verses 2-4 is a series of parallel units: AA' BB' CC' DD', where the last three primed elements omit the predicate. Again, a field perspective allows this overlay of patterns clearly to be seen.

A little farther on in the third discourse Fee (1987, 299) has noted that 7:12-14 form what he calls "a perfect triple chiasm" as shown in (48).

(48)  A   any brother has 
         B   an unbelieving wife
            C   any woman has 
               D   an unbelieving husband
               D'  the unbelieving husband is sanctified
            C'  through his wife
         B'  the unbelieving wife is sanctified
      A'  through her husband

Once again note that the lexical chiasmus is embedded within a different grammatical pattern—this time a couple of parallelisms: AB is parallel to CD and D'C' is parallel to B'A'. A field perspective is required to show the overlay of patterns.

The fourth discourse also contains several examples of chiasmus. Youngman (1987, 189) has noted that there is a chiastic pattern in 9:4-12 as shown in (49).

(49)  A   Church workers (9:4-6)
         B   Secular workers (9:7)
            C   God's ordinance (9:8-10)
         B'  Secular work (9:11)
      A'  Church workers (9:12)

Further, 9:16 contains a lexical and structural chiasmus as shown in (50). It is apparent only in the Greek, for much of the structure is lost in translation.

ifforI preach the gospel
Bοὐκἔστινμοικαύχημα .
notisto meboast
necessityforon meis laid
woeforto meis
ifnotI preach the gospel

But the most obvious example of chiasmus in the fourth discourse is found in 9:19-22 as shown in (51). It has been noted by Lund (1942; reprinted 1992, 147), Bailey (1983, 167), Youngman (1987, 195), and Fee, although the latter states that it is chiastic "in form only, not in content" (1987, 423).

to allmyselfI have enslaved
thatthemanyI might gain
andI becameto theJews as aJew
thatJewsI might gain
to thoseunder [the]lawasunder [the]law
notbeingmyselfunder [the]law
thatthoseunder [the]lawI might gain
to thosewithout [the] lawaswithout [the] law
notbeingwithout [the] lawof Godbut
within [the] lawof Christ
thatI might gainthosewithout [the] law
I becameto theweakweak
thattheweakI might gain
toallI have becomeall things
thatby all meanssomeI might save

Each of the six elements ends with a purpose clause beginning with ἵνα 'in order to'. The chiasmus is conceptually defective in the B' element, although Bailey (1983, 167) and Youngman (1987, 195) argue that the weak are the same as the Gentiles. It is true that the weak person in 8:7 is someone accustomed to idols, that is, a Gentile, but there are weak Christians who are not Gentiles, and Gentiles who are not weak. It hardly seems worth limiting Paul's meaning to preserve the chiasm.

But these are not the only examples of chiasmus in the fourth discourse. Youngman (1987, 202) notes another in 10:7-10 as shown in (52). This chiasm is grammatical rather than conceptual.

do notidolatorsbecomejust assomeof them [did]
asit is written,Sat downthepeopleto eatand
drinkandrose upto play
let us notfornicate,just assomeof themdid
let us nottesttheChrist,just assomeof them
tested,andbythesnakesthey were destroyed
do notgrumble,just likesomeof themgrumbled
andthey were destroyedbythedestroyer

The B and B' colons contain first person subjunctive verbs in their independent clauses, sandwiched between second person imperative verbs in the main clauses of the A and A' colons. There is an apparent imbalance to this nice scheme, however, for the A colon is followed by a quotation from Ex. 32:6 (LXX) to illustrate it and the other colons are not.

A fifth example of chiasmus in the fourth discourse is found in 10:16-21 as shown in (53). Both Bailey (1983, 169) and Youngman (1987, 208) have previously noted this example.

