Posted by: chuckbumgardner | January 6, 2008

Christ, Chiasm, and Hebrews 12:1-2

Jesus Christ is clearly the focal point of the canonical Epistle to the Hebrews.  He is also the focal point of the chiasm in Hebrews 12:1-2 :
having SEATED around us such a great cloud of witnesses
     SETTING ASIDE every weight and entangling sin

          with ENDURANCE

               let us run the race THAT IS SET BEFORE US

                    fixing our eyes on the founder and
                    perfecter of our faith, Jesus

               who for the joy THAT WAS SET BEFORE HIM

          ENDURED the cross

     DISREGARDING the disgrace,

and HAS TAKEN HIS SEAT at the right hand of the throne of God.

The first line is a bit of a paraphrase, but the picture is pretty clearly the large number of witnesses sitting in a stadium as spectators observing the race referenced later in the verse.  Among other places, this chiasm is found in David Alan Black, Learn to Read New Testament Greek: Expanded Edition (Broadman & Holman, 1994), 188.



  1. The writer doesn’t waste much time in using this device. The one in the first several verses serves to reinforce the message of the entire book. The outer layers speaking of Christ’s heir-ship; the second layers speaking of his power in creation; but at the center His divine person. Yes His possessions are magnificent, and His power is great, but it is all because of His Person.

    Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,

    whom he appointed the heir of all things,

    through whom also he created the world.

    He is the radiance of the glory of God
    and the exact imprint of his nature,

    and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

    After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

  2. Sorry I can’t figure out how to get the tabs to work in HTML

  3. Thanks for the observation, Brad! Have you done study in chiastic structure in general, or just in Hebrews?

  4. Last year I was in the Psalms quite a bit. I try to read through the psalter once a month, so I tend to look for it. Given the author of Hebrews use of Psalms and the OT it is not too surprising to find him using it. But I have not gone through the book looking for more instances, I preached on Heb. 1:1-4 some time ago and I noticed it then.

    Thanks for your work here. I enjoy it.

  5. Thanks, Brad. I’d enjoy learning a bit more about you — I may know you already, but no “Brads” come quickly to mind. Could you email me or post here to fill me in? bumgardnerbunch a

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