Getting Into 1 Chronicles without Getting Stuck: Or, How to Read a Genealogy

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“Just skip the first 9 chapters in 1 Chronicles and start in chapter 10.”

This is something I’ve both said and done. And yet in this post, I want to return to 1 Chronicles 1–9 to show you how important these chapters are for understanding Chronicles and the theme of royal priesthood in the Bible.

For those reading the Bible for the first time or the fiftieth time, the likelihood of reading 1 Chronicles 1–9 with profit is challenging, to say the least. Yes, these chapters do include the cottage industry known as Jabez’s Prayer (1 Chr. 4:9–10). But appeals to that blessed man, whose name means pain—probably a prophecy for the way his life would be misused by 20th C. Christians—only confirms how hard it is to read these chapters with anything but the most general profit—i.e., God is Lord of history. (For a proper interpretation of Jabez’s prayer, read this).

Our approach to 1 Chronicles 1–9 changes, however, when we discover (1) the structure of this passage and (2) its purpose in the book of 1–2 Chronicles. Assisting in both of these endeavors, James T. Sparks has written The Chronicler’s Genealogies: Towards an Understanding of 1 Chronicles 1–9.

In Sparks’ research, he argues for the intentional placement of this genealogy and how it works in this book. After correcting a few modern errors on reading genealogies (check back for a post on that point), Sparks identifies a chiastic structure in these nine chapters that focuses on the cultic personnel (i.e., the priests). Continue reading

1 John 1:1-4: We See Because He First Showed Himself

In John’s first letter, he introduces his audience to the Christ who he and the disciples had heard, seen, and touched. While it is apparent John’s tactile verbs—‘we have heard’ and ‘we have seen’—are meant to stress the flesh and blood reality of Jesus Christ, a closer look at the structure of 1 John 1:1-4, shows John stressing the antecedent work of God to manifest himself in the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ.

You can see this is in the complex chiasmus which organizes 1 John 1:1-4. Continue reading

Love Like Christ: A Look at 1 Corinthians 13

Kenneth Bailey is gifted New Testament scholar, one whose experience living in the Middle East provides him a unique perspective on Jesus parables and other New Testament issues. In preparation for Sunday’s message on 1 Corinthians 13, I picked up his work, Paul Through Middle Eastern EyesIn it he suggests that 1 Corinthians 11-14 is a series of six homilies, organized by a series of chiasmuses.

His outline gives a fresh way of approaching this often-confused section of Scripture. It doesn’t answer all of the questions, but it does give a pathway to understanding Paul’s argument.

I have reproduced his chiasmuses below, emending one of them and adding another. By looking at these chiasmuses, it lets us understand the central point Paul is trying to make:

Love is the essence of the Christian life. It must be pursued first. Spiritual gifts are instrumental means by which we love others. The central aspect of love is putting others ahead of ourselves, just the way Christ did (Phil 2:1-11).

Let me know what you think. Continue reading

UPDATED: Identifying the Son: A Chiasmus for Christ (Matthew 3:1-4:17)

UPDATE: On the basis of a few comments and further reflection, here is an updated outline of the chiasmus in Matthew 3-4.  What do you think?

In preparation for Sunday’s message, I came across some themes in Matthew 3:1-4:17 that seemed to present themselves as a conceptual chiasmus in Matthew’s gospel.  The issue revolves around the identity of Jesus, which the whole point of Matthew’s writing and the point he is trying to make early on in his gospel.

What I noticed is that in chapters 3-4 is that Matthew seems to pit John’s testimony about Jesus against Satan’s questions to Jesus. The former affirms the sonship of Christ and prepares the way (3:3) for the Father to declare his unconditional approval of the son (3:17).  By contrast, Satan takes the word of God and twists it back against Jesus so that, he questions Jesus identity with it (4:1-11).

In the end, John’s testimony proves true as Jesus abides in God’s word (4:4, 7, 10) and resists the temptation of the devil.  In the end, John’s proclamation of the kingdom’s nearness (3:2) is confirmed by Jesus’ devotion to the Father.  Therefore, Matthew records Jesus’ announcement of the kingdom, which nicely concludes this section of his gospel (4:17).

Here is my conceptual outline below.  Would love to hear your thoughts. Continue reading