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Parallelism in Hebrew Poetry
Robert Lowth's 1753 study, Lectures on the Sacred Poetry
of the Hebrews, biblical
known that ancient Hebrew writers relied on parallelism to
make their poetry. What is parallelism? It is a structure
of thought (rather than external form like meter or rhyme)
which the writer balances a series of words so that patterns
of deliberate contrast or intentional repetition appear.
These rhetorical devices also appear in English. For instance,
the parallel repetition in the Gettysburg Address: "That
government of the people, by the people, and for the people,
shall not perish from the earth." This parallelism is
called tricolon epistrophe. Another type of parallelism is
juxtaposing opposites, or antithesis. Consider the antithesis
from the "moon landing" speech by Neil Armstrong: "That's
one small step for a man, one giant leap for all mankind." Here,
we have a contrast or antithesis between "small step" and "giant
leap" and between a singular "man" and the collective "all
mankind." The ancient biblical writers were also suckers
for this technique. Here are some examples from the Hebrew
Bible to illustrate such parallelisms.
here for a discussion of the Hebrew Canon.
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