(53) A  The cup of blessing . . . is it not a sharing            (10:16)
        The bread . . . is it not a sharing
       B   Are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers          (10:18)
          C   That food offered to idols is anything             (10:19)
          C'  They sacrifice to demons and not to God            (10:20)
       B'  I do not want you to be sharers with demons
     A' You cannot drink of the cup of the Lord                  (10:21)
        You cannot partake of the table of the Lord

Here the correspondences are conceptual rather than grammatical. The A and A' elements deal with the cup and the bread (or table) of the Lord's Supper. The B and B' elements relate that eating a sacrifice makes one a sharer or partner with an altar or a demon, respectively. The C and C' elements discuss sacrifices offered to idols.

The fifth discourse has an example of embedded chiasmus in 11:8-12 as shown in (54). Lund (1942; reprinted 1992, 148) has shown that these verses form a ABCB'A' chiasm with the A, B, B', and A' elements containing lexical chiasms using the words ἀνήρ 'man' and γυνή 'woman'.

indeedfornotwas createdmanbecause ofthewoman
butwomanbecause oftheman
Cδιὰτου̑τοὀφείλειἡ γυνὴἐξουσίανἔξειν(11:10)
becauseof thisoughtwomanauthorityto have
ontheheadbecause oftheangels.
normanwithoutwomanin theLord
thebutall thingsfromtheGod

The first two elements have the chiastic order "man-woman-woman-man," while the last two have the order "woman-man-man-woman." Once again, the multiple patterns are most clearly seen from a field perspective.

The whole sixth discourse can be divided into an ABA' chiastic pattern as shown in (55).

(55)  A   The Lord's Supper at Corinth (11:17-22)
         B   How Jesus Instituted the Lord's Supper (11:23-25)
      A'  The Lord's Supper at Corinth (11:26-34)

The B element at the center is marked by narrative texttype.

The seventh discourse is the most chiastic of all the discourses, showing several levels of embedded chiasmus. In this regard, it seems significant that chapter V will show that this discourse is within the peak of the letter. First, the whole discourse can be seen as one large chiastic pattern (here labeled XYX' to avoid confusion) as shown in (56).

(56)  X   Spiritual gifts (12)
         Y   Love (13)
      X'  Spiritual gifts (14)

Bailey (1983, 178) has pointed out that what is here called the X element (12:1-31) can be itself interpreted as a chiastic pattern. Strictly speaking, the chiasm runs from 12:4-30 rather than over the whole twelfth chapter. The secondary level of chiasmus is here labeled RSR' as shown in (57).

(57)  R   Various types of gifts (12:4-11)
         S   The body and its members (12:12-27)
      R'  Various types of gifts (12:28-30)

In the same way the Y element (13:1-13) also contains a chiastic pattern, as shown in (58).

(58)  R   Transition (12:31)
         S   Love and spiritual gifts (13:1-3)
            T   Characteristics of love (13:4-7)
         S'  Love and spiritual gifts (13:8-13)
      R'  Transition (14:1)

This has been noted by Lund (1942; reprinted 1992, 175-176) and Osburn (1976, 150-152) among others.

Both Lund (1942; reprinted 1992, 184) and Bailey (1983, 178) have noted that the first part of the Y' element (chapter 14) is chiastic in structure, although they have differed over how much text it covers. Lund sees the structure as covering 14:5b-13, while Bailey extends it to 14:1b-25. There are two problems with Bailey's analysis: it is not in enough depth (forming merely an RSR' chiasm) and his S element could be labeled as saying the same thing as the R and R' elements. Bailey labels the R (14:1b-5) and R' (14:13-25) elements "Prophecy is better than tongues"; he has the S element composed of the three parables of the flute (14:7), bugle (14:8-9), and the foreign language (14:11-12). The problem is that the point of the central S element is also that prophecy is better than tongues. It is just that in these verses Paul is arguing by analogy. The chiasm should be more specific than what Bailey proposes. Lund's (1942; reprinted 1992, 184) analysis is superior in this respect. The pattern given in (59) basically follows Lund with minor variations to improve the correspondences.

