Sharon Chace

Bit by Bit Biblical Poems

July 21, 2023
This blog, Bit by Bit Biblical Poems, succinctly explores biblical poems that are related to contemporary religious literature such as hymns, benedictions, prayers, and statements of faith. Biblical poetry embraces the ineffable experienced in the past and present. Ancient literature can bloom anew. The motto is: Bit by bit, insights lit.”

What are the characteristics of biblical poems?

 The most prominent feature is parallelism. Bishop Robert Lowth, 18th century scholar, was the first to note parallelism after he explored poetry in the Old Testament. The two most important forms of parallelism that Lowth discerned are synonymous parallelism and antithetic parallelism.  Synonymous means essentially the same. Antithetic means the opposite. In time New Testament scholars applied the observations of Lowth to the New Testament.

 Examples: Chapter 35 of Isaiah is poetry. The first two lines are synonymous.

 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
    the desert shall rejoice and blossom;

 The rest of chapter 25 continues in parallel lines. Chapter 36 is prose.

 A short embedded poem with synonymous lines in Romans 10:8. The first part is a prose introduction.

Prose Introduction

But what does it say?

Short poem in parallel lines embedded in a narrative essay

The word is near you,
    in your mouth and in your heart

 Prose Conclusion

 The second part of verse 8 and remaining verses in chapter 10 unpack the poem.

Example of Antithetic Lines:

Proverbs instructs in poetry through parallel lines. For one example, Proverbs 11:17

Those who are kind reward themselves,
    but the cruel do themselves harm.


Write your own parallel statements.

My antithetic lines are:

Zippers that stick are part of life.
Some days zippers slide smoothly.