Posted by: chuckbumgardner | May 5, 2011

Chiastic structure in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12

As I carefully worked through 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 for my thesis a few years back, it occurred to me that part of the passage is structured as a chiasm. I’m linking below first to a pdf of the chiastic structure of 3:6-12, then to a more detailed treatment which also includes the chiastic diagram of 3:6-12.

Chiastic structure of 2 Thess 3_6-12

Chiastic structure of 2 Thess 3_6-12, essay



  1. Looks like a good chiasmus to me. :-) Congratulations!

  2. […] chiasmi, along with a Greek break-down and a very good essay, can be accessed here.  Please visit his site for all the greater – and interesting […]

  3. I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve added this chiasmus as well to my Biblical Chiasmus blog – of course, I give you all the credit: . I’ve also added your name to my list of categories on the right of my blog.

    If you have any objections, please, please let me know.

  4. Mr. Bumgardner,
    Congrats on starting your PhD program. (I was in yort NTI class at Central last year) Hope you are doing well. I was doing some google “research” to see if anyone found a Chiasmus in 2 Thess 3:1-5. Well looks like no one did but your post was the closest thing. anyways just wanted to drop by and say hi and see if you had any thoughts on 3:1-5 having a more unified theme than most grant. here is my thoughts on the structure.

    A 3.1 Τὸ λοιπὸν προσεύχεσθε, ἀδελφοί, περὶ ἡμῶν,
    B ἵνα ὁ λόγος τοῦ κυρίου τρέχῃ καὶ δοξάζηται καθὼς καὶ πρὸς ὑμᾶς,
    C 3.2 καὶ ἵνα ῥυσθῶμεν ἀπὸ τῶν ἀτόπων καὶ πονηρῶν ἀνθρώπων,
    D οὐ γὰρ πάντων ἡ πίστις.
    D’ 3.3 πιστὸς δέ ἐστιν ὁ κύριος,
    C’ ὃς στηρίξει ὑμᾶς καὶ φυλάξει ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ.
    B’ 3.4 πεποίθαμεν δὲ ἐν κυρίῳ ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς, ὅτι ἃ ⸀παραγγέλλομεν καὶ ποιεῖτε καὶ ποιήσετε.
    A’ 3.5 ὁ δὲ κύριος κατευθύναι ὑμῶν τὰς καρδίας εἰς τὴν ἀγάπην τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ εἰς τὴν ὑπομονὴν τοῦ Χριστοῦ.

    A-A’ pray for us/ formula for prayer
    B-B’ the work of the gospel among the Thess is the same as what Paul wants to see in the field
    C-C’ deliver from wicked and evil man… God will establish and guard you against evil one
    D-D’ contrast faithless of evil with (why Paul needs prayer) with Faithfulness of God (Why Paul is confident of the Thess)

    Simon Huang

  5. Hi, Simon,

    Great to hear from you!

    There are some passages where chiasmus is pretty evident, and that is usually a result of lexical parallels. When you move away from objective lexical parallels to more conceptual parallels, the ground upon which a proposed chiasmus rests is correspondingly shakier.

    In looking at your proposal, the pistis/pistos (D/D’) is striking and would definitely pique my interest in seeing if it forms the center of a chiasmus. The ponhrwn/ponhrou pair (C/C’) immediately commends itself as a further parallel. I’d suggest a modification of your B/B’ idea — in both “that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you” (1b-2a) and “And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things we command” (4), we have the apostolic word having been embraced and obeyed among the Thessalonians. The prayer idea is perhaps a looser parallel — you have the Thessalonians’ potential prayer for Paul and team (1) and Paul’s actual prayer for the Thessalonians (5).

    You’ve definitely hit on something, though, as evidenced by the lexical parallels. It is worth noting that chiasmus, to my knowledge, was not necessarily something that was hammered out word by word, phrase by phrase, resulting in precise and elegant parallels. It may be better to think of it as a structural tool used more generally in communication. That is, instead of seeing something as either a chiasmus or not a chiasmus (black or white), it may be better to understand something as more or less chiasmic. The lexical parallels in 2 Thess 3:1-5 suggest the passage is at least chiasmic to some extent, but be careful not to force parallels where they do not seem evident.

    If you’d like to chase an actual treatment of your passage in chiastic form, I believe you’ll find it in Robert A. Bailey, The Structure of Paul’s Letters, 2d ed. (Longwood, Fla.: Xulon, 2004). This is a self published work in which he (as I recall) seeks to find chiasmic structure in just about every one of Paul’s letters. Worth checking out at any rate.


  6. Oh, and by the way, in your comment you mentioned having a “unified theme” — keep in mind that there is a difference between having a unified theme and a unified structure, and chiasm falls more into the second category — it is a structural device.

  7. […] NT writers use “micro-rhetorical” devices in their letters — chiasmus has been a particular interest of mine in this regard.  The more significant question is whether they used […]

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