greaterbuttheprophesyingthanthe [one]
λαλω̑νγλώσσαις,ἐκτὸς εἰ μὴδιερμηνεύη̨,
speakingin tonguesunlesshe interprets
so thatthechurchedificationmay receive
TA. . . ἐὰνἔλθωπρὸςὑμα̑ςγλώσσαιςλαλω̑ν,(14:6)
. . . ifI cometoyouin tonguesspeaking
τίὑμα̑ςὠφελήσω, . . .;
whatyouwill I profit?
Bὅμωςτὰἄψυχαφωνὴνδιδόντα, . . .(14:7)
ἐάν μὴεὔσημονλόγονδω̑τε,πω̑ςγνωσθήσεται
unlessintelligiblewordgivehowwill one know
τὸλαλούμενον; . . .
thething spoken?
B'τοσαυ̑ταεἰ τύχοιγένη(14:10)
so manyperhapskinds of
φωνω̑νεἰσινἐνκόσμω, . . .
languagesthere arein theworld
fortheedificationof thechurchseek
thatyou may abound
thereforethe onespeakingin a tongueshould pray

The T and T' elements of this chiasm contain an ABA'B' cyclical structure of question-illustration. These multiple overlaid patterns are most clearly seen from a field perspective.

Besides these intermediate levels of chiasmus in the seventh discourse, there are several examples of low level chiasmus in chapters twelve through fourteen also. For example, there is a lexical chiasm in 12:3 as shown in (60).

(60)A . . . οὐδεὶςἐνπνεύματιθεου̑λαλω̑ν(12:3)
no onebythe Spiritof Godspeaking
andno onecansay"LordJesus"
A'εἰ μὴἐνπνεύματιἁγίω̨.

This has previously been noted by Lund (1942; reprinted 1992, 164).

In the same way, Lund (1942; reprinted 1992, 165) has also noted a lexical and conceptual chiasm in 12:12, as shown in (61).

just asforthebodyoneis
allandthemembersof thebodymanybeing

But perhaps the best example of embedded chiasmus is found in 13:8-13, as shown in (62). It has been noted by Lund (1942; reprinted 1992, 176) and Osburn (1976, 151-152).

Bἐκμέρουςγὰργινώσκομεν . . .(13:9)
inpartforwe know
will be done away
whenI wasa childI spokeas
νήπιος, . . .
a child
whenI becamea mandid away withthe [ways]
of thechild
B'. . . ἄρτιγινώσκωἐκμέρους, . . .(13:12)
ἀγάπη,τὰτρίαταυ̑τα . . .

This chiasm forms the S' element of the intermediate level chiasm in (58) which is the Y element of the high level chiasm in (56). The corresponding elements are not only conceptually parallel, but to a certain extent grammatically as well.

A further example of chiasmus in the seventh discourse is found in 14:33b-36, as shown in (63).

Asinallthechurchesof thesaints,
thewomeninthechurcheslet them keep silent
C. . . ἀλλὰὑποτασσέσθωσαν, . . .(14:34b)
      butlet them be subordinate
C'. . . ἐνοἴκω̨τοὺςἰδίουςἄνδρας(14:35a)
let them ask
shamefulforit isfor a womanto speak
orfromyouthewordofGodcame out
ortoyouonlydid it arrive?

This chiasm is purely conceptual. The point presented in a phrase at the beginning (the A element) is repeated at the end in the A' element with a compound question (or it can be analyzed as two questions).

Finally, the eighth discourse also contains an example of chiasmus in 15:12-13, as shown in (64).

ifbutChristis preachedthatfrom thedead
he is raised
howdo sayamongyousomethat
resurrectionof the deadnotthere is no?
ifbutresurrectionof the deadnotthere is
neitherChristhas been raised

The ninth and tenth discourses in chapter 16 are very short and do not seem to contain examples of chiasmus. The examples listed here are not exhaustive. Both Lund (1942; reprinted 1992) and Bailey (1983) list other examples, although the correspondences for some of them seem rather strained; only the most obvious have been listed above. But these are enough examples to show that Paul made ample use of the rhetorical device of chiasm at all levels of the text and that these patterns are best seen from a field perspective.